Dog Days, Part 1

There is a new member of our family, which I have been very negligent about not posting here before.

So negligent, in fact, that he is not really "new" any more. But first of all, a memorial.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while may note the high turnover of dogs we have had. Some of them were because they just didn't work out for whatever reason--especially when we lived in town. However, some of it is just a hazard of country living in the North, where wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bears, and other kinds of truly wild and dangerous animals can skirt your property on a nightly basis, and you may not even be aware of it--that is, until your favourite pet doesn't come home one night.

Such was the case with Koda. Koda, whom we loved, was the sweetest, gentlest-tempered dog we'd ever had, with only one fatal flaw: he liked to wander.

We didn't get him fixed at an early enough age, and naively let him stay loose one weekend in September 2010 when we took a trip, because he had never wandered before. Such could not be said by the time we returned.

He found a couple of German Shepherd-cross pups about 3/4 mile away, mostly cross-country, to whom he bonded like they were soul mates. The owners didn't do much to discourage his presence there (as far as we can tell, they did nothing--even petting him, telling us on multiple occasions how much they loved him. Grrr.) Soon, they had a pack going, and there was nothing we could do to break it. If we wanted him to stay home, he had to be leashed or kennelled at all times. Even if we were out in the yard, he would often disappear silently into the trees if he thought our activity was too boring.

We finally gave up. "If the neighbours want to feed him, they can have him," we said. This rankled deeply in Jason's spirit, because he really loved that dog. Especially on the occasion when he would see "the pack" out in the field on his way by. If he stopped and called, Koda would come, of course. He would seem happy to see us, most of the time. But then he'd leave as soon as he got a chance.

So, this past winter, we didn't bother bringing him home anymore. (He would never come home of his own accord when he was out with his buddies--the pack always returned to our neighbour's yard. We were constantly running over there to check for him, and bring him home if the dogs were there.)

Finally, after being gone for over a month, Koda trotted home one time. He stayed overnight. Then left. A few weeks later, he came home and stayed for about five days, then left. We didn't know what to make of him, and didn't want to encourage him in thinking he could just come and go from here as he pleased, either.

In March, we made one last attempt to encourage him to stay home. We tied him up at night after he had come home for the day, during which we had spent as much time with him as possible. The next day he stayed home for most of the day, then wandered off in the evening. Jason had to go to town that night, and on his way happened to spy him in the field, so he quickly brought him home, but didn't tie him up.

And that was the last we ever saw of Koda.

We wouldn't have realized what happened so soon if the neighbour who owned the rest of the "pack" hadn't stopped by only two days later, asking if his dog had come to our place. (One of his dogs had already disappeared several weeks earlier.) His dogs had never come to our place, we explained. It didn't take long to realize that his dog, which usually came home when his owner got home from work, hadn't been seen since the night Koda had last left.

That week, we searched throughout the neighbourhood. We checked at the SPCA. We searched the ditches.

We never saw another sign of either dog.

But the week that they disappeared, the coyotes had been rather loud and active in the area for several nights in a row.

As frustrating as that dog was, it was still a sad thing to say goodbye to sweet Koda.

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One of our last photos of Koda, taken last October with Jason and Sunshine, our Golden Retriever.