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.

Day Camping Episode 3

If you’ve been reading my blog posts for any amount of time, you’ll know that we’ve spent a bunch of time camping in winter since 2011, most of it in a warmer climate south of the Canada/US border. We’ve camped in Canada in winter too, but this year, the peeps just weren’t into the issues that arise with staying in a trailer in freezing temps—no water in the system and condensation being the main two. But it didn’t stop us from getting out and day camping.

Camping in the Cypress Hills in March of 2019

The first day camp was in December at Dinosaur Provincial Park, the second in Kananaskis, and the third just last week down at Little Bow Provincial Park. Although the walking was more challenging and interesting at Dinosaur and Kananaskis, Little Bow wins hands-down for weather. It was the only one of three outings when I didn’t end up shaking like a leaf in a prairie wind!

Happy (day) campers

Little Bow is pretty much due south of the farm and, as we travelled Highway 24/23, the snow disappeared from the prairie. By the time we reached the park, there were only a few small patches in very shady places. The lake itself was still frozen, to be expected in March, but the picnic area was sunny, dry , and WARM. In fact, when we finished our walk, Ria and I were both warm enough to seek out some shade.

Nap time with her stick.

Some shared chew time, a nap in the sun, it was like the perfect dog afternoon. Well, at least for this dog. Ria enjoyed some fetch time as well, but I passed on that activity. I was only a fetch dog while I had Logan to compete with for the ball. After he was gone, I lost all interest in chasing balls. It seems so pointless. Now, if the ball was edible …

The only thing better than chew time is shared chew time.

Things did start to cool off as the sun went down but I had a jacket and a fire so the dreaded shivering never struck. This dog is definitely more of a fair-weather camper. I’m just glad spring is upon us because camping trips will only get warmer from here. And if the peeps want to go camping anytime between December and February in the future, whether it’s for the day or overnight, I’m hoping it’s in Arizona!

Jacket time but still cozy by the fire.

Hot Dogs, Cold Dog

It’s the 22nd of January which means that many winters since 2011 you’d have found us somewhere south of the Canada/US border by now, enjoying the sun and warmth of Arizona or California. We’ve departed Canada in November, in December, and in January, but never this late. Pretty sure that means we’re not going.

It’s the border