I've often blogged about my dog Brio, this high-energy, playful handful that has proven to be much more of a challenge than any other dog I've ever had. Well, I think we've reached a milestone, and I'm pleased to report I can see a glimmer of the wonderful adult dog he is going to become.
Every day after work I walk the dogs to the park for about half an hour of playing fetch. Maple stands stolidly on the end of his leash and refuses to watch, much less participate. His only interest is trying to get away from me so he can roll in the cockleburrs at the edge of the woods, and he consistently ignores the sound of his own name, so he isn't trusted off-leash. The walk to the park and back is about all this elderly dog can manage, and he's generally panting hard and trying to lie down in the patches of shade we pass by the time we get home.
Brio, on the other hand, obeys pretty well and needs much more exercise than I can give him by walking, so he has been trusted off the leash at an early age. He will play fetch forever, and if I've forgotten his ball, he will bring me sticks and rocks and bits of garbage to throw instead, tossing it on my feet and looking at me hopefully until I get the point. As soon as the park comes into sight, he starts looking at me to watch for the ball to come out. As soon as I say the word, "Ready?" he whips around and stares at me intently, poised to run. He's a handsome fellow and very friendly, so he tends to get a lot of attention from the people we meet in the park. He's always keen to join other dogs for a romp or to get in the middle of someone else's game. And up until now, that has made him distractable and bouncy.
Well, now that good weather is here, when I've taken him to the park we've been disappointed to find baseball games and soccer games going on. Lots of people and noise and balls flying around. I've taken him to a far corner and nervously let him off the leash...and he's been all-eyes-on-Mom, waiting for me to throw his ball. He completely ignores the distractions, doesn't even notice the other kids and dogs going by, and plays fetch devotedly with me. When he brings the ball back to me, he has developed the habit of tossing it at my feet and then backing away, eyes on the ball, just squirming with energy waiting to explode as soon as I pick up the ball.
The last two days I have moved closer to the action, not seeking out distant remote corners of the park but staying near our usual place centre-field, in spite of the ball games going on around us. And he has remained intently focused, with eyes for nothing but me and the ball. When a particular dog goes by that he has played with, he glances at it and returns to task, without the slightest break in concentration. Well! I've never seen anything like it. Yesterday he even ignored the high-speed remote-control car a boy was sending zipping past on the path, back and forth. Even I thought it looked fun to chase. But Brio only gave it a glance and then was back to his game. We've definitely gained a new control and discipline in the last few days, and I don't know where it has come from. Certainly not from me. I'm the one distracted by squirrels and flying frisbees.
I think this dog needs to be one of those "Super Dogs." Or a police dog. Or in movies. He loves having something to do, and I have never seen such concentration ever, in person or animal. It's almost freaky, the way he stares into my eyes, willing me to read his mind, as if he's trying to send telepathic messages. That much eye contact is a bit unnerving; we humans don't tend to make eye contact all that often, really, and when you lock gazes with Brio, you are filled with the sure knowledge that you have encountered and connected with a being more intelligent than you.