Fire, Ruby love their freedom

I have a situation and this situation has been and currently is such a big part of my life that I am going to write about it.

About two years after I graduated from high school I purchased my first golden retriever and have had one ever since.

For the last 30 years I have lived in the country, and I am now on my sixth and seventh golden retrievers who are Fire and her pup Ruby.

My dogs have traveled with me in my outdoor adventures for 29 years as a writer and in almost every case I could always leave them free wherever I was camped.

At my home in rural Juneau County I have had five golden retrievers – Star, her pup Pearl, and Pearl’s pup Ice as well as Fire and Ruby.

Until recently I could count on one hand the amount of times my dogs have been on a chain while at home. In other words, they are free roaming and because they did not run away, everyone was very happy.

The pups lived life on their own terms. My neighbors just to the north and south loved having the pups visit and everyone was very connected.

Ruby was born in May of 2016, her dad was a field trial champion several times over, and Duke and Fire had excellent pups.

In late August of 2016 Fire and Ruby went for a hike and did not come home. Actually the next day Fire came home alone. Ruby was 12 weeks old and missing in wolf country. For seven days Ruby was the talk of the neighborhood and most of us figured she had been picked up or consumed by a wolf.

On the seventh day I did a really extensive, final search and believe it or not found her on my 26th and final stop. She was sitting in the woods, well off the road and just staring at me. Ruby lost a lot of weight and I then realized that she is a survivor.

That fall, though she was very young, she did an excellent job of retrieving ducks, including some where she broke ice. Her common theme has always been that she is full of love and scared of nothing.

Unfortunately that theme has changed to the following. If Ruby and Fire are loose at the same time and I ignore them for over two minutes they run away. When I say they run away, I mean guaranteed gone overnight and if it is not winter, gone until they get caught.

I know you are saying keep them chained, invisible fence, huge kennel etc. Another keynote is if they are outside alone neither runs away.

Here is where it gets difficult. I travel in the outdoors. My dogs come with me and live a very good life.

Two weeks ago I met two buddies of mine in the woods in a desolate area. We had a campfire, cooked a meal and had a good time. Not 10 minutes into this experience Ruby and Fire were gone.

I did about as extensive of a foot, truck and knocking-ondoors search in heavy wolf country as I could and found them 26 hours later.

Five times in a row in January and February I made the mistake of letting them loose in our yard together and every time they were gone for a night. Now that the weather has warmed I fear they will not come home as they travel great distances.

Since they only run away together I could let a friend adopt Fire. She really is an incredible dog. Fire is Selina’s dog and they are very close, so letting a friend adopt Fire is out of the question.

I could put Ruby up for adoption but I have to tell you she has the potential to be the best golden retriever that I have ever had and I am probably looking at eight more hunting seasons out of her and a pup to carry on the line.

I am currently starting to purchase the materials for a 32-by- 48-foot kennel and as long as only one of these “runners” is loose at a time, my problem is solved.

The real problem that I do not have the answer for is what about all of the camping trips. There are literally three to four a month.

I had no intention of writing a column on this but there are many people that are aware of this situation that have said, “Those dogs are a big part of what you do, write a column on it.”

I can only imagine the pure joy that this mother and daughter have on their little escapades but what a totally humiliating, time-consuming and frustrating experience it can be for me. It’s amazing that they are still alive!


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