I took Tess for a walk on Sunday. This is nothing new, but Sunday it was colder and there was snow on the ground so I assumed not a lot of people would be out and maybe I could sneak a visit to the dog park. Tess gets sick of walking on her leash. Our usual ritual is to take the walking paths to the river and then I let her loose to sniff around the river and jump in for a swim. I haven't taken her to the dog park in a couple of years for two reasons. One is that she started getting snarly with other dogs, particularly labs, and since everyone and their brother owns a lab in this town, the dog park stopped being a safe place to go.
The second reason is that some people who go to the dog park seem to have developed a God-given right and authority to tell other people how to raise their dogs. I had one too many know-it-all big mouths tell me when my dog was getting overly stressed and needed to go home, as if I wasn't smart enough to see it myself. I just live with the dog. It's not like I can tell when she's getting overstimulated.
I do know when it's time to take Tess home, thank you very much. And I may be biased, but in the past a lot of the reason she would snap at another dog or put one in the ground is because the other dog was behaving badly and she was just doing her alpha duty. If we just tossed the dogs together in the park and let them work it out for themselves instead of getting in the middle, thinking we know better, everyone would work out there pack hierarchy just fine and no one would be neurotic.
Sunday was a nice day. I let Tess loose to walk along the river. When we walked past the house with the two annoying white labs and yappy dachshund, she started to run over and I called for her to stop and come back. She did. Whenever she strayed too far or into someone's yard, I called to her and she would come right back and stick close to my side (well, until there was a bush or tree stump to mark). We made it to the dog park. There were two other dogs there, a black lab puppy and a white lab puppy. I kept Tess on her leash and walked her the perimeter of the park, getting her re-used to the place and giving the other dogs a chance to sniff her without getting bullied. I love my girl, but she can be a bully. Of course the black lab puppy, full of himself and full of energy, barreled face first into Tess and tried to wrap his paws around her neck. This is bad behavior in the dog world, and Tess growled and snapped, but did not pick a fight. The white lab puppy was immediately submissive, recognizing right away that Tess is alpha. She rolled over on her back and let Tess sniff her. Considering how long it's been and both dogs were labs, Tess did really well.
After awhile both dogs left and we had the park to ourselves. Tess loves to chase the cars through the fence. She's the worst cheater at it too. She waits until the car is within sight before she races along the fence line, trying to beat the car to the other end of the block. The more she does it, the sooner she takes off, so that she wins every time. She's slowed down over the years, but she still loves to run and this is still her favorite game. She never chases cars when she's loose in my yard or walking along the path loose. She's smart enough to know this is only okay when there's a fence between her and the cars.
And I realized how lucky I am to have this dog. When I was younger I used to pray for the German shepherd of my dreams. I had one growing up, but he was my mom's dog. Tess is all mine and while she's bossy and crabby with other dogs, I really couldn't ask for a better dog. She doesn't stray, she comes when she's called, she's housebroken. She's not a cuddly dog but she's attached to me. She doesn't chew or dig in the yard or bark. She's not a counter surfer and she's not particularly food oriented so she doesn't beg. She gets along great with cats. She really is a great dog.
So I got her home, congratulating myself on my awesome dog, and fed and watered her, and gave her a doggy pop. Then I got wrapped up in a project. Hours later, going upstairs, I noticed the wood floor in the hallway had a trail of puddles. At first I thought it was water until I checked the carpet in the bedroom. There was a puddle there too and this one smelled of urine. It's hard to tell with female dogs - harder than cats of course because their urine stinks. Tess' urine has such a faint smell that it took me a moment to realize that my dog had an accident in the house. My dog does not have accidents. She has not had one since she was about a year and a half old when I was still housebreaking her.
Looking back, while wrapped up in my project, I do remember that she had come to stare down at me several times, but I thought she was just being needy and irritated that I was hiding in the basement again working on something rather than hanging out with her. Turns out she probably really really had to go and was trying to tell me. When I failed to realize her cues, she peed on the floor. She felt terrible. She moped around the house all evening, acting like she did something wrong. I told her multiple times she was not in trouble, as she did nothing wrong.
I still believe I have a pretty amazing dog, despite the accident. I'm the one obviously who needs some work, since it's entirely my fault the poor dog lost control of her bladder in the house. Maybe she needs Mrs. Ladypants for the next time I get so wrapped up in something that I can't even distract myself long enough to let the dog out.
She's such a good girl. Bad owner, though.