Reactive Dog and Fog

Tales from the aquariums have been eating up my time. Last night it caused a delay in getting Luke out the door and on his walk. By the time we got out a wonderful thick fog had blanketed the peninsula. Oh what joy! Our first walk in the fog out at the airport! To say I was thrilled by the thought would be obvious sarcasm.

Fog on it’s own is a creepy and wonderful thing. I find it makes me more alert when I can barely see in front of me and passing cars are swallowed whole before my eyes. It always reminds me of Stephen King’s, The Mist. I loved that story and it left an imprint on my young mind when I first read it 30 years ago. If fog can have that effect on a person, what effect can it have on a reactive dog?

My experience with Luke has always been a high level of vigilance. He has always been on high alert, even as a puppy. We’ve walked in fog before, but this is the first time we’ve ever had consistent change and success. I have a fear of once again taking two step forwards and ten steps back. That’s been our life for 4 years. In my mind I pictured someone walking a dog with no lights to announce their presence coming out of the white with precious little space to course correct.

Course correcting is important. Luke has a bubble in which he can still function and focus. This bubble is actually a very large one. It is his safe zone where reason still exists to him. I have spent a lot of time learning his safe zone. In daylight it can be a bit smaller, in the winter when it is always dark when we walk it is larger. What is that bubble in the fog? Why can’t people buy a crappy $10 light to clip on a collar? Why does it have to be foggy now?

To my surprise it was not as bad as I thought it would be.

Fog meet dog. I liked the wispy effect.

It could have been the darkness and the fog. It could have been the smell of fuel that was so thick in the air you could taste it. It could have been that Luke really is finally improving. I don’t know why it wasn’t so bad.

We did not do off leash, that would not have been a bright idea given the lack of visibility. We did our normal stretch, Luke likes a routine. Not long into it a couple of dogs started barking through a glass screen door across the street. I watched as Luke went alert and stiffened straight up and thought, here we go.


I said it nice and happy.

Luke locked eyes with me and kept moving without a single bark. The other dogs started up again and he stiffened and turned so I said it a second time.

Tail wags and eye contact. That deserved a good piece of lamb lung and pet on the side with some praise. It makes me think, who is this dog? It’s Luke. It’s my dog paying attention to me and finding trust in my ability to lead him. He doesn’t need to defend me. I’m plenty scary if I need to be, never mind the dog, beware of owner!

Luke sniffing along, minding his own business.

We walked to the end, did our turn around and walked back to car. I let him sniff along the way while I enjoyed the odd hoot of an owl and the eerie night sky. I could hear a plane take off but I couldn’t see it. I don’t know how they do it. Luke didn’t seem to care about anything beyond sniffing, stopping to take a bite of grass and checking back in with a wag and some eye contact to see if he would get a treat and some praise.

I am enjoying our walks lately and make sure to tell him that as we plod along. If he picks up the pace and seems excited he is now taking a verbal cue. It’s an easy one. Relax. I say relax Luke and he looks at me and slows down. Is this what it is like to have a normal dog on leash? What is normal anyway?

I managed to get a few pictures along the way, who can resist when you have a blog and you want to show people how thick it was in the air when you walked you big scary dog.

He actually barked at a dog in the sun on Sunday morning. He didn’t make a peep last night. I’m not sure what the weather has in store for us tonight, it’s cold but we live on an island, anything is possible.

I need to learn to breathe more when we go out. I can’t let my guard down, if something got out of control I could lose my dog and that would break my heart. I can however trust in our progress over the last few months. The consequences for error are huge, at the same time it feels like so are the consequences for missing out on enjoying these moments with him. I am watching his hair whiten already and I tell him to not grow old. He’s not even 5 yet but I can already see that the time I have with him is going by far too quickly.

And back to the car again…

One day I’ll blink and he’ll be gone. I want to know that I did the best I could for him and that we both enjoyed our time together. He’s a damn good dog, he just has some trust issues. Who doesn’t these days? No matter what the walk brings, I’m going to enjoy him tonight and have some controlled fun. We deserve it.

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