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Of dogs and men / January 08, 2014

Dear Viewpoint:

This letter is in response to the letter entitled “Running of the Dogs” by Michael Cochran which ran in your January 1, 2014 edition under Viewpoint. I felt compelled to respond to the letter because my son was one of the hunters that Mr. Cochran encountered and one of my dogs was involved in this situation. Reading Mr. Cochran’s letter gives you his side of the story. Perhaps by reading my response, others will understand the hunters’ side of the story, which is one that we often have to repeat to individuals who are either against hunting with dogs or against hunting all together.

You do have rights in regards to your property. However, it is not illegal for a dog to cross your property nor is it illegal for a person to come onto your property to retrieve their dog. If you disagree, ask a Game Warden with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. As good hunters, we try to seek out the landowner before we go on the property to catch our dogs. The first hunter that Mr. Cochran encountered was one of my fellow hunters. This gentleman had no opportunity in advance to introduce himself or to let Mr. Cochran know that he was trying to retrieve our dogs from his property. This is because he was met by Mr. Cochran who was yelling about the dogs being on his property. Clearly Mr. Cochran set the stage for this encounter from the very beginning. Cursing, yelling and swinging a stick are certainly not actions that I consider as genteel or conducive in having a civil and calm conversation. Mr. Cochran can thank himself for that fine display of “control” and “responsibility.” Mr. Cochran’s admission of “grabbing a stick” and statement that he “tried to chase them away” (the dogs) begs from me the question, “Who is truly ‘cruel and barbaric’? Who is in control? Who is responsible?” It certainly isn’t Mr. Cochran.

Mr. Cochran was far from cordial in his conversation and manner with the hunters. The reason the first hunter simply replied to Mr. Cochran by saying, “I’m trying” when Mr. Cochran yelled at him to “Get your (delete) dogs off my property” was because he was trying to catch the dogs while at the same time trying to be respectful and let Mr. Cochran know he needed to go on his property to get the dogs. Apparently Mr. Cochran hasn’t heard of this attribute called “respect.” Respect displays traits of politeness and speaking to someone in a way that you would want to be spoken to. The hunters did not react negatively to Mr. Cochran’s rants, cursing and aggressive actions. It’s clear who was “in control” and “responsible” and it certainly wasn’t Mr. Cochran.

As far as the two hunters that were standing at their truck, my son was one of those hunters and he was trying to retrieve my dog. I suppose Mr. Cochran thought that the dogs understood property lines and could read town limit signs and decided to go on his property anyway. My son was raised to respect others, especially those older than him. I am proud of him and of my fellow hunters because again, they were polite and did not react to Mr. Cochran’s behavior and tone. Again, I ask who was out of control in this situation? It would have been so much easier for everybody if Mr. Cochran had just tried to be somewhat nice — he could have still voiced his objections and concerns about the dogs being on his property. Did Mr. Cochran really think we wanted our dogs in town and on his property? Certainly not.

I wonder if Mr. Cochran’s “critters” ever step foot off of his property? Well, if landowners around his property share in his mindset and methods of removing “critters” from their property, then Mr. Cochran may just get a dose of his own medicine. I am sure if his “critters” were on the receiving end of a swinging stick with cursing and yelling, Mr. Cochran may just look at things a bit differently. The shoe may fit so well on the other foot.

The remarks Mr. Cochran made about hunting dogs (and I am assuming he is including my dogs in this category) being treated in ways that are “crude and barbaric” and his statement about not feeding the dogs so when they are hunting, they are “motivated”, simply appall me. If Mr. Cochran thinks that my dogs are starved before they are allowed to hunt or at any time, he is sadly mistaken. My dogs are fed daily and fed well. They have comfortable and warm accommodations. They are exercised regularly in areas where they cannot be hit by cars or be endangered in any way. At the end of the hunting day, I will spend hours driving and tracking my dogs in order to have them back “home” and fed and in a dry, warm place to rest.

Our hunt club leases substantial acreage a good distance outside the town limits of Boydton. I would say all of the dog owners in our hunt club have well trained dogs but we have not yet been able to teach them to read road signs and to interpret property lines. Perhaps Mr. Cochran doesn’t realize that most hunters are eager to keep their dogs away from town and in areas where they know they can run safely. As far as a “buffer zone,” I would love to hear how that can be made to work. We release our dogs on property miles outside of town limits but as in this situation, sometimes they do come into town or heavily populated areas if the chase lasts for a while and the deer (as in this case) runs in that direction. It is not the desire or direct intent, as hunters, to allow our dogs to cross other’s property or enter high traffic areas — we would much rather they be in an area far off the road and away from town and traffic.

What should have and easily could have been a simple and polite encounter was turned into an unpleasant situation by Mr. Cochran. As hunters, we have no desire for anyone’s property to be “invaded” upon, nor do we wish for any ill words to be exchanged. In the words of another, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Calvin Clark

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