Albie got out yesterday. He actually got out twice. The first time, a visiting friend let him out the front door by accident by holding it open for too long. The second, he ran out the back door while it was open so that a chair could be brought inside. The doors aren’t really important. The reasons don’t really matter. Albie is always trying to get out. And we are always so scared that he will.
We got him back both times. I should add that. The first time, he never even left the front gate. After a few failed attempts (using a sweet, playful voice; using a stern voice; telling him to sit; telling him to lay) he laid down and let me grab his collar. Let’s be real: these were his terms. My friend said, “he’s the alpha”. I said, “what can I tell you?” What would Caesar Milan say? Am I am bad dog owner? Is he a bad dog? Maybe a bit of both, but we sure do love each other. The second time, he got out the back door, which is way more open terrain. My husband managed to lure him through the side gate into the front by throwing his favorite toy. Then we both rushed to shut the side gate door and Albie was back to the front gated area until he straight up jumped it. Albie can leap a 3.5 foot picket fence in a single bound. Superdog. He ran through the street and eventually, as usually happens, stopped to poo, allowing my husband to grab his collar, and then acquiesced to coming back in with the promise of a treat. Whose fault is this? Is it his? Is it ours?
We don’t let him out without the tie-out because he CAN jump the fence. We are scared to run him across the park, which is literally across the street, because he doesn’t come when called consistently, nor does he sit. We have trained him 3 times, at 3 different places. He is not an obedience school graduate. I certainly am not trying to compare my dog to children, or children to my dog, but as a teacher I am well aware that some things are genuinely harder for some kids. Hell, as a parent I know that there are some things my son cannot master that his friends can. At his age, I would walk a mile home to let myself in after school. I would heat up some food and watch General Hospital and do my homework. He can’t walk anywhere alone. Not only because I would be scared of what would happen, but because he can barely get from the bedroom to the basement without direction. He doesn’t remember to do things until told 5 times. He is flighty, unfocused in ways that I wasn’t. He is an immature 11, and he turns 12 on Sunday. But still we always blame the owner, like the parent. When does the nature kick in over nurture? At what point do I end and the creatures I care for begin?
My dog is bad. There: I’ve said it. I said it before. It was in fact the subject of my first blog here. My kid is good. I’ll tell you that right now too. He is bright, articulate, creative, and polite. People often comment on his manners. They say, how nice that he asks for things with a please! He always says thank you. Other teachers in the district (I work in the high school, he attends middle school) have mentioned that even though he clearly doesn’t know them, when they say hello he always greets them in return. He’s a nice kid. He is a smart, un-athletic kid. I mention that only because he and I joke about his “brudda”. If Al were a boy, we say, he’d totally be a dumb-jock stereotype. We laugh about how Al would love to talk about sports and he would be so popular. Al is the dogification of Joey Russo from Blossom (Whoa!). My boys are nothing alike, but again, they sure do love each other. Al likes to go on hikes with me. The kid likes to craft and hit the library. I like doing all of those things, so I’m pretty lucky to have them both. And I raised them both. So are the flaws in them my fault? I can be too overprotective with both, but they belong to me. I am protective. I am supposed to protect them. That’s my job.
But how do I let either of them mature when it’s so hard to trust that they will make the right choices? Albie can’t be trusted outside, but he knows that I think that, so what reason does he have for being trustworthy? Maybe you think that’s too complex thinking for a dog, but I think there is some truth there. I think that he won’t come back if off-leash and he proves me right time and again. However, each time he gets out off-leash feels like such a treat to him. He has freedom he can’t imagine. If I never let my son do things, like walk to a friend’s house alone, or stay by himself, or walk around the mall and meet me at the front, he will never get more independent. They will never learn responsibility if I never let them have any. But how can I let them fail if I’m scared that they will get hurt? What if Albie runs into the street and gets hit by a car? What if he never comes back? What if a predator talks to my child? What if I give him his money to hold onto and he loses it? Where is the line between good care and too much care? How do I learn to trust my boys when they don’t always act in trustworthy ways? How do I learn to trust myself and the choices I made up to this point so that I can believe that they are going to be fine? I don’t really have a profound way to end this because I don’t really have the answer. Does anyone? Do you?
Happy Friday! I thought it would be fun to do a list of dog-related things that I am loving every Friday under the heading of “Friday Favorites”. (I totally stole this idea from other blogs I enjoy, with the hope that you would enjoy it too.) So, without further ado, here are some of Albie and my favorite things!
