No one but yourself to blame if your dog is shot |

No one but yourself to blame if your dog is shot

Gary Hubbell

The last time I was in Aspen, I read a very impassioned letter to the editor from some guy up on Missouri Heights named Seth, bitterly complaining about how somebody had shot his dog as it was running loose. Seth told stories about how the dog used to sleep in bed with his toddler son, mop up the detritus from the boy’s meals, and was a “do no wrong” peaceful animal. Seth was seething with malevolence, wishing all kinds of malice on the dog shooter, even encouraging the shooter to kill himself. After all, he says, the dog “was only 200 yards from my door.”

This tedious, tiresome scenario repeats itself again and again in the rural West as tofu-sucking vegans, PETA members, and the generally unaware and irresponsible public inserts themselves into a delicately balanced harsh environment. Missouri Heights is prime winter habitat for large herds of mule deer and elk, and the animals are enduring one of the most stressful winters in recent history with deep snow accumulations and a lack of forage because of over-development in their habitat.

Mr. Seth pulls every heart-wrenching page out of the sob story book in his letter to the editor, except for one thing: taking personal responsibility for letting his dog run at large to chase game and livestock.

Yes, it’s true, that furry creature gently nibbling treats from your toddler’s fingers will also run down a pregnant doe mule deer and rip her guts out while she’s still alive. Even if he doesn’t manage to catch the deer, he can still kill both the doe and the fawn from over-stressing them in a critical time. Incredibly enough, I’ve even had people defend letting their dogs run game, saying that it’s the dog’s natural instinct, and why should the hunters be the only ones who can kill elk and deer? (By the way, that was the person who papered every lamppost in Marble with a “missing dog” poster a few weeks later. I actually found that dog’s collar this fall, four years later, while hunting elk in the high country.)

While Mr. Seth made the conscious (or unconscious) decision to let his dog roam, someone else made a very conscious decision to show Seth the consequences of his actions. He shot the dog.

I raise horses and my neighbor raises cattle. Right now my neighbor has 175 pregnant mother cows and first-year heifers. They should start calving in a month. While the ground is blanketed with 10 inches of snow and the temperatures plummet, these animals are struggling just to get by. Just this week, the new neighbor’s dog ” the neighbor who just built the trophy house ” was running loose a mile away from the house. The herd of mule deer that had been wintering on the edge of the hayfield? Vanished.

One dog running around in the pasture chasing livestock could cause several mother cows or horses to abort. Have you ever walked out to a field and found an aborted fetus after your neighbor’s dog was having his fun? Makes you mad enough to shoot a dog. Have you ever found a mule deer fawn tangled in a barbed-wire fence after a dog chased the herd around? How about a very valuable, beautiful colt? Makes it a pretty easy decision to shoot a dog running loose.

Yet people like Seth will defend their irresponsibility and a swarm of animal lovers will band together to castigate someone who makes a decision to defend animals and wildlife with the conscious act of shooting the dog. I know several ranchers, cattlemen and wildlife lovers who have shot dogs. Generally speaking, they say, it’s the huskies, German shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and other large, powerful breeds that follow their natural instinct to chase and kill. They’ll watch an English pointer or German shorthair, nose to the ground hunting birds, run right past a deer or herd of cattle and pay it no notice. Since those dogs aren’t usually harassing deer or cattle, they let them run past or try to catch them and turn them over to a shelter.

As for me, I’m a huge dog lover. I breed and train Labradors, and have six dogs at the moment. I’ve published two books on dog training. My friends can tell you that any dog seems to gravitate to me and I usually make friends with a dog in a few moments.

I also spent many hours and more than $7,000 building a suitable kennel for my dogs so they won’t run loose, bother the neighbors, turn over trash cans, chase wildlife, and get run over or shot. Why? Because I value my dogs and I want to protect them. And trust me, I would be your very worst enemy if you ever shot my dog, because I train them not to chase deer, cattle and horses.

No one “enjoys” shooting a dog. Everyone knows that a dog is someone’s companion and friend, and it will be hurtful to that person to find the dog dead. It’s ironic, however, how a callously irresponsible person who just can’t seem to find the time, willpower or money to build a dog kennel suddenly finds all kinds of spare time to paper the neighborhood with “Missing Dog” posters and offer big fat rewards. They drive around in the dark calling the missing dog’s name and never consider that their irresponsible behavior was a death sentence to their beloved “family member.”

Bottom line, people: if your dog is running loose, don’t blame someone else if your dog is shot, run over or never comes home. Blame yourself.

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