Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Little Too Neighborly

The weather has been glorious for the past couple of days. And, like most Portlanders when the sun finally decides to make a showing, the dogs have been feeling particularly frisky. And I'm just now realizing that the brief bit of freedom we were allowing the dogs on rainy days is now over.

We live at the end of a little alley and the patch of grass just beside our house is fairly private, but it's not fenced. Because we are a ways from the cross street, from time to time we've been letting the boys out into the yard off leash. If we let them out together, they play chase and wrestle (which we're discouraging even more, as Kirby's supposed to keep relatively calm until he gets a clean bill of health from the vet). But if we let them out individually (we always go with them), they're usually very good about trotting out to the yard, doing their business and coming back to the door. Of course, ever since we've been doing this it's pretty much been cool and rainy and I think the boys just didn't want to spend time out there any more than we did.

But now that summer's finally making an appearance, things are different. Time for new rules.

On the first sunny day, Baxter, on his turn out the door, noticed the next door neighbor standing out on his porch and decided to pay a visit. He gave the man a cursory nudge, then noticed that their door was ajar. So he took it upon himself to shove the door open with his head (something he does at home with any door that's ajar) and I caught up to him just as he was about to step inside. The neighbor was a bit surprised and I was a bit embarassed.

"Curious, eh?" the neighbor asked (he's British).

"Oh, you don't know the half of it," I said as I dragged Baxter home by the collar. Baxter seemed disappointed.

Kirby is usually a bit less neighborly than Baxter. Anyone coming out of a door can be cause for alarm and is announced repeatedly until either they or he goes back inside. And Kirby is also usually a bit more focused than Baxter when it comes to yard outings. He never strays very far from the door and he usually runs right back to the door as soon as he's finished.

So, imagine my dismay this afternoon when Kirby, after finishing his business, took off. I was taking care of picking up his business and when I turned around Kirby was gone. I ran up to the back door, which was open, and asked my husband if Kirby had come inside.

"No, I thought he was with you." Egad.

At this point panic set in. Kirby has never been out of our sight (or the sight of a caregiver) since we've owned him. He has never run off and I've come to trust him. I started yelling his name, expecting him to come around the corner of the neighbor's house. Nope. Finally, I hear his little tags jingling in the distance. He has run down the alley, across the street and down the next alley to go and visit a neighbor dog who was out for a walk.

As soon as he heard my voice, he came running back, sheepishly, with his ears and tail down. I didn't want to scold him for coming when called, but I didn't have to. He knew he was a bad boy. Not only did he run, he ran ACROSS A STREET. Ok, it's not exactly a busy street. But after seeing my first dog, Katie, a little cairn terrier, meet her demise being hit by a car on a non-busy street, all sorts of nightmarish thoughts ran through my head. A moving vehicle probably wouldn't see a little dog dashing out from between the parked cars.

So much for the warm, lazy Sunday afternoon. Perfect for visiting with the neighbors. And out of the blue, Kirby decides it's time, at long last, to be neighborly.

I guess this is the price we pay for helping Kirby build his confidence. When we got him he wouldn't go up to anyone and he was afraid of getting out of our sight. Now he usually wags when he sees strangers approaching him and he has, as of today, discovered that when he's off leash, he's in charge.

No more. The days of trust and freedom in the yard are over. And, I have to say, I am a bit sad about it. It isn't just that Kirby endangered himself by running off (thank goodness it all turned out OK). Or that he's now lost the priviledge of romping around the yard unfettered. I'm sad because I've lost something trust that Kirby will stay near me.

I guess if it means that Kirby is finally becoming a normal, friendly, confident little dog, that's not a bad thing. He's just going to have to be a normal, friendly, confident little dog on the end of a leash.


Mimi said...

Hey you!! Long time no speak, huh? How in the world are you?? I was just glancing through my saved favorites on my Internet Explorer and reminded myself that I hadn't been around to check on my favorite scruffy dogs and their lovely Momma for awhile. I miss chatting with you!

Ahhh...Kirby! Was this neighbor dog a female by chance? Has Kirby discovered the opposite sex now?? :)

Anyway, I hope that everything is well in your neck of the woods! Hope to talk to you soon.

ScruffyDog said...

Hi Mimi - I've lost track of you and deleted a bunch of links. Would you mind sending me your blog info?

Hope all is well with you. Baxter and Kirby are fine...eager for Spring to get rolling!