“This little guy will save your life.” Between diagnosis and my first mastectomy, my partner Decker put his trust in a ten-week-old puppy named Trail to keep me alive. How’d that go? Well, Trail’s living large, having figured out my operating system*. Wow, imagine replicating Trail’s job style:
Self-written job description.
Trail lifted a rear leg on our pet expectations.
White Westhighland (Westies) need plenty of exercise and playtime … excel at agility, obedience, flyball, and other canine sports. These activities stimulate his bright mind and channel his boundless energy.
Yup, playful, agile, energetic, obedient White Westies. So says the website. Trail clarified our delusions starting with his breed’s name. White? Trail rejects White.
Trail hurtles himself hedonist-style, buries his nose and rolls, talking non-stop to the dirt, grass, or snow. He emerges joyfully, his coat drenched in goop, chlorophyll, or icy pompoms.
In a competition between a brilliant-white dog and a joyful dog, I relinquish roll control to Trail.
photo: Cat Harbord
Trail matured with an unusual attitude and a secret identity, Rescue Dog. Trail’s rescues include:
• Waking us to help a disabled house guest who’d fallen during the night.
• Diving into the water to help when someone toppled out of the canoe.
• Waiting at forks to guide laggard hikers on the right path.
• Running a black bear thirty feet up a tree in our back yard, where it clung while Trail barked and tried to climb after it.
When it seems he’s all about him, he accommodates himself completely to others.
Read my tail
Speak heart to hearts.
His responsive tail, bendable to his mood, telegraphs Trail’s emotions with an honesty that wrenches my heart. If I misread his tail’s meaning, he’s kind and forgiving.
I want that collaborative heart in all my relationships.
Find fun everywhere.
Trail ignores me prance about with dog toys to entice him. “Poor pathetic human,” his eyes say. “So sad she can’t entertain herself sniffing.”
He retrieved ball and stick – one of each. The first ball I threw, Trail brought back in his little mouth and dropped at my feet. Trail stroked the lake until the stick I tossed was drawn to where he could reach it without getting wet. Both times I praised, rewarded him, and threw it again. Both times he tilted his head as if saying, “I already brought it back, you get it.” I tug a toy and he walks foward holding his end.
So, he misses out on play or sport; he’s endless fun of his own kind. Avoiding one kind opens space for others.
Take my time.
Other humans spell w-a-l-k or their dog explodes. We excitedly say, “Walk”, and Trail lies down, chin on paws. “Okay,” he seems to sigh, “if you insist.” We ‘walk at a Trail’s pace’, more pulse than walk – shuffle, stop, shuffle, stop. Repeat.
An eighteen pound anchor on a rope, he’ll sit to watch any activity like his personal television, leaving me on standby until his program ends.
We should’ve named him Speedy since ‘Trail’ became destiny.
His nicknames include: Trailer; Trailing; and
Trail Mix (from his friend Cat, if Trail were trail mix, he’d be the premium kind with all sorts of great surprises hidden in each handful); and,
Trail Thunderpaws because he runs to catch up; and,
Trail Houdini when we backtrack to find him; and,
Princess Trail prefers human powered rides like stroller, kayak or bicycle basket;
photo Beth Lawrence: Marcus ‘walks’ Trail
Yoda Trail, for oh so many reasons.
It’s our particular compromise, Trail’s and mine. He’ll eventually arrive, and I get to practice patience.
Live an authentic life.
Trail learns concepts incredibly fast, and, when inclined or not distracted sniffing every petal of every flower, he obeys the dozens of words he understands – eventually.
Maybe Trail is too smart to waste his boundless energy. He waits until we’re committed to a direction, in case we reverse and can pick him up on our return. He walks 4.5 kilometers to my five.
We’re sure he solves problems, counts at least three, and understands basic geometry and connectivity. He studied a cattle grid and then trotted across, each paw set confidently.
For errands and time sensitive walks, Trail tolerates a leash. He’s clear what he won’t tolerate. Trail intervenes like a mediator between dogs playing rough. If Decker and I split to do separate errands, Trail refuses to follow either of us.
Trail couldn’t fake it if he tried. His tail tells his truth.
Would it be helpful if people still had tails?
* TKI preferences (Collaborating, Compromising, Accommodating, Avoiding, Competing).