Pull on that lead

It’s a world full of boundaries and rules: you can’t go there, you mustn’t do that. Cooper is fine with most of it. Sometimes he doesn’t really care about going over there anyway. Sometimes he will just break the rule when no one is looking since it makes no sense to him. Why can’t he check what’s on the kitchen counter? That’s where there is often food within reach of his long tongue. OF COURSE he is going to look up there. Dumb rule.

The biggest boundary he has is his lead when he’s out for a walk. Now, he is lucky enough to be connected by an extendable lead that stretches pretty far, maybe nine or ten Cooper body lengths. You can get pretty far with that sort of radius and it gives him a lot of flexibility to investigate new smells and visually interesting curiosities along the pavement. That said, he doesn’t understand why he needs to be attached to his owners at all; they are so incredibly needy! And they are forever pulling him away from what he’s trying to examine.

Pull on that lead

Here are the top ten potential investigatory opportunities where his owner will invariably spoil his fun:

  1. A cat on a wall
  2. A discarded sandwich in the road
  3. A sweaty runner puffing past
  4. Being approached by a snarling, yappy dog
  5. A cat under a car
  6. A child in a pushchair holding a tasty looking piece of toast
  7. A school kid on a bike swerving on the pavement
  8. Another dog’s poop
  9. His own poop
  10. A cat in a driveway

If it was a person he was pulled away from, the owner would then – unbelievably – apologise to them. Cooper hadn’t even done anything! He was only thinking about approaching them. Pfft. But then he is soon distracted by the next interesting thing and forgets he is annoyed with being constantly stopped in his tracks.

In Cooper’s opinion, rules are more like suggestions. Follow them for an easy life, sure, but rules are meant to be broken. He has a sensible mind of his own and he can’t live his life totally at the bizarre whim of his owners. Even though he knows he will be reprimanded verbally, with a tug to his collar, he will always pull on that lead.

What can you learn from your dog?

Our own lives are full of so many restrictions and that’s fine for the most part. But what about the thrill of skirting some of those rules? Don’t you get a slight ripple of excitement taking a 90 minute lunch break because management are away on a course? And, oops, did you take a couple of extra days to pay that bill? Maybe rules are meant to be broken, maybe not, but how about bending some of the smaller ones, just for you.

Ask for what you want

It has been a pleasant afternoon of snoozing for Cooper. After lunchtime the sun hits the back of the house providing a perfect place to curl up and soak in the rays. A big, wide yawn, and then a quick bit of dog yoga – moving into the position for downward facing dog, followed by a cat stretch – he looks around to see if anything has changed during the time he’s been asleep. Has a cat wandered around his domain in his absence? He sniffs the air to see if maybe his food bowl has been re-filled. Ah, sadly not.

Hit with a small pang of loneliness, he goes off to search for his owner. There she is, sitting at the desk in her office, where he left her before his sleep. Cooper stares intently at her for a while, wagging his tail. Eventually this gets her attention and she swivels in her chair to face him. She says a bunch of words at him – none of which are “food” or “walk” – so he intensifies his wagging. Padding closer, he shoves his head into her lap and pushes his nose under her hand. She’s not getting it, so he pushes his head again until she finally understands and strokes his furry crown. That feels pretty good, he thinks, as he closes his eyes happily. He gives the hand a little lick as a reward to his owner for correctly identifying his intent.

Cooper side sitting

Cooper may understand some of the words said to him – the important ones – but his voice box doesn’t work in the same way as humans ones do and he has to choose a different way to communicate. He doesn’t think that being unable to articulate a thought verbally is a handicap though. It just means he has to rely on communicating more physically to be as clear as possible about his needs. Not a terrible way to operate. It’s pretty darn clear.

What can you learn from your dog?

You’re at work and that girl (the one you just don’t like) receives a delivery of flowers from her boyfriend. This annoys you more than it should and not just because she’s squealing in delight so everyone looks over. Why doesn’t *your* boyfriend send *you* flowers at work? *You* might want to be the person receiving the flowers, squealing and annoying people. But then again, in fairness, you haven’t told him clearly just how much you would love this romantic gesture. You’ve hinted. You’ll mention this girl today. But you haven’t said in black and white terms how much you’d be tickled pink by his thoughtfulness. What would your dog do? Your dog probably isn’t that interested in bouquets of roses, but he does have to be completely upfront about what he wants. When he sees you eating sausages and (obviously) also wants them, he stares at the sausages, at you and then licks his lips. Back and forth, back and forth. He couldn’t be more clear!

Ask for what you want.

Bark at the moon

There isn’t always a lot of point looking upwards when Cooper is out on an evening jaunt. The air doesn’t smell as awesome as the scent-laden grass and bushes do. There may be an occasional flutter of wings up there but it disappears very quickly before it can be investigated. So, not much point looking skyward… except, at full moon.

