Dear Goddamned Beagle,
Of late we’ve been working on curbing your lightening-fast and revolting habit of finding every scrap of organic material on the ground and eating it. Dead things, littered food scraps, often-unidentifiable orts of grossness all warrant intense scrutiny, and often ingestion.
Luckily the dog trainer in me knows how to deal with this, and so we’ve been working on prompted and unprompted attention. While this has often meant me standing, unmoving as you put your full weight against your harness and ignore me for minutes on end, those minutes have decreased over time.
Though we’re nowhere near perfect, I have to say that things have been going pretty well. You less and less treat the sidewalk like an all-you-can-eat buffet, you’re more aware of a taut leash, and you look at me often during our outings, checking in and saying hello for no other reason than that we’re walking together.
I, meanwhile, have enjoyed going out with you, listening to my books and enjoying the increasing ease of our strolls through the city streets.
Then a chicken bone fell out of a tree as we walked below.
Maybe some passed-out-drunk raccoon rolled over on his branch, releasing last night’s Chinese dumpster bender. Maybe some annoyed squirrel found it and cleared it off the branch while tidying up – it can’t be easy sharing your living space with raccoons. Regardless, of the many situations nearly 40 years in dog training have prepared me for, bones falling from trees was not one.
You got it. I reached, pointlessly and seemingly in slow motion into your clenched jaw, coming out with a mere shard. The rest was gone with just a few resource-guardy chews and a self-satisfied gulp.
May I remind you, Goddamned Beagle, that a mere 36 hours before you’d been at the vet’s sick as, well, a dog and getting fluids for your very bad gut?
It seemed unfair of you to look up at me with clear, focused attention immediately afterwards. I stood there ambivalent – should I feed for attention? Was there any real chance of setting up an unwanted behavior chain that involved falling poultry parts? I went with a faint, “OK then!” and we moved ahead, and for the rest of our walk you were definitely sniffing the sidewalk less, and clearly looking up more – a pyrrhic victory if there ever was one.
We will be going out again today, and I suspect your other favorite activity, watching for squirrels, will be enhanced by the added “falling snack” anticipation. Don’t count on it, Beagz. And this time, I’ll be ready.