I Am So Attached to this Dog!

This photo was taken on a recent fishing trip at Lake Arrowhead.  Callie loves to go fishing.  Actually, she loves just about everything at Lake Arrowhead, but she’s really in her element on our boat, cruising from fishing spot to fishing spot, sniffing my bass before I release them back into the lake, and roaming around the boat without her leash.

She’s a terrific fishing buddy.  She obviously loves being on the boat and letting her coat blow in the wind as we cruise around the lake.  She starts to get excited when she sees my fishing rod bend down from the weight of a fish.  She watches attentively while I net a fish and remove the hook.  (I release all the bass I catch.)  And she usually takes a sniff, or a lick, at my catch before I put it back in the lake.

I’ve had a lot of dogs, and, as you know, I wrote a book about Jamie Golden Retriever (“My Doggie Says…: Messages from Jamie”), but I’ve never had a dog that participates as much as Callie.  She’s part of the team, and she knows what she’s supposed to do every step of the way.  When we first get on our boat, Callie is on her leash — so she won’t dive into the lake and do one of her other favorite things — go for a swim.  But once she’s on the boat, the leash comes off.  It was easy to train her to stay inside the boat.  All it took was a couple of corrections when she started to climb up on the bow or the stern.  Now she roams freely on the boat, and she’s obviously proud to have so much freedom.

Some dogs would just be a “bump on a log.”  They might just go along for the ride, but not Callie.  She interacts and participates every step of the way.  She asks for fresh water if her water bowl is low.  She looks for a comfortable place to sit — or lie — sometimes in the sun, sometimes in the shade.  On a hot summer day, she will ask me to put up the bimini top, so she’ll have some shade to lie in.  When we leave one fishing spot for another, she looks for a place to sit beside me.  Sometimes, she’ll wait to climb up on the seat until I move a fishing rod or boat line out of the way.  Always interacting, and always extremely polite.

If you follow this blog, you know  that Callie and I play soccer every day.  Here’s what that looks like.

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This has been an incredible bonding process.  Callie’s focus “comes and goes” during our soccer matches.  So I’ve had to learn how to adapt to, and “manage”, her focus and attention span.  Sometimes, Callie gets off to a hot start and then loses interest.  Sometimes, she has a difficult time getting started.  I’ve learned a few tricks about keeping her interest level up.  If she gets completely distracted (by eating grass, for example) it usually works to “stop” the game (literally, put the ball away) and then “start” it again.

We’ve gone through a couple of periods (a few days, perhaps) when Callie just didn’t seem very interested in playing soccer.  One thing I’ve noticed this summer, though, is that usually after a few days at Lake Arrowhead, she attacks the soccer game with more vigor than ever.  She’ll play for ten minutes without letup, answering my every kick with a “noser” — a “bonk” off her Golden Retriever nose.

As I try to tune into her energy levels, I’ve discovered that her “focus” sometimes reflects mine.  If I’m distracted and thinking about some work issue, Callie seems to lose interest.  If I work hard at staying “in the present” and staying focused on the game, she gets more “into it.”  It’s almost as if she is training me to stay focused and “in the moment.”  Is Callie my Zen-Dog Person Trainer?

My relationship with Callie goes far beyond fishing and soccer.  Callie is the most socially interactive dog I’ve ever been around.  She has several doggie boyfriends in the neighborhood, and, when she sees them coming, she gets very excited — wagging her tail and rushing to say “hello.”  But it’s not every dog; she’s selective.

Callie is the same with people.  If she sees a people friend, she either rushes to say “hi,” or she sits and waits for the person to catch up.   When she’s walking near, or on, the nearby golf course, Callie is always looking for greens keeper Jeff — or his red golf cart.  Jeff is probably Callie’s favorite person outside our family.  Because Callie is so friendly, I have made a lot of new friends — both dog friends and people friends.

One of the most endearing things that Callie does is to sit down beside me and “ask” me to scratch her throat and neck.  This can happen when I’m working in my office, watching TV, or sleeping soundly at 2:00 in the morning.  It doesn’t matter; I’m always glad to accommodate her request.  The message seems to be, “Just checking to make sure everything’s OK.”

This kind of #dogbonding has a spiritual and philosophical side to it.  It sure feels like Callie is helping me grow in a lot of different ways.

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