So I’ve been hiking with the good boy, right?
Because the hubs is in my comfy bed with ice on his knee, right?
I hike at, what is for me, a snail’s pace. Uphill is hard. Downhill is a bitch.
Jake has been amazing. He gets that I can’t go fast. He keeps a steady pace, and if he gets ahead of me on a downhill slope, he stops, sits and stays. Waits for me to catch up.
He’s also been helping me out by wearing a backpack so he can carry stuff upstairs to the hubster. He’s getting really good at it. Saves me a trip every once in a while.
I’ve been sticking to the flatter wilderness park, doing maybe two miles twice a day. Occasionally I do an attenuated hike at the hilly park (have some pics for you later), but like I said, coming downhill is sort of killer. I have to zig-zag my way across the path if I have the space. If the path is narrow Jake stays behind me so I can see my footing. Can’t risk a misstep.
So I’ve been getting some, well, merde recently. Let me tell you about it.
I decided to take Jake to the flatter park around dusk. Less likely to run into hordes of other dogs because, as you know, I cannot risk a knee-capping. Jake and I got out of the car and headed to the on-leash side of the park. The trails are nice and level and I can warm my knee up before we climb to the higher area. Jake’s been great. I’m using his extendable leash as opposed to his working leather leash. This way he can get out in front of me, do a little exploring, sniff a few bushes. He’s happy, I’m happy. Pulling hasn’t been an issue- except for once and you’ll hear about that shortly.
So we meandered around, climbed up through a ravine– all on leash by the way– reached the higher section of the park, walked up what we call Horse Hill and down the shallow side, along the Vineyard Trail, and headed to the off-leash area where he could have some free time and I could throw his rubber ball for him. We encountered nary a soul.
There were a few people and a few dogs in the off-leash area, a handful at best. One couple had lost their dog in the vineyard and I was able to tell them where he was because Jake immediately spotted him and wanted to chase after him, but he was a good boy and came back to me when I called.
The sun had set and it was growing pretty dark, but the ball is glow-in-the-dark, remember, plus Jake has a great sense of smell, so we hung out for about 20 minutes playing a game of throw and fetch.
At last I decided to head back to the main road– can’t take the trail, too steep, but I can walk down the gravel road. I tossed his ball backwards a few times as we walked along the trail towards the road and at last I said, “Okay Jake, we’re going to the car. Time for your leash.” At which point he sat at my side and waited for me to connect his leash. Because that’s what good boys do.
I glanced up and noticed a woman walking her two dogs, off leash, about thirty yards in front of us. She was on a trail perpendicular to the trail on which I stood. So I decided to just wait and let her pass. I had to cross that trail to get to the road and I didn’t feel like disconnecting Jake’s leash simply so he could greet her dogs. He sat at my side like a perfect angel because I’d told him to sit/stay. He showed no interest in either the woman or her dogs. No big deal. We could wait a minute or two.
Here’s the other thing- cuz yeah, there is another thing. She was on a trail that overlooks the highway. Now it’s a quarter-mile from the highway but still it overlooks the highway. Jake hates cars. He would, if he could, chase cars and get himself killed. So we always leash him before he can see the highway. Most dog walkers allow their dogs to run down to the parking lot– which I find annoying and, frankly, unsafe. I’ve nearly backed over unsupervised dogs. Besides, the drive out of the parking lot opens directly onto the highway. Duh. However, it’s none of my business. I keep my mouth shut.
My dog, however, is my business. I do what I do with my dog– whatever it takes to keep my dog safe, and because he is a German shepherd, whatever it takes to be respectful of other people. Jake is friendly but most people are intimidated by the mere sight of a German shepherd. Jake is my third German shepherd. It’s just fact. I know this. So I am always polite and respectful and if anyone seems disconcerted at the sight of such a big dog, I leash him as a courtesy– more on that later too!
Instead of continuing her walk, the woman stopped.
“This is the off-leash area,” she called out.
Me– “Yeah? So?”
Her– “So let him off leash.”
Me– WTF??? “No.”
Her– “Why not?”
Me– Holy shite, lady, what is your problem? “Because…”
Her– “Well maybe he wants to meet my dogs.”
Me– “Well maybe I want him on leash right now.”
Her– “Well if you have a mean dog I know two trainers up near Windsor and they can train your dog in three months.”
Me– OMG, lady, shut up and move your ass. “I don’t have a mean dog.”
Her– “Well I still don’t see…”
Me– I do not have to explain a single thing to you, ya friggin’ idiot. “What I do with my dog is none of your business. Okay?”
But at least she finally moved along. Jay-sus! Meanwhile the other folks managed to get their dog out of the vineyard and they were walking him on leash on a trail parallel to me. I heard one of them say, “Christ. What’s her problem?”
So Jake and I hiked down the road. There were three cars in the parking lot. Mine, and I put Jake in the back, the car belonging to the people who’d retrieved their dog from the vineyard, and they were already backing out, and the car belonging to Ms. Inappropriate. She’d already loaded her dogs into her car. Apparently she’d waited for me because she pulled up right next to me and said–
“Excuse me. I’m sorry to bother you, but you really should talk to the trainers in Windsor. They’ve saved all sorts of vicious dogs from euthanasia. They could work wonders with your dog, you know, the dogs that bite people and have three strikes against them.”
