Through the storm

Titan takes a break from digging through a snow bank. This is snow piled up from clearing our driveway.

We have had a week of storms move through our area, closing the school where I work twice and others in the area three and four days. It’s closed many highways in the area as well because these storms have packed high winds with them and if the roads are not blocked by snowdrifts, the winds have polished the snowy surface like a Zamboni on an ice skating rink.

Isn’t that how life is? It’s not just the crisis, it’s all the drama and angst swirling around it that creates the difficulties. I don’t know if I should classify Titan, our husky/collie mix 3-year-old, as a crisis, but the analysis fits. Up until he was about 2 1/2, being with Titan took everything we had not to absolutely lose our heads. He is sneaky smart (loves to steal our paper napkins), loves to eat anything, especially paper, and at the time thought the best way to be with you was to jump on you. He is crazy strong, even as a puppy he dragged me around the block on our walks, and his perfect outing is when he gets to chase squirrels or hunt mice. I had to quit taking him for walks down at the river greenbelt because he would take off to find the squirrels. He broke off the metal chest ring on his harness by pulling so hard.

Titan still is not docile. His favorite game lately involves that sneaky intelligence. Often before or after we walk him, we’ll hook his harness up on a long cable leash so he can play in the front yard while we’re shoveling snow. So there is that moment in changing leashes that he lounges out and tries to get down the driveway. I’ve taken to stringing the cable through the handle of the walking leash so one way or another I don’t lose control of him for long. He still drags me for a few steps until he reaches the end of the cable. I understand perfectly how dogs like him can pull a sled and I think it may be the joy of pulling more than trying to run away that is behind his behavior. Also it’s a dominance game and I think he is a prankster and he likes to see how much he can get away with.

In many ways, however, he has made it through the storm of puppyhood. He doesn’t jump as much and he is more responsive to us. Life is not such a battle as it was. He knows words like ghee (turn right) Hah (turn left) and go or Hike (go straight), easy-on-me (for slow going over icy patches of sidewalk) whoa (slow down) whoa and stop (for stop – for some reason he doesn’t get “stop” by itself, but responds nicely to the combination.) In the house he does paw (shake) other paw (shake with other paw) high five (paw to the upright hand) both paws (rise up on back legs to put paws on both hands) sit (which was one of the first words he learned. My son is an excellent trainer because he is consistent and he would not even open the treat drawer unless Titan sat and stayed sitting) stay, lie down (his least favorite), down and up (for getting him to go downstairs or upstairs. This still is not completely voluntary on his part, but he’ll race you for the top or bottom if you say the words as you go.)

I guess he also knows the word No. When we’re walking and he wants to go a different way, he’ll go to the end of the leash and lean as hard as he can toward the way he wants to go. I say “No. Titan, ghee.” and without dragging him and some patience, he’ll now give in and go the way he is directed. Oh, and he knows the word Out, which is what he’s told a lot when he tries to get in neighbor’s yards. I tried Stay Trail, but Out works much better. And he seems to understand when I say, Not Your Yard, but I can’t really say he knows it as a command.

Titan is a dog totally directed by his nose and when we walk, that is often the making of our storm. These days we don’t have a lot of the added high behavioral winds unless we are in the mountains. Those “winds” are a complete absorption with what he is smelling and whoever is walking him is entirely forgotten. He still leads with his nose, but he does a better job of remembering we’re on the other end of the leash. When we are walking and he gets self-absorbed in smells, I tell him Nose Up! and give him a little tug on the leash. When he brings his head up I praise the heck out of him and he struts along for a little bit with his head up. So, I guess he knows Attaboy, Titan, as well.

Sometime I write where my fingers lead me! I didn’t intend to write about Titan, but I am proud of what a good dog he’s grown to be. Thanks for letting me brag!

Enjoy the read

TC Robinson

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