Don’t panic, but something’s up with Maisy. She’s consistently been just a little “off” recently: Running a little unenthusiastically, with an uncharacteristic amount of slack in her line for uncharacteristically long stretches, and acting subdued in general around the house. She’s not overtly limping or crying or doing anything huge or obvious or specific I can put my finger on, but she is definitely not her normal exuberant self.
So while we’re going through the process of figuring out what is wrong with her and fixing it, she’s being rested. And in the meantime, I still have this giant white thing that needs to be exercised or become impossible to live with. And while there are many ways to accomplish that, I decided to take him out for a scooter run by himself today.
Now, Squash is physically powerful as hell but mentally he is not a lead dog and he doesn’t LOVE pulling the way Maisy loves pulling. He loves his people, he loves Maisy, and he loves doing things with his people and Maisy, so he pulls a scooter with us. With that in mind, I knew that if we were going to try this thing today I was going to have to hit a mental reset button. I would start out just letting him go and seeing what would happen just on the off chance that it would be the kind of run where I ride a scooter and get pulled by a dog, but I had to accept in my heart the extremely high probability that this would not be that kind of run at all. Instead, it might very well be the kind of scooter run where I spend a lot of time trying to get Squash to do something besides pee on stuff and eat grass.
Which is exactly how it started out. I didn’t get any usable video of this debacle because he was only really visible on camera when he zigged from being out of frame on the right to being out of frame on the left. But my expectations were modest, so I just rolled with it. And honestly, while even a year ago this situation and his performance would have frustrated and annoyed me, I’ve apparently gone completely insane since then because at this point it feels like an exciting training challenge.
Plan B, which I had worked out ahead of time almost as if I had anticipated needing it, was walking the scooter with one hand while holding his line with the other so I could take up the worst of any slack and enforce my ON BYs. My only real objective was for him to be in front of the scooter with a relatively snug tug most of the time. I didn’t care if he was actually pulling, I didn’t care how fast we went, I didn’t care about much of anything but that one thing. I just wanted him to get used to the feeling of being alone in front of the scooter and feeling the pressure of the tug. Partially so he wouldn’t/couldn’t practice how things shouldn’t be, and partially to establish in his brain what “normal” feels like: Him, in front of the scooter, with a snug tug. It looked something like this:
Fortunately I have reached a point in my life where I do not actually care what strangers think of me most of the time, because I’m sure I must have looked like a total idiot walking along with my scooter in one hand and my dog’s line in the other, telling him what a good dog he was for… not pulling the scooter. But the payoff for looking like a total idiot was that over the course of the “run” (which I limited to only about a mile) he did noticeably improve. He even had some nice (though short) stretches of pulling, but as always he was easily distracted and I am not nearly the efficient, iron-pawed enforcer that Maisy is so there were a lot of stops and starts. But here’s a nice little taste of actually getting pulled:
And then some deer happened and he came to life. Now, I don’t want a dog who only pulls when he’s chasing something, but at the same time anything that conditions fun, happy associations with scootering in his mind is ok by me (notice how he keeps going fairly enthusiastically well after the chase is actually over).
I don’t know how long Maisy will be off. She’s been examined and had some blood work done, and at the moment it looks like maybe she has some low back pain. She’s been started on an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxer and will be seeing a chiropractor soon. It’s hard to see her not feeling like herself, and lord knows I miss her in front of the scooter. But while she’s resting, Squash and I will continue to work together. He’ll never have her drive, but until she’s back in ship shape we’ll just splash around in the shallow end of the expectations pool and see how far we can go together.