Ride your bike on any major road in my hometown, Jackson, Wyoming, and there's a chance you'll ride past a row of stopped cars and dozens of wide-eyed, camera-toting tourists, gawking at moose, elk and bison. Animals are literally everywhere in this little northwestern corner of the state.
I don't like road running, especially in a place where tourists' eyes seem to never be on the road. Lucky for me, Jackson has a prolific number of off-leash trail systems where my dog, Santos, can sprint up a hillside and then dive bomb into a river. He's a very happy dog.
Santos is my trail running partner, my ill-advised pace setter, and my inspiration to run. He's almost the perfect little training buddy, until we run into a moose that is, which brings up today's lesson: How to Run in Moose Country.
Santos was nine months old when he met his first moose. We were running in town when he took off into someone's yard. It wasn't a squirrel he was after. The tables turned quickly and soon that baby moose was chasing my brand new mutt, kicking its double-jointed legs at him. He survived, unscathed, but he squealed like a frightened pig all the way home. Perfect!, I thought. He's scared of moose. And he was, for exactly one year and three months.
Then last week, my now two-year-old pup recovered from his post-traumatic stress and decided to enact revenge on the giant, four-legged, antlered creatures. Santos and I were training on Jackson's most popular dog-friendly trail, Cache Creek, which also happens to be one of the favorite hangouts of moose and elk. It's generally not an issue. They tend to ignore dogs and munch on foliage by the river. Dogs, on the whole, bored by the moose and elk's seemingly constant presence, ignore them, too. Santos, however, not only noticed the largest male moose I've ever seen but chased after it in ecstasy while simultaneously suffering from a rare case of instantaneous deafness. Funny how that happens.
I was appalled and embarrassed. It was barely spring. This moose was using up calorie-deficit reserves! Does Santos not understand the importance of the moose preserving energy in the winter? Does he have no empathy for wildlife? Is my dog heartless?
Santos and I had a long discussion and we decided that I will still allow him to train with me as long as he follows a more stringent set of rules: 1: Disobey me once and he's back on the leash. 2: Come back immediately when I call him and he gets a giant treat. 3: Don't run to me if a moose starts chasing him. I will be in or behind a tree.
And, you know what, he's actually getting better. Even Outside's dog guru and overseer of Outside's dog blog, Outsidek9.com, Grayson Schaffer, would be proud of his behavior.
--Christina Erb, christinaerb.com