On one particular morning, while walking Belle, cars were zooming past us, as they do on a somewhat busy road. It was early, but still late enough for people to go about their business and to work. That meant traffic was just sufficient to pass by with regularity, but not so much that there was a backup. With the frequency of the cars passing, and the urgency with them trying to get someplace in a reasonable amount of time, the vehicles whipped passed us just fast enough to make my hair fly out of my face and back again, and my hat lift enough for me to be concerned with it flying off. We tended to walk side by side. Me on the sidewalk, and Belle on the grass to keep her paws off the concrete. She tended to walk on the right, and we walked against the flow of traffic so I could see the cars coming.
Being my mother’s son, I was trained in anxiety. Everything that one does has the potential for something terrible happening. You go outside, and you can get sick. You cross the street, and you can get hit by a car. You own a dog, and you can get bit. OK, so we know about the last one.
So this road with traffic, where I walked my dog, had a tendency for people to lose control and drive on the median. The medians that had trees in the center because they were wide enough. Wide enough that people should see them and not drive on them, let alone knock down the trees. Downed trees in that median were commonplace.
So there I was, walking my dog, early morning, passing the morning commuters, when all of a sudden, one of them drove by at a higher speed than the rest had. My hat flipped up, and instinctually, I grabbed for it. In the process, I dropped the leash.
Mals are known to be runners and escape artists. When they get chance to get away, they like to explore, and they do it fast. I read stories of people having to chase their dogs for a few miles before they could get them back. Usually, these were on deserted roads. It brought to mind houses that were miles apart and long stretches of land that they had to run to on dirt roads. I was not so fortunate to be in an unoccupied area.
Recalling what happened to Stormy, Sarah’s dog, and being my mother’s child, I was terrified of little Belle getting hit by a car. When actions set into motion, though, you can only live them as they happen. After grabbing the hat, the realization of what had just happened gave me an adrenaline rush that made time slow to a crawl.
Speaking of cars and adrenaline, there was one Saturday afternoon that I was on I4, the major highway in Orlando, with my sister. I was driving with traffic, and everyone seemed to disappear from my sides and front. Based on where I was, they probably got off at the Fairbanks exit. With no cars in front of me, I wanted to catch up to traffic. In doing so, I was going faster than I should, and as I was passing a curve near that exit, there was traffic around the corner. Whenever I hit the brakes, my sister tends to panic and make a wet inhale that sounds like a release valve from a tea kettle. One of the most annoying and distracting sounds I ever heard. As I came to the straight away, I heard that sound I hate so much. Brakes pressed, hard! Sister in the passenger seat screaming. Adrenaline is flowing. Time is slowing. Clarity is forming. Breaks slammed to avoid hitting the cars that were driving slower than they should have been. The car spun. My sister is freaking out and screaming, and we are spinning past our first rotation. I look over at her, having already put my right arm out to brace her, and I say calmly, “Shut up or this will not go very well.” I was in control and the car was spinning, not once, but two and a half times. Again, this was I4. That road was not empty often in the middle of the day on a Saturday, and this was not one of those times. As we came to the last revolution, sister braced and screaming like a banshee, we were now blocking three lanes of traffic because we were perpendicular to the flow of the road. All the cars, formerly behind us, stopped short with a loud screech. Adrenaline-filled, I took my foot off the brake, placed it on the accelerator, and whipped us back into the flow of traffic and carried on.
There I was, hat grabbed, and leash falling. Adrenaline pumped through me, and I saw the leash, released from my grasp, slowly folding to the ground. Belle was free. Cars continued to pass by. The wind breezed through my hair, but this time it was because I was following that fallen leash.
Belle, this tiny dog that can’t stand up to a car that might barrel into her, sat down. Rather than run off, she just decided, ‘this is where I want to sit.’ I grabbed her and hugged her until traffic passed and then looked at her. Not a care in the world. I panicked, and she decided to sit like a well-behaved pup, which was not her MO, but in these situations, it seems it was.
There was another instance where I dropped her leash on my journey up my driveway. We were just returning from a walk, and I got the mail. With my hands full of ads, I fumbled with the leash and dropped it for the second, and last, time ever. My next door neighbors were out with their dog, which seemed to provoke Belle. I read about the Malamute’s prey drive, and little dogs were always a concern for me. This one was what I liked to call a mop. Mop because fluffy little Yorkshire terriers, when placing a pole strategically, can be used to mop things up. Again, small dog, another with high prey drive. One sets the other off. Belle set the Yorkie off. That dog was always barking at her. As soon as Belle looked her way, the Yorkie would run in fear. That would set Belle off and make her want to “play.” I don’t know what play meant to her, so I was very concerned. Last thing I wanted was my neighbor’s dog to be a heap of discarded fur.
Up the driveway we went, barking mop ahead, and fumbling the leash. Again, the leash dropped to the ground and rather than Belle running away, she sat again. She seemed to know the panic that this caused and rather than be a pain in the ass about it, she just dropped to her butt and sat. She was a bit of a lazy dog, so it really wasn’t that much of an effort for her not to do anything.
She wasn’t always that good. And she did have the ability to escape. She proved it to me one time. As mentioned, she hated to be crated. Putting her in there was like wrestling an alligator at times. I have learned better ways to get a dog in a crate, as the latest two do not have issues, but Belle would have none of it.
Another time after a walk, we came back into the house, and I thought I closed the front door. This was back when I used the front door to enter my home. There wasn’t a crack of light, but I was interested in crating Belle so I could do something and didn’t realize the door was still opened. I don’t recall what exactly I had planned. As she was still pretty good at eating random things around the house, and I think I was getting ready to go out, so I wanted her crated. It was the middle of the day on a weekday, which means I was either taking a break from work to walk her, or I was on vacation. As I didn’t take vacation often, I was probably between customers and wanted to walk her.
Getting her in the house and to the back hallway, where I kept her crate at the time, I released the leash, put her in the crate, and started to close the door on the crate. She slipped through the crack of the crate door as it was closing, and found the front door opened, just a bit. She nudged it with her nose and escaped through my second front door, which hadn’t shut yet. To this day, that door takes its time closing.
I usually left my front gate opened because it was more inviting to the delivery people. For some reason, when they see a latched door, they decide that it is more accessible to leave a package at the gate, or my garage than it is to open the gate and put it at the front door. I had this issue back then when it was a half-height chain-link, and more so now with it as a 6’ stockade.
Belle was a pretty fast dog, but I was always quicker than her. She would run around the house, and as she would pass me, at full speed, I would grab her from midair. Not many times she got passed me. This was one of them though. I did not leave her unattended in my front yard to run because I left the front gate opened most of the time, and I had a fear she might dig. I was very protective of her because I didn’t want her to escape.
The little dog was running loose, and the front gate was opened. I darted from my crouched position in the hallway in front of Belle’s crate and chased after her into the front yard. This freedom was new to her, and she didn’t know what to do. She headed right away from the gate, and I headed left to close the gate. By the time she realized what was going on, she saw the gate was locked.
My house was fenced by my neighbor’s chicken wire, and a few trees. That was another reason I wasn‘t a fan of keeping her out in the yard. There was a palm that grew in the corner of mine and three other neighbors’ property, and that seemed to have an opening. Years later, when the palm was taken down, I discovered that there was a massive hole. I also realized this because Belle found it. After seeing the gate closed, she dashed through the palm, and then she was gone. I bolted inside and grabbed her leash. I really didn’t know what else to do, as they are runners and can go two miles easily in situations like this, I panicked and did the first thing that came to mind.
I ran down my long driveway to the general area where she had been and started tracing where she could have gone. I scanned where she might wander/run and saw a white and grey dog just down the block. She ran to another street when curiosity overcame her. My neighbor had their garage door opened and there was an oil stain that caught her interest. I slowly walked to her, once I saw her, and got her leash on. We walked back home as if nothing happened. She had her little adventure, and I had the makings of a heart attack.