Giving wildlife a break

Our two Labs – 11-year-old Hailey and one-year-old Finnleigh – are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to daily exercise needs. Hailey is always willing, but 15 minutes of fetching the Frisbee or a 20- to 25-minute walk is usually plenty, certainly enough to send her contentedly back to the couch for the rest of the day. Too, she tends to overheat easily, to the point where she staggers in a form a exercise-induced collapse. So we’re always careful with her at this time of year.

Finn, on the other hand, has a motor that never stops, which is expected – and desired – with a puppy. The yellow ball of fire blitzes around the yard, clearing it of any threatening robin, blackbird or chipmunk, and is always ready to fetch anything thrown or go for a walk or swim. And then do it all over again.

But this time of year we’re especially careful about taking the dogs out for a hike in the woods. There are just too many potential encounters, and many of them wouldn’t have happy endings. Sure, we’re always worried about a potential scrap with a porcupine or skunk; we’ve been there, done that with other Labs over the years. But our fears at this time of year are directed at the numerous wild critters out there – especially whitetails with fawns – who don’t need the added stress of a couple of curious Labrador retrievers.

Too, there’s always the chance our dogs will encounter turkey poults or grouse chicks, and those species need a break these days. They have enough challenges with coyotes, foxes, hawks, owls and others capable of launching air or ground attacks.

They don’t need our two dogs ramming around out there, even though in most cases neither Hailey nor Finn would have bad intentions.

So we work them in the yard, playing fetch with a training dummy or the coveted canvas Frisbee that flutters in the breeze and works them into a frenzy. Or we walk them up and down the road on leashes. Or take them to a nearby farm pond for a swimming session punctuated by numerous retrieves of the floating dummy.

And we give wildlife a break. They sure need it this time of year.

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