Today we searched for a Doberman in the woods. She had been missing for several days. Valentino dragged me through underbrush that was easy for him to get through, but considerably harder for me. We tracked for a couple of miles. We had to stop several times to get permission from property owners. Eventually, the trail came to a steep bluff. There was a footprint at the top of the bluff, as if a large animal had gone down there. Tino, or the lost Doberman, could get down there fairly easily, but there was no way for a human to navigate the slope. We decided to drive around and try to pick up the scent at the bottom of the hill. Even though it was a cool day, Tino was still warmer than ideal. We stopped at the lake and he fetched a stick a few times just to get cooled off. When we got around to the bottom, there was a field with thick mud. Again, it would have been very difficult for a human to get through. I had to choose my foot placement carefully to avoid getting stuck, and it would’ve been impossible to work the search dog at any kind of a pace.We found prints consistent with a sixty pound Doberman. I decided to stop for the day, and the owner put up new posters in the area to try to generate a new lead.
Mu searched for a cat in Kirkland. We searched for three hours and covered a lot of territory. As we were almost done, I decided to search the edge of the school yard. Predators would use a zone like that. I didn’t really suspect a predator in this case, but I mostly wanted to check it to rule it out. We found some coyote scat, the tail of a rabbit, and half a rodent, all signs that coyotes were active in this area. A little farther on, Mu found coyote scat that contained fur roughly the color of the lost cat, and also a cat claw. This seemed a pretty strong indicator that their cat had been taken by a coyote. I told the owner I would take the scat home and look more closely. Later, I sent him an email stating that I was pretty sure that his cat had in fact been eaten by a coyote, but that this evidence wasn’t conclusive proof. He replied that they weren’t giving up hope and would keep looking. I never know how much I should try to be convincing and final when I think a pet is deceased. I was wrong, once. I thought we had found remains of a cat, and then the cat came home the next day. I wish DNA testing was cheap and easy, so we could have more certainty in these cases.
Today was training day. Tino was only half as crazy as usual. I don’t know whether to be relieved or concerned. My dogs were still the craziest, of all the dogs at training. Mu, the seasoned veteran, almost 9 years old, with over 300 found cats under his belt, was still barking nearly nonstop, and he galloped about when it was his turn to work. On the drive to training, Tino actually just laid down and rested about half the time. And when we got close to the park, he was merely excited, not uncontrollably crazy. Lately, I have been talking to him, telling him that he doesn’t need to be so crazy all the time. It actually seems like he’s starting to listen to me. But now I’m worried that he’s sick or something. Although I would be relieved to not have to constantly battle with Tino to avoid one or both of us getting killed, I would also be a little sad to see Valentino acting like a mature, grown up dog, instead of a puppy. Be careful what you wish for, I guess. If this is the new Tino, only half as crazy, I will learn to live with it and enjoy the halfway calmness.
The puppy was there again.
Tino searched for Mac in Port Orchard again. Tino was very interested in one particular spot, close to where we left off the last time after hitting private property. Tino followed the scent beside a house, past a horse corral, and into a large field of scotch broom that would connect with the back side of the dead end Mac took off from. Once again, we hit private property. As we were following the scent trail, we came to a property, and the homeowners were out doing yard work. I asked if Tino could get a drink from their pond, and they insisted on getting him a big bowl of clean water. They also brought him a snack, that little round cheese in the wax coating, the good stuff.
Mu found evidence within a few minutes. Judging by Mu’s reaction, and just looking at the fur and blood, it was pretty obvious what had happened. The owner had been diligently searching for her lost cat. She even found a bit of fur nearby, but she didn’t find this. Even though I was 99% sure of what happened, Mu and I search for over an hour to try to find more conclusive evidence. The Luminol test confirmed the presence of blood, a large amount, more than a cat could have survived without. The owner appreciated our efforts, and was glad to know, at least, instead of always wondering.
Tino searched for Mac in Port Orchard today. It was frustrating for me, and probably for him as well. The first place we searched seems to have been a false lead. It was about 2 miles from the point of escape. After we had searched for a while, we saw a little dog that looked a lot like Mac. That dog was probably the source of the sighting. Tino went after a border collie inside his fenced yard. Tino jerked the leash right out of my hand and sprinted toward the dog. He dove right through a barb wire fence like it was nothing. Tino ran up to the dog and barked right in his face, and then he came back to me. I don’t know exactly what that was about, just sort of, I’m a big deal, I can bark in your face if I want. It wasn’t threatening exactly, not quite playful, just an announcement I guess? The dog’s owner was alarmed. We are probably lucky she didn’t have a rifle quite handy. She seemed to calm down once I got Tino back under control.
We picked up the scent of Mac closer to home and followed it to a fence where we couldn’t get permission to continue. Then we tried to get the scent in two more locations. One was no scent. The other location was positive for scent, but we hit private property again after a block. If it was just an open field, we would have continued. This was someone’s manicured lawn. I knocked on the door, but no answer. I gave the dog’s owner our information, saying where we thought Mac had Not been, and where he had been, so they could follow up.
While we were out searching, we saw an old boxer. He looked a little lost, so I got his picture, and we followed him for a while. Eventually, he went past a yard, and the man in the yard said it was his dog, Banner. “He’s old, and he’s an asshole. He’ll come back soon.”
On the way home, I stopped on the causeway in Purdy to check the sky. I looked around and found a nice cloud to photograph. I was just about to leave when I looked up and saw an amazing cloud, so intricate and interesting. Traffic was whizzing by, and perhaps no one was aware of the magic above them. I almost missed it, and I was actively looking for good clouds. It was huge. It wouldn’t all fit in my camera’s field of view. I took pictures of the main body of it. I’m very glad I stopped to check for good clouds.
I wish I could become a dog and play with them. On the other hand, maybe something about my human brain allows me to appreciate their beauty, grace, and wildness in a way that they cannot. I guess it is their job to be, and my job to know.
Training day. I got to see Tate! I haven’t seen him for quite a while. He did fine with his cat searching. As we were walking across the field, he jumped up and body-slammed me. I like it when he does this, but I don’t want to encourage bad behavior. I wish he could be taught that it’s okay to body slam me, but he shouldn’t do it to anyone else.
I took Tino to a field to play fetch, and he seemed willfully defiant, not wanting to bring me the ball or come to me. He just wanted to lie down in the middle of the grass with his ball and ignore me. It was quite annoying. If he was just going to ignore me, it seems like he could do that at home just fine. He finally came to me when I insisted. What ought to have been a fun game of fetch was just...I don’t know what, but it wasn’t fun for me. I guess he had fun ignoring me and annoying me. For someone who insists he has to be with me at all times, he certainly doesn’t seem to care what I think sometimes. I like having a dog that is independent and adventurous, not always looking to me for direction or approval. On the other hand, it seems like he takes it too far.