First you should know that my husband works from home most days. He’s also the one who walks our dog, and sometimes I tag along. Sometimes, I even hold the leash, with my husband following closely behind. But since I haven’t left the house alone in months, I haven’t walked the dog by myself, either.
Anyway, a few hours after I posted Low-Grade Agoraphobia, my husband said he needed to walk Rudy. Instead, I went out and walked him by myself! It was a spontaneous decision; I didn’t waffle like, “Should I or shouldn’t I? I know I should, but I don’t know if I can. What if something happens?” If I had done that, I probably wouldn’t have ended up walking him. That spontaneity certainly spurred me on.
I decided we’d go around the block instead of to the park, to start. Our place is surrounded by quiet side streets where foot traffic is pretty low, unlike on the major avenues nearby. If I did run into anyone, I wouldn’t have to thread my way through a slew of pedestrians.
When we walked out of our gate, there were two guys talking on the corner, and of course they both had dogs. There was a kid who looked to be about 6 or 7, too. I recognized one of the men, who is the neighbor dog’s walker. And of course Rudy can’t stand this dog, who lives on the third floor. Whenever his people walk past our door with him, Rudy runs to the door and starts barking.
Instead of turning around and walking in the opposite direction, we walked towards them, which is our usual route. (My husband and I learned at a leash reactivity seminar not to avoid potentially unpleasant situations, but to use them as teaching moments. Basically.) And of course Rudy barked and lunged at Third Floor Dog. I tried to keep him focused on me, which was a challenge, but I managed to get him around the corner and past the dogs. Then, behind my back, I heard one of the guys say, “Bad dog,” under his breath, but not at us, so maybe he was talking to the child. I don’t know if he was referring to Rudy, who’s great with kids, but I felt insulted. We walked away.
Everything went smoothly after that, except for the anxiety attack I nearly had when we were only two doors from home. My breathing became rapid and my heart was racing. Somehow, I managed to “keep my eye on the prize,” that being our gate, and we made it. I talked this over with my therapist, but couldn’t figure out what triggered the attack. I still don’t know.
The next day, I waffled about whether I should walk Rudy alone. I did it, and I did it yesterday (weekends are for family walks). I hope to continue walking Rudy like I used to. Besides, he doesn’t bark at every dog he meets and even has doggy friends in the neighborhood. The only other problem I’d have to deal with is his love of chasing squirrels! I know I can handle that.
Photo (taken on an occasion that my husband walked Rudy) by author’s husband