Outdoors Column: On Thin Ice

The problem with having a poodle is that every weed seed, cockle-burr, stick-tight, and rose thorn is attracted to them like a magnet. One quick trip through the timber will turn a soft and fluffy dog into a solid mat of tangled vegetation. What takes only a few minutes to do will take a few hours to undo. That is why Billy gets to ride in the Ranger when we go out into the timber. We could just leave him home when we have to go check cameras or fix some fence, but his suffering at being left is heartbreaking. Being left behind is worse than getting a beating. He cries, barks, and howls, loud enough to be heard through the walls of the house and over the sound of the Ranger. When we return after having left him, he will not look in our direction and pouts in the corner for an hour or so. Being only seven months old, it is surprising how well he has us trained. We now take him along, but he is required to stay in the Ranger.


Christmas day was sunny and unusually warm. It was so nice outside, we knew we had to get out and enjoy the best day we have seen in weeks and probably will see for months. My wife, Billie, and I all jumped in the Ranger and we headed out. Jag, the terrier was running ahead, enjoying the fresh air and getting his exercise. Billie saw what a great time Jag was having and started to beg to run instead of ride. By the time we changed out two cameras, the begging was getting worse than a little kid. When we got to the top of the dam, I relented. Jag was running in the path in front of us where there were no weeds. If Billy would follow Jag, he could run and play, getting all the exercise he wanted.


All was going well until we got to the other side of the dam. Suddenly, Billy veered off the beaten path, down the side of the dam, through tall grass and weeds, and out onto the ice. I am sure he did not understand what ice was and stopped suddenly, looking around. He took one more step and broke through the thin ice plunging into the freezing water. He started paddling furiously and I ran down the dam toward the lake. I was not looking forward to diving into ice water but was certain that is what I would have to do. Fortunately, his awkward swimming strokes were able to break the thin ice before him and he made it back to shore about the same time I got there. He wanted a ride back to the house after that. We decided it was a good time for him to run. He was not going to be much more of a mess no matter what he did, and we did not want a cold wet dog sitting between us.


Back at the garage, we toweled him off and started brushing out the weed seeds and burrs. In an hour or so, he was free of grass, weed seeds, and briars as well as being almost dry. I doubt he learned not to run through the tall grass, but I bet he does remember to stay off the thin ice. I think that part of his little adventure scared him as much as it did us.