Loose-Leash Encounters



High in the Sawtooth Mountains, my Molly mutt charged into a small valley. Through the trees, I glimpsed the creature she’d spotted. It was a little bigger than Molly, dark, and slow. Bear cub? The glance I’d gotten had left a calf shaped impression, but rough-cut, like a Gumby character. Bear or bovine, that critter’s mama was not going to stand for this. I shouted with little hope. I knew that Molly was too excited to hear me, and that my lumbering pace would make me a fine target for that mama’s wrath. A black bear in a green meadow

This sort of situation is one of many off-leash hazards that make me a firm believer in keeping dogs hooked up. Still, I’m weak. A dog’s unfettered joy is infectious, and three-year-old Molly spends too much time stuck in the truck or camper or tied in our campsite. She needs way more exercise than an arthritic 60-something can provide from the end of a leash.

Back in the valley, I thought about turning tail and leaving Molly to find me, but I knew that if she didn’t, I would suffer long and hard wondering what happened to her and whether my staying might have helped her. I kept moving into the valley and calling.

When Molly finally returned, she was fine, no injuries, blood, or mad mama on her tail. I leashed her and headed out of that valley as fast as my knees allowed. As we climbed, I spotted a moose with twin calves traversing the slope above us. Ah, now the oddly shaped calf impression made sense. Molly, it seemed, had fancied herself a mighty moose hunter. I prayed that this mama was not one to hold a grudge. In general, Moose weigh a thousand pounds or more, and if this one decided to knock me down and stomp me, my husband would take delivery of a grizzly corpse.A moose and two calves on the edge of a forest.
The moose trio reached the top of the ridge well before us, and Mama stood her ground watching Molly and me. The trail, which I’d carefully marked to keep from getting lost, would take me dangerously close to where Mama stood. Instead, we retreated down the trail and waited for Mama to move on. She didn’t.

“Okay, okay, it’s your ridge, and your valley. We’ll just take this other track and hope to find our camp.” We eventually met the main road, a hot, dusty internal combustion domain, no safer than skirting an angry moose. Our next few days’ walks led away from both those perils, on leash.

The following week, on another mountain, I was grateful that Molly was leashed when she scared up a small spotted fawn within pouncing distance. Molly has learned not to yank the leash in trying to nab critters, but a fawn jumping up under her nose was too much to resist. When Molly hit the end of the leash, the whiplash threatened to cripple me. We walked off her disappointment in a matter of seconds and my pains in a mile or so.

baby fawn in forest

Photo from Yosemite National Park website

Our side trail petered out, so we backtracked to the main trail, continued up it for a bit, then headed for camp. Barely visible in the undergrowth beside the trail was a baby fawn sagging and panting as if on his last leg. Molly didn’t notice, and I passed as quickly as possible to keep from stressing him further. When I turned to take a quick pic, I saw the baby lower his hindquarters, making me suppose that he hadn’t been sagging with exhaustion but crouching, ready to run again. In any case, I hope his mama found him and moved him further from the trail.

About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.