Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Winter in Wheaton Off-Leash
Well, this is shaping up to be a real winter in DC! After last year's false starts, we're finally getting decent snow across the area. I could do without the polar vortices and obviously I hope everyone stays safe when the roads ice but, on the whole, I'm enjoying myself.
Charlie is too, of course; he absolutely loves the snow. We came out to the suburbs after we got a few inches last week and he had the best time running around in my parents' backyard, leaping and snuffling and twirling through the fresh powder. (Yes, twirling. He's a strange one, my dog is.) As a treat, I drove us to Wheaton, a park in Montgomery County about a 30 minute drive from the north point of the DC line, for a lovely walk in the woods around the lake.
I just have to brag for a second: Charlie was off-leash the whole time we were there. My friend Emily's lab Cliff has been allowed to roam freely through nature since he was a puppy, but that really was never an option for Charlie. I mean, my parents replaced the fence around their backyard and reinforced the garden gate to stop Charlie from jumping (or climbing, which was the strangest thing to witness) over and exploring the neighborhood! If he got loose and caught the scent of a rabbit or a squirrel, he'd be off like a shot and we wouldn't be able to catch him until he tired himself out, which could take up to an hour, or he managed to get himself stuck somewhere. Even as his recall got better, I didn't trust him to respond more quickly to me than to the sound of a deer breaking a twig off in the distance. But he has been maturing over the past year and a half since we brought him home and I have been working very hard on reinforcing the basic commands that we were taught in obedience class, so yesterday, as we walked down the track to the lake at Wheaton, I unclipped his collar - and he was off!
He meandered, of course, and occasionally sprinted from one tree to the next, but he kept pace with me the whole time. I'd call him if I felt he was falling behind, distracted by some smell, and he'd dash up to me, a big sloppy smile on his face, and then find a new scent to hunt down. There were deer tracks all over the place and I can only imagine how many animals were burrowed under our feet, but Charlie was a champion. I was so proud! It was such a fun outing and I'm thrilled that Charlie's finally responsible enough that we can make it a regular thing.