I’ve just spent a week home alone. My daughter and husband went to Minnesota for a week to visit my oldest daughter, see a hockey game and hang out with family. It was a win-win-win because I was given six quiet days with the house to myself… Well, almost to myself. Just me, the chinchilla and Zoey, our sweet English Setter.
I grew up on a farm, so taking care of animals comes naturally. The problem is that since I became an adult, I don’t really like to take care of animals. In fact when we adopted Zoey almost eight years ago I made it really clear that she was my husband’s dog, not my responsibility. I wouldn’t be walking or feeding her unless no one else was available.
Well, here I am and here she is… no one else is available. I reassured Scott many times that we would be just fine. “I can handle Zoey for a few days. We will get along fine! Go to Minnesota and have fun!”
For the first 24 hours Zoey curled up on her bed in the living room looking forlorn and lost. Her alpha gone. Would he be back? Her eyes pleading with me to tell her that we were not stuck with each other forever. I gave her the same reassurance. “We are going to be fine Zoey. He’ll be back next week, and in the mean time I promise to walk and feed you.” She rested her nose on her paws and gave me a weary look. I just can’t compete with Scott.
As the first full day drifted into our second night alone Zoey did what she could to accept that I was the “mock alpha”. She did her best to engage me in some ball throwing, box tugging, and when all else failed she asked permission to go outside and play with the squirrels. I’m not heartless, I did my best to respond to her requests… albeit my enthusiasm for ball throwing is limited. I just can’t maintain the focus. I have so many other things I would rather be doing, and my patience for interpreting her whining and staring is thin.
However, by the end of day three something shifted. Our ability to read each other improved and somehow, without conscious effort a rhythm settled over us. She seemed to understand that I wouldn’t wake up at 5 am to let her outside, but if she waited until 6:30 I was much more likely to respond. I began to understand that her desire to race through the fields and out of view on our walks had nothing to do with her being out of control, and that if I let her “do her thing” she always ended up in the same place by the time I came around the corner.
Our twice a day walks became even more enjoyable for me when I started listening to an audio book and worrying less about “keeping her close”. We have this beautiful field to walk her in, and she knows it so well that I didn’t need to worry. Listening to the book allowed me to do just that.
On our fifth day, walking in the field, we were approached by a white bull dog. He ran up to Zoey with such energy that I was certain of growls and snapping. None of it happened. They did their doggy dance, sniffing and demurring, allowing each other space, and when Zoey was done I sent the bulldog home with a clear command and he turned around and trotted home. Perhaps I’m not so “mock” after all?