Flashback Fur-iday – Home Is …

Since we first set out with our fifth wheel in 2011, we’ve spent more than a year and a half travelling and boondocking in the southwest United States, nineteen months broken into segments from two and half to five months each. It’s become like our second home with its familiar terrain and temperatures, our winter residence for all but three of the past eight winters.

Wupatki ruins in Northern Arizona with “Larry” in the background.

We’ve been back home in Canada since early March of 2018, the longest home stretch since we started RVing and, although I miss our desert time, it’s been good to be home for a while, reconnect with all things Alberta, and enjoy the great outdoors of our grand country.

Almost home in March of 2018.

Logan was really good at appreciating, and very attached to home. It might have been partly his dislike of vehicle travel but I think this prairie place was deep in his bones.

After a week in Tucson we spent a couple of days next to a lake in the far south of Arizona, Patagonia. Sandy soil, a lake to swim in, and grassy hills mostly without cactus, dog heaven! Well, almost. Dog heaven was actually the next stop just a few miles up the road near Sonoita at Xanadu Ranch. I felt like we’d come home — pastures, horses, wide open spaces — it was a sight for a travel-weary dog’s sore eyes.  

Sore Feed and Sore Eyes, March 2012
Near Sonoita in the high country of southern Arizona.

Generally, Logan was a “be happy where you are” kind of guy, always keen for the next adventure, eager to explore new places, but he did worry now and then about what was happening back home on the farm and he sometimes wrestled with bouts of homesickness.

Here I lie under the trailer but, unless there’s a breeze, it’s not nearly as cool as that basement I’m dreaming of. I think I’m starting to feel a little homesick, missing my farm and my daily routine there. I hope things haven’t gotten too out of control without me there to keep order. I hope my girlfriends across the road haven’t forgotten me. What am I saying? Of course they haven’t.

A Little Desert Weary, March 2015
A hot day at Stewart’s Point on Lake Mead.

But then he’d think about the alternative.

When I’m not happy, I’m just not that much fun to be around, or at least that’s the impression I get. They worry about me. They even started talking about it being better for me to maybe stay home next year. At first my response was, “Yay! What a terrific idea!” But it would mean months away from my people and, as annoying as he can sometimes be, my buddy Chico. I realized that “home” wouldn’t be “home” without them.

Home is Where the Hedgehog Is, January 2017

Wait a minute … Me? Annoying? Ah well, at least he called me his buddy.

Hiking in the Valley of Fire near Las Vegas.

One thing that Logan and I definitely agreed on was the following definition of home. I’ve been a lot of places in these past eight years, some good, some awesome, and a few not so great (at least not for dogs), but always there was this …

That was when I looked up “home” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and it turns out it’s more than one thing. The first three in the list were 1) one’s place of residence; 2) the social unit formed by a family living together; and 3) a familiar or usual setting. So, although I’d be in my place of residence (number 1) if I stayed “home”, I would be separate from my social unit, my pack (number 2). As for number 3, Sid is just about as familiar as the farm house after the many months we’ve spent living in here.

Home is Where the Hedgehog Is, January 2017
Logan making himself at home in Nollind’s home-away-from-home office (aka the ver”man”da)

We’d hoped to be heading down the road about now but family and business circumstances are keeping T and Nollind home in Alberta for another month. However, although it’s getting cold and snowy here in Canada and the desert is calling, it’s okay, because it’s where we live, we’re here together, and it’s familiar in that very good way.

Home in the barnyard with Storm.

Another Goodbye

I feel like I’ve had to say goodbye to too many of my favourite peeps and hounds these last couple of years and this one’s a toughie. Whether he was friend or family depends on how you view us four-legged additions to the household, but to me, he was my grandpa. Somewhere I have, or had, an actual grandfather, or grandsire as he’d be called in the dog world, but I likely never met him, don’t even recall meeting my father. Such is the way of life for dogs. We leave our birth families at a very young age and adopt a human family. They say they adopt us but we know it’s the other way around.

Nollind and his dad.

