Whole Dog Journal's Blog October 21, 2013

Thanks for getting me outdoors

Posted at 10:59AM - Comments: (5)

Two nice dog walks this weekend, with two different friends and their dogs.

Saturday evening, my friend Leonora and I met at a local trailhead in a part of our local wildlife area at the same time as a carload of duck hunters – which is how we learned that the duck season opened locally that day. Whoops. Try telling five very excited dogs to get back in their cars at one of their favorite trailheads! Instead, we asked the hunters which way they were headed, and went down another trail. It’s an easy walk of about a mile to a particularly good spot for the dogs to swim. When the water level (in a manmade lake) is high, it has a nice bank for the dogs to jump off into the water; when the water level is low, it has a nice sand/gravel beach for them to swim from.

October is a lovely month where I live. It was still about 80 degrees at 5 pm, and given the dust raised by the ongoing rice harvest in this part (northeast corner) of the Central Valley in California, the light is particularly golden for the last two hours of the evening, and the low sun casts dramatic shadows across the dried amber grasses we walked through. We heard the distinctive sound of a male pheasant a good quarter mile away, and all the dogs stopped to listen. A few moments later we were rewarded with the sight of it, flying low above the field from one far-off spot to another a few hundred yards farther away and up a low hill. Otto took off like a shot after the bird, and while I could have easily called him back, given the great distance and his utter lack of hunting skills, I decided to let him have the fun. My friend and I enjoyed watching him fly across a plowed field, up and over the hill, missing the area where we had seen the bird land entirely. A few moments later, he ran back over the hill toward us, tail high, eyes shining. He seems to enjoy the chase, not a hunt, and has never stayed out of my sight for more than a minute; he’s got a little bird dog in him somewhere, but not too much, I think.

The two swimmers in our party (Otto and Lena) were swimming after one tennis balls, the tennis-ball-hoarder (Tito) was gloating over the other one we brought, and the two who don’t care about balls were exploring the shoreline when we heard a few distant blasts from the duck hunters’ shotguns. None of the dogs paid them more than a moment’s attention, but it put us on notice that the sun was getting quite low. We collected the tennis balls and headed back toward the cars. As we walked, several lines of waterfowl flew overhead, looking for good spots to land for the night.

On Sunday, I had an early morning walking date with another friend and her two dogs. One of them is Chaco, one of my former foster dogs, and it’s always fun to see her – although my friend doesn’t seem to be able to manage her dogs’ weight, and Chaco is way too fat. She’s happy as a clam, however, friendly, well socialized, and well behaved, so the heck with the lectures.

We walked in a woodsy part of the wildlife area, far from any ponds or lakes but not too far from the river, which we have to avoid for at least another month. Fat salmon have been spawning  -- and dying -- in the river since late August, and the banks are littered with dead fish. The stench is awful, even a quarter mile away. Buzzards and other scavengers will have the carcasses picked fairly well clean by December, but for now, we have to keep clear. Raw salmon contains a parasite that is toxic to dogs if eaten – but I fear the prospect of a dog rolling in a dead salmon just as much. Otto did this once, a few years ago, and I walked him home in despair. I called a groomer and told her I would pay anything for her to wash him free of the smell. I would have walked him to the groomer, too, but fortunately we have a truck, and he rode in the back; there was no way I would have put him into our car. The groomer was successful at getting Otto to smell okay, but after three fruitless trips trough the washing machine and a soak in a bucket with water well-spiked with bleach, I threw his collar away; it still smelled like dead fish.

Fortunately, we have lots of other places to hike off-leash during these fishy months, and while the dogs would have strongly preferred us to take a trail toward the river, we went the other way. It was early, so it never got hot enough to make the dogs’ uncomfortable, even without a trip to the river or any of the ponds, which are brackish and low right now. We stuck to a path that took us through the woods, which in that area are mostly cottonwood trees, flapping now with bright yellow leaves, gorgeous against the bright blue morning sky.