The moon is a strange thing. It’s this white enigma hanging way up there; oddly glowing. And then there are some nights where it’s round and bigger than usual, shining brightly, lighting up the dark world with an eerie shimmer. Cooper doesn’t know what the moon is, and he usually doesn’t think twice about it, but he is a little suspicious on these brighter nights, wondering why his usual cover of darkness is being disrupted. What’s going on? His nightscape is transformed with a muted white light and, honestly, he thinks it’s pretty freaky.

Cooper is a small beagle and he doesn’t know why things happen in this huge universe. He’s okay with that. But this moonlight unnerves him and makes him truly uncomfortable. How do you tell the moon you’re not happy with how it’s making you feel? That you don’t understand it? Heck, to just tell it you are here? Cooper tilts his head up and BARKS.

Cooper barking at the moon

He barks because he’s unsettled and the creepy moonlight is putting him off his usual sniffing routine. He barks because it’s too eerily quiet, but strangely bright, and there’s no one around. Then he barks because he likes the sound of his own voice and hearing it echo across the field. He barks because he feels so small and he just wants to feel heard. Can the moon hear him? He barks and barks. In the distance he can hear a fellow dog join in. They probably can’t see the moon from where they are – maybe indoors – but they’re on board with the sentiment. Barking gets it all out. All that bark stored up in his small body is now out there for the world to hear. Can you hear him? Cooper knows he may be little but he’s important anyway and WILL BE HEARD.

Once he has run out of all that excess bark, he’s ready to move on with the walk. Every now and then a stray bark will escape his lips, just so the moon knows he is still there.

Stupid moon.

What can you learn from your dog?

The world is big and it can make us feel so insignificant. Sometimes that seems a pretty heavy thought. All that we have inside us, all that’s unsaid or unasked. All the confusion about life gets bottled up by not wanting to say it out loud in case we feel stupid or disliked. All that quiet nodding to overbearing bosses, the choosing not to comment on provocative posts by outspoken friends on Facebook. Your dog has the same frustration. Get it all out! Release all those thoughts, concerns, anger and any other emotion you keep bottled up. Yell at the moon! Or in a journal, blog or tweet. Ramble that stream of consciousness about the injustice in your life to a friend, therapist or your hairdresser.

How good does it feel when all of that bark inside of you is out?

What’s new for you today?

Cooper is a dog with a job. A mission. A life purpose. We can’t all be so lucky as to know with absolute certainty what we should be doing in this world, but for him there was no choice. As a hound, it is an absolute calling. He MUST investigate all the smells.

Each trip out always brings new challenges as nothing ever remains the same. Cooper loves that his usual field returns to uncharted territory each time he arrives on the scene. Even if he enters the field at the exact same time as yesterday, the nasal landscape is completely different. He begins by sniffing heartily around the gate area. There’s a lot going on here as it’s the main entrance to his field and there’s an overwhelming amount of foot/paw traffic. He recognises a few; some of his friends he sees from time to time. There are human smells and footprints scuffing up the place, which he gives a cursory inhale. And smells from dogs he hasn’t met yet are more intriguing and he idly wonders if he’ll see them today.

Right, that’s enough now. He must go into the field proper, where the smells are more spaced-out. This is where the particularly fun smells are: from those entities that he rarely actually sees. Those animals who appear when he’s not around, or he sometimes sees speedily darting just outside his peripheral vision, far, far too fast. Rabbits. Squirrels. Moles. Badgers. Foxes. Mmmm. He has sometimes spotted some in the distance, but they don’t stay still for long. It’s as if they don’t want to say hello and that they actually enjoy being frustratingly illusive. But that just heightens the appeal, of course.

Cooper investigates smells

Cooper just loves to pick up a fresh trail from one of these secretive creatures. He follows the scent, scouting back and forth in a haphazard zig-zag. He must find out where this critter was going, eagerly following each twist and turn it made. But, sadly, eventually the track ends and no cheeky animal is found. It’s alright – tomorrow his field will be all new again and there will be different, delicious tracks to follow.

What can you learn from your dog?

Think of your commute to work. It’s the same every day, right? But, it’s not. There are different cars around you, or new people opposite you on the train. The weather. The music on the radio. Your usual routines are different every time. You may have noticed that your dog is absolutely fascinated by each new thing he finds along streets he’s plodded many-a-time. What will fascinate you today? The coffee shop sign with sad, deflating balloons attached? How about that tall guy wearing a strange angular hat, staring intently at the sky? Over there is a young sapling growing and intertwining through rusty railings. What’s new for you today?