Monday, January 5, 2009

Three Wolves and a Dog

This is a dog story that doesn't have a happy ending, so if you think it might be upsetting, read no farther.

A few winters ago we had a much larger than usual number of timber wolves in our area. Many people saw wolves crossing the roads, it wasn't uncommon to hear them howling at night, and two small dogs within five miles of us had disappeared from their respective yards. There was even concern that it wasn't safe to let kids play in the woods. Pet owners were warned not to tie their animals out or leave them in the yard unattended.

Our nearest neighbors to the west had a dog, an Australian Shepherd, that stayed in a dog house outside. She didn't roam, stayed close to home, but was loose all the time.

One morning I was out on our back porch shaking rugs when I heard an animal's awful scream come through the woods. There was no doubt; I knew instantly what it was. I dashed back into the house, threw on a jacket, grabbed my car keys, jumped into our small hatchback car and drove over to their house as fast as I could. They have a small yard surrounded by woods and as soon as I came into the yard, I could see off to the left three wolves who had the dog down on the ground a short ways into the woods.

I rammed my car towards the woods in the direction of the attack as far as I could go, a plowed up snow bank stopping me, all the time blaring the car horn. The wolves immediately ran off into the deep woods, the dog got up (I was relieved to see) and ran to the back of the house. That made me think I had gotten there soon enough, before the wolves had hurt her too badly.

No one was home but the back door into the utility room was unlocked. I tried to examine the dog, but she was so traumatized that she wouldn't let me get near her. It looked like she was bleeding a lot around her throat area and possibly had other wounds. It was hard to tell because of her heavy coat of hair.

I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't know the dog well, she was obviously in shock, and I didn't know if she would bite me as I tried to help her. But I knew I couldn't leave her outside, because most likely the wolves would return as soon as I left. I contemplated trying to get her into the back of my car and taking off for the closest vet's office but didn't think she would or could jump in, and I was hesitant to try lifting and carrying her.

I did succeed in getting her into the house where at least the wolves couldn't get at her again. Having an idea where the man of the house might be working, I left to find him. When I did locate him, I told him what had just happened, and asked if he wanted me to try to get her to a vet. He said no that he would get home as soon as possible and take care of her.

Sad to say, the dog was injured too seriously and didn't survive. I still feel bad that I didn't take her to the vet's immediately. Did I make a bad decision? Had I to do it over again, I think I would have tried to get her in my car. But there's the very real possibility it might have been too late to do any good anyway.

I don't blame the wolves. There was a greater population of them than normal that year, and they were simply seeking food. Just as wolves will run down deer, which are natural prey for them, two or more of them will go after dogs, other pets, or livestock if they are hungry enough. Sad as it is to lose a family pet, I don't believe wolves are vicious creatures out to maim and kill for pleasure. I've got another story, my own very close encounter with a wolf, that I'll share later on that I think will illustrate that.


Chicken Mama said...

Good story, Mama.

You did everything that could be done in the situation.

I can only hope I'd be able to do the same . . . .

xox Baby Pea (I mean, Chicken Mama!)

MaineCelt said...

We lost power during a hurricane several years ago, when there were still sheep on our farm. The coyotes must have been testing the fence hourly, because as soon as the current was gone they moved in for the kill. It was wholesale slaughter--bits of sheep strewn everywhere--and they seemed unconcerned about using what they had destroyed. We made a vow that, from then on, we'd have no livestock that couldn't defend themselves.

I love wolves and warily respect their fierce spirits. I'm sorry for the pet they did in and for your own suffering in the midst of that primal, painful situation. But I have no love for coyotes. They're more like packs of feral dogs "gone bad." Around here, coyotes and fisher cats are the most damaging predators, doing in many beloved pets and farm animals each year. We're glad we have highland cattle now, with their splendid sharp horns and hooves!

Mama Pea said...

I can't imagine how you must have felt looking upon that field of slaughtered sheep. I sure remember what I felt like when I came home and found a weasel had gotten into the hen house and killed every single one of our 25 new pullets, but that would be a small loss compared to your sheep.

We have our share of coyotes around here, too, and see them much more frequently than the actual timber wolves.

I'm not familiar with "fisher cats." What are they?

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mama Pea,
We have had similar situations here in SE Minnesota--not with wolves, but with packs of feral dogs and also coyotes. From all I've read and seen, I don't believe wolves kill for sport either. It's gotta be hard to survive a northern Minnesota winter and they're just acting on the survival instinct by finding something to eat. The sad thing is that it was a neighbor's pet and wolves don't discriminate.