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Welcome to Riverswind notes

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



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Friday, June 4, 2010

A NEW "LEASH" ON LIFE

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.