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.

Live on Location

It was day camping time for the adventuresome six yesterday and we were down at Little Bow Provincial Park just east of Champion, Alberta. I had this terrific idea to present the Fur-iday Files “live on location” from the park—great idea, right?—but then there was no internet service.

So … instead … I did this …

Bare ground and spring sunshine. Oh, man. Heaven.

And, this morning, I’m feeling inclined to do this …

Short walk but a big day yesterday.

So, I’ll be back next Fur-iday, with the tale of our third installment of winter 20/21 day camping.

PS: In case anyone is concerned about the proximity of the humans in my banner image, this photo was taken pre-pandemic on an outing to Rosebud.

Winter Wimp

This isn’t the first time we’ve posted about the weather here at the Fur-iday files, and it won’t be the last. Living in the country, especially in a winter country like Canada, makes the weather a big factor in how we go about day-to-day life.

The photo below was taken in the first few days of February. The temperature was right around freezing, the sun was shining, there was fresh snow in the pasture, and we went for a lovely walk. Within a few days, the daytime “highs” weren’t getting beyond -20⁰C (-4⁰F) and the wind made it feel like the -30s and even the -40s overnight.

A beautiful winter day in Alberta.

Despite my five winters spent in warmer places, I consider myself pretty sturdy, or at least I did until this winter. You might remember the day-camping experiences I wrote about, one in December at Dinosaur Provincial Park and the other in January in Kananaskis. Both were on what we Albertans consider warm winter days and yet both times I ended up with my teeth chattering.

So, in light of those experiences, even though I’m generally okay when I keep moving, my peeps were taking no chances and had my winter jacket on me as soon as the temperature reached -20.

Jacketed up for our daily walk.

If the jacket wasn’t bad enough, one day when we went out to feed horses, I ran off into the field to smell something enticing, and it was like there were piranha in the six inches of snow, nipping at my feet. I pulled up a paw and shook it but each time I set one down to pick up another the biting started again. I hobbled to the barn where T warmed each of my paws in her hands.

Warming up after our daily horse-feeding chores.

It happened again the next day while I was waiting to get in the car. By the time T had the Soggy Dog straightened and a few items removed from the back seat, I was doing the paw-shake dance again. It was official … I’d become a winter wimp.

Next day, the boots were on. I guess I should have seen that coming. At least I can walk in them now, not like the old days when they just felt too weird too move. (Check out this video.) Logan loved his boots, skipping and hopping when they went on. Now I’m beginning to see why.

G’d up from the feet up.

Wednesday, hallelujah, I was coat and boot free when we walked our road to the south, and T and Nollind were able to lose the balaclavas, goggles, and insulated overalls. So freeing!

At least I don’t need all the face gear.

After a mostly mild January, ten days wasn’t really so long, but it sure felt that way. I hate to say it, but this previously snow-loving dog just might be a snowbird. No slipping on icy roads and pathways, no piranha snow, no teeth-chattering picnics, and no need for dog clothing. Although, Logan did wear boots in the desert as his paws aged and got tender on the rocky ground.

Logan in his shiny new hiking boots.

So far I haven’t had to wear boots down south but then I didn’t need them in cold weather until this year. No matter how tough we intend to be when we get older, it just doesn’t seem to work that way. I guess that’s why there are so many human seniors in the desert walking on bare ground and soaking up the sunshine, because it makes life more comfortable … not to mention less hazardous.

Happy, healthy snowbirds out exploring.

For now, I’ll take the 0⁰C (32⁰F) we’re supposed to have today, about 20 degrees above coat and boots, and if it gets cold again, go back to doing a lot of this …