RAWLINS — It’s normal to see dogs both in big cities and small towns relaxing in the shade or running around the yard. However, breaking the norm of dogs across the country, those in Wyoming – specifically, Carbon County – can, unfortunately, find themselves sharing the location with rattlesnakes.
Ashlea Colson, Operator One of a Kind Canine, a Rawlins dog training company, said the snakes can be found most of the summer in shady locations such as gardens, tall grass and under trees throughout the town, and especially around areas bordering open fields.
While humans might turn and head a different direction, Colson added that dogs often feel the need to check them out. Colson explained if they bit, they could be poisoned and in need of care.
“You definitely want to get them to the vet as soon as possible,” Colson said. “Even if they have their vaccine, it is still an emergency. All that vaccine does is buy you a little bit more time and will hopefully speed up their recovery. But if you don’t get them to the vet, there is a very good chance they will die from it.”
Colson plans to start hosting her sixth year of rattlesnake clinics in the coming weeks. During the clinics Colson will place rattlesnakes in various settings — in the grass, dirt and weeds — and use an electronic remote-controlled collar when dogs approach the snakes to teach dogs to avoid them.
“I try to run it so the dogs and snakes have their own interaction,” she said. “So we’re there. I’m watching the dog; I’m watching his behavior to know exactly when to push that button to crank it off the snake, and the owners are there just because it is more natural for the dogs to be walking with their owners instead of some stranger they don’t know.”
Colson said the situation forces dogs to understand that the snakes are not something to play with. She also said the course keeps the dogs fairly safe.
“When we catch (the snakes) we clip their fangs off,” Colson said. “We also muzzle them with electrical tape. That way you know the snake can still can see, his heat vent still works, he can still stick his tongue out, but he can’t actually open his mouth.”
Due to the natural instinct, Colson said some dogs have to run through the course a few times to learn to avoid the snakes.
“When we first did my dad’s little beagle through it, she went right up to the snake like I thought she would,” Colson said. “I corrected her with the collar, she jumped back and then she came in teeth bared. She went right after that snake again, so I had to correct her again.”
Colson first became familiar with such trainings as a second grader when she went with her father to a bloodhound seminar in Sheridan. Colson, upon going through a national K9 training herself, decided to learn how to run such a course.
“We went out and caught a snake and muzzled it and borrowed a new collar from somebody,” she said. “And then we just ran our dogs through (the course) and our friends’ dogs through it and my grandma’s dogs.”
Since then, she has run her dog though the course to make sure they stay current in the training and that everyone sees what to do.
Colson has already responded to calls of rattlesnakes this spring and said residents could see a snake in the roads, parks and even in their yards if they haven’t already.
Residents should contact Colson at (307) 321-5090 if interested in taking part in the training. The course is $40 for first time dogs and $25 for a refresher.