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Monday, November 13, 2017

Fergus explores his kingdom

The cattle are gone. We are a livestock-free farm. I posted on Facebook that I was sad to see them go and within minutes their new owner posted back: “They are in good hands. The move went well and they all settled in without an issue. Apples and grain for all upon arrival.” He already knows the way to their hearts. I can rest easy.

With no bull in the barnyard and no cattle in the pasture, we can now wander our property freely. The Farmer and I decided to take the Ferg on walkabout. We went through the gate to the barnyard and had to coax him along on the end of the leash. The last time he went through that fence he got zapped by his wireless security collar. He has a good memory. Now he knows it’s ok to go out of his boundaries, if one of us is with him. It took him a few tries to get used to going down the driveway as well. I think at 8 months he is now old enough to know the difference.

We let him off his leash and he bounded across the barnyard after a squirrel, whimpering when it darted up a tree out of his reach. He stopped to pick up a dried cow patty but dropped it immediately when scolded. “Go find a stick,” I encouraged him. We reached the edge of the forest and opened another gate. Stepping into the trees, I heard a whimper and turned to see Fergus sitting there at the gate. “It’s ok, Ferg. Good boy. Come on now.” And he gingerly stepped into the ferns.

That first section of the forest was a bouquet of fallen leaves, deer marks and porcupine poop for Fergus to discover. He leaped over tree stumps and limbo’ed under fallen branches, following one scent trail after another. The second part of the forest, closer to the creek, was less fun. I was getting snagged and scratched through my jeans by thorny bushes at every step. He didn’t complain but I imagine it wasn’t very comfortable at dog level either.

Then we reached the cornfield. A section of corn about ten feet wide had been trampled all around the perimeter. I thought a tractor had done it but the Farmer said no, it was wildlife. Even raccoons can bring down stands of corn quite effectively. What a mess. Fergus pointed out the little high-heeled hoofmarks left behind by deer and the tiny clawed handprints of raccoons.

When we reached the creek, Fergus lost his mind. He raced down to the water’s edge, lured by the smell of frogs. As soon as he reached the water though, he stopped short. I don’t think we have to worry about him jumping in just yet. It still takes a bit of convincing to get him to try something new. We checked out the duck blind and Fergus sat quietly watching a family quacking along the edge of the creek. When we turned to head back into the forest, however, he burst into action, running in frantic circles as fast as he could go. I think he was trying to tell us he was happy. He is off leash all the time around the house but going on walkabout is a whole other experience. The assortment of smells must be quite a delight for his heightened senses.

When we returned from our trail walk the Farmer decided to cut a permanent trail through the woods for us. I will look for cross-country skis so that Mina and I can enjoy them this winter. For now, the trails will give us a great walking path for Fergus so that he doesn’t get attacked by thorns anymore. He can go off-leash and enjoy all 200 acres of his property safely.

We haven’t had a chance to try out the new forest pathways yet, because hunting season is now underway. There aren’t supposed to be any uninvited hunters on our property, but we aren’t taking any chances. We will have to wait a few more days until it is safe to once again venture into the forest with a doe-coloured dog who bounces through the brush like a deer.

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