17 July 2013


It has been real hot here in northwest Montana, eighties and nineties. I suppose if you're from Las Vegas that doesn't seem like much. For us here in Montana it's pretty darned warm. We've flirted with triple digits on more than one occasion and it looks like more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday, to beat the heat, we set out early to wander the woods. Most animals use the same strategy. They are more likely to be seen out foraging in the cool of the morning.We were walking along enjoying the crisp morning air when we rounded a bend in the trail and there it was, a black bear. He wasn't actually black he was brown. I'm told there are as many brown black bears as there are black black bears. Go figure. The bear was maybe a hundred feet in front of us. This was the first bear I have ever seen. I was pretty darned excited. As soon as I started jumping up an down straining on the leash the bear took one look at us and headed off into the forest. I think we were both glad I was on the leash. Kinsey tells me I will be on the leash, in known bear country, until I am 100% voice command reliable.  Mostly likely even after I am recall certified I will be on a leash in bear country.

This self imposed leash law is not only for my safety but Kinsey's as well. Kinsey has been wandering the Kootenai Forest, which is definitely bear country, for eleven years now. In that time she has encountered at least 50 bears. Never has there been any reason for concern or fear. But, as Kinsey is always telling me "You need to use your head for something more than a hat rack". One school of thought on bear safety she strongly agrees with is keeping your dog on a leash whilst hiking in bear country. She always kept uncle Koty on a leash. In Koty's case it was initially because he was a natural born runner.  As the years went by she realized it was a good idea for safety reasons as well.

Here's why. You know how us dogs like to range a little when walking with our humans? If we should scamper ahead and encounter a bear it is quite likely we are going to hightail it right back to our leader, that would be you. I sure know I would. Chances are pretty darned good that that bear is going to follow. Everybody loves a good game of chase. This could definitely lead to a very  unhappy outcome.

We also heard a pack of coyotes nearby. That was far spookier to me. I did not like the sound of them one little bit. They made kind of a surreal sound. The dark forest only made it creepier. I guess my wariness was well founded because Kinsey tells me a pack of coyotes could very easily make short work of me. I think I'll avoid coyotes.

©Kinsey Barnard

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