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Doggone It!

Town dogs are more than just a nuisance — they can be a menace to man and pooch.


I don't usually write a column when I'm mad; I cool off for a coupla hours first, then rethink my reasons for anger. Not this time, though — I wanna strike while the iron is hot.

Over two years ago I moved my residence closer to the town of Silver, but the new place turned out to be in the wild much more. Out back I had a resident herd of deer and on occasion I had a bear and a javelina visit me. There were also the usual abundant quail, dove, rabbits and sundry ground critters, plus the ever-present gray fox population.

Towards the beginning of our first fall here, a pack of town dogs made their appearance. There were five in all — two tan chows, two Labrador mixes and a beautiful German Shepherd.

Now, it was and is my habit to go on a morning hike "out the back" with one of my own dogs, and occasionally we'd run into the town pack. They'd always tuck tail and run off as soon as they saw me and whichever hound was accompanying me.

Right off, I noted that the deer herd had vanished almost overnight. Some I suppose moved to safer parts; others were probably run down and killed by the "townies."

Last spring I found one of the chows dead in a gully, apparently hit by an auto on the road that was a hundred yards away.

For my part, I mostly believe in live and let live. If the town pack left me and mine alone, then I'd return the favor, except their presence urged me into carrying a sidearm on my hikes, just in case.

Two of my dogs succumbed to old age and related maladies, and this found me doing all of my hiking with the Barney-Dawg. Usually for the last half of our hikes I'd let him free-roam back to the house, because he dearly loves to chase a rabbit or two, which is really great for keeping him in top trim.

Then, this last year, things began to change. There were now only two dogs left to the pack; I learned just the other day that the town dog catcher had caught two of them. That left the German Shepherd and the equally large black Lab/cur cross — both males, the latter of which wears a red collar.

The first incident happened just the day after I had erected a web fence on the lower half of the property with the idea of giving my cat and the wildlife some protection from the two dogs. I had just entered the gate and let Dawg loose when out of nowhere the black Lab charged at Barney — but it didn't know about the fence and thus it slammed full on into it a mere two feet from my hound, surprising all of us. The black cur righted himself, tucked tail and headed for unknown parts. It was quite funny at the time, especially since no harm had come to Barney.

Along about two months ago, the second such occurrence happened when I was walking up to unlock our front gate and Dawg was up ahead looking for a rabbit. All of a sudden, he took off and soon a terrific fight erupted up at the gate but out of my sight. By the time I ran up there, it was all over and I never did see which dog had been there.

I was relieved to find that my dawg had once again escaped harm, but he was sure panting heavily! Ya gotta realize that Barney weighs a mite over 90 pounds!

On almost every hike since that day, I have found tracks of the two dogs, along with a smaller third one at times. I started keeping Barney on a leash for the entire hike, except to infrequently let him free as we approached my fence.

Then, last month, the Shepherd appeared near the fence. He was alone. I didn't see him but Dawg did, just after I freed him. A collision of canines occurred, again out of my sight, but a terrible fight ensued. Even my wife heard it inside our house, and she ran out in time to see the Shepherd running off. This occurred within 50 yards of our dwelling!

Barney looked okay, except he was sure tired, and we went into the house. Jeri later remarked that she was finding blood, and a careful exam showed that Dawg had sustained at least a dozen puncture wounds on his ears and shoulders — none serious, thankfully.

From then on, no matter what, if I found fresh dog tracks, Barney stayed leashed.


Then, just hours ago as I pen this, we had the latest incident, and I mean "we." At the farthest point of our hike before we turn back, the two dogs appeared and quickly charged, growling, back hair erect, ears back and coming fast!

Barney quickly placed himself between them and me, tugging at his leash and growling fiercely as a warning. The black cur's eyes were locked on me while the Shepherd focused on Barney; certainly there was no fear in those black eyes!

I too was shouting and growling loudly, trying to look as big and fierce as possible. If anyone had been looking on, it musta been a comical sight to hear and see! But I was reacting, not really thinking.

At 15 feet I stooped and picked up a rock to throw. Yeah, I had my gun, but I also had visions of shooting some little kid's pet dog and decided that I would do it only if they had physical contact with either of us.

Hurling the missile made them halt, but the cur stood his ground, growling menacingly at me. The Shepherd, though, had doubts and turned away. At the second missile along with angry shouting, the cur realized that his buddy was leaving and he decided to do the same as a third rock flew past him.

But never did the dogs retreat more than 20 yards or so. I kept shouting and throwing rocks. After a quarter-mile they finally departed, only to show up at my house an hour later as I'd just finished talking to the police!

The shame of it is that both dogs are quite beautiful and healthy, and show that their owner takes good care of them — except he/she lets them run at will. They have now reduced my ability to hike, since they obviously are not afraid of me any more, plus sadly, all of the deer herd is virtually gone. I found the remains of a fawn not a week ago, above the house.

These two dogs cannot be trusted to run away any longer. I'm sure that if Dawg had been free-roaming with me they'd have gotten the better of him before I could have reacted. My only resort now is the use of the sidearm if I encounter them again. Sad, isn't it?

Since writing the above (one week), I've gotten in touch with the dog catcher and a trap is set for the pair, but even though they have boldly come into the yard a second time, they seem trap-shy. Who knows what will transpire next in the coming weeks? All I can say is I will be prepared for whatever.

As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless you.

Larry Lightner writes Ramblin' Outdoors exclusively for Desert Exposure.



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