This is the adolescent Oakley, about 5 and a half months old, when he came home. If you can imagine what it would be like to adopt a ten year old boy who was profoundly gifted but had ADHD and had to deal with the baggage of living in an orphanage for nearly his whole life after getting placed there in infancy, that should give you a rough idea of what training him was like.
And this is the guy he’s grown up to be. It took six exhausting months, but he turned into the dog that his teachers, the owner of the shop where I buy his supplies, and my heart all knew that he would be.
This week, he started walking at a large state park that had given him the heebie-jeebies in the past. Spending one’s first six months exposed to not much more than concrete and tile surfaces will do that to a guy. More than a handful of steps lead to a meltdown. Instead of throwing himself on the ground and shrieking as would a human child, he would jump and mouth my forearms until I stepped on the leash, forcing him into a down until he composed himself and we could continue.
It took time. A lot of that six months, in fact. Finally, at a forest preserve with a paved trail, he did a lap without incident, and a couple of days later two laps, and then he wanted to explore the paths branching off of it. And then the part of his brains that knew that walks in the woods were part of the essence of dog-ness woke up.
This particular park has a right-of-way near power lines for the local electric company. The constant buzz and hum likely made his ears uncomfortable, leading to meltdowns the first times I tried to walk him there.
This week, however, we walked there twice. Once on a hot muggy morning; today beneath grey skies. We stayed away from the power lines, though. Oakley found new things to sniff and explore along the river while getting us both some badly needed exercise after this near-tropical week.
A splendid time was had by both. A long enough time coming, but sweeter than sweet.