I gave Arya a little slack.

The first week I had Arya, The World’s Greatest Dog, she slept pretty much constantly.

Who could blame her?

The list of her long perils to make it to the T.J. Maxx bed I purchased on sale for $16 is a long one. It starts with:

  • Having nine puppies. YES, NINE. [we don’t know who the father is]
  • Getting spayed a short time later [a fairly invasive surgery]
  • Taking care of her puppies while she is recovering [Beyonce would be proud]
  • Puppies are weaned away [just… sad]
  • Long car ride from Tennessee to Massachusetts  [Dogs can’t use iPhones. It must’ve been awful]

So, you can imagine my surprise when this morning she woke up and was acting like she just did a casual quadruple-shot of espresso.

Why all this energy? Maybe because it’s Valentine’s Day, and she knows I need the laugh. Or maybe she’s finally coming out of her shell.

My dog is my valentineI decide Arya is going to be my date for this commercial and overrated holiday [this is something single people say to make themselves feel better about being single]. She doesn’t snore. She eats quietly. She is always happy to see me. She’s perfect.

My First-Real-Date-With-My-Dog Outfit: L.L. Bean Boots, a stained gray jacket, a dog-training fanny pack [90s moms rejoice!], a large handful of treats, her purple 6-foot leash, and her black 30-foot leash, a messy bun, makeup from yesterday, and an excited dog. In other words — I’m looking pretty single.

My goal for the date: Let Arya have some slack with her longer leash and run off some of her craziness at the park.

Arya and I go on walks six times a day using a 6-foot leash. Prior to finding her forever home in Boston with me, I don’t think she had spent much time walking on leash. Whenever she feels pressure on her collar from the leash — either because she walks too far ahead of me, or because I walk too fast for her — she self-corrects to be right by my side. The result is a dog that walks politely on leash without any training.  [Seriously – World’s Best Dog.]

We arrive at the park and it’s deserted. I put the 30-foot leash on her and start to back away, drawing out foot after foot of slack. I’m practically bouncing with excitement for her to start running. Here we go! Here we g….

She just sits there. Staring. I feel a moment of extreme dejection. I really want her to sense

Arya the Dog in the Snow

You see the heart, right?

her freedom and run with it. But she has no idea what the long leash even represents.

I take a treat and throw it about 8-feet away. It gets lost in the snow. [Fail]

I take another treat and try again. [Double-fail]

I look around for a ball and curse myself for not being adequately prepared for our date. [No balls]

I try walking away. [She follows]

Finally, I have a moment of pure brilliance. I grab a handful of snow and press it into a chunk. [Nice]. I present the chunk to her. Her tail starts wagging. [Oh yeah]. I wave my hand slowly back and forth with the chunk and she follows the movement with her eyes. [Things are heating up]. Then I throw it.

She takes two tentative steps toward the chunk. Her tail is high and excited as she passes her usual 6-foot threshold. She takes another step. No resistance from the leash. She takes another one. Still no resistance. [It’s brilliant to watch her recognize her extended range]. She trots a bit further away, turning her head toward me as if to ask for permission. I’m already armed with another chunk of snow. I throw it, and she’s off.

RUNNING. SPRINTING. OH MY GOD. SHE LOVES IT.

She bounds through the snowbanks and leaps head first into the pile that the chunk landed in. Then she sprints back to me. [I make her sit first, because I’m still in charge on this date]. Then I throw another. And another.

Now she is so excited she can’t stop. She has the dog zoomies – running running running in absolute madness. I’m overwhelmed with joy. Look at her go! My girl!

When she’s so tired that she plops down beside me, we start the long walk back to my apartment. I feed her treats the whole way home.

Here is what I learned this Valentine’s Day: You can’t spend your whole life on a 6-foot leash. Sometimes a girl just needs a little slack.

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