I’m not a coffee snob. But lately I’ve been drinking enough cups of Joe to know the difference between “battery acid” as one of my co-workers put it, and a genuinely fine brewed cup of java. I had one such cup as I neared the halfway point of my shift at work last night. It was strong in flavor, but mellow at the same time. It had me peppy. Correction, it had me revving and ready to go! go! go! It’s not my first time getting hyped up on caffeine, but having so much pent-up energy and no real way to a expel it put me in mind of some near and dear creatures I know.
Of my three dogs, Jordi the Husky-mix is probably the most high energy and athletic dog. I take it for granted that I have such a wonderfully huge backyard to let him run around and play in. I assume that this is enough, or at least better than if I had a small yard or no yard at all, i.e. if I lived in an apartment. I let the dogs out regularly, at least three times a day. And they’re outside for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes, but many times going on an hour.
Surely this routine of regular outdoor time is enough to work out any hyperactivity he must have? Surely he must be content with regularly romping in the leftover dried fall leaves and chasing the family of squirrels up trees? Surely he must be satisfied and exercised enough that he should behave like a perfectly good and well trained dog once he’s back indoors, right?
Well, after sharing my stories of various damaged furniture with coworkers and other dog owners, I’ve been receiving the same advice. His breed needs to be walked regularly. In my mind, he’s walking all the time. He walks around the house which is a large 4 bedroom home that he has nearly free reign of. And he has a quarter acre of backyard to run free in all the time. How can he not be exercised with all this walking?
Well, free time and structured walking are two different things. I know this, but it still doesn’t make it any easier for me to maintain a consistent walking schedule with my dogs. Between working 6 days a week and staying busy with my new online endeavors, I find it very easy to neglect this very simple dog-owner duty.
I’m about halfway through with the Cesar Millan, Be the Pack Leader book I mentioned in my last blog. And I have garnered lots of great insight, as well as the repeated advice to walk my dogs. Keeping dogs well exercised not only feeds their animal needs to be active, but it tires them out in a way that removes the need for destructive behavior. I keep reading this and hearing this and yet I’m not putting in the effort to walk them and wonder why me being out of the room for 15 minutes results in a 6 inch hole eaten into my bedroom mattress, or why two of my living room sofas have no cushions. None.
Pent up energy from my dogs can only be expressed in so many ways. I guess I should be lucky that this energy isn’t expressed in a more violent behavior. Although my two boy dogs have had a few spats here and there, with the lack of regular exercise things could very well be more dramatic between them than it has been.
For the first time tonight I think I was actually able to empathize with them with that lovely hot cup of coffee from the work cafeteria. It made me feel so energized. So alive. So ready to move my feet and do something. Anything! And that’s probably exactly how my dogs feel on a day-to-day basis. Only caffeine is not the stimulus to their instinct to move. Where as I had the wiggles, and pretty much became a non-stop busybody the remainder of my work shift, the dogs have their own way of releasing their wiggles and need to go !go! go!
This catharsis isn’t going to make an instant change in my routine, and I can’t promise that I’ll be training them like it’s the Olympics seven days a week. But I am definitely becoming more attuned to some of their basic needs and allowing myself to make more room for patience and understanding when their limited methods of expression are focused in a way that continually reduces my living room furniture.