Mallards are everywhere, in unusual places for mallards to be--people's front yards, and in grassy areas of the park far from the lake. It's mating season, and you watch as the female waddles along, the male about three feet behind her, shouting the whole time, "Quack! Quack! Quack!" which, I believe, can be translated to, "Let's make a baby! Now! You want fries with that shake?"
After three months of fairly consistent treat-training, Riley is calming down on the walks. Doug might disagree. This morning he barked at a noisy truck, but it was just one bark, not 50, and only a half-hearted lunge. He turned his head at a bicycle, but he did not lunge. (I think he would have, if he'd had more notice.)
Over by the Conservatory we passed a woman walking a frisky black and white dog--a spaniel, I think. This could be trouble. Riley zeroed in on it. His body grew tense. He lowered his head. He grew very still. I want to bark at that dog, his whole body said. Maybe I even want to kill it.
So I dug into my jacket pocket and pulled out some training treats. Shoved them in front of his nose. He couldn't help it; Riley sat. He has been sitting so regularly when I give him treats that now it's second nature.
And as long as he was sitting, and as long as there was a treat in front of his nose, well, he might as well eat it. And so the spaniel walked on, unscathed.
Because we are leaving for Ireland in a few weeks, we invited the dog-sitter over on Saturday to meet the boys and get the lay of the land. Our wonderful next-door-neighbors have offered to let the boys out in the afternoons, and maybe even walk them a few times while we're gone, so they came over too, and all of us went for a short walk together--neighbors, dog-sitter, Riley, Boscoe and me. It was a parade.
I had wanted to show them how skittish Riley can be, and how best to calm him down when he encounters a dog, a truck, a bicycle, a small noisy child, a rollerblader, etc.
But wouldn't you know it? We encountered no obstacles, and Riley was perfect. May he remain so--for the dog-sitter's sake.