A Tale of Two Canines

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

This quote from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities pretty much sums up the first years of the lives of both Logan and me, just the other way around. The worst of times came first.

Logan never talked much about his life before coming to live with T and Nollind. He was a very sensitive guy and didn’t like to relive the trauma of those early days as a stray. But, from the little he said, it was definitely the worst of times for a young dog, out on the prairie alone. When he tried to get close to a farm he’d get chased by the resident dogs and out in the open he was at risk of being attacked by coyotes. And then there was the cold, the rain, some snow, and the lack of food. Those were definitely the worst of times for Logan.

By the time he was picked up by a small farm rescue, he was skinny and scared and wounded. When T called the woman about the “1-year-old Border Collie/Lab” she saw advertised in the Bargain Finder in January of 2005, she made the following notes (yes, she still has the piece of paper): he’d been a stray (aaww), the other dogs pick on him (poor Logie), he dislikes being tied and will bark (that never changed), he didn’t fear bite when his wounds were treated (always trusting), and he’d been an outside dog and therefore not housetrained (quickly rectified).

Kind dogs like Aspen and neighbour Kody helped with Logan’s fear of other canines.

As T tells it, when she saw the farmer carrying Logan on her shoulder through the throng of dogs in the yard, his eyes like saucers, her heart melted. He needed a home where he wouldn’t be afraid. Resident dog Aspen (an earlier adoptee) seemed to like him just fine, so in the backseat he went, sleeping all the way to his new home. The best of times had begun.

(You can read the whole story from Logan’s perspective in From Stray to Rescue to Family.)

Safe.

I didn’t have quite the hard-luck story of Logan. I wasn’t a stray. I had a home for the first two years of my life, along with a couple of other dogs and some horses. Sounds great, right? The man who owned us rode into town on his horse and let us run around the community while he had a few in the pub. Sounds even better, right? Good times for me and my buds.

The good times came to an end when the three of us got picked up by the bylaw officer and we found ourselves locked in pens at the pound. The worst of times came when our owner wouldn’t fork out the money for the fines and we were left at the mercy of the system. Lucky for us, the bylaw officer had a friend at a rescue organization and all three of us were transferred there.

First day in my “foster” home.

My spotted red coat was my next stroke of luck. T saw my photo and I reminded her so much of Nevada their Appaloosa horse that she contacted Misty Creek right away.

This past Monday was ten years since the day T and Nollind showed up at my somewhat crowded temporary foster home to see about being my longer-term foster home. I just needed to get along with Logan who’d been with them for six years by this time. Although not always the most popular pooch in the yard, I had plenty of experience getting along with other dogs, so was pretty sure I could pass the first test. I managed to not annoy Logan or cause trouble on a short neighbourhood walk so T and Nollind agreed to take me in. Times were getting better.

First walk on what would be become my home turf.

When we got “home” from Calgary, I knew I had to make myself a permanent resident. They lived on a farm surrounded by wide-open spaces. Dog heaven! Sadly, the two cats immediately took a dislike to me, hissing and spitting as they do, and then Logan challenged me to a peeing match in the hallway, which didn’t go over well at all. By the end of the first day, things weren’t looking good. I had to win over the four-legged family members, and quickly. Or so I thought…

I eventually won her over.

In the end, I only needed to win over one two-legged family member, T, and that was so-o-o easy. All I had to do was wait quietly in my kennel each morning (such a good doggie) and cuddle up to her on the couch on movie night—that head resting on thigh thing was a stroke of genius! Three days later, on the 28th of January, I was no longer a foster dog … I was officially adopted! The best of times was just beginning.

(More of my story in From Forgotten to Foster to Forever.)

She didn’t need to know that I was more lazy doggie than good doggie.

Logan and I were buds and companions for the nearly eight years we were together and we shared a bunch of adventures. We even started this blog together and called it “Chico’s and Logan’s Great Adventures!” I tried to be his rock when there was something scary happening, like thunder or a ride in the car, and he showed me how to be a good farm dog. I’m a happy guy these days and quite content to be an only dog, but those months and years with Logan at my side were definitely the best of times.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)

They Call Me Hank

I’m Hank, one of the two barn cats who live at Almosta Ranch. I think Chico mentioned I might be writing a post at some point and, well, I’m finally getting around to it. I’m not lazy exactly, but I do enjoy my leisure time.

I’ve been here at the ranch since the spring of 2014, six and a half years now. I wasn’t the first cat on the place, number three actually, if you don’t count the wildies who show up from time to time.

Flash – a wildie who wandered in for a time and then wandered off again.

