Wood Walk Redux

November has been a busy month for testing one of my favorite things — measuring change.

The other day when talking to my daughter Sophie I asked her to hand me a 1/2 full glass of water. She asked why I didn’t say half empty. I answered it was the nature/nurture effect of growing up under the relentless optimism of my father, her grandpa that must have rubbed off on me. Thus it was as November starts to fade I can look at the past month as being quite a bit more than a half full glass of replenishing water with respect to Bubbles and Sam’s growing partnership which, as has been stated many times before, is possibly only with the joint efforts of the adults in Sam’s life.

Early on this month Jessica and I took Bubbles and Bean to the woods to establish a baseline for Jessica and Bubbles’ on and off leash relationship. We saw that Bubbles’ recall response to Jessica was pretty poor. The year old blonde pup  just wasn’t taking Jessica seriously. So the challenge was to practice touch and recall ad nauseam. And get serious when necessary!

Testing limits

Last week a joint dog/boy woods adventure to establish another baseline of hiking in nature — this time with her boy. Since there were enough of us in case Sam bolted, I suggested just letting them go to see what would happen with no controls in place. And off they went! While on the one hand it was rather comical how Bubbles scattered in one direction and Sam in another, in reality such impulsivity can be scary and downright dangerous — Bubbles in sensory overload bolting after savory smells — Sam in his compulsion to just run run run (although I was heartened to see him checking in, often, at the antics of the adults chasing after him) — neither dog nor child fully grasping possible consequences of such actions.

Having established the baseline, this time out I wanted no opportunity to bolt. I wanted less opportunity to stop and dig at mud as well. While I was at it, I thought, “No tension or grabbing either.” Such antics of grabbing at both boy and dog often result in increased creativity in avoiding capture and in the case of Sam, can result in struggling which can lead to tantrums. Bubbles and Sam are wicked smart blondes with oodles of personality! So from the moment we disembarked from our cars it was Sam on tether avoiding tension and Bubbles either on tether to myself or Jessica, partnered with Bean or with Sam, or off leash with frequent recalls.

Wow!

What a difference a week can make. Not to mention some proactivity and obvious practice Jessica has done on Bubbles’ basic manners in the past week. We ran into friends shortly after arriving and we all joined forces — 5 adults, 4 kids and 4 dogs just having a blast hiking in the naked woods on a balmy-for-this-time-of-year day in Cleveland. Sam was cooperative, cheerful and happy. He played, hiked, rested and snacked on smarties stowed in the zippered pocket of Bubbles’ Har-Vest.  He even had the opportunity to walk free and happy without any effort to bolt or struggle.  He engaged with people beyond his desire to just hit away — although even his hitting has less force, it’s almost a bad habit that’s going to take a while to disappear — and his verbal skills seem to be improving each time I see him.

There were no tantrums, arguments, disappointments, tears, breakdowns or scowls. All that fresh air, sunshine, good times, social interaction in just a peaceful outdoor natural setting made for a practically perfect outing. I can’t wait to return to these woods later in some deep snow! That should make for some interesting fun!

Go Sam! Go Bubbles! What a great outing!