Smells, running and other oddities
April 22, 2018
Nearly 4 years ago I was in a car accident. The guy that hit me was going 70 and didn't see that several of us had stopped. there was a turkey crossing the road. A car in front of me had stopped, a truck with a trailer in on-going traffic had stopped. and I was nearly stopped. Usually I am paranoid with being hit from behind, but in this case I was more concerned that the turkey make it across the road. All of a sudden I am hit, the guy goes up and over my VW beetle, ripping the tire off and causing enough damage that the car was totaled. Johnny, as I called him...my first car that I had bought brand new was gone. that alone was a loss. The guy who hit me continued on and hit the truck and trailer in the on-going traffic and veering off also hit the car in front of me. Taking out 3 vehicles, (And realizing he was in shock as well), he got out of the car and after making sure everyone was alive and okay said one of the funniest things I have ever heard. "Well, thank goodness I took that defensive driving class." What an odd thing to say! Thank goodness because you didn't take out 2 more cars? Because we were all still breathing? And then later....I would wander why in the world anyone really takes defensive driving classes?! This was the beginning of an incredibly difficult year.
Several months later my Dad and I drove to the PA/NY line to pick up my next VW Beetle, this time a convertible. I took my beloved standard poodle, Garbo, with me. She would have the maiden voyage in this nice piece of machinery....with the top down! It was a great day! Garbo was well known....going to classes with me. Everyone loved her. Little did I know at that time that within a year I would lose both of those beings that I loved in that cat that day to lung cancer. Garbo could melt any soul with her eyes.
The loss of Garbo came within 2 months in spite of chemotherapy. Such a sweet soul who gave so much to so many. She has been gone for 4 years now and there is rarely a week that goes by that someone doesn't say something to me about her. she was amazing and gave everyone something. I always have a lot of dogs. At that time I had 7 other dogs. Garbo just stood out. Her sweet personality is still missed today. None of my other dogs had the personalities to go to work with me and they really weren't neutral dogs for my classes. After several months I went looking for a rescue standard poodle who might be able to work with me. Not to replace, but to heal the huge loss and void that was left.
I found him in Missouri in February. I had a plan to drive straight down and straight back. It would be a long trip. My Dad didn't want me to drive by myself all of that distance. In spite of him being sick with cancer at this point, he went with me. We tried to stop frequently and by the time we made it there I couldn't wait to meet this boy. Ben had been surrendered to the rescue because of separation anxiety. We would work through that! And anything else that would come our way. We drove home in a snowstorm that took nearly twice as long to get home.
Enter into my life Mr. Benny, my big red dog. My Dad would declare before we made it home that day, "You are going to be okay." When I looked at him to try to figure out what he was saying, Benny had his head in the seat between me and my Dad and he said again "He is going to be a good dog." And truer words have not been spoken. He would help me live through my fathers death and make every day since entering into my life better by just being there.
This boy, this clown stuck in a poodle costume, reminds me every day not to take life too seriously. And so here we are today....with the difficult 3 years it has taken me some time to process it all. I have put on weight and am ready to take my life back. so, this morning me and Benny woke up and decided to go for a run. Benny will do ANYTHING as long as he is next to me. So, Benny is going to help me through that as well. No time like the present! So on our run a few different things came up that I hear clients in my classes complain about all time.
That nose. The amazing nose! Dogs see with their nose....and they have an amazing sense of smell!! It has been said that dogs can smell a dead body a mile under water or 3 miles under earth. THINK about that!! What a talent! What a stinky world! And then think about how we mask everything that we think smells with some very strong smelling perfumes! There are some amazing books out there about a dogs sense of smell! (Namely Being a Dog by Alexandra Horwitz of the Dog Cognition Lab). So, it is really important to get them using their nose. We navigate the world through our eyes, imagine not being able to stop and look at something. It is almost cruel think about. Yet, when we are walking dogs, we expect them to keep moving. I encourage clients to allow their dogs to have walks where there are no expectations. I tell people to determine the amount of time the walk would be, and then let your dog dictate what happens. If he wants to smell one tree for 20 minutes, so be it! I took advantage of when Benny had a sniff he couldn't resist to catch a breather. Benny knows when he has his harness on he needs to stay next to me and when he has on his long line and collar it is a free for all walk. Because we have this understanding, our run this morning was pretty smooth. I knew when he did smell, he really needed to! Imagine seeing this absolutely beautiful sunrise...but the second you see it you are jerked away. Allow your dog to explore. Allow him to 'see' his world the way he knows how. Honor thy dog! Make sure you are truly in a relationship with your dog...meaning it is 2 sided and not always what you want.
And finally, remember that your leash isn't a steering wheel! I do an exercise in some classes and always in the prison programs and children's programs where the people pair up. One person closes their eyes and wraps the leash around their hand. The second person holds the leash and directs where they go. And then, they switch places. It is an eye opener how little it takes to direct where to go. And it is also amazing how aversive a big jerk on that leash is. I recommend taking a good walk nice class and remember to practice the skills or your dog will lose them.
So, in closing Benny and I made it through our run today! I was able to marvel in his nose and make up some stories about what he was thinking. The most enticing area for Benny was at the corner of a row of pine trees, and after sniffing extensively he would then mark it. Even in my oxygen deprived brain, I could see what was going on! In this world of Monopoly, Benny found and owned Boardwalk! Long live the dog!