Along for the ride:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I take Abbey out for her first walk around six-thirty in the morning. I love having a dog who can wait until I've had a cup of coffee without tearing around the house in anticipation, like my last two, younger and crazier, Formula One Fosters, always would.
Abbey has learned her manners and waits for me to give her permission to exit the front door, then turns back to face me and sits as I close the door behind us. This is a very important "setting-up" for a peaceful walk. Abbey's sense of smell is incredible and her main purpose in life, when I first got her, was a "search and destroy mission" against any other canine. With that in mind, she would be out the door like a shark in pursuit of a sardine, with me in tow. If any other dogs were within scenting distance or, heaven forbid, line of sight, there would follow much barking and lunging. She has a low center of gravity and is big-boned and sturdy. Much closer to her German Shepherd roots, in these moments, than her Lassie heritage. I actually scheduled our walks later in the morning so as not to wake up the neighborhood every day and I was warned by my doctor that torn rotator-cuffs are not unheard of in the dog walking community.
Abbey is still in need of reminding that we have to be polite. In most cases now, if I get my timing right and remember to use my "serious voice", I can tell her to "Leave It!" and she will look at me for a reward for good behavior. The stiff-necked, predatory stance with shoulders leaning forward, ready to rumble is no longer an everyday part of our interactions with the world outside. This enables us to walk with a loose leash, as I am confident that I can control her by voice command, and leash correction, (not originally the case).
I love walking with Abbey. She walks fast, but she's much easier now than Boomer was, and she only has one problem area. Boomer was a naughty boy, launching after anything that moved, including joggers, cyclists, trucks, skate-boards and of course cats, squirrels etc. His wolfy long snout would make an impressive clacking noise as he snapped his jaws in excitement. Long after he went to his forever family, I found myself hyper-vigilant on walks, even without a dog for company. The Christmas card they sent me showed a beautiful sail boat on a tranquil sea and the message inside cracked me up: "All IS Calm", as I know that is not a possibility with Boomer around.
Back to my morning walk with Abbey. The weather has finally turned to typical summer temperatures, after a long and most unusual rainy season that had us feeling jealous of  European drought conditions. The mornings are perfect, sunny but not yet too hot. The last couple of afternoons have come close to hitting one hundred degrees.Yesterday, as we rounded a corner in a sylvan neighborhood, unencumbered by sidewalks, I saw a small leather wallet in the crease at the edge of the street, where road meets curb. Next to it was a woolen hat. I picked up the wallet and looked inside. There was no money, but a student ID card for a local, fifteen year old high school student. No address, but I thought I could call it in to the Sheriffs' Dept. lost and found. I picked up the hat, curious to see it was a nice quality ski-mask, rather than the beanie I'd expected. I didn't want to have to juggle the hat and the dog leash so I left it where it lay.
My curious brain kicked in as Abbey and I distanced ourselves from the spot. Who wears a ski mask in June, in California? I decided that I needed to collect, what was likely evidence of some dubious activity, after all. So, on the return path towards home, I made an extra zig and zag and scooped up the balaclava hat.
Abbey and I leave for work by seven-thirty, so, by the time I called the local Sheriff I was in another town entirely. I explained what I had found and gave them my contact info. The dispatcher asked me to call again when I got home and said they'd send a deputy out to collect my finds.
Abbey had a chance last evening, to practice her "Good Behavior when someone knocks on the door" and "Please don't threaten to eat members of the Law Enforcement community". We ended our session with her on a leash, sitting politely whilst the Deputy fed her a biscuit. He was then allowed in and Abbey treated him like her new best friend. Luckily the uniform pant is medium brown so as not to show the dog hairs.
Of the two scenarios I'd imagined, one with the poor student being the victim of a robber and the second with the student being the ne'er do well, it seems that an investigation was ongoing regarding a number of houses that had recently been "T.P'd", or completely festooned with toilet paper. The deputy was chuckling as he headed out to knock on the door of the alleged perpetrator to have a little chat with the young man's parents.


  1. Hello:
    Your description of the walk is so atmospheric and so detailed that we really do feel that we have been with you right from the first moment. And, always some excitement and little adventure.

  2. Glad to see the training time is paying off, and Abbey has learned not to attack the Sheriff's deputy... and not tear out your rotator cuffs while lunging after squirrels, cats, dogs, cars...

    And good to see you back here, just realized it's been a little while...

  3. I do hope it was unused toilet paper...

  4. Steve, what an irksome little boy you must have been (still are?:).

    Owen, yes, my priorities have been elsewhere for some time. Nothing I'd want to write about here. Interesting world we live in? p.s. Mr Pliers can attest to Abbey's pull-power.

    Jane & Lance, there are always stories within stories when we're out and about. Glad you enjoyed the stroll.

  5. Abbey is doing well! Wow.

    Those are the kinds of house calls that officers must just love to make; don't you wish you could be a fly on the wall for that one?

  6. Good for Abbey. You've done a good job of remedial training. She does sound like quite a sweet girl under all those behavior issues she used to have.

    As for your criminal investigation, well done. Not exactly the brightest perpetrator to leave both his disguise and identity so near the scene of the crime. Reminds me of the story I heard of the teenage shoplifter who took off after a nighttime raid only to get easily caught by the police. He was wearing a pair of those light up sneakers.....

  7. Kerry, I was still amused by it all a day later, not to mention thrilled that my daughter is no longer a teenager. We all pay our dues in that department.

    Jean, Abbey is a good girl. I can tell she had a loving start in life, even if she was subsequently left to her own devices. It makes a huge difference.
    As to budding criminals, if there isn't "an App for that" how would they learn?

  8. You've been missed, ER. Jumped on this post first thing this morning - enjoying thinking of you on another coast on another continent. As Jean and Lance said, so very atmospheric (although somehow that makes it sound rocket-like..). I'm very impressed with Abbey's progress, having had a dog with those aggressive behaviours who didn't get exactly the right instruction from me. I know better now, but it was a struggle for years.
    Great to see you.

  9. You are wonderful as a trainer. Dogs, horses; what about husbands? Not that mine requires such work; we have things in that comfort zone by now.

  10. Hi Deborah, We certainly maintain our momentum. None of that ass-dragging for me. There are people who have insight into training. I seek out those whom I can see are doing something well.I always listen to try to learn more and better ways. It saves years of trial and error.

    TechnoBabe, The sad thing is that I have no success with training one particular human. If anyone should be wearing a shock-collar, it is he.

  11. You and Abbey make the perfect Nancy Drew duo .
    You've done wonders with her . Affection and clear boundaries give stability to neglected animals ... and children , too . They must love you at Animal Rescue !
    Now , you could maybe branch out and include the odd overexuberant teenager ?

  12. S&S, my dream job would be Horse Therapy with troubled teens. Of course, my version would have a whiff of boot-camp to it:)

  13. I won't tell how often I TP'd houses in my youth. My dad always loved it when we got hit. Made the outside much more interesting.

  14. I've missed your posts too.
    When I try the serious voice thingy, my son just squares up to me and says, "You are so annoying Daddy".

  15. MJ, I'd never heard of TP'ing until moving to the US. In my sheltered childhood it would have been TT'ing for toilet tissue. We don't abbreviate in England, or maybe they do now?

    Legend, "Serious" corrections to my daughter were always in French, and included her middle name, that way it was more private and noticably different from the rest of my nagging.

    Now that I'm getting back in the swing a bit my comments have stopped redirecting to my gmail. I have to troubleshoot that this weekend.