An old(er) dog learns a new trick

My little girl Bailey and I have been through our fair share of struggles and triumphs as a team together. Her puppyhood was so memorable just about everyone I know called me when "Marley and Me" came out and I got about 9 copies of the book in the first year. She dominated so much of my life that I decided to forgo a college degree and years of hard work in the corporate world to devote my life to her world. The one thing about her that I always wish I could change, and no matter how much we tried to work on it never would, just finally happened one day. Bailey, like myself, is a pretty anxious and high-strung creature by nature. She's a homebody and whenever she's not at home she is so excited about the possibilities of who she may meet or where a tennis ball may appear she just can't settle down. This has proved to be a huge problem in trying to tie her outside when going to a grocery store, coffee shop, even sitting on a patio having lunch right next to her. I know it typically isn't a great idea to leave your dog tied up outside, but really, when are there not at least a couple dogs tied up outside Bartells or Met Market on Queen Anne? So anyways, Bailey has made it very clear that this was not to be a part of our routine since day 1. The second I tie up her leash, she starts wiggling and panting and dancing, and before I can even turn in the other direction she is barking at the top of her deep chested lab lungs "DON'T! GO! DON'T! LEAVE! ME! MOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!". This isn't your average dog bark, this is the kind of bark you can hear loud and clear all the way in the back corner of Met Market. The kind of bark where you hear someone at the next check out register say, "Geez, whose dog is that", like she is being brutally abused on the sidewalk of Queen Anne Ave with the floral dept girls. The kind of bark, that when I sheepishly admit she is my bundle of love, almost every time the response I hear is, "wow, she's intense".

This tiny little flaw of hers has really driven me crazy because for the lifestyle that I have, and we have had together, because it makes it so hard to be able to take her everywhere with me like I want to! So often I think of walking to do some errands on QA Ave and want to take Bailey because it would be a good walk and I know she would love it, but ooooh... I have to stop in Bartells and she can't go in there.... it puts a ka-bosh on the whole trip for Bailey and she has to stay home. Sometimes when the weather is nice Michael and I like to take a huge "urban hike" and walk to Ballard and get lunch - obviously this is a trek Bailey would immensely enjoy (not so much Bam, too much work for her little legs and she is lazy, she prefers to sit that one out) but I have to either commit to taking her on the walk and not have lunch or go purely to have lunch and not take her, which takes most of the fun out of the walk for me. I have never had a gym membership since I've had Bailey because I feel that whenever I am getting exercise she should too.

So what's the reason for all the rambling? A couple months ago Bailey changed her ways. I met a friend at Paragon to meet about some stuff and I decided to chance it with Miss Bailey. I put her outside and snuck up on her in the window every ten minutes, where she couldn't see me, and to my surprise, not only was she not barking, she was actually sleeping! This is unheard of. She was always in a panicky panting fit when I left her, barking or not. I was so proud of my sleeping beauty. After this success I just started taking her more often - now if I have to run to the grocery store, I just bring her. I can bring her anywhere and she hasn't started barking once. It is SOOooo wonderful. For whatever reason, those few minutes at night when we walk to the store make me so happy. Tonight I walked out of Bartells and she was laying down on the sidewalk with one paw crossed over the other, head resting on paws. My heart melted.

I didn't train her to make this change in behavior, I have no idea why it happened. Maybe she just got comfortable with good old Queen Anne Ave and decided it was an OK place to be. All I know is that just as soon as I thought I couldn't love my intense, spastic, ball-obsessed dog any more, I do. Everyone told me that labs hit their "golden years" around 7 (which she will be next month) and this one little change in behavior makes me believe that is true.

Now... if you are walking down Queen Anne Ave tomorrow and see a yellow lab barking her head off.... just know I'll be somewhere kicking myself for jinxing it.

Posted on November 10, 2011 and filed under Uncategorized.