Total Pageviews

Welcome to Riverswind notes

I hope you will join in my adventures here in Humboldt County and elsewhere as I explore nature & people.

I welcome your comments.

All Photos are protected by copyright and cannot be used without permission.

Friday, June 4, 2010


It was the first day of June and for a change it wasn't raining. My wife was on state mandated furlough due to the budget crisis in California.

We decided to take a walk along the Mad River near it's mouth which is a short drive from our home.

The mouth of the Mad River in Mckinleyville California is a great place to enjoy the spectacular views of the river where it meets the sea.

While sitting in the warm sun on large log eating our lunch we realized that we were the only people in the area.

We scanned the area with our binoculars and observed over 90 Harbor Seals hauled out on the west shore of the Mad River where it makes a 90 degree turn from North to West before it reaches the Ocean.

Then we noticed in the distance that we were not alone anymore as a couple with two dogs were approaching along the rivers edge.

The dogs were running exuberantly, unleashed and one of them stopped and defecated near the waters edge.

I didn't observe their owners pick up the poop even though there are plastic bag dispensers at the trail head for that purpose.

On most beaches with a few exceptions dogs are required to be on a leash, but most people ignore the law. After all dogs need to run, play and get their exercise, don't they?

As we sat in the warm sun munching away, one of the dogs (Siberian Husky) came running up and nearly swiped the granola bar from my hand while shaking his wet body on us.

Although slightly irritated, we dismissed the incident as just an overly friendly and excited dog greeting strangers.

The dogs owners ignored its hyperactive behavior and the fact that it had just accosted two people minding their own business.

I personally don't mind if people allow their dogs to run, play and get their necessary exercise.
However, I don't appreciate dogs that are out of the control of their owners command either by voice or whistle.

On another occasion I witnessed a bloody dog fight in the same vicinity when two dog owners allowed their dogs to roam freely. It was a good reminder why dogs should be leashed in public areas.

We finished our lunch and walked past the couple and their dogs, which ran at us brushing against our legs while their owners yelled in vain for them to stop and come back.
The woman had a whistle which she blew as if there where a fire.

A few minutes later my wife and I were both checking out birds and the Harbor Seals when we were blindsided by both dogs as they jumped up and slammed against our backsides nearly knocking my wife off her feet.

This time I hollered to the owners asking them to "get their dogs under control". They whistled and called for their "puppies" but didn't say anything to us and avoided eye contact.

A few minutes passed while we were looking for a way to cross Widow White Creek when we heard the incessant loud screaming by the woman and her whistle blowing.

One of the dogs was swimming across the river and heading directly toward the beached Harbor Seals.

Now the drama had begun as I quickly took my camera from its backpack and headed toward the scene.
The dog owners were frantic, and the dog was ignoring their pleas to come back.
Here the current is deceptive, it looks calm, but is very strong and cold.
However, the Husky was on a "mission" and refused to be deterred.
I later found out that this Husky was a year old "puppy", and it was merely responding to its strong genetic impulses.

Apparently the owners either didn't realize or ignored the fact that their Husky breed tends to be hyperactive, impulsive, stubborn, and have an overactive prey drive.

On this day they discovered their Puppy's "inner dog" and perhaps will never forget.
As the Blue-eyed Husky neared the shore where the Harbor Seals were resting, they rapidly plunged into the water like dozens of Depth charges.

The obviously distressed woman, with her other dog now leashed, loudly pleaded, screaming and whistling for her dog to come back, while the man paced back and forth along the shore, helplessly calling "come here puppy."

Harbor Seal heads bobbed up several feet from the dog surrounding it. The Husky, I later learned, was swimming for the first time and seemed to intent on pursuing its intended target.

The dog showed no signs of letting up as it changed directions each time a different seal's head bobbed to the surface.

I asked the fellow if he wanted me to call for help but his attention was on his dog and he ignored me. I was concerned that the dog was in danger of drowning and also the stress on the Harbor Seals which are protected by law.
The Siberian Husky turned toward us several times but was quickly diverted by Harbor seals popping up from another direction.
A half hour had passed, and the dog was relentless in its pursuit though now beginning to show signs of tiring. He was working his way against the current, moving upstream nearly a half mile from its entry into the cold waters of the Mad River.
At this point , I could no longer watch this without taking some action, so I told the man that I was calling for help. He asked who I was calling, and I responded "911"!

I'm uncertain whether my action prompted him to remove his outer clothing with the intent to rescue his dog.

This, I thought to myself, could end up in tragedy, so the call was made.
I was concerned that he would swim out, not realizing how strong the current and how cold the water. I told his companion that I'd made the call, and she responded abruptly, "I wish you hadn't!"

In the meantime the now desperate owner stripped to his underwear, got as far as his waist and stopped in his tracks, realizing that the water was too frigid for a rescue.

I had been throwing sticks at water's edge trying to divert the dog's attention, without results.

Then finally, after nearly 40 minutes, the Husky, beginning to struggle, seemed to respond to the flapping of my hat as I knelled down at eye level to the dog.

Two officers from the McKinleyville Sheriff's office appeared on the trail overlooking the river at the same time the dog was nearing its relieved owner, who had dressed and was wading toward the bedraggled pup. As the man grasped his dog , I heard him say, "no more beach for you puppy."

The dogs now leashed, their owners took off in the opposite direction of the officers, while my wife and I ascended the trail toward the 911 respondents.

I answered their questions concerning what had happened and they seemed content that the situation no longer required their presence.

I wondered to myself why they didn't at least ask the dog owners to use a leash in the future.

Perhaps they decided that the near loss of the beloved puppy was better than any lecture they could give?

