My dogs could have a better life, I know. Mostly, they laze around waiting for something interesting to happen. We don’t do flyball or Schutzhund or agility or any other formal training. The Fluffy Dog goes to daycare one day a week, but the Brindle Dog doesn’t even get that. I try to take them each on a long walk every day but that depends on my internal stuff (stress, anxiety, depression) and my external stuff (work, physical health).
But when we do go for those long walks—or even for short ones—I try to let them do what they want. For the old Brindle Dog, that could mean four or five whole minutes sniffing at the base of one single tree (do you know how long that is???). Or she might choose to stretch out in the grass for a bit with a fallen branch, and so I wait as patiently as I can while she worries at it with her worn and stumpy teeth.
But for the Fluffy Dog, what he mostly wants is water. Water for splashing, swimming, shaking, drinking, rolling, racing through and skidding to a halt in a massive splash. Clean water, muddy water, stinky boggy stagnant scummy, deep or shallow, chlorinated, fountains or lakes or puddles or hoses or sprinklers.
This past weekend, he was at Omand’s Creek for the first time. We were walking down Wolseley (a new walk for him), and as we got closer to the water, he got more excited by the block. The banks were muddy, and the water looked disgusting, but I tried to figure out a way to get close enough to the water to let him get in. I knew he would be filthy, but I also knew he’d be happy, and I love to make those dogs happy! He couldn’t go off-leash, not so close to the river with its strong current, so I tentatively approached the water with my shoes squishing in the mud and my whole body leaned away from the creek as a counterbalance to the Fluffy Dog who was trying to drag me into the water with his whole eighty-five pounds and his pure force of will. We got close enough that he could get in up to his belly, and he flopped himself down in the muddy water there, then tried to launch himself into the middle of the creek. With much laughing and squeals of disgust, I managed to convince him to come out (read: I hauled him bodily), and he rewarded that with an enthusiastic full-body shake that sprayed me with disgusting stinky muck.
Only then did I notice all the burrs he had picked up on the way down the bank. Sigh.
By the time we got back to the car, he was no longer actively dripping, but we did ride home with the windows open, for the smell. Back home, I put water in the wading pool for him, and he plunked himself down in the pool as the sand and mud and dirt of Omand’s Creek washed out of him. Then there were twenty minutes of burr removal, with the accompanying pathetic whining and moaning.
Only then did I notice the two dozen mosquito bites I’d gotten on that adventure. Sigh.
It is always worth it, though. The muddy shoes, the smelly car, the mosquito bites, the burrs, all of it. I know my dogs could have a better life, but I try to make their lives as rich as I can within my own limitations, with choices and patience and adventures and interaction. I know I’m not the best owner in the world, but every time one of them stops in the middle of some happy activity to look over at me with a waggy grin, I know I am good enough. And nobody could possibly love them more.