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We hiked the Eagle Trail in Boulder with family friends.  It was humid for Colorado; the wind was slight but penetrating.    The grown-ups were sensibly bundled in layers but the two girls shed their protection and bolted down the trail in shirtsleeves, arms windmilling.

There were lots and lots of dogs.  Nearly all of them were restrained in some way, but it didn’t register until we encountered a little brown dog.

The model was Chocolate Lab, fitted with extra-short legs.   His winter coat was shiny and healthy.  He was gorgeous, the color of the dark bits on a mushroom cap.  Low slung he was, and supremely confident.

The dog looked straight ahead; his face was set and purposeful.  Not exactly serious, but focused.   He walked at a brisk, even pace; a dog on a mission.  He acknowledged each new dog briefly, with a sniff.

His human looked straight ahead; his face was set and purposeful.  Not exactly serious, but focused.  He walked at a brisk, even pace; a man on a mission.   He acknowledged us briefly, with a nod.

The man was 30-ish and tall, with a mustache, goatee and a head of hair that my 7-year-old would describe as “flowish”.

The little brown dog trotted about 15 feet behind and to the right of the the man.  I don’t think the man had a leash. I did not see them acknowledge each other, but they were obviously together.    When they returned to their van the dog trotted straight to the van door, hopped in and immediately sat, without direction.

They were efficient.  I didn’t see them communicate, but they didn’t have to because they trusted each other completely.  It was beautiful.

The dog was confident, obedient and focused because the man was an effective pack leader.   A dog who’s sure of his leader can relax because he doesn’t have to make any decisions.  He travels behind the man, physically putting the leader in a position of authority.  He watches his person for cues, he feels protected because he has a first line of defense, and he doesn’t have to figure out where the pack is headed.

It was a pack of two, doing Dog the way Dog is meant to be done.

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