Comfort and Joy

I don’t know if it’s because I’m the only dog to carry the weight of dog duties and activities over the Christmas season, or if it’s my age, but boy oh boy, am I tired. Trips to Strathmore, city excursions, visiting with family, presents to open, dishes to clean, and the list goes on. Being home for the holidays is a lot different than our quiet desert Christmases.

A couple of my Christmas biscuits from friends.

On the plus side, I was included in almost every activity this past week, which isn’t always the case. Some places just aren’t dog-friendly. I get it. Well … sort of.

Luckily for me, her Christmas mug tells the truth!

The week started off with a family visit at Nollind’s dad’s house and, even though he lives on the fifth floor of a downtown condo complex, I was invited, and pretty stoked about it. I had to stay behind when they went across the street to a restaurant for dinner but (insert happy dance) my cousin H didn’t like the meatballs that came on her pasta and was happy to feed them to me when she returned. I showed my gratitude by taking them from her as gently as I could manage. My meatball appetizer was followed by a beef chew that was part of my Christmas gift. Spoiled? Nah, just well treated.

I even got my own monogrammed gift bag from Nollind’s mom!

Two days later we were back in Calgary for some shopping and other errands. I did have to spend some truck time, but there was a late-morning walk in the community of Banff Trail, I got to try sushi for the first time, and we wrapped up the day with a sunset walk in Sandy Beach Park with Cousin H and Uncle C. (I know they’re not really my relations but I figure that, since I was adopted by T and Nollind, their family has become my family.)

Sandy Beach off-leash park.

Christmas Day we were on the road again, this time just to the mailbox to pick up Christmas cards (thanks everyone!) and to Strathmore for a walk around Kinsmen Park. The streets were mostly quiet and empty but the park was a popular spot for dog walking so I had a chance to make a few new friends.

Christmas Day selfie.

Yesterday was the busiest day yet when my cousins H and A came to spend the day with us here on the farm. Was I that energetic when I was a pup? Probably. It seems like a long time ago. There was horse visiting and feeding, cat cuddling, Kubota riding, campfire cooking, and that was just until lunch! Which was awesome by the way … lunch. Kids love to feed dogs and they also have a tendency to drop bits of food. The kitchen floor was like a buffet!

Winter fun and games.

After lunch was some craziness with a big saucer behind the Yamaha Wolverine (aka Fang) that I didn’t partake in. Some things are best left to the bipeds. As the sun started to fall toward the horizon, it was time to head indoors again where there was cheesy pasta and cuddles and more biscuits. It was a good day.

Cuddle time.

I’m tired today, went back to bed right after breakfast. Tomorrow Ria’s coming to visit, bringing her dog parents G and S. I’ve got six years on Ria and I hear she had a restful Christmas so I’d better get plenty of sleep until then!

Couch time.

Storm’ll be taking the reins of the blog next week, something about a big equine birthday celebration?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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End of ride on a hot day.

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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.

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On the trail in Kananaskis Country.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Me and my new bud.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Yum.