Fran and Tommy were adopted as a pair from the Happy Cat Sanctuary in Strathmore. For those of us less indoor-friendly cats, Happy Cat will rehome us on farms as long as we’ll be well fed and have a warm place to sleep in winter. Both Fran and Tommy were extremely shy, bordering on feral, so they were perfect candidates for the Barn Buddy program.

Since it’s a big barn, and there were a lot of mice, T decided to bring a third cat into the fold … me. I was never a feral, but my life experience had me feeling pretty leery of humans. I’d rather not get into the details. At the rescue they just called my “Grey”—you can probably see why from my photos—but T and Nollind thought I needed something more unique. They’d been watching the TV show Breaking Bad at the time and I reminded them of Hank, the short, burly DEA agent. So, Hank I became.

When I first arrived in my carrier, they turned me loose in the loft of the barn where Fran and Tommy were already locked up. It seemed a pretty good place to me—comfy places to sleep, lots of food, and plenty of hiding places if necessary. Fran didn’t agree and tried everything possible to get out of that loft, including climbing down inside the walls which only resulted in her having to be fished out, much to her terror.

Home sweet home.

I didn’t see much need to hide from the humans once I’d been around a week or so. They seemed harmless enough. And then I started to approach T when she’d sit still, letting her pet me, just once or twice before either running away or nipping at her when I got scared. Those first tentative forays into human touch quickly turned into my life’s passion.

Just can’t get enough lovin’.

Once we’d settled in and T was no longer worried about us running off into the prairie as soon as the door was opened, we were allowed to roam the entire barn and even had a small door to the outside. I’d landed in kitty paradise. Fran didn’t see it that way and chose to move outdoors into the hay shed, coming in only to eat.

Tommy and I became fast friends, always together. He was kind of like a little brother and I tried to show him the ropes of living with humans. By the end of the summer, I’d become completely comfortable with T and Nollind and all of the people who boarded their horses at Almosta Ranch, but Tommy remained much more shy. He did start to saunter over for a quick walk-by petting when T was giving me a rub down, but that was as close as he came to losing his fear.

Tommy and I sharing a snack.

Fran, well, she remained mostly feral and mostly outdoors, even through that first winter. Tommy and I had Meowi, this wonderful tropics-like place that gets turned on once the weather is cold, so T created a separate place for her. She wouldn’t use it, stayed outdoors, and froze the tips of her ears off in her defiance.

No more points on those ears.

Our second summer on the farm, Tommy disappeared. He’d been wandering farther from the barn, sometimes at night. I tried to tell him he was playing with fire. He didn’t listen, he wanted to explore, and one day, he didn’t come home.

I never venture much beyond the barn door.

I missed him a lot for a while, but then Fran moved in. I’d thought she was a difficult, scrappy little thing but, turns out, she just really didn’t like Tommy and vice versa. That was five years ago, and in those years we’ve become about as close as two cats can be. She’s been playful, cuddly, willing to share her food, and too feral to hog any of the human attention I love so much. What more could a guy ask for in a companion?

Cuddle time.

Well … that she’d stayed too feral to hog any of the human attention I love so much. It’s taken time, but she is really getting comfortable with people now and loves to be petted at least as much, maybe more, than I do. It bugged me like crazy at first, but now I’m happy to hang out in Meowi while she gets some loving. I know they’ll come around and give me some too.

I know it’s just an old fireplace, but to me … Meowi!

So that’s me, and Fran, in a nutshell. I’ll be here hanging out on the beach this winter as that warm (fake) sun shines down. I’ll check in again if I can tear myself away. Until then … Aloha!

Me and much-less-wild Fran.

I’ll Be Okay …

T’s gone away again, up to northern BC to visit family for a week. She packed the little blue wheelie suitcase, which means she’s travelling by plane, which means that I can’t go. I wish I was the size of dog that could fit in one of those carry-on kennels. That way I could go along on all of her travels.

Do you think I could squeeze in?

It’s not that I don’t like hanging out with Nollind … it’s just that I worry … about getting fed. The cats told me a story about once having to carry dead birds into the house as a reminder to fill the food bowl when T was out of town. Cats like to mess with dogs so maybe they were just trying to scare me. But, I suppose, if things get dire, there are lots of pigeons around that nobody seems to be a fan of, and I’m pretty good at scavenging for wild mushrooms and other such treats.

Snuffling around for wild mushrooms.

And, I did supervise the making of the “Chico List”—daily walk, breakfast options, dinner instructions—and everything important was on there. Nollind is pretty good with a list. I should be fine…

Demonstrating that I’m the perfect size for her suitcase.

Maybe someone should come and check on me, say … Tuesday?