Friday, February 17, 2012

Hollow & Rilke's Excellent Adventures...

Why yes, that is a shout out to my graduating class of my alma mater -- well, the high school I graduated from that is. (I count two high schools as "alma maters" as I attended boarding school briefly before needing to return home when my mother got ill with cancer the first time.)

Let's just say that for an absolutely excellent reason our "senior theme" was Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Heck, I even wrote one of my college application essays on that movie as the answer to the most profound book / movie / poem, etc that had an impact on me.

Because yes, yes that movie is profound.

But I digress. Again.

I'm here to talk about Rilke and Hollow and their latest adventures -- as there is never a (X&#!*&@$!) dull moment around here.... And I'm not even talking porcupines this time!

There was the evening they took off at top speed when I opened the door for their last of the day potty break around 10:30 at night. And didn't come back.

And didn't come back. Finally, at midnight, with steam coming out of my ears, I decided that I was done waiting up, and they would have to learn the hard way. So I went up to bed.

I had just fallen asleep when the phone rings. I glance at the clock: it's 12:30 am. What the....?!

It's my handyman, who happens to live in the nearest small town to me. And by small town, I mean a population you can count with body digits. This is the same town I referred to in an earlier post where the "Mayor's" response to the Sheriff warning of a a potential road wash out with "Hmmm, well, you'll just airlift in beer, right?"

This town is 0.6 miles from the trail head parking lot to the town sign on the main road. It's 0.25 miles from my house to the trail head parking lot. As I discovered a couple of weeks later, it's at least that far from the town sign to my handyman's house. So this is at minimum a mile away -- up a road where the locals laugh at speed limits.

So I calmly say, "Hi Dave." As really, how else does one behave after midnight when one's loved ones are missing? Dave calmly responds, "You missing your dogs?"

Now, I gotta admit, I was half-tempted to do a "Blue Collar Comedy Tour 'Here's Your Sign'" and respond, "Why no, Timmy's down a well and I sent them after help." But I resisted. Mostly because the steam still hadn't disappeared yet.

Seems my dogs were on his porch at that moment. On a porch over a mile away. On a porch where I didn't even know where it was! As I had never been to my handyman's cabin. Yet my dogs had tracked him, and stopped by to say hi. I'd like to think they were following the parental advice of "if you're lost go find the nearest adult you trust and ask for help".

In reality, I think they were inviting him out to play. Him. Not me.

So I get out of bed (grumble grumble), get dressed (grumble grumble), go downstairs (grumble grumble), grab the car keys (grumble grumble), go out in the cold (grumble grumble), get in the car (grumble grumble), drive to the gate (grumble grumble), get out in the cold (grumble grumble), open the gate (grumble grumble), decide at this hour it doesn't matter and leave it wide open (grumble grumble), and drive up to the town (grumble grumble), realizing as I pass the town sign that I have no idea where my handyman lives and I forgot to ask him (grumble grumble), so I drive to the only stop sign in the town (which happens to say "STOP Hammertime" and so I giggle slightly because I can't help myself every time I see that sign), open my car window (grumble grumble), and whistle and call for the dogs (grumble grumble), who come running down the side street at top speed, with Hollow virtually flying into the car as I pull the door open quickly, and Rilke suddenly remembering he hates cars and starting to do the crab-scuttle away before I grab him, pick him up and throw him in the back seat too (grumble grumble)....

But it appears Dave was not the only one the pups had decided to start paying visits too or hanging out with. As every time I went on a hike or drove out to leave for errands, people starting stopping me and asking me if the dogs were mine. Seems the dogs were introducing themselves all around, and choosing people to go on hikes with regularly. In fact, one woman actually complained that she saw them, and wanted them to accompany her as she cross country skied, and was upset they had taken off to go after some one (or something) else!

The same turned out to be true with one of my other neighbors. I had briefly met him several weeks ago. I had opened the door for the evening walk, they spotted him and his dogs on the trail above us, and immediately headed up to say hi as I scrambled after them. He and his girlfriend live in the house up the road slightly from the trail head parking lot -- so perhaps a half mile all told from my cabin.

