Dog’s Eye View: “Cross this line, you die”
I grew up on Bugs Bunny cartoons. I loved them all! In one of his slightly serious heated battles with Yosemite Sam, Bugs grew frustrated about being chased by the gun toting curmudgeon. And so the clash began. Bugs traced a line in the sand and told Sam “cross this line, you die.” Sam crossed the line, so Bugs drew another one and said, “Cross this line you die.” And once again, Sam crossed the line. Finally, in frustration, Yosemite Sam pulled out his six-shooters and fired away. The humor in the cartoon of how many times the line was drawn made me laugh out loud.
I think sometimes our law enforcement officers find themselves drawing this line repeatedly while citizens continue to cross it over and over and over. Of course, we’re all appalled when things come to a head and violence explodes. This cartoon quote offers an opportunity to discuss an issue that repeatedly comes to a head; the conflict between wildlife and canines.
Unfortunately the line has been drawn and crossed many times, and law enforcement officers are put into the dismal position of having to shoot off leash dogs harassing wildlife. Most of these dedicated officers have family dogs at home. They love dogs and love the wildlife they serve to protect. The person deciding he or she has the “right” to cross that line — dog off leash and out of sight — puts the law enforcement officer into a position he or she would rather avoid.
Taking the life of a pet dog gives me nightmares. I can imagine what our wildlife officers, animal control officers and others in this position have to live with when they are forced to make that somber decision.
It’s selfish to care more about our own self-interest than to consider the damage our poor choices can have on the wildlife we love. Spring means melting snow, and those female animals that have made it through our long winter are preparing to give birth on the last of their energy reserves. Being confronted by an off-leash dog not only affects the mother’s health, but can also seriously affect the birth and mortality of that new babe in the woods.
Our mountain community is home to many baby animals this time of year, and while we’re excited to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, it’s not an excuse to allow our dogs to run loose on the trails. That irresponsibility might cost the life of your dog. The repercussions from that decision are far-reaching and devastating to both you, at the loss of your dog, and what the wildlife officer sees in his or her dreams after having to pull the trigger. It’s not over when the shot is fired; it’s relived and rehashed over and over again by that person who had the responsibility of making the call. That call had to be made because of you, the dog owner, who decided the rules only apply to somebody else.
If you think that hiking and letting your dog run off all that pent up energy is your only option, think again. There are many activities you can share with your canine buddy that will enrich your relationship and enhance communication with your special pet. Teaching tricks or scent discrimination or agility or dock diving or lure coursing are all options for having a great time together and enriching your bond with your special dog. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers has a wonderful self-study program you can enroll in online. It outlines specific skills to teach your dog through the Canine Life and Social Skills program. These carefully designed courses help you to teach your dog special skills to be successful in a social setting. And all these lessons are taught using positive reinforcement training.
Don’t make “Bugs” draw that line in the sand again. Don’t put the good people who are in charge and care for the wildlife we love in a position to step in and make that grave decision. Instead, teach your dog how much fun it is spending time learning new skills with you.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25+ years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.
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