ABlogAbout Dexter: Walk on the Wild Side, Part 1

Cujo Explores the Neighborhood

Dexter went into recovery as an awkward puppy, and came out…. An awkward dog. Desperate to get out of the house, but totally unprepared for the wide world. Walking with Dexter was a huge challenge. He wasn’t well-socialized, and this was accentuated on walks. People sometimes assumed he was aggressive. He remained mostly untrained. Add to that his excitement and tendency to pull (like any Lab worth his drool) and an outweighed mom with little upper body strength, and you had a pretty out of control situation.

When we’d meet people or dogs along the way, he’d be a big, excited mess pulling me like a Clydesdale to race up and say hello. Not everyone appreciated his enthusiasm. If I saw a 100lb dog racing up to me at full speed, I’d be pretty frightened too! Sometimes he’d also bark. Imagine again what kind of bark comes out of a dog that spans 6ft tip-to-tail, stands 36 inches high and weighs over 100lbs. That’s some serious vocal power and resonance!

With this big old goofy grin, who could be scared?
With this big old goofy grin, who could be scared?

Really, most people saw right through the big dog act and saw his sweetness almost immediately. The big exception to this was our across-the-street neighbor. An elderly couple, they spent most of their days hanging out in their living room, staring out their screen door. Where our house was set back and up from the street, theirs rested at street level. Our doors were directly across from one another, so they had a very good view of our comings and goings. Far too many times, Dexter would bully his way past the person opening our screen door, like some linebacker, and race full-throttle toward the neighbors’ house. I’m not sure why he was so desperate to get over there, but they did not like that one bit. I could sometimes hear the woman make little screaming noises as she looked up and saw what she could only assume was Cujo barreling toward her.

I needed a plan of action. How was I going to get this dog out of the house?

To begin with, I needed to think of just the right location and route. Just around the corner from us, we have an

Zeta
Zeta

elementary school with a large, fenced-in yard. They are kind enough to let dogs come use the yard when school is not in session. Dogs are required to be leashed, but people rarely follow this rule. Zeta, loved to go there. She was super-fast and very energetic, and this was the only place she could really run far enough and fast enough to tire her out. Well you can’t take just one dog, so I’d take them both up there.

Dexter was odd (big surprise) at the school yard. He was very mommy-focused, so a lot of the time he’d run about 20 feet and then come right back to me. He’d circle back around while Zeta would run the length of the field and back to play a hearty game of Fetch. Dex didn’t get the idea of fetch, or he didn’t like to run, or he just couldn’t compete with Zeta. I don’t know why – probably all of those reasons and more.

But once in a while, something would catch his eye. Maybe there were children playing on the basketball court, or a little dog he wanted to inspect. He LOVED children. I once saw him bark at a kid climbing a tree, because it was dangerous. As soon as the kid was down, he was fine. Very protective.

So if he saw a kid he liked, he’d take off running. Suddenly his general gait of “loping” sped up and he was off! With his long legs it was impossible for me to catch him. So I spent a lot of time at the school yard running and yelling, “HE’S VERY SWEET, HE’S JUST BIG!!” at people. People generally looked horrified at first – wouldn’t you if a gigantic dog was running at you top speed? Then I think they’d see the goofy grin on his face and realize this was no monster.

Hubby told me over and over that it wasn’t the dog they were stressed about, it was the crazy woman running after him yelling her head off.

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