I think that Lucy’s greatest joy is to run. She is built like a runner, and when she is seriously running, she puts down her ears close to her head to make herself aerodynamic and just takes off. This, along with her very healthy prey drive, has kept her on leash in most circumstances.
We have been going down regularly to Maryland to Shepherd’s Hey Farm now, and slowly Lucy has been gaining more freedom.
I decided, this trip, that I would try to see if Lucy can be allowed off lead in the unfenced areas of the farm, when there was enough distance between Lucy and obvious distractions (like sheep).
Finn has been off lead on this property for some time now, mostly because he will always check in to see where I am, and while he is deaf, he is 99% trustworthy. He did take off and tree a cat recently, but he is good, even around sheep (if there is a barrier between him and the sheep).
Lucy had a wonderful couple of days while there was snow cover. It was really easy to spot her, there were not too many critters to distract her, and all was well.
All is well always, of course, until it isn’t.
The other day, I was walking toward the barn in the morning, with Lucy and Finn in tow. I unclipped them, without giving it too much thought, since our every day walks to the barn off leash had gone well. There is one area where we usually see many deer in the evenings. As we rounded the hill, I saw a herd of deer — about 10 heads — at the same time Lucy saw them.
I saw her make a decision to blow me off, and off she went. I had to make a decision quickly about what to do — I chose to make sure I put Finn on lead before I started off in the direction where Lucy had taken off. I thought that if Finn took off after the deer, it would be harder to get him back as he cannot hear. Calling Lucy’s name all the while, just hoping that her radar ears will hear my voice in the background so that as she raced top speed through the hundreds of acres of fields and woods, that she would not get too lost.
I was petrified. I tried to keep my voice really upbeat, all the while thinking, “I AM GOING TO KILL YOU BUT PLEASE COME BACK SO I CAN KILL YOU.”
Finn and I jogged down the muddy path in the general direction that Lucy had taken off. I wanted to find a high point so that Lucy could hear me.
We bush-whacked through a patch of woods, and then I saw her. about 300 yards away in an open field, wearing back and forth at top speed trying to keep 3 does together. 2 does peeled off into the woods, and Lucy put on the after burners after the one that she had picked to be her chosen deer.
I was screaming her name at the top of my lungs. (Of course she didn’t even glance at me.)
Over the hill she went. Finn and I went up the slip slippery muddy hill, and stood on top of the hill.
I don’t know how many times I called her name, but I was just hoping that she heard.
Then I saw a small black and white dot, no deer around it, in the field on the far side of the fenced in field we usually go to. It was too far away for me to see which way the head was turned, but it was not moving.
I tried again, “LUCY COME!”
And then the dot started coming toward me. It disappeared into the woods, but I was sure it was coming nearer.
“LUCY COME, GOOD GIRL LUCY!”
I’m sure it only took about a minute, but I must have repeated that about 30 times. And then I saw her coming out of the woods.
Still at top speed, muddy, with her tongue down to her knees, with a bloody leg.
No deer parts in her mouth.
I praised her. She was all wags, as if to say, “I just wanted to stretch my legs a little.” I was so glad she heard me and she came. But, the leash went on, and we headed to the barn. I’m not sure who was covered in more mud…. Lucy, or me and Finn!
Disaster averted, thank goodness.
PS FInn had a bit of an adventure as well, as he got to help move sheep for shearing. He was so proud of himself.