I love the outdoors, but lack the discipline to get out there on my own accord. I could not possibly be more grateful for a life with such good friends, both human and canine. If I didn’t have them, constantly nudging me to get out and go for a walk, I’d surely miss most of these experiences most days. 

Comments (5)

I don't know if I've seen an article (recently) on WDJ on high quality collars, but I bet you've not used or advocated the Duralon or Duraflex from Dogs Unlimited. (Yes, it is a hunting catalog.) They are polyester with a plastic outer coat, & can be WIPED clean, regardless of what the dog rolls in. (In my case, the dog most recently rolled in horrific smelling goose poop.)

These collars are great for dogs who go in swimming, since they don't stay wet or hold moisture. Unlike most collars, they have mounted or bolted to the collar (not hanging) brass plates where you can put your name/address/phone & on the fouth line, I put REWARD. They have a metal buckle, not the easy to break-open, plastic stuff on so many collars & have a 2,000 lb test strength. They come in 6 regular & 6 custom colors (not just Hunter orange). My Duralon collars have lasted up to 10 years (with slight sun fading) on VERY active, Weimaraners. Dogs Unlimited can be very helpful- if you need to talk to a real person, on the other end of the line. Custom orders can be arranged, if you don't see what you need.

Posted by: Betsy | October 22, 2013 2:41 PM    Report this comment

Several years ago I had a heart attack and was told to exercise daily. We had a young Lab that I would walk every evening or go up to the local High School and train and play ball with him. He was my doctor! Every evening he would insist that we go for a walk or play ball. Because of him I got my strength back. We moved from the city to the mountains and he became my hiking partner, both summer and winter. He loved the snow and we would go for miles, just enjoying the forest. He got me into a habit that was and has been my savior. Without his insistence and being fun to be with, I would not have cured as quickly as I did. I owe a lot to my Lab friend,but unfortunately I lost him to cancer. I have another Lab now and he has the same qualities and is now my hiking partner. He is super trail wise, won't chase animals or roll in yuckie stuff.He loves to watch the deer. He is friendly to hikers and horses, but is also protective. The other day he stopped me from crossing a creek. He froze, hackles up, ears forward, tail straight out. A deep low growl as he backed up. A rattlesnake was in the area where I would have crossed.It took me a minute to see it in the duff. We skirted the creek to avoid the encounter. Yep, he is my best friend and I'm his!

Posted by: Gary M | October 22, 2013 1:27 PM    Report this comment

We have two small female Beagles. We live in the mountains in southwest Idaho, 55 miles due north of Boise. Lots of deer, elk, turkey, wolf and fox. The girls love to be out and about, but like the comments from others, they love to roll in smelly stuff, whether it is something dead, animal droppings etc. We do let them run off-leash, but have to keep close control due to the wolves (we sometimes carry a sidearm during our walks). Regardless, it only takes them a couple of seconds to find something stinky to roll-in. Once the ground freezes and we have over about foot of snow, rolling in stuff pretty much stops.

Posted by: ANTHONY R | October 22, 2013 11:19 AM    Report this comment

Had a lab once, were were walking a trail off leash. She smelled something and took off.
Found her rolling on a dead squirrel carcass. Yuck,very smelly. Bathtime it was.

Well a week or so later we went to the same place. As soon as she got
out of the car she took off... yep, to the exact same place. Repeat.

Posted by: Cathy E | October 22, 2013 10:19 AM    Report this comment

My dogs are also my motivation to get "out and about". I hike/walk with them alone or with friends and sometimes we have to travel a ways (an hour or more) to have some fun.
What really motivates me is watching my dogs have fun--I love their looks of happiness when they can run, sniff, and play as they are moved to do. So far I haven't had to deal with anything quite like the "stinky salmon roll"---I've at least never had to throw out a collar---but I would do that if it meant my dog got to have some real doggy fun for awhile.

Posted by: PJKutscher | October 22, 2013 9:57 AM    Report this comment

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