From the time she was a puppy, wheels always caught Nala’s attention. We’d walk around the lake by our house, and each time there was something new she couldn’t tear her eyes from: the large wheels of a bike, the gentle whoosh of 8 small wheels on in-line skates, the four wheels carrying a very interesting baby in a stroller. I chalked it up to puppy curiosity.
I should have known better.
We went to our usual dog park one night – a gorgeous acre-plus of grass, tunnels, and doggie water fountains. As we made our way to the back of the park, Nala saw a lady in a wheelchair. Nala’s brain translated it to something like this: The biggest wheels ever, OH GOD. Cue the drama.
The chair was almost perfectly centered in the park. The park is long and narrow, which meant those apparently terrifying wheels were no more than 30 feet away if Nala wanted to get past them. So what did my dog – the brave guard dog, the smart dog who learns unbelievably quickly – what did she do? She listened to her guard dog instinct.
Nala ran circles around the wheels, containing the supposed threat. As she ran, her body faced forward but her head stayed turned so her eyes never left the wheels. Nala barked as she made her rounds, letting the wheels know she would brook no nonsense from them. She even changed the direction of her circles a time or two. (In case her movements were becoming too predictable to her opponent or to prevent a surprise attack, perhaps? Who knows.) All this for a wheelchair that wasn’t even moving and had a perfectly nice lady sitting in it.
It probably didn’t last more than 30 seconds before I managed to call Nala away, but it felt like she ran those circles forever. I was so embarrassed and anxious to get Nala away that I think I even forgot to apologize to the poor woman.
Needless to say, once we got past the wheelchair, I made no attempt to leave the dog park until the lady had left. I was too embarrassed to risk walking by her one more time.
Heaven help us if we do a therapy dog evaluation that involves a hospital setting.