Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Duck Hunting in the Forest of Malmaison

It took about eighteen minutes by car to get to the Forest of Malmaison, a huge national forest at the southwest end of Rueil-Malmaison.  Since the neighbourhood in which we lived was relatively compact we used to like to take Beau there once in a while to have a good sprint.  The forest was huge – with walking paths, riding trails for horses, a couple of good-sized ponds and streams.  Every time we went there were lots of dogs – evidently we were not the only humans who had discovered the benefits of the Forest for their canine friends.  Beau loved lodge meetings where he could run with the other dogs and see who would establish the Alpha position in the pack.  Beau, if memory serves us right, did not do too badly in that.

But the real joy of the Forest of Malmaison, we were to discover, lay not in the dogs but in the ducks. The streams flowing through the forest had been dammed up in a couple of places to make decent sized ponds.  The quiet natural environment made a natural habitat for ducks that settled into the neighbourhood.  On one of his runs through the forest Beau took the path down to the stream and along the pond.  It was then that he saw the ducks – a mother with her ducklings. 

The pond was about 70 metres long and about 25 metres wide.  In jumped Beau, swimming like sixty to reach the ducks.  The mother went into defensive mode, gathering her ducklings about her as the dog approached.  What followed was a prolonged game of strategy as Beau sought to approach the flock and the mother swam around in a circular form, taking her children with her and squawking at the canine intruder.

The spectacle drew a crowd – there were always lots of people about walking – themselves and their dogs.  As the crowd gathered, the Shepherds had an urge to disappear.  We wished to get Beau out of the water.  The size and depth of the pond – not to mention the fact that the water was a bit murky- precluded going in to get him. We could call him, but he would likely not obey since the pursuit of the ducks was a much more interesting proposition than coming with us. Further, for image reasons, calling him was not a good strategy in this situation. Beau only replied to commands in English.  This was not the place to tell the world that the dog in the pond was the dog of foreigners.

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The coup de grace came when a lady arrived very busily and took to defending the ducklings from an undisciplined and unruly dog.  More significantly, her disdain focussed on the owners who should have trained their dog in such a way as to avoid this disgraceful display.   Innocent birds were threatened by a vicious dog – a vicious dog owned by insensitive Anglo-Saxon foreigners to boot.  We quickly discerned that this was not the time to enter into a debate about ducks, dogs or discipline.  Fortunately Beau was tiring – swimming, it seemed, was easier for the ducks than for him. Exhausted he came out of the murky waters, came up to us and shook off the water all over my khaki trousers.  The look in his eyes was one of satisfied exhaustion – I could tell that he looked forward to his next encounter with the ducks.  Quietly we stole away to our Renault station wagon in the parking lot and went home.
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