So, before I get into my training of Sadie... Plan, commands, schedule, etc... I figured I would write about why I chose to entitle my blog the way I did (i.e., "Adventures of a Suburbanite, Upland Hunting enthusiast, paranoid schitzophrenic Ninja (and his dog)."
For starters, I have to admit, that I never gave too much thought to Laws, Ordinances and the like in my youth. When I rescued Sophie (the first GSP I personally owned) shortly after college when I had my own townhouse, I would walk her around my neighborhood in suburban Illinois (around Chicago), with and without a leash, and run her in the retention pond across the street from my house (when it was dry). I really never thought about laws and ordinances, and how they could, or could not affect my general well-being. That, combined with the fact that I had a great area (a "Dog Training" area no-less) pretty much local to run Sophie in fields equivalent to what she would be hunting, which was open from dusk until dawn gave me little to be concerned about.
Due to circumstances within, as well as outside of my control, I moved to rural Michigan (Southwest Michigan). Here, there wasn't even thoughts of animal control as I now know it. Stray dogs and cats are a way of life there, and the general population deals with them as they see fit (feeds them, traps them, shoots them... whatever). Further, I was made aware that an FOID is not a Federal requirement, but a State of Illinois requirement, and to purchase ammunition and firearms in Michigan it was sufficient to have only a drivers license. This speaks to the sanity of urban illinois, which is why I bring it up... draw your own conclusions.
5 years later (approximately) I moved back to Suburban Illinois (Chicago area) to find a different dog training landscape. First, (personally) my environment had changed. Now with 3 kids, a new puppy to train, and hence a much tighter budget, I found I was actually interested in things like obeying the speed limit, and being where I was supposed to be (AKA, not tresspassing). Second, I found the "Dog Training" area (same as previously stated), was no longer a "Dog Training" area, but a "Headwaters Nature" area, and it seemed to always be closed. No issue - there were plenty of other places to park to run the dog...
One day, I noticed the headwaters area was open (at least one side of the entrance), and I entered to find, to my shock, a sign that read, "Dogs must be on a leash at ALL times, Violators will be prosecuted". Prosecuted? So, after running the dog off of a leash for about an hour I began noodling on the chosen phrases of the sign... "Prosecuted". Definition: LAW: a) to institute legal proceedings against, b) to seek to enforce or obtain by legal process, c) to conduct criminal proceedings in court against. Having just been through a divorce (a costly one for another story on another website...), which entailed some amount of legal proceedings, this caused great concern - even paranoia (hence the Paranoid part...) on my part.
Some amount of research later, I deduced the following: That drug-lords from Mexico had infiltrated the Forest Preserve District to grow Marijuana in the Chicago area (true story - google it, or check out www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/25/national/main3097301.shtml), and seemingly the state locked-down, or opened-up Forest Preserve property accordingly (paved paths for more public access on some property while shutting-down more remote locations like my Dog Training area). Off-leash areas were regulated more tightly (special dog-training permits for off-leash training, or the dreaded "Dog Friendly Area (or DFA)). These areas were either too far from my home (Conservation areas), or not ideal for upland training (the DFAs).
I found further, that so-called "leash laws" had passed a number of townships, creating ordinances (A.K.A. fines) for animals allowed off-leash by owners. And THEN (best part) I found that there was a growing outcry about the damage an e-collar can cause, and groups that wanted a world-wide ban on these "torture" devices! (it's true, check out www.noshockcollars.com/).
I reached this conclusion: "I AM THE BAD GUY"...
Being an upland hunting enthusiast, I was faced with a decision to make... chain the dog and give-up my life-long hobby, or find another way. Any one reading this probably knows that chaining a GSP is a fate far worse than (even) wearing a shock-collar . I found another way (dramatic music here...).
I spent weeks staking-out my neighborhood and surrounding area. Darkness would be my friend... I knew who kept their lights on, who had them off, and (most importantly) who had those annoying infrared-sensor lights... I made sure I knew who woke up early, who went to sleep late, and (again, most importantly) who had dogs... I would have to switch to a silent dog whistle... would it work (are you getting the pschitzophrenia here...)? Who would rat me out? Who could I trust?
The first walk with Sadie was the most important... (although I don't know why - it was months before I could take off the leash...). My e-collar is an old Tri-Tronics - perfect because the transmitter looks like a walkie-talkie (I sometime pretend to talk into it if I think people are watching...) I dress in my self-designed garb... Denim jeans with black-leather jacket and 3M reflective tape (got to be safe, you know), glasses (relax they're perscription), and dark hat. I dressed the dog in her high-visibility orange vest (don't want her to be hit by a car...). I checked the mirror - boy I looked like a ninja (a modern ninja, but what the heck...).
I walk the path I had planned... "Sit"... "Heel"... Cross the street here to avoid that lighted house... "Sit"... and again cross to avoid that infrared light... "Come"... Pick up the leash... "Heel"... stick to the shadows... "Sit"... is that a car?!?... Relax... [whistle, whistle]... relax... Pick up the leash... "Heel"... Now into the retention pond (where headlights from the street don't get to)... "Hunt!"... Good... Quartering patterns... "Whoa!" AH! Door opened!... [whistle, whistle]... DOG BARKING... "HEEL!"... Get out of the field!... into the high-grass by the creek... Whew... that was close... "Hunt!"... [whistle, whistle]... now back to the bike-path... "Heel!"... is that a car?!?... cross the street... avoid that house... back in the house... WHEW! That was a good obedience walk - we didn't get caught! GOOD GIRL, SADIE!
Thus my mornings (before the sun rose) and evenings (after the sun goes down) continue. Every day an adventure. Every day wondering if that car will be a cop waiting to issue the dreaded citation for my dog being off a leash. Or of that neighbor commenting, "You have a very well behaved dog!" is secretly dialing the police on his cell phone to report me. I have become a Suburbanite, Upland Hunting Enthusiast, Paranoid/Pschitzophrenic Ninja...
I am guessing I am not the first, or if I am then I will not be the only one, or last. My environment makes me what I am. I am who I must be.