Yesterday’s adventure got me to thinking about mission drift.

Yesterday was baking day. Around noon Torso Boy wanted out to pee, and we both alerted to a couple of dogs barking in the direction of Landlady’s place where no dog has any business being – and incidentally where we keep the chickens.

I had just started my dough on its first rise and had a few minutes, so I took my rifle overland to the other side of the horseshoe bend in the wash where I could glass the land in that direction. The dogs were still going at it but now it seemed they weren’t near Landlady’s but possibly farther up the ridge in the direction of SurvivalDave’s place. I couldn’t see anything but heard them clearly until they abruptly stopped barking.

I could hunt dogs or bake bread, and I had no reason to think the matter was important enough to ruin my bread so I let it go until the loaves came out of the oven. By then it was near chicken chore time anyway so I left Torso Boy at home – over his objections – and went out to Landlady’s in the Jeep. There was no sign of anything wrong there, or at SurvivalDave’s, so I kept going to a turnaround I seldom visit overlooking a little feeder wash behind S&L’s. And there I started hearing the dogs again. This time they were to the north and further up the plateau.

So I drove to where there’s a little-used road that goes in that direction, with no real expectation of encountering the dogs. Which only shows how wrong I can be because not only were the dogs right on that road but they were in the process of harrying a cow with a very new calf.

There were two of them, of the usual sort – something like a cross between an American Bulldog and some variation on a pit bull. It’s probably some specific breed I don’t know about. One was a dark brindle and the other a light brown. They were nearly oblivious to my arrival: They ignored me when I honked the horn and when I yelled at them out the window, too busy with this hapless cow and terrified baby calf. But they noticed when I stepped out of the Jeep – the brindle broke off and ran away and I saw him no more, but the brown didn’t want to leave his fun. I drew and fired my pistol into the ground, which cost me an expensive round of Hornady Super-‘Splody .44 Magnum when a cheap reload would have done as well, and that lit his afterburners and ended the matter.

And the devil on my shoulder said I should have taken the rifle out of the Jeep because they were easy kills, harder with the .44. But they both wore collars and weren’t skinny strays and I have a horror of shooting somebody else’s dogs. I was surprised at myself for even having the impulse to shoot the dogs.

I mean – this gets complicated. Until only a few years ago there was a pit bull puppy mill on the other side of the plateau, badly run even by the usual standards of such things, and plagues of feral runaways were common. I’ve hunted them numerous times; I’ve buried them and I’ve rescued them, all based on their behavior at the time. It doesn’t have anything to do with my attitude toward dogs – I like dogs, but feral packs are trouble and can’t be tolerated. So yeah – I root them out.

But sometimes local dogs just get rambunctious. We live in Doggie Disneyland, after all – until he meets something that can hurt or kill him, this must be a wonderful place to be a good-sized dog. So many things to chase! I know for a fact that killing a calf was high on Little Bear’s bucket list, which is largely why I couldn’t let him run loose. He very much wanted to be one of those dogs – in fact he wanted to lead the brat pack, and could have. I would not have looked kindly upon anyone who shot him for it.

And I have no responsibility toward the cattle. In fact in general I despise them, though this year’s bunch hasn’t been any trouble so far. So why this authoritarian impulse on my part, to shoot some other guy’s dogs for hassling cattle? I was shocked at myself. The tendency of cattlemen to shoot cow-chasing dogs is an emotional issue with me – but when they do it there’s at least a point. There’s no justification for me doing it, and I was surprised at even a hint of a desire to.

I actually lay awake in the wee hours this morning, thinking about it.

This must be how a cop goes from being the guy who solves the problems to being the problem.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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13 Responses to Yesterday’s adventure got me to thinking about mission drift.

  1. Norman says:

    Well….the dogs, practially and “officially,” were not a Joel problem. You don’t have any obligation, AFAIK, to the cattle, there was no direct and immediate threat to The Lair, etc.

    But….just like Coronavirus was a threat to China but not to the US until it became a threat to the US, those dogs aren’t a threat to you, until they are. I suspect were they raising a ruckus within visual range from your porch, cattle or no cattle involvement, your response might be somewhat different, especially were TB afoot. And entirely justified.

    I would think the cattle owner(s), were their investment to suffer negative impact from canines, would embark on a multi-faceted program to resolve the issue. Assuming they became aware of it. The state I grew up in had a long-standing statute allowing such measures when dogs harassed livestock, and it was quite emphatically enforced by the livestock owners, from cattle all the way down to the chickens and barn cats, not only because of the investment, but partially because today it’s chickens, tomorrow it might be the 3-year-old grandaughter and there’s no concern about coming in contact with rabies, parvo or distemper at 50-100 yards.

