6. The Road to Freedom


Sir Oliver's Granny

While still experimenting with finding a nice basic route for sir Oliver’s walks, I decided today to let sir Oliver decide where to go.

When we leave the house he first sniffs in the air, then he glues his nose to the ground and almost non-stop he follows traces and tracks down any poop or pee done by any other dog, as well as mapping out people and their odors. Here the Beagle in him is coming through a 100 percent.

So since he loves to ‘track and trace’, I followed his nose and see where it would bring us. Now where did I get this, in the moment great sounding idea, from? I still do pity sir Oliver for what he has been through as a laboratory dog. Now he’s finally free free, I wanted to give him real freedom. And yes, that is a fantasy in itself, because letting him walk unleashed and free would be quite a mistake for a dog that is not yet trained, not socialized and only for a short period with us. Therefore I used a derivative version of this fantasy, to  follow sir Oliver’s nose while him being on a leash.

There we went, the 2 of us. He immediately took a very different direction of what we had been doing so far. In fact it was the first route we took when we went outside with him, and that route was leading us into a bit of a green park like area and then it ended in a dead end when going straight or it lead us into an industrial area when going left. So we could turn around after the park ended or follow sir Oliver’s nose and go who knows where. It ‘felt’ quite liberated to follow his nose, so we went under the flyover and my total body said: not a good idea. But hey, I ignored half of me, sending out some common sense signals. So we walked, had to cross a busy road with trucks and I could see sir Oliver not being quite comfortable with it. Though the traces were stronger than himself and we walked further. At the next traffic lights sir Oliver was overstimulated by his surrounding and I was full of guilt of what I was putting him through.

He refused to take another step in the direction we needed to go, to get home. I tried to figure out what the best and fastest way was to get home as soon as possible. I carried sir Oliver over the crosswalk and felt his little heart beating fast. What a monster was I, that I thought I could be his savior, whileI was not taking responsibility for his well-being. How could sir Oliver ever know what route would be best for him. He doesn’t know yet the area where we brought him to, he doesn’t have a GPS inside of him. I mean my daughter didn’t buy a pigeon after all.

So when we came home, sir Oliver took a nap after his very (over)stimulating adventure. It was obvious that he was dreaming about it, when seeing his body making movements in his sleep. I still felt guilty, and I had been feeling guilty from the start already, for what society had done to him as a lab animal. And now when my daughter had adopted sir Oliver I really thought I could do good, make up for those years. That and my perception of freedom brought me to act this way and the savior personality wasn’t able to hear common sense due to the fear of losing itself. Freedom is not necessarily doing whatever you want without taking any self-responsibility. When sir Oliver’s well-being is in my hands, I have to be responsible for both of us. I have to provide him real stability and not chasing some illusion of what freedom is.

After siting down with myself and reflecting upon what had happened I decided that we needed a basic route for sir Oliver’s walks. That way he can become stable within interacting with his new environment, getting to know the dogs we pass by and align ourselves so sir Oliver and I can rely on each other. The idea is to have 3 slightly different walks for every time we go out in the morning, afternoon and evening.

I do not have to create freedom for sir Oliver, it is up to sir Oliver to become a dog again instead of a lab subject. And my task is to facilitate him with common sense so he can be the best Beagle he’s ever been in the near future.

What did I learn today? That guilt is a bad adviser to make decisions from and that I am not God and thus not able to erase sir Oliver’s past, I can only co-create his future, and I am glad to be part of that.





5. The Father And The Son

Labrador retriever dog outdoors in the nature on grass meadow on a summer day.

Labrador retriever dog outdoors in the nature on grass meadow on a summer day.

Over the last days we have been searching for a few different walks to which Oliver can get used to. So today we decided to go through the park. The park is an area open for humans and unleashed dogs. For Oliver a nice area to walk and at the same time an exciting area where unleashed dogs approach him while he is on a leash. Sir Oliver is sociable and loves other dogs as long as they know there place and not get overexcited or bossy.

I had no idea how crowded the park would be and after going there a few times we found out that our walking times were perfect for an almost empty park. Especially in the morning at 8:15AM it is a silent and calm place to be.

One morning a lady asked me why my dog was on a leash in an area where dogs are allowed to walk free. I explained to her that we just adopted Oliver and due to him being a beagle and a laboratory beagle it would not be wise to let him walk free and follow the trails that he finds. The lady understood and at the same time I could see that the concept of lab dogs is something we simply do not think about, let alone how these dogs are doing when they get out of the lab. I was at that same place before my daughter adopted sir Oliver. I felt horribly guilty for not being aware that dogs are used for medical experiments. In the old days the cigarette industry used beagles as well putting caps with tubes on their nose and mouth, smoking away all day. God, I felt sick to my stomach when I let those pictures in of what was done to these animals. Did I do anyone a favor with this stance? No, absolutely not. Looking forward and walking the consequences of animal testing is what is right in front of me. Therefore that will be my main focus for now and love sir Oliver to the moon and back.

So today we decided to try out the park during our afternoon walk. Empty again, until we saw in the distance two running labradors. I became a bit nervous, since the two men that were with them were not watching the dogs. So these big labradors came running towards Oliver, they were absolutely excited and started sniffing sir Oliver’s face, his butt, all normal dog behavior. And at the same time quite intimidating for sir Oliver. The man came closer and I asked the oldest man, the father, if he could call his dogs. “Why “, said the guy. Because our dog is scared and intimidated by your dogs and I am not in a position to direct your dogs behavior. The father ensured us that his dogs were the sweetest dogs ever and everything was fine. At that point sir Oliver’s tail was between his legs and although we had protected him with our bodies from these dogs, it was too much for him. So my daughter decided to lift sir Oliver up and keep him in her arms till the dogs would no longer be interested. I explained to the father and his son that our dog is a laboratory dog and needs to get used to new things in a slow pace. “So this is actually could for him interacting with other dogs”, the man said. Well obviously now it was not, since a dog with his tail between his legs is not a happy animal. “Well then you should not come here, because it is always crowded with dogs in this park”, the man said. I told him that my experience was different and saw myself going into a discussion I didn’t want to get into. So my daughter and I decided to move on and free sir Oliver and ourselves from this interaction. It was clear the men were not going to take responsibility for their dogs, from a point of empathy with another living being.

When moving away from the father and the son I saw myself continuing the discussion in my mind with them. Where I said all the right things and in a way getting back at them. I stopped for a moment. I’m not going through with this mind discussion I said to myself, I know this habit of mine, this pattern of feeling powerless within the real situation and then playing it out with me as the hero within my mind. The outcome in reality didn’t change through my mind discussion other than me despising them even more when I would continue.

I could see as well that I felt mad and disappointed and  I could see that I had believed that all pet owners were loving and empathic people. Reality is another story. How many people I already have seen shouting at their dogs or being convinced that their dog is doing something to irritate them, is devastated. It’s obvious that having a pet is not necessarily saying anything about the owner being a responsible and loving person, I need to get myself out of this fairytale land and see where the owner is right now,  in his stance towards animals and responsibility if I want them to understand me. I cannot assume that they see right away that what they are doing is not benefitting others and themselves, when I tell them without being empathic of their situation. So a lot of slowing down and breathing myself through situations to see where I can stand as an example. Like I do with picking up sir Oliver’s poop in a plastic bag and throw it away in the designated trash bin or not shouting at him when I like to go to the right and he’s got other plans, just divert his attention by touching him and guide him with a stable voice.