Lessons of the Leash

Marley has been with us for a couple of months now, but it feels like much longer. She has settled in so well, seamlessly fitting into the rhythm of our life at Chez Gainey with her sweet and gentle nature. Every time I look at her I feel a rush of gratitude to have found such a wonderful dog.

Very early in the morning, Dan got up to get ready for his yoga class at the Y. My hand is still unable to take any weight since my surgery, so I was going to stay home and walk the dogs. Sophie was already in bed with us, and Dan brought Marley up to snuggle with me. I love that she always puts her head on Dan’s pillow, the big lug. Not a bad way to start the day.

We headed out on our walk soon after Dan left, both dogs in harnesses joined together by a U connector, the way I’ve always walked my two dogs. I love seeing them happily trot along next to each other as we take our usual long walk around the ‘Hood.


Sophie is getting up in years, and while she lives to go on walks, her favorite part is stopping to sniff every blade of grass that she can. She’s definitely a ‘stop and smell the roses’ type of gal, and I do see the lesson in that. However, the past couple of days she’s been stopping even more often. Thank goodness for trustworthy harnesses on both dogs, especially with Marley being relatively new to our home and routine- and being a husky mix…huskies, the Houdinis of the dog world.

Shiva holding court with her minions…

Except maybe one harness wasn’t quite so good. When we were clear across the neighborhood at the farthest point from home, Sophie stopped to sniff, Marley, not quite ready to stop the parade, backed up in just the right way, and suddenly she was free of the harness that I thought was escape-proof. She took off running and my legs turned to complete jello as so many scary scenarios passed through my mind. I had a senior dog with me who wasn’t going to be able to move fast no matter what and Dan was out of pocket for at least two more hours. What was I going to do?

Lap dog…all sixty-five pounds of her.

Marley didn’t run far, just to the next yard up the sidewalk, running happily in circles like she was a kid at Disneyland on a sugar high. She kept looking back at me like, “Mom, this is great- let’s play!” racing by me just out of reach, and each time my heart sank further in my chest.

I immediately sat down and did my best to be calm. It was early on a Saturday morning, so thankfully no one was out and there was very little traffic if any. I kept my voice light and happy, and repeated the mantra, “Treat Marley- treat!” all the while cursing myself for not bringing her favorite treats with me. She whizzed by me a couple of times, then finally skidded in right next to me on her back, tummy up for her favorite belly rub, tail wagging and tongue hanging out, happy as a clam and quite proud of herself.

I praised her to high heaven while quickly putting my fingers through her collar and – with shaking hands- putting her harness back in place. I could barely walk I was so weak-kneed, but carefully and with great determination headed for home, thankfully with no further incident. Marley was pleased as punch. I had aged ten years.

Post walk long tongue…

Once we were safely home and I could breathe again, I was able to feel gratitude that Marley recognized that I am her human and that she didn’t want to run away- she was just feeling her oats on a beautiful morning. I also whipped out my computer to write to a good friend who is a dog trainer and to Google ‘best inescapable dog harnesses’. I will be using a slip lead until I find the best harness that I can find that will keep my sweet pup secure and safe.

Walking my dogs has always been a touchstone for me, a time for us all to get some good exercise, to bond, and time for me to think through things as we make our way down Southside’s crooked and cracked sidewalks. My dogs teach me lessons of patience and trust, reminding me to slow down and notice the little things on our path. They also teach me humility and flexibility in caring for them….and gratitude. Today I am so grateful that my sweet beastie is safely home with me.


9 thoughts on “Lessons of the Leash

  1. I would have had a heart attack! Maybe that was Marley’s way of saying she needs a bit faster pace than Miss Sophie allow – “I must run!” A girl can only be so patient for so long, then she must run and be free!

  2. Dear Denise, I really like the photos (the one with Shiva looking down on the dogs makes me laugh)! There are so few things that can induce fear like dog-slipped-leash! I hope you can make some adjustments to the halter to prevent a repeat occurrence!

  3. Enjoyed your dog walk story, and then really got into it when Marley escaped and would not come back right way. Just yesterday I told my daughter our basenjis are special because the are completely untrainable and do not come when called. She said, “you mean other dogs, you just call them and they come back?”
    “Well, they’re *supposed* to.”
    Now I see that at least one other dog is like my basenjis. Good times. And it’s always a relief if the neighbors aren’t watching.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Susan. It is terrifying when they get away from us, isn’t it? I use the slip lead all the time with Marley now. She never pulls and is the perfect lady on a leash, and I don’t have to experience the terror of her going for a joy run without me. Good luck with your pups!

      1. Thanks … I was taking them to the vet this morning when before I could catch her Helen got out of the car the second I opened it and took off after a rabbit. Thankfully I got her back and no one, her or the rabbit, was harmed. So exasperating.

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