Monday, January 26, 2015

SociaBulls: Chai's Fond Farewell

For the past year and a half, handsome Chai and his dedicated person were one of our most loyal Sociabulls pairs. Even with a young child and busy schedule, Chai's person made sure to set aside time for Chai, and nearly every week he would be at the front leading the pack. 
You may remember their amazing story describing some initial obstacles, and just learning to love the dog you have (you can read their eloquently written piece here).
Since then, Chai's family made the exciting move to Western Wisconsin; a completely different way of life from our city sidewalks where dogs aren't popping up around every corner.
Here Chai's person share their story, on becoming a country dog and what they learned from SociaBulls:

Chai-dog and I have been enjoying the lead spot on the Chicago Sociabulls walks for one and a half years thus far. This past July, we bid a fond farewell to the Sociabulls as we moved our family to a new home and new way of living in Western Wisconsin.

As I've aged into my thirties, I've experienced a great change. A new way of changing. I've begun making choices out of desire for a new experience rather than a desperate, dramatic reaction to a situation gone horribly wrong. Can you feel me? We found the Sociabulls in this manner. If you read our history together, then you know Chai and I had been together five years when we started with the pack walk. Our bond was strong, we both had excellent training and the pack seemed like a great addition to an already streaming way of being together.

So how do you say goodbye to a collective that you so easily have been accepted to? In seeking closure, I feel fortunate to be able to reflect on the impression that the group has made on us.

We are members of the Chicago Sociabulls. As a member of the Girl Scouts, and a member of my childhood Catholic School, I obeyed a creed for uniformity. Members were behaving in a similar manner and living by the same rules. Sociabulls for me is more akin to citizenship; we are a community of people and dogs driven toward a shared goal of good health, support and joy for our pack. People are working on different issues. Our contributions both on and off the pack walk are strikingly different. There is a taking and receiving happening that is tough to outline.

Well, the Sociabulls did not start out that Social for us. With Chai's reactivity, we would stand afar from the group for roll call. He had on his calming cap and would trudge to the path as our name was called for the lead spot. On my first walk, I was accompanied by a dogless walker and we swapped stories about our 'kids'. On future walks, I would meditatively walk alone with Chai, practicing deep breathing, exchanging calming energy with my dog as we wound through the South Side parks. I could end a walk not having talked to anyone. Still I felt we were part of a solemn, courageous collective. We had contributed and participated even if I spoke nary a word to another human.

Your "Stuff"
Everyone is working on their stuff. Truth in life and truth on the pack walk. And especially from the vantage point of the lead spot, with few opportunities to even turn and look at the gaggle of dogs and humans behind me, I blindly have an allowance for everything that my fellow walkers are working on, the way they are working on it and that all together, though our differences may exist, all together we are working toward a common good - building a healthy, supportive bond with our canine.

We do not seek a certain level of achievement with any dog or their human. We do not expect that they "move up" in the group or attain certain goals. Each member participates in their own way with their own intentions. I sensed a lack of judgement from our group coordinators and my fellow walkers that could be a golden rule for any community. This quiet group had a lack of politics and lack of needs beyond what unfolded at each gathering. Chicago Sociabulls is infused with good and makes you feel grateful to be a part of it, happy to contribute to it and you get to go home nature-walk-blissed-out with a renewed love for your sleepy dog.

Moving On
A new acquaintance asked, "How has your family acclimated to your new town?".
Dryly, I replied, "Well, you know, we're still acting like ourselves."
Laughter ensues.

We are living in a beautifully subtle environment. It's a city but a wooded one. Our home is four doors down from a 1.5 mile nature trail. We do not have another home in our backyard. It is a deep marshy pocket of land that hundreds of years ago was a riverbed. Daily we are visited by six deer. Yesterday the buck arrived to chase the doe.

