The Prairie Encounter

On this trip we met a dog…

We were on our Prairie Wandering trip camping and following dirt roads around Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas. We were making our way through the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, a noncontinuous 300k-acre preserve, protecting the few remaining tracts of tallgrass prairie found in the states described. We had learned about a water feature somewhere in the middle of one of these tracts and were on a mission to find it. We found a place to park on the outskirts. On one side of the dirt road began the preserve, and on the other, a lone farm stood overseeing its hundreds of acres of cropland.

We found a trail that looked to lead us towards our goal and about an 1/8th mile from the dirt road, we saw a thick black and white dog from the farm slowly stalking us at a distance. Every time we took a step, it too crept closer. We were too far from the car to make it back before it, so we decided to continue down the trail and hope the dog would return home. Instead, the dog went into a full sprint down the dirt road and up the trail towards us. Expecting it to attack us, we came up with a plan to weather any bites and wrestle it to the ground. There, I could keep it pinned while Toni found help at the nearby farm. We faced the dog and braced ourselves…

As the dog got close, the full sprint turned to a happy tail-wagging frenzy. He was very ragged from being a longhaired dog in the plains but had a collar and seemed to respond to some basic commands. No name tag, our new friend gave a brief hello and ran ahead to wait for us to follow. He was so happy to join us and obviously considered this prairie his. Not only did he lead us to the water feature, but he took us down different trails there and back to make a nice loop. He stuck with us the whole hike through the preserve, exploring the grass and chasing the occasional pheasant.

Despite the full charge, his tail-wagging and smile expressed his excitement at the opportunity to go hiking with new people.
We made it to the oasis in the prairie.

Back at the car, he reverted to his sheepdog instincts, trying to “herd” our car back to its parking spot. We were stuck. He would not let us drive down the road nor was there anyone at the nearby farm to help reel him in. With him blocking our front, we decided to outrun him in reverse and flipped the car around when we were clear. We waved goodbye and continued on our trip.

Successfully “herding” our Subaru.

If anyone knows this dog or its owners, we’d love to know its name and say thank you!

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