I may be slow, with a wobbly hind end and a serious limp, but I managed to catch a gopher. I admit the little guy was cornered in the barn, but still, I caught it. Me.
Just to clarify, for those who aren’t familiar, the animals I’m referring to are technically Richardson Ground Squirrels, often called prairie dogs, but around here they’re just gophers. And, as cute as they are, they are farm vermin and will dig up your entire property, eat your garden, create a minefield for livestock, and attract much larger burrowing critters, like badgers who dig holes big enough to swallow a human leg up past the knee (just ask Teresa).
We spotted the gopher as we were headed out to the barn on Wednesday morning and chased it across the paddock, Chico in the lead, of course, but me not so far behind. When the gopher went under the barn door we knew we had him. There was no way he had an escape hole dug through the concrete floor.
We ran in, he cheeped to alert us of his location (which they always do for some reason), Chico went left, I went right, and there he was, cornered by the wall and a shelf unit. I haven’t had a gopher in my mouth in years but I jumped in and grabbed him. He was huge! He fought! I tried to give him the old shake of death but my wobbly back legs gave out and I plopped down onto the floor. Despite my unplanned, sprawling sit, I held on. His claws were flailing at my face—
It was about then that Chico jumped in, grabbing him just as I let go. He finished him off, which was fine with me. I always enjoyed the thrill of the chase and the catch but the killing, not so much.
You may see the whole thing as rather barbaric, and I suppose it was, but I felt so alive in that moment, like I was four rather than fourteen, and I walked a couple of inches taller on my way back to the house.
There’s not a lot of excitement in my life these days, which I’m normally fine with, but every now and then, it’s good for the old canine soul to do something completely instinctual and dog-like. It used to be chasing coyotes, baying as I went, or running down a skunk or a porcupine and dealing with the consequences. I don’t recommend any of these activities but, at the time, they were pretty thrilling.
These days, my hunting and chasing amounts to following Chico on his yard patrols, sometimes watching him catch something, always far behind and never in the thick of things. Wednesday was different. Wednesday I was a wolf. Wednesday I forgot I was an old dog, just for a minute.
There’s a scoreboard on the fridge in the kitchen, a little friendly competition between Nollind and Chico. Well, this old dog is on the board.
I apologize if I scared anyone with my blog absence last Fur-iday. People do wonder about a guy my age when they don’t hear from me. It’s understandable. But … still here!
On Fur-iday last week I was in the land of no cell phones or internet. I was, get this, camping! None of us thought I was up for any camping this season. From my perspective, it seemed like a whole lot of effort just to be cold. From my peoples’ point of view, a few days in the hills wasn’t worth putting up with a pacing, pooping pooch in a small space.
The first change that made it possible was something we’ve all been waiting for for a dozen years. I have no explanation as to why but car/truck travel is seeming a lot less of a big deal recently. It’s still not my favourite activity, but no more morphing into a panting, pacing maniac that nobody wants to travel with. I’ve learned to ride it out.
The other thing is that I’ve been sleeping better at night, even in the house sometimes. Again, not sure how it’s come about but it’s such a relief for all of us. They still keep a light on for me and I appreciate it, but the night terrors have faded.
So, back to the camping trip. Our friends G and S were headed to Kananaskis Country and, in light of my recent normalness, Teresa and Nollind decided to hitch up Sid and join them. I can’t say I was thrilled initially. I’ve become quite comfy in my new dog yard. I’m working on my twentieth (or is it twenty-first?) den, I have the full spectrum of sunny versus shady places to nap, there’s a resident prairie dog to keep in check, and so much to observe in my half-acre paradise. But I try to be a team player, so did my best to look enthused about the journey and not get bogged down in the worries.
Worry #1, Travel Anxiety – Even though I’ve been travelling better recently, I’ve only been on short drives, so I wasn’t sure how a three-hour journey would be. But, I started the camping adventure off strong with the most relaxing drug-free vehicle travel I’ve ever experienced. So much for Worry #1.
Worry #2, Being Cold – The first evening at dinner, I was treated to a padded bed, a pillow, and an afghan. This good fortune and pampering continued through the weekend. Nix Worry #2.
Worry #3, Being Trapped in Sid All Night – I had my couch, I had a jacket, the light was on. What more could an old dog want? Forget Worry #3.
Worry #4, Missing Out on the Hiking – Okay, this one actually happened, and it was a bit of a drag. Chico came back to camp telling stories of his lake walks and, although I’d enjoyed my nap time, I did feel left out. Worry #4 realized.
But, one out of four is not bad on the worry metre. I was a pretty contented canine … until Saturday night.
