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.

Hike ‘n’ Brew

Back in September I wrote about an alternative adventure we took, when we weren’t able to go on our planned camping trip due to truck troubles. We wandered out to the Cochrane area, took some walks, visited a brewery, and had just the best day.

Brown-Lowery Provincial Park

Well, a couple of weeks later, when we still didn’t have a truck, we went wandering again. It seemed the hike ‘n’ brew was too much fun to not be repeated. This time we visited Brown-Lowery Provincial Park southwest of Calgary. This is a day-use-only park with 12 km of trails through the forest with some views of the Rocky Mountains from up high.

The view from the top.

We hiked the trail that circumnavigated the whole park, taking a scenery and water break at the viewpoint. It was another warm day so I was pretty pleased the peeps thought to bring my water bowl along.

Brown-Lowery trail.

After the walk, we went in search of the brew part of the hike ‘n’ brew equation, driving further south to the town of Black Diamond and the Hard Knox Brewery. Much to my delight, beer and dogs go together in the minds of beer makers and, because Hard Knox doesn’t cook and serve food in their establishment, I could even go inside with T and N while they made their selections. Crazy, right?

I wonder what beer tastes like.

It was too nice a day to drink indoors so we grabbed a table in the beer garden. Did you know that beer grows in a garden? I did not. Odd thing was, there were no likely beer-producing plants in the garden that I could see, just grass for me to lie on and tables and chairs for the humans. Nollind had a beer, T had a collection of tiny beers, and I had water while I watched the other dog patrons come and go.

See what I mean? No beer plants.

In late October, one chilly day, when T wanted to visit a NE Calgary store to get me some new food (I do love her), the peeps decided to turn it into a hike ‘n’ brew of a different sort. Up until then, brew had meant beer, but that was on the warm days. This time brew meant a hot beverage, tea for T and coffee for Nollind. And, OH MY GOD, did you know that Timbits come in a box?! A whole box full. I had to share with the peeps, but wowzers, what a discovery.

A box of 10?!

Coffee and tea in hand and Timbits in bellies, we hit the trail at Nose Creek Park, walking the whole 6-km loop. Admittedly, city parks are not quite like mountain trails for making discoveries, but for a dog who follows his nose, there is plenty to experience everywhere.

Discovering the scents of Brown-Lowery.

This past Wednesday, T decided it was time to squeeze in another hike ‘n’ brew before the conditions turned more wintry so we set out for Bragg Creek west of Calgary. Did I say before the conditions turned wintry? Right. Thought so. Well, nobody told Bragg Creek.

We started off at Bragg Creek Provincial Park, a new spot for us, but there was too much snow in this dense forested area. Next stop was West Bragg Creek where the trails are pretty familiar from skiing and horseback trips. The peeps were pretty sure there’d be bare ground on some of the more open trails of that area.

Me showing off my hunter jumper form.

Despite a week of very warm weather (including a record-breaking day on Monday) and quite a lot of sunshine, the main trail heading west out of the parking area was completely snow and ice covered, as were the trails crossing the creek to the south. So, north we walked, up the south-facing hill that was largely devoid of treacherous conditions.

The trees are so much taller than the ones we have at home.

There were a few stretches of mushy snow and some ice, but nothing a group of prairie dwellers couldn’t handle. We got back to the parking lot with the sun just fifteen minutes above the hills, or so Nollind measured with a finger above the horizon. Do you think that method could work for a dog paw?

Trail dog.

Although there are a couple of beer options in the Hamlet of Bragg Creek, it was brewed tea and coffee again, and the patio was closed so I had to wait in the car. :o( But T did bring me part of her salted caramel cookie. Yum.

I have to say, I’m rather a fan of this hike ‘n’ brew thing we’ve got going. I wonder where we’ll go next time?

More Camping! … Or Something Else?

When I last wrote we’d just returned from a fab week in the Rockies. Sigh. Such a good time. The thing that made it easier to come home from that trip was the plan to set out again in just two weeks, and this time in partnership with our camping buddies G & S and their canine companion Ria. Yay! We were all so excited.

Our bestest camping buddies on one of last year’s trips.

The plan, although I’m reluctant to use that word in 2020, was to go to Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park at the bottom end of Alberta for a few days, followed by another few days at a lake a couple of hours west of there. Our departure date was set for the 10th. We just needed to get Fred the truck fixed. I wrote about the demise of the Dodge in my last post.

One week beyond that scheduled departure, we’re still home, and Fred is still in the shop. To be more precise, Fred is in shop number three. T and Nollind are not at all thrilled with the Dodge dealerships that charged a bunch of money to not fix the truck. Fred is now being repaired by a transmission shop in Calgary that was able to track down the actual problem.

Loading Fred for the trip to Mister Transmission.

But, as is typical, a setback didn’t mean a bunch of moping about the house. Instead, we were on the road last Fur-iday for a consolation road trip (T is quite fond of these alternative adventures). We trekked west past Cochrane to the Waiparous area, followed by a visit to Ghost Lake. I didn’t see any ghosts, but that mountain-fed lake was very refreshing on a 27-degree, sunny afternoon after being in the car for a couple of hours.

Heading for the water at a brisk trot.

Our wander along the lakeshore spurred a thirst and hunger so was followed up by a trip to the Half Hitch Brewing Company in Cochrane. T enjoyed one of their beers when we were down in the Crowsnest Pass in February and has been wanting to visit the brewery ever since. I was resigned to an hour or two of waiting in the car, but then … say what? They allow dogs on the patio? Even the covered patio? Doggie heaven—shade, people, other dogs, and food! Apparently, the beer was also good but I wasn’t given a sample. I’m eleven now. I’m pretty sure I could handle it.

Patio dog – they only take well-behaved dogs so, guess what I am? :o)

Back in the car, I was just settling in for the trip home when we turned toward the river instead and took a short tour of the Bow RiversEdge Campground. Nice spot. Might just return one day with a trailer. It’s right next to the river and the off-leash pathway. More RV park-ish than we’re accustomed to, but did I mention the neighbouring off-leash area with swimming?

A dip in the Bow River.

We pulled into a parking lot near the campground so that T could feed me my dinner. She’s good that way, always bringing a meal along on our road trips in case we go beyond my six o’clock dinner hour. (And yes, I can tell time. More about that in a future post.) Post dinner, we were off and walking on that same off-leash river pathway I just mentioned. We were actually there four years ago when Logan was still around so our wander brought up some great memories, and yet another swim opportunity. It won’t be long before all of the water in Alberta is frozen solid so I have to get in these soft-water experiences while I’m able.

River walk September 2016.

So it wasn’t a camping trip, but by the time we were driving in the direction of home, after three walks, some patio time, and a road trip with my favourite peeps, I stretched out on the back seat of our old-but-trusted Honda and slept all the way home.

River walk September 2020.