Recently, Sierra and I were walking along a dirt trail at our local park. We’ve had an incredibly rainy winter and this particular path has become very narrow and overgrown with tall weeds and grasses. Before the warm weather hit, I used to let my dogs run free in the area, since it’s largely uninhabited. They’ve got a great recall and love to run, so why not? But now I worry about rattlesnakes. We have lots of them around here and I’m quite sure they’re already out and about, as evidenced by the one who was lounging on my porch just a few days ago. Besides, there are signs posted all over the park to warn walkers about the venomous snakes. So, for now, my dogs are on leash whenever we’re in the danger zone.
As we passed through the possibly snake-infested area, we ran into a man I often see in the mornings. His dog was off leash and romping happily through the tall weeds. After exchanging greetings I asked, “Don’t you worry about your dog running into a rattlesnake?” His reply? “Nope. It’s never happened.” Then, for good measure he added, “You seem like you worry about everything.” Really? Hmm. Besides that being an odd comment from someone I’ve spoken to maybe once or twice, a rattlesnake bite can easily kill a dog. I know of a few dogs in the area who have died from them. Put that together with the fact that rattlesnakes are known to inhabit that particular area. Why would anyone not worry?
There are plenty of things that could pose a danger to dogs that I refrain from saying anything about, because few people appreciate unsolicited advice when it comes to their kids or dogs. But if I see something that’s potentially deadly, like it or not, I am going to say something. I’ll say it nicely and non-judgmentally, but yes, I will say it, because it just might save your dog’s life. As my husband put it so succinctly, “Only the ignorant don’t worry.” Worrying means we’re considering the possibilities and weighing potential threats, which allows us to be prepared. So, to the man who commented that I seem as though I “worry about everything,” when it comes to things that can hurt or even kill my dog, yes, I do worry. And that’s a good thing.
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We have adders (vipers) here and are always extra vigilant when we take Maggie into the woods for a walk.
well said.. and it IS a “parents” duty to keep our “kids” safe – do not over protect.. but use just plain common sense to keep all safe 🙂 .. the common of common sense is hard to find now a days… and with the kids that do not have a parent with it.. i hope they have good guardian angels.. 🙂
You are not kidding when you say common sense is hard to find these days (among parents and among kids whose parents are not teaching them common sense). I made the mistake when we lived in WA where there were no venomous snakes to encourage my dog whenever she saw snakes to be curious (and not hurt them). I regretted that when we moved to an area in MT that had poisonous snakes and had to reteach her to leave and retreat with any snake. Now I know better and teach all my dogs to leave it when seeing a snake. More than likely the person who made the comment to you does not worry about a whole lot and their dog will be the one to pay in the long run (kind of like our neighbors who let their cats run the neighborhood including pooping in our yard-when their cat dies because of it, it really is not the cats fault they had owners who did not care enough to keep them inside or build a safe outside enclosure that did not expose them to other things).
I think it is perspective.
I don’t worry about snakes. I take precautions and act accordingly, but I don’t worry about them; which is how I see what you done. So, it’s more about how you see the use of the word. Worry is a verb to me. Its something you have to do.
I don’t take lightly what you say either though. You have taught me a lot and not just about dog behavior.
Outside magazine had a big story about a hiker getting bit by a rattlesnake. I will try to find the month/year issue. It was shocking what it did to his body and the poor guy was never the same again from it. Everyone should read that article.
Bravo for looking after your dogs and caring so much. Ignore idiotic comments. Thank you.
There are lots of rattlers in CA. When we lived there and walked in the dog parks, especially those first warm days of spring, the super hot days in August and September, and snake skin-shedding season in the fall, we were always careful to keep our dog on the trail where we could see what was ahead of us- besides, the grass was all foxtails. Foxtails alone were reason enough to keep our dog on the hard dirt trail!. One summer a half-dozen romping dogs were bitten. Three died. It was very sad. I saw one rattler that was so fat and so huge it looked like a dang boa constrictor!
Denise Fenzi also just posted a blog about risks and our dogs. It’s a different perspective that you might find interesting. Because there is risk in everything that we do, and it’s all about figuring out what you find acceptable. https://denisefenzi.com/2019/04/risk-reason-or-perception/
That’s interesting. I was actually planning to do a blog on what I would term “acceptable risk” and then this happened the other day. I agree with Denise. But IMO the risk in this particular area with the number of rattlesnakes makes it not worth the risk.
I think there’s also a mental bias that causes people to say, “Ah, that’s not going to happen,” because they’ve never personally seen it happen or never been personally affected by it. Once something unfortunate has happened, or you’ve been around the risk close up and personally, you get a different perspective. Perhaps that perspective is a bit further over the line on the worry spectrum than it needs to be, but it also causes you to not put your dog in extreme harm’s way.
Love this article and perspective. We can never be too careful as dog parents–we know the dangers in our world, sometimes better than they do. I would love it if you could follow up with an article about how modern, pain-free snake avoidance training is available as well. So many people don’t know that that’s an option, and figure they have no alternative but to sign up for classes that still use shock-collars, but since no one method can be 100% guaranteed effective, we should err on the side of caution and at least train without pain. (I think it’s a slow-growing trend because our clients always want a quick fix, but here’s one resource: http://www.snakeavoidancewithoutshock.com )