Yesterday after I rode the Bike To Nowhere, Bear and I headed out for a ramble. I kind of wanted to see the horse that I call “My” horse because she’s so big and so friendly. She’s about a mile away, across the golf course, across the driving range, past where the burnt house once stood, beyond some pastures. You get the idea. When she sees me, she runs to the fence to get as close to me as she can. I wanted to go all the way to her paddock (which I cannot do with Dusty because of his barking) and maybe give her an apple. Dusty was pretty stove up after our last walk together and needed a day off.
So out we went, just Bear and me.
Cesar Milan is right in saying if you want to bond with your dog, walk with it.
I have been walking and hiking with dogs since I got my first one, Truffleupagus of Song and Story, in 1987. For years and years walking with them in a wild place was always a suspension of normal human life. These were soul-lifting walks into a world where dog and human shared an experience that wasn’t all dog and wasn’t all human. I always felt it was one of the things that drew dogs and humans together eons ago. It’s hunting, it’s non-verbal communication, and neither dog nor human is in charge. It’s a partnership.
Not every dog I’ve lived with has been suited to this relationship. Dusty isn’t. He just likes to go for a walk. The huskies (most of them) were not. They were passionate about the Husky Agenda and didn’t notice the human beside them, except Ariel who was Husky with a smidgeon of wolf. She and I shared a very deep rapport on the trail. Molly was also great partner, though she did not share everything with me. I’ve sensed that Bear would be a great partner in this way, but, as long as I’ve had her, I haven’t been up to the partnership. I’d even begun to doubt if it was real. Maybe it was a fantasy I’d fabricated to explain having fun with my dogs on a trail.
But yesterday, it happened. All it took was for me to feel well enough that I was no longer conscious of my body. For a long time it hurt to walk. Then I was aware that it no longer hurt. I couldn’t focus on what was outside very easily.
Yesterday I never thought about how I walked. It was my first truly free day on a trail since late 2004/early 2005. Really. I didn’t know this was about to happen when I set out; I didn’t expect it.
I got to share it with my wonderful big white dog whose gifts are immense. We took off and there we were, confidently striding across the world toward the big empty.
She spotted the deer — a young buck calmly walking along the railroad track. Bear alerted me without barking or making any sound. She just let me know he was there. Not all dog breeds are gifted with great eyesight, but the Akbash is. They are a composite of breeds assembled hundreds maybe thousands of years ago in Turkey. One of their components is a Sight Hound, like an Afghan dog or Greyhound. Bear just stopped, stood still and watched. I immediately looked where my dog was looking, just as she had told me to
As soon as she knew I saw the deer, she was ready to go get him (with me) but she didn’t. She looked at me, “How are we going to do this, Human?”
I whispered, “Bear, sit.” She sat. “Just watch,” I whispered. She watched, rapt, ready. I’m sure she wondered when we were going to go get him, but she didn’t make a sound.
When he took off (calmly, slowly) by going under the train car, she stood as if she were saying, “Hey, Martha, what?”
When I said, “You’re perfect, Bear,” and hugged her she understood.
I can’t explain the connection clearly. I don’t think it’s a word thing, but I’m sure others have experienced it. You see it with working dogs all the time, Aussies and Border Collies working with their people to keep a flock of sheep in line.
And now for the product plug…
Trying to combat the effects of cold air on my lungs, I’ve been heading out with a scarf wrapped around my mouth. OK, mostly, effective but it doesn’t stay put or tied or… Then Xenia, in Scotland, whose blog is Whippet Wisdom mentioned a thing called a “Buff” that she wears when it’s cold. I checked into this thing called “Buff” and bought one.
I just got back from a Dusty and Bear walk, heading north, which is always cold this time of year, walking in my own shade. I wore my new Buff today. It was GREAT. Because it can get to -20 F here, I got the extreme one, fleece on one side and microfiber on the other. It matches both my jackets which is pretty amazing since one is red and one is purple. It contorts into numerous functional shapes and the one I bought is made from two plastic bottles. I love it.