Is it really Ruby Tuesday again already? I had a lovely three-day weekend for President's Day filled with many walks and games of tug, outings with friends and family, braving crowds at Colorado's first Trader Joe's, and attending the Colorado Kennel Club dog show. I also did a lot of thinking about the many honest and wonderful posts about reactive dogs that I have read recently. I think we can all see now that we are definitely not alone with our challenging dogs, and that it's a never-ending process of learning, management, and taking the bad days with the good. I had a little of each this weekend...
On Friday my office closed early, so I had a rare weekday opportunity to walk Ruby in the remaining late-afternoon and evening light. It was not the smartest idea to take her across the busy street at rush hour, but after running the crosswalk gauntlet there are some generally-quiet neighborhoods to walk in with wide, hilly, winding streets. Luck was not on our side as two motorcycles passed us immediately waiting for the pedestrian light to change. That set the tone for the entire venture, and while I did my best to practice calming ovals, "watch me" and zig-zag walking, Ruby's attention was gone. We saw a few other people walking, a cyclist, and a barking dog behind a fence. I felt for the most part like I didn't exist at the other end of the leash. Even though I know better, it's hard not to take it personally. I feel safer carrying her across the street since it's so busy, and even though I clip her collar and harness together, I know that if she got away from me in one of her frenzies she'd be in very real danger of being run over. I'm sure the motorists at the red light wonder why on earth I'm carting my twenty pound dog across the street, probably thinking she's spoiled and I'm an idiot. Usually I don't care what they think, but after our harrowing walk I was relieved just to be on the other side of the noise-barrier wall, away from judgmental eyes and back in the safety of our townhome complex. Not wanting to end our outing on that disappointing note, we went up to the second-story concrete balcony of the clubhouse and watched the birds and rabbits below as the sound of the nearby freeway rushed like a concrete river and the sun started to set in pastel tones. Even at times like that I don't wish for a different dog...I wish for a quieter life. I grew up in the country and though I love my city and all it has to offer, I do think of how happy Ruby would be somewhere she could run free without all the fears and frustrations that she has to deal with in our crowded suburban setting. Although I felt much better back home, Ruby was still amped up and distracted, exacerbated by seeing a few dogs out the front window. I knew she would not be able to focus on the tasks of our current Relaxation Protocol session, so I decided to repeat Day 1. She got through it and I was really glad I chose to set her up for success. You do what you can...sometimes stepping back or to the side is not defeat.
I spent the Sunday at the Rocky Mountain Cluster dog show. I have gone every year since I found out about it (six or seven years running, I think) and while I have mixed feelings about purebred trends and show politics, I never tire of seeing so many beautiful, happy dogs in one place. I try to never miss the Norwegian Elkhound judging, just so I can see all those gorgeous silver coats, cinnamon-bun tails and sparkling dark chocolate drop eyes, and toothy elkie smiles. I got to love on one nice young female and missed my Freya immensely. I bought a new tug toy for Ruby - a rectangle of faux fur and canvas with some squeakers stitched in on a purple nylon webbing strap. I watched a flyball demonstration - something I'd never heard of until getting Ruby, when I learned that Border Jacks are deliberately crossed for the sport - and it was both incredible and unexpectedly touching. The dogs were so excited for their turns - it was just a cacophony of barking as the team members flew over the hurdles, jumped on to the spring-loaded ball box, and raced the ball delightedly back to their handlers. I actually found myself getting a bit choked up at the joy, energy and intensity of it all. We also watched the agility trials in the big arena for quite a while. The competition was dominated by shelties and heelers, but the most entertaining run was a Basenji who, after much encouragement, finally strolled through a few of the weave poles, than stopped when it heard the crowd clapping, seemingly pausing to bask in the attention, then sauntered through the rest of the course in no great hurry. I was delighted to spot a Laekenois - such a cool-looking curly shepherd and something you don't see every day - but left before it had its turn.
Once home, Ruby and I played a game of tug with her new toy. She still seems to prefer what is left of her Walk-e-Woo tug, which is now just an orange nylon strap with a loop at each end, but she enjoyed the squeakers in her dog show souvenir. It was absolutely gorgeous outside, and while tempting to brave the busy street or the open space, I wanted to ensure that we had a fun and relaxing time so we stayed close to home. I took her to the lawn and basketball court of the adjacent complex, where they have some pleasant benches to sit on near their community garden. Ruby dug a hole and snuffled in the dirt next to a tree, and it was so nice to see her being a dog. Her body language was loose, she had a wide panting grin, and I could tell the sunshine was doing us both good. Some kids had left two soccer balls out on the lawn, so I began kicking one around for Ruby to chase. It was tricky to keep up with her on leash, but she absolutely loved the game - I may have to get her a soccer ball of her own! We did see some other dogs and people out in the unseasonably beautiful weather, but were able to keep our distance without issue. We wandered around, smiling all the while, she dug another hole, I took some pictures, then we returned home to relax on the sofa with the last of the afternoon light slanting in. Ruby has an adorable habit of covering my face with kisses after we've done something fun, and I got a lot of love after our walk. I felt so happy and content, having just seen all the most talented, decorated dogs in the region, and still thinking mine was the very best one, my heart's blue ribbon.