B has been a delightful companion. She enjoys our outings, which have been exclusively walks in town or walks on the trail this summer. Too hot for Newf travel.

She has been learning about communicating and developing confidence about making requests when we take walks. Confidence has not been in short supply for her, in general, but there has been two-way negotiation in the past year on the direction we take for walks. She is like a puppy upon exiting the vehicle, bouncing and spinning, darting from one of us to the other – so much zest for life and enthusiasm for experiences.

Once in the past year or so, we passed an apartment where a crazy black cat with white points threatened to attack and even stalked us in Halloween-cat posture. What nerve! And what excitement! I could barely regain her attention to continue the walk, looking over my shoulder occasionally, hoping to avoid a surprise. So that became one of her favorite turns on a walk, to see if Crazy Cat was still there. After several months of not seeing this cat, I expected that he had made a bad choice and was no longer at the apartment.

 The price to be paid for complacency:

One day early this summer, we passed Crazy-cat-ville. While I no longer anticipated a potentially challenging situation, Banner still found cause for optimism. At home, she doesn’t get a rise out of our cats. S’kerit has learned to not show any reaction, and Linus only yowls at her for being rude, but JJ will race away if she appears. He has learned how to use shelter such as a truck to stand at the interface for an exchange where Banner can’t get overly excited but he can get close. Should she find him in a more compromising location, the heat is on for a chase. And as he has matured, JJ is the one who will sometimes instigates chase. That rascal! I caught him doing just that recently. It’s harder to train a chase-inspired Newf to respect cats when the cat is complicit.

As we passed Crazy cat’s apartment, I spotted him, with a bandaged forearm, just out of reach and fortunately, out of Banner’s notice. The complacency? At the next-door apartment, there was a cat inside the window who wasn’t very exciting, but someone had been leaving out cat food for a stray (another reason this street held Banner’s interest). As we passed, in a nuclear reaction, a little tabby kitten in the planter box suddenly EXPLODED! Just when I thought I may be losing my puppy reflex training, those reflexes were put to the test, and with great relief, successfully kept us in check.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a partially filled U-haul trailer at the Crazy Cat apartment, so it appears that he will have an opportunity to torment other passers-by at a new home. Banner now has another cat reason to want to go down that street though, and it is a regular request. Over the weeks, the kitten has grown, and instead of fully disappearing into the storm drain, it sticks its head up as she passes. There have been a couple of close calls, when the human on one end of the leash wasn’t adequately prepared, but that fault can only be assigned to the human given the repetitive nature of these encounters.

Some days we allow for an encounter, and some days we redirect to a different path. Control is an important exercise, but an excitement habit should not be formed. And some two-way negotiation allows the kind of freedom that all creatures should enjoy, as well as an opportunity to learn about your Newf and an opportunity for your Newf to develop confidence in you. Sometimes B chooses a path just to explore something new, sometimes in hopes of a positive re-experience (from her perspective) and sometimes because there is an order to things that she thinks needs to be followed.

She certainly adds sparkle to life!

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