This afternoon, I strapped Olivia into her stroller and headed out the door for a nice, long walk. I was going to fetch the dog to come with us, but my darling Hobbes had somehow managed to escape off his tie-out where I had left him to pee and bark at deer 20 minutes earlier. Again. Not to worry he wasn’t lost. He’s never lost. All that was lost was any hope of a nice, peaceful walk. Because once Hobbes gets loose outside, it’s pretty much impossible to catch him. We can put on a show of trying, but that’s mostly so anyone he’s bothering will see that we’re trying. But I’ve seen this animal run at 20 mph for 2 miles straight (I measured it one day while he was chasing our van.) He can reach speeds of over 30 mph in a burst. (See van chasing above.) He knows we can’t catch him and free from all the restrictions and control we usually exercise over him, his real personality comes out. Turns out he’s a total jerk.
He ran right up to us and happily began barking loudly at the stroller. Because the stroller has wheels and Hobbes believes that the proper reaction to anything with wheels is to bark. Even though we live on 2 acres on the edge of a 12 acre field at the dead end of a long road, this is a real problem. If he is loose he runs right in front of any wheeled vehicle, plants himself and barks. If you slow down too much, he tries to bite the tires. I keep telling people to just drive off, but not understanding how fast the animal is, they think they’re going to hit him. I keep assuring them that we will not hold them responsible if they run him over. Heck, after spending 5 minutes trying to convince some poor fool he’s cornered to just gun it while Hobbes barks incessantly and gnaws on their tires, I would be totally fine if they run him over, back up and do it again. Even the kids, as much as they love the dog, know that if he’s ever run over by a car, it’s his own damn fault.
Hitting him with a stroller wasn’t likely or going to do much good, so I just strode off purposely and hoped for the best. As I expected, he followed. Which meant that at least he wouldn’t be wandering into one of our poor neighbor’s open garage or chasing them down should they have the nerve to try and leave or arrive at their own home in a wheeled vehicle. Unfortunately, that just means that he would be tromping over different people’s property. Which might not seem like a real big deal in a neighborhood where everyone has a couple of acres. Except that the whole reason people buy a house on a couple of acres is so they have a large buffer zone between themselves and anyone who hasn’t been invited near. Perhaps it doesn’t bother them as much as it bothers me when he does it, but I just don’t think people are all that cool with a strange dog wandering up their long driveway and barking at them.
Now, the one thing that I do have going for me is that Hobbes has grown attached to me and while he won’t let me catch him, he’s not too keen on losing me either. This came in handy when a short bus turned down my street just as I was about to cross the highway to the new, largely undeveloped subdivision on the other side. Hobbes joyfully took off running and barking. I had a nightmarish vision of him menencing some poor disabled kid and their helper as they try to off-load a wheelchair. Their only hope would be that the sight of a chair lift would send Hobbes into such spasms of excitement that he would hyperventilate from all the barking and pass out. Knowing that there was nothing I could do to control him, I did the only thing I could and resolutely crossed the street without looking back. As I had hoped, Hobbes decided that the fun of chasing a bus down wasn’t a good enough reason to risk me giving him the slip so he abandoned the bus and crossed the highway to catch up with me.
According to all the Dog Whisperer that I had watched when planning to get Hobbes, pretty much any dog can be trained by an owner who exudes calm, assertive energy. But Hobbes knows when you’re faking it and he’s a dog – he’s got all the time in the world. It was windy this afternoon and I left the road to go poke around the remains of an old homestead in the woods to get a break from the cool breeze. Hobbes followed, of course. But he knows from experience that these sorts of closed in areas with lots of distractions do make it a little more likely that I will be able to catch him. I have no chance of sneaking up on him. The best I could hope for was that if I ignored him for long enough he would let his guard down while standing next to me and I could nab him. But again, Hobbes is an a-hole. He knows that this is my strategy and wasn’t about to fall for it. After a while, I tried staring him down to try and assert my authority. He stared back. I didn’t blink. He barked at me. (Anxiety.) I remained unmoved. He looked away. (Avoidance.) I held my ground. He moved just beyond sight. (More avoidance.) I took a step over so I could see him trying to hide behind a bush and continuing to stare at him. He took off running.
The whole rest of the walk home was like that. If he started walking ahead of me, I would turn sharply without even looking at him. He follows me, not the other way around. It was getting to later in the afternoon and the neighborhood wasn’t as empty as it had been on the way out. When he ran off to bark at a septic truck and the man working it, I walked quickly away without looking back. When I heard him returning to me at 30 mph after realizing that he was in danger of losing me, I would do a 180 and walk right past him before turning back towards home. If he wandered off to my side or rear, I would walk faster in the direction of home to trigger his fear of losing me. If he wandered off ahead of me, I would turn around and walk back the way I just came, trying to assert the fact that he follows me, not the other way around. I must have looked like a crazy person out in the street, turning in random directions and retracing my path back and forth. But the area I live in is hilly and I bet I burned a bunch of extra calories walking randomly back and forth and up and down the street like that. That’s some consolation, right?
Finally, over two hours after we set out, we reached sight of our house just as the kids were getting off the bus from school. Hobbes resisted the urge to chase the bus back out of the neighborhood and followed the kids home. They went in the house and he stopped and waited for me to catch up. Because he may be a jerk, but he is a jerk who knows who feeds him.