...she is not.
Nala maybe agile in her harness, but once the working gear comes off and she is released for a free run, all grace, ease and agility goes out the window. She is probably one of the most clumsy dogs I have ever met. She's fast, but I have seen her slide on her face down a hill more times than I can count. She falls off of walls that she tries to jump on; trips over her own paws when running; tramples unsuspecting doggie victims because she can't slow down fast enough; and is a "bull in a china shop" in all senses of the phrase. Last night's free run was a perfect example.
Last evening, Carmen came and met me and we took all four dogs for a very much needed run. Usually, I walk two at a time on my own, or sometimes just one at a time, but they all seem to really enjoy when they all can let loose together. All bets are off once those leashes come off. Otis stays on leash until we get to the leg of our walk that takes us through the park because he's not fast enough to come back if a cyclist comes flying out of nowhere. Not to mention, the little bum is a garbage can on four, stumpy legs and consumes everything he walks past. He'd eat himself sick if I left him to his own devices; sucking down dried leaves, twigs and grass as he charged past. It's amazing how he can eat on the run. The funny thing is, that little, short fellow is more graceful than Nala is, and that's saying something. Frenchies aren't exactly known for their agility. So, my point was that, leashes off and dogs take off, but Otis trots along on leash until we reach the park.
There is a lot of standing and therefore stagnant water along the cycling trail that we try our hardest to keep the dogs out of and from drinking. We know these spots so always grab collars and walk the two big dogs past. That's another reason why Otis stays on leash. If we pass any of those water spots and he's free, his little French Piggie instincts kick in and he's off hoovering mud/water/sludge down as fast as he can. We managed to get past the two first sludge pools unscathed and met up with a little Chocolate Lab. She was 11 months old and considerably smaller than my two brutes. However, their size did not deter her and we spent some time letting the three big dogs chase each other around. Eventually, her Dad moved on, but she refused to follow; she was having just way too much fun with Ranger Roscoe and Princess Graceful. So, we followed along, assuming that they would turn down a different branch of the path. But, that was not the case.
The dogs thundered through the under brush, Nala crashing, thrashing and bull dozing her way through. Hermione pranced after them, but was smart enough to stay out of the way of Nala's stamping feet. At one point all three Lab, or Lab crosses in Nala's case, disappeared and I had to bust out the whistle to get them to come back. Strangely enough, Ranger Roscoe was the first to appear, galloping towards me with his ears flapping and tongue lolling. He skidded to a halt in front of me and sat patiently waiting for his recall treat. It took Nala and little chocolate girl much longer to reappear. In fact, Roscoe had already returned, sat, had his treat and been sent off before the other two came crashing out of the trees. The little Chocolate girl prancing daintily along while my moose flailed and stomped her way to me. Upon arrival, I caught a whiff of something awful and automatically knew that their interest had been caught by something much more interesting than the pouch full of kibble I had. Someone had rolled in fox poop.
Trying not to touch anyone's face, because that is usually the area they shove into the funky stuff, I managed to determine that it was my perfect Golden angel who was the stinky culprit. Again, I was surprised it wasn't Roscoe who had rolled in it because he loves fox poop. Nala probably body slammed him out of the way. After that smelly business, I figured all bets were off. Forget trying to keep them out of the water and the mud. Nala was going to need a bath anyway. It also had just rained so I was hoping that the water would be less stinky and would wash the fox gunk off of her face. Maybe the long wet grass would help too?
As we carried on, Chocolate girl's dad kept trying to separate himself from us, but his little muffin kept coming back to us to play. Nala even introduced her to the joy of splashing enthusiastically through belly deep water. At first I felt bad, but her dad informed me that she had swam across the river the other day and he had to wade in after her to get her back. So, perhaps, my dog didn't corrupt her. The mad frolicking continued, with Nala face planting as she came hurtling down a tree covered hill; rolling ass over tea kettle after her attempt to leap on to a wall failed; and skittering to a stop just in time before she knocked me over after coming back to the whistle.
"And, that is what happens when a working dog is off duty." I joked to carmen as I sent my poop smeared, mud covered, soaking wet guide dog off again after a perfect recall.
"Do guide dogs get off duty time?" Chocolate Lab's dad asks.
"Yep. You're looking at it." I said, nodding my head towards the dog who was once Yellow charging down the cycling path at top speeds; mud flying, drool streaming and fox poop stinking.
Our walk continued on from there with Chocolate girl and her dad carrying on their own way and us heading into the park. Nala was still running hard, but I think a lot of her pent up energy had burned off and she wasn't quite as clumsy. I think part of it comes from her being so excited that her paws can't keep up with her brain. Not to mention, she is a really cute dog, but the Golden Retriever in her gives her this barrel-like body and she has Labrador legs which makes me wonder if her coordination is a bit off because of her shape. She's not exactly aero dynamic.
Miraculously, by the time we got home, all evidence of the fox poop, including its awful smell, was gone. She was still pretty muddy and wet, but a good rub down with a towel took care of that. She's probably due a bath, but I'll wait a bit before going down that road. I'm sure we'll be out running relatively soon and she'll get all gross again.
Roscoe and Hermione required a good towelling too, but Otis was perfectly dry and clean. I was a bit surprised by this since he loves him some mud, but I think the park was relatively mud free. So, Otis didn't get the chance to get too dirty.
I think it was a relatively successful outing. All four dogs are completely "knackered"" as the British would say-all snoring away. I think Nala is particularly worn out, but I think she probably ran the hardest...and rolled/thrashed/flailed/crashed the hardest, so it's probably justified.