Initially, I walked them individually, very early in the morning – 5:30 or 6:00. This allowed me to walk Dex around the fewest number of people, with fewer distractions to excite him. I had this crazy idea that this would reduce the potential disaster. It was mostly peaceful, though cold at that time. Dexter didn’t mind that. He much preferred the cold weather to the summer heat, and he had no problem at all with rain. A good, solid Oregonian/Labrador Retriever.
If we got really lucky, we could spend a little bit of time off leash as well. The local tennis court was a nice contained spot. Not ideal dog territory, but at least he was out! We were both thrilled to be out of the recovery room and in the big wide world. So much to sniff!!
In the early days especially, I’d return from walking Dexter with my right arm yanked out of place. I would feel a slight tearing sensation where my head connects to my neck, all the way down to my hand. My chiropractor made some good money off of me because of that move. Any number of aches and pains (and outright injuries) could be traced to the times I forgot the cardinal rule: always LET GO!
The worst injury was – I think – the last time I forgot that lesson.
It was a lovely spring day, just coming into twilight. This particular time I only had Dex for whatever reason. Probably my ongoing (misguided) idea that I’d have better control of just one dog. Our usual sight-seeing walk took us past many fantastic spots, each amping up his level of excitement by a few decibels. This walk was no exception. Already wiggling and pulling me toward the schoolyard, Dexter also saw a potential friend awaiting him. DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!
I saw the dog in the same split second that he took off, but it didn’t register in time and I’d forgotten the cardinal rule. Dexter shot off toward his new friend, and BLAM! I landed face first, flat on the sidewalk.
Still, I did not let go. I didn’t want him running into the street. He was not what you’d call street-savvy, my boy. Never looked both ways before darting out. But I simply could not get up. I think this was the only time I’ve ever experienced that cartoon moment. You know the one where the anvil lands on Wile E. Coyote and stars fly around his head? Ya, that was me. To his credit, Dexter did sense my distress and stop. I lay there for a while (he patiently standing by my side looking concerned). Surely it was because of his size that no one asked if I was okay, or offered to help me. Off to the doctor. Concussion, sprained ankle, sprained wrist, sprained elbow, facial contusions…. This dog beat me up!
I was undeterred. We continued walking. As I say, it was not the only time that I was injured. Never out of malice, just out of his love of the world and his excitement to be out and about. Perhaps if seeing other dogs wasn’t such a rarity he would have been calmer. I wish so much that I had socialized him better so that he could be the social dog he wanted to be. It was always in him – the sheer joy of seeing other dogs or meeting people. He would have been an excellent therapy dog if his path had been a little different.
There were other perils on our walk. In fact, it was not a physical injury that finally put an end to our walks. One winter morning we were out on our morning walk. Walking through the school yard we encountered one of our neighbors – an older man with his elderly Boxer. I saw them walking often (from my front window) but had never run into them on the street. Dexter did his thing, lunging and barking, wagging his tail and desperate to say hello. Now the neighbor (we’ll call him Lou) had become even more attached to his dog since his wife had died. Plus, the dog had cancer. So when Dexter came at them to be friends, Neighbor Lou had a pretty big reaction. It involved calling me a Stupid Bitch, which seems a little much and pisses me off to this day. I really understand where Lou was coming from now. If someone had bothered Dex in that way when he was sick, I would have lost it too.
Unfortunately at that point he was just my super-grumpy neighbor, and this scene was truly upsetting to me. I believe I responded with a very loud, angry lecture about how unnecessary it was to call me names, and we went our separate ways. The net result is that I lost my confidence in being able to walk Dexter. This just added to the spiral of not being well-socialized, acting too excited, being loud and then having me get all tense, which led to him not being socialized and so getting too excited, which made him bark and lunge, which made me tense, which meant….
You get the idea.
I was done with walks for a while.
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