So my grandpa and friend, David, left us last weekend, quietly, peacefully. The struggle with disease started eight years ago but, in the end, his decline was mercifully rapid, allowing him to live right up until he died. Just a month ago, he hosted a Thanksgiving meal at his condo for the whole clan. And what a feast it was with all of the dishes of his childhood present and accounted for. As it turned out, it was somewhat of a farewell dinner. He was in hospital a week later. I didn’t get to visit him in the hospital but, from what I heard, he was still going for walks and maintaining his card-shark status during his stay.

Thanksgiving cuddles.

In the years I knew him, David was never anything but kind to me. He was at our place a lot one summer and fall, helping Nollind with a bunch of building projects and, when it was tea time, he always had one hand for his cup and one for me. I’d park myself beside his favourite stool in the kitchen and he’d stroke my head for as long as I stayed or until they went back to work.

Siding the hay shed.

And that one year was not the only time David was at the farm lending a hand. If you took a gander around our yard you’d be hard pressed to spot a thing that he hasn’t touched in some way. From helping T and Nollind paint the inside of the house way back when they bought the place, to rewiring the old barn, to straightening the old barn, to building the carport and the hay shed and the new outhouse, to replacing the awning on Sid, to planting the first garden. The list goes on and on. If we wanted to memorialize him with a sign on something he helped build, we’d pretty much just hang it on the gate at the entrance (come to think of it he helped with that too).

Working in the garden.

Even though David wasn’t technically a dog person, as in he never had a dog of his own beyond his childhood on the farm, whenever family events were hosted at his condo, we dogs were included. On Thanksgiving this year he even bought me a nice big, beef bone. When I pulled it out of the dish to go chew in a more private location, T and Nollind jumped up in a panic, but David just smiled without concern.

Hanging out bedside last Friday.

Last Friday, the whole family was called to spend the day with David at his condo. He was in bed and I could feel that he was leaving us. I curled up beside him and he reached out his hand to stroke me as he always did. He went to hospice that afternoon and died the next evening so the feel of my fur was one of his final experiences in this life. I hope it was a comfort.

I’ll sure miss him.

I don’t know where we go when we die but they say that pets cross the Rainbow Bridge. I think David would appreciate a bridge built from rainbows, and likely pitch in on any needed repairs. I hope he and Logan are over there enjoying it together.

Just a Dog

It’s September and, one year ago today, I was hanging out in Logie-land with its namesake, my good buddy Logan. Little did I know that in just a few weeks we’d be saying goodbye … forever. Although the day he died was terrible, the permanence of his leaving took time to settle in, and that’s where I’m at now, I think all of us are, that stage where the pain is eased but the permanence is felt with each passing month. I’m not sure what we’ll do on the anniversary of his death on the 28th of September, but I know we’ll do it together, me, T and Nollind, Logan’s family.

September 3, 2018 – a little couch time with T

T told me a sad story from many years ago when she lost a young dog to a huge piece of ice that slid off the roof of the house and landed on him. Terrible, right? It’s been thirty-five years and she still tears up when she talks about Bo. But what makes this story even more tragic, and something T has never forgotten, is the response of one of her “friends” who asked that same evening over drinks, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a dog.”

September 7, 2018 – nap time with a favourite toy

And therein lies the insult to injury that dog people often experience when they lose one of us canine family members. Even if it’s not stated outright, the message is there in the silence … It’s just a dog.

September 17, 2018 – autumn sun

When Logan died, the sympathy cards, condolence messages, and fuzzy blankets covered in paw prints were a great comfort to T (she still hasn’t put the cards away). They brought the message, “He wasn’t just a dog, he was a much-loved member of your family for fourteen years.”

September 25, 2018 – still up for a short walk.

A poem by Richard A. Biby…

From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.” They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog.”

Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.” Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,” but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”

“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure and unbridled joy.

“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person.

Because of “just a dog,” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me, and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog,” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a woman.” So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,” just smile–because they “just don’t understand.”

September 28, 2018 – early morning

Thanks, Mr. Biby and thanks everyone else who understands that there’s no such thing as “just a dog”. I know I’d sure hate to be such a thing.

September 28, 2018
September 28, 2018