Does My Dog Have the Wrong Human?

Yesterday was blistering cold. Today was back to regular Boston cold, so Harlow and I got into the car and headed to the Middlesex Fells for a hike.

She whined and howled after I put her harness on and she had to wait for me to get ready. The injustice of it all! Then she whined with great drama as we waited briefly in the parking lot for a spot to open up.

I have often felt in Harlow’s lifetime that she somehow got the wrong human. That she would have faired better with someone else. I don’t know entirely what I could have done differently. Would more training made her a happier dog? I’m not so sure. Would it have kept her from being unpredictable around other dogs she doesn’t know? I don’t think so. Would she have somehow dodged her tummy problems? I don’t know. Is she unhappy? No idea.

Harlow walks on her leash as though I am not attached at the other end and it’s actually pretty funny sometimes. Like when we cross a street and she starts flailing back and forth as if to say in a panic “Where am I going?! I don’t know which way to go!”

Harlow, you are LITERALLY attached to the person determining your direction, and yet. And yet.

It’s like I’m never there. She never checks in with me, never looks to me during walks. Always fixated on the smells and everything other than me.

She was a very good girl in the Fells while we hiked. Well, for a while. She met lots of other dogs in a friendly manner (she’s always leashed, they are often not. Which I actually don’t mind because she does better with unleashed dogs than leashed ones)

We moved at a decent clip and the weather was beautiful, the sun shining. We took a different path this time and really enjoyed it, and she seemed to keep her screeching to a halt for sniffs to a minimum. Eventually, I decided to turn around and head back. We could have continued forward until a bend came along that would eventually lead us back but quite honestly, I get nervous when I don’t really know where we are or how long it will take to get back to the starting point.

Pretty sure it’s a diabetic thing.

So, while the first two thirds of our walk was peaceful, the last third was not. We approached some dogs and Harlow lunged at them. Because her leash was clipped to her harness at the front, she caused herself to theatrically flip over onto her back, onto the pathway. The owners of the other dog laughed with sympathy. “We’ll that’s what you get when you’re rude” I told her, knowing she was unharmed.

I apologized to the people and we moved on, Harlow covered in dry brush and pine needles. There was nothing that I could see that caused her to react to those dogs, and I watch. If we approach a dog and they are stiff-bodied, I move her along quickly with a cheery “OK let’s go!”, if they have relaxed body language and a tail wag, I walk a bit slower so they can “say hi”.

I read nothing in the body language of these dogs that tipped me off, and nothing in Harlow’s. From then on out, she lunged for every dog we crossed paths with. The second time it happened, I put her on a very short leash and forced her to stay right at my side. She was grounded from meeting her friends for the duration.

I wonder if a different human could make a better life for her.

We arrived home and I took her into the backyard and gently brushed out all the pine needles. A lot of fur came with them. Not something she has much of to spare.

She never eats all her food for a day. For her size, she should be eating a bit more than 3.5 cups of food every day. I’m lucky if she eats breakfast by dinner time. Thankfully, she is good about eating the ball of wet food which contains her meds, but the kibble is of no interest to her. Sometimes I’ll crush up a treat that is safe for her to eat into her kibble. It works for a meal or two then she loses interest again.

Last week I took her to the vet because she had skin issues again. He confirmed that she had another skin infection, likely from a food allergy, put her on antibiotics (second time in six months) and had me start to phase her over into prescription food and treats. It’s specially formulated for dogs with IBD.

Anyway, this is a ramble post. Harlow is laying on the couch next to me, her stomach audibly grumbling her legs twitching through a dream. Is she hungry? Is her stomach upset from what she did actually eat today? Is it just normal? I often wonder if she just lives with chronic pain from the IBD and simply adapted to it as her normal. I hate the thought of that.

I just know that today I feel bad for her. That maybe she got a human who isn’t the best human for her. And here she is, coming up on ten years old, stuck with me.

Her love for box ripping is still deep…

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