Monday, September 3, 2012

Becoming Emily

In a letter describing herself to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Emily Dickinson write, "You ask my companions, Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog large as myself that my father bought me. They are better than beings because they know but do not tell; and the noise in the pool at noon excels my piano."  This weekend I realized that I feel the same way as Emily.  I am happiest when I have Barley and nature as my companions.

My cousin came this weekend--don't get me wrong, I adore my family--and hiking was not the normal relaxing activity it usually is.  

Ever since I took the Kiersey Temperaments Test in interpersonal communication years ago, I've known that being around other people exhausts me and that I need me time to reenergize--and that that's ok.  I love to be with my family and my friends, but I need time to myself, even if it's just a nap or a walk around the neighborhood or a trip to the grocery story.  Some people I can spend days with and I never feel exhausted because they've known me for ages and understand me (ex. after 4 years of eating breakfast together every morning in college, my BFF knows that he shouldn't expect any conversation from me until after I've finished breakfast and coffee because I need that time to reflect on what the day might hold).  With my extended family, though, we don't see each other often so I feel like I need to have an itinerary planned, be awake when they wake up, talk the whole time--I feel like it's rude to go lock myself away for a little while.  To make a long story short, it's exhausting.

You're probably wondering how I can have such a people-centered career with this personality.  It's because my weekends (and afternoons) are me time (or me and Barley time).  When Bar and I go hiking, of course part of it is for exercise, but mostly it's to get away from people--go somewhere that I can't check email or connect on Facebook, somewhere I might not even see other people.  When I spend a few hours walking in the woods, taking pictures, and talking only to Barley, I feel rejuvenated--basically it's the way going to church every Sunday made me feel before it became all political.  When I don't have time to do that, I get cranky.

As much as I love my cousin and as good as it was to see him, it was strange to have someone with me on a hike.  I'm not used to carrying on conversations while I hike.  I'm not used to not picking a pretty spot to just sit and think while Barley rests for a minute.  I know I hike with a couple of my friends, but we've never explored new territory together.  Barley and I have always gone to new places alone and then invited our friends along after we've had a chance to explore.  

My cousin and I went to one new place--The West Woods--and one old place--Chapin Forest Reservation.  We quickly found the Ansel's Cave trail.  The trail was ridiculously shady, so Bar and I will be keeping this in mind on warm days.  My cousin was disappointed that the cave couldn't be explored because they were trying to protect bats from White Nose Syndrome.  
Barley in front of Ansel's Cave.
We couldn't see a bridge without taking a picture.
Oh no! Tragic falls!
Bar and I will have to come back here.  Doggin' Cleveland said we'd be able to see the world's 13th largest geodesic dome from the trail and the trail map made it seem that way, too.  Maybe they meant in the winter when the leaves are all gone because we saw it on the way into the park from the car, but not on the trail.

Then we went to the Chapin Forest Reservation because the ledges are neat and the view from the overlook is really pretty.  After a couple hours of walking, Barley was a tired girl yesterday.

I was exhausted, too.  In addition to talking more than observing, I also had to adjust to someone else giving my dog commands.  It's hard to get people to understand our training when people haven't seen Barley at her worst (not that I have any desire for anyone to ever see Bar that way again). My friends have sort of been along with us on our training journey--one of them was there while I was making decisions to start training, they've both seen Barley's improvement with each class, they've let me vent when we've regressed and celebrated our successes, and, unfortunately, they've seen Barley at her worst (but they still love her!).  They understand if I have to quit telling a story mid-sentence and tell Barley to watch or if I have to pull us off the trail and sit and wait for another dog to pass.  They never get involved until it's time to shower Bar with love and praise.

When new people are along for the journey, it's hard to explain that we're always in training.  Barley doesn't get treats along the walk because she's spoiled (ok, well, maybe sometimes she does); she gets treats periodically to remind her to stay focused on me.  When I'm trying to get her to focus on me, she doesn't need other people calling her name and whistling--of course, it's always good to practice reaction to distraction, but it confuses her when multiple parts of her group give her different commands.  When we're focused, petting her and grabbing her tail (hey, I understand, she's got an awesome, curly, plume-like tail that does seem to yell "Grab me!") break our focus.  I know for most dogs, these types of things are all normal and fine, but for Barley breaking focus is dangerous if there's even the slightest chance of seeing another dog.  So, I was on edge a lot with our adventures.
Getting a 'tude with her mama
Today, I needed some rejuvenation, so when my cousin had gotten on the road, Bar and I headed out to our favorite place: The Holden Arboretum (yay for our recently renewed membership!).  Barley gets very excited at the Arboretum.  Here's a little taste of Barley's excitement in the parking lot of the Arboretum.
She starts doing this as soon as we get off the interstate and doesn't stop until we're on the trails.

I decided that rather than looking for new places to explore, we should hit up our old favorites.  We met a dog that we'd met with our friends at North Chagrin Reservation (an aussie-minpin mix named Skye) and stopped to chat about training--Skye is a few months younger than Barley and has also been doing reactive dog training--but for the most part we didn't see anyone.

I could say more, but I've said a lot already, so I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves because I'm feel refreshed and ready to start Week 2 of the semester.

And one last video--because even at her least graceful, my dog is still relaxing and peaceful.

1 comment:

  1. It's true! Training can be rough. It gets to the point where you don't really want other people around because you have to focus on your dog so much you can't really be a good walking buddy. My trainer said that they will probably always have some kind of issues so while it can be better, it's always a work in progress. Oh boy :-)