Kota has been teaching Annie and Jake how to find wildlife, but sometimes a guy just has to take a break and have fun!
Kota is really good at finding scat and scent posts, but still needs a little work in letting me know what he found. He’s also teaching Annie and Jake how to work with us. We work on the trails and at home almost every chance we get. On this trip Kota was pointing out coyote sign and black bear sign earlier in the day, but sometimes, you just have to goof off! Kota decided to have fun splashing the other two dogs, me, and my friend with the camera. He was running straight at us full speed through the water, then at the last second he would change direction. We were all soaked but having fun. When we got back to the buildings, he was a little upset that the humans had to use the facilities. He was letting us know by yelling his disapproval at us, and Jake decided to join in.
This fall has been a very busy season. We welcomed another family member to our home, a red heeler mix named Annie. She is not being trained for anything at this time, but Kota is trying to teach her bad habits. We have not been able to work in the field this fall, but training has still been going on. There is a family group of coyotes living close to us, so there are plenty of opportunities to practice finding scents and scat. Kota has the other two dogs following him down the trails left by the coyotes in the snow and smelling all the scent posts and scat piles he finds. I know he isn’t purposely training the other two to find coyotes, but they are learning. We also have had the pleasure of having mountain lions close to the house this month. Annie is very afraid of them and will let me know immediately if she catches the scent of one. She might turn out to be better working with mountain lions than Kota, only time will tell.
We moved and have been busy unpacking, but tonight I tried taking Jake in the kayak.
He loved it, for about 15 minutes, then he wanted out. I couldn’t keep Kota from following the kayak and trying to steal the paddle or climb in! In this photo they were torn between listening to my instruction to stay on the shore and trying to figure out how to get out to me. The picture doesn’t quite do the situation justice, as they were whining while standing there! We haven’t been out working lately, but both dogs are getting used to the coyotes howling every night at the new place.
Jake (left) and Kota (right)
Jake, who was my mother’s dog, came to live with us after my mother passed away unexpectedly. Jake’s life has been turned upside down in more ways than one. He is adjusting to a more physically and socially active life and seems to be having fun doing so. Kota is teaching him lots, even how to find scat and alert me! Who said you can’t teach an older dog new tricks (Jake is 5)! Unfortunately Kota is also teaching him bad habits, like counter surfing. We are working on those bad habits while we continue to practice our tracking skills and get ready for field work.
Jake (foreground) and Kota
Jake & Kota
Kota has also been learning the ropes of being a demonstration dog for my dog obedience classes.
He is trying really hard to do everything correctly and seems to enjoy showing off for other dog owners. He is impressing clients by being so focused on me and what I am telling him.
Porcupines are everywhere!
Recently, Kota and I were on the trail of a porcupine to help some tribal members collect quills without hurting the porcupine. The quills have native craft and ceremonial uses. Working with porcupines is a tricky business, we want to find them, but not touch them. Signs of porcupines were all around us, but we didn’t have any luck finding the actual animals. We will try again soon. Wish us luck!
Joyful play is essential for good health!
Kota loves his dog park time!
Once a week we go to the local dog park to let off some steam and wrestle and run with his friends. Every week, Kota loves playing tug with these two! Sometimes he lets them win, sometimes not. Tug and fetch are his two favorite games. As the weather gets warmer, more dogs will be at the park and there will be more fun to be had. Finally, this might be something that tires Kota out!
Kota is sharpening his skills to find mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, and wolf scents. This work helps to establish the range for each of these species.
With the New Year came a new job for Carrie who is now a professor at a local college while also maintaining some of her previous wildlife responsibilities on the reservation. As a result of the new job, Kota is in his crate a bit more, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped working at developing his skills. He is continuing his training in finding mountain lion scent here in North Dakota and we have added a few more species to the list: Bobcat, coyote, and wolves. To the average person it looks like we are just taking a walk down the trail with an occasional “good boy” and enthusiastic jumping and tail wagging when that is heard. Actually, people look at us like we are crazy when we are training, but hey, who doesn’t want to find poop buried in the snow. On this particular day, we found both coyote and bobcat scat and urine marks. Boy was Kota excited to find those! From Kota’s finds, we now know the western edge of this bobcat’s range.
Kota finding bobcat scat
Kota got new shoes!
Kota needs shoes during the winter because he has sensitive feet. When the temperature is below zero or there is snow on the ground, his feet get very red and he doesn’t want to walk. Shoes for dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and these are the classic mitten shaped ones. On the first night, he wouldn’t let me tighten them correctly, but he did well for a trial run. He is between sizes, so no matter what, they will be a bit big. When I first put his shoes on he wouldn’t move and acted like he was glued to the ground. I coaxed him to move with treats, then with the basketball. Recently we have been out in the snow and he learned that his feet don’t bother him anymore with the boots on. He is not to the point of asking for the boots yet when we go out like he does with the coat, but we are getting there.
Kota learned the importance of stillness recently when two bison strolled by the car he was sitting in with Carrie. Sometime it is important to be invisible when we do our work!
A few days later, when Carrie and Kota were in the bison pasture mending fences, Kota showed he had learned his lesson well. Kota’s job was to watch for bison and let Carrie know if one got close. Carrie saw the bison first – it was less than 200 feet away. Kota saw the bison and quietly stood his ground between it and Carrie. Carrie snapped this photo, said lets go, and Kota turned to follow her to the truck. Good boy Kota!