Outdoors Column: Little Dog Gone

Our little dog, Jag, is a Jag terrier. They are bred to hunt and like most terriers, knows no fear. He is convinced he is the toughest in the valley and will not hesitate to start a fight with anything in his territory, no matter how large or formidable.


During the summer, he lives outdoors. During the winter, he stays outside most of the time and comes in to the garage at night or when it is extremely cold. One day last week, when I left for work, as usual Jag left the garage when I pulled out. It is not uncommon for him to go hunting for an hour or two, but my wife did not see him all that day. When I came home that night, he did not run out to great me, which is very unusual. My wife and I commented on his absence but did not become too concerned until he did not show up for his evening meal. When it is time to eat, he is always there, no matter what other important things have been occupying his day. That is when we became worried.


I have seen Jag attack and kill a raccoon that was larger than him. He will force himself into brush piles, in pursuit of rabbits or woodchucks. He has been chased by coyotes, and up until now has shown the wisdom not to stop and fight one. He likes to play a dangerous game of chase with the horses. He will chase them, and they will turn around and chase him. It is all fun and games unless a giant draft horse foot would land on a small dog. All the possibilities ran through our minds as we walked around the house calling Jag. He did not come home.


It was a long and restless night. Wondering what happened was the worst thing. Though neither of us would say it, we were both certain something bad had happened. We knew he was probably dead, and hoped he was not severely injured and suffering out in the cold, unable to get home.


As soon as it became light outside, my wife and I were in the Ranger, heading out to search, knowing full well our chances of finding him were slim. One small dog on several hundred acres is like looking for a needle in a haystack. He could be trapped in any number of brush piles. He could be stuck in a muskrat burrow anywhere on the shore of the lake. He could be anywhere. We started our search to the north where rabbits hang out in a couple brush piles. These are favorite spots of his, though I have never seen him catch a rabbit. It must just be the thrill of the chase. I turned off the Ranger, called, and we listened, hoping to hear a muffled bark or cry. There was nothing. We next rode along the edge of the horse pasture. No Jag dog. Not having a plan in mind, I drove across the dam and around the corner where the island is closest to shore. I could not believe it. Jag came running up to the edge of the island, quite happy to see us, but afraid to leave solid ground.


Rain had fallen the previous day. We can only assume, Jag crossed the ice and was hunting muskrats while the lake level rose. When he got ready to leave, there was a gap of open water between the shore and the solid ice. It took some coaxing to get him to make the jump, but when he did, he wasted no time getting across the ice and to us. He jumped in the Ranger and was ready to go home.


We thought he was gone for good, but other than being hungry, had no ill effects from spending the night on the island.