Saturday, 2 May 2009
Camping Kick-off...Not Quite as Planned
To borrow the trendy 1950s slang term popular in the movie "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" which we saw last night in the comfort of our trailer on our first camping night of the season...this weekend has been so "weird"...
The campground opened May 1, and we were there by 4:00pm, having left home in good time and having stopped for groceries just before the campground. Well, within about half an hour after arriving, I rounded the corner of the van with a load of groceries, on my way into the trailer, and spotted Gladwyn, roaming free, without her harness, no longer hitched to the sturdy tie-out she had been on since arriving. Sickening, sudden horror. Gladwyn has only been with us for three weeks, and while her timidity is often not apparent with us at home anymore, she is still very skittish and shy, and does not reliably come when called. And here we were, surrounded by forest, farmland, Lake Huron, and highway, in territory completely unfamiliar to Gladwyn. Few people around (and little good that would do with a dog who is afraid of people) as well. Just about the scariest thing I've experienced. She started off in the campground area, almost approached some folks and their dogs, almost came to take a treat from me, but then took the trail up the steep forest slope into the woods. We had left Hesper tethered in her spot at the trailer, unsupervised, while we scrambled up, Geoff in the lead. Both of us truly unsure we would ever see this lovely, frightened dog again, knowing she would not come to us freely. What an utter sense of helplessness and desperation, pleading out loud for divine intervention, and leaving my carefully protected Birkenstocks at the mercy of the deep mud and puddles along the wet trail. After circling after her for what seemed like ages, and almost catching her twice, I finally approached her and latched onto her collar when she left the trails and stopped, huddled in fear amongst some bare evergreen branches. Without a leash, I held onto her collar for dear life while Geoff ran back for a leash, and for Hesper, and eventually Gladwyn calmed enough to enjoy the doggie "junk food" I had grabbed as we headed after her. It still makes me sick to think what our weekend could have been like...but, I have also been oh, so thankful for a few important factors:
- That I saw her leaving, as it would have been so easy for her to slip away unnoticed and simply vanish (it turns out she managed to wiggle free of her harness, which was found still securely attached to the tie-out).
- That she never broke into a full run - despite being frightened and trying to avoid capture, she maintained a trot, occasionally stopping to sniff or to listen to Geoff's pleas for her to sit - we were able to keep her within eyesight through the woods at all times.
- That she left the trail (initially NOT something I wanted her to do) and entered thicker brush, which finally stopped her.
- That she didn't fight once we finally had her, as holding a dog by the collar can be tricky, and she could have initially slipped her collar had she tried hard enough (thankfully we were able to tighten it while I kept a firm grip).
- That we realized the potential for escape now, rather than having a tragic and unexpected incident another time.
And now, we are going to sign her up for obedience classes as soon as possible, while starting some more intensive work at home on behaviours like responding to her name, coming when called, and sitting on command, particularly when stressed. We are also going to research no-escape harnesses, and the gated deck-building is definitely the first priority at the trailer. Wow.
Moving on from that incident, we managed to settle in for a nice evening yesterday, a sound sleep last night, and a lovely day today. Had the dogs out for a couple of trail walks, got some reading in, and enjoyed part of a great campfire (complete with roasted weiners)...but before we reached s'mores time, Geoff's pager went off. So he drove up the hill where he can get cell phone reception, only to pull up a bit later, off & running to get us all packed up so he could get home and head into work on an emergency building call. So here I am, at home, typing, instead of watching a movie in cozy trailer comfort. But I am sitting here with TWO dogs curled up beside me, so I really can't complain!