**mommasgonecity on Instagram. The story is that this ridiculously photogenic family in the Bay Area adopted this cute as can be puppy named Theo and he immediately bonded with their toddler, Beau, and they became the best of friends that ever were. Everyday Theo and Beau take a nap together and momma photographs it. Add this little bit of squee to your instafeed. You won’t regret it. http://instagram.com/mommasgonecity/
**retractable leashes! First, I only used a leather leash, but after Albie ate through 3 in his first year we switched to a bungee cord one with a lifetime warranty. That has served us well through 3 more replacements (I have mentioned Albie is fairly out of control, yes?) but I have lately taken up hiking with Albie. Finally, I decided I needed a retractable leash to be able to change up the slack depending if we came across any other dogs or people on our walks, the steepness of the hills, etc. I had always been against retractable leashes because I feel that they don’t allow you to properly leash train your dog but let’s be real, Albie is untrainable. I just want to have a nice hike. I finally broke down and got a retractable leash and it has made a huge difference in my walking enjoyment with Al. Sometimes you need to try a few leashes, collars, etc. to find the ones that work for you and your pup. The important thing is that you go on long and frequent walks because dogs need a good workout every day. Of course, this is also where the beautiful staff of Elliot’s House can help out; I hear dog walking is sort of their thing! However, if you’re going it alone, make sure you check out some of our favorite dog-friendly spots in Boston: https://www.elliotshouse.com/best-dog-walks-boston-2/
**petprojekt dog egg. It’s rare for Albie to find a toy that he doesn’t destroy within the first few minutes. Kongs are obviously the gold standard, and we have also enjoyed Planet Orbee, but he loves his dog egg the most! It has a squeak, but is not terribly irritating; it has an odd shape which leads to an unexpected bounce which he loves; and it’s solidly made. Great toy for an active dog who is a serious chewer. I mean serious. He ate through a table once; I may have mentioned that.
So that’s what we’re loving! What are you loving lately?
Winter may be perpetually coming in everyone’s favorite HBO show, but thankfully in Boston it’s time for spring. After this never-ending winter of our discontent we can finally open up the windows, turn down the heat, kick off our snow boots, and become reacquainted with the beauty of Boston when it’s not covered in inches of filthy snow. Finally, the snow has melted, the flowers are blooming, and it is time to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of some of the best dog-friendly walking trails in the area.
Belle Isle Marsh
1 Bennington St.
East Boston, MA 02128
Belle Isle offers free parking, lots of open spaces, numerous trails, and all on-leash dogs are welcome! This is a beautiful spot to bring your pup.
Prospect Hill Park
314 Totten Pond Road
Waltham, MA 02154
Longer hikes and a spectacular view of Boston are some of the reasons to make a trip to Waltham for this one. Leashed dogs only.
Stony Brook Reservation
Turtle Pond Parkway
Hyde Park, MA 02136
This is the place for when doggy needs to take a dip! Stony Brook features a stunning walk that will make you feel like you left Boston far behind. Again, don’t forget your leash!
Formerly a train track, this is a very cool place to walk your best furry friend. Nearby parking is available.
William J Day Blvd and Head Island Causeway
Boston, MA, US 2127
This 22 acre urban-park is fun for the whole family, including those whose tails wag while on a hike. Stunning views!
This is another re-appropriated train track! Nearby parking available.
East Cambridge, MA, US
On-leash dogs are welcome to this East Cambridge park.
Sometimes a general area walk is what you want. Harvard Square is fun for people and pets alike! Enjoy the street performers, walk the manicured lawns, and if you need something to read pop into the Harvard bookstore. Dogs are welcome!
Ed Leathers Community Dog Park
Skilton Ave and Medford St
Somerville, MA, US
This fenced-in dog park is especially great for smaller dogs. The ground is gravel, not mud, which is obviously a huge benefit to choosing this one. When you’re done here make sure you stop into JP Licks for refreshing treats for you AND your puppy. (J P Licks, 4A College Ave., Somerville, MA 02144- featuring Cow Paws, a cool treat made especially for dogs.)
Nunziato Field Dog Park
Summer St and Vinal Ave
Somerville, MA, US
Sometimes there is nothing better than a fenced in dog park to let your buddy go off leash and run until he or she drops. A tired dog is a happy dog. Make sure you remember to bring your own water!
Boston Public Garden
Newbury St and Arlington
Boston, MA, US 2115
Probably the best known walking spot in Boston, but also my favorite, is the Boston Public Garden. Swans, flowers, people-watching: the Gardens have it all! This is a fantastic spot to walk your dog. (And I once got Albie the best sweater at a little dog store on Newbury Street.)
So get those leashes out and go enjoy the sunshine with your dog! What spots do you like to go to, Bostonians? Let us know in the comments and we’ll see you there!