Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dogs Running Off With Their Packs

I’m hooked on Airedale terriers for dog packing. They have large feet to absorb the weight and walk over difficult terrain, they’re incredibly strong and determined, and they’re enthusiastic about whatever they’re doing, no matter what the hardship. They make great pack dogs in everyway except one. They’re a hunting breed through to the bone so if they see or smell an animal, they’re likely to sprint off after it even with their packs cinched to their backs, and that could be trouble if you and your dog are a hundred miles from civilization. The younger the dog, the harder it is to keep him from bolting off. Much of the time using a leash is too difficult, and who has the heart to load them down with so much weight that they can’t run off, not me.

Here is an excerpt from Afoot in the Midnight Sun.
When I get close to the Koness River I cross over a mile-wide rise in the land to follow another creek. I pray there’s a chance the terrain will be easier, but it’s not. On the other side of the rise I bust out of the forest into a large, burned clearing and a rabbit shoots out across a scarred field. The dogs see the rabbit and start to chase. “Hey, come back,” I yell, but it’s too late. They’re on the hunt and there’s no stopping them until they want to stop. They run off with their packs and all their dog food. Luckily Will’s pack slides off his back right away and I find it at the edge of the clearing.
     After waiting twenty minutes, I begin hiking out into the field hoping to meet the dogs on my way to the creek. “Hey knucklehead, how you doing. Where’s the rabbit,” I say to Will as he meets me on his way back. Sometimes it looks like the dogs are smiling. They’re always jovial to see me. It’s really astounding that dogs can interact with humans in such a social way, like their canine ancestors did in a wolf pack. Dogs are thought to take cues from humans and respond in some appropriate manner even better than chimpanzees. The divide that separates different species and keeps them from interacting with each other socially, is remarkably almost absent between dogs and humans, as if humans and dogs belong to the same pack now.
     I stop to wait for Jimmy. He normally comes back first, but with his pack on he might be hung up somewhere. Though, after about ten minutes I spot him walking across the field looking tired, with the pack weighting him down. “Jimmy,” I call out. “Do you still have your pack?” It’s more than I hoped for. But then as he walks closer, I notice that the left side is torn open and completely empty. All the food on that side has fallen out somewhere. He has lost about five pounds of dog food, which doesn’t seem like much now, but later it could prove tragic.