Outdoors Column: Watch Dogs Watching

Most of the time, our dogs are fairly non-functional and useless. They are supposed to be watch dogs and protect the premises from prowlers and invading wildlife. Some days, this works better than others. They are not opposed to attacking the mailman or other innocent bystanders, but they do not always use good judgement. This morning, Jag, the terrier was stretched out sleeping on a chair on the porch when Louie, the boxer, and I came outside. Louie went and did what was necessary and came back to the porch, climbed in his bed, and promptly fell asleep. As I sat enjoying the early morning and a cup of coffee, I had that feeling of being watched. I looked around and saw a deer, about fifty yards away, looking at me. He seemed to be cautiously moving toward our apple trees. I can share a lot of things with all types of animals, but they had better leave my apple trees alone.


The watch dogs were not watching. I finally whispered, “What’s that?” A whisper usually gets more attention than speaking loudly to them. Louie lifted his head, looked around, and went back to sleep without even noticing the deer sneaking into the yard. Jag perked right up. He looked at the deer and back to me as if to say, “looks like a deer to me.” I stood up and walked to the porch railing nearest the deer. This woke the dogs up enough to get concerned about what I was doing. They stretched and came over, noses through the railing, watching the deer. The apple trees are never going to live with watchdogs like this. I waived my arms and the little buck bounded out of the yard, across the dam and up the far hill. The dogs seemed quite satisfied that they had done their job.


These two will bark when someone comes, and will attack anything that gets too close to the food dish, but deer and rabbits raiding the garden or attacking the fruit trees may or may not get a free pass. This is a big change from a dog we used to have.


Hooch was a massive, muscular dog, half Rottweiler/half mastiff. He not only kept everything and everyone well away from the house, he would go out into the timber in search of any potential threat that might be lurking in the woods. He seemed to be most concerned about a possible invasion from skunks. For some reason, he would go out of his way to kill a skunk. Since he was an outside dog, it did not bother me too much if he had to be locked in his pen for a few days so we did not have to smell him, but he always insisted on showing his trophy kill to anybody he could find.


If I was working out in the pasture fixing fence, Hooch would always go with me. Often, he would disappear for a while only to return carrying the limp body of a really smelly skunk. When faced with this situation, there is not a lot a person can do. It is not possible to outrun a proud dog that wants to show you what a fine job he has done. Yelling and telling him to “sit” or “go away, bad dog” does not work either. He was convinced he was a good dog and I would heap praise on him for protecting the world from skunks. He never seemed to mind getting sprayed and took a tremendous toll on the skunk population. He spent a lot of time in his pen or getting baths.


When Hooch was watching, nothing sneaked by. Sometimes I wished he would leave a few things alone, but that was not his nature.