Tessa is a dancing queen, easily balancing on her hind legs before taking off, going airborne in seconds. She’s worn a path along the side fence where she dashes from one end of that part of the yard to the other defending her territory from all of the neighbors who walk along the sidewalk.
With their dogs.
She’s slowly learning to let herself be diverted from that display of righteous indignation. My first attempts to interrupt her backyard attacks – that start when she hears, sees or smells the enemy approaching causing her to instantly regroup; to gather herself up to fly across the yard so that she can position herself in front of our side gate, hackles up, sharp staccato barks punctuating what was, moments ago, a peaceful afternoon’s quiet – failed miserably.
We didn’t really know each other in those early days. She took me completely by surprise with her ferocious, territorial stance because I was charmed by her size.
Such is the appeal of tiny dogs. They are cute. Which can distract you from their not-so-cute behavior.
I knew better.
But, I’d gotten used to living with older dogs with fabulous backyard manners – two dogs so well behaved when they were outside that you never knew they were there.
Tessa was going to force me out of retirement – she and I would go back to school, practice walking together, work on re-directing her territorial behavior inside the house in addition to working on her backyard manners.
Every time I asked her to change her behavior, Tessa had to learn to ignore the messages flooding her brain cells from her self-righteous, screaming DNA.
The goal has been/is to get her to want to pay more attention to me than to whatever it is that is “distracting” her. There are days when we get this – when she looks at me first to see what I’m asking her to do.
There are days when I don’t ask fast enough, and she takes off across the yard.
Because Tessa is what she is, the worst thing I can be is lazy. Off my game. If I fail to find positive outlets for her true nature – where her physical speed, lightning fast agility and her intelligence can all be tested – the likelihood is that she will be just another yappy, nuisance dog that other people grumble about.
And, that’s not what I want for her … or for me.
So, we work together at this. And in the doing, we get better, things get easier and the work becomes less work and more about play. What never changes is that Tessa is always on her game; ready for anything. In this, she’s like every other dog in the world that ever was or will ever be.
Their “readiness” is a magical place – the sweet spot where they live and where they’re always willing to take us. They open that door with a look or the wag of a tail. Those of us who pay attention, accept their invitations, and step inside, become changed in ways that we never could have imagined.
On the hard days when I don’t want to accept that invitation, I remember what’s on the other side… and, I grab my treat bag and go. [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]