Safety Patrol

I try to get out for a walk every day.  There is an almost-three-mile loop from my front door on a country road with neither stripes nor shoulder.  The town speed limit is posted as 30 mph. This is loosely interpreted as whatever speed you will go.  Most cars seem to be aware of me and my leashed dogs, slow a bit (though never a lot), and give us room.  I have only had two scary encounters so far, the first happening during the first week of school.  It was a woman with a blond ponytail who drives a black BMW SUV and since she was on the phone she never did see me or my dogs. The second was this week, when the FedEx ground truck went by so fast Captain dove into the drainage ditch at the side of the road and cowered there, crouching.   
I do see other walkers, mostly women, sometimes with dogs and sometimes chatting and walking vigorously in pairs. There is one young woman who walks down the middle of the road, and who was not wearing shoes the first two times I saw her.  She has long, straight brown hair and bangs and large eyes that don’t look at you.  She wears clothes I can only describe as completely ordinary. But then she doesn’t have shoes on. With her is a dog that I would call a tan and white pit-bull mix. It wears no collar, and she carries no leash.  We saw them the very first time we went for a walk. The dog is out of control but friendly. The woman doesn’t really talk, not even about the dogs.  I gave her a nickname: Gandhi, pronounced “Candy.”
Two days ago, the dogs and I headed off to check the road-kill (which is another story completely), but found the road was blocked for repairs.  Yesterday, I passed the repair crew, and we exchanged smiles and nods. Cherry sneezed at the smell of the hot asphalt, and I got a chuckle out of that. But that day, we headed down the road past the stable with the intention of turning back at the half-way point.  I was thinking about the Haves and the Have-Nots on this road (which is also another story completely), when the vet pulled out onto the road next to me after a call to the stable.  He pulled up alongside of me and warned me, with concern in his voice, to look out for a pit-bull which is being walked loose and has been allowed to chase horses. “Don’t want it to be a problem for you.”

Doing Stuff with Dogs

If you have a dog that you have taught to sit and stay for a long time (even after you disappear), you can teach him Hide-and-Seek.  Pluto loved to play Hide-and-Seek, and would seek treats, toys, and hiding children. Sometimes, we could get him amped by telling him, “Pluto! Go find it!” He would excitedly start looking, even though he didn’t know what he was looking for.
Pluto could also heel off-leash, and really was easier and more fun to walk this way than on a leash. Of course, Seattle leash laws are very strict, and I did once get a ticket for walking my dogs off leash in an empty park.  I made my dogs come and sit and stay while I snapped on their leashes. My son, a toddler, slept in the stroller while the Animal Control officer explained to me the infraction we had committed and the associated fines I had incurred.  I paid the fine, but do not remember changing how or when or even where I walked my dogs, and did not get caught again. 
Today I do not let my dogs off-leash in the city. In part it is the dogs themselves, one being unreliable with strangers and big dogs, and the other being an incredible goof-ball and unreliable in the common-sense department.  The other piece is that I have now encountered one too many grouchy persons in Seattle, and I am tired of apologizing.
Pluto liked the dog park, but with young children it was hard for me to get him there. Mostly, he just wanted to swim and fetch. Wheatie enjoyed the dog park, too, but he enjoyed almost everything.  When he was young he was often the target of humping by the humper-dogs, and he never minded at all.  Sometimes a dog like Wheatie will end up with a cluster of humper-dogs humping his head or his rump, or even humping the other humper-dogs, and he did not mind that either.  Cherry seems to have mixed feelings about the dog park, since she is actually afraid of really big dogs. Sometimes she will go ballistically bitchy on a dog she does not like the look of, and I cannot say for sure what it is that sets her off.  She looks and sounds a lot nastier than she actually is, having the rounded teeth of a retriever, but these days, even dog-owners themselves do not always seem to know the difference between a real dog fight and a bitchy dog scolding another.
Captain brings love of the dog park to a whole new level.  I am a stickler for good behavior in the car, the parking lot and at the unleashing area of the off-leash area. I insist that they sit and stay and hold still when we arrive and leave, but as soon as Captain is unclipped from the lead and given permission to do so, he explodes with excitement.  He spends the first ten or so minutes vigorously scratching and kicking the grass with his long hind legs and barking. Sometimes the enthusiastic barking goes on for quite a while.  He gallops around the park, greeting every available dog, and always has an eye peeled for any short-haired dog that particular shade of red-brown he knows to mean Vizsla.  They say the best toy for a Vizsla is another Vizsla. In Captain’s case, it is true.  He came from a home with a lot of dogs, and he loves to chase and be chased and wrestle.

As for Hide-and-Seek, Captain understands how to wait for the hiding part, and is happy to go look, but his attention span has not yielded good results in turns of actually finding anything.