15 September 2011

The elusive reliable recall and how it would be nice to have this feature if you have a dog who enjoys the occasional jump off of a cliff.

So, you know, it's the end of the day and we're all tired, it's been a long day. We're walking down our path down to the bluff on the edge of the cliff like we do lots and lots of days. Same path, same bluff, same field, same everything. Almost every day, unless it's dark, we end our day walking through this weedy old field, down to the bluff. Some days I trudge and the dogs run, some days I trot. This was a trudging day for me.

The bluff sits high up on a cliff, there's no path down to the sea there, just a cliff although if you were brave enough, you probably could climb down there. I'm pretty brave, and no way am I gonna try it, mostly because I'm not sure how you would ever get back up. And the whole maybe you could also die on the way down bit. You could probably go crashing down and maybe land in the soft sandy part beneath and not in the sharp rocks with the crashing waves if you had luck on your side and maybe giant fingers that were like big metal claws. Digger hands, that's what you'd need.

I always figured most dogs thought, Don't jump off cliffs. I know Otterpop and Ruby think this. Never in their lives have they ever run up to the edge of a cliff and jumped off for no reason I could figure out. For any reason at all. They don't jump off cliffs. It's an unwritten code of the sensible, humans and dogs alike. We understand reality physics, not cartoon ones where the coyote is suspended in time for a 5 second pause, then drops to his death, only to resurface seconds later, bruised and beaten, yet alive enough to take on another beating by the roadrunner.

Gustavo, he has this thing where sometimes, he jumps. He's like the Simpsons, or like all that pixar stuff in 3D. His line between the cartoon and the real life is somewhat blurry. He can go to the edge and take a running leap and off he goes. A few times this has happened, where I've had to go down and rescue him, or else he's figured out how to climb back up. Never on this bluff, but on other cliffs in other locales. This is a bad thing he does, and he doesn't do it much, but something in his brain, maybe I was thinking it was the ammonia, just tells him, JUMP.

Ever since those times, even though they were pretty long times ago, I do take notice at the edge of a cliff, and when we're on a new cliff we don't know, he goes on his rope. His brain seems so fresh and shiny now, ammonia free, that I've been thinking maybe the jumping thing, it's gone. Along with the escaping out of forests, escaping into mobile home parks, maybe that weird short circuit thing doesn't happen anymore because he lives in reality with the rest of us. His life is no longer an endless loop of Scooby Doo episodes that end waking up in Velma's lap in a beanbag chair in the Mystery Machine because the hypnotist clown ghost turns out to be a washed up old circus ventriloquist with a grudge against the establishment.

We walk this path nearly every day, and never once has he ever had the jumping thing. Gustavo proof. A safe cliff zone. But there he goes. Way over to the edge with that batshit look in his eye. Haven't been seeing that look so much lately, but there it is and he's over on the edge looking down, like a jumper. A really happy one.

I call him in. Lately I've been reprogramming his new brain into calling off of distractions and reliably reprogramming reliableness into him, back on his rope in the forest and beach. A lot. We've been working hard on this, once again. But, you know. Work in progress. For always. So he doesn't come back from the edge.

I send in my main man, Otterpop. She can do wonders with jumpers. We do good cop, bad cop. I don't know what she says to him, it's in barking. But he's still spinning in circles and I think he's telling her, he's gonna jump. You gotta be careful, when you got a jumper. Don't scare them, but you got to act quick. I call Otterpop back in, and stay her Ruby on the path so just in case, my god, we don't have a whole team overboard and who's going to get help? Go alert the tattoo guy on his bike or the people in the gray Audi that the boss has gone over the edge?

He hasn't gone over yet, which is a good sign, he's taking time to think and sping which hopefully suggests a thoughtfulness and that he's lacked in the past. Or maybe there's something down there, a carcass or a bucket of carnitas, or maybe he just wants to get down there, down to the sea, because he isn't there. My nicey nice request went extremely unnoticed so I yell real loud, NO! and lumber out to the edge because, my god. I have to scare him back. It's either that or over he goes in terror of my lumbering and yelling, so I'm hoping for the back.

It works. Rarely do I scream NO! at Gustavo. It freaks him out so bad we just save it for situations as dire as this. He moves away from the edge. Then runs through the ice plant and the scrub brush to get away from me and get to where the stayed dogs are, bless their little obedient hearts. I'm not a complete failure as a dog trainer. Only 1 of my dogs ignores me to try and jump off cliffs. Once back there in dog land, I ask him into a down with the others, and this actually works. I learned this from the border collie people, screeching LIE DOWN, from across the field to get all the dogs all flop down into quiet little piles.

He gets a leash clipped on. We have been on the one strike you're out plan for a while, and Gustavo still spends a lot of time in jail. After all these years. With a now ammonia free brain. So that's the end of the story. I guess it's a happy ending, a lot of words if you made it through to the end and no one even went over the cliff. I am hoping with the end of the ammonia, we also get to the end of freaky cliff jump freakouts like this. Maybe. Sometime. In the future.


vici whisner said...

Progress is often times scarey and doesn't seem like progress until it is behind you.

Glad you didn't loose Gooey to the sharp rocks and the brutal sea. I'm thrilled that he is home snuggling with you as a good dog should.

Anonymous said...

I only have one thing to say.


team small dog said...

We should make sure Rocket and Gustavo never team up. I sure wish Gustavo didn't do stuff like jump off cliffs. But since he didn't jump yesterday, I guess I can say that's an improvement? We didn't walk on the cliff section tonight, just because.

Anonymous said...

Your friend Susan Garrett has a dog named Buzz who is now rather elderly by dog standards, but when he was young by any standards, jumped off a cliff in Arizona, if memory serves, and landed ten or so feet below on a tiny ledge and there was some difficulty involved in extracting him from the ledge.

If memory serves.... you should ask her some time.

You're ok, he's ok, life is ok...it's just very, very strange and often unsettling.