The World is My Buffet

I realize the expression is that the world is my oyster, and I actually like oysters, the smoked ones from the can, but my world is about so much more than oysters. There is food to be found everywhere if you use your nose and you’re not too fussy. That’s me … great nose and not at all fussy. So, at this time of worrisome news and fears over there not being enough for everyone (although I’m quite sure there will be) I thought I’d share a few of my methods.

Even a foot of snow doesn’t stop me from finding and retrieving snacks.

T and Nollind often laugh, or freak out, when we’re out walking because I find snacks everywhere. The freaking out happens when my findings are chicken bones or other items potentially hazardous to my well being. They say I’d make a good stray because I’d never starve. Well, no harm in being prepared. I was abandoned when I was two, it could happen again. But that’s unlikely.

Logan used to miss so much … but all the more for me!

One of my favourite things to find in the fields around home are mushrooms, especially at this time of year when they’ve been freeze-dried. T was pretty concerned at first, always pulling me away from them, but after a few times she wasn’t close enough to stop me and I managed to down a few without dying, she decided to trust my instincts.. There’s only one type that I like and so far I haven’t had so much as a stomach ache. In fact, I learned that some mushrooms are very healthy for dogs, even preventing cancer. I’d like to think mine are on this list, although I’m no expert in mycology.

T and Nollind prefer to monitor what goes in my stomach.

I won’t go into a detailed list of things I find while out walking in the fields or along the canal because you probably wouldn’t find them very appetizing. My understanding is that humans generally don’t like eating the droppings of other animals (you’d be amazed at how tasty rabbit droppings are to name just one, not to mention high in digestive enzymes and B vitamins).

If I could just figure out how to open this thing I could give up on scavenging. Human food is sooooo good.

So what else do I find to eat out there in the world? Well, for starters, grass is pretty tasty, good for digestion, and loaded with healthy chlorophyll. I sure miss it in the winter time and am looking forward to when the green snacks start sprouting from the ground. Some think that a dog has worms if he starts eating grass, or there’s something missing in his diet, or is trying to throw up, but in most cases it’s just because we like it. Now if your dog starts gulping grass like he’s starving, there’s probably an upset stomach involved, but even that might just be indigestion, nothing to panic over unless the behaviour continues. Then it’s probably time for a trip to the V-E-T. (I can also spell W-A-L-K.)

Some very tasty grazing.

Another great place to seek out snacks is underneath picnic tables. I could make an entire meal out of what humans leave behind. The best tables are the ones where kids were eating. It is my favourite thing about small people, their tendency to drop food. So, a big thanks to all you parents out there who like taking your children on picnics or camping trips. Pieces of sandwiches, cookies, hot dogs, and all sorts of other things can be found underneath one of these magical structures during the outdoor dining season.

Table surfing.

My general advice is, don’t be too fussy. If you can’t go to your favourite restaurant because they’ve closed their doors during the pandemic, try making the dishes at home. Nollind made a delicious satay soup last week. If something you normally buy is missing from the grocery store shelves, try eating outside your normal shopping list. It probably won’t be field mushrooms or rabbit droppings, but use your imagination. If you don’t like it, you can always feed it to the dog! You’re welcome, dogs of the world.

Empty? Not if you’ve got a long tongue!

Advice from a Dog

I’ve never seen my peeps so glued to the news, especially T. She’s typically more aware of the nature around her than what’s happening in the rest of the world, but this global pandemic has definitely got her attention. Mine too. Even though I’m a dog and not at risk of getting sick or passing it on.

The news is generally not good. The virus is spreading rapidly, it has a higher rate of death than its flu-cousins, and the necessary response has been to close borders, stop travelling, shut businesses, and keep people away from each other. Luckily for us canines, the humans haven’t been told to stay away from dogs. Now that would be a crisis for all of us!

Anyway, at this time of trouble and strife, I thought I might share some doggie wisdom (with a few additions in keeping with the current situation) from a poem called “All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From My Dog”, author unknown.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
— But, in the interests of social distancing, just keep driving joyfully, don’t stop and visit anyone.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
— Unless they’ve recently been out of the country or hanging out with a sick friend.

