We started the day with Bella on the trail. We pushed the limits a bit with hide-and-seek by hiding off the trail down-wind. I’d wait and wait and soon enough here’s the girl tracking my steps into the woods. We did another round of that where I was pretty deep into the trees. This time she relied more on the wind to catch my scent. It was fascinating as I saw her orbit around me at about a 20-30 yard distance until I caught her sight. It was a moment of sweetness for me as I thought to myself, “my dog just did that!” And this brings up a story from a few years back. I had taken Bella out to our local Nature Park to hit the trails for a run. I remember coming along the riverside and we had had a lot of rain so the path was muddy. I lost my footing and fell, which spooked her so she backed out of her collar and bolted the other direction. I went on the chase and couldn’t find her. I ran the trails for about 45 minutes trying to track her down. I’d stop and ask people if they had seen this big golden fluffy dog and they shook their heads. Being the sap I am, I became saddened and thought I had lost her. The sun was setting and time was running out. I began to head back to the front entrance of the park and a couple I had approached before had told me they saw the dog back at the parking waiting by what sounded like my SUV. So I ran to the parking lot which was a good mile and she wasn’t there. A woman had told me she ran out toward the entrance which turned left toward the country and right which lead back to town. I drove out there and ended up driving out to the country about a mile with no luck. So I turned around and drove back toward the park entrance and as I approached out of the corner of my left eye I caught a glimpse of a high fluffy golden tail and two ears flopping along the treeline about 200 yards out. I had found her and she very slowly approached until about a few feet away from me and she just stopped. I gave her a “hup” and she hopped in the vehicle. I had been so stricken with fear I began to tear up. From that day on she’s never fled like that. So, its just interesting to me that as I practice Natural Dog Training I’m seeing changes in the way I see myself and the way I see how nature truly works. It was just ironic to witness Bella searching for me.
When we were done with Bella this morning we took Trace on a hike up a mountain, every so often finding a ledge for him to climb up to help increase his confidence. It allowed him the option to work some suppleness and loosen his shoulders. A little rub-a-dub and some food and Trace was responding well to working that. When we got high enough up we got to a hemlock forest which Kevin pointed out was its own ecosystem – kind of neat. Kevin held Trace at the edge of the treeline as I made my way out to the horizon in the trees. I stalked him for a bit, ducking in and out of sight, my feet cracking beneath me as I stepped on fallen branches. I’d get a glance back about 100 yards where Kevin and Trace were and I could tell he was alert to “something” out there. I eventually hid behind a rock-wall and then called out to Trace in “pretty-boy” fashion. Even though he was on-lead, Trace came to me. It seems like a simple exercise but there’s a lot going on within the system of nature which encompasses the energy in and between human and dog.
One of the things Kevin is trying to get me to do is to be able to repeat his model and be fluent in the language. So, I had a pop quiz. Below is rough version of the conversation we had. I include that here because I’m learning that for people to really grasp the Natural Dog Training model you have to be able to see and feel from the dog’s perspective as closely as you can. We need to be articulating in the way the dogs are experiencing things while watching carefully how we explain it. Of course, with human linguistics we are going to put our own perception on it which is okay but we have to be careful with it:
Kevin: So, here’s the question of the day. In the dog’s mind, why do things happen?
Me: Because it made it happen?
Kevin: And how does it make it happen?
Me: based on whether it approached it or avoided it.
Kevin: Um, not quite. Its related to that. It would approach it or avoid for a deeper reason. Why did it approach it or avoid it?
Me: because it was prey-like or predator-like.
Kevin: That would be how we would schematicize it, and if that were true what would that mean? That is true, so if it were prey-like why would it approach it?
Me: because it wanted to make contact.
Kevin: why would it want to make contact?
Me: because it feels as if that’s it’s body.
Kevin: right, and so what does that mean, because that’s still a mental construct. If they feel its their body what are they feeling?
Me: their self
Kevin: and what does that feel like?
Me: like they are levitating, like they are weightless.
Kevin: yep, but then why would they go toward it?
Me: I don’t know [I’m being honest at this point]
Kevin: [as he pulls out two magnetic rods and let them come together] they feel a pull. Magnetic pull.
The reality that FINALLY flashed before my eyes was seeing how simple dogs and nature are and yet its so hard to articulate it. Kevin’s insight really amazed me and now I have a better grounded feel for what’s really going on.
The second half of the day we incorporated more work with Bella and Trace on the pulley-lines and working some of the other dogs that are here. There’s a German Shepherd here that has a really high prey instinct that comes out when he’s denied attention. We had Trace approach on-lead while this German was all bark and snarl and teeth in Trace’s face. Trace took it like a man and just absorbed – really flawless temperament in my boy. But what was really cool was it got the German to supple and they slowly went from touching noses to checking each other out, both with tails wagging high. And that’s one small sample of some of the many anecdotes I’ve taking away from my time here so far.
I’ll post day five tonight. There’s some rain coming in so I pray it keeps away from Newfane!