I am not a smart man. But I do have smart dogs, and I’ve discovered that life is better for all of us when I let them make their own choices. I was introduced to the concept of choice-based training a few years ago and it is the single most important idea I’ve come across for effectively and successfully training my pups.
It’s one of the most frequent question I get. There’s no shortage of opinions on the matter, and mine is that the personality and disposition of the individual dog is always more important than any generalizations about either sex
That said, there are plenty of tendencies and stereotypes that I wish I had known more about when I first discovered the breed. Not because they’re prescriptive, but because I think they can help inform people about some behaviors, mannerisms and quirks typically common to males or females
A good portion of a first time Ridgeback owner’s mind is devoted to the question, “Is this [insert insane thing] normal?” so hopefully I can help assure people that they and their pup are in good company!
I come back to this blog on this day each year to meditate on that dog and that loss because I know Eko is not done teaching me. The wisdom of his memory waits ready for the man who was too young or in too much pain to understand the lessons those years ago.
But as this day loomed, I resisted the quiet communion with my puppy. I feared Eko’s memory would no longer recognize me. The boy he left is gone, replaced by a man who finds it harder and harder to remember the boy.
Was that really me who was so cavalier to believe he could put his life on hold to get the puppy he always dreamed about? So carefree to delight in having no plan beyond caring for Eko? So willing to live out of a car without a destination in life beyond the next place we stopped?
How could I expect Eko’s memory to recognize and guide someone he’d never met, living a life he never knew? I imagined trying to explain it all to him as he faithfully listened, but when I got to the part about Penny now ruling the roost it was too much of a stretch for even an imagined conversation with a dog.
Penny? Penny Mayhem? My insane kid sister is in charge? Things must be even worse than I imagined…
And I’d laugh, because this year, of all years, it certainly feels that way. “Oh yeah, it’s all going to hell,” I’d reply. “So we figured who better to lead us than the Queen of the Damned.”
The daydream made my smile so I avoided shining the light of Eko’s spirit on my faded memories of the boy he loved so dearly. I was too afraid it would reveal that by forgetting myself I was forgetting him. To lose Eko again would be too much to bear, so I decided to set aside reflection and focus on simple remembrance. To go back to the beginning – the photos, the blogs, the videos, and remind myself of our time together.
I found the story no less thrilling for knowing the end. I reveled in our parade through New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and relived scrambles up steep ridges in the Rockies. I discovered the memory of Eko’s smile remains as vivid as ever. I closed my eyes and knew with certainty my hands recalled the exact shape of his head held between them. And in remembering Eko, I remembered myself. My hopes, my dreams, my love and the dog who forged them together.
In a moment of revelation I understood the memory of the boy is not truly fading. He now lives in the memory of the dog. The realization was at first profoundly saddening. Where I once thought I could at least hold onto the boy, I saw that he too was gone. And no more likely than Eko to recognize the man I’d become.
But I now have such profound gratitude for this difficult truth. Because it means the boy and the dog are bound as one, forever. As it should be. And though they are both gone, they have left me a truly priceless inheritance – a life and a family that would have been impossible without either of them.
Today, more than ever, my heart is at peace. I don’t need to worry over the dog or the boy – they have each other. Instead, I will cherish their gift by dancing with my wife, playing with my children and racing across the beach with my dogs.
At the end of the day we’ll flop on the couch. Emily will smile, Zero will lick Lincoln and Quinn in turn, Penny will demand the best seat, and I’ll laugh. Because in that moment on that couch I’ll know for certain life is even better than the boy or the dog could have imagined.
There’s so much to mourn, both in the past and present. Our lives and our world are teetering precariously. But this day I devote to gratitude for a boy and his dog. And all of you who joined us along the way. Thank you!
Iron Doggy isn’t just my favorite running leash. It’s my favorite parenting leash, photography leash and adventure leash. If you’re looking for the ultimate hands-free leash, I can’t recommend Iron Doggy highly enough. Ours has been battled teste for years and still looks and works great. Use our code RIDGEBACKS for 10% off at Iron Doggy
In this video we demonstrate using both the streamlined “Sidekick” version, and the more robust “Runner’s Choice.” Both are fantastic and come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. I recommend reading both of the product page descriptions to figure which leash will best suit your needs. If you have any questions about choosing, let me know!
You bet! Biting is the best, until it’s the worst. It took me some time to think about training bite inhibition in my dogs in a way that made sense, so I thought I’d share my thoughts for this oft asked question.
As always, I am not smart and have no credentials, so please never take what I say as professional advice! My hope here is help those preparing to welcome home a Ridgeback for the teeth tornado that’s heading their way!
You know it’s been a while since you last post when a bunch of concerned emails start coming in. I’m just quarantined in an apartment with two small children and two Ridgebacks and the city has closed all playgrounds (human and dog) so can’t imagine why anyone would think things aren’t peachy!
Yes, these are crazy times. Fortunately, children, Ridgebacks and myself all have a loose grip on reality to begin with. We’re healthy and finding moments of joy wherever we can. I’m grateful for that, and wishing the same for all of you! (The health and joy part, not the loose grip on reality part)