I have seen the light.
I come to you today not as a dog trainer, but just as a dog owner. A plain old dog owner who makes mistakes, and a stubborn one who maybe thinks that she should just nod and smile when her dog trainer friends make recommendations.
I come to you as someone who, when smart people said, “Use a long line on your hikes! It will make everything better!”, smiled and nodded and though to myself, “These people clearly don’t understand the joy of your dogs running off leash, tearing through the woods with those big dumb grins on their faces and then passing out in the car on the way home. These people, as smart as they may be, clearly don’t know what they’re talking about.”
I say again, I come to you today as an owner who makes mistakes, and I am here to tell you that those smart people? They were right.
I will start today’s story not with the light I have now seen, but with the dark that came before. When grad school was over a few short weeks ago, I decided that with all my newfound time, I could go home on my lunch break and take my dogs for a hike. Because, seriously, how awesome does that sound? A hike in the middle of the day, and no need to hire a dog walker. Amazing all around!
I went home on that fateful day and got the dogs. We loaded up into the car and headed to our usual off-leash hangout. I made sure everyone was hungry; they came when called (most of the time) and stuck around (e.g. disappeared for no more than 30 seconds at a time). All was going swimmingly and we were on our homeward end of the loop when I realized Daphne had been gone for few moments longer than usual. I waited. No Daphne. I called. No Daphne. Lenny, in the meantime, was bounding around, sticking by, chasing the occasional squirrel/bug/bird. Still no Daphne.
Finally, I decided to head back to where we had come from. Still no sign of our deer-dog, no sounds from the bush, no barking – nothing. Until I came upon the giant puddle of mud.
The puddle of mud used to be a shallow pond, and Daph would go down and wade and drink and then move on. But on this day, this terrible day in August, it was just mud, and Daphne was up to her belly in it. There was a tiny puddle of water in the middle that she was staring at. Fish? Frogs? I have no idea, but whatever it was, she was into it, and she was out of my reach.
As luck would have it, when I caught up with Daph in the Giant Mud Puddle of Doom, so did Lenny – and she went into frog-chasing mode. This was not just a little bit of mud, either; no, this was up to my knees, which I learned when I waded in to catch them – entirely unsuccessfully, of course.
After about fifteen minutes of standing around, wading, calling the dogs, hitting them in the face with handfulls of hot dogs (they did not even flinch! Hot dogs, apparently, do not compete with frogs), Daphne got close enough to me that I caught her by her tail. Once I had Daphne, Lenny was pleased to follow us wherever we may go – and for that, I am incredibly grateful.
We got home completely covered in mud. We are no longer crating Lenny – that is a story for another day, with photos of warped metal for you to see – and she for sure sneaks onto the furniture when we are out, so baths were necessary. Bathing all around! Let it suffice to say that it was a long, hard, and somewhat traumatic lunch break.
Which brings us to the light. Given the events of that fateful lunch break, I have not been taking the dogs off leash anywhere. This, of course, may be related to our high-energy, somewhat neurotic dogs remaining high-energy and somewhat neurotic.
Well, Friday was a perfect afternoon. It was a picturesque fall day, and I had 2 hours to kill and a couple of dogs who had been in the house all day. On a whim, I decided to take Lenny to the woods on a long line.
The long line is a 30-foot, nylon leash. That’s it. There are no bells and whistles; it doesn’t do anything automatically. One end clips to the collar and the other has a loop for your hand. Once I mastered the art of looping the excess leash around my arm, it was perfect. The long line had the slack of a standard nylon leash, with the flexibility and none of the risks of the flexilead. Our entire walk was relaxed – the dogs could trot around and sniff while I walked in front of or behind them, and they could wait while I climbed over rocks and either go before or after me. It was just lovely. Not to mention that, when one dog owner with an off leash dog warned me that the ranger was checking to make sure dogs were on leash, I didn’t have to stress about it at all.
While I’m sure that there will be many other times that I nod and smile when my friends tell me what to do, I might consider it a little bit longer next time.
Have you had experiences with the long line? Anything you love/hate about it? Any tips?