Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Dog Is Gifted

In the past I have mentioned that Henry is untrustworthy off leash which means he needs to be tethered at all times. I thought I was going to have to give up cross country skiing when I gave up on training him to stay with me- or at the very least to come when called. Of course, it is inconceivable that I would go outside without him and equally inconceivable that I would just take my chances that he would return home safely if he ran off (pretty much 100% guaranteed).

Then a friend suggested skijoring. This sport basically hooks a dog up to a skier with dogsled equipment, which the dog then uses to pull the skier. Mind you, the thought of my 32 pound terrier/hound/whatever mix pulling a full grown person is ridiculous, but it serves as a much safer way to attach my dog to me while I ski. My previous method of just tying a piece of rope from my waist to Henry's collar was painful and potentially dangerous.

Skijoring for Henry & me has met with mixed success. His DNA tells him to run back and forth in front of me to partake of the fabulous smells on both sides of the trail and to stop suddenly if something is particularly delectable. And, like most dogs he views my skis and poles with a bit of apprehension. If I start catching up to him, he will veer off to the side and let me pass, so that he is then following me. I have also had to learn to ski with a rope wrapped around and between my legs- the product of him zigzagging and me skiing over the line. It nevertheless provides both of us with good exercise, lots of laughs and fresh air in these long, winter months.

I am calling my dog a genius because despite his inability to learn certain commands, he has picked up the really necessary ones. He has also, intuitively, learned what is the appropriate behavior for a small dog being pursued by a full grown human on slick 6 foot boards with two pointy sticks. The most important command he has picked up is "run." I say this in a deep, loud and meaningful way because we are going down a hill at a pretty good clip and there is no time to dally. The tone is meant to convey that there will be "no sniffing" right now. He seems to get it. He also knows, intuitively, that if I do overtake him he better get the hell out of the way- and fast!

We have only had a few accidents- mostly to the detriment of me. Going down a steep hill he somehow got on the wrong side of a tree. We both came to an abrupt halt at the ends of the industrial strength bungee cord that attached us. It wasn't enough of a jolt to spring the quick release toggle, but enough to land me on the ground looking at a snow covered & apologetic terrier/hound/whatever mix. There have also been some embarrassing moments when nature's call didn't give me enough time to come to a complete stop. Poor Henry, en flagrante, trying to both shit and maintain his dignity while being forced to pogo along at the end of the bungee cord.

I commend my little pup for coming so far in his short life. From a street dog in Arkansas, to a not quite loved enough pup in Boston, to the wilds of NH where I am trying to turn him into a Husky. He has done it with verve and affection. I love my dog. He is gifted in many ways.


LYC said...

M. Henri always gets very high points for enthusiasm whatever the endeavor.

JAF said...

I agree that he is awesome. However, I would not sell short the possibility of letting him off leash. At this point (and I learned this from my dog who is quite similar) he loves NO ONE OR THING more than YOU and he will either stay close or at least come back. As he gets older, he will probably stay closer. I think mine has about 4 years on Henry?

SMC said...

Oh, he does come back.... 45 minutes later, while I am at home imagining the worst. Another time he got away while wearing a coat and I was fearful that he would it get stuck on some brambles in the woods..... forever. And in the spring I would have to find the dried up little husk of Henry wrapped to a tree. I told you I had an active imagination!

I may try again in a year or so. I want me and my house to be thoroughly imprinted in his little ganglia before I attempt it though.