By Leigh Armstrong

When you see a yellow ribbon tied around a dog leash, it typically isn’t just a piece of flair to brighten up the accessory. It’s a visual cue to let you know the dog may need space for one reason or another. It doesn’t always mean an aggressive dog. Sometimes a dog can be injured, scared, or be a shelter dog whose experiences left them with underlying issues. 

The Yellow Ribbon Project started back in 2013 with Tara Palardy, a positive-reinforcement trainer for dogs, according to PetMD. Palardy, of ___, used yellow for its significance as a cautionary and bright color. It stands out from the background  

The yellow ribbon is popular in cities, where dogs can be confronted by a bevy of sights, sounds and smells that can quickly throw them into a more agitated state. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have uses in more remote communities like Skagway though. 

My Jack Russell terrier, Rez, is the near perfect companion for here. When out on a walk, he’ll stand beside me no matter what and he has the energy and excitement to keep up on all-day hike, jumping from rock to rock and taking in the sights and sounds. 

Rez only has one problem in Skagway, and it’s a big one. Rez deals with crippling anxiety when he sees other dogs. He’ll be walking with me on his leash fine one moment, then he’ll be screaming as soon as he sees another dog happily coming toward him. You would swear that he’s ready to fight to the death after he spots another pup. 

Keep in mind, he’s not a bad dog. He’s a rescue dog who’s always had issues that my wife and try to deal with. He’s been getting better, but it’s an uphill battle. 

The hikes help Rez get his nervous energy out in a positive way, but also expose him to other dogs who have every right to go on the trails without being accosted by my loud but relatively harmless terrier. 

This is why my wife and I have chosen to put a yellow ribbon on his leash. It doesn’t stop every interaction from ending in barking and gnashing of teeth, but it does give us a chance to educate others about what the ribbon signifies.  

It’s not always effective. The lack of leashes required on trails means I have to scoop him up quickly whenever I see a husky trotting down the path and hold him until the friendly dog passes.

As a small dog, the bigger dogs in Skagway tend to set him off quicker than smaller pups. The big dogs have every right to run and play in the forest, which is why we pick up Rez and get out of the way when necessary. Thankfully, he’s not too heavy. Just enough to make a hike count as both a leg and an arm workout. 

With every interaction, he gets better. He may bark a little less, or maybe he doesn’t tug at the leash as much. 

We don’t have any plans for taking off his ribbon though. As much as the people of Skagway may learn and get to know his attitude (and hopefully see his loving side a bit), there are just too many unknowns with tourists. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if it means that we end up explaining the ribbon a couple times each walk.

Anytime we get a chance to explain what Rez’s yellow ribbon stands for, it hopefully means that one less person with a do in need of space will have to tell the same story. 

Rez is still the best friend one could hope for in Skagway. Like any rescue dog though, he has his own quirks that my wife and I try to work past or with. He’s a unique little dog, which fits in perfect in Skagway.