Rob Phillips: In the off-season, this hunting dog takes up the defense of the property | Outdoors and recreation

During the summer, hunting dogs don’t have much to do.

So most of them just sleep. At least that’s what my black labrador Bailey does.

Now, to be fair, she doesn’t sleep all the time. Sometimes, even at dawn, when she would rather be sleeping, she wakes me up to go out and do the first perimeter check of the day on our little orchard.

It’s been a particularly busy summer at our place. Bailey has been protecting us from all kinds of four-legged creatures that have suddenly decided that our garden is where they belong.

Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s just the time of year. Whatever it is, we’re being invaded from all directions.

We have always had gophers and rock baboons as neighbors. During most of the year they stay alone. However, sometimes they become very annoying.

Rock baboons practically turn nocturnal during these hot summer days, so we don’t see them much. I suspect they are in our orchard, though, because when Bailey and I go for an early morning walk, she is especially interested in all sorts of scents in the sometimes dewy grass.

The fat marmots don’t seem to be doing much damage, so if they don’t bother me, I won’t bother them. However, Bailey would love to chase them down. They just aren’t there when she is.

Ground squirrels, on the other hand, are a bit more daring. When they started moving into my cherry trees and eating my cherries, that’s when I drew the line.

Although they live on land, gray diggers, as they are commonly known in these parts, can climb a tree just as adeptly as their forest-dwelling cousins.

The ever-alert Bailey discovered that squirrels can be found in trees, and when we first moved into our little orchard, she too started climbing trees. Not that she did much good.

The squirrels were faster and more agile, and Bailey would be left standing on a branch with nothing to show for her efforts.

Today, Bailey stays on the ground and lurks in the trees waiting for a gray bulldozer to break his holes in the rocks. Still, the bushy-tailed creatures will make a fair run. It’s a lot of fun for Bailey, who, with amazing patience and persistence, will chase them down day after day.

Last month we had two new additions to the four legged friends who decided this is a great place to gamble.

The first is a cute cottontail bunny. Despite the continual racing around the orchard with Bailey hot on his heels, the rabbit frequently ventures out to dine on the grass and dandelions under the trees.

Bailey enjoys the daily chases, but to date she has never gotten close to the bunny.

In fact, I think the cottontail rabbit enjoys the game of chase as well. One time, Bailey was dozing in the shade on the lawn, and the bunny jumped 10 yards or more from the black dog and just sat there looking at her.

Bailey must have felt the rabbit’s gaze, or caught the rabbit’s scent, because she was up in an instant and the chase was on. The rabbit runs effortlessly, weaving in and around evergreens and will almost always miss Bailey in the first one.

She thinks the bunny is still under the tree, but the bunny went the other way and will sit in the distance and watch as Bailey circles the tree.

By the way, I have no idea what Bailey would do if he ever caught a squirrel or rabbit, but so far that hasn’t been a concern.

The other rodent that moved in uninvited and became a total pest was a pack rat. He decided that living in the engine compartment of my Toyota Tundra would be worthwhile.

Frankly, I never would have known the thing lived there, but Bailey spotted the rat and fretted in the front of the truck endlessly. When I opened the hood of the truck, I discovered that the little pest had chewed through much of the firewall lining and built a nice nest next to the battery.

That meant war in my book, so I went to the hardware store and bought a couple of rat traps. I placed them in the truck and hoped for the best.

The little bastard was smart and got the peanut butter twice without getting caught. Once the trap had been sprung and there was only a small amount of rat hair on the bar. He missed him so much.

However, the third time was a charm. For me and for Bailey, who got on the engine when the hood was open looking for the rat.

We discovered that the ugly little creature had moved into his latest truck engine.

When Bailey isn’t worrying about rat-inhabited vehicles or playing tag with her long-eared new friend, it’ll be digging moles and gophers in the orchard. It’s so much fun for her, he just let her dig. Every once in a while, to her delight and hers to mine as well, she’ll catch one of those.

I have come to the conclusion that all dogs should live in the country. There are many more things to chase and smell.

I think Bailey would agree. While you would surely prefer to hunt pheasants and retrieve ducks, the creatures that live among us definitely help keep you from getting bored until hunting season rolls around.