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 …

Ground-Horse Day

We have groundhogs in Alberta and in many other parts of Canada, but I’ve never seen one out here on the farm. We do, however, have a lot of other little critters that live in the ground, small cousins of the groundhog, and none ventured out of their holes on Tuesday to see their shadows. An early spring, perhaps?

When Canada’s most famous ground-dwelling weather forecasters, Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam, and Fred La Marmotte, all called for an early spring, horses across the province were celebrating. But then word came in from Balzac Billy, Alberta’s “Prairie Prognosticator” calling for six more weeks of winter.

The groundhogs rely on seeing their shadow, or not, to predict the timing of spring which has always struck me as rather circumstantial. Doesn’t it just depend on whether or not the sun is shining on February 2, and what does this have to do with the weather to come? Just saying.

Unlike the groundhog, I don’t have a warm burrow to hide in until spring (although our shelter is a pretty close second) so what’s coming in the next six weeks has a lot more impact on my life than his. Why they’ve been the go-to animal for weather prediction for nearly two hundred years despite the complete lack of science behind their approach is a mystery.

The closest thing we have to a “burrow” in the background.

Even Wikipedia says, “While the tradition remains popular in modern times, studies have found no consistent correlation between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather.” No shit!

I, on the other hand, a horse, consider a number of factors when making my prediction— El Niño/ La Niña patterns, climate change, and the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation)—science-y stuff. If I wasn’t an accountant, I think I’d have been a scientist. I also consider the behaviour of local birds and animals and, most of all, my hair coat.

Checking the wind for signs of spring. Nope, not yet.

As you probably know, horses shed their coats in spring, and most do it quite reliably at the same time every year. The growth and shedding of our coats is driven by the amount of decreasing or increasing daylight. More science-y stuff. But I’ve noticed in recent years, as I’ve grown older, that my shedding varies from year to year, sometimes starting as early as February, which it has this year.

I’m shedding!

You might be thinking that my body was tricked by our mild January, and there is that possibility, but I believe that nineteen years of living in Alberta, combined with my very sensitive nature, has turned me into an equine weather forecaster, a ground-horse if you will.

So, the 2021 spring prediction from Storm the hypothesizing horse … drum roll please …

The crowd waiting in anticipation of the announcement.

🌼 AN EARLY SPRING! 🌻

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)