The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

A dangerous dog

Bad dog(Don't worry, no animals were actually harmed during the creation of this post.  I know I just ruined the dramatic impact of the story, but I couldn't have kept reading without that warning, so there you have it.)

Wednesday morning, Mark and I were supposed to go to the big city to get our teeth cleaned. Instead, we had to wrap our minds around the possibility of killing a dog.

Over the eight years we've lived way back in the woods, we've had only a handful of uninvited human visitors (good job, moat!), but nearly an equal number uninvited hunting dogs.  It seems like when hunting dogs get lost, they can feel Mark's good dog energy, and they come wagging their tails at our door.

Unfortunately, the two dogs I found beside the chicken coop Wednesday morning weren't wagging their tails.  One was sweet and submissive, but when I went to put a leash on her, the other dog growled and rushed at me with bared teeth.  Only standing tall and yelling with my voice in its deepest possible register prevented me from getting bitten, and I quickly retreated out of harm's way.

Good dogLuckily, the sweet dog had an owner's number on the collar, and I was able to catch his girlfriend on the phone.  She said her boyfriend was unreachable on a construction site, but she and her father would be right over.  We tied up Lucy just to be on the safe side, called the dentist to say we would be late, then settled down to wait.

When I finally heard the voices, father and daughter were fleeing up the floodplain away from the dog.  "He's never acted like that before," the girlfriend said, tears slipping out of her eyes.  Her father explained that he'd gone to put a leash on the dog, but had gotten bit for his trouble.  The teeth hadn't broken his skin, but the father still told us: "If you have to do something to protect yourselves or your animals, we'll understand."

We knew what he meant --- shoot the dog.  The trouble is, while we can be hard-hearted about chickens, dogs are people to us.  Did I ever mention that my brother once turned off Old Yeller partway through, telling me that was the end, because he knew what was coming and didn't want to have to soothe a grief-stricken sister?  Killing a dog in real life seems nearly unthinkable.

Preparing guns

But, as Mark pointed out after the dog's owners left, we also have a responsibility to our own chickens, goats, cats, and dog.  The biting dog had been lost in the woods for two days, and whether that was long enough for something like rabies to turn up or not, we had to protect the farm.  So we called the dentist once again to cancel, and then Mark went around checking on the state of our guns.  We didn't plan to do anything drastic while the dogs were simply resting at the edge of our core perimeter, but if they went after something, Mark resolved to shoot first and ask questions later.

Luckily, as I mentioned above, this story has a happy ending.  The dog's real owner couldn't be tracked down, but his hunting buddy could.  The young man showed up with a heavy stick, which he thrust into the dog's jaws as it came after him.  And as soon as the man snapped a leash onto the dog's collar, the canine calmed right down.  It turned out that the submissive dog was in heat, and the other dog was merely guarding his territory, but a calm, familiar face was enough to defuse the situation.  In the end, both dogs went home safely.

The moral of the story?  Have friends good enough to face down a possibly rabid dog to save man's best friend.  Or, maybe, have guns on hand to protect your homestead from four-footed beasts.  I'm not sure what I took away from the experience, actually, except for an overwhelming urge to sit in front of a fire with a cat on my lap, sipping some hot chocolate.  But I will be more cautious the next time I approach a strange dog...because hunting dogs sometimes bite.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Anna, I deeply respect an animals right to life.

Having said that, i would like to add that I have personally been involved with "lovable pet" dogs who have attacked, and almost killed, a child, when they travelled during the day as a pack. They were beloved pets in their other lives, returning home from the pack hunting by day, to full food bowels and cuddles at night. Animals are not people, and do not operate by our rules.

I am glad that your experience turned out in such a positive way.

Comment by Maggie Turner Fri Oct 24 08:42:23 2014
Last week a woman and her two dogs were attacked in the NC National Forest by a pack of bear hunting hounds. It seems that the owners of hunting dogs in North Carolina are not subject to rules about aggressive dogs that that other dog owners are. These hunters came to the woman's rescue after she held them off for 45 minutes, helped her to her car, but then left without offering any further help or their names. One of her dogs was very seriously injured. She had several bites. Packs of dogs can be very dangerous.
Comment by Alice Fri Oct 24 10:22:59 2014

About four years ago, I had to put down a pet. A sheltie that had withered away, and one morning couldn't stand. I petted him, carried him to a wooded patch near our house and put a .22 to the base of the back of his head. He died instantly in the comfort of a familiar hand, smell and voice. Why should I have taken off work, driven to a vet's office, and paid them to inject him? So the animal could be stressed at death?

I posted this on my Facebook, and recieved some "HOW COULD YOU?" comments. My reply is how could I NOT? Sure, I could have also spent thousands of dollars on vet bills to treat whatever he had (likely some form of cancer) that caused the withering away and extended his life another few months too... Instead we saw that he wasn't in any real pain, gave him comfort and left him in the company of his yard mates, and humanely ended his life at the appropriate time.

I think you went above and beyond with that stray animal. I am a hunter, and a dog owner, and have hunted birds with dogs, but never deer or coons, and the deer/coon hunters in my experience treat their dogs like garbage! Keep them chained to a barrel 10 months a year, treat them rough, and half abandon them. I need to get off my soapbox..

Comment by Eric Rylander Fri Oct 24 17:21:18 2014

Maggie and Alice --- You're right, there do seem to be some very scary dogs out there! I seem to give people and dogs the same benefit of the doubt --- assume they're good until proven otherwise --- but I probably do need to be a bit more careful.

Eric --- I appreciate you sharing your experience. That would be hard for me to do, but I think it is the right decision, like killing our own chickens, if you're confident in your abilities to euthanize a dying pet instantly. Luckily, that's another bridge we haven't had to cross yet.

Comment by anna Fri Oct 24 18:30:26 2014
I've had the unpleasant experience of having stray/abandoned dogs kill or maim livestock. When a strange dog appears, I initially try to catch it. If it is collared, I make a string attempt to catch or corral it. But if its not collared and goes after my livestock, then it gets shot dead. Period.
Comment by Su Ba Sat Oct 25 00:56:19 2014
I love dogs but owners never know or understand that the dog does not act the same when alone and away from the owner. I run on wooded trails in parks. Running as seen by dog means pursue when they are alone off leash. Dog as minimal interrupts run at worst attempts bite. Owners if around when they show up "now Rex why are you... he normally never...". I've taken to running with a 3/4 PVC Baton. I've never used it but better to have and not need than to need and not have. Further though not used dog owners react perturbed at seeing such and are very quick to call their dog in.
Comment by jim Sat Oct 25 08:09:17 2014

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