On Good Friday I inadvertently cultivated my fledgling tradition of going to the state park on a holiday without realizing that it IS a holiday thinking that (as usual) I’d have the place mostly to myself when in fact there were a bunch of other people there. I’ve mentioned before that the distractions this provides are a blessing and a curse, a necessary evil on the road to proofing the dogs to mush in the company of others. I’m glad to find myself at a point where I’m starting to see distractions as a useful training opportunity rather than a disappointing cause for alarm, working them instead of fleeing them.
Speaking of work… at one point we found ourselves approaching two women walking a small dog coming in our direction. I don’t expect the dogs to go On By this level of distraction at this point, they haven’t had nearly enough practice. Instead, I had them pull off to the side of the path to practice a stationary Leave It since it’s easier for me to enforce if they break. They did great, much better than I expected actually. It’s funny, whenever I pull off to the side like this and practice Leave It, it seems to intimidate people… like they’re expecting my dogs to go apeshit. To be fair, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to me if they did, and I am sitting there saying LEEEEEEEAAVE IT, LEEEEEEAVE IT fairly intensely which I guess is kind of creepy in its own way. But really I’m mostly trying to be polite, as I’d imagine getting barreled down on by my dogs with me in tow would be even more intimidating and creepy.
Anyway, when she realized that neither the dogs nor the creepy dog lady chanting LEEEEEEAVE IT, LEEEEEEAVE IT were about to go apeshit on her, one of the women asked if the dogs could meet. I said “Oh, I’m sorry, not when they’re working,” and she replied, “Oh, they’re working?” before moving on. She was genuinely puzzled, which in turn genuinely puzzled me. Wasn’t it obvious that we were working? If we weren’t, then… what the hell were we doing?
When I was in college I had a classmate who had horses. She had a sweatshirt that said, “Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, RIDE” and I always thought (rather smugly, I admit, but cut me some slack I was young) something along the lines of “Boy is THAT effed up. Seriously, how is that even fun? Better her than me!” These days, I might as well wear a sweatshirt that says “Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, MUSH” 24 hours a day, because now I totally get how that’s fun. I mean, it IS a lot of work. It’s training dogs and loading the scooter and dogs into the car and making sure the gear bag is properly packed and you didn’t forget anything and making sure there’s water in the car and training dogs and driving to the park and unloading the scooter and dogs from the car and getting the dogs dressed and training dogs and checking feet and checking handlebars and checking tire pressure and checking brakes and OH MY GOD GLORIOUS BEAUTIFUL SERENITY EXHILARATING WE ARE FLYING THROUGH THE WOODS NEVER NEVER STOP and training dogs and checking feet and undressing dogs and loading the scooter and dogs into the car and driving home and unloading the scooter and dogs from the car and checking all the equipment and taking a shower.
But at the same time… it’s not exactly work. I mean, it is. But it’s also the wind in your hair and your dogs successfully going On By a dad fishing with his kids in the river next to the path and having a blast and bonding with your dogs and fresh air and woodland paths and seeing one dog do what he was born to do and the other dog blossom into a leader and sloppy dog kisses and wagging tails and teamwork and spring breezes and a feeling of accomplishment.
So yea, go ahead and not get it. Better me than you anyway.
Oh, p.s. I’ve finally christened the team with a name and made us a Facebook page to keep the mushing stuff all in one place. Since the vast majority of stuff on my FB page WAS the mushing stuff, I’m not quite sure what’s going to be left, but anyway… check us out at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mush-Puppies/286414148102486