Long Berkeley Dog Walk

The Dog’s main person is away this week. He is very aware of that fact and can be sort of moody and preoccupied about it. Yes, there’s some anthropomorphizing going on here. But there’s also this: The other day, at the schoolyard where we occasionally take The Dog to run around, he sat staring back out to the street and didn’t budge for a good 15 or 20 minutes. I was talking to another guy who had brought his dog out there–his dog was chasing a tennis ball around–when it suddenly dawned on me why the dog was so focused on the schoolyard gate. If his main person were around, that’s where she’d appear.

My strategy to get his mind on other things, at least for a little while, is long walks. He gets plenty of walks in the normal course of the day. Four, usually. But the longest we’ll have him out is an hour or so, and most of our strolls are shorter. But the past few days, we’ve been going far up into the hills from our place in the flatlands. A couple hours or a little more, five or six miles, with long uphill stretches, maybe including a couple of the old paths between blocks that I haven’t seen or walked before. I chart a route that will take us past water at least once, because The Dog works up a thirst. Then long downhill stretches back home, with more unknown paths (two tonight) and maybe a couple of deer loping along the street in front of us (happened tonight, and The Dog wanted to chase; it occurred to me that I might not see him again for awhile if I let him run after them).

I think this URL will work to show tonight’s stroll, which started about an hour before sunset and end about an hour after: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=3068855 .

Aftermath: dog is tuckered out. So am I.

3 Replies to “Long Berkeley Dog Walk”

  1. I think animals’ emotions are more pure than ours, because they’re not encumbered by thought. The Dog simply felt the absence – didn’t interpret it, just felt it, sat with it for 20 minutes. Then walked it off. Wise.

  2. Unencumbered by thought? Not so sure. The New Yorker did a profile on Cesar Millan a few years ago–you know, “The Dog Whisperer”–and the author made the observation that likely because of their long history of co-habiting with our species and because their survival in a domestic setting depends on us, they are very close observers of human behavior. I’ve seen lots of evidence of that with this dog. Some of it is pretty simple stuff–our routines have a meaning to him that allows him to anticipate what we’re going to do next. Some of it seems more complex–his apparent ability to remember routes to places he wants to go — the yard with the rabbits, the house with the chickens, the tree with the most squirrels. I’m sure there’s a lot of rote learning, refined sensory input and instinct that goes into the way he processes the world, but I’m convinced there’s thought going on there, too.

  3. Agreed, Dan. I was meaning unencumbered by thoughts such as, “Where did she go? Doesn’t she like me anymore? What did I do to deserve this? She’s never going to come back. I will never see her again. Never is a long time. How will I survive?” The Dog is thinking, “She’s not here. She’s usually here.” They don’t live in the past or future, but use the past as a tool – as you said – to predict future behavior; not, as humans so often do, to dictate current emotions.

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