Today was all about the dogs.
Rudy went to the groomer this morning for a close shave because his coat had gone all to mats and because I don’t want to worry about it while he’s convalescing from his foot surgery, which is scheduled for next week.
The doctor and I are both thinking it’s likely that left outside toe is going to have to come off.
While Rudy was out, Reggie and I took advantage of the glorious spring sunshine to take a long walk out by the horse pastures not too far from our house. As we passed the horses, I noticed for the second time on our walks along that road the sound of several dogs yipping and squealing in an obvious attempt to get somebody’s attention. The first time I heard it, I saw people and a car near where the sound was coming from, so I didn’t pay it much mind. But today there was no one to be seen, so we went to investigate.
We found two adult border collies frantically throwing themselves against the walls of a large aluminum horse trailer sitting in direct sun. I peeked through the holes and saw a lot of feces on the floor around a chewed-up and bone-dry plastic dish. The trailer didn’t appear to be locked, but I was not going to let the dogs out onto an unfenced lot. They seemed friendly enough and were certainly energetic and healthy looking, but I know that dark trailer was heating up fast even with a cool breeze blowing.
A few dozen yards from the trailer was a good-sized shed where I found two younger, smaller border collies throwing themselves against a chain-link gate with equal vigor, and with a similar lack of amenities in their pen. Unlike the last time an animal’s distress calls disturbed my peace, I did not hesitate to pull out my phone and call animal control. I left a long message, got cut off by the voicemail demon, called back and left a second message, got cut off again, and felt completely helpless. So I tied Reggie to a nearby fence post and went across the street to knock on doors. Couldn’t find anybody at home, so we finally had to go on our way.
After we picked up Rudy from the groomer in the afternoon, I drove back to the pasture and checked on the dogs in the trailer again. They seemed fine in spite of the rising heat. I knocked on a different door, and this time found a lady who not only knew the owner of the dogs, but explained to me that he was a breeder (!) who was keeping them there only until they could be sold (!!) and that he had been there today to check on them (whew!). She said she also kept an eye on them and that they were being cared for. I told her I was very concerned about the dogs in the trailer as the weather gets warmer. She was very nice and said she would tell the dogs’ owner that somebody had inquired and was concerned. I went away feeling that I had done all I could and that they were going to be okay.
Walking the dogs separately was my treat for the day. When they are together, Reggie always has to be out front pulling hard to be ahead of Rudy, which is a near-constant strain on my arm and back. She’s also a fierce little street fighter who challenges any person or animal in sight in the most embarrassing fashion. Her aggression triggers Rudy’s aggression as well and they become a rather formidable bundle of belligerence.
When the dogs see little kids, they both get so yappy and jittery that I’m afraid their energy will scare the kids, who will make jerky motions with their little hands, and then there could be trouble, so when kids ask to pet them, I just have to say “sorry, thanks for asking, but they’re not really very friendly.” Walking them together, in fact, is and has always been a tremendous pain in my ass—Reggie constantly pulling, Rudy constantly stopping to sniff and pee, both of them acting like idiots at the mere sight of a cat or a kid or another dog or anything at all unusual that sets off their alarms. So having them one at a time today was delightful. Reggie got to be far out ahead of me on the retractable lead in her robustly independent fashion, and we both walked faster than usual. She was perfectly behaved, so not a harsh word was spoken.
When I took Rudy out by himself later in day, we walked much slower than usual so that he could take all the time he wanted to sniff and pee without Reggie hauling us along. He ignored all stimulus from other animals and people, and when a little girl stopped us and asked to pet him, I didn’t hesitate to let her because he was perfectly calm and polite. Reggie would have been the same way had she been by herself. There’s something about being in a pack that makes them act so unpleasantly together, and I haven’t been able to remedy it in nearly five years of walking with them. I realize the fault is in my failure to train them, and if I knew what to do to correct their behavior, I would do it.
So, why don’t I walk them separately every day? Time and energy constraints, mostly. Also, because the one who gets left at home takes it really, really hard, especially Reggie. When I take Rudy out, I can hear her squealing and crying at the door all the way down the block. I just can’t bear being the cause of those distress calls.