    More trouble than it’s worth, difficult to accomplish, unnecessary expense, etc. but were it possible to mark them with a few paint pellets it might get the attention of whomever owns them when they get home.

  2. Wayne Dygert says:

    I believe the impulses we restrain say more about our character than those we indulge

  3. Beans says:

    A dog that gets that ‘killing things’ thing can be a dangerous thing. How soon before they try the chickens, or go after Torso Boy?

    Yes, when under control of a responsible owner, a killing dog can be a good thing. Like having a rat-terrier or a hog-hunter.

    But killers on the loose? That is a neighborhood problem.

    That makes you one step away from standing in the street with a Krag-Jorgensen looking down the sights at a foaming-mouth dog.

    Good on you for not shooting those dogs. But good on you at being aware of the situation.

    Those dogs bear watching, though. I’d start carrying a jeep-gun when going over the hill from now on.

  4. I think your visceral reaction was triggered by the calf.

    We are hardwired to protect the next generation.

  5. Joel says:

    Update: Those particular two dogs are not virgins. Their owner is already on notice. I’ve got one neighbor – and a cattleman – who thinks I should have taken them out.

  6. bill says:

    Joel, your description of the dog’s behaviors and your reactions are spot on in my world. When I moved out to the woods of East Texas in 2005 the first few years were filled with such episodes. Many of the dogs were not feral but rather belonged to a cop and his family (down the road) who allowed non-stop breeding to go on, or belonged to meth cookers who moved around a lot. I shot over the heads of the packs many times and they dispersed. Once when I saw them with the mangled remains of a newborn calf I shot with intention to kill and missed(I think I missed). Ranchers around here would kill without a second thought though. The cop down the road was confronted several times and he always replied “if they are my dogs then shoot them. I understand.” Because of my location in the country I usually seemed to be the first to be alerted when trouble arose. Ranchers appreciated my efforts. After a few years the episodes have declined considerably in the area as have thieves looking for an easy score. Word got around that folks better keep better tabs on their dogs. Many times those same folks are meth cookers and dog fighters and their numbers have decreased in the area (or they are lower profile these days). I’m rambling now…

  7. Bob says:

    I lived in Oklahoma and the law was clear. A animal that is worrying livestock can be killed on site. I personally would have put them down and gone home and forgot about it. But that’s just me. Ya know if you are worried about it and it’s just one dog shoot it, move it into the road and put some tire tracks over it. Nobody looks for bullet holes if there is tire tracks. Just saying…ffr

  8. SurvivalDave? More backstory please!

  9. Spud says:

    I sometimes wonder , if perhaps instead of the dog , we should shoot the owners of pit bulls…
    The dogs are only doing what comes instinctively to them as a breed. The problem usually with this breed of dog, are the owners.

  10. As someone who likes dogs more than I like most people, I think you made the right call not to shoot those dogs. BUT, now that you know their history, It seems like it would be a wise move to go ahead and shoot them if you encounter them again.

    I agree with Spud that it’s really the owner who’s the problem, but shooting him/her probably wouldn’t be a good idea in the long run.

  11. Joel says:

    SurvivalDave? More backstory please!

    We don’t tell stories about our neighbors, CZ. 🙂 And we hope they don’t tell stories about us.

  12. Joel says:

    I lived in Oklahoma and the law was clear. A animal that is worrying livestock can be killed on site.

    I believe the law is the same here, but the law isn’t the reason I hesitate to shoot somebody else’s dog without really good cause. It’s one thing to have the law on your side – it’s quite another to have to live with a neighbor who wants you dead.

    move it into the road and put some tire tracks over it. Nobody looks for bullet holes if there is tire tracks.

    Around here disposing of a smallish body can be even simpler than that. Drag it out of sight of the road – it’ll be gone before next morning.

  13. Goober says:

    The French have a term for it, something along the lines of “jumping into the void”, only in, you know, *French*.

    Anyway, it’s about those dark impulses you sometimes get, like when you’re in the edge of a cliff and your brain is like “wonder what it’d be like to jump off that?”

    Anyway, I’ve always believed that it’s not about whether or not you have dark, contrarian thoughts, because we all do. It’s about whether you act on them, which you didn’t, so good for you

To the stake with the heretic!