Fair warning: This post has almost no pictures. The incident happened over the course of a very hectic and tense 10 minutes and there was no time (or even thought) of stopping to get a camera to document the situation.
We spent about two weeks in the Mendocino National Forest with the dog we were “rescuing” waiting to hear if any of our feelers out looking for someone to adopt him or at least offer a good foster situation came to pass. Besides the scary instances where I found out he was “street stupid” and habitually chased cars this was the other main incident that caused me the most stress and it is all the more annoying because it was my fault and entirely preventable.
It was mid-afternoon and I was messing around putting LED light strips on the top of my Alu-Cab Awning’s arms.
It had been about 15 minutes since I had last seen the two dogs and I was just about to give them a whistle when I heard the sound of distant barking. I knew it was The Boy since Gia has a (relatively) quiet, hoarse bark and this was not that. I know that people can and do graze their livestock on forest service lands but had not personally seen any cows or other ungulates during our daily hikes and so had discounted the possibility of this type of interaction. That was a mistake. Following the barking sounds I was drawn to the east side of our campsite and could tell the barking was coming from way farther down the hill than I could see and it was an intense and hysterical barking which, to me, signaled “Prey!” or “Big And Scary!” Knowing that it is completely legal for someone to shoot a dog who is attacking or even harassing legally grazing livestock I briefly imagined having to inform all my contacts that “Hey, whoops, never mind, that dog is not available anymore because he was shot to death” and immediately started down the hill at the top speed my “old guy” knees could handle. I was yelling and continually pushing the “vibration” button on his channel on the e-collar remote to no avail. Worrying about the dog, the cow, my knees and the possible ticks hoping on me as I pushed through bushes and scrub I continued on my way further down the steep hill. At the first clearing the barking was louder but I saw nothing. Whistling and continuously pushing the vibrate function on the e-collar remote and yelling to “Get. Back. Here. Right. F’ing. Now!” got no results either and so I kept heading down the hill imagining a rifle shot ringing out at any second. At the second clearing I was thrilled to see Gia standing there torn between doing what I wanted or going to see what The Boy was up to and I am sure it sounded like Big Exciting Fun. I quickly clipped Gia onto a leash and we continued down the hill.
At the far downhill side of the second clearing I was happy to see a cow and The Boy in a standoff, him barking and circling, the cow head down and bobbing keeping herself pointed head-on in his antagonizing direction. I tried not to disturb the cow and started up another batch of e-collar corrections and verbal admonishments towards The Boy which he continued to ignore even while repeatedly looking back up the hill right at Gia and I. Coming closer to the ruckus in hopes proximity might improve my chances I was annoyed to realize that the cow also saw our approach, probably thought I was bringing another canine annoyance to harass her and so turned and ambled father down the hill…and, of course, The Boy followed after her.
Obviously the e-collar shock setting (about 15 out of 100) was not working and so I was fumbling to turn it up to a substantially higher setting as we continued after the cow and The Boy. Another downward slope and we were now maybe a half mile from our campsite. This got us to the edge of a forested area with a parking area through the trees. I could see a big, older truck with an attached livestock trailer through the cover. As The Boy and the cow broke through the clearing about 50 meters in front of Gia and I I could see a man stepping out of the cab of the truck, rifle in hand and look in our general direction. It’s all a bit of a blur now as I write this recollection but it seemed like we were breaking through the treeline at about the same time as he was bringing the rifle up to his shoulder and I instinctively shouted something along the lines of “Don’t You F#%king Dare!”
Surprisingly, he lowered the rifle and growled something back at me like “Control your f’ing dog” and I, still holding onto Gia’s leash babbled a few repeated “Sorrys” to him and a few more “Get The F Over Heres” to The Boy. Finally, for whatever reason after all the sweaty, yelling drama getting down the hill as fast as possible, now that I was within single digit feet from The Boy, he seemed to take me seriously, stopped barking at the cow and came over to us. I immediately hooked him up on the carabiner attached to the handle of the leash Gia was on. Not perfect. A little short with two dogs on one leash for a hike back a half mile up a steep hill but good enough for this. I offered a few more apologies to the herder guy, turned and led the two dogs back through the treeline and started on the sweaty hike back to our campsite as my heart rate slowly returned to semi-normal.
Once we back at our campsite I attached the boy and that leash via the carabiner to the “zip line” that I had up. I was covered in sweat and quickly changed into some dry clothes while my heart rate slowly lowered and I enjoyed a nice, cold, celebratory beer. Some unplanned exercise and a lesson learned all because I trusted the dogs not to do something dumb like that.