Me– “First of all, I don’t have a vicious dog. Second, why on earth would you assume I have a vicious dog?”
Her– “Well you had him on leash in the off-leash area…”
Me– “So? People leash their dogs in the off-leash area all the time.”
Me– “Well, what? I have my reasons and frankly, my reasons are none of your damn business. I don’t owe you an explanation. I don’t even know why I’m giving you the courtesy of talking to you now.”
She huffed again and I got in my car and drove away. I was so angry. First because she assumed Jake was a vicious dog simply because he’s a German shepherd and second because she thought it was her business to tell me what to do with my dog and third because she imposed upon me– made me feel like I owed her an explanation when I didn’t owe her a damn thing. My dog had done nothing but sit by my side like a little furry angel. What on earth was there to complain about?
So of course I told hubby all about it. All about it. And he was just as indignant as I was.
The next morning I got up early and took Jake back to the same park. Our first stop was the fenced (empty at this time of the morning) dog enclosure so Jake could work off some of his insane morning energy by chasing his ball. Just as we were ready to leave the enclosure and head up to the off-leash area I saw this big mastiff arrive with his owner. This mastiff hates Jake. Every time he sees him he attacks him. But, since his owner is an older man and he can only do one loop around the off-leash area I figured Jake and I would head to the other side, the on-leash area, and by the time we reached the off-leash area, the mastiff would be gone. Brilliant. Problem solved.
In the mornings Jake is effusive. He’s insanely energetic and he really wants to run. And of course, in the mornings, there is game around. So there we were on a flat trail and out pops a rabbit. Jake lunged after the rabbit and dragged me for a few feet before I could get him under control. I brought him back to me but the stupid rabbit turned and ran in our direction so Jake lunged for him again. So I says…
“Damn it, Jake. Get your ass back here!” And I smacked him on the rump with his ball. You see, I was holding the ball thrower. Then I made him heel and I used the ball thrower to tap him on the butt whenever he tried to go after the rabbit – a gentle reminder. Seriously– it’s a rubber ball and a thin plastic ball thrower. And by a tap I mean a light tap.
Picture this – he’s heeling on my left. In my right hand is the ball thrower and I’m holding it behind me on my right. I swing it around and tap him on his right hip if he starts to tug on me. It’s a training technique my daughter uses with horses as well so you’re not in their face freaking them out all the time.
Suddenly I hear this voice–
“You don’t have to hit him.”
OMG. Please tell me it’s not her.
It wasn’t her, but it was this woman with whom I am somewhat familiar. She owns a female yellow lab, a very sweet dog, who would love to play with Jake but who is not allowed any contact with any other dog. The woman always walks the lab off leash in the on-leash area and she calls ahead when she sees me coming and asks me to move off the trail because, as I said, her dog is not allowed any contact with other dogs. In three years I have always obliged her without a single complaint, even though it is illegal to walk your dog off leash in that area. I have never ever admonished her for doing so. I’ve never once said, “Put your dog on leash,” or “Screw you. Take a different trail.” A. I’m polite and B. I’m not the police.
I looked at her. I said, “Mind your own business.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to hit him.”
I really didn’t feel like explaining – I had knee surgery five weeks ago and when he lunged after that rabbit it hurt like hell and he could have injured me and by God all I did was give him a quick smack with a rubber ball on his big furry rump. It’s not like he even noticed.
The look she shot me said– You are an abuser. I should call the Humane Society on you.
Jake was perfect for the rest of the hike, but she’d ruined my day. I told Oscar– I can’t win for losing.
Oh! Oh! Oh! One more thing about that morning– So when Jake and I were on the Vineyard Trail I heard a runner coming behind us. As I always do, because nobody appreciates a German shepherd nose in his/her crotch, I moved off to the side of the narrow trail and had Jake sit/stay. The runner, a woman, was so impressed that she said, “He’s just the best boy. He’s so pretty! Can I pet him?”
And sure, I let her pet him. And then she went on her merry way and we went on our merry way. So when I was walking to the parking lot maybe thirty minutes later I saw her running down the trail opposite. She was passing a man with a dog off leash (in the on-leash area), a dog Jake does not like. Now Jake was on leash and heeling and the dog was maybe fifty yards away so he ignored her. Well, this dog began to bark at the runner, then chased after her, jumped on her and bit her and the owner just kept on a-walkin’. The runner stopped, totally flabbergasted. I went over to make sure she was okay. She was, but she could not believe the owner didn’t even apologize. He completely ignored the situation. His dog is some sort of small sheep dog. Not a Bernese Mountain dog but maybe a Swiss Mountain dog?
Let me tell you, if Jake had done that, because he’s a German shepherd, a hue and cry would have gone up so loud and so vitriolic that Tom Stronach would have heard it all the way in Wessex!
Here are some photos of our hilly hike – FYI – I only climbed a third of the way to the summit. No worries, Jaye.