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So Far

So Far

So Far

Mabel and I started a Rally Class a few weeks ago, not to compete. I’m dreadfully disgraceful with precision work. However, Mabel thrived in manners class, so I wanted to continue building her confidence and practice being calm around other dogs in a controlled setting.  

Before class started, Mary Kate (the instructor) emailed us asking what our goals were. I replied, “To walk Mabel in our neighborhood, to be able to go out to dinner here and there, and to travel and hike with Mabel.” 

Well, my hopefully-loves-being-alone-soon-and-loves-urban-walks-as-much-as-hiking-and-traveling girl charged through the training room door the first night far from calm. Mabel was standing on her back legs, staring at the other dogs, and bouncing so much that I had difficulty holding onto her. And I worried we might disrupt the other students, even on the perimeter of the class behind visual barriers. But, after 15 minutes, Mabel relaxed enough that she ate the treats I tossed on the ground. Then, Mabel calmed enough to lick from her pouch. By the end of class, my sweet girl’s soft body language told me she could respond to a few basic cues, and I was right.

It’s incredible how rough a seemingly simple task for everyone else can be for us, for our dogs. And it’s easy to give up when what we want is far from where we are. I almost did. Five minutes into class, Mabel and I struggled so much that I thought about pulling Mary Kate aside. 

I’m delighted I didn’t quit. Mabel is engaged enough to respond to more and more cues during class each week. My sweet girl lights up when I ask for “heel” or “come front.” The confidence building on the pivot platform and Cato board is helping Mabel outside of class. And to say Mabel loves Mary Kate and vice versa is an understatement. I’m so grateful every time Mary Kate gets as excited as I am about Mabel’s small successes, things so far from what the other dogs are doing in class.

Mabel’s been so confident that we ventured on our first ten-minute walk in our neighborhood in six months last week. It was quiet and drizzly, so I knew we’d have the brick sidewalks to ourselves. Mabel didn’t show signs of fear, stress, or even calming signals. However, the contrast between the no-grass-to-hide-good-squirrel-scents-speed walk and the meandering, trekking, and sometimes stopping to check out sounds and smells on our usual walks was so incredibly different that I decided to put neighborhood walks on hold again. Neither of us enjoyed our street stroll. 

Then, the next day, Mabel and I wandered onto a new path in the park we’d been walking for months. Trees surrounded us. It was silent, peaceful, so lovely. As Mabel and I continued strolling near the stream, we simultaneously sighed. And, I thought, “I may be far away from ever walking her in our neighborhood. Maybe we never will. But hiking and exploring new paths together doesn’t seem so far off.” 

So, today, I offer this to all of us. May our dreams be one step closer than we think. May our hopes keep us moving on the paths we’re meant to be on. And, may we cherish every beautiful connection we make along the way.

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