Yesterday I had one of the hands down scariest experiences of dog ownership. My boyfriend and I have a great 9 month old mix. He's our first puppy and we've had him for 5 months. He's a very high energy dog who always wants to run. We live in an apartment and we've found that exercising him to the degree that he needs can be difficult without fenced areas. When we first got him we used to take him to the dog park, but I heard many horror stories and after a dog was attacked there we stopped going back. Luckily, we have a very quiet neighborhood with a large school in it. The school has huge grounds and there is an unspoken agreement with the neighborhood folk that after school hours dog owners with friendly dogs will let theirs off leash back there. The dogs and owners are all people we know and trust and so we've been very thankful for the space! Although it's not fully fenced, the fields are huge and very far removed from the street. I was very wary to let him off leash at first, but we tried it a few times and he was great! I bring high value treats with me and Danzig is very food motivated and receptive to recall and commands - not always right away but most of the time. We got more and more confident with his skills and for the past 2 months or so we've taking him off leash at the school every evening. Sometimes there are other dogs around, sometimes we just play fetch. Even though Danzig is inquisitive, he never adventures past our eyesight and always checks in with us every few minutes.
Yesterday evening Danzig and I were playing back there. We were very far back into the fields, a whole football field between us and the edge of the school. We ran around and played fetch for about 30 min and just as I was thinking about wrapping it up we heard a dog barking angrily from the distance. Mind you, we hear dogs barking all the time. He's even seen deer and such and not gone after them. I have no idea why but Danzig just BOOKED IT. He flew across the field as I yelled for him, paused momentarily to look back at me, and then just disappeared into the darkness. By the time I got to where I had seen him last, he was gone. I think my heart sank right out of my body. There's a strip of woods after the school and I figured he must be in there, took out my flashlight, and called and called. The sun had gone down and he's a little black dog. I couldn't see a thing. After about 15 minutes of calling I was convinced I'd never see him again. When I emerged from the woods at the end of the strip and approached my building, there he was! Standing at the back gate with his ears perked up, waiting for me. When I got to him he was VERY happy to see me. I can't even describe the relief of seeing him.
After this experience I just can't justify letting him off back there anymore and I feel terrible. He's a 9 month old puppy, why did I ever think it was a good idea?! Without this option I'm not sure how to let him run free! There are tennis courts at the school where he would be safe but they're small and he gets bored.
When I told my boyfriend and best friend they both said, "I hope you screamed at him for running away!" And I didn't! I was in such shock and so happy to see him that I didn't scold him at all and I feel dumb. How would you guys have handled it?
Also, I know this sounds totally childish but I'm mad at him! I'm not treating him like I am, of course. But it kind of hurts my feelings that he wouldn't come back to me when I was calling and calling for him. He obviously knew I was worried and was calling for him!