Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Recall Synchronicity

Imagine your dog going out the front door, seeing a deer, and tearing off into the woods. Or that you're traveling far from home and your dog slips her collar and runs across a busy highway and into the roadside marshes. Imagine that someone left the gate open and your dogs are racing each other toward the busiest road in town. Or that you're in the competition ring doing a recall and your dog can't hear your voice for the lovely little hound he's watching beside the ring.

Each of these things has happened to me or my immediate family. And it's frustrating (if your dog's not in physical danger) or terrifying (if he is).

So there was no dearth of reasons why I signed up for my first ever non-veterinary e-course, The 5 Minute Formula to A Brilliant Recall with author, agility competitor, and blogger, Susan Garrett. As it happens, just the other day I was doing my homework making lists of things my dogs find distracting. On a scale of 0 (couldn't care less) to 10 (can't even think straight) I was rating each distractor. One of the highest on the list was running loose with another dog.

That night I got home and both dogs were lame. Quill was lame on three feet, poor guy. "What happened to the boys?" I asked my husband. "Oh, there's a tale to tell there." he responded calmly. (That's my husband, calm.) Here's the tale:

Tim came home mid-day to let the dogs out and have lunch. We have a large, fenced dog yard and, on a typical day, they happily zoom around for a moment and then settle down enough to sniff, empty their bladders, and enjoy the sunshine. Being borzois, and faster even than greyhounds, they love the zooming part. Well, once Tim had let them out, he noticed that the dog yard gate had been left open (something we never, ever do). We'd been having some construction done on the other side of the house and one of the workers must have entered the dog yard and not closed the gate again. Tim, panic in his heart, "My wife's gonna kill me." running through his head, went to the front of the house. 

One of the workers said, "I've never seen dogs move so fast!" and he pointed toward one of the busiest roads in town that is just over the rise, less than 1/4 mile from our house. Tim whistled in a way only he (and our African grey) can do and called the boys' names. He did this four times in quick succession. Back around the bend they came, hell bent for leather, joy and the wind in their ears. They raced each other up to him on the front steps. He had tears of relief in his eyes and his heart still in his throat. They had nothing but excitement and looks on their faces of "Did you see us Dad?! We were fast!"

Well, they had a good time but not without consequences. Five feet out of eight had torn and abraded pads severe enough to cause Quill to walk like he's crossing hot coals (picture a severely foundered horse). (Borzoi's note to self - Avoid lure-coursing on hot pavement.) But bandaging feet for a week is a small price to pay compared to what could have happened.

Thank goodness that Tim has conditioned the dogs to that whistle for the last two years -- likely it's all that could have reached them over the distance they'd run. And thank goodness for starting this recalling course and that it's already making a difference -- their recalls are far better than I realized.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the course. A recall can never be too fast. And never again will I complain about Tango, the African grey, hurting my ears with a perfect imitation of Tim's whistle.

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