They thought it was Saturday morning’s pancake breakfast, but I knew different. I am just not a food sensitive kind of guy and I wasn’t going to be taken out by a flapjack. It was something else, something evil, that sent my digestive system into chaos. We’re just not sure what it was yet, or is. We’re still working it out.
So my camping adventure didn’t end as strong as it started, but I have no regrets. Mountain air, campfire time, pancakes with a little butter and syrup, and good friends. A word from the wise … when every thing and every time could be your last, savour every bite.
As you’ll know if you’ve been following my blog posts for a time, I’m a digger. Specifically, I’m a den digger. I don’t just dig random holes, I dig large, me-sized holes under shrubbery, places to tuck in on a warm day. With my black coat, I’ve always found summer weather a bit challenging and my dens have brought relief.
On our trips south, particularly this last one, I dig dens at every stop and enjoy them daily. The one in the photo near Wickenburg was some of my best work and I spent a lot of time in that shallow den.
Here at home, I have many dens, including a few large, deep ones that I’ve been working on for years. Two of these bigger dens are located inside my new Logie-Land enclosure but I haven’t used them much this season. They’re just too deep for me now. I’ve been concerned that if I go in I might not get out.
Turns out my concerns were well-founded. Last Wednesday it was hot in the afternoon so, late in the day, I decided to hunker down in my west den under the lilac. It was a great place for a nap but, when I decided it was time to climb out and get a drink of water, I hate to say it but, I couldn’t. Getting up after a long lie down is a bit challenging at the best of times these days and, with my legs folded into the side of a hole, I just couldn’t get them under me to get up. To make matters worse, my struggles resulted in me getting my back half turned upside down. I was stuck. On a normal day when Teresa or Nollind is home, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but they were gone for the evening to the sailing club.
When I tired of trying to get myself upright and out, I’d rest for a time before giving it another try. It got dark, which I don’t mind in and of itself, but it meant that I’d been in the hole for quite awhile.
Teresa and Nollind would have walked right past me when they came in the yard. My hearing isn’t so good and I was likely asleep. I heard Nollind’s whistle from the deck by the front door. Another whistle. A third. How I wanted to shout out “I’m over here! I need help!” But I couldn’t of course.
The whistling stopped. Nollind had gone back inside. I yelped. Nothing. I yelped again, a little louder. And then I heard the door and Teresa calling my name and there she was under the shrub pulling me out. I tried to stand and fell down. She helped me up and I fell down again as soon as I tried to move. And then she was crying, her tears spilling down into my fur. I wanted to get up and walk, for her, but I just couldn’t. I was so tired. She picked me up and carried me inside. I’m no lightweight at fifty-five pounds but that didn’t stop her from packing me up the stairs to the living room.
I didn’t move all night, just slept there on my left side on the therapeutic mat Teresa had put down in the middle of the living room. When I did wake up the next morning, I was thirsty and started struggling to get up. Teresa was sleeping nearby and came to assist, giving me some support as I walked to the water bowl. She helped me outside and I tried to wander off to have a pee but my back left leg kept giving out and causing me to fall over. I was scared and I could tell she was too.
When some water, some pills, and more rest didn’t improve matters, Teresa called the vet. I was scheduled to go down for my Legend shot anyway but Dr. Barrett said I should come early and they’d try giving me some fluids. This would help to rehydrate me and also flush the pain-causing toxins from my muscles. Well, I’m not a fan of vet clinics, and even less a fan of staying in one for hours, but after I’d spent the afternoon in a kennel with a needle in my arm, I have to say I was feeling a little better. I still needed help walking from the clinic to the car but I felt good enough that I tried to run.
The other thing they gave me at the vet clinic was a drug called Buprenorph Vetergesic, a powerful painkiller they hoped would help to deal with all of the pain I was feeling as a result of my long struggle to get up. Well, it certainly did. I couldn’t feel anything once that stuff kicked in.
After sleeping the sleep of the dead for the next eight hours, I woke up at one o’clock and, much to my surprise, and Teresa’s, was able to get myself out of bed and walk. By seven o’clock I was feeling up to our morning trip to the barnyard to let the horses out on the grass. I was wobbly but I made it! Last night, after they blocked my dens, I was able to sleep outside again, which made me very happy, and this morning I managed a twenty-minute walk around the back pasture.
As I wrote in my short post on Saturday, the vet told Teresa that a trauma like the one I’d experienced could be a setback for a dog of my age and condition, or a cliff. Well, I’m happy to say it’s been a setback. It’s possible I won’t recover completely from my ordeal, I’m fourteen and a half after all, but I’m hopeful I’ll be enjoying Logie-Land for a few more weeks or months. It’s all gravy at this point.