I go out of town for a week (more on that later), and upon my return am giving the dogs their evening walk when I run into said neighbor again. We chat and he informs me that the dogs had been showing up on their porch every single night around 10 pm. His girlfriend shows up from work, and chimes in -- oh yeah. Every night! Even came in the house a couple of times when we opened the door. Except this last week -- we didn't see them once for the last week.

Well. It appears my rare social life of visiting friends near the largest city nearby interrupted their regular social life.

~ sigh ~

Speaking of the trip: my friends have an older shiba inu, a really cool adorable looking dog that is actually an ancient breed from Japan bred for hunting. This dog is not particularly sociable with other dogs, and had snapped at Rilke twice (drawing blood) and Hollow once (no contact) on previous trips. But they also had recently adopted a German Shepherd puppy. Tiny, cute, will get huge.

And, I gotta admit, I wondered how Hollow would do. I wondered about the wrong dog.....

Hollow was patient, sweet, and would do a careful snap or two when she finally lost patience. Rilke was mean, vicious, and even managed to draw blood once. Yes, you read that right: Rilke! 

He hated that puppy, and we were constantly having to break them up and separate them. It was nuts. My only thought on this one is that perhaps after being beaten up by the shiba inu the last couple of visits, he was thrilled to pass on the bullying.... Which is awful and sad -- and also really really dumb. This puppy is going to be 150 lbs in a couple of months! In fact, this puppy will be doubled in size the next time we visit! Rilke better damn well hope the puppy is the forgiving type....

But the dogs did seem to love that my friends have a huge yard with a nice high 8 foot fence. So I didn't walk them once, we just left the door open in the basement all day, so that they could come and go as they pleased. They loved this lifestyle. Or so I thought....

We get back to the cabin, and both dogs promptly take off running. Clearly, as before, they had a lot of "peemail" to catch up on. So I don't think twice.

I start to think twice when I discover over the next days that they are no longer listening to me on hikes, no longer staying near me in the least, and no longer even waiting for me for the hikes. Either they are getting back at me for not walking them, or they've lost what little discipline I had instilled in them during our week of "demotivation".

I finally lose it -- ironically on the same evening I ran into the neighbors and learned about their "nightly visits" -- on an evening walk when I get all suited up, open the door, and they take off at a full sprint up the drive. Neither of them even glancing back as I scream after them.

The steam reappears.

I storm up the drive -- well, I go up the drive as forcefully, angrily and fast as is possible when you're talking about a snow-covered hill with a 10 percent grade. At the top of the drive they both reappear with innocent expressions of "Oh cool mom, you're coming too?" I have none of it, grab them both with separate hands and pull them down and flip them over on their backs. I am enforcing "alpha" if it kills me.

Hollow is so freaked out, she pees a little bit. I actually expect this, and so have flipped her away from where I'm kneeling. So she pees half on herself, and half on the snow on her far side. (Meanwhile, Rilke is all teenager, and I swear he is rolling his eyes at me and making faces every time I turn to address Hollow.)

I release them, and we do our hike -- running into the neighbor and his dogs, and I notice Hollow is paying a tiny bit more attention to me.

In fact, in the days since, she has generally stayed closer on hikes, though she is still prone to wandering, and when they both take off at full sprint, there is no getting their attention. (As I discovered the evening walk a few days later when they saw the neighbor getting home as we were heading back to the cabin, and so took off at full speed down the trail, across the parking lot, and across the road -- right in front of a car!!! -- and to the neighbor's house.) But on the whole, she's actually spending a majority of the hikes hanging out in the general vicinity.

Plus, they are no longer going on hour long plus evening potty breaks -- I tell them "short break" as they go out the door, and they've been coming back within a half an hour or so now, with Hollow leading the way.


I've always believed in the 'rule of alpha', and in all the small things you have to do to help establish yourself as alpha (always enter and leave the house before the dogs, holding them on their back till they stop struggling, etc) -- but will also admit these seemed to be having little effect on Hollow. Of course she also seemed to not be fully -- well -- domesticated. So perhaps she is getting a little of that -- and so a little more willing to focus on me.


Even more interesting? Perhaps I don't need those expensive doggy cams any more -- I just need to post an ad in the paper or, even better, on the bulletin board at the trail head parking lot, with photos of the dogs and offering an email address asking for information on their adventures...


Excellent adventures indeed! 

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