Today. A day that screamed ‘go hiking with your dogs’!
I haven’t been out in the mountains as much as I would like this season. Enough that we all feel healthy, but not enough where I feel a bit ‘itchy’ during the week. So I am going back to my old lifestyle, a new priority so to speak, and trust that we need more back country time.
We went to one of our favorite remote trails today. Blue bird sky, building storm clouds, no wind, no noise, and powdered sugar snow.
As we headed up the trail, I could feel everything that resembled stress just melt right off. I love hearing only my foot steps, my dogs paws hitting the earth, and our breathing. This simplicity is my happiness. Just us and the mountains. Perfect.
We were about a mile and a half into our hike and all three of my dogs stopped, pricked their ears, and whipped their heads to the right, in unison. I stopped so I could orient myself, and my pathetic human ears in that direction. Nothing, I didn’t see or hear anything. But I know my dogs well enough to know that there was something out there we all needed to take note of. They didn’t seem too concerned over all, and didn’t hesitate to move on, so we did.
We continued on our way, and again they all stopped, and this time started air scenting, in unison, in the same direction. I could not see, hear, or smell anything.
My Ocean came back to me, which is unusual, but Story was ready to continue on, so we did for another 100 yards or so. Then, they all stopped, all oriented in the same direction, and very casually walked back to me, and faced down trail, back the way we came, tails wagging slowly. They didn’t seem panicked or upset, they weren’t aroused, and if anything, they were slightly ‘slow’. When my dogs are ‘slow’ it tells me that something in the environment is putting enormous pressure on them, enormous. That is all I needed to see and feel. My dogs are so good at judging environments. I simply turned around and said, “let’s go” and they happily started back down the trail.
Then there it was, off to the side of the trail, going up a slope, around some sage and into a rock ridge area. A. Big. Fat. Cat. Track. We didn’t see the mountain lion, for which I am grateful, but my dogs let me know it wasn’t that far away either.
I’ve only ever seen one mountain lion when out hiking, about eight years ago. It was parallel tracking us for about a mile or so was my guess, and Franny was my only dog that had alerted to something not being right. When the cat came out of a low scraggly juniper area it was only about 50′ away. At first, for maybe a split second, I was overwhelmed at it’s size and beauty, and then reality set in that I was by myself with three dogs, looking an apex predator in the eye. I don’t think I have ever felt more like bait than in that very moment. A super humbling and terrifying experience. Thankfully the cat ran down the hill, and then up a gully towards a rocky ridge area, while my dogs and I stayed put, possibly holding our breathes. When I later told a ranger what had happened, he filled me in that this ‘juvenile’ had been tracking hikers and mountain bikers for about a week, and was most likely curious, and oh, please don’t go hiking here for a awhile. Yes, that would not be a problem.
I have learned over the years that detouring a hike is a much better idea than pushing forward when your dogs are telling you not too. I love my dogs for so many reasons, this is just one of them. They trust me in a ‘human world’ to make good choices for their safety and well-being when we are out and about. I trust them when we are in an ‘animal world’ to make good choices for all of our safety, because let’s face it, their ability to scent, see, and hear, are light years better than mine!
We are a Team.
So cheers to fresh air, safe hiking, and enjoying time out and about with your dogs ~ Nancy
19 Comments Add yours
Wow, what an amazing experience to have your dogs alert you in such an obvious way.
I’m glad that in Australia we don’t have to worry about predators at all (though I suppose in certain parts you’d have to be mindful of dingoes)… though, that being said, our dangers are much less obvious and more tempting to dogs to investigate (snakes!!).
Hi Em, I try to not go hiking in the warm months were there are snake dens. Snakes terrify me! So in the winter I take full advantage of hiking everywhere, and most of the time, the majority of the time actually, it is a non-event. Just quiet and peaceful. Nancy
Yeah we’ve been very careful to only go hiking either very early in the morning (and then there’s roos around, which presents a whole different problem!), or when we had a spell of cold, cloudy weather, or we just go to the beach (and we have an awesome dog-friendly beach not too far away where you can walk for an hour and a half in one direction… makes for a decent walk!). I can’t wait for it to cool down and for the sun to go away though – we’re getting a bit of cabin fever from not being about to get out in the bush and hike!
You are so right! And YOU LISTEN!!! You really listen to your dogs. I do too. I also think they are good judges of people!
I think if you don’t listen, and you have ‘goals’ for whatever it is, you stop being a Team with your dogs, and put everyone at risk. For me it is a two way street. If I want them to listen to me, I need to listen to them.
Always good to hear from you! Nancy
Ohh, I am glad you had such a good team, and that it all went well. My dog love snow but we have so little this year. But we do some hiking of course. No mountain lions around here and the bears are still sleeping (I guess).
Bente so good to hear from you. Some of our bears decided to NOT hibernate this winter and have been out and about looking for food, I’m wondering if they have cubs or not? I’m surprised to hear you don’t have much snow, I always think of Norway as the MOTHERSHIP OF SNOW 😉
I have had this same relationship with all my dogs. Most were hunting breeds and I was so thanks they would run back to me and not after wheat the scented or saw. When they were outside amongst themselves they always got into trouble but when in the fields with me always mindful of me for which I will always be thankful now JT the BC now and then picks up a scent and starts to follow it and other times just stops to cover it 🙂 will always return to me.
I am glad the cat went away from you all. You never know what a wild animal will do.
I do not blame you for getting out we all need it tomorrow it will be 0 again here in NH so JT and I will play with a soft toy for most of the day till it is time to shovel.
I love hearing about JT and your relationship. Yes I agree, I love when dogs are mindful of their people and look out for them when other things are in the environment. We have had such a gorgeous week of sun and snow, and starting tomorrow, back down into the zero’s, I am glad I could get out today….
Yes we are in the deep freeze and will moderate through the weekend but then more horrid weather our yard could be used for a NHL game 😦 Have fun and stay safe.
Love the mutual trust! When we lived in BC, my partner and I used to take our vizsla pup on walks in mountainous and wooded areas. One day it was just the pup (about 6 months old then) and I, walking in the woods and he froze, listening and sniffing for a few moments before trying to high tail it back in the direction we came from (he was on-leash). He was a timid dog and was going through a bit of a fear period then – he would freeze when he saw or smelt anything new, so I didn’t take it too seriously. The poor guy was probably so frustrated with me! Eventually, unable to get him to move any further, I took his cue and we left the way we had come in. The next week there was an advisory to stay out of the park because of a mountain lion in the region. It was a big lesson in learning to trust him for me, especially if I was going to expect him to trust me! I’m so grateful for his patience with me, ha!
Isn’t that the truth. I think all of us humans take some ‘breaking in’ when it comes to learning how to trust our dogs cues. Once we realize how much more they know the environment than we do, it is like having a personal guide to the natural world.
For sure, now I know his cues better and can watch for and respond to them. And he trusts me more for it.
Glad you listened and all are safe. We have a lion in our neighborhood and have for years… creeps me out.
Sherry I would be so nervous with your small dogs, it’s like letting ‘Taco & Burrito’ out to play. These lions are so stealth and efficient. Be safe.
It always pays off to pay attention to the dogs. They know such things way better than we do.
So glad you have learned to pay attention to your dogs and you all made it back home without any issues. What an experience that must have been when you saw the mountain lion eight years ago. Happy you made it back home safe that time too. Hugs for you and nose kisses for your wonderful dogs who keep you safe.
I pray to God my dogs would react the same way and not go off to investigate!
Nancy, This is not something you should be letting your mother read.