It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post. As usual though, Oz inspired some musings.
On our walk today, we ran into a very energetic young female mini American. This is the first dog that we’ve bumped into on a walk since Oz was neutered a week ago. He’s been on leash restriction and quiet activity time during the week, so that’s meant no normal off leash walks, no running after toys or tugging, no agility, being carried up stairs and lifted into cars. Oz clearly doesn’t love the restrictions and of course I’ve done my best to keep him satiated with leash walks, trick training, and additional enrichment time. And at the same time, his stomach has been a bit all over the place due to a flare right before the surgery and then I’m assuming the anesthesia from the surgery itself. All of these things are the recipe for any dog to be a little extra intense. So as the dog approached, I really wasn’t quite sure what he would think.
She came to the end of her leash, super excited to see him, occasionally walking on her hind end. And he just looked at her. I walked him onto a lawn nearby to give him space, but clearly he didn’t need it. He didn’t lift his tail, didn’t do any displacement sniffing, just looked. Then he looked to me and we kept walking. On the way back from the turnaround point on our walk, I could see that the dog was doing the opposite route and has also turned around and was coming back towards us. This time, I let Oz take the lead. He looked to the mini American again, who was still very interested in him. She was staring pretty intently and we were much closer this time, so he did a moment of displacement sniffing, but nothing out of the ordinary. And then again, he just looked. No tail raise, mild interest. I complimented the woman’s dog and we struck up a conversation. Usually when this happens, Oz has historically gotten very interested in the dog. Usually trying to appease, etc. But as we chatted, Oz watched the dog for a bit as she wagged her tail and pulled some on the leash to see him, vaguely wagged his tail at her and softly whimpered once, then decided to ignore her and stare at me instead. They even crossed onto our side of the road and came up closer behind him and he just neutrally stood there, staring at me and waiting to see if I would feed him. He glanced at her a few times, but never for more than a second and didn’t even blink at her pulling to try to see him when she did. When we were done chatting, we said our goodbyes, and away we went, Oz trotting along. He never looked back once.
This is a dog who several years ago would’ve had to keep his eyes on the dog the entire time the dog was in his presence. He never would’ve relaxed or voluntarily decided to ignore them. And more recently, he would’ve at least wanted to continue watching the dog out of interest. Hell, he was more neutral today than Razzle is–and Razz is my neutral dog for client work!
All this is to say that sometimes I forget how far this dog has come. And I think that is something that’s easy to do when you’re in the thick of it. With all of his health issues and fears that we’ve worked through, he honestly should be a behavioral disaster. Particularly right now without getting all of his usual needs met. I wouldn’t hold it against him if he decided to start barking at dogs again. If he was feeling protective of himself or a little ornery. But as he showed me today, he’s quite the opposite. He’s managed to keep an impressively level head with just the amount of stimulation that I’ve been able to give him. So while he may not be in good health, he’s sure as hell behaviorally well. Not to say it was easy to get him to this point, but I just never cease to be impressed by him.
I’m not quite sure what I’m trying to say here, but if there’s one thing Oz has taught me, it’s that no matter what life throws your way, no matter how shitty you feel, it’s possible to stay optimistic. To grow, to learn, to do better. He got shit luck with the body he was given and I know it’s not one that’s meant to live a long life on this earth. But despite everything he continually has going on, he assumes that everything will be amazing. That every person at every vet office is going to be his new best friend. That every day is going to have something wonderful ahead. Even when he’s feeling his worst, he puts his whole heart into living and making the most out of life. He’s lived a harder life than any dog should and he’s done it with a grin on his face. This dog is my hero and always will be.