I haven’t brought Mia to work in so long I forgot her leash today. Amazingly, I didn’t have a spare in my car or my office. I considered buying a cheap one for our lunchtime stroll, but decided instead to take her someplace we could “get away” with being off leash. Now, I don’t condone this behavior, and wouldn’t dream of it with Leo, but Mia has proven to be rock solid in terms of staying near me, not running after other people or dogs, and not wandering into the street. She reliably hops in my car in the driveway, will walk with me to the strip of grass near my office parking lot, and come into my office without being on a leash. Which is why I forgot it today.
The places I sometimes let Mia loose are well away from traffic, and when I have a leash with me, I always call her back and put it on her when I see another person or dog.
Today we strolled through a field and along a Frisbee golf course. While there is a sign that says dogs should be leashed, I see plenty of scofflaws just like me all the time. When we arrived today, in fact, a person was on his way back to the car with an off-leash dog.
As we made our way back to the car after a delightful walk, I saw a woman with an off-leash russet-colored golden retriever. “Oh good,” I thought. “That dog is off leash too. This won’t be a problem.”
Then the woman re-leashed her dog and stood there looking in our direction. I may have detected some nervousness, although we were more than 100 feet away, which is a little far to read facial expressions and gauge emotion.
I still thought, “No problem. Mia is not dog-aggressive.” Then I flashed back to “friendly” off-leash dogs who bombarded Isis, helping to derail our earnest efforts to learn leash manners. I had no way of knowing how this dog would feel about off-leash Mia heading its way, so I started to walk in a huge arc way into the field, effectively going around this dog at a great enough distance not to ruffle its fur. The woman and her golden could have kept on walking along the trail, I thought.
Instead, she watched us another few seconds before turning back toward the parking lot, her dog looking over its shoulder every few steps, causing her to look over her shoulder. We were still pretty far away, but Mia trotted up ahead of me. Since I didn’t want her to get anywhere near that dog, I said, “Mia Mia,” and she ran back to me. Then I let her trot ahead and called her back again. And again. Once, I let her get a little bit farther ahead, and she paused, training her laser focus on the golden for a second and a half. “Uh oh,” I thought. “Another half-second of that stare and she might bolt.” But when I said, “Mia Mia Mia,” again, she came right back. I fed her crumbs of freeze-dried lamb lung from my pocket as I praised her effusively.
Now, I know this isn’t impressive dog training or anything. First of all, I should have had a leash. Second, a perfectly trained dog would have walked beside me, and I wouldn’t have to say her name 2-3 times to get her attention. (Possibly I didn’t have to say it twice, but that’s what I did.)
I feel bad that the lady probably retreated thinking, “Goddammit. That stupid off-leash dog ruined our outing.” I wonder what she would have done if Mia had been on a leash. After all, she did have her own dog off leash before she saw us. I figure, if you’re going to flout the leash law, your dog should at the very least be comfortable with other off-leash dogs. As well as on-leash dogs.
For all I know, she had a bad experience with a German shepherd once.
None of this makes me any less irresponsible, but I will say that Mia constantly delights me with her manners in public. Not that I can take any credit. She came this way. I can name three dogs I raised from puppies who enjoyed humiliating games of keep-away in treacherous places.
Mia only barks at two things:
1) Us. When we’re in the backyard. She wants to play, but refuses to give up her ball. It’s vexing.
2) Other dogs when she is inside the car.
After our walk, I drove to the grocery story and parked near the entrance. Mia stepped on my thigh, as is her way when she wants to get out of the car first. Glancing to my left, I noticed the car beside me was filled with itty bitty terriers. At least four of them. They went beserker, running along the windowsill yipping. I thought, “Well, this isn’t going to work,” as Mia called back, “Woof! Woof!” and I backed out to find another parking spot.