Happy Humans, Happy Hound

It’s been a tough year for humankind. We dogs have been able to go about our lives as normal, sniffing each other’s butts and the like, but humans haven’t been able to hug their friends or otherwise be close to anyone outside their own home. When we go to the park, I can sniff noses (etcetera) with dogs I meet along the way, get a cuddle from humans we cross paths with, and nobody is put at risk. I don’t even have to wear a mask!

Greeting friends along the canal in Strathmore.

I see the toll it’s all taking on my peeps. They’re a sturdy pair and have shouldered the changes to life quite admirably, but now and then, it gets to them. For T it’s more because of the way people treat and talk to one another these days than any fear or consequence of the pandemic. For Nollind, it’s the recurring uncertainty of the coming sailing season, the many Glenmore Sailing Club programs he’s put in place, and the people eager to participate.

They think I don’t notice, going about my day—eating, napping, walking, sniffing—but I feel it when they’re unhappy or grumpy or discouraged. We dogs are a very sensitive species.

Here I am adding a little cheer by nearly stepping on T’s head.

I’ve taken it upon myself this past year to carry some of the burden, get them out of their funks and back into the world when necessary, cheer them up. I’m not young enough to scoot around in circles with my tail tucked anymore (those of you with young dogs will know what this looks like), but I do have other tools at my disposal, like telepathy.

Yup, you read that right, I use my powers of non-verbal communication to plant ideas in their heads, ideas they think are theirs. And I’m totally fine with not getting the credit. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy. Happy humans, happy hound, I like to say.

It goes something like this: I notice that T is not as enthusiastic about going outdoors (her favourite place), spending time with the horses, or is watching more TV than usual. Chico to the rescue! Without actually saying it, because I can’t speak, I suggest an outing, transferring the thought directly to her right neocortex. Next thing I know, plans are in the works for day camping, road tripping, or an outdoor get-together with friends. Pleased with my success, I take a nap.

Always paying attention to what’s happening with the humans.

In the past week, I’ve had to rescue the humans twice. My first solution was getting G, S & R an invite to the farm for a walk, bbq, and outdoor visit. I have to say, one of my better ideas. It’s tough to get T and Nollind to go anywhere on a weekend (too many people), especially a long weekend, so bringing the party to them was my solution. Clever canine, right?

We took a walk along the canal, which is something we do almost every day, but not with Ria entertaining the troops with her water antics or the wide-roaming conversation that happens when the four bi-peds hang out.

Me along the canal.
Ria along the canal

The walk was followed by some glorious time on the deck in the sun for the humans and some even more glorious bone-chewing time for us dogs. More food followed for everyone. A few beverages were imbibed. The new gas fire pit was put through its first paces. It felt like the “good old spring days” of 2019. The smiles said it all. Ria and I shared a little front-paw high five on her way out. Mission accomplished.

If you zoom in, you’ll see Ria’s “knowing” expression.

That was just last Saturday, Easter weekend. Normally I can coast for a week or two before I have to step in and rearrange their day-to-day, but I was called to action in just two days. It’s a busy time for dogs right now. This time it was some stuff that T read online that had her down in the dumps again in very short order. (I keep telling her to stay away from Facebook!) So, I suggested an outing, an excursion, a close-to-home road trip.

How it works is that I plant the general idea but then leave it up to the peeps to nail down the specifics. They have more knowledge of locations and conditions. I am the seed planter.

T needed some new boots for around the farm so we started off at Irvine’s Western Wear near Crossfield where she tried on multiple styles and sizes before finding her Goldilocks pair. From there we drove west to Water Valley, a completely new place to me, and visited William J. Bagnall Wilderness Park, a completely new place to all of us. (A quick shout out here to our neighbour—THANKS!—who posted about a recent hike and inspired the destination of Wednesday’s excursion.)

The stairs at Skunk Hollow—just two more flights to go!

Given its location in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, it wasn’t a big surprise we found some snow and ice still on the trail, but I managed to get the humans around the loop without incident. If I slip and fall, which has happened numerous times, no biggie, but they go down hard from farther up. It’s a scary thing to watch happen. Anyway, Skunk Hollow in the William J. Bagnall Wilderness Park. Great place. Can’t wait to go back in the green-grass, free-flowing river season.

An icy patch on the trail.

After Skunk Hollow, we ventured through the community of Water Valley and north, to the Water Valley Campground. It’s closed for camping until May but the day use area was open for a picnic beside the river. As I watched T sipping her peppermint tea and looking up at the evergreens swaying in the breeze, I knew my plan had succeeded, another seed had sprouted and borne fruit.

I was content to call it a win and head home at that point but there was another stop and another walk in our day, this one at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park between Cochrane and Calgary. If a little nature could bring the cheer back to my peeps, a little more might get them through the next bump on the Covid road. Count me in!

Tiger Lily Trail at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

Yesterday I was exhausted. T had to come downstairs and get me out of bed for breakfast in the morning. What?! But it was worth every sore muscle brought on by what felt like hundreds of stairs at Skunk Hollow and a near ninety-degree hill climb at Glenbow Ranch. I am such a trooper.

The big hill at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

All is quiet on the home front for now, peeps content, but I’m ready to jump back into action when duty next calls.

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!

Shhh…It’s a Secret

We went camping this week, but I can’t tell you where. I’ve been sworn to secrecy. Usually I like to tell you where we’ve been, even provide links so that you can read about the places and maybe visit them yourselves. But, this time, if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you, and I’m a snuggler, not a killer.

Snuggling with the Earth.

The location of this latest camping adventure was discovered by G & S on a day outing back in July and they thought it was the perfect destination for our August rendezvous. And perfect it was. In fact, I think I saw tears pooling in Nollind’s eyes when we drove in, and I don’t think they were just tears of relief that we’d arrived safely with T driving. (She’s pretty new to this trailer hauling thing and I see his jaw tighten every now and then. He tries to hide it but we dogs have highly developed senses.)

Just two dogs hangin’ out in camp.

Anyway…this place. O. M. G. It’s in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, filled with spruce and aspen forest, has a beautiful river running through it, and quiet, oh so quiet. Heaven. And, since this describes many places on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, I think our secret is safe.

Did I mention yet that there were bones?

G & S and my buddy Ria arrived before us and picked, I kid you not, the best spot in the whole campground, right on the river, with a little dog beach for swimming and lots of trees for shade. Heaven. Wait, I think I said that already … but it bears repeating.

A walk in the woods.

There were twice daily walks on the quiet country road and along the south side of the river, turns around the campground in the morning and before bed, and as much swimming/wading as a dog wanted to do. Me, I’m more of a wade in when it’s hot kind of guy, Ria on the other hand is a very enthusiastic water gymnast. We were there two days and I’m not sure she was ever entirely dry.

Ria had far too much fun.

And therein lies the only down side of the outing … two days. It was only two days. (Sad dog-face emoji.)

And, after all that water fun.

You might be wondering why all the secrecy? Well, the camp attendant came around and chatted awhile, told us how you used to be able to get a spot in the campground any day, but now weekends were mostly full all season long. Turns out there was just too much of that telling two friends who tell two friends stuff going on. So, the six of us made a pact, then and there, that it would be our secret, special campground.

Apparently Nollind had fun too.

If any of you reading this blog has been to our secret campground and recognize it from the photos, maybe we’ll see you there sometime but, in the meanwhile … shhh….