I lost count of how many trail rides I went on over the years, all over Kananaskis Country, and even a couple of weeks in the Smithers area of BC. I was a “trail dog” and Teresa & Nollind bragged about how I was never too far away from the horses but never underfoot, able to trot for the 15-30 km without expiring, and not inclined to chase after wildlife. Life was good. And then, in 2011 … Chico came along.
The first ride out with Chico, I thought it might be his last. He chased after every living thing that moved, especially squirrels, dashing into the woods every time something rustled, squeaked or chirped. I didn’t bother, just stayed with the ride, following along behind the horses, only going off-trail to investigate something of the utmost importance, like a creek, or a spot where another dog had peed. You see, if you want to finish a 20+ km ride and not look like a bag of oatmeal with fur, you need to pace yourself. But anyway, to my surprise, Teresa & Nollind just laughed it off—what a funny dog Chico was, enjoying himself so immensely and exhausting himself in the process.
The second trail ride with Chico along, he chased after a deer, and I just couldn’t let him go on his own. Off we went into the woods, baying as we ran. Exhilerating! It was awhile before we gave up the chase and awhile longer before we found our way back to the horses. Teresa & Nollind weren’t laughing that time. They gave us a couple more chances but it seemed that each ride there was something to chase and off we’d go. I know, I could have stayed, and Chico might have stayed with me, but I couldn’t resist his enthusiasm. I didn’t want to be the old guy staying back and missing the fun.
And then the day came—it’s a few years ago now—the horses were tacked up, the saddle bags loaded, and we were put in the trailer and left there listening to the sound of hoof beats fade away down the trail. It was a sad day indeed. Admittedly, I find it hard to keep up with horses these days, even at a walk. Their walk is my jog and I just can’t jog for four or five hours straight anymore, in fact, a couple of hours across the prairie normally has me limping. So, as angry as I was with Chico for spoiling what was a great gig, he saved me from having to admit defeat and retire in disgrace.
So I’ll just enjoy our “trail days” for what they are, a chance to sniff around a new location, put my feet in a mountain stream and watch out the trailer window as the horses and bikes and hikers come and go. And, lying there on the bench seat, I can dream about the trails I jogged, the many people I met and all the wondrous smells and sights I experienced in those seven years as trail dog extraordinaire.