Friday, March 20, 2015

A Walk With Ranger On The First Day Of Spring

To celebrate the first day of spring, my daughters and I went to the beach.

Now, keep in mind that this is the Pacific Northwest, which means that the wind was cold, the skies were cloudy and a light rain was spitting down. But that's fine. We take the good with the bad around here, and a little "maritime mist," as the euphemism goes, is not going to rain on our parade.

So as we pulled into our parking spot, we came up with a plan to make the most of our visit. The two offspring would head over to the part of the park that affords most picturesque views of ferry, sea and sky, taking not only their own cameras but also my phone to snap up the scene.

Here's what they found:

^ The ferry on its way to Clinton, a comforting and familiar sight to us Puget Sounders.

Care to throw some stones?

Dark, moody, and brooding, am I right? 

Welcome to spring in Mukilteo.

While my second- and fourth-born were busy taking photos, I had a different mission. My part of the deal was to snap good ol' Ranger onto his leash, head over to the clump of beach dunes, and give my boy a chance to stretch his red, furry legs. 

Sounds so simple, am I right?

Let me give you a reality check.

Ranger is a natural-born hunter. He was created to follow scents, and when he finds himself in an area that is well-traveled by birds and/or dogs, he goes wild with excitement. Rather than strolling along at an even pace, like most dogs on a walk, Ranger rushes frantically along the path, nose hovering an inch above the ground, until he finds some scent that catches his Irish fancy. Then he SLAMS on the brakes, screeching to a halt at the desired location, and investigates for all he is worth.

At this point, it's no use trying to coax him to move on. Lord knows I've tried, but his is not how a canine hunter works. I can yank and tug and issue commands till I wear myself out, but Ranger cannot be persuaded to move on. My only option is to wait until, according to some unseen instinct that regulates his curiosity, he suddenly tires of the spot and abruptly switches back into overdrive, and careening down the path he goes.

This is why I ordinarily walk Ranger on a thirty-foot lead. I personally am not a hunter, and I have no desire to stop and start a hundred times over during the course of the average stroll. Weird human that I am, I like to walk at an even pace. So we have reached a compromise: the long lead allows him to do his thing and me to do mine, and we are both entirely pleased with the arrangement.

Except on this occasion, I forgot the long leash at home. 

So imagine, as Ranger alternately stopped and stampeded his way along the path, I was clutching the end of his very short leash. As he rushed ahead, my arm certainly must have stretched several centimeters beyond normal, fingertips numb from the pressure of his eighty pounds of fury crashing ahead.

It was a bit like trying to put a leash on one of the bulls from Pamplona.

And about every five steps, my boy would abruptly freeze in his footsteps for a sniff, and I all but stumbled over the top of him, Then I was left to cool my jets in the wicked wet wind until the little darling was ready to move on. 

In this ungainly and totally annoying fashion, Ranger and I made our way down his favorite stretch of scrub grass, Just as we turned to head back, my daughters caught up with us, done with their mission and ready to retreat to the warm, dry car. 

Then, this happened. 

^ Ranger Streicher, dog extraordinaire. 

Adorable beyond words, am I right?

All is forgiven, Ranger. I'll walk you any day.

Even on your short leash.


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