Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Hot Dog Game

The past week and a half has seen Idaho - as with much of the rest of the country - with unseasonably cold temperatures.
Atomic City has not just been cold.  It has been freezing, meat-locker cold.
And so we put off letting Kory run loose out on BLM land for the first time.
She is three years old and we had no idea how she would react, but if she ran away from us and just kept running, it was too cold for her to be safely out there.
She would have froze to death.  Or at least that was our fear.
There are predatory animals out there - definitely coyotes, and possibly a wolf. 
They were our other fear.
Ever since Kory arrived in Idaho I have walked with her endlessly.  
Around town and in and out of every abandoned piece of property and building in town.
On many trails around us.  
All as a way to bond her with me and to allow her to get a lay of the land.
So if she ever got away from us she would (hopefully) be able to find her way home.
There is almost no store and no gas station in Blackfoot where we do not see signs posted by an owner who is looking for their dog, and neither of us wanted our dog to be on one more poster in one more gas station.
So with fears that she may run and not come back, and with our lack of desire to roam endlessly on endless BLM land in the freezing cold, we have put off letting our dog run free..............
After making a quick turn-around trip to Blackfoot this morning to run an unexpected errand, we drove back to Atomic City and instead of turning right towards our house, instead turned left and headed towards Big Butte Road.
The temperature outside was 14 degrees, which was head and shoulders warmer than it had been for almost two weeks.
The day was sunny and calm, and both LC and I took a deep breath and decided that we would give it a try and see what happened.
Armed with a whistle and a sandwich bag filled with cut up hot dogs, we drove a couple of miles down Big Butte Road and then turned left again, picking up a snow-covered side trail that would take us into a huge flat area of public land..............
These pictures are difficult to see in this format.
Click on any picture and it will start a slide show of enlarged pictures.............
LC and I had done some work in the house with the whistle, and Kory quickly learned to respond to the combination of both her name and a whistle blow.
We had done some work in the house and while on walks through town with hot dogs, and she quickly learned that when she returned to us she would get a piece of hot dog, which she loved.
After LC grabbed her leash and encouraged Kory out of the Tahoe, he let he wander to the end of her leash and then blew the whistle and gave her a piece of hot dog.
So far so good...............
LC unhooked her from the leash.
Kory took a couple of steps, turned towards the back of the vehicle and began to run.
Running at full speed past the Tahoe she continued to run.
And run.  And run.
LC blew the whistle and called her name. 
Not even a moment of hesitation.
I called her name.
And then she disappeared over the small rise, still running away from us at a full on sprint.
She ran beautifully.  
An athlete in full, smooth, long legged, long strided, effortless run.
She was gone..............
My heart just sank.
I looked wordlessly at LC and I could tell that he felt exactly the same way I did.
Truthfully I was shocked that she didn't even hesitate.
I had been convinced that Kory was tightly bonded with us and might have wandered, but wouldn't run away from us.
But she did...................
Taking a deep breathe, LC and I climbed back into the Tahoe, turned it around and headed back down the trail resigned to the fact that we were going to have to track her down.
We just hoped that she didn't wander too far............
About 3/4 mile back down the trail we suddenly caught sight of Kory far ahead of us.
She was still running at full speed, but had thankfully stayed on the trail.
God she was fast!
LC hit the horn to try and break her out of the single-minded trance that she was obviously in.
He hit the horn again.
The second time, Kory suddenly stopped in the middle of the trail.
She turned.  LC hit the horn again.
And Kory began running at long legged, full speed again.
Only this time she was running towards us...............
LC stopped the vehicle and we both watched through the windshield, holding our breathe and hoping that she continued to run towards us.
She never stopped.  Or slowed down.  Or hesitated for a moment.
She sprinted back towards us, and by the time she was a 100 yards from the truck LC and I climbed out to greet her.
You would have thought that she had been away from us for hours, instead of only the five minutes that had passed since the moment we released her from the bondage of her leash.
LC and I knelt down in the snow and greeted this happy, wriggling, tail wagging, out of breathe puppy.
All three of us happy to see each other and to be reunited with each other.................
I don't know why she did what she did, but I think that she was so desperate to run that she forgot about everything including her people.
I could be wrong about that but what I DO know is that once that long and fast run was out of her system, she was ready to focus on staying closer to us.
We played the "Hot Dog Game" - I walked with Kory and LC would blow the whistle and call her name.
Kory would run at top speed to him and receive her hot dog treat.
She would walk with him for a while and then I would call her name.
Full speed run and she received a hot dog treat from me.
We did this over and over until Kory was obviously starting to tire and until we ran out of wieners.
And then it was time to go home...........
We will do this again tomorrow and then again the next day and the next, until we are more certain of how she will respond.
The hope is that eventually Kory can just run free and safely with us on BLM land...............

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