Run, romp, and play daily.
— Even if it’s just around your apartment while you’re self-isolating.

Be loyal.
— Yup.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.
— Like hiding a cough and pretending you’re well so that you can go out to pick up a case of beer or a pizza. (Or dressing like a bunny. I’ve been sitting on this photo for two years and I’m only including it now because I know everyone could use a good laugh. You’re welcome. )

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
— Good advice in any and all circumstances.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
— Like a treatment or vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
— Or possibly just stand six feet away, say comforting things, and wave.

Thrive on affection and let people touch you – enjoy back rubs and pats on your neck.
— Again, I’d go with waving.

When you leave your yard, make it an adventure.
— Isn’t it always? But yes, do that, and take your dog with you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
— Tempers will flair as the life you know is temporarily put on pause. So, if you must get your point across, do it as gently as possible.

No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t pout – run right back and make friends.
— In the event of item above.

Bond with your pack.
— This one is super important. You’re all each other has at the moment so stick together.

On cold nights, curl up in front of a crackling fire.
— Or make a cup of tea and cuddle with your dog … or spouse works too.

When you’re excited, speak up.
— Call or email or text a friend!

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
— I know you’re having to miss some of your favourite things right now, so rejoice in the little stuff.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
— Because this you can still do.

If you stare at someone long enough, eventually you’ll get what you want.
— It’s true. It works. Unless you’re under quarantine. In that case, don’t bother.

Don’t go out without ID.
— Or just don’t go out. Stay home with your dog.

Leave room in your schedule for a good nap.
— Because it’s a great way to give your immune system a boost.

Always give people a friendly greeting.
— Like a wave … from at least six feet away.

If it’s not wet and sloppy, it’s not a real kiss.
— Which basically means that kissing has been postponed until further notice.

That’s my advice for how to get through these next weeks and even months. Instead of going out to a movie or concert or party, use this time to catch up on those tasks at home that have been sitting on a shelf (Nollind’s actually cleaning shelves), tackle a creative project (T’s writing another novella), or practice a skill/learn a new one (T and Nollind have been playing their guitars almost every evening).

Organizing projects always get worse before they get better.

As for me, well, things really aren’t that different. I eat, I nap, I walk, I follow my people around the house and the farm. It might start to feel a little weird when the weeks go by without getting together with some of our favourite people, but rest assured, we’ll be in touch!

Wintervention!

I recently had to stage a wintervention with my peeps. As a dog, I adapt quickly to changes in plans, so when we weren’t able to go south for the latter part of winter, I directed my energy elsewhere. No biggie. Humans, on the other hand, tend to dwell, and sometimes even pout. But maybe it’s just my people. Anyway, after the trip cancellation because of T’s eye problem, I settled in for the rest of the winter here at home on the Canadian prairie. And, as I mentioned in my “The Eyes Have It” post, I knew that staying home wouldn’t mean staying at home.

I expected “staying at home” to involve a fair amount of this.

Two weeks into our new staying home plan, T and Nollind were driving me crazy. Complaining about how cold it was when it wasn’t even that cold, wanting to go camping but not in the cold, having to wear so much clothing to go outside in the cold, blah blah blah blah cold. Are you getting the idea? If I had to hear the word cold in that whiney tone one more time … sheesh!

Did you know that dogs are telepathic? Yup, even though we don’t talk, we can communicate with humans via mental images, feelings, and sometimes even words. It’s how we get humans to do what we want, but don’t tell your friends. It’s kind of a secret. Just to put your mind at ease, we only use our powers for good … or to get treats.

First morning of wintervention … hoping for good things.

The peeps started planning a little winter camping adventure in Banff and I was so relieved they were going to get out and do something despite the cold weather. They delayed a day waiting for better temperatures and then, when they were half packed to leave on Wednesday morning last week, the arctic air that had been sitting on Alberta for a few days decided not to move off as forecast. It was going to be too, say it with me, cold. In their defence, with travel trailers, there really is a too-cold line. Once it drops into the mid-teens and lower, the propane regulator can freeze which means we’d have no furnace. It happened to us in Montana one year on our way south.

Not Banff but oh so Rocky Mountain sweet.

