On October 3rd, we drove to our weekly therapy dog visit facility. We had been going there for a couple of years. Our routine was established.
I drive to the parking lot at the rear of the facility. I let Bernie and Chris out of the back seat to stretch, pee and poop.
After about five minutes, I call them to get back inside the car, and we drive to the front of the facility. This time when they leap out, they dash to the front door and wait. I walk to them with the leash in my hand.
I open the door, and Bernie rushes in while Chris usually stays by my side and walks in with me.
Today, I opened the door. Bernie jumped out. Chris stayed in his statue-still sit position. Stunned, I looked at him. Chris is usually eager to jump out.
“Chris! Out!” But he still didn’t move. I repeated the command, and reluctantly he jumped out and immediately resumed his statute-still sit position. I know that position. I turned and started walking to the front door. I presumed Chris would fall in and walk by my side.
After about ten feet, I looked down, and Chris wasn’t there. I stopped and turned around, and he was still by the car. Still in his sit position.
I called him to come. I waited. Usually, the moment I call him, he bounds to me.
It was about five seconds… and that’s a long time once a command is given… for Chris to fast walk to me. I turned back around and resumed my walk to the door. Chris stayed by my side as I walked.
When I opened the door, Bernie squeezed through and made a mad dash for the inner door. Bernie smelled food.
The folks were finishing lunch, and Bernie sought any food scraps on the floor.
I couldn’t get to the inner door fast enough. I will leash Bernie in the future. I haven’t had to do this. We usually visit before lunch, so food isn’t a problem.
Chris remains stuck to my side. I notice his tail is down, not quite tucked between his legs. For much of the time we were there, Chris was reluctant to participate fully. He tolerated being petted, but he wasn’t his normal perky self.
For the rest of the day, I tried to find any different behavior but I couldn’t.
We didn’t have any therapy dog visits on Wednesday. The early morning exercise routine had both Bernie and Chris behaving in their normal happy play-free way.
There was some initial excitement when I drove up to the Evening Exercise Area. Unlike the total isolated morning area with no traffic and walls to contain the dogs, this exercise area is close to Bell Road.
I walk the sidewalk bordering a construction site. It was our exercise area, however recently a hospital is being built on the site. The adjacent vacant lot is very large, but it ends at Bell Road.
The last two months, both dogs have wandered around this vacant lot, but never anywhere near Bell Road.
Bell Road is a major artery leading to Phoenix. It has six east-west lanes, three in each direction. Our exercise time is just before dusk. In October that means six o’clock rush hour traffic.
All three westbound lanes are full of traffic traveling at least 45 miles per hour. It is no place for dogs.
When I turned into our parking spot, both dogs were whining and anxious to be let out. I became alert. It is not their usual behavior.
I opened the door, and both dogs fought to be the first to leap out. They hit the ground running… directly into the vacant lot.
Within seconds, it became clear what alerted them.
The rabbits separated and ran directly away from the dogs. That meant the rabbits were weaving back and forth but headed for Bell Road.
I hit my remote device to activate the vibration on the dog’s collar. I also blew my whistle. Both devices command the dogs to return to me.
Bernie stopped immediately. Chris didn’t.
Bernie turned and started back to me. My eyes were on Chris. He had slowed at my commands but not completely. I hit the remote device and blew the whistle again.
Chris stopped. But that’s all he did. The rabbit disappeared. Chris continued to try and visually track it somewhere. He finally turned around and started coming back to me.
But when Chris got to the initial area where both dogs had started their chase, he veered east at his starting point and, nose to the ground, tried to pick up the original scent.
I let him try. I knew nothing would happen. Within fifteen seconds, he gave up. Chris turned directly to me and started trotting back.
It was the first time I had seen rabbits in the vacant lot. Once construction begins, animals usually disappear. Humans disturb their environment. The construction had been progressing for almost a month.
This week, foundation cement blocks were laid. Within a month walls will be built. Until then, very little noise was heard. However, once the interior construction begins, the hammering, lumber sawing, and other construction noise will drive any remaining critters away.
By now both Bernie and Chris had joined me at the car. Their exercise was over. The sun was beginning to set, and a full moon was rising in the east.
Another good October day with 93 degrees to greet the sunset.