Monday, May 26, 2008

Deer Me!

A walk with Belle at Ft. Snelling State Park is always an adventure. Today, Memorial Day, we actually had a great opportunity for training.

The waters of the Mississippi have receded leaving large fragrant mudholes behind on Pike Island. The deer, sensing there were a few too many humans about, also receded to a less traveled part of the Island. Luckily for us, we chose the road less traveled and were rewarded with lots of animal tracks and finally, the motherlode - a herd of deer. Just as we spotted the herd, two dogs off leash spotted us. As the one dog approached at a trot, I walked out to greet the dog (and provide a barrier if need be from Cody - who suffers from leash anxiety). The dog's owner hurried to catch up, shouting at the dog to "come", "stay", "sit" none of which the dog heard or obeyed. Fortunately for her, Belle's quiet interest in the dog kept the dog from moving further away from the owner until she arrived to releash the errant pooch. As she leashed the dog, she told me the dog was her daughter's and not very well trained. I hope the cartoon bubble above my head wasn't shouting my thoughts at her. Thoughts that ran along the line, "then why the h*&! is the animal off-leash in a state park posted with Pets Must Be Leashed At All Times , you bumpkin"! With the noisy human so close, the deer receded further into the afternoon shadows ending our moment of peace in the woods.

In reflecting on what was lost I instead recognized what was gained. By moving toward the loose dog and allowing Belle to invite the dog to sniff and greet her we most likely prevented the dog from spotting and potentially chasing the deer - an activity dangerous to both dog and deer and an expensive fine if observed by a ranger. Even more interesting was Belle's invitation. Somehow she knew this was a serious situation. She was as calm as I've ever seen her with a dog approach. There was no bouncing invite to play - she simply stayed in her heel position at my request and gently sniffed noses with the other dog. I doubt the woman will thank us or even recognize what we did - but Belle acted as a true partner with me today. I'll take that as recompense for missing the deer any day.

1 comment:

Peggy said...

Dogs off their lead (leash)really really upsets me. Polly doesn't have enough obedience in the recall department to be unhooked in public so she NEVER IS.

There is always a problem with loose dogs worrying (injuring) sheep. If the dogs are seen doing this, the farmers shoot first and ask questions later. Thank God our dog is not one that runs after livestock.