Hera is my fourth Brittany, so you think I would be seasoned enough in gun dog training to manage the embarrassing situation when she decides to disobey most spectacularly during a confrontation with non-hunters. My buddy Jason Quinn and his dog Nos joined me as I took Hera to the vet for her annual vaccinations and a heartworm test. Following the visit to the veterinary clinic, we made our way to some parkland along the Rideau River in the south part of Ottawa for our daily dog run. I have been running my gun dogs there since the 1990s and only on one other occasion had a confrontation with people who complained about my dog. I remember standing my ground on that occasion; it was with Maggie, my second Brittany. I told them, calmly, I would look after my dog, that they should just continue with their walk. When one of the persisted in berating me I shut him up telling him to “piss off.” He went on his way muttering insults. Today’s confrontation was far more dramatic.
We met up with a couple we know from the daily run who were out with their dog Jewel. Hera and Jewel like to play and roughhouse together and did so very enthusiastically. We continued on the walk, taking a familiar route that takes us through a stand of hardwood. I pointed out there were trilliums coming into bloom and a carpet of dogtooth violets under the hardwoods. There were Canada geese on the river. Jason was telling our acquaintances about closing the deal on the purchase of a house that he and his wife Fran completed the day before. The route takes us to a man-made pond with a gravel trail surrounding it. As we were walking along by the pond at one end, Hera went splashing through the brown cattails, exploring. Something must have caught her attention as she does not usually do this. I called her and she was making her way back up to shore when the drama erupted.
An elderly man and woman appeared on the trail well behind us. The man started bellowing about the dog in the cattails, complaining that there were ducks nesting, that she was killing the ducks. Then he ordered me to put her on leash. I told him I would look after my dog and he could just continue on and enjoy his walk. He continued bellowing about the wildlife, leash laws, that he knew where I was parked and was going to report me to the authorities. “Go ahead,” I told him. He ranted on about dog parks I could take Hera, that this is not a dog park. I replied “if you don’t like walking here, you can go somewhere else.” He continued his tirade, claiming he had laid the trail around the pond, that he lives in the area, to which I quipped “bully for you.” He continued harassing me, though I kept on walking, with Jason and our acquaintances ahead of us. Finally, I stopped to face him. When he intruded on my personal space, I put my arm up and gently stopped him in his tracks in resting my arm on his chest. He threatened to charge me with assault, daring me to hit him. I said firmly, “I’m not hitting anyone. I have said all I am going to say to you, now please leave me alone.”
This would have been the end of the drama, except that Hera found a snapping turtle up on shore. It is mating season for turtles, so they are up on shore, looking for soft earth in which they can lay their eggs. Hera was curious; she certainly does not appreciate the danger a snapping turtle poses. The turtle was maintaining a defensive posture. It was not looking trouble and neither was I. Unfortunately, Hera chose this most inopportune moment to disobey spectacularly. I called her away and she ignored me. I tried to put her on leash and she kept running out of reach and would not come when called. The non-hunter and his wife had gone on their way, but I was left dealing with my very naughty Hera. Finally, I had no choice but to pick up the turtle and deposit it, gently, in the Rideau River. Hera was not to be deprived of her prize so easily. She went into the river and swam along the shore, continuing to ignore me. Eventually she abandoned the search and we started on our way.
I had called Jason on his cellphone, asking for his assistance in reining in my recalcitrant Brittany. He joined us and before I knew it, Hera found an even bigger snapping turtle. This time, with Jason’s help, I got her back on leash and we made tracks, getting away from the area. We will stay out of the area for another week or so and let the turtles get on with making whoopee in peace. I hope this is the last we will see of that obnoxious non-hunter also. I am always left wondering after a confrontation with difficult people whether or not I handled the situation appropriately. It sure does not help when your normally very biddable gun dog decides to disobey so dramatically in front of people who already hold the opinion that hunters are nothing more than brutes and destroyers of wildlife.
I have taken great care in all the years I have been a gun owner, hunter and owner of hunting dogs to be respectful and cast these past-times in a positive light. I appreciate that not everyone approves of these past-times and do my best to avoid offending the sensibilities of those who do not approve, but I do, as this incident demonstrates, stand my ground when confronted by aggressive, rude people. As unpleasant as this drama was today, I am taking it in stride and will continue to run Hera in this parkland, just as I have with my previous dogs since the 1990s.
Posted by Geoffrey