Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Well, That Scared Me

Saying it scared me is putting it mildly, really.

Yesterday I took Isaac to the park near my home, where we go all the time.  All summer long, I've been letting him run off leash there.

Please don't tell me that was unwise, because I realize that now.  I felt it was OK because A) the park sits way back from the road and the trails are away from any roads B) we are almost always the only ones at the park when we go during the week so there is no risk of him bothering anyone else or of encountering any aggressive dogs C) his recall is pretty good, though it is not perfect (and we ARE going to be working on it!). 

What Isaac usually does is run a short ways ahead of me, then run back to where I am, then head off the trail a short ways, then come back to where I am, etc.  He often seems to be checking in with me to make sure I don't get lost.  He rarely goes out of my sight and when he does, I can usually hear him because he likes to go crashing through the brush.  If I don't see or hear him, I call him and he comes back to me.  Not always instantly, but within a minute or two.  So we've been doing this all summer and it's been fine.

Today, we were going down this steep hill.  Isaac went ahead of me and reached the bottom first.  I saw him down there, rolling in some leaves.  Then I took my eyes off him so I could watch where I was putting my feet because it was very steep and I didn't want to fall.  When I got to the bottom of the hill, I did not see Isaac.  There was a little bend in the trail and I went around that bend, thinking I'd see him there.  There is a creek there that he likes to play in.  I did not see him, so I called him.  He did not come.

After about 20 minutes of calling, and still no Isaac, I was starting to panic.  I didn't know what to do because if I tried to go look for him, I wasn't sure which way to go.  The trail went in a couple different directions shortly after going around that bend, and I didn't know which why he'd gone, or if he was even on a trail, and I was afraid I'd pick the wrong direction and end up going further away from him.

I called a friend who works nearby and he came over to help me look for Isaac.  It was about 30 minutes before he could get there, though.  By then, I was hoarse from yelling for Isaac.  My throat hurt, I was thirsty, I was panicking.  My anxiety meds were back at the car but I was afraid to go back to the car because it was at least a mile from where I was and I was afraid to leave the area where I'd last seen Isaac.  I was terrified something had happened to him and thinking what a terrible dog owner I was.

I don't know how to convey the level of panic I was feeling.  I think the anxiety, the worry that something might have happened to him, was pretty reasonable, fairly rational.  But then my thinking started going really crazy.  Really illogical, irrational.  Which it does.  Which is one of the reasons it's so important to take my anxiety meds at the beginning of an anxiety attack, and which is why Isaac is trained to bring me those meds at the beginning of an anxiety attack.

But they were back at the car.  I have thought about that and decided I need to carry some with me on hikes from now on.

But anyway, my thinking was going in all sorts of crazy directions.  I was thinking that Isaac was hurt, that he would be dead, and that then I would have to kill myself.  I was thinking that I never should have gotten a dog because I should have known something bad would happen so it would be all my fault when it did.  Because I wasn't supposed to have anyone that loved me.  I was really thirsty and thought I was probably getting dehydrated (which was rational, because I'd been crying and yelling for Isaac for more than half an hour and we'd walked a ways before that so it had been a long time since I had anything to drink) and I knew I needed my meds but thought that I wasn't supposed to go back to the car to get them because I was supposed to suffer because I was being punished for being such a bad person.

Finally my friend got there.  He pulled into the little parking area and called me on my cell phone.  Isaac was lying there by my car.  He was by the back door on the side where he usually gets in.  He recognized my friend's car and got up and looked happy to see him.  My friend said he looked like he was fine.

I got back to the car as fast as I could.  Isaac did indeed seem fine.  I think that for some reason he got too far away from me and ended up just finding his way back to the car and waited for me there.  I think it was really smart of him to find the car and wait for me there.  But I was so, so scared when I couldn't find him.

It will be a while before Isaac gets to be off leash anywhere besides a fenced in dog park, I think.  I am going to hire a local trainer to help me work on his recall.  Like I said, I think his recall is pretty good but it is clearly not perfect and it is apparently not good enough to be off leash anywhere that is not fenced in.

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