This lovely sun-dappled shot was taken after a short morning hike that turned briefly into an educational and hair-raising adventure. Spoiler alert: everyone was okay! I spent the weekend with my aunt and grandmother and attended a benefit for Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue. On my way home I stopped off at an open space area that I discovered when I took Ruby hiking for her birthday in October. I call it "Hidden Gem" because we are almost guaranteed to have the place to ourselves, and it's such a lovely dose of nature not far from the main road. A path traverses through a meadow, down a marshy ravine and up onto a piney hillside. The wildflowers were in bloom due to an unusually rainy spell, and the ginger sisters were happy to follow their noses through the yucca. Ruby stopped to do some terrier excavation while Boca supervised.
As we made our way through the tall grass, I would intermittently say "Go Run!" and dash after the girls as they raced down the trail. We did this several times without incident. The next time, Ruby tore ahead and Boca lagged behind and crossed in front of me. I knew that I was going down before I hit the ground, catapulting (dogapulting?) over Boca and landing on my hands and knees. I either recovered Ruby's leash automatically or kept hold of it, but when I looked behind me to make sure Boca was okay since I'd practically fallen on top of her, I saw her leash attached to...an empty harness. Naked Boca grinned up at me and gamboled off into the grass.
"Don't panic..." I told myself as I brushed off my skinned knee. Remember that Boca has only been with me for about a month and a half, and that I've focused mainly on letting her settle in with not a lot of training. I called her and she came near me, but realizing the fun of being free, leapt away and continued bouncing around the meadow. I unclipped her leash from her harness and slipped the end through the handle, making a loop. I didn't want to chase or grab her, especially because she seemed a little wary of me after being such a klutz, so I tried sitting down on the ground and ignoring her. She stayed close, but was still enjoying her great escape. I got up and kept moving, running and calling her every now and then to make it into a game. She would follow and then wander off to smell something. While Boca was engaged in sniffing the ground I was able to slip it over her head and take perhaps my first deep breath of the last few moments!
I got Boca back in her gear and we continued our walk with no more surprises, but the event has definitely prompted me to make some changes. First, work on the dogs' recall. I know it is the single most important thing to teach your dog and yet I don't practice it nearly enough. Although she's been with me for less time, I am still thankful that it was Boca that escaped and not Ruby. Boca is calmer and less apt to take off after something, and Ruby thinks that "Catch Me If You Can" is the best game ever. From now on the girls will be wearing collars as well as harnesses. Boca's harness did not come unclipped and I'm still not sure how it came off - I think that I pulled it over her head as I was falling. I had no idea that the step-in style was so escapable. While both dogs are micro-chipped, let's face it - not everyone knows to get a lost dog scanned, and that entails a trip to a vet's office or an animal shelter instead of just a simple phone call. I've gotten out of the habit of carrying treats with me and that is something I want to change as well. You just never know when a quick walk could go awry. I'm so happy that this story turned into nothing more than some new goals and habit changes and a post for Ruby Tuesday about that time my new rescue dog got loose.