Tribute to a Trail Dog

In nature, canine types are not friends of equine types, largely because they think we taste good. The whole horse-and-hound pairing was invented and popularized by humans. I’m a little less dog-friendly than many of my friends, maybe because I tend to be the smallest in most herds and therefore perceived as the easiest prey. Dogs who have proven themselves to be trustworthy are fine, but any newcomers best be prepared to be chased. I once put the run on a chocolate lab named Jonah who attempted to escape through a gate she didn’t fit through. T rescued her, which was good since I found out later she was a sweetheart and had no interest in gnawing on my legs. Although, she did like my hoof trimmings, but then they all do. It used to give me the creeps to see them chewing on what used to be attached to me but I’ve gotten over it. It’s really just excess, like the hair I shed in spring. They can have it.

11-Storm-traildog-withstorm

Logan keeping me company on my first ride out of the arena.

Which brings me to Logan. He was another of the good dogs, one of the best maybe. I came to the farm in the spring of 2004 and he came the following January. We spent a lot of years together. I initially greeted him like I do all unknown canines, with a lowered head and flattened ears, but he quickly proved himself a good-natured beast. He liked to nip at our heels occasionally, but not in an effort to have a taste but rather to move us around. His Border Collie herding instincts were strong and he was quick to jump in and assist whenever the humans were moving us from one place to another, like through a gate. His efforts once cost him five teeth when he tried to put the moves on a cantankerous mare named Willow. The rest of us would just lift a foot and flick an ear in his direction, a peaceful “bugger off”, but Willow added bite to her bark. Didn’t stop Logan though. He continued to herd until this year, when his reduced reflexes and stability kept him at a distance.

11-Storm-traildog-winter

He never nipped when we were being ridden.

Although an avid barn dog, where we horses really got in our Logan time was out on the trail. He was trail dog extraordinaire. We did some long treks back in the day, and he’d keep up and then some. His normal position was right behind the last horse in the ride, but he’d often wander off the trail to take a dip in a creek or explore an interesting smell, increasing his total mileage for the day. He had tender paws on more than one occasion after a particularly long day over rough terrain, but did he complain? Never. At the end of most trail days you’d find him curled up in the shade near the horse trailer or wrapped in a blanket on a cool, autumn day.

11-Storm-traildog-endoftrailwarm

End of ride on a hot day.

11-Storm-traildog-endoftrailcold

End of ride on a cold day.

We horses were sorry to see the premature end of Logan’s days on the trail. In 2011, Chico joined the family and he was a terrible influence on reliable Logan. The two of them were off in the woods chasing all sorts of varmints sending T and Nollind backtracking and whistling and waiting. I remember Logan’s (and Chico’s) last trail day very clearly. The six of us set out on a big loop at Etherington Creek. The dogs were pretty good all day, until we were almost back at camp. Chico spotted a deer and was off and running with Logan hot on his heels. The baying of the hounds faded into the distance as we followed as far as we could on the trail. T and Nollind were angry but also worried when the boys were gone a long time. They eventually returned, as they always did, but that was the last trail ride for those two. In 2012, dogs were left in the front of the trailer when we went to the mountains. As it turned out, it was probably best for Logan anyway, given the arthritis that started developing in his right leg around that time.

11-Storm-traildog-withal

On the trail in Kananaskis Country.

11-Storm-traildog-breakingrules

Always keen to participate in a little rule breaking. 

Logan continued to join us on prairie excursions close to home for the next couple of years but, by the fall of 2014, he had trouble keeping up and making it home. The last time he came with us, he was on three legs at the halfway-home mark so Nollind dismounted, thinking he’d have Rosa carry the poor guy home. We’ve all seen the pictures of the cowboy with the dog riding in the saddle with him, well that dog wasn’t Logan and that dog had probably learned to do it as a pup. And Rosa’s expression was a lot like Logan’s … “What the?!” Just imagine two sets of buggy, brown eyes and you’ll have an idea of how things went. Logan limped home on his own steam. The next time we rode out, the heartbreaking sound of a dog left behind echoed from inside the house.

11-Storm-traildog-withjudy

Having trouble keeping up to Gidget and Judy in the fall of 2014.

We’re missing him at the barn these days. It became his thing, what he could still do, this past summer. Whenever T was out feeding or grooming or riding, he was never far away, sniffing around or just lying there watching the happenings of the farm. I could see the changes this fall, in his energy, his mobility. We animals sense these things before humans. For a short time in September, we thought we were going to lose both of our old campaigners, Logan and Nevada. But Nevada’s near-death experience is a tale for another time.

11-Storm-traildog-christmas

Family photo when we were all a lot younger.

As for Logan, farewell awesome trail dog and keen-if-not-effective herder. This pony won’t soon forget you.

Advertisements

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

As I mentioned last week in my mini blog post, I went on vacation, just me and my peeps. Yup. Me. All the attention. All the snacks. All the back seat. (But hey, Logan, buddy, pal, in case you’re reading this, we sure missed you!)

