SHARING THE RIDE: A BIKE, TWO DOGS AND THREE CRASHES.
If you’ve wandered into Off-Leash Dog looking for training tips or useful anecdotes about your relationship with your dog…
You’ve found the right place!
Who am I?
I am a teacher in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada who owns two awesome dogs. We routinely walk off leash along roadsides, in parks and in the forest. These walks are the best part of my day. The dogs love it and they can never get enough time off their chains.
Nowadays the training takes most of the stress away from walking off leash. And for those unforgettable episodes, new strategies or modern gear adjustments seem to make a big difference.
There are hiccups and tense moments at times, but these have gotten progressively less. Any anomaly usually occurs when the routine changes. My vocal commands remain the bedrock of the communication between dog and human. Even in new situations, the basic commands carry us through our mission. The boys amaze me in their resilience and adaptability.
I’m sure your dog is the same!
What can you learn from this blog?
My 10 year old Irish Terrier/ Border Collie X and 5 year old Husky have been wonderful teachers. While all three of us strive to satisfy our desires for freedom or control, consistency in training techniques have yielded gains.
If you want to understand your dog, the ideas shared on this site might help you approach your dog with renewed respect for its learning capabilities.
If you want to give your dog more freedom but wonder how to begin, initial steps will be discussed routinely in this blog.
If you would love to let your dog off-leash but know the consequences are routinely disastrous, my stories of close calls may mirror your stories. Training tips are routinely linked back towards other proven strategies on other reputable sites.
You are in good hands!
Where to begin?
Recent events have conspired to twist the plot away from training tips for your dog and towards story telling. The poignant kicks in the shins by lady fate cannot be ignored. The story must begin with today’s morning antics.
As I sit at Kanaka Creek Coffee for a $1 off mocha, my mind whirls with activity from such an auspicious start to my day. I thought last Monday’s beginnings were horrendous, but today follows up with a very impressive silver medal podium finish.
My 6:30 am bike ride up the gravel logging roads of the north mountains in Maple Ridge started with a flat tire at the house. The hard tail Kona mountain bike sat flaccid in the dew with the 90’s era Panaracer Smoke tire completely compressed. Reaching instead for the battle weary and still bloodied Specialized Enduro full-suspension bike, the dogs were two-stepping on their chains from across the yard.
“Just a second Flaco, Sylvester. I’ll be there in a second,” I reassured, and then caught myself. That’s not the routine. ‘Do it right. Be consistent.’ I told myself.
I stopped toying with the bikes and turned in their direction. Making eye contact with both dogs I spun my finger in a ‘whoop-de-do’ manner and said, “I’ll be back.”
(That command alerts them to my busy energy, lets them know that I see them, and through experience they know that I’ll be back shortly.
Both dogs slowed their dance steps, settled into quiet stillness, and then lay down as I wheeled my bike from the backyard to the front. After loading the bike onto the Subaru Legacy wagon, I returned to the backyard to collect the rest of my affects.
The mental list appeared:
- Giro full-face helmet?
- Biking gloves?
- Tie down straps?
- Back hatch opened?
- Dog blanket tied in?
- Dog towel?
Getting the dogs to the car
With all the gear stowed, it was time to collect the dogs. I walked over to the lead dog, Flaco, the Irish Terrier/Border Collie mix and let him off. Hopping, deking and running around the yard, he celebrated his freedom. Sylvester came next. An arctic born Husky with German Shepard markings, his body swayed and bounced to an inner rhythm. Once released his back legs tucked tail under his body, compelling his energy forward. His bounds were a fierce test for the wet grass as his paws ripped and gored the ground in excitement.
The back gate brought the dogs to a standstill. Knowing to wait, but unable to self-correct, they dance and bumped together at the gate.
“Flaco. Sylvester…Sit.... Stay.”
(Naming the dogs before the commands focuses their attention. They hear the command and know it applies to both of them.)
The boys dropped in unison onto their haunches.
