I guess the most important thing is that since we began the walking work of our obedience, things have been a little different for Cinder and I so far. I learned a somewhat different way of walking with her and controlling her that has been highly successful. It's really very simple, but not what I was doing or used to doing since I still use many "old school" aspects. I was holding my leash very old school: Cinder at my left side; left hand holding the leash at hip level with the remainder of the leash across to my right hand, firmly holding the end. Instead, I now gather the leash entirely in my left hand and hold it so that Cinder's head is slightly above level and she walks about four-six inches away from my leg on the left. I'm not sure why, but it is more effective than the way I previously held the leash.
The upside is that Cinder is very comfortable going on our little jaunts and can be seen happily wagging her tail as we wind our way along the bike paths. The latest test of her focus on me and her job versus attention to other strange dogs came last week. One evening, as we began our work, I had Cinder in a "sit" and suddenly a jogger with an Australian Cattle Dog appeared. As they came closer, the dog began lunging and barking at Cinder. Cinder initially gave the dog a quick glance and when I said, "Cinder, let's walk," she very quickly looked at me as we began walking briskly. With her attentively looking at me as I told her she was good and things would be okay while the strange dog passed beside us, I was absolutely proud of her and if I could, I would've jumped around and done the happy dance because it was the first time she made NO reaction toward a strange dog outside of our obedience class! YAY!!! Progress! REAL progress! We worked for about 20 more minutes and then we went to one of our play places and she was rewarded with a 40 minute game of chasing the flyer (a soft Frisbee) and even a little swimming.
This weekend, I finished the little items I decided to make for Cinder to have a Halloween costume. I've NEVER in my life considered dressing ANY dog - not even bandannas. I've always thought it was really pretty stupid. However, friends say and get other friends to do the oddest things. I decided one evening that Cinder would probably be akin to the Red Queen of "Alice in Wonderland"- the bossy little Queen who ran around saying, "Off with their heads!" On the whole, Cinder's an extremely loving, loyal little girl, often very meek and sweet. But, like most females, she also has a streak of bossy, demanding, little stinker, determined to get what she wants or know the reasons why. It is in one of those moments, while I was conversing with a friend (who dresses her dogs for Halloween every year), that it struck me Cinder could indeed have a costume - as long as we could keep it simple and it would be red (which I hate) so she could be the Red Queen.
I had to do a few other things after that and when I was done, I sat on the side of our bed, contemplating what chores I'd undertake next. In that moment, Cinder leaped onto the bed easily landing quietly and softly. Then she came to me, placed her front feet in position to literally sit up in front of me and give me a hug. We've been doing "hug" since she was very little. I'm sure she now equates "hug" as a means of expressing affection or the desire for attention. At that moment, I gave her a hug and she spied my scratched, bloody hand. She licked it very gently, repeating until my hand was clean of the blood. Then she looked at me and laid her head on my chest, still sitting up in the "hug" embrace. I asked if she would lay down and get "on your back" for a tummy rub which she quickly obliged me by doing. I rubbed her tummy. At that point, I realized that my 10 month old puppy is everything I'd hoped she'd be and more.
I've been so busy worrying about her reactivity and all that it entails; how hard it is to take her somewhere compared to my overly gregarious boys, that I've sort of lost track of who she really is in the scheme of our lives. The boys are so easy and go anywhere - everyone, human or dog, is their new best friend. For Cinder, people are new best friends to make, but other dogs and groups of children, not so much. I've been so concerned with how much training we could or should be doing; and generally trying to figure out how I could make her life better and help her learn the world won't eat her, that I kind of forgot we really need to just have fun together and forget about some of the other things more often. Life is short and we should enjoy it more. I wasn't seeing my puppy for the wonderful girl she is. I'd wanted a Border Collie pup that I could say is the happy meld of both my older boys, Gilley and Buzz. Two very different dogs could not be found in the same breed so it's amazing how much shared blood they actually have. Both my boys are utterly awesome-even according to other Border Collie people. I wanted a pup that would have the brain power, loyalty, kindness, responsiveness, speed and agility of Gilley. I also wanted a pup that would have less intensity than Gilley because he has no sense of humor. I wanted a pup that would have the amazing raw power and sheer strength of Buzz, with his fearlessness about trying new things. I definitely wanted one with a heart to do anything and everything we may do-one who does whatever the job requires without hesitation. Indeed, I got EXACTLY what I wanted when I got Cinder! She really is the meld of the abilities of my boys. She isn't quite as intelligent or intense as Gilley, but neither is she at all dim. She has all of Buzz's power and strength, with Gilley's speed; and both their big hearts. Every single morning and evening-every time we're separated for more than a few minutes for any reason, she bounds to greet me with hugs and kisses as though I've been gone for months and just returned. She won't even go out to potty in the morning without first coming to greet me with hugs and kisses. When I am home, she is never more than a couple feet from me. When she plays or works, she puts everything she has into whatever she's doing. She goes for everything with all the gusto she has to offer. She's not afraid to try anything and if she lives, she'll do it again if I want her to. When I'm hurt and bleeding, she licks the wounds with a care and gentleness I can't describe. At night, we go to bed and she assumes her place, next to my leg (the boys also beside me, Buzz lays at my shoulder and rests his head on my chest; Gilley beside my torso, snuggled against me with his head on my tummy). When we go somewhere, even with people she knows, Cinder clearly looks to me for security and approval. When I call, Cinder comes. She never just slowly meanders, she runs right up and sits in front of me. What more could I really want of her? She IS exactly the pup I really wanted, turning into the dog I'd hoped for. And she's only 10 months old, so what more may be ahead? As for the reactivity issue, well, it's tough, but tolerable and manageable so I can forgive that one oddity about her. After all, I'm FAR from perfect so I can certainly accept that she's a little less than perfect too.
At the end of the day today, I have the three best dogs in the world. Each one very different from the others and all equally talented and special. I'm very blessed to have them because they truly fill a huge void. Without them, I'm not sure how I would get through life. They are my joy. They are my family. I love them as much or more than many parents love their children.
As I said, nothing exciting happening lately-unless you consider the epiphany that Cinder is exactly the puppy I wanted to be exciting.
That's the update this time. Just another day of life in the daily endeavor Raising Cinder.
Be well and be good to yourselves and others!