So, we hadn’t even gotten out of bed and T was in tears. I had to do something. I started sending mental images of places other than Banff, places that are farther east or south and might be warmer. I’m a telepath, not a meteorologist, so I just sent whatever I could think of and let them check the forecasts. Some places were spots I’d been before, like Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Cypress Hills, and others, like Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, were a complete unknown to me but worth a look.

They started reading weather reports on Nollind’s phone and, when nothing looked promising, decided to go to Strathmore for the Husky House breakfast special, one of my, I mean their, favourite local outings. By the time they’d eaten and brought me what I like to call second breakfast (because I eat at home before we leave), a decision had been made. We were on our way to the Crowsnest Pass! Yippee! I’d snuck that image in at the last minute, remembering T once expressed a desire to spend more time there when we were passing through.

Second breakfast … yum

By early afternoon, we were on our way south on the QEII Highway, Simon in tow stocked with snacks, games, wine, and other wintervention supplies. Wait … I’d best stop here and give credit where credit is due. I would love to be the guy who came up with the word wintervention but, alas, I was not. A little online browsing informed us that, on the very weekend we were to be in the Crowsnest Pass, they were holding their Wintervention Festival. Could it have been more perfect? So, credit given where due, it was some other ultra-clever creature that came up with the name.

It wasn’t exactly desert weather in the pass, but it wasn’t going to drop into the propane-freezing zone overnight, there wasn’t a lot of snow on the valley floor, and the Chinook wind brought melting temperatures and sunshine to the afternoons. We didn’t get in any campfire time, but there was plenty of other outdoor time—hiking at Star Creek Falls and the Miners’ Path, skiing the dog-friendly loops of the Allison Chinook cross-country trails, and exploring the length of Blairmore on foot.

The top of another hill at the Allison-Chinook trails.

The cross-country skiing and the two-hour long Blairmore excursion were on the same day, Friday, and by bedtime, all I could do was groan when Nollind held up the leash to take me outside for my evening constitutional. I was quite sure I could hold it if it meant not having to get off the bed. Skiing is a blast, but, oh man, those peeps can move when they have boards strapped to their feet. But, pretty proud, I kept up, even passed directly in front of T on more than one occasion, causing her to say words that I won’t write here. We never actually collided, but I did cause her to ski off into the brush once and fall over on her side. Although, she did just fall over all on her own at another point, so it may have happened without my involvement.

Checking to make sure she’s okay.

Thankfully, Saturday was a little lighter on the physical activity scale with just two walks close to camp and a short hike to a frozen waterfall via the Miners’ Path. The trail was very icy and on a side slope, which resulted in a four-legged backward slide down a bank. Luckily, I was able to dig in to keep from dropping over the edge onto the frozen creek bed. Sorry, no photo, T and Nollind were too busy coming to my rescue.

The photo/video they really wanted to grab was from the day before at Allison-Chinook. I was running down a hill to catch up and didn’t see the stretch of skating-rink-style ice at the bottom. By the repeated reliving of the moment and chuckling at my expense throughout the afternoon, I gather my ice-capades, as I attempted to stay on my feet, were quite entertaining.

Frozen waterfall on Nez Perce Creek.

Although lighter on the hiking/walking/skiing end of things, Saturday was filled with Wintervention Festival activities. Nollind participated in his first ever frying pan toss (yes, you read that right; I watched from the truck), which was followed immediately by the Chili Bowl Festival, where they bought handmade pottery bowls at the art gallery and got them filled with chili (I licked the bowls). Cool event, right? Then it was off to the Miners’ Path and our slip-sliding hike before T and Nollind drove to Hillcrest Mines for an afternoon music jam where Nollind made his big stage debut, playing the bass and singing. I so wish I’d been there for that, but I get to listen to him and T play in the living room a few times a week.

The Wintervention frying pan toss.

By Sunday morning, I knew my wintervention plan had been a success when the cooler temperature and a lot of big, fluffy snowflakes falling on Simon didn’t bring back the cold-weather blues. I hope it lasts. There’s still quite a lot of cold weather between us and green grass.

Based on the smiles, I think my plan worked!