Opening the back gate and stepping through, I turned towards the dogs. Wiggles and expectant looks sprung into a full gallop as the “okay” command was given. A quick pee on the neighbour’s cedar hedge and a veer back towards the opened trunk of the car brought them towards me.
“Hup,” I said, allowing the boys to jump and settle into the rear of the wagon.
Dogs in? √
“Stay,” I said, leaving the dogs sitting in the trunk as I walked back to close the gate.
“Good boys,” I said as I returned and closed the trunk lid.
We were off!
On the road again
Driving the city streets to the nearby logging road parking lot, I rounded the first corner and heard an ominous ‘clunk…screech…bang’. I looked over my shoulder and witnessed last moments of my bike falling off the left side of my car.
I pulled off the road I notice I’m parking in a bus-loading zone. Of course a bus breaks hard as it crosses the intersection, veering right to miss my bike. Thank you Mr. Bus Driver!
I run to my fallen bike and survey the damage. An immediate image of bent handlebars, twisted seat and munched front tire morph into a mere tear on the seat and fully functioning bike.
Hooray Specialized triple-crown forks!
I load the bike back on the rack, and wonder if the forgotten rubber twist tie for the mainframe clamp could be the culprit to the tumble. I vow to never forget the third tie again and twist the two tire ties extra tight.
Continuing on my way east I marvel at the brightness of the sunlight streaming through the windshield and connect the dots from last Monday. Bike crash. Concussion. Broken noses. All add to a susceptibility to light…I’ll have to find a way to wear shades these days…
“Ahhhhhhh! Not again!” I yell, pulling the car over again.
I jump out and look back towards the fallen heap of bike in the middle of the road. My eyes widen as a loaded flatbed truck looms into sight.
"Please see the bike. Please see the bike," I whisper, as I run to scoop up my bike yet again from the pavement. The driver must have chuckled as he slowed to a crawl. Another close call.
I wheel the bike back towards the cursed bike rack and I survey the damage. The rear brake lever appears cockeyed and broken but when depressed snaps back magically into alignment. Whew! The left handlebar end is scraped into a meat grinder consistency, the seat is ripped further but nothing else seems damaged substantially.
My mind recalls the sound of the bike falling. What about the pivot point off the car? Handlebars, pedals and derailleurs are potential hazards to the car. I investigate the left side of the car and voila, two small, slashing dents pop into view. Either the pedals or the handlebars must have sliced nimbly across the thin veneer of paint. I imagine the force of gravity harnessing my bike as a cleaver against the metal door and the pavement. Could be worse I reassure myself.
And the dogs still need a run.
Third time lucky?
How to get this bike to the logging road? It won’t fit in the car, especially now with the dogs taking up the lion’s share of the cargo room.
The maxim, "Once bitten, twice shy" rings clearly in my mind...
There must be a way to beat gravity and momentum with my finicky bike rack. I decide to forgo the wheel tie down straps and lock the clamp with all my might. Both tie down straps are cinched onto the main locking mechanism. Without the straps the bike must twist out of the clamp, or slide on the dew soaked frame and drop off toward the rear. What a gong show.
The two bright lights of the whole situation are the dogs. They remain committed to the run regardless of the carnage outside their control. They are quiet, patient and unperturbed in the trunk area of the wagon. They know the score. The potential energy of a morning hike outweighs the frenetic kinetic energy of their dad. It must be a confusing and amusing sideshow to their normal routine.
Arriving at the parking lot, the bike remains affixed to the bike rack. My jaw muscles relax from the stress of the remaining km’s of the journey. Bike off the rack, helmet on, remote training collars buckled on the dogs, car locked…ready. Finally!
The wet wilderness of the Douglas fir and yellow cedar forest beckons the dogs away from the logging road and into the spoils of nature. Another satisfying end to the beginning of my day lays before me. I pedal up the rutted road watching the boys explore their terrain. British Columbia creates a dizzying array of possibilities for off-leash dog walking. More on that next time.
Take care out there,
Flaco, Sylvester and Fraser