Eyes of a Friend

Life with companion animals

Walking dogs in the desert – can cause worry

Took Honey for a walk in the nearby desert last week, as we often do. Didn’t see any jack rabbits or cottontails, but she always hopes to see one behind the next bush, so she stays optimistic. My back has been bothering me less, so I enjoyed the warmer temps, the sunshine, and the walk with my dog.

desert view
When I decided it was time to head for home, Honey was beginning to show more interest in the shade around the bushes than the rabbit scent, and was happy to drink some water from our bottle. We were walking along at a comfortable but slow pace, when I felt her tug on the leash. I looked around to see if she had spotted a rabbit, and saw a dog behind us — too close for our comfort. Honey is reactive to strange dogs, and we hadn’t met this one before. Some folks walk their dogs off-leash out here, and I have to shoo them away or ask their people to call them back. Problem was – I didn’t see any person with this dog. He did startle when Honey barked and I yelled “Stop ! Go away!!”, and he ran off. I couldn’t spot him over the bushes, and I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t pop up again – which could be a problem for both Honey and me. I guided Honey in the direction of our car, looking from side to side and front to rear, while Honey was doing the same – but she did it with an eagerness to find the dog while I was hoping to avoid it. Honey is not a fighter, but she sounds very bold when she meets a larger dog. I’m hopeful that she’s only trying to scare it away, but I don’t want to find out, especially with a loose dog with no owner.

We were in sight of the fence opening out of the desert area when I saw the dog again. This time it was far enough away that didn’t have to worry much about a confrontation, so I started to worry about the dog. I pulled out my iPod to take its photo so I could check for missing dogs on Pets911.com. Then I saw him head for the gate opening and run right through like he was used to it. Hmmm, may not be a stray, but might have been out on a walk and got separated from his owner. When I got thru the opening with Honey, I saw it run to a parked car just ahead of my car. I got Honey into the car so that I didn’t have to worry about an unfriendly meeting, and walked slowly closer to the other car. The dog looked like a Chow mix, in good shape, wearing a collar, and seemed shy of mean but not reactive. I offered it water since it was drooling, but it was too shy to come that close. I started wondering — is it staying near this car because it belongs to the car’s owner, or because it offers cool shade? Was is running loose on its own because it got out of its yard, or was it walking with an owner? If it was with an owner, did the dog just run far ahead, or could the owner have been injured? Crap! Now, what do I do? I looked back towards the desert and still saw no one. The car had been parked there when I drove up, so I didn’t know if it was parked by someone who went out to the desert or someone who walked to the homes nearby. I can imagine a lot of scary scenarios if given a few vague clues, and I figured that I would have to stay until I figured a solution. After a while, a man walked by (came from the opposite direction of the desert) and I told him what I was worried about and wondered if I should call the police to run a check on the car’s license plate. He seemed less concerned than I about the possibility of anyone being hurt, but thought that the police would get the dog out of the way. Cripes !! Forgot about that — the police probably would have the dog taken to Animal Control if the owner didn’t show up soon, and I wouldn’t want that to happen. But … what if the owner is lying out there with a broken leg, needing help? How long am I going to wait?

I walked over to the fence opening and looked towards the desert again… Is that a person and a dog? I walked thru to the desert and started walking to see better — yes, there was someone and there was a dog, and there was someone else behind them. I was too far away to yell, so I trudged forward and started waving my arms. No response. When I got closer, I started yelling, but had to get even closer before I got any reaction. I called out “do you have another dog?” It was a woman with a couple of dogs, running loose with her, and she hesitantly asked “what color?” Sheesh!! What do you think I’m doing, lady?, I thought. “Do you have another dog? I’ve found one running loose.” This time she answered, “Yes”, and I said it was a gold color and lying by a parked car. We were pretty close by now, so I stayed back since I seemed to be making her nervous. The lady behind her started calling a dog’s name. I explained that I’d seen the dog running loose and worried that it’s owner might be hurt and waited to see if someone would come. She said that her dog had run ahead, and the other lady started calling a dog’s name again. Then we were close to the fence opening and the strange dog was standing there and they all started calling it. It ran back to the car instead, and I went to my car to wait with Honey until they got their dogs stowed inside. The first lady thanked me for being concerned, I got in my car, told Honey she was a good dog for waiting calmly and drove home. I love a happy ending!!

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