Look, Mom...no leash!
Gracie's off-leash deportment is coming along so well that on the past few dark and rainy walks we've taken, with my neighbors tucked warm and dry into their homes leaving the sidewalks and pathways empty for just me and my dog, I've let her go off leash for most of our journey.
I know. It's a miracle.
I'm not used to a dog who, when realizing that there are no restraining device holding her back, does not launch off like a Lockheed Blackbird strategic reconnaissance aircraft, and run wild through the streets for hours.
So in many ways, granting Gracie this freedom to walk on her own recognizance is as much for my good as it is for hers. She already knows how to behave. I'm still learning to trust her
But behave she does. Gracie readily remembers to "wait" (stop in her tracks and stay put till I catch up) or to "come" (run breathlessly to me as if we've been separated for days) whenever I issue such commands. As we're walking along sans leash, I test her often and she's performed perfectly.
But the best discovery of all is that Gracie does not really need me to tell her what to do. She's apparently figured out what's expected of her on our outings, and even when she meets an unexpected situation, her instincts are spot on.
Case in point: Yesterday, we had just zipped around the back corner of the high school, and came upon the first set of side doors of the main gym. My happy dog was just a few steps ahead of me, and she discovered a novel and interesting scenario much faster than I did.
The double doors had been propped open to let in the cool air, and in a blink, Gracie cruised right up to the open doorway and stood on the threshold, mesmerized. A volleyball game was in progress, complete with a substantial crowd in the bleachers, and the back court players were not ten feet away from where my soaking wet, energetic, and entirely unleashed dog stood, riveted with enthusiasm and poised for action.
It probably happened in a microsecond, but in my mind's eye, I imagined in great detail the slow-motion Shanghai super-speed train wreck that would ensue if my dog chose to crash this party.
The spray of water launching off her fur as she splashed across the wood floor and raced up to the girls.
The expressions of shock and surprise, and yes, delight, on their faces as they turned to see the invader.
The murmurs and gasps coming from the unsuspecting and horrified spectators.
The shrill blast from the official's whistle and the stern look in her eye (I imagined my high school gym teacher here and believe me, that's one stern look) as she commanded me to get my beast under control.
For a split second, I stood in frozen terror, eyes riveted on my dog, adrenaline coursing through my body like a Formula One car flashing through the streets of Montreal.
And then, before I could breathe, Gracie calmly turned away from the door, tail wagging, and joyously continued along our route.
Of course, she got her choice of throw pillows for her evening nap too,
but that's just another day in the life of Grace.
And that night, my good girl Gracie got extra treats after dinner as a special reward for being on her very best behavior.