And Chai barks at it all.
He's run off twice: once to chase a rabbit, a second time chasing a deer. With our long continuous shared (read: unfenced) backyard expanse in the valley here, he could have bolted for a mile. Thankfully he didn't go beyond our neighbor's yard. He did (eventually) respond to my bleats and offer of treats. I immediately called and confirmed our new address. This put me on alert that although we are all a bit more at ease in this new natural environment, we won't be relaxing our boundaries and training any time soon.

Our home inside and out is quieter than our Chicago one. There are far less triggers for us on our dog walks. I've even begun walking a much further distance because Chai is so peaceful that I'm happy to round another bend, cross another river bridge. But we are still ourselves. Our neighborhood abounds with playmates for my toddler son. And Chai tries to herd them all. He barks, on guard, for any of the many many lawn mowers manicuring our neighbors' lawns.
We've lucked out finding an agility home. I'm an amateur at it though I know enough tricks to get Chai exercised and smiling his Cattle dog clownish smile. In typical Wisconsin fashion, the cost is antiquated so it's been very feasible for Chai and I to do twice weekly sessions at their indoor or outdoor space. It is supremely satisfying to finally have my cattle dog within a fenced area and running free. He'll never be the leashless walk-alongside-you pal dog that hugs your knee and feigns at the faintest stimulation. He won't wander river side with me and hold that magical space where as the human, you can relax and know he'll always be there.

I do have a loyal pal that continues to tolerate the increasing toddler attention he's getting around here. He grimaces yet holds still as his furry body becomes the race track for another car or train. He gives his belly to my pawing son and simply grunts when he's had enough - a fantastic lesson for my attached, lovingly intrusive son. We are delighted to have a rec room in the basement, unfurnished (first time home owners, still expanding). My son and Chai-dog will take turns fetching their respective balls and returning them to me. I've drawn the line at my kid's request to get reward kibble as well.
We were always told that Chai would do well as a city or country dog. We were not denying him a certain harmonious existence by living in Chicago. Yet as our intentions had been set, we moved here to soften our edges, to live life with less definitive lines and with less competition, an open space for exploration and growth. I watched as my fur baby and my three year old son nervously slid into their life here. Are we truly exhaling into all of this space? Just as a dog will nestle up to the bedside table or the corner of a couch, they each clung to me for reassurance that this was our new loving container. Having a bigger home is not necessary for the health of your family and dog's shared existence. That said, this home is just our size and energetically that comes across to every being here.

Lasting Effect of the Sociabulls
We did not join the Sociabulls seeking to cure Chai of any misbehaviors. Our relationship was strong and I was looking to enhance our bond. I can see that the pack walks positively affected his way of being. He has more dutiful reactions to me, a swifter swing between work and play. He's been super playful in our clean, country snow drifts. I like to walk him hippie-dippy, as I call it: letting the leash out long for plenty of sniffs of scat and other artifacts around here. And when I draw him in to "walk with the momma" as I say, he snaps right into a side-by-side glide. This is a confidence I built up on the pack walks: to autoritate lovingly, to provoke calm security  that we both feel when in a steadfast parallel walk. His sensitivity to environmental triggers will always be there, but time and time again with the Sociabulls he knew I was ready with treats, positive affirmations and a necessary redirect. Though the attention grabbers are less near our new home, he looks to me more than he did prior to our communal walks.

Chai is now nine years old. As of January 22nd, we've been together six years. We are his third home, his forever home. As relationships age, you notice there aren't specific events that strengthen your bond. Rather, it's a steady and enriched way of being together. By seeking new challenges and stimulating our daily existence, our days are better, calmer, loving. I'm grateful to be able to walk with him.

Thanks for sharing, and we all miss you!!!

To learn more about Chicago SociaBulls, read about us here
And join our Facebook page here.


Unknown said...

Very beautifully written.

KS said...

What a lovely post, thank you for sharing!

Two French Bulldogs said...

You are in a good place Chai. Love your story
Lily & Edward

OG said...

A beautiful, thoughtful, eloquent post!

Murphy said...

Did you know your posts are being stolen by We are being robbed too. Please help us shut them down by complaining.

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