"Leash laws" generally require dogs to be on leash and under control whenever they are in public property. In some citys leash laws are strictly enforced. Apparently they are not enforced in Humboldt County.
Leash laws are made for good reasons including: Protection of humans, wildlife and other pets, prevention of predation or disturbance of wildlife, prevent transmission of diseases from dogs to wildlife especially fox, coyotes and deer, and prevent contamination of local water supply.

We were relieved that this story had a happy ending and hope that the dog owner's learned a very important lesson.


favole said...

I agree with you -- occasions for off-the-leash have to be under conditions in which it makes sense and is lawful. But, just as people aren't required to have any sense to have a baby -- no one checks to see if a dog owner has any sense (or civility). Even under the right conditions, though, there will be mishaps. Such is life among the animals -- human, domesticated and wild. Rob

Kirk said...

It's my opinion that some people should not be a dog owner for the dog's safety. Those dogs are exhibiting dominance and are in desperate need of obedience training.
And those people need a clue. They give us responsible owners a bad name.

riverswindnotes said...

Unfortunately unleashed dogs are common on our beaches and many of the owners are clueless concerning the potential that their pet could cause harm or harassment to people,their pets and wildlife.
Thanks for your supporting comments.

Anonymous said...

On a previous(COASST)survey 6 of 7 dogs were unleashed beyond the waveslope and in the parking lot. One with dog owner walking through dunes North of the N.Parking lot at Clam Beach, the total closure Zone with signs obvious. It's (been)especially egregious around designated (Snowy)Plover habitat areas. When confronting negligent dog owners, the usual response is fairly hostile and unapologetic, I guess "taking" the dog to the beach is just an American euphemism for not dealing with you dog's crap..the struggle continues,
George Z

Anonymous said...

Dogs have evolved about as far as their DNA will allow-humans have not. Even if a dog is well trained, and these obviously were not, they should not be allowed to run on a beach or in public areas, where they can harrass or harm wildlife or annoy people. If the dog(s) are on leash the owners should minimally clean up after them. Additionally there should be at least one competent adult in command of each dog. GV Kollias,Ithaca,NY

Anonymous said...

Good on you for calling 911.
Those folks need to get their dogs trained. The folks were unable to control them-or at least one dog. The owners are to blame. There's probably a dog training course in Arcata. They should look into bike and scooter joring as a way to exercise such active dog(s), A shock collar also works real well when the dog's have been in salty water.
Good Post. Chris W

Anonymous said...

Many people have very little sense of responsibility with their dogs amongst other people,neighbors or nature. It is sad. I'm sorry you were witness to such. GAR McKinleyville,CA

Anonymous said...

Great Blog, I know both the officers and I will tell them that they are on your blog,and they did nothing. Anyway, Right on.
Dave S

Anonymous said...

It is common to see unleashed dogs and their poop or plastic bags filled with it on the beach along the mouth of the Mad River and on Hammond trail.
Some well meaning dog owners actually plan to carry their dogs poop out and even sometimes fill the plastic bag provided at the trail head in a dispenser.
Why do some of them leave the bag filled with poop along the trail?

Anonymous said...

I readthis entry and the comments with interest. Being the owner of three husky/wolf hybrids, and being involved in many husky operations and rescues, I sadly have to say that no amount of training or money spent on behaviourists etc is going to stop those huskies from running once that prey drive kicks in. NOTHING!! We have spent thousands on training and eventually bought a plot and fenced a part of it, just to try and keep them contained. They are always looking for ways of escaping or catching the chickens, geese or buck. Now we have resulted to putting down conveyer belts in front of all the fences around the house to keep them from digging out. Keeping them happy and contained is a full time job. No one would have ever been able to convince me of this before I bought them. We don't have kids, love our dogs and spend all the time we have with them - training, playing, you name it, but there is no stopping them once their true nature kicks in. I will never give them away for adoption, since I love them too dearly and will never make my problem someone else's. If it should come to it one day, I would have to take the pain and heartache and euthenaise them if all else fails, but passing them on to someone, who might again pass them on, is no option. I would rather have them live a shorter life, only knowing the joy and love and affection and endless care they know with us, than have them live a longer, but lesser life elsewhere. It is mindboggeling how these obedient, soft-hearted giants who are so sensitive to a loud voice or scolding, can change into these monsters of prey once they hear or see something on the other side of the water or fence or whatever that they want to catch. I have a lot of sympathy for those people in your blog. They are stuck for life. Unless you can buy your own piece of land to give them the roaming they so need and deserve - or at least a huge yard with brick walls they cannot see over or jump over, you are sentenced to a life of sacrificing your entire existance around these dogs. They can only be trained so much, but as I say, once the prey drive kicks in, do amount of screaming, crying, begging or yelling will make that obedient, house-trained puppy listen to you in nature. Choose your dogs carefully and know that it is a life long commitment..or sentence.

owlman said...

Thank you for your detailed comment on the problems with Huskies and their propensity to go after just about anything that moves. I understand how frustrating it must be for a "responsible" dog owner who did'nt understand these problems prior to investing their money,time and emotional attachment.

Anonymous said...

I work with animal control. The biggest issue they have with responding is, Humboldt County is 2.7 million acres and they have given the 3 people to patrol the entire area. Thats when they are all working. They get days off too, and that leaves one person to cover Garberville, Willow Creek, Petrolia and Orick on the weekends and holidays when most people are out. One person is often logging hundreds of miles in a single day. I am tired of having dogs show up at the shelter that are here because people think the laws are there only to impeded their freedom... Sorry to hear you had to tolerate such rude (and stinky) behavior. I hope not to see those husky here, any time soon.

Brian Higgins said...

Great Blog, I know both the officers and I will tell them that they are on your blog,and they did nothing. Anyway, Right on. Dave S