This evening I am surrounded by silence.  There’s something about sleeping dogs – sleeping because they are tired after a good day of exercise – that is really peaceful.

I didn’t do anything extraordinary with them.  I just took them for a nice long hike in one of the local conservation areas.  While driving to our usual haunt, I decided at the last second to go to the larger, somewhat father away park.  It was 2:30pm on a Wednesday and I expected the place to be empty.  I was wrong.  There were at least half a dozen vehicles in the parking lot.  Crap!  I was just about to pull out and go back to our usual spot, when a large group of teenagers came off the trail head and started piling into the cars.  There was one adult with them, so I assume it was some kind of class outing.  Phew! I’d have the place to myself after all.

There were two vehicles left, and we soon discovered who owned them.  Three people walking three off-leash dogs.  Their dogs dashed over to mine so I let my crew go say hello.  I had been keeping them on leash, worried that who ever was still in the woods wouldn’t be happy with four dogs charging up to them.  When their three charged up to us, I knew I had nothing to worry about.

I was very impressed with Ross.  The other three dogs were all male – two labs and a beagle – yet Ross barely reacted to them at all.  He used to be so aggressive with strange dogs, and especially with males, but now he pretty much ignores them.  He did puff up and sniff them when they came over, but otherwise was happy to go on his way.  I’ve noticed lately how easy it is for me to call him back when I see other people, and even other dogs.  He really has relaxed and let go of a lot of his fear and aggression.  It’s so nice to see this as usually the opposite is true: many dogs become more fearful and aggressive as they mature.  I attribute Ross’s progression in the positive direction to his improved health, and also to improved confidence gained through training and stability in his life.

After this encounter, we walked for nearly 1.5 hours without seeing anyone else.  How am I going to leave this area?  Hopefully I will be able to find a place that either has similar hiking areas close by, or that is close enough to these parks for us to visit regularly.  I have been able to find great hiking spots for my dogs everywhere I have ever lived, but having four really makes it a lot more difficult.  Sneaking one, well-behaved dog around off leash is one thing, taking four onto public land is another. I love that these two conservation areas have no leash-laws, and I really hope that they stay that way.  Today, while standing with the other owners watching our 7 dogs run around and greet each other, a park truck drove by.  We called our dogs out of the way, and they drivers just waved and went on.  Clearly they weren’t concerned by the free dogs bounding around the trail.

I have started looking for a new place to live – not in any seriousness because the very earliest I would move would be May 01.  I have decided on an area to investigate, about an hour north of where I currently live.  The town is beautiful, with a vibrant downtown core with shops and pubs, and it actually allows residents to own four dogs.  I of course would prefer to live out in the country, but if i can’t find a farm that I can afford to rent (and I doubt I can), a little cottage on the outskirts of this small town will be just fine.  My main criteria is that I must be able to comfortably afford it, it must be in a location that is safe for me to let the cats out, and I must be able to easily exercise the dogs.  And of course, reduce the commute both to work and to the sheep farm where we train.  Hopefully I can find something that fits those parameters without too much trouble.

In the meantime, I need to get the dogs out for a bed-time pee, pack my lunch, and head to bed myself.  Tomorrow I work and the dogs won’t be getting much in the way of exercise.  But then I work from home for the next four days in a row, and hopefully we can not only get more exercise in but also some training.  My agility instructor is holding another workshop this weekend, this time on running courses, and I am going to bring Hannah.  We have been focusing hard on our contacts and weave poles, and haven’t been doing any jumping or sequencing of obstacles.  It will be fun to spend a morning running courses and my instructor said she was looking forward to seeing what Hannah can do.  So am I.