Monday, March 05, 2018

Dogs and Badger Holes

Every dog we walk from now on will be on a leash.
I can't take the pressure of watching the wagging tail disappear and imagining losing a dog, a beloved pet, a family member.
When we walked with the homeowners on the day they left, they identified the badger holes in the ground. The working spaniel always stuck her nose in them, as if pointing them out to her siblings, a 13-year-old short-haired dachshund and a six-month old wire-haired dachshund. The older dachshund showed much interest, while the younger preferred running after his sister and pulling on her leash.
This morning, as Maud the older dog, stuck her head in the hole, I blew on the whistle, which calls the dogs to come to me for a treat. Maud backed out of the hole and stood for a treat. As soon as she gobbled it up, she headed back to the hole.
"Maud," I called as her head and long torso started to disappear.
"Grab her tail," Earl yelled.
I didn't really think she would keep going and I didn't want to hurt her.
"I can't grab her tail; you do it." I reached for the leash of the spaniel that Earl held but by the time he got to the hole, Maud and her tail had vanished.

A badger hole along the walking path -
note there is no dog tail wagging from the end.
I frantically blew on the whistle. Spud stood hopefully beneath me, ready for his treat since he responded to the whistle, but Maud did not emerge from the hole.
"Maud," I called. "Treats, Maud. Biscuits, Maud." I wasn't sure what the British call dog treats, but I hoped food would cause her to come back. I returned to the whistle, blowing over and over.
The homeowners had warned us that they had lost one of their dogs down a badger hole for a few hours on a walk along the hills. I couldn't imagine anxiously standing outside this hole, wondering where or when Maud might come out. She could follow the underground tunnels and end up anywhere.
I put Spud on the leash. We had been keeping the other dog, Minnow, on a leash because she is deaf and the owners worried she might not recognize us and come to us. The dachshunds had been allowed off leash once we walked past the horse fields because they responded to the whistle. Well, no more.
After a few anxious moments for us as we debated our next step, Maud resurfaced, blinking her one eye in the sunlight, he face dotted with chalky mud. 
Maud spotted with chalky mud after coming out of the badger hole. 
We clipped the leash on her right away. As I leaned over to take a picture of the hole in the ground, she attempted to stick her head in again.

Oh, no, Maud. We're wise to you now. 
So we continued our walk with all three dogs on their leashes. It's a much more tedious walk, constantly unwinding them from trees they've run around on the wrong side, or freeing the leash from prickly thorns and branches.
The dogs, especially Maud, walk much more slowly when on the leash.
We persevered and were rewarded with this view from the top of the hill. 
We always manage to take a wrong turn. When it doesn't look familiar, we figure that we're committed and we should push through to wherever the path comes out. Today we carried on before deciding to turn around and retrace our steps.
Poor Maud was paying for that badger adventure by walking extra.
Finally we made it back to familiar land.
Earl extra happy that all three dogs made it home with us. 
But we've learned our lesson about allowing the dogs off leash. Sorry if it ruins all of your training techniques; we just can't take that chance any more. I'm sure most pet owners would prefer to come home to all of their pets intact and retrain them than to return to missing pets lost down badger holes. 

4 comments:

Jeanie said...

Oh, Paulita. That's a heart-in-your-throat moment. I'm glad you got Maud back but boy, what a panic.

Anonymous said...

Bob and Sophie's French Adventure often describes badger encounters, but I haven't seen any. Not that I would know what to look for, and I'm so blind I probably wouldn't see such a hole unless my foot somehow went into it.
As for leashes, please do. I will confess to not being a dog lover or cat lover or animal lover of any kind. They are fine, but not where they can jump on me, or lick me or even sniff me. I quit running in the countryside because of loose dogs, and now stick to the park, which is marked "dogs on leash," but nobody obeys. Owners walk up to the gates and unleash the dogs to do their toiletting chez someone else, and then act like they didn't see anything. People tell me not to be scared, it's gentle--at least as long as I don't act scared, because if I do and the dog reacts badly then it's my fault, not theirs for letting the dog off the leash. I don't want to be touched by a strange human and I don't want to be touched by a strange animal.

Noreen said...

What? They actually go down those holes? And don't come out for hours? Where are the badgers? That can't be a pleasant encounter.

Just Me said...

Yes. Leashes for everyone, even you and Earl.

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