To Zap, Or Not To Zap

A question with no "right" answer

From her perch, Henrietta watched Taylor flip her Frisbee and nudge our neighbor with her nose. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon and Craig was out shuttling stuff between his garages with Taylor on his heels. She wanted to play. There are three human children in Taylor’s family under the age of 6—I imagine Taylor snaps up any attention she can get.

A few days before, while I was shoveling, Henrietta was wearing a long cord and lunging at my shovel when she caught sight of Taylor down below. She bolted—with me in hot pursuit. Henri had lost all sense of hearing and only had eyes for her potential playmate.

Based on their appearance, Taylor and Henrietta could have come from the same litter. The two dogs hail from the same breeder, Donnybrook Kennel. Mara, too. How crazy is that? Taylor is seven years young.

Henri paused when she reached the brush border separating our yards and I thought I might be able to step on her lead. Nope! First she jumped on Taylor, and then made a beeline for Craig, who grabbed her lead as I apologized for the unexpected ambush.

In six months, Henrietta has opened more connections in our neighborhood than I have in years. Good girl Henri!

Taylor and Henrietta hadn’t come nose to nose since August or September, when Henrietta was still too little to rough house with the big dog. Our young neighbors both work full time jobs and we don’t cross paths much.

“Sorry!” I said. “Henrietta watches Taylor from the window whenever she’s out. She’d love nothing more than a friend to play with. Do you mind if I unhook her lead for a few minutes and let them run together?”

“No, I don’t mind.”

We chatted while Taylor ignored Henrietta’s attempts at play.

“Taylor only has eyes for her Frisbee,” he said.

Henrietta didn’t care. Refusing to give up, she continued to leap at, and on, the older dog. Good thing Taylor is tolerant. She didn’t snap or growl at all!

Eventually, putting my muscles to good use, I dragged Henrietta back up to the house, put her inside, and finished shoveling the walk.

So on Sunday when Henrietta watched and whimpered, wanting another play date, I attached her lead and we headed down the hill. I ignored all the inner chatter about how the neighbor probably didn’t want to be bothered. Zoom! We zipped past the garden enclosure and I tied Henri to a small tree trunk.

Halfway through the brush I called, “Can Henri come and play for a few minutes?”

“Oh yeah, sure! Ashley and the kids are at her parents. I’m just finishing a few outside jobs while the house is quiet.”

I really had to struggle to untie the knot Henri tightened in my absence!

As I picked nature’s debris off my pants, Craig came out of his garage with a box in hand. Extending it toward me he said, “You guys are free to use this if you want. It really only took a few times for Taylor to understand. She wore the collar for about six months, and then we didn’t need it anymore.”

On our previous visit, my neighbor and I talked about shock collars—how Mara never needed one because she stuck to me like glue. Taylor’s story was different, and Henrietta, well—she’s a champion listener in the house, but outside she develops a quick case of amnesia and becomes deaf. Trail walking her off leash is not an option because there’s a good chance she won’t be coming home with us.

“Thanks,” I said. “We’re really reluctant to use a shock collar—not because we disagree with it in theory—I’m just not sure we have it in us to push to button. Greg’s been researching collars and watching lots of videos. It’d be a real shame if Henri lived her whole life on a leash. She has to learn some rules to earn her freedom though. We’ll return the collar either way.”

“No worries. We won’t be needing it anytime soon. Whatever you decide.”

Wasn’t it great that he offered without pushing?
Opinion without advice?

The collar sits on our kitchen counter, untouched. We keep working commands in the house.

There is no “right” answer despite an abundance of opinion on the question.

Life is subjective?