Monday, April 26, 2010

The Hunt....

Paul and I were sitting outside having dinner as we watched the flames of the fire flicker. It was nearly dusk. Then we saw it, the first bat of the season. Flying overhead, turning fast in wide circles, hunting for bugs. We love watching bats, despite all the association people have with bats and vampires. Bats are good, they eat all those pesky mosquitoes.

In our peripheral vision we saw another type of hunting. Melissa was stalking something. She crouched down watching in the distance. She moved slowly forward still crouched. She leaped forward in a rush. She sniffed, she play bowed, then wagged her tail. Her hunting had now switched to play.

I went over to see what she had found. A tiny frog in the leaves. I quickly got it to safety before a big paw accidentally flattened it.

Hunting...two different species. The bat was hunting for food, his flying overhead would last for hours; it was part of his survival. What began as a hunt for Melissa quickly turned into play. But I wonder if it had been some furry mouse or mole if the ending would have been the same....? Frogs give off an odor and don't taste very good.

We may have domesticated our furry friends, but the behavior to hunt, chase, catch and devour is still hard wired in our dogs. All dogs need lots of opportunities to burn off the desire to do what their genes are telling them to do: run, chase, fetch, carry, swim thru icy water, herd, dig and sniff. Melissa is a sighthound bred to see game and give chase. She needs opportunities to do what she was bred to do. She runs and runs and runs in safe areas, she chases her dog friends, she and I play games of chase with each other, she 'catches' her toys that I drag on the ground, she grabs a tossed bumper from the water, and she gets to chew and devour bones.

Dogs who do not have opportunities to burn off this energy will become destructive, they will chase cars, joggers, cyclists. Terriers will be more apt to dig in the garden, sighthounds will chase anything that moves outdoors, Border Collies and Shelties will herd your children, Retrievers will pick up items to carry.

Whether Melissa found that frog by smell or sight, she began in hunt mode but then it quickly turned to play. She was just being a dog, and had a bit of fun.....until I rescued the frog!

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