"A tired dog is a good dog" is a motto that we've espoused for the 20 years that we've lived with canines. R went running this morning in the forest, ate his breakfast, and then snoozed - the epitome of a happy and mellow dog. When R doesn't get to burn off his brimming exuberance, he becomes, shall we say, mischievous. Last October, R had serious surgery to fix elbow dysplasia. During his recovery, he could do nothing except 'potty' walks for a month and then longer walks *on leash* for two months.
That entire recovery time was difficult, for him and for us. To give him 'work' to do, we gave him all his meals from frozen stuffed kongs. We bought cases of chewing objects. We played sedentary training games with him. Despite our best efforts, he created all sorts of hobbies to amuse himself. We have a pile of extra 'dog beds' that are essentially plush carpet pieces, and R would systematically drag them, one-by-one, from their storage place to the other end of the house. Once he'd gathered them all at the other end of the house, he'd move them again, one-by-one, to someplace else in the house. If he could reach the laundry basket when it was full of clean laundry, he'd remove the clothing, piece-by-piece and carefully horde it on his bed. None of this activity looked like it was good for his elbow.
R discovered some less benign hobbies during that time that often resulted in shredded objects or important documents. In desperation, we put him on doggie downers based on our vet's suggestion. They helped him to lie still and rest his elbow. And, they helped us not to go completely nuts constantly supervising R.
When R could finally run off-leash after his long recovery, he changed, almost instantly. He could burn through his high voltage energy and be a mellow dog around the house. Some dogs, like R, truly *need* to have lots of supervised off-leash exercise.
I also realize that having dogs running off-leash on the trails impacts wildlife and other people. We try, very very hard, to train our dogs to be good citizens. We start working on recalls within days of their arrival as 8 week old puppies, and we diligently keep working on those skills, in real-life situations, for the rest of their lives. Last night, their body language suggested that invisible wildlife lurked in the forest so we practiced recalls, with wild R leading the way.
However, despite not chasing wildlife and reliably coming when called, I have no doubt that K and R stress wildlife - flushing grouse, scaring up deer and elk, and sniffing out bears. K even treed a lion once - but, in that case, I was happy with her action because he was too close to us for comfort. But, we try to mitigate the dogs' stress-inducing effects by keeping them under control.
It's a tough balancing act - trying to protect our wildlife, enjoy the forest ourselves, and give our dogs the exercise and stimulation that they need.
Now that R has no limitations on his running, he 'needs' two bouts of trail exercise a day: a morning run and an evening hike. If I'm late in starting the evening hike, R starts moving those dog beds to the far end of the house, one-by-one, just like he did when he was recuperating from elbow surgery. On our evening hike, assuming no obvious wildlife is nearby, the dogs run off-leash with me supervising them.
Yesterday evening, we hiked up to a spot that I'm starting to think of as S's lookout point, and the sun, hanging just below the mountains, still illuminated the clouds hanging over the Divide.
Over my shoulder, the almost full moon glowed in the darkening pink and blue sky.
This morning, while R ran with my husband, K and I had a joyous ride through the quiet forest. K's energy and enthusiasm seem wonderful after only a week on her new thyroid medicine. The problem is that, based on my past experience, she shouldn't be feeling *this* good after just a week. We're probably going to overshoot with medicine dosage and then be forced to readjust. Such is life with a medically complicated dog like K.
We rode through a shady green sea of aspens with splashes of yellow imperceptibly growing larger each day. I stopped in my tracks to appreciate the vibrating life in the grove. I could hear the buzzing and clicking of insects, the rustling of birds flitting in and out of the undergrowth, and the quaking of the aspen leaves.I know that this grove will look and sound as barren as it did in May within a short time.
After I dropped off K, I followed an 'old faithful' route that I love. A few flowers still bloomed but the berries dominated now. Red currants (Ribes cereum) glowed red on bushes whose leaves are fading from green to yellow. I featured these bushes back when they bloomed with tiny pink flowers frequented by hummingbirds. I'm told that these berries aren't sweet but that the bears eat them to help build an autumn layer of fat.
Behind the currants, storms brewed around a faraway towering peak. The clouds made a dramatic backdrop.I rolled along my favorite ridge, doing my usual scanning to figure out what animals had traveled this way recently. In the middle of the trail, I saw fresh bobcat scat in a depression scratched out by the wild feline. I spotted fairly recent coyote scat. And, I noted a huge hole at the base of a stump, originally dug by a bear, that someone had recently expanded. Finally, a bear cub left behind a berry seed laden scat. Wow, that's lots of activity!
And, I enjoyed watching the horizon and our beautiful mountains. I love when the sun and clouds create a patchwork of bright and dark on the rocky peaks.
I remembered to be grateful that I'm capable of pedaling through this glory. I am indeed lucky.