There is no dog so stupid that he doesn’t know when he’s loose in the world and when there’s a fence, no matter how far away, to stop him.  Our rescue dog, Monk, is no exception.

Monk was raised running away.  He was never trained, never got to play with other dogs, never got his behavior properly monitored and, my guess is, got called to come and then punished because he had done something bad.  And sometimes, the door would not be closed fast enough and he’d be out, running, running, who knows where.

When Monk got to the rescue place where we found him, his life changed for the better.  Now, when he was adopted, he’d have a chance at a proper home, love, attention, education, the works.  For three months, he got to run in huge fenced areas and like most dogs, he ran flat out until he found the end, the fence, and then followed that to see if there was a way out.

When we first met him, he leaped to kiss us each.  We simply fell in love.  And though I spent a lot of time with him, I never considered how difficult a hurdle his history would be in making him an off leash dog.  In the city, there’s no safe place he can be loose unless, eventually, there’s a fence.  So he only gets the most important lessons of his life when we visit our good friends Richard and Polly at their country house.

In the beginning, Monk would always get out several times during the weekend, following their rescue dog, Mabel, or finding a door that was easy to slide open.  Out he’d be and off he’d take.  The house is on a dead end road.  It’s surrounded by acres and acres of fields.  The few other people who live there, full or part time, are dog savvy and drive carefully.  So each time Monk got out and ran, we got him back safe.  Then, some months ago, we began to feel he was ready for more.  We took a walk in one of the fields and took off the leash.  This time, instead of disappearing, Monk ran but never got out of sight.  He even started to run back to us and play with the other dogs, coming and going as if to test that the leash was really, really off and that there was no fence, no matter how hard he tried to find one.  When he came close, we told him he was the greatest and let him run some more.  The second or third off leash walk, he even ran back and into the house when called.

Each time loose, you could see Monk testing.  He’d always disappear for a short while, even if he was only hiding behind the neighbor’s house, or behind a big tree.  Sometimes we could see his tail sticking out, sometimes nothing.  This past weekend we tried again.  Even when a dog has a bullet-proof recall, letting a dog off leash is always a risk.  All you can do is minimize the risk, whittle it down to almost nothing.  But while it’s more than nothing, it can be worrisome when you can’t even see a little bit of a bushy black tail, when the dog’s testing takes him out of sight for more than a minute or two.  Still, we felt it was time to trust our dog to know where we were and to find us.  And this he did, sometimes staying to play, sometimes testing, yet again, the length of the invisible leash that keeps him coming back, that keeps him attached to us in glorious ways.  While it’s always hard to watch him take off, it fills the heart to watch him running back.  Good boy, Monk!