October 29, 2019

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

-George Lucas


Continued from last week…

It’s strange, how fear engenders anger, isn’t it? I suppressed the you-just-wait-until-I-catch-you fury that pulsed in my temples. The last thing I needed was for Waldo to think that I would punish him when I got control of him again. But I couldn’t control the oh-my-God-he-can-run-much-faster-than-I-can-I’m-going-to-lose-him fear that raged in my chest.

Waldo ignored me, gleefully running up to the curb and running on the grass next to the cars going by. He must have felt a sudden gush of pent-up herding instinct, finally able to be released in all its glory. My chest tightened even more. If he got out in the street… I quashed visions of him being hit by a car traveling at speed. The distance between us grew, but I kept at my slow pace and called him again. I started thinking about who I should call and how I would find Waldo when I lost sight of him, which seemed imminent.

I held my breath as Waldo ran up to, then across, the street that crosses the rail-trail near the caboose. The drivers there saw him coming and stopped, letting him safely go on his way. The damned dog stuck to the direction of the path, but in the grass next to the curb, and continued chasing the cars. After a minute or so, he laid down in the shade, exhausted. Panting furiously, tongue fully extended, he continued to ignore me and watched the car-sheep. I walked up to him, slowing as I got close, and talked to him calmly, softly calling out his name and telling him to come. I got to within six feet, he turned, looked at me, and was up and at a full gallop again – still after the car-sheep. I had gotten close, maybe I could get lucky. I continued my measured pursuit.

The cars came to a stop at a red light. Waldo rushed out into the street and stuck his nose into a nearby tailpipe, then sniffed a rear tire. Oh, God! This was it! A vision of a bleeding, mournfully whining dog danced in my brain. The breath stopped in my throat and I had the strongest impulse to charge at the cars, wave my arms and shout, “Stop! Don’t move!”

And then he was back in the grass and plopped down in some shade. I approached him slowly again, calling to him and talking to him in a calm voice. How I pulled that off, I’ll never know. Once again, when I got within six feet, he, after a quick glance in my direction, was up and gone in a full gallop. I followed, feeling less and less sure that I was ever going to be able to get him back on the leash before something terrible happened.

He ran hard until he got to the part of the trail that goes right up to the curb. There, he collapsed on his side, up against the pipe fence, right next to the traffic, panting hard. I came toward him slowly, calmly, lovingly and, this time, got close enough I could get a handful of fur. My sweat-based cooling system out-lasted his dripping-tongue pant. Got you, you son of a bitch!

I reconnected the leash, petted him affectionately, and poured fire retardant all over the frustrated anger that burned in my soul. The last thing I wanted was for Waldo to feel that being back with me was a punishing experience. A flood of relief washed over me even, as I reminded myself that it would be counterproductive to indulge in the inappropriate punishment my hormones so urged me to douse him in. We walked slowly back to the bench where I offered him, again, a long drink of water. My fear and anger slowly ebbed and I spent much of the rest of the walk home, thinking about how I could prevent anything like that from happening ever again. And I thanked the Fates, over and over, for letting me keep my dog.

Like I said, that was a couple of months ago. Today, we walk on the rail-trail, but not so far. My ankle still gets a bit sore if we go more than about five miles and I don’t want to push it. The weather is cooler and I’m not so sure, but, if Waldo did get away now, I might have a harder time getting him back again. And things have changed. He no longer seems to be as interested in chasing the car-sheep. Waldo doesn’t pull at and fight the leash like he used to and walks close to traffic a lot more calmly. I’ve changed the mechanism of his leash connection a bit and I don’t think he can get it to release again. We practice the “come” command while we’re on the trail and he complies well – at least while on leash. None of this means that, if he were to get away, I wouldn’t have just as hard, or even harder, a time getting him back on leash, but we’ve come a long way.

And we are, thank God, still together.

Waldo and I, still here.


1 comment

Walt Trachim


This is Weezy.

She is my 7 year-old Staffordshire Terrier/American Bulldog mix. A Pit Bull. Probably the most intelligent, affectionate dog I’ve ever had. Plus she’s a rescue; five years ago she was in a kill shelter on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia where she was found. She was taken out of there and ultimately ended up here, with me.

I love this dog more than some human beings. However, she sometimes will get off-leash and play “catch me if you can”, and when this happens I generally have symptoms that mimic a heart attack. But she always let’s me catch her, and I am done being angry once she’s back with me. It’s not that I worry about her getting waffled by a car; I’m more worried about her running away and not coming back. That would break my heart if that were to happen. I think she’s at the point in her life, though, where she knows it would break my heart if she took off. I believe that’s why she doesn’t.

Waldo will figure out the same thing because he has figured out that you are his pack. It doesn’t get more simple than that.

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