I had a special mountain bike ride because I had the frolicking company of two of my dogs, K and R. Almost three months ago, R had elbow dysplasia surgery, and his recovery has been beyond our most optimistic dreams. Today, I took him for his first mountain bike ride along with my usual biking buddy, K, the chocolate lab. I took it very easy on him - going slowly on the downhill and smooth level trails. Uphill, I never need to go easy on my dogs, they can sprint away from me with embarrassing ease. Dogs run with such grace and speed - I wish that I could run - or even ride - with such grace. So far, R has shown absolutely no bad effects from our mountain bike ride. All in all, it was a stunning success.
To the right, K (in front) and R sprint to me after I called them during the ride. K is having a 'wild ear' day!
During our ride, I saw some bobcat tracks - a common sight around here. Once, as my eye scanned across a meadow, I saw a bobcat stealthily go from standing up to lying down in deep grass about 50 yds downwind of me and my dogs. If I hadn't been scanning right then, I would've walked right past him. Even my dogs didn't see or smell him. It made me wonder how many animals silently watch us go by without us knowing.
On another occasion, we awoke to see a bobcat lying on the outside sill of our window. He was staring at our bird feeder area, which usually has hordes of birds and squirrels. They'd all fled, leaving an eerie silence. It seemed like the bobcat's strategy was to lie completely still and hope that the animals forgot about him. It didn't work. Eventually, he hopped down and took one last look back at us before strutting away.
Today, after I rode with K and R, I headed out on some trails that I haven't ridden in a long time. I avoid them in the summer and fall because there are too many motorized vehicles and too many guns. I was shocked by how much damage was wreaked by vehicles and guns last summer. Drivers ripped new roads into the terrain, and when the Forest Service put up barriers and signs to stop them, people shot holes in the signs. We desperately need more funding for the Forest Service so that they can protect our lands.
It's important that I add that I find that most 4wd and ATV drivers are polite, lawful, and reach out to help me if they find me fixing a mechanical problem with my bike. It's just a few who infuriate me... and their vehicles are so powerful that their destruction is profound.
While I was on those trails, I saw some nice people walking their two 5 month old puppies. Their puppies completely freaked out when they saw me. The people said that the pups had never seen anyone on a bike or wearing a helmet. I offered to give the pups treats or play with them so that the pups could learn that bikes and helmets were not scary. However, the concept of this kind of socialization seemed completely lost on the people. They held the pups very tightly and scolded them for barking at me. I desperately hope that the pups are resilient but I seriously worry that those pups will be *more* afraid of the next cyclist or other novelty if the people don't change their approach. It looked like a recipe for badly adjusted dogs.
When I adopted my first pups, I was completely clueless about dog behavior or training. I believed that the many good dogs that I'd known in my life had been born as good dogs. I had absolutely no idea how much training most dogs need to learn to live peacefully in our human society. Needless to say, I had a rude awakening. Now, I keep thinking that dog adopters should be required to read a short manual on how to raise a good dog. A few tips would go a long way.
I ended my day with my three dogs watching yet another stupendous sunset from our meadow.