Flashback Fur-iday – Home Is …

Since we first set out with our fifth wheel in 2011, we’ve spent more than a year and a half travelling and boondocking in the southwest United States, nineteen months broken into segments from two and half to five months each. It’s become like our second home with its familiar terrain and temperatures, our winter residence for all but three of the past eight winters.

Wupatki ruins in Northern Arizona with “Larry” in the background.

We’ve been back home in Canada since early March of 2018, the longest home stretch since we started RVing and, although I miss our desert time, it’s been good to be home for a while, reconnect with all things Alberta, and enjoy the great outdoors of our grand country.

Almost home in March of 2018.

Logan was really good at appreciating, and very attached to home. It might have been partly his dislike of vehicle travel but I think this prairie place was deep in his bones.

After a week in Tucson we spent a couple of days next to a lake in the far south of Arizona, Patagonia. Sandy soil, a lake to swim in, and grassy hills mostly without cactus, dog heaven! Well, almost. Dog heaven was actually the next stop just a few miles up the road near Sonoita at Xanadu Ranch. I felt like we’d come home — pastures, horses, wide open spaces — it was a sight for a travel-weary dog’s sore eyes.  

Sore Feed and Sore Eyes, March 2012
Near Sonoita in the high country of southern Arizona.

Generally, Logan was a “be happy where you are” kind of guy, always keen for the next adventure, eager to explore new places, but he did worry now and then about what was happening back home on the farm and he sometimes wrestled with bouts of homesickness.

Here I lie under the trailer but, unless there’s a breeze, it’s not nearly as cool as that basement I’m dreaming of. I think I’m starting to feel a little homesick, missing my farm and my daily routine there. I hope things haven’t gotten too out of control without me there to keep order. I hope my girlfriends across the road haven’t forgotten me. What am I saying? Of course they haven’t.

A Little Desert Weary, March 2015
A hot day at Stewart’s Point on Lake Mead.

But then he’d think about the alternative.

When I’m not happy, I’m just not that much fun to be around, or at least that’s the impression I get. They worry about me. They even started talking about it being better for me to maybe stay home next year. At first my response was, “Yay! What a terrific idea!” But it would mean months away from my people and, as annoying as he can sometimes be, my buddy Chico. I realized that “home” wouldn’t be “home” without them.

Home is Where the Hedgehog Is, January 2017

Wait a minute … Me? Annoying? Ah well, at least he called me his buddy.

Hiking in the Valley of Fire near Las Vegas.

One thing that Logan and I definitely agreed on was the following definition of home. I’ve been a lot of places in these past eight years, some good, some awesome, and a few not so great (at least not for dogs), but always there was this …

That was when I looked up “home” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and it turns out it’s more than one thing. The first three in the list were 1) one’s place of residence; 2) the social unit formed by a family living together; and 3) a familiar or usual setting. So, although I’d be in my place of residence (number 1) if I stayed “home”, I would be separate from my social unit, my pack (number 2). As for number 3, Sid is just about as familiar as the farm house after the many months we’ve spent living in here.

Home is Where the Hedgehog Is, January 2017
Logan making himself at home in Nollind’s home-away-from-home office (aka the ver”man”da)

We’d hoped to be heading down the road about now but family and business circumstances are keeping T and Nollind home in Alberta for another month. However, although it’s getting cold and snowy here in Canada and the desert is calling, it’s okay, because it’s where we live, we’re here together, and it’s familiar in that very good way.

Home in the barnyard with Storm.

The Canadian Marathon

We’ve had a few false starts this year, going way back to September, but this time the onset of winter feels more convincing. The signs are there … the ground’s gotten harder, the wind has a serious bite, the horses look like leggy bears, and Sid has been moved to the parking spot in front of the house.

Snow dump at the end of September.

In March, when we hauled Sid out to the Cypress Hills for a ski getaway, he was frozen to the ground and the truck just spun all four wheels on the ice. The whole rig—truck and trailer—had to be pulled with the tractor. Kind of funny, yes, but Nollind was not impressed. He doesn’t like doing things that have the potential to break something. Luckily, all went well on that occasion.

Releasing Sid from the ice in March.

