You may have had the experience of walking along trail and being met by a dog. This kind of encounter occurs in a variety of ways. Small children are sometimes jolted into terror as a large four-legged creature friskily rounds the bend and lopes on over to get a sniff and maybe a lick. Scaling the child’s experience so adults can understand what it might be like requires us to imagine a dog about 7 feet tall galloping toward us with unclear intentions.
Sometimes we hear or see the otherwise well behaved pet running at full speed through the brush and woods in pursuit of some of the wildlife, madly sticking its snout into a scent that will guide it to the instinctual prey. Domestic animals are usually ill-equipped to be in nature and so they are often surprised by dangers like snakes, belligerent wildlife, thorns or some other hazard. Some pets have been killed by the hazards.
But, all too often, they get lost.
Losing a dog in our natural areas is very common. In almost every case the owners will tell you their dog normally always stays close by. But dogs are easily tempted. It is not uncommon to hear an owner shouting out the name of their best friend over and over as the sun seeks the horizon. The next day a poster appears on the kiosk. The requirement by the city, the strong suggestion by SMGA, to have your dog always on a leash is not just to keep them from terrorizing children and wildlife, but to protect them from the hazards and keep them from losing their way.
I came upon a small dog marching down Dante. It politely passed me as if either leading its master who was too slow to keep up or trying to catch up. I never a saw an owner pass, but I was not about to interfere. It came past me again aiming for Grandma’s Oak only this time it would not go any farther than a line of sight on me, waiting until I caught up then moving again. Clearly it was lost and looking for its master. I tried to get it to come and exchange salutations and share some water but it would have none of that. It eventually turned right on Paraiso, I was going straight on Dante. Eventually I heard the sing song of an owner calling for Penny. I facilitated the reuniting. The owner was a bit embarrassed. Penny was pleased to be thrown over the owner’s shoulder. Penny’s master assured me she always stays close, but it looks like a leash will be needed from now on. A close call.
Please keep your dog, big or small, on leash, whether you are a regular visitor or occasional, whether you are a runner or a slow hiker, on a short walk or long. Take water for your friend and yourself and know how to find your way in and out of our magnificent Nature.
Picking up after your pet? That’s another story…t.o.d.