Sunday, September 30, 2012

My dog is a badass...


So, when I went to go live and work in Japan for two years, the saddest thing by far about the whole experience was leaving behind my canine companion. Artemis, a beautiful mutt whom I adopted as a puppy, had been my companion in all things for the three years leading up to my departure for Japan. Prior to my move to Japan Artemis had accompanied me on many an outdoor excursion, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, crossing rivers, climbing over boulders, you name it and she came with me. But she couldn't come to Japan because the flight alone might kill her, then quarantine might kill her, and then we would never be able to find an apartment that allowed dogs. Leaving her behind broke my heart.

But she was in excellent hands. For the first year of my absence she stayed with my mother who loves her dearly and for the second year she was with a very good friend of mine who has another two dogs and is a wonderful animal person. Both my mom and my friend treated her like gold, and loved her in my place. She was happy, and well cared for.

I came back in August of last year to find her happy and healthy and very excited to be reunited with me (as I was with her) and I whisked her away from my friend's house to bring her down to Arizona and start our new life at our new job and everything that went with it.

Not long after arriving I started getting back into my various outdoor excursions again, and of course, I took Artemis with me. The first thing I noticed was that she didn't seem to like swimming anymore. Crossing rivers and streams seemed to sketch her out and make her whine and hesitate. I could have sworn she liked swimming... Did I make that up? I have been gone for 2 years, maybe I mis-remembered. Maybe I'm losing my mind, maybe she never liked swimming and I just thought she did because I like water so much.

I seriously had those thoughts. I also considered myself a horrible dog parent. How could I be so wrong about my dog's personality?

Next, I noticed hesitation about getting up and down large boulders or other tall obstacles. Again, the whining and prevaricating about what to do.

I began to worry about different causes. It's been two years... Maybe she's getting old. She's only five, but maybe she has sore joints, maybe this stuff hurts her now... Those thoughts made me very sad, because Artemis has always been my partner in outdoor crime. (You can't expect me to poop in the woods without an accomplice can you? - ermm... nevermind. Don't answer that.)

So, I continued my outdoor excursions and I kept bringing Artemis because she seemed to enjoy them despite the anxiety and I continued to wonder but I never really got anywhere towards a solution.

In the last two months I noticed she'd gotten much more comfortable around water. I took her through a canyon a couple weeks ago and she seemed way more chill about large obstacles and water she had to cross (although still with some anxiety). I found this cheering, but didn't want to make any predictions about how things would turn out. Let's say I was cautiously optimistic.

Today I took her through a canyon and she was completely chill the ENTIRE TIME. We came up to a body of water that required swimming (if you're a dog) and she just jumped in and paddled across without even looking back (which happened more than once!). We came to a body of water that required crossing a narrow log to get to the other side dry and she just jumped right on it and padded across like it was nothing. We crossed numerous giant log jams and boulder piles and she blithely climbed over them and jumped down the other side like it ain't no thang. In other words: my dog is a badass again.

And, suddenly, I realize: she was just out of shape. Maybe not physically. Certainly, even if she wasn't going for runs with my friend or my mom she was getting out plenty, and once I got back Artemis and I were both running regularly, so it wasn't that. Mentally, however, she was totally out of shape. She had spent two years living with people who, while quite active, don't generally plunge through canyons, or up and down mountains, or over large boulders, or across rivers and streams on a weekly basis. It apparently took her just about a year to get her head back in the game.

Right now she's sleeping peacefully at my feet because we had an epic (in a good way) day. I don't know if I'm back to being a badass since my knee surgery yet, but my dog sure is, and I'm happy to count that as a vicarious win. Woot!