Meadow finds forest treasure

At eleven, Meadow's not as spry as she once was, but she still loves to exercise her nose. I take her and Finn for an evening stroll along a dirt road just inside the Payette Forest as the day's heat starts to give way to the evening's cool breeze. Late June days are long. Even at 8:00 pm there's plenty of slanting sunlight to brighten the landscape.

Finn ventures ahead as Meadow shows me where all the interesting smells are located.

Ranchers have just released their cattle into the forest to graze for the summer, so I keep Meadow on leash. No more chasing baby elk like last June, or any other ungulates for that matter. Finn is under strict voice control.

Meadow sports her Do Not Hunt Me vest.

I call Finn back to where Meadow is reluctantly posing for my camera. I want a shot of them both. Finn, though, prefers to keep an eye on all the chipmunks and squirrels taunting him from the ground and the trees.

Finn, unwilling to miss any critter action, won't look at the camera.
We stroll for about a mile. Truly stroll - because Meadow is busy putting nose to ground to collect all the important information the various scents provide. She's frustrated that I won't let her wander off the road, but I really, really do not want a repeat of the baby elk incident. A neighbor told me how his dog flushed a baby elk just a couple weeks ago, nearby. One episode of that in a lifetime is enough for me (although Meadow disagrees).

Eventually, Finn spies some cows down in the trees and starts off after them. Luckily he listens to me and quickly returns. Or maybe he decides they're too big and slow and not enough of a challenge, preferring the truly speedy chipmunks. Doesn't matter. I elect to eliminate further temptation by turning back. Two miles in warm temperatures is enough for Meadow anyway.

Just after we turn around, Meadow pulls me over to the low shrubs and plants beside the trail. I can see she's more interested than usual in something so I let her drag me a couple feet off the road. Her nose takes her right to something white. My first thought is that it's garbage, a piece of plastic left behind by a hunter.

Meadow grasps the white thing in her mouth and brings it to the road.

Meadow's nose knows it to be hidden dog treasure: the bleached bone of some big animal, likely a deer or elk.

Meadow's treasure.
It's so thin - almost like a paddle - and bleached and clean, that I make her drop it just to be sure it is a bone. I see small remnants of gristle, and on the narrow end, the socket end of a ball and socket joint. Maybe a shoulder blade?

Meadow's so proud of her treasure that she starts trotting jauntily down the road, tail held as high as I've seen it in awhile. I laugh and praise her for being such a great hunter.

As we near the car, I ask Meadow to drop her treasure. 

Come on, let me take it home.
She reluctantly complies. I know she'd love to take it home and show it to Maia. Many times over the years in this forest, Meadow would smell some bones just off the road or trail, disappear briefly, and come back to me with one in her mouth. I'd praise her. Then she'd head straight for Maia, teasing her with her prize, showing off. Maia would smell it appreciatively, then pretend to not care as we continued on our way. Eventually, Meadow would drop the bone to smell something else. Maia would quickly snatch the bone for herself, taunting Meadow. Back and forth it went. It was a game they never tired of. I wish Maia were here to play it now, but she has already walked so much this week I left her home to make her rest.

Oddly, Finn shows absolutely no interest in bones, the forest treasure so coveted by Meadow. In fact - soon after adding Finn to our pack - the first time I gave all three dogs marrow bones, Finn was perplexed, not knowing what to do with it. He saw that the girls were very excited and went straight to a comfortable spot to start gnawing, but after sniffing the bone, he looked at me for explanation. After some urging, he started licking, then working the marrow out of the bone. Now he's quite adept at it and loves them as much as the girls. But wild bones found in the forest? They don't seem to hold any interest for him.

Maybe it's because they don't move.

Finn loves movement, and chasing what runs. He rarely uses his nose for guidance.

The girls have excellent noses and use them to find what interests them most - big ungulates. Living and moving beasts, or their bleached white bones long after they're dead. To a Malamute, it all smells wonderful.