I found myself standing in the backyard. I wasn’t alone. I think, strictly speaking, I am never alone in the yard. There are always wild critters back there. Lizards, snakes, iguanas, and more.
No, I had my own critter with me. Rack. The McNab SuperDog(TM) was staring at me. I wasn’t the font of all knowledge, but he seems to think so.
I went back to puttering. After a glancing blow from Hurricane Matthew, I stood the lawn chair upright, and found that I had some weeds to pull. There are always weeds to pull in a temperate or tropical yard and garden. You can always find something that doesn’t belong.
Freeport Bahamas got slammed by that storm, we didn’t really have anything that a line of Thunderstorms would have caused.
I reached down to pull some philodendron vine that had decided it wanted to live in the turf that passes for grass here and bent back upright.
He was still staring.
I said “What?” as I walked toward the grey bin to drop the fist full of vines and other unwelcome guests.
Rack trotted away, bouncing at each step.
Me being the clumsy type, I bumped into the trash can.
At that point, Rack shot into hyperspace. I felt the breeze waft past as he ran past me at something over the speed of light, Einstein not withstanding, and heard the pop as he passed behind the shed. Rack had disappeared into the alternate universe and paid a visit to his other family in the dog universe.
Simultaneously I heard another pop behind me as he re-materialized and dropped back into normal space.
Hard to believe that this was the same fearful dog that I had adopted around three years ago. Having spent his first six months with some moron who thought hunting was the right thing to do with his free time, and that a herding dog would be the right thing to have with it, and the next month and a half in a veterinarian office getting more fearful by the day, I had a dog who has something that would best be described as having PTSD.
Not to mock anyone who has PTSD, but a fearful dog like Rack will drop to his belly if you drop a spoon into a cup of coffee, and I have seen him flatten out in the middle of a four lane highway when he heard a large semi-truck a quarter of a mile away blow out his brakes.
Hunting Dog, Indeed. Go do something constructive with your time, moron.
Rack dropped to a prance across the pool and looked back and smiled.
I have to teach him How to Dog.
I have always had fearful dogs. By the time Lettie passed away, she was literally bulletproof. I could take her anywhere and she would simply deal with it. The first walk I took her to Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia well after dark, she slammed herself against a wall in fear, shivering, when the Route 23 bus came down The Hill from the Chestnut Hill Station.
Fearful dogs, I get. I know what they’re going through. They just take longer to come out of their shells.
Not everyone wants a goofy puppy who bounds around and acts like they are into everything that you are into. That’s a lot of work in a very short period of time, and most people are not up to task.
Goofy Puppies are great, you can mold them, and sometimes you even get it right. More often than not, you don’t get it right. Then you have a horrible yappy Havanese, Maltese, or Yorkshire Terrier who barks at anything and everything, fiercely, and tries to kill it. “It” could be a bird on a tree limb across the yard, or the 5:15PM flight into the local airport coming in from overseas. It could also be me or one of mine, out for my evening walk, and your dog went insane.
Why? Simple, you forgot to let it be a Dog. You tried to Humanize the creature and you ended up with a mental case. You forgot to guide your dog and teach it acceptable behavior in what to it is an alien environment.
I jumped looking at Rack’s smile. He went back into Hyperspace and re-materialized with me under the Mango Tree. I had the most Florida of experiences. I was rubbing my dog’s belly while he was wiggling around, under a mango tree, next to the coleus, adjacent to the pool, next to the sea grape tree.
I stood up, and bounced on the balls of my feet. Rack set himself upright, bounced into the air.
McNab Dogs can jump. He’s out of practice, but he can jump five feet off the ground and put his paws on my chest.
Oh well, I’ll have foot prints on my chest until I can change, no big deal.
He did a tight figure eight around the mango, then the palm, added a loop behind the bougainvillea, and came back with a leap and …
Ok, this is new. He actually barked. Once. Fearful PTSD Dogs don’t do that. They may whine or cry. They will hide, cower, shiver. But bark? In Joy?
Holy crap this is good!
You see, at a little past four years old, my terrified, scared PTSD McNab Dog learned that it can be alright to bark in joy!
I looked at him, upside down begging for more tummy rubs and said “Woooof?”.
He flipped back onto his feet, did another figure eight plus a half loop for good measure where he bounced off the back wall of the house, rebounded, and said “WOOF!”.
I thought that 7:45 in the morning may be a little early for WOOF! but we’ll see. It is past the 10PM to 7AM quiet time. Nobody was in Vern or Joe’s yards, I thought I’d hear about it later if there was a problem. Rack needed this!
I jumped into the air and played keep away weaving through the pots near the pool, next to the banana tree, stopped and bounced.
Rack ran back around and lept into the air, coming down and “WOOF!”.
“WOOF!” Rack replied.
I responded with some more windsprints back and forth and running with Rack. I remember that I used to run 10Km around Valley Forge National Park in Pennsylvania and there was this one 45 degree hill there that I would power up on my runs…
One more lap around the mango tree and Rack ran over to the spa. When I saw him drink from the water there, I knew it was time to wind him down. He was still excited but it was time to go in. He needed the cleaner water from the bowl in there.
But that’s the key. Knowing what to do. No matter the breed, no matter the size, from Rudy the Chihuahua down the block to that Great Dane that is more horse than dog, you can have a balanced dog of a lifetime.
I’m believing that it is more about taking things at the dogs pace and being a guide instead of a leader. Making sure that what you do with the dog is not too much but just right. You need to uplift your fearful dog rather than calm down an aggressive dog.
After all, if the dog gets to be a hair trigger barky dog, it’s up to you to teach it to calm down.
It may be a bit too much to expect these days. The “Rational Man” that society used to depend on to get things done has been taken advantage and worn down and replaced by the “Entitled Man”. The Me First of the 1980s mindset ended up with day care for kids and for dogs and society is where it is today as a result.
But if you take things steadily and rationally, you may actually find that the returns are still there.
You may actually get a WOOF! of joy instead of a mental case pacing from front door to back barking at the jets in a holding pattern getting ready to land at the big city airport down the road a piece.