Sunday, May 16, 2010


See Breeze Part 1 and Part 2:

Day three - the walk.

I had the following day off work and decided to cancel all appointments so I could work instead with Breeze. The first thing we (meaning me, ‘cuz she was having none of it.) decided to try was a simple walk. Sheryl had said Breeze really liked walks, though she was usually terrified of everything while outside. I unnecessarily called for Willow, who was already at the door anticipating our morning jaunt, so Breeze would check out what was going on. Willow tilted pointy nose up at the ‘dressed’ command and we slipped the leash on with Breeze watching the ritual. With Willow prancing around ready to go, I knelt down and held out the leash for Breeze, being sure not to look her directly in the eye. Taking into consideration our lessons from the night before, I was excessively praising Willow for getting dressed. I didn’t move towards Breeze at all, having decided I would let her make all the decisions. She wouldn’t cross the last 5 feet between us; though I could tell she really wanted to do so.

We stayed that way for about 10 minutes. Me holding the leash, arms trembling at being held out so long, Willow confused with all the extended praise, and Breeze pacing back and forth just out of arm’s reach. We weren’t getting anywhere. So I showed Breeze the lead, draped it across the back of the couch, stood up and opened the door, sauntered out with Willow and closed the door on Breeze. We got to the end of the driveway before she realized we had actually left the building and were taking the walk without her.

I could hear her all the way down the street, howling like a banshee. Willow and I did a short walk, though I made sure we walked out of sight of the front window where Breeze was watching us, and were gone long enough to get the point across.

When we came back in the house I left Willow’s lead on (which confused her to no end) as I gave her lots of praise for going on the very short walk, (which confused her to the other end, but she worked with me by being excited to still have the leash on and recognizing the potential for another outing). I knelt down as I had done before and held the leash out to Breeze, again without making direct eye contact.

Breeze skittered around inching closer on each pass she made. Around minute 5, with my knees aching, arms sore, and realizing patience was going to be the buzz word of the day, Breeze walked into the martingale. I gave her lots of verbal praise, (but didn’t reach out to touch her) turned right around, opened the door and out we went; making the walk her big reward and deciding to forgo putting the halter that she always wore with Sheryl, for the benefits of going outside immediately.

I spent that whole first walk talking to both dogs, trying to get Breeze used to my voice. For anyone peeking out their front window, I was that crazy lady, you know the one you see carrying on a full conversation with her animals. Asking what to have for dinner? If they think the market will improve tomorrow? Should we clean the bathroom? I was really hoping it looked like I was singing along with an iPod.

I realized Breeze responded better when I pitched my voice a little higher and made everything sound like a ‘good girl’; happy, encouraging, exciting. Willow was thrilled with all the good things she was doing. “Good girl Willow, walking past those barking dogs. Good girl Willow, seeum people. Good girl Willow, ignoring the big truck.” Breeze kept one eye on me and one eye out for any other dangers along the route. Not trusting me anymore than any other threat. She hung pretty tight to Willow for the entire walk, using her as a security blanket.

It was early morning and I lived in a quiet neighborhood, so there weren’t many scary things along our route. That helped, she only completely froze a few times where she wouldn’t move any further. Those were panic moments when someone came into view or dogs rushed the fence or she heard something or a tree branch moved in the breeze. Short of dragging her when she froze, she wasn’t going anywhere. So we would wait until the threat was nullified, perhaps the person went back in the house, the car drove past or there wasn’t a follow up loud noise, before we would attempt moving again. We did it all at Breeze’s pace. She managed well and would eventually start moving again on her own and we circled the block.

Then we got back to my driveway. And that’s when she planted and wouldn’t go any further. At all. Period. No way, no how. Thank you very much for the walk, I’m not entering that house. She just rooted to the spot. I never fully appreciated that saying until right then.

It took just as long to get down the last bit of drive as it had to do the whole rest of the walk. Nothing I did worked to get her to go the last 30 feet to the front door. I waited for her to move once she had analyzed the threat. Nope, the threat was going into the house. I started with praising and coaxing. Nope. You would have thought the house had bullied her, stolen her lunch money, given her a swirly and thrown her in the dumpster. She wasn’t going near it.

I’m going through options trying to figure out how this was going to work. Maybe get Willow into the house so I have only Breeze to work with. Can I tie Breeze to something until I get Willow into the house? If I let Willow’s leash go will she stay with us? Maybe tie Willow to something…Crap, there’s nothing within reach! What would Cesar do!?!

I finally realized this was something that was not going to happen by letting her work it out herself. So I gave her leash a little tug. Then commenced the real defiance. Breeze lowered her head and pulled backwards trying to slip the Martingale. Damn tiny greyhound heads, anyway. She was determined to escape; it was as simple as that. I did as all greyhound owners learn the first week of ownership - the how to prevent the slippery I’m-going-to-test your-knowledge-about-greyhounds-getting-out-of-their-leashes move, and swung the martingale so the lead was under her chin and pulled downward on the leash, locking it in behind her ears. She dug in and pulled harder, twisting her head from side to side. Now it was my turn to be the one to say 'nope, not gonna happen'. Once she realized I knew that little move she stopped pulling backwards and re-planted. Well crap, I'd just lost 5 feet of ground. Now what?

She wasn't going to move willingly. We established that. So I did what I didn't want to do and forced her move. We made it to the door with intermittent tugging, begging, pulling, praising, dragging and quiet cussing. Mostly in short bursts with breaks in between. The praise at each hard-earned step went completely unheeded. I was as exhausted as Breeze by the time we finally made it into the house, so I made a mental note to fix the drag marks in the gravel of the drive after taking a nap.

Sheryl’s response to the ‘what the hell just happened?’ phone call that occurred the moment we got the door safely closed behind us and leashes off: “Wow she did really well if you got her all the way to the end of the driveway before she froze. She stopped at the end of our street for me. I wasn’t sure how I was getting her home. Tomorrow just do slight and quick sideways tugs on the halter and she will eventually take that one step that will get her going again.”

Oh, that's why Breeze never went anywhere without both martingale and halter. Note to self, no matter how long it takes to put the halter on in the future, do so. Far less stress about the very real possibility of an escaping dog and more control on getting her started walking again when she freezes. I started to realize the enormity of what I had gotten myself into and all that I needed to learn.

The harness - a vital accoutrement.

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