What a year this has been. We stopped blogging altogether after my friend passed away last year. I kept saying I would get back to it in the new year but that quickly became a pandemic with it’s own unique challenges, like job uncertainty after my work place closed and finally working from home and back to work even though wave 2 is much bigger. Let’s come full circle.
This year has been crazy. Lockdown for us started around mid March when my work shut down at the end of a day and we thought it would only be a couple of weeks. Luke loved that I was home. Every day was Saturday. I love him for that, I was in panic mode. It took 6 weeks to finally get a computer to work from home. This changed our whole every day is Saturday schedule. I started walking Luke before work everyday in my neighborhood. At first there was no one around. No one! It was wonderful. Then slowly everyone started walking our hood at 7:30 am. I guess we were all now working from home.
When your dog is reactive like Luke, this is a bad thing. What made it worse was that no matter how much he lunged and barked, people still wouldn’t just wait or hang back for us to pass. Seriously? Insult to injury is the lack of personal space and masks! That is not a rant for here. One person in particular drove me nuts. Nice guy I’m sure. Lives around us somewhere, has a black dog. Luke is terrified of black dogs. Any black dog. In the late spring, traffic was sparse so we could usually run across the street and change our course, but of course things began to open and the world got loud again.
The sudden change from almost no traffic to cars speeding down the road set Luke off all on it’s own. He started lunging at trucks, cars, buses and motorcycles. He settled down during the beginning, I wonder how sensitive his ears are because as soon as the world switches back on he reacted to everything far worse then he ever did before. It’s like he got overloaded with stimuli after so much peace and quiet.
The guy with the black dog kept crossing our path and we couldn’t cross the street anymore. I adjusted our walk time hoping to beat him to a corner so we wouldn’t meet head on. Somehow he adjusted his time too, not that he cared if we met, it wasn’t his problem. It was mine. I started leaving earlier, he started leaving earlier. I left later. He left later. Always at the same corner we seemed to meet.
I thought he would pause as he was coming off the side street towards us and we were headed straight. No chance. Obliviously he would speed walk around the corner and right at us. I started jumping off the sidewalk and into the bike lane on the road while holding Luke back. It didn’t go well. I had to hold him back from lunging into traffic and then lunging towards the sidewalk. I could not risk the bike lane. I left my house even later. Power walk now because I only have 15 minutes. For a bit it was ok, but then the guy slacked and started later and there we were meeting head on at the corner.
I yelled at him when the bike lane was too dangerous that we needed space, could he please let us cross the side road instead of walking into us. He ignored me so I screamed at him in frustration. It was dangerous for us and dangerous for him. He walked on. Every day, head on. I should have known an accident would happen.
Here it was now, leading up to Canadian Thanksgiving. I had just learned I would be returning to my office the week after the long weekend. Finish up my work in that department and go back to my regular job. Panic! It had been so long. March was a lifetime ago. At least I wouldn’t see that guy anymore. That Friday morning of the long weekend we met again at the corner. Traffic was heavy, there were bikes coming in the bike lane. He saw us and charged around the corner, I ran up a grassy hill and tried to get a better grip on my leash as they came around the corner on the sidewalk. If he had paused I might have been able to get my hand on the lower handle of the leash and grab handle on the harness. He didn’t though and Luke lunged hard at him and his dog.
I spun and went down on my right ankle. I knew when it happened it wasn’t right. Ankles don’t bend that way, especially in Doc Martens. Down I went and miracle upon all miracles, I didn’t drop the leash. My dead weight snapped him back. Buddy suddenly clues in, maybe he should have just waited. He wants to help now. Of course, something has happened. He starts walking towards me apologizing and asking what he can do. He is literally walking his dog into my reactive dog who is still lunging and barking like a maniac while I have one hand on my right ankle saying ow and trying to pull my dog back. Dude! Seriously? I’m on my back in pain barely keeping my left hand on the leash!
I let loose. I held nothing at all back on him in that moment. Pain and fear took over. I could not lose control of Luke. I could not drop that leash. This guy needed to stop coming closer and just fuck off already! I yelled that at him. I screamed at him that if he wanted to help he needed to just go. Leave us alone and don’t come closer. He did. I haven’t seen him since. When he was out of sight down the sidewalk Luke calmed down and realized I wasn’t ok. Mom shouldn’t be on her back on the grass upside down. Cars kept passing. Bikes kept passing. I was on a hill with a dog, with my head pointed towards the sidewalk saying ow. What else can you say?
I pulled myself up after a few tries and picked at my boot. I had to get that off. Funny thing, I had my phone. I have a first aid certificate and full first aid kit on my tactical belt and harness. I couldn’t even think. I tugged my boot and sock off my foot. My ankle was grotesque. The swelling was like nothing I have ever seen before. I took a deep breath, crammed my sock in my boot. Grabbed the boot and pushed myself up. I limped my ass home with one boot on, one boot off and with my dog under control. Down the sidewalk and up a steep hill. I limped myself across my road and down my dirt steps. Thank god I dug steps down the hill this summer! I woke my wife up and said ‘I’m sorry to do this but I think I need you to drive me to the hospital, I’ve had an accident.’
3 hospital visits in 8 days before they did a CT scan and confirmed that it wasn’t just a sprain, I had sprained and broken my ankle. I can’t believe we made it 6 years before something like this happened. I love that dog. He felt so bad. The day it happened, he was so good when I needed him to be beyond good so I could make the walk home. He was so upset when I came in the door hours later on crutches. He felt terrible when I got the dreaded boot. It’s been 8 weeks almost. He misses me walking him. He misses everything. I miss my time with him too.
I’m in physio now, physio is going great but good god, it still hurts. I’m out of the boot and slow. I’ve played stick with Luke a few times and called him from way across the field. He wants to please me so much he’ll actually come running to me and ignore that my wife offered him a cookie. I’ve walked our sled dog because oddly enough, she weighs less and doesn’t pull. Her reactivity is to freeze. A freeze is fine, it doesn’t risk re-injury to my ankle.
I want to walk my reactive dog again. We have come so far in our journey and work. He has been off leash more this year thanks to my strange schedule and hours. Our field by the airport at a warehouse is becoming unsafe but we have found a few new places. I hope soon my gear will be on again and my dog will be at my side walking with me.
There is a lesson in this. If a dog goes nuts lunging and barking at you, don’t keep walking towards the dog, step aside and wait. At the very least, give enough time and space for that person to get safely out of the way and ask if they control before you pass.