Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sighthound

Before Callie, all of our dogs were sniffers. While none of them were hounds, they were all primarily scent-focused. Walking with Kodiak could take ages because he had to thoroughly investigate every smell (and sometimes take immediate action).

Toby's eyes are not great. He can startle easily if he doesn't see you coming. He once ran full-tilt into the garbage can.

Having a sighthound is a completely different experience to having a scent-motivated dog. The downside of having a sighthound is that you can never really let them off the leash, unless you're sure they are in a secure area. A sighthound can take off after a rabbit or bird and can end up miles away, running the risk of going missing or getting hit by a car.

In the woods near Gougane, we cannot let Callie off the leash because there are sheep in the area. There's also the occasional rabbit, so we wouldn't want her getting lost in hot pursuit of a bunny. But the main concern are sheep, since sheep hunting can be a capital offense. (Plus, I so do not want to be the blow-in who has to knock on a farmhouse door and 'fess up that my hound is a bloodthirsty sheep-maimer.)

I took the dogs for a walk last week in Gougane. Toby has off-leash privileges, although I will leash him when I see sheep, just because I'm so paranoid. Toby would rarely ignore Peter's calls, but he just might ignore me if it involved sheep. I realised that Callie serves as a great early-warning detection system for sheep. We were deep along a forest trail, on the upslope of a hill.

Callie suddenly perked up and got interested in the distance, so I kept Toby close. Further into the forest, near the top of the hill, I spotted a single sheep keeping lookout on the rocky outcrop of an adjacent hill. I don't know how Callie managed to spot the sheep, although I reckon it had something to do with the combination of sight - maybe the movement of fluffy white fur - and the scent in the air. Toby never even saw the sheep. He had no idea it was so close (yet so far). It saddens me that Callie can't chase after Toby in the forest, but the safety of both dog and sheep must prevail.

Happily, our landlord has many acres of fenced-in pasture land, which he allows us to access. I doubt I'll go into the fields so cavalierly when there are cattle on them thar hills. But for now, the cattle are safely in the barn and I'm free to take the dogs on wonderful walks over rolling hills, up to the marshy edge of Loch Allua.

It's so much fun to watch them romp and race. I've mentioned before how much fun it is to watch Callie run. It's also great fun to watch her explore. She's the only dog I've ever had who will actually look up into the sky and lock onto birds. She seems to have a fair judgment of distances too.

Yesterday, she spotted a heron out far over the lake, and she tracked its progress with interest, but made no effort to chase. This morning, she watched a graceful V of swans swoop in over her head, gliding towards a near point on the lake. And she was off after them. She's not a water dog though, so the lake's edge caused her to pull up short. But she still watched those swans intently, as though they might change their minds. She even found a lookout point to spy on their every languid movement on the lake's surface.

Watching Callie reminds me that it's important to look up at the sky, to take in the whole of my little world. So I joined her on the lookout point and was rewarded with another heron sighting.

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10 Comments:

At 7 January 2009 at 18:29, Blogger cleo said...

What a beautiful dog and place.

 
At 7 January 2009 at 20:14, Blogger Noelle said...

I like to walk the dogs at the SPCA, but it's so hard to fight that urge to just unhook the leash and let them run.

 
At 7 January 2009 at 23:35, Blogger Babaloo said...

I'm never sure in Gougane either. Honey will listen if we call her back (most of the time) but with Jack I wouldn't bet on it. Jack's sight isn't great, though, he's definitely a sniffer. Honey on the other hand, different story. She'll listen to something rustling in the grass for as long as you let her. And she'll pick out birds from a good distance away - and chase after them of course. She doesn't check the sky for birds but definitely trees.

It's great that you have access to the fields of your landlord!

 
At 8 January 2009 at 06:09, Blogger Kaycie said...

Callie looks so lovable, I just want to hug her!

 
At 8 January 2009 at 06:24, Blogger ped crossing said...

She is a cutie! Too bad they can't romp and play all the time. But, by all means keep them safe. :)

 
At 8 January 2009 at 09:20, Blogger -Ann said...

Cleo - Thanks. I am quite fond of both.

Noelle - It's so much fun to see romping, racing dogs.

Babaloo - Maybe some day soon Callie and I can meet you and the dogs for a walk. (I'd bring Toby, but his reactions to male dogs is often problematic. Callie loves all other dogs.)

Kaycie - She's quite huggable, and is the perfect size for hugging.

PC - Yeah, it's good to have the mix of romping and safety.

 
At 8 January 2009 at 11:35, Blogger Babaloo said...

Ann, I'm definitely up for it. Jack is a bit unpredictable with male dogs, too. Once he knows them it's usually fine but with strange dogs he usually goes into "defence mode". Bet he thinks he needs to protect us.
We'll just let the girls play, then! :-)

 
At 8 January 2009 at 13:29, Anonymous Coastal aussie said...

Gorgeous picture, wonderful story, excellent post - really enjoyed it. :)

 
At 8 January 2009 at 23:34, Blogger Cait O'Connor said...

What a beautiful dog. Just the sort of dog I would love one day.
We have a lurcher and a border collie. It is great watching dogs run and play together isn't it?
Thanks for calling by - you live in my favourite part of the world.

 
At 10 January 2009 at 00:02, Blogger Career Guy said...

Sounds like Callie is a great addition to the family.

 

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