My Turn: A dog is still a dog

TRUCKEE, Calif. – I cringe every time I see someone walking their dog down the street without a leash. No matter how well trained man’s best friend is, you can’t trust them – a dog’s still a dog and will follow its instincts.Over the years I’ve owned four Hungarian Vizslas. Two males in succession (Ollie and Jake) and then a male and a female from the same litter (Buddy and Gracie).I was a teenager the first time I saw a Vizsla. I was so taken by their striking appearance when it came time for me to get my own dog I sought out a breeder. They have short golden-rust fur with a classic pointer frame – lean with strong muscular features – and are all one color, even their nose and toe nails.Vizslas were bred to hunt but make wonderful pets for active families. They are extremely intelligent, very sensitive, loving and a bit needy which just adds to their charm. As like most hunting dogs, Vizslas are charged full of energy and need regular exercise, so they’re a great breed for outdoor enthusiasts.Seeing as to how energetic Vizslas are, I had each of my dogs professionally trained to keep them under better control. I’ve always taken pride in how well my dogs obeyed my commands and followed my lead. They would heel next to me even off the leash; sit, stay and not come until I called them a hundred or more yards away; and no matter how far out of sight my dogs were all I had to do was give a loud whistle and they would appear out of nowhere racing back to me. To put my dogs in their kennel all I had to do was open the gate and they’d walk right in without me saying a thing, and when my dogs were in the house they stayed in the corner on their bed without getting up unless I said it was okay.Prior to moving to Truckee, I lived in Ventura County and would go for runs with my dogs through a junior college that was about a quarter mile from my house. I kept my dogs on a leash as we worked our way along the streets to the college. When we got to the college I would let them run free until we got back to the streets again. After all, Vizslas are hunting dogs and being a nice owner it felt good to let them use their instincts by chasing cotton tails into bushes and flushing flocks of black birds feeding on the quads.After my dogs scared off all the birds and rabbits they could find I’d guide us through the athletic fields and put them on their leash before we got back to the street in order to return home.Wanting him to still enjoy his freedom, on one occasion with Jake I left him off his leash as we got to the street and had him heel next to me. Knowing dogs can be distracted and runoff, I looked around to see if there was anything he might run to and saw some people walking on the other side of the street. Jake caught my eye and before I could reach down to put on his leash he ran off after them as a minivan was barreling down the hill. I yelled for Jake but it all happened too quickly. Jake got hit and killed right before my eyes. The van never even stopped.If you love your dogs and want to be nice to them, please keep them on a leash when walking down the street. You don’t want to do what I did to Jake. A dog’s still a dog and will follow its instincts no matter how well you have them trained.Nick De Fiori is a Truckee resident.

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