Friday, June 28, 2013

Arizona Heat Wave

Today was a resting day. The plan was to wake up in Holbrook and do some leisurely sightseeing as we made our way 90 miles west to Flagstaff.

Originally I had been looking at seeing the Petrified Forest National Park and Holovani Park. But Arizona has been hit by a massive, record breaking heat wave, and upon closet inspection, neither of those places seemed too inviting. They were both rocky, dirty, wide open, shade-less places that just seemed hot and dry and unpleasant. So, as much as I think I would have enjoyed both of those places, I changed my approach.

I looked for city parks, or parks that were basically grass and trees. I found a little gem in Holbrook called Hunt Park, so when we checked out of the motel, we gassed up and then stopped at the park for about two hours.

We ran a bit, and then we walked around for a bit, and then we sat at the picnic tables and finally, laid a blanket on the grass under a big shady tree and I did some light yoga while River rolled around.

After we’d been there on the blanket for a while, a car pulled up and a woman got out and asked if it would bother my dog if her and her family set up on the other side of that tree. She was especially concerned because they had three little dogs. I said that it was fine.

I didn’t realize how fine it was. River sat watching as they all piled out of the car and tied off the dogs on the tree. River was on his leash, but was putting no tension on it. He clearly wanted to check it out, but was restraining himself. I hadn’t even had to say anything to him at this point.

The kids all had fried junk food, and River could smell it (I could see his nose going), but still he stayed put on our blanket. The woman remarked at how well-behaved my dog was and how her dogs would never be that polite. I was pleased with him.

The dogs would sometimes pull on their leash and try to reach River with a comical growling, but River still sat. He cried. It was obvious that he wanted to engage with the dogs, but I wanted him to stay put. And still, I hadn’t needed to say a word. All I was saying was “Good Boy” whenever something attracted him and he didn’t move. I think he got what I meant.

The kids walked right past us to get to the garbage can and throw away their packages. River sniffed the greasy air as they walked by, but didn’t try anything. I overheard the family talking about River and how obedient and mannerly he was. They wondered if they could ever get their dogs to behave.

The released the poodle, who followed one of the kids on a trip to the garbage can. The poodle seemed shy but interested in River, and River started toward the dog. I finally had to speak to him.  “Leave it!” I said. And he looked away from the dog. “Good Boy!  Come!” I said. And he turned to me and happily approached me and sat down beside me to watch the poodle.

As the family was leaving, the woman asked me if I wanted her to pour the ice water that was left their dog bowl into River’s bowl. I answered “OK, sure!” And immediately River got up and ran over to her. She laughed and said River must have understood what she said. I said “yeah!” but in actuality what had happened was when I said “OK” to her, River heard it as his release word and immediately felt free to do whatever he wanted, which at that moment was to investigate what was in the bowl she was holding.

Finally we got back in the car and headed to Flagstaff.

We stopped at a rest area a bit later to have lunch. I found a picnic table in the shade and brought River and my cooler out there. Once we got there, I realized I had forgotten his bowl and my bag of utensils. So I told him to “Stay!” as I went back to the car. Now picture this: he’s sitting near a picnic table on the other side of a partition, so he can’t see me. He can also hear me opening and closing the car doors. But when I came back around the partition he was sitting exactly where I told him to stay.

As I was eating, a woman walked by with a dog on a leash. The dog was pulling aggressively on the leash toward River and the woman was struggling to get the dog to walk in the direction she was going. But River didn’t react at all. He sat and watched the drama unfolding before us. 

All of these behaviors of self-control are brand new for him. And I attribute them entirely to the three sessions we’ve had with Stephen Walter and his Nitro K-9 School. He had told me that he didn’t think River would need all seven sessions I was asking for, but I didn’t trust him. I wanted to be sure River would be obedient, so I told him I’d still want the seven sessions. Well, I have to admit, Stephen was right. After just three lessons, River is completely changed and he’s now to a point that I’d be satisfied with. I’m curious, though, to see where we can go from here. Stephen speaks with absolute confidence that we’ll soon find that the leash is entirely ornamental and not necessary at all. Of course I never would have believed that, and I just laughed when he said it. But now that I’m seeing this, I am starting to have confidence that he might be right.

We took a little detour on the way to Flagstaff to look at the Meteor Crator National Sight. It is touted as the oldest proven and best preserved meteorite contact with earth. We saw what we could from the car, but when we got to the site, I didn’t want to bother getting out of the air conditioned car again, so we turned around and headed back to the highway. I took some pictures of it, but it’s one of those things that you have to see in person to appreciate.  It was pretty cool, but not awesome.

We got to Flagstaff and checked into the motel by four, although by Arizona’s standards it’s actually only three. They don’t honor Daylight Savings Time, so they’re an hour behind. I’m a bit confused about how that will affect my drive time tomorrow when I drive into Las Vegas, but I have to admit, I barely noticed it when I drove from Santa Fe into Arizona yesterday.

Once we got settled into the room, I realized I had to go back to the front desk to pay for access to the Wi-Fi. I took River with me on his leash. We passed by a room with a screen door and a terribly behaved dog snarling and trying to start something with River. I don’t know why, but this one got River’s goat and I couldn’t stop him with my voice. River pulled on the leash, crossing in front of me to get to the dog and I had to give him a hard correction to get his attention back. I walked him past that dog three times and got the same response. Finally, I gave up because I didn’t want the owners of the dog inside to think I was taunting it. But on our way back by that door after my business in the office, I stopped before turning around the corner and made sure his collar was high on his neck and very clearly told him to “Heel!” We walked by the door and River was making a point to be looking the other way as we passed by. The dog didn’t make any noises from inside, so that helped, but River did seem to be making an effort to ignore him anyway.

I took some video today, but only of River running in the grass and of him not reacting to the dogs on the other side of the shade tree.  The running was was so shaky, I don't think I'm going to post it. And the sitting one was ok, but it was hard to see the other little dogs, so it just looks like River sitting calmly for 45 seconds and isn't terribly interesting.

I also took some pictures of the meteor crater but it didn't look like anything but another mountain, so I'm not going to bother with that.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you and River are having a great time. Good for you.

What no massages?

Gary

Jason Alan Griffin said...

no, haven't had time to do any massages on this trip. I was fortunate enough to set up a teaching gig in every state I'm visiting.