Dog hunt

Dogs are hard wired to please people. Provided they have a decent upbringing, they are loyal to a fault.

Dogs are hard wired to please people. Provided they have a decent upbringing, they are loyal to a fault. As proof, I offer the story my friend Fred told me.

Fred works in the bush.  One day, years ago, he was walking in the woods near Kitwanga with his lab, Blackie, when they came upon a grizzly bear. All bears seem large. Fred has seen plenty of them. When he tells me a bear was large, as he told me this particular bear was, I know it was really big. It was soon evident that the bear resented the intrusion. Before Fred could gather his thoughts, Blackie raced at the bear and began barking. The grizzly, who had been focused on Fred until that moment, grew increasingly annoyed at the smaller black yappy creature in front of him and took off after it. Shaken, Fred made for the truck. As he did, he heard Blackie’s barking farther and farther in the distance.

The speed of grizzlies is well known. If they can outrun a race horse, they can certainly outrun a dog. Fred knew this.

You’ve been a good dog, Blackie, he said to himself, with resignation and the sadness that later inevitably turns to grief.

It was a fair distance to his truck. When Fred got there, Blackie was waiting for him.

If there is an award for canine valour – a Golden Bone, perhaps – Fred’s Labrador retriever certainly deserved it. In less dire circumstances,  having a mid to large sized dog is a very useful companion to have in the woods. Because of their acute sense of smell, dogs will sense the presence of other creatures a long time before a man does.

If you watch your dog carefully you will come to recognize the mannerisms, those small perturbations, like a particularly alert posture or twitching of the muzzle, that indicate a wild creature is close by.

By way of illustration, there was one cold and clear March day, about ten years ago, when Pawsome and I were out on Winsman’s bar. I was thigh high in the clear and low Skeena. Pawsome was sitting atop the snowbank a dozen feet or so below me.

As I made my way to shore, intent upon finding a log to sit down on for lunch, I noticed that Pawsome was craning her neck to sniff the air.

I scanned the wide distances, upstream and downstream. Nothing, save for the river, moved.

What is it girl? I asked as my dog, who was up on all fours now, grew increasingly agitated.

Would you like a treat? I asked, putting stress on the final word of the sentence, the utterance of which normally brings her running.

Not that time. She stared fixedly downstream and across the river toward the area where a wide high water channel leaves the river. Saying the magic word a few more times would not pry her off whatever it was she was fixed upon.

Strange, I thought, then began to make my way across the hard smooth snow. I’d taken but a few steps when I heard clattering sound. Pawsome began to bark. I turned to see a bull moose emerge from the side channel downstream at full gallop. Without breaking stride it plunged into the icy water and swam the river, only its head and hump visible. In what seemed an incredibly short time,  the big animal reached the side of the river we were on, scrambled up the snow bank, loped across the snow covered beach, and vanished into the dense brush.

All of this had taken only a few minutes. Pawsome had stopped barking, but was still visibly agitated. A few minutes passed, then a pack of wolves ran out of the same channel hard upon the scent trail. They stopped where the moose had entered the water, yipped and howled, clearly irritated by the lost opportunity.

At the sight of her larger and wilder cousins, Pawsome stopped barking. The hair on her back stood up. She was clearly cowed. Meanwhile, the wolves soon over their disappointment began cavorting atop the high snow banks on their side of the river. Unconcerned about the two creatures on the far side of the river – for they  must have sensed our presence, just as Pawsome had theirs – they played for long time then left the way they had come.

Over the years, my dog has not only widened my apprehension of my surroundings, but, thanks to the border collie instincts in her, has always run ahead only to return a short time later as if to check on my well being and that of my companion when I’ve had one. When she was young, she treed black bears. I would arrived at the sight of these treeings and find her at the bottom of the tree with a “what now?” look. As she got older, she would simply use a distinctive bark she reserved for bears.

continued next week

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rio Tinto responds to U.S. aluminum import tariffs

The tariffs were imposed by President Donald Trump Aug. 6

Black bear spotted at Christy Park in Terrace

Bear could be the same individual spotted on the bench recently

Coastal GasLink breaks ground on meter station in Kitimat

Meter station marks final point on pipeline that stretches from Northeast B.C.

Signs of the times: Terrace sign makers’ businesses evolve during COVID-19 pandemic

Scaife Signs and Silvertip Promotions & Signs Inc. created COVID-19 related materials in Terrace

New statue placed at George Little Park in Terrace

Kermode bear cub to commemorate Terrace Kinsmen’s contribution to the park’s renovations

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

Most Read