Most days, our mountain world feels idyllic. Going for a hike relaxes me as I forget the little stuff that often clutters my mind. Yesterday, I was having back spasms, and thus, I was particularly eagerly looking forward to our evening stroll through the meadows and forests near our house. Any kind of movement, even walking, usually helps ease my spasms.
I have a routine with the Labraduo to prevent wildlife encounters. It involves starting each hike with the Duo on leash until we reach an open area where I can scan for wildlife, and then, if all is clear, I do a little remedial training to prepare them for whatever they might encounter during our hike. I focus on "stays" and recalls. So, in the intense setting sunlight, we practiced our stays and recalls yesterday evening.
K's chocolate fur glowed resplendently in the sun as she focused her laser-like attention on me.
But, the rock-like coyote still didn't move. Through my telephoto lens, I could see him rotating his head, looking at us and sniffing the wind - so I knew that he was alive - but he didn't try to flee or hide.
Yesterday evening, I felt good that I'd spotted the coyotes before the dogs did and avoided a problem. I still had the dogs on leash 100 yards later when we crested a small ridge in the meadow. To my surprise, a large group of elk was standing only 50 yards away on the other side of the ridge. They'd been invisible to me until we reached the crest. I had a brief spike of adrenaline, not wanting to have a dog-elk encounter. Again, we were upwind of them, and they were stationary, so the Duo didn't immediately notice them. I briskly walked K and R to a huge tree and kept the tree trunk between dogs and the elk so that the dogs wouldn't see the elk. I asked the Duo for a down-stay, and I snapped a few photos as my adrenaline levels fell.
Then, a short time later, my decision to leash the Duo was validated when a bobcat bounded out of a boulder outcropping just in front of us. He jumped over a rocky escarpment and vanished. The Duo went almost insane with excitement. He'd crossed our path so near to us that we could see every detail of his fur.
So, although our world usually seems idyllic, it can be challenging to navigate nature with a pair of athletic and high-energy dogs. I train and train and train to prepare them for wildlife encounters but they're independent beings with their own minds. I'm 95% sure that I can call them away from any kind of wildlife. I believe that it's impossible to ever be 100% certain. So, I'm always scanning for wildlife and have their leashes close at hand.
Eventually, our hike calmed down as the sun set in a purple kaleidoscope sky.