We’ve discussed the differences between cat walking and dog walking many times in this blog, but earlier today, I realized that I needed to be more cognizant of these differences when actually on a walk. You see, when I take Gloria out on a walk there are days where she’s very cooperative, and other days where she doesn’t seem interested in walking much at all and refuses to budge when I try to direct her. On days like this, I end up carrying her a lot of the time and sitting and enjoying the day with her.
Today, I acknowledged that both types of walks are good walks. Or should be.
The park we go to most often houses a large number of lizards which are Gloria’s favorite thing in the world. On almost every trip, she gets to chase at least one lizard. On a good day, two or three. Today was an average day, and she got to chase a lizard. But then, after the lizard scurried under a bush and vanished, she began sniffing around, looking for it. Usually I let her do this for a couple minutes and then I tell her it’s gone and coerce her into moving on. Often she refuses and so I pick her up and carry her a few feet and then put her down. I may have to do this multiple times until she’s ready to move on again, but it’s a jerky walk, full of stops and starts.
Today, as I was about to encourage her to move on, she sat down near the bush where the lizard vanished and it hit me. This part of the hunt was just as important to her as the rush of adrenaline chase after the lizard. Sitting patiently, tasting the air, and quietly waiting for the prey to reappear is all part of the hunt. By making her move on from this stage, I’m cutting the hunt short. Maybe even denying her of the best part. So this time, I thought I’d wait her out. Let her hang out around the bush until she was ready to move on. She sat there looking into the brush, her nose gently quivering on the breeze. After about 30 seconds or so, she began sniffing at the ground and slowly moving around the bush, trying to pick up the scent. Within a couple of minutes, she began moving away from the bush, became much more cooperative, and eventually let me lead again.
When something caught her attention – whether triggered by scent, sound, or sight – I realized this was the time to relinquish my lead and give over to her need to hunt. As long as she didn’t get tangled or head into a dangerous spot, I let her lead. Once she decided the prey was long gone, or it wasn’t what she thought it was, she began to follow me again.
I think we hit on a balance that fulfilled both our needs today, and we also spent a lot of time sitting, meditatively, on picnic tables and benches. When she tired, she climbed in my arms and cuddled until it was time to venture on.
On days when the lizards aren’t plentiful (it’s too cold or hot), she’s generally more interested in gentle explorations and meditative calm. Now, with this new realization, I think I can take her walks to the next level by letting her experience the full range of the hunt. I’ll report back and let you know if this continues to be the case.