Ever since the Regrettable Incident(s) at the Playing Fields, Lili is on-leash in that area, except for a brief “Ally-Oop” session, where she responds either to that command or to my 3-note whistle, to jump back & forth over an athletic bench or a blue barrel a few times. Now that school is out, a no-nonsense, gruff-looking man has been preparing part of the field we traverse, for a football training camp for Fall Freshmen. Of course, we skirt their playing field; but the boys are always intrigued by the “wolf-dog” as we pass by, offering her catcalls and wolf whistles, trying to get her attention.
I got the vibe that the coach was not amused, so Lili & I just “keep our eyes in the boat” and quick-march by, on our way to and from the woods. Yesterday, as the boys were doing an exercise involving jumping in and out of tractor tires laid on the ground, some of them were again distracted by Lili. So, here’s what the coach told them: “Just let that big dog alone. ‘He’s’ working. That is a highly trained individual.”
How cool is that?
Stand by for the metaphor. Doing daily “wolf-work” [trying to gain mastery over one’s amygdalar arousal, by asking, “Now, what just got up my nose?” then pausing, and redirecting that angry energy into more useful actions] pays off, in the long run. When I first encountered this guy painting stripes on the field, I thought, “Oh, man! Just when school’s out and the fields become “community property” [like on weekends], this grumpy dude [body language, facial expression & failure to respond to my greeting] is making me feel like the trespasser (humiliation, intrusion, and the ever-present fear of consequences for Lili). I considered avoiding the fields altogether, by taking the back path to the woods; but since the last storm, a too-big-to-move-without-a-Bobcat tree [with bayonet-like broken branches] completely blocks the way. [Actually, I was just able to clamber over it, but Lili nearly impaled herself on it; and I got poison ivy on my arm for my efforts, anyway–pain & suffering all around.] So, through the fields we strode on our appointed rounds, shoulders back, eyes front, no Lame Gazelle subtext here: we were neither the “grumpy” dude’s enemy, nor his victim.
I felt not only proud, that the dude had affirmed Lili’s progress, but also sheepish, that I had mistaken his aloof manner for disapproval. What a rookie cognitive distortion on my part, especially given all my years in and around military settings!