Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Walking Sight Hounds

Most Tuesday mornings, my friend, Marilyn, and I walk our hounds in a park not far from my house. I say "hounds" rather than "Greyhounds", because two of our dogs are of mixed heritage. Franklin, Marilyn's big male, has some indeterminate breed in his background. But he "thinks" he's a Greyhound and is a star of Show and Tells. My female, Magic, is all Sight Hound, but a blend of Greyhound and Scottish Deerhound. She looks a little like a "Wirehaired Greyhound", or as Greyhound Adoption Center says, she's a "Fuzzy".

The last two weeks' walks have offered the added interest and challenge of a Mallard couple who have found that grub hunting on the spacious lawns of the park is the way they want to spend their mornings. Sight Hounds aren't particularly "birdy", but they are wired to chase anything that moves. So our walks have involved turning all five dogs before they fix their attentions on the Mallards and become a pursuing pack.

Yesterday, as we were executing one of these avoidance maneuvers, an old Nemesis appeared to our left.

For months last year, we did battle with a man who brought his herding dog to the park and ran it off leash, causing our dogs to do everything in their power to pull free so that they could show that clunky herder what real running was all about.

Multiple phone calls to The Authorities, and a few face to face confrontations in front of the official sign that notifies dog walkers of the leash law in San Marcos finally convinced the herding dog's owner to leash him--on a retractable leash that technically still violated the law. But even this inadequate restraint gave Marilyn and me a chance to turn our dogs and avoid a serious incident.

Until yesterday, when the herding dog was off leash--and relatively close to our dogs. It was a formula for disaster. But miracle of miracles, the herding dog saw the Mallards before our dogs saw him. I had the distinctly mean-spirited pleasure of watching the herding dog's owner, "Mr. My Highly Trained Good Citizen Canine Always Obeys Me," running to catch up with his dog who was in hot pursuit of the Mallards.

I am still amazed that Bingley, who had been "on point" and trembling with the urge to run all morning, somehow failed to notice what was going on--just yards behind him. But sometimes, sight hounds' hard wiring works to my advantage. With Bingley it is really almost always the rule, "Out of sight, out of mind." He had found something else on which to focus. Who knows what? Perhaps a branch on a distant tree blowing in the wind. Or a plastic bag, floating far out of my range of vision. All I can say is, for once, he was not in the middle of the drama. What a relief!

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