I need a leash
Six months ago we became “people who have a dog to walk every morning.” Nearly every dawn, from below freezing to over 80 degrees, we have walked at Canoa Historic Ranch because, we tell ourselves, “it’s Zuni’s favorite place to walk.”
For many months, we were content to let her walk beside us on a leash. But as her confidence grew, we wanted to train her to be off leash but still on the trail. It was an easy journey, as she is very content to be with her tribe.
A non-reactive dog, she has been surprised by deer crossing the trail, flocks of birds flying in front of her face…every manner of creature surprising her, and yet she cares not. She often stares with a bored indifference as she studies the activity like a person would a bug in a jar. She seems to be content of be “free” but still tethered in her spirit to the trail.
Not so for Ginger, a rescue we would regularly meet on the trail. We would often catch sight of her bounding through the desert territory with reckless abandon oblivious to the dangers, and her owner, herself accustomed to the wilds of Alaska, simply equipped her dog with a large bell in order to keep track of her.
I thought of Ginger this morning when Zuni and I walked the trail, sans The Boy. Taking our normal route, I noted her “alert” body stance and careful sniffing. We were nearing “Coyote corner,” an area that we walk through every morning. But never if The Boy is not with us.
Even off leash, she stopped, turned, and then sat down facing the opposite direction and assumed the “put on my leash” look. Complying, I then waited until she was ready to move. When she did, it was away from the dangers she could smell but I could not see.
Moving away from danger, she was confident and quick moving, leading the way as she would do when off leash, but feeling more secure connected by the leash. Her spirit knew that a better choice than moving unhindered towards the danger was moving away, tethered, to safe boundaries.
Oh, how I wish I had learned that lesson earlier in life. I spent most of my young life living like Ginger, craving absolute freedom, ignoring the real dangers around me, and thinking I could move through life “unleashed” without consequences.
But there are always consequences.
In these reflective years, it is impossible to look back and not see a swath of destruction left in the wake of my “absolute” freedom. And perhaps of all the ill effects, the most damaging were to my own soul.
Over the decades, I have come understand that true freedom comes from having boundaries, and that being “on leash” is necessary to protect me from my “Ginger” nature. Living life untethered left too much wreckage in the rear view mirror.
Yes, I still adventure and still lack discernment when it comes to being “off road”. Thinking through a spur of the moment thought is a skill still in infancy for me, especially when it comes to exploring new places and experiences.
But when it comes to matters of the human heart, being on leash is simply a kinder, gentler, safer way to interact with the world around me. It keeps me close to my tribe. It keeps me protected from real but unseen dangers.
And it leaves no trail of regrets.