Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight
Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?
I guess that this came to my mind because I am just a few days away from being responsible for another young Pup and this was one of the most significant learning curves of dog ownership for me.
I lived in Chorley, Lancashire at the time and Dog (not much more than a Pup himself around then) had taken me for a hike; I can still visualise most of the route and this must be around 8 years ago. We had walked from our newbuild home, up through the suburbs of the small town, along a track, past a smallholding and used the underpass to go underneath the M61 motorway. We walked along paths through countryside climbing gently towards a wood. This was not a new walk to us we had done it several times. It was our habit to walk though the lower section of the wood and make a circuit to climb up out of the woodland onto the heath. Sometimes we walked further on and made a circuit but this particular day I decided we would return through the woodland.
We entered at the top and followed a path down a gentle slope. Dog was off lead (we were well away from any livestock) and was bumbling around sniffing here and there … and then he was gone. It was one of those “blink and you missed it moments” – he literally disappeared! Initially I was not too worried and I thought I could still hear him. I continued walking down the slope.
By the time I reached a junction in the paths I was feeling uneasy. What to do? Which way to go? and Where is Dog? I called him and nothing happened. Starting to feel panicky I turned left and went further down the hill and then left again to work in a sort of parallel line to the path we had been following. I called, I looked, I listened. I was getting really upset and worried. I shouted and I whistled … still nothing. After half an hour of frantic anxiety and calling I could tell it was starting to move towards dusk … I couldn’t stay here on my own in the woods all night.
My biggest worry was twofold – what if Dog had run far enough to a road and caused an accident (he would have had to run over a mile to reach any road) and what were my parents (his breeders) going to say when they had trusted me to look after and love this precious bundle of fun?
With a heavy heart I turned back the way I had come and started to take one step and then another … I was startled by a great crashing noise through the undergrowth above me and then by a flying pup as he hurtled at shoulder height into me. Dog had come back to me because he wanted to – he was safe and very pleased to find me. I did the wrong thing … I scolded him for scaring me … and then I hugged him hard and burst into tears of joy!
I was right to ‘fight’ to try and have him safely back beside me. I absolutely know from that experience that if I let Dog off lead he will if it is physically possible come back to me. What I also learned is that he is content to be off on his own for quite some time and in that time I do not know what he is at risk of or what harm he could do. He was probably only chasing bunnies … but who knows! I have subsequently let him off lead and on each occasion he has done something I would prefer him not to do; not because he is bad or wilful but because he is a dog with dog instincts. Where we live now is not suited to him being off lead so he exercises on an 8m extending lead; it is not ideal but taking everything into account it is for the best.
Now I have to work out how I instil that same lesson in Pup without scaring us both … and one of the techniques I know is to start when he is very young and whilst out walking hide at intervals – behind trees or shrubs, duck out of site when he explores. Young puppies bond at this stage with their person and this lesson helps them to have the habit of looking to see what their person is wanting them to do now and if their person is missing that means they have a problem … so they learn not to lose the one certain thing they have in their young life … I had better get limbered up if I have to hide behind all these small things to convince a small furball he loves me!