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Last Updated:
Feb 3rd, 2006 - 21:26:09 


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Voices of Spencer Creek

Howl: My Dog Gus and the Trap

Gus, a sweet and real big dog meets a trap on public lands. Should there be, at least, warnings posted?

By Alix Mosieur

Posted on Feb 3, 2006

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Gus Spent a Night in a Trap: photo from 2004, with a sock on paw, recovering from a cyst removal

A few weeks ago I took my two dogs for a walk. We were on a BLM logging road near my house in Lorane. Usually, I let the dogs romp off the leash in the brush. They love it and it’s a good way to help them get the exercise they need. I keep walking, getting my exercise, too. Time to go home. But this evening my big dog Gus was gone only a few minutes when I heard him howl. I stood there in shock, calling him. He howled for maybe ten minutes--the most horrifying 10 minutes of my life-- I thought he was being killed by a big animal. The accoustics up in the mountains were weird; he sounded a mile away. It was getting dark and starting to rain. I couldn’t see well enough to go after him or tell where to find him. I stood in the rain calling out his name for another twenty minutes. But now -- it is quiet. Totally quiet. Sick at heart and in shock I rounded up the other dog and went home to get my husband.

We drove back up the logging road in the inky darkness. We stood on the dirt road calling “Gus, Gus...” Nothing. Home had no comfort that night. I cried and had no sleep. We thought of Gus, wounded or dead in the cold and rain. At dawn, we went back up the logging road, calling out for my dog Gus. It felt hopeless. Then we heard him, very faint, a sound like weeping.

I stood there yelling to him so he would know I was there. Bruce my husband, drove up the trail, got out and went into the brush. About ten minutes later he came driving down the road with the dog who was wet and shaking and holding out a paw that looked like a catcher’s mitt. If we had been thinking we would have taken pictures. But I was not in my right mind. Bruce said he found Gus a few yards from the road, his left front paw caught in the grip of a trap, which Bruce somehow dismantled.

My dog had spent the night in the wind, rain, terrified and trying to yank his paw out of the sharp, metal, clamping trap. Gus, my big “baby” of a dog, sweet as they come, who always has been unhinged at the sound of wind or thunder, was now pacing and shaking, out of his mind with pain. I got him to the vet who said he had a broken bone in his paw. The vet put him in a full “arm” cast and splint gave him some pain pills and me a bill for $250.

Later that day, I started making phone calls. Oregon Dept. of Fish and Game gave me information and the phone number of the official county trapper. I called up and spoke with his wife who was very helpful and answered most of my questions. Her husband only sets traps on private land for people with “predator problems.” But I learned that it is legal to trap on public land . All you have to do is take a class and fill out some paperwork. You don’t have to have to post warnings. Evidently, this could lead to “trap theft” or “vandalism.” I asked about the danger to humans: The trapper’s wife replied that “the traps aren’t big enough to cause any damage to humans.” (Oh? This one sure damaged my dog and he is real big. What about the damage to a foot of a child?) I was told it is legal to lay traps for beaver in the rivers and streams, invisible underwater.

Trappers are required to check their lines “every three days.” Picture the horror and pain of a wild animal in a trap for three days and three nights. And who would know if the traps are really checked every three days? Who polices these guys to make sure what they are doing is humane and/or within the law? (Sadly, “humane” and “within the law” are not yet interchangable phrases.) I asked what they are trapping for, since this one was probably too small for a cougar or a bear. “Small fur-bearing animals” was the answer. Why? Who wears an skunk coat these days? A possum purse, anyone? You don’t see a lot of racoon fur on the market...

I don’t get it. Since these animals are trapped in semi-wilderness they certainly can’t be considered “pests” or a “Menace to farms or livestock...” Maybe someone who reads this will enlighten me, because I had no idea people were trapping on our near-by public lands these days. And I’m pretty sure that none of my neighbors, who take their dogs up there on the mountain behind us, have any idea either. I’d sure like to see it stopped. Or at the very least, make the trappers post warning signs.

It has been a month since Gus had his terrifying mis-adventure. We just took off his cast. He still limps. But we are lucky and we know it. We still have old Gus and we are smarter and more careful now... We don’t take our or our pets safety for granted in a world where people are still allowed a maim and torture wildlife in the name of .... what? May this sad experience make a little difference for the better by the telling of this tale.

Copyright ©2006 by Alix Mosieur

Alix Mosieur is a Northwest artist who lives in Lorane, Oregon. She and her husband Bruce founded the Red Horse Art Company, making beautiful objects that are also useful. Alix is also well-known for her paintings of wildlife, horses, and Native American historical personalities, as well as decorating traditional Native American musical instruments with original art.

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