Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dora the Explorer

Last spring we adopted a lovable mutt named Dora from a local animal shelter. This energetic lab/border collie cross has been my faithful running companion and has done all my ultra training with me. She's a near ideal training partner and never complains about the pace, distance, weather or my singing (if you can call it that - squawking might be a more accurate description). Ninety percent of the time, I love running with her but there are a few instances when I wish I would have left her at home. My long run this weekend was one of those times.

I'm fortunate to live near a number of great trails where dogs can freely roam off-leash so that's where I log most of my miles. Halfway through a 2.5 hour run on one of these trails, Dora sped ahead and then disappeared into the forest. This is not the first time she has done this. While well-behaved most of the time, she has a weakness for chasing birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer...you get the idea. I don't mind her going after the smaller forest beasties as they don't travel as far but when she is on a deer chase she can be gone for much longer periods which is both stressful and inconvenient (for me - her not so much).

Once I realized that she was long gone, I figured it was a good opportunity to stop for a pee, snack and to change my layers. Having completed these tasks with no sign of the dog reappearing, I started to get worried and annoyed. I called for her and then pulled out my whistle (which lets her know that I mean business). A few short blasts summoned up the spine-tingling howls of a nearby pack of coyotes.

For the umpteenth time since we've had the dog, I thought "Oh no, the coyotes must have got her" so I started running in the direction of the coyotes, yelling to Dora that I was on my way to rescue her and tooting my whistle because I didn't know what else to do. I paused briefly to determine in which direction I should continue and almost immediately two huge whitetail deer came bounding by me followed by one little black dog. Turns out, I didn't have to rescue the dog from the coyotes; I had to rescue the deer from the dog.

Sadly, I know I'll be in this situation again and one of these times the outcome won't be as favourable. I have tried running with her on leash but it's not always safe, or easy, to do on technical single-track trails and we both find these excursions much more satisfying when we're not tethered to each other. An electronic collar works well if I can zap her before she is out of range but she moves quickly so there's not always a lot of time. She's still young so maybe she will outgrow the chase instinct but I'm not counting on it.

I guess I'll just have to put up with this character flaw in my furry little training buddy and hope that our runs together will give her the speed and endurance to get out of trouble if she strays too far.