Monday, December 08, 2008

Trapped Again

"Where's Cisco?" Karen asked when she came through the door to find me sitting on the carpet surrounded by non-working Christmas lights. I looked up, my concentration on a tiny fuse broken. Yeah, where was Cisco?

Karen, Allen and I had returned from our morning walk with three dogs instead of four. Not to worry. We had lost Cisco at the last turn down the trail and so close to the farm you could almost see the barn. We figured Cisco was following the scent of a squirrel or a deer. He knew his way back.

But, that was now two hours ago.

We had tackled the STEEP hill today, something not everyone in our group likes to climb so we reserve it for special days. I will have to admit that I am impressed at our ability to actually make it to the top because driving to the top to drop dead animals (yup, this is our sheep drop precipice hill) requires low gear.

Like any challenge and any hill, the best part is coming down. The dogs think so too although they do seem to run off the road whether we are going up or down. It's a challenge sometimes to keep them within ear shot or view because there are so many great smells and small animals, ostensibly, to chase. Today was no different. We had come home with three dogs before.

With the hill behind me and chores completed, my primary focus was getting the Christmas lights up on the house before...what? Before we looked un-merry. Cisco was not my problem but the Christmas lights were fast becoming one (or many). Snaking around the kitchen floor, every strand I had plugged into a socket so far, and I had used a variety of sockets, refused to light. How could this be when they had worked just fine a year ago when I took them down?

With vague instructions to Karen and Allen, who had come down to help me with late fall garden prep, I hopped into the truck and headed up the road to see if I could find Cisco. Was he stuck in a culvert or caught by his collar somewhere? Why did I insist that the dogs wear their collars out in the woods? So if they were hung up and strangled, someone would know where to bring the body? I got out of the truck and called and whistled. It was silly, really, to have taken the truck at all because I couldn't hear over the motor noise, and the distance from where we had last seen Cisco was only a short walk from the farm...even shorter than I remembered.

I drove half way up the hill before turning around, getting out of the truck to call, walking part way into the brush, listening for barking or whining. Nothing. No movement at all in the forest. No twigs snapping. No deer retreating from my entrance. Not even the sound of birds. I returned to the farm. Could Allen stop what he was doing and bring the dogs?

We almost gave up. We yelled and called and whistled and the dogs ran on and off the path. I ended up back at the place I had first started my search. The gully was steep sided - not something a dog could climb out from easily. I looked at Louie, Allen and Karen's yellow lab, standing still, his gaze on me, then away. I looked again and, under a fern, about a yard away from him, I saw Cisco lying quietly. He blended so well with the forest floor I wasn't sure what I was looking at and his position was peculiar.

I called to Allen I had found the dog, but something was wrong. It wasn't until I was beside Cisco that I saw the trap grabbing his front paw tightly. How long had it been? My God, at least three hours at this point. Cisco didn't make a sound. He just looked at me, scared and quiet.

Getting a dog out of a trap is a tricky thing at best. Getting Cisco out of a trap adds to the challenge. This is the dog that doesn't get his toenails clipped, he is that picky about his feet. He and I had been through this procedure once before, about two years ago, so I knew how the trap worked and what to watch out for in terms of Cisco's teeth. I had to get Allen up to speed on the trap, but he was the one to suggest we throw a jacket over the dog's head and body to keep the peace.

The trap ended up being stiff. I never could have released it on my own. Allen's first try didn't work and it took him standing on the ends to spring Cisco's foot. Adrenaline helped. We released the dog and he ran off toward the road to join the other dogs, lying down to lick his foot from time to time. Allen grabbed the trap and we yelled for all the dogs to stay close. Who knew if there were other traps around.

For the second time, Cisco was a lucky dog. $150 vet bill and antibiotics were all it took. I called Fish and Game only to find that the trap was legally registered and anyone can trap on public land, the land we were hiking. What? Did I okay this as a tax payer! Trapping is a horrible way for an animal to die. Better it be a bullet than a leg-hold trap.

I met the trapper a couple days later. It was illegal for me to keep his trap, even if my dog was caught. The guy let me know he had pulled all the traps from our road and surrounding area, not realizing there were folks walking their dogs in the woods. As he said, it was not his intention to catch family dogs. This is an increasing problem, I was told by Fish and Game. People moving to the country and walking their dogs. New ways butting up against old, causing trouble all over the place.

The trapper answered every question I asked. He and his dad had hunted out all the beaver down Honey Grove years past, and now he was working on bob cat and coyotes. What for? Pelts for clothing. Until the economy tanked this fall, he was getting $40-$50 a pelt. The life of a bob cat is worth so little? An animal that hunts rodents to live, when even Bubba our killer cat can't keep the rat and mole population under control, but bobcats might? I could have argued the point but to what avail? At least the traps are off the road and bobcats and dogs are safe for a bit up the Honey Grove.

Photo: I took this picture in the fall when the leaves were at the end of their color and the road we hike was as beautiful as I have ever seen, when I am not looking at my feet to make it up the steep bits! Wonder how many times we passed that trap without catching a dog!!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones