A social media friend — one of those friends from decades ago who now exists only as a name on the purple page — wrote Tuesday about advice she received: When a dog runs away from you, the best thing you can do is sit down in the yard. That’s because chasing the dog feels like a game to them. Sure enough, when her dog snuck through the fence, instead of running after him she decided to try the advice and just sat down. A few minutes later the dog was at her side.
Summer’s adventure just before sunset wasn’t quite as serious as escaping, although I admit to a brief moment of fury. We leave her on a long leash that she drags when she and Dejah go out into our fenced-in backyard. That way, if she’s reluctant to come back inside, we have 25-30 feet of leash to grab and corral her.
Usually when I pick up the lead and start to fold it in my hands, Summer takes the hint and ambles back up the steps. I unhook her, and she goes in the house.
This time, when I unhooked the leash, the little sneak’s eyes brightened and she dashed back down the stairs into the yard. I barked at her once, and my impulse was to chase her down, but then I remembered my old friend’s advice. I walked down and sat on the bottom stair.
Summer did four laps around the yard at full speed. This was breathtakingly lovely to behold, the 11-month-old golden retriever galloping like a thoroughbred and huffing in a tone that sounded like running is the most wonderful thing to do in all the world. After the fourth lap, she paused and unloaded a bit of business, which explained why she had been reluctant to go in the house in the first place.
She did a couple more laps — Summer IS gorgeous when she runs — went into a corner and started eating grass and weeds, which we try to discourage, but what can I say? She is clearly more bovine than retriever.
She still didn’t seem interested in coming to me while I sat on the bottom stair, so I ventured over to the lawn chair stationed about 10 feet off the deck. I watched her nose around the weeds, but then she began to watch me watching her. Wouldn’t you know it, less than 30 seconds after I settled into that chair, I had an 11-month-old golden retriever sitting at my side, happy as can be.
She sat next to me facing front in that position that can only mean, “You may now rub my chest and tell me what a good girl I am,” and so I did. Then I took her by the collar, but lightly, because I could tell that this time she would climb the stairs with me and the stairs would stay climbed. She nudged past me through the patio door, had a drink of water and is now contentedly lying outside the laundry room door.
And so I learned that patiently waiting — and not buying into the chase game — is a better way to get a playful puppy to come to me. And I learned that letting her be a puppy — and not grouchily insisting that she come inside precisely when I want her to come inside — can unleash a dance of beauty that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.