Galen and I took a walk today. If she were any other dog, there’d be no need for this post; walking is what dogs do. But Galen’s not just any dog.
I gave up walking Galen months ago, because we never got very far. After several yards, she would suddenly lie down in the direction of our house and refuse to go on. One can only tug a sixty pound dog so hard, for so long, before her stubbornness carries the day.
Kevin wasn’t prepared to give up. He decided to see what would happen if he took Galen off the leash. His discovery: What Galen doesn’t like about walks isn’t the walk itself, it’s the leash. Set her free, and she’s not just a happy little soldier, she’s a quite disciplined one.
I’d been hesitant to walk Galen off leash. What if she waded too deep onto a neighbor’s lawn or chased a deer? Would a neighbor call me out for not having her on a leash– I’m sure that violates some municipal code.
But our backyard was a swamp following an explosive rain, so I decided to unleash my dog. She impressed me. Most of the time Galen stayed by my side. Every now and then she fell behind to sniff a bush or patch of grass, but then she’d catch up. Once she half-heartedly darted toward a gopher, but as the critter ran away, she put on the brakes and returned by my side.
Raising a dog isn’t that unlike raising children. Either way, there needs to be a core set of rules that must be followed. But there should also be space to experiment, to push limits, even to fail. That’s how they learn, how we all learn.
Perhaps I was too quick to give up on Galen. By giving in, Kevin learned that we had done a darn good job of raising her, and that given her freedom, she flourished.
Currently I’m writing a book about Galen’s Southern roots and canine homelessness. Perhaps I now have the subject of my next one: Everything I learned about raising children I learned from my dog.
Or has someone already written that?