Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Sweet Progress

Over the past month, I've had little time to write and for this I do sincerely apologise.  The truth is that I have little to write about.  Caesar has been remarkably well behaved and sometimes I forget to celebrate that enough.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of just how bad things could be 26 months ago when I brought home a jumpy, mouthy, noisy staffy who would just about scare anyone let alone the people who had signed a form committing themselves to owning him.

He's curled up by me on the sofa right now and I feel as if he's always been there.  I don't have to worry about what he's doing because he's usually with me.  He knows where he stands when it comes to my lunch and dinner, even, occasionally, when it's left unattended.  And, by unattended, I mean more that 1m away from me - if it's in a room alone, it's anyone's!

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough I've experienced recently happened a few weekends ago on the same beach which we walked Caesar on in his early days.  The beach where, after being yelled at by a man with two handsome golden retrievers, we avoided for a good few months.  I cringe when I recall the noise that Caesar was making that day; the screeching, the wriggling, the howling as the two yellow dogs sniffed and nudged him.  "Get your dog under control," the man yelled at me from far down the beach.  I remember holding back tears as I tried to yell back an explanation.  For some reason I felt apologetic.  Apologetic for trying to walk this monster dog.

Naughty or misguided?

Back in the early days, Caesar couldn't walk within a few metres of a dog without causing a ruckus that was likely to make even the bravest of people think twice about walking past him.  People would cross the road to avoid us and I would return from most walks feeling exhausted and tearful.  Walking was not a pleasure; it was a trial.  Soon, my parents began to decline beach and forest walks and, largely, I walked alone.

"She wants me to bring Caesar," I chortled as I told Damien about the sponsored walk.  "Caesar!" I repeated, for dramatic effect.  Chris, our dog trainer, has enormous faith in Caesar and has done for a great deal longer than I have.  On our first training session, she pointed out that he was intelligent and willing to learn.  I pointed out that he was noisy and kept looking like he was going to bite people.

I lured myself to the beach that Sunday morning by convincing myself that, should Caesar maul any dogs, I would return later, alone, and do the sponsored walk with Caesar.  I had kept myself awake that night wondering what the outcome of the walk would be.  Wondering if I could trust Caesar.  I deliberated over putting his Flexi lead in the bag and then decided that it might be useful to have if we did the walk alone or held back from the other dogs.

Did I hear you say 'beach'?

Standing by the graveyard wall, looking down onto the beach, I did wonder whether it would be worth setting off alone.  However, Caesar seemed surprisingly quiet and I felt a little reassured by his almost-silence.  By the time we'd walked onto the sand it had become clear that, to some extent, the walk was not going to be easy.  Twenty off-lead dogs darted around on the sand; chasing, playing, barking and having a whale of a time.  Caesar attempted to do the same on the end of his 1m lead.  It didn't quite work.

However, after around half an hour, it began to dawn on the ginger mongrel that he wasn't going to be let off his lead.  And, after this realisation set in, he began to relax into the walk.  I won't say he walked noiselessly but he did calm down considerably and by half way through, he was running around on his Flexi lead.  I have had to become a pro at Flexi lead management as Caesar can run quite fast so needs a quick hand to stop him ploughing into people.  He didn't get close enough to many dogs but he did have a little play with a lurcher who outran him by miles as they sprinted along the beach.

Fun on the beach

The walk back went much the same and, as we wandered, I looked at Caesar sprinting back and forth and felt a little tug in my heart.  A sort of proud mother moment.  I get them every so often.  A moment where I looked down at him and wondered where that awful, naughty dog that I adopted had gone.  I think I'll keep this photo forever; the moment when I realised how far we'd come...

Caesar and I (far left) on the Sport Relief Sponsored walk