Sanchez, my nine-year-old Yellow Lab, has a history of wandering. I often joke that he only looks like a Lab, but heís really a Hound. His nose just takes him exploring, and all of a suddenÖ. poof, heís disappeared. Iíd be embarrassed to tell you how many times Iíve lost him on off-leash hikes. So, what do I do when he gets lost? I, of course, go looking for him and call him. Most of the time it works to get him back, but it doesnít help prevent him from doing it again.
Iíve been enjoying many dog hikes with a new man in my life who has a remarkable relationship with his dog. He suggested that I stop calling Sanchez, but instead start hiding from him and heíll come and find me. Itís not only working, but itís really funÖ for both of us. When hiking in the woods, I now let Sanchez wander off. Since Gina is always looking for me (she is female after all), sheís a dead giveaway when I hide from Sanchez. So, I grab her, hold her close and we go hide behind a tree together. Sanchez panics a little when he goes looking for me and Iím nowhere in sight. Itís only a matter of time before he finds me. And the look on his faceÖ complete surprise and joy! Itís turned into a fun game of hide-and-seek for all of us.
Fun, but not always easy. After a silent meditation walk the other day, Sanchez wandered off into a park while I was putting Gina in the car. He saw me getting ready to leave, looked up at me, and then went back to exploring where his nose delighted in new smells. I resisted the temptation to call him. It was very uncomfortable for me, but I just got in my car and drove away. With my heart racing, I left him and drove around the block. It wasnít long before he started looking for me. I gave it a few minutes more and drove back. Lo and behold, he saw me and came running to the car. Truth be told, it probably didn’t hurt that it was getting close to dinner time.
Recently, Iíve realized that Iíve been doing the same while datingÖ. calling too much, chasing after him when he doesnít call, text, etc. This time Iím learning from my experience with Sanchez. If I can teach Sanchez new behaviors at his age, surely I can learn them too. If I stop chasing after my new guy, he comes running. And, we both enjoy the connection more. I used to think this was all a silly game and I was too old to play. But I also used to think that Sanchez was just the way he was, and at age nine it was too late to change old patterns. I now realize that there is no age limit to creating new behaviors and animals are always teaching us valuable life lessons. And, at any age, both men and dogs love the thrill of the chase. And women enjoy being pursued, even in middle-age years.
Game on for both Sanchez and the new guy! Come and find me!