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Echo’s Excellent Adventure

I think I aged at least two years yesterday.

Last Wednesday, we brought home a new addition to the family. We’ve had a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Chance, for eight years, and we love him dearly, so dearly that DH and I don’t ever want to be without a dog. So, we called Chance’s breeder a while ago and ended up with a beautiful little female, Echo, to keep our boy company.

For those of you who haven’t heard of them, Tollers – also known here as Little River Duck Dogs – are a native Nova Scotian breed, developed by Acadian settlers over 200 years ago. “Tolling” is a behaviour shown naturally by red foxes. At the edge of a marsh or lake, a fox will hide in tall grass while its mate plays on the shore, running back and forth and waving its white-tipped tail. For some bird-brained reason, this fascinates waterfowl. They swim in to shore to get a closer look, and if they get close enough, the hidden fox springs out and an unlucky duck becomes dinner for two. The Acadians bred dogs to imitate this behaviour, and to look foxlike – red coats, white markings and sharp faces. The smallest of the retriever breeds, Tollers are compact dynamos with endless energy and a lot of smarts. For hunting, they’re trained to lure the birds in for a shot and then retrieve the kill. We’ve never hunted, but we love the breed’s energy and personality.

This is Chance
and here’s Echo.
She’s two years old and full grown, but rather small for her breed standard, which is why the breeder decided to let her go.

I like this silhouette of the two of them. Just try to get two Tollers to stand still at the same time for anyting, let alone a picture!

Wouldn’t those names be good for a couple in a romance novel? Hmmm, the wheels are turning.

Echo fit into our household right away, and Saturday morning we headed for our family cottage. These dogs are bred for the water and Echo has had field training, so though we were concerned about letting her off-lead so soon, we couldn’t bear to keep her out of the lake. She had a wonderful time and made no attempt to run off, so Sunday morning I took her and Chance down to the water for another swim. Echo had been so good that I didn’t put her on lead for the short walk back to the cottage. We were almost there when she caught the scent of a deer and disappeared down a side path.

For three hours.

DH and I were devastated. We searched and called, but in spite of her field training, we couldn’t be sure she’d come to us even if she heard us. We’d only had her for 4 days. Our cottage is 10 km back in the woods, with no one around for miles. My imagination went into overdrive, picturing Echo alone and frightened, lost in the woods with coyotes on the prowl. While hubby searched on foot I jumped in the car and drove the roads, with no sign of her. Would she find her way out and try to make the dangerous 30-km trip along a busy highway back to the breeder’s? I knew I’d never forgive myself if we didn’t find her.

After several futile circles, I started back to the cottage, praying aloud. Before I reached our road I met hubby walking, with a broad grin on his face. Just after I left for my last circle, Echo had come trotting up to the cottage, very pleased with herself and ready for a rest and dinner. I simply went to pieces.

I suppose I overreacted a tad. She might look like a strong wind could blow her away, but this little girl is wiry and tough and bred for the woods. When she’d had her fill of exploring, she knew enough to follow her own scent back to where comfort and a meal would be waiting. But last night, when it started to thunder and rain and I lay in bed, knowing Echo was safe in her crate and not out in the woods in the dark, I said the most grateful prayer I’ve ever said in my life. It will be a while before that little minx gets off lead again.

She’s definitely grounded.


  1. Anne MacFarlane
    June 21, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Jennie, what a frightening experience. Glad Echo returned safe and sound.

  2. Jennie Marsland
    June 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Anne, we were so afraid for her. Thank heaven she had enough common sense to come back. She's an adorable little monkey and we love her already.

  3. Janet
    June 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    OMG, Jennie – I would be hysterical! I'm so glad she followed her nose back, I can't imagine what kind of night you would have had if she hadn't come home. As a proud German Shepherd owner, AKA one spoiled puppy who I love to pieces, I know exactly how you would have felt – not overreacting at all!

    Great pics – they are beautiful dogs. Happy to know all is well – don't ground her for too long 😉

  4. Jennie Marsland
    June 21, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Janet, I was more or less hysterical. Chance is outrageously spoiled, and Echo is well on the way to being just as bad. We love them to death. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose one of them and never know what became of them. I'm shamelessly biased,I know, but aren't they handsome enough for the leading roles in a canine romance?

  5. Kelly Boyce
    June 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I'm so glad she came back safe and sound. I'm like you – I would have aged several years. I still refuse to take Cedar off leash until he learns his recall better. Right now he's too distracted by everything else around him to listen.

  6. Janet
    June 23, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I forgot to come back yesterday – but here I am today to say, yes, Jennie, they are very handsome and would make perfect lead roles in a canine romance 🙂

  7. Jennie Marsland
    June 23, 2010 at 11:07 am

    lol Janet! Only Echo has been spayed, so it's a case of 'Dude, she's just not that into you.'
    Hi Kelly – I'm working on recalls with Echo now. She's easily distracted too, but she learned to respond to a whistle at duck camp and it carries a lot better than voice. I'm planning on registering her for a flyball class too – she's fast as lightning, and she needs a job. A bored Toller is a Toller looking for trouble. Chance tore a cruciate ligament at two so sports are out for him, but he healed well and still chases a ball with the best of them. A plot is taking shape: Handsome hero sidelined with an athletic injury meets petite, feisty gal with a killer body and an attitude…