So, this past week, in preparation for a journey south at some point, Nollind moved Sid from his regular, somewhat low parking spot in the grass, to the asphalt near the house. The trailer was stuck already, but not so seriously that the Dodge couldn’t pull him free.

I can’t say I don’t like winter because I love to roll in the snow and I enjoy staying cool and having a little snow to eat on a long walk. But, boy, once you’ve spent a winter in the deserts of the southwest, it’s hard to appreciate Canadian winter from start to finish, partly because those two things are so far apart. As I mentioned, we had our first little blast of winter in September and we could easily have snow and cold into April, even early May.

Nothing like a roll in the snow. Although grass is a pretty close second.

Winter in Canada is a marathon. There are a few areas of our country where winter is shorter and milder but, generally speaking, winter here is serious business. Lucky for me, I was adopted by people that believe dogs are part of the family and should therefore live with the family, not be left outdoors all the time. The down side is that I get pretty soft as a house dog and, unless I keep moving on a cold day, I get serious shivers and my feet don’t like to stay on the frozen ground.

Couch dog extraordinaire!

It was about -13°C (9°F) today with a wind-chill taking it down to -23°C (-9°F). T tried to put a jacket on me but, when I insisted on scraping myself through the caragana and lilac shrubs, she took it off before I destroyed the nylon outer shell. It worked! I’d rather be cold than have to wear clothes … although I do make an exception when it’s hot tub time. I can lie on the deck much more comfortably in a jacket.

Snowy walks can be pretty nice.

Today was only the first of many days of cold paws, shivering, and the resulting jackets and, God help me, boots (I’d rather lose my toes to frostbite than wear boots). But Sid parked in front of the house gives me hope, hope that winter will be cut short this year by journeying a few days to the south. Sunshine, sand, sunsets, and Sid. The stuff of dreams.

Boondocking at Dome Rock BLM near Quartzsite.

Spot Check

It’s been a year since I told you about Nevada’s (aka Spot’s) near-death experience of late last summer. You’ve seen him in the photos, so you’ve probably surmised his still around, but I thought I should give you an update on the old boy’s condition.

In short … he’s awesome, amazing, and very fit for an almost 29-year-old horse. We had more pasture time than usual this summer and, although it resulted in some extra heft on both Rosa and me, it was great for Nevada. He flourished with the combination of fresh food and plenty of exercise. T arranged things so that we had to do a lot of walking, and movement is so important to horse health. Our whole system is designed to walk and eat, walk and eat, repeat ad infinitum.

Our fall pasture at the back of the property. Oh, those idyllic autumn days.

Since last September, Spot had only the one health incident that I told you about in my Winter Whoas blog in February. Although that one got serious enough for the vet to be called, I think it would have passed on its own, and Spot will be more careful about complaining of a belly ache in future. Nobody wants a gratuitous colic tubing for a little gas.

All summer, Spot was relegated to pasture horse with the rest of us, only getting a cup of oats once a week with some probiotic in it, just as a little insurance. But, as the weather has grown colder and the pasture less robust, he has been going in every afternoon for grain and alfalfa cubes and some extra hay. He looks great but T wants to make sure he maintains his weight going into winter.

Enjoying a mostly indoor snack on a wet, wintry day. Chico likes to keep things tidy.

The rest of us don’t need any extra, there’s still no sign of our ribs following the summer of grazing, but T always throws us a little loose hay while Nevada enjoys his buffet. She doesn’t like to play favourites, even when the favourite is as old as Spot. But really, I don’t mind. One day I’ll be the old guy needing special treatment.

Me sporting my ready-for-winter weight and coat.

I’m seeing more of a hitch in Nevada’s backend since the weather turned colder and I know T has noticed it too. I think it’s a combination of old bones not liking the cold and less moving around when there’s snow and ice to navigate. I’m sure T’s started adding supplements to his winter ration and she was measuring him up for a new blanket last week. He’s adequately woolly, but he does feel the cold more than he used to, especially on those high windchill days, and a blanket does help him out in those conditions. If it fit him, I’d be happy to loan him mine, but there’s a rather significant size difference. He’d look like he was wearing his little brother’s jacket.

Snow on the ground means hay in the feeders!

So that’s the good news from the farm. I’d best get back to my pile of hay before one of the girls gobbles it up!