What I might not have told you before is that I can be a little, I hate to admit it, needy. I might come across as a cool dude in my posts but, on the inside, I have a lot of insecurities. Will there be enough food? Will there be enough attention? Will I have a comfy place to sleep? Canine concerns. And, when there are other animals around that draw attention and food and space, well, I can get a bit … well … whiny. Ack. Nobody likes a whiny dog.

08 Chico - Roadtrip - threeofus-102510

The three of us.

I heard them talking before the trip, wondering if travelling solo would push me even further along the “it’s all about me” scale. But, they needn’t have worried. Take away the cats, the horses, the work, and Logan, and I had more than enough food, attention, and comfort to keep me happy. For example, when T and N came back to the hotel after dinner the first night in Edmonton, the container of rib bits was mine all mine.

08 Chico - Roadtrip - ribs-210653

Mine … all mine.

The first stop on our 10-day trip was Edmonton for N’s aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration. Sadly, I didn’t get to attend the party and give them my best (Congratulations Allan and Karen!), but I did have a visitor to the Dodge kennel. Thanks for coming to see me, Laurana!

08 Chico - Roadtrip - Laurana-

Visitor to the Dodge kennel.

After a very busy lead-up to our departure, the peeps decided that a day of rest and relaxation was in order so we stayed an additional day in Edmonton. Following breakfast at the hotel and a trip outside for me, they actually climbed back into bed and watched a movie, very unusual behaviour for them. Fortunately for me, they brought one of my bed cover-up sheets so I could join in. What was the movie? Hmm … I may have dozed off once or twice. Something about aliens and guys in black suits and, oh, there was a very cool talking dog.

08 Chico - Roadtrip - hotel-190323

Movie time!

Fed and rested, we were off to a dog park along the North Saskatchewan River. On a Sunday morning it was a busy place and I have never met so many dogs in one spot. During the hour and a half at the park, I must have met forty dogs, and the guy in the photo below was my paws-down favourite. We met along the river and again on the way back to the parking lot. Man, did we play hard. He was bigger and younger than me so I was exhausted by the time we reached the truck.

08 Chico - Roadtrip - dogpark-125703

Me and my new bud.

08 Chico - Roadtrip - patio-

Pho Boy Vietnamese Restaurant

The dog park was followed by lunch at a place on Whyte Avenue, a restaurant that allows dogs on their patio. (Thanks, Pho Boy!) They brought me a dish of water and apparently the food was pretty awesome too. T and N ordered a spicy dish so I didn’t get much of a sample but they brought along some of my snacks for me.

I could have stayed in Edmonton all week going to dog parks, eating restaurant leftovers, and lounging in the hotel room but, on Monday morning, we were headed north to Charlie Lake where some of T’s family lives.

We’ve been to T’s mom’s place before, when T’s dad died and they held a memorial for him beside the lake. This trip was a happier occasion, T’s mom’s 90th birthday. 90. Wow. That’s almost as old as Logan (in dog years). And she’s a lot like him, slowing down but still going strong.

It was just us at first and, of course, Grandma Nora (can I call you that or maybe just G’ma?), and T’s oldest brother and wife who live just up the road. And then they started to arrive, the sister, the brothers, the nephews, the nieces, the great nieces and nephew. It was quite a crew by party time on Saturday. One of T’s four brothers hadn’t made it to a family gathering in about twenty years and it was a joyous reunion on Friday night and a big surprise for his mom.

08 Chico - Roadtrip - newfriend-175445

Hanging with my new friend, Kaden, T’s great nephew.

For the most part, T’s family isn’t what I’d call super dog-friendly, but there are some dog lovers, and I managed to seek them out, doing my best to stay out of the way of everyone else. My favourite part of each day was the morning walk, usually down to the Provincial Park boat launch. I only got in one swim, due to the blue-green algae that drifted in on day three, but the walking was great, and each day we were joined by one or more of T’s siblings.

08 Chico - Roadtrip - boatlaunch-

Smoky view from the boat launch.

At seven on Monday morning we were on our way home, with a stop in Dawson Creek for fuel and food. I’d been a good and easy travelling companion for the whole trip (proud me) and it was time for my reward … my very own Tim Hortons breakfast sandwich. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy a road trip?

08 Chico - Roadtrip - tims-

Yum.

Gone Camping!

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.

07-logan-camping-awake

Who me? Camping?

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.

07-logan-camping-travelling-

Drug-free travel.

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.

07-logan-camping-roaddog-

Matching Chico’s cool. Panting only because it was a hot day.

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.

07-logan-camping-afghanhound-211227

Afghan hound.

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.

07-logan-camping-tucked-230640

Tucked into my couch for the night.

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.

07-logan-camping-hiking-1140791

Hiking without me. Smiling through their pain.

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.

07-logan-camping-pancakes

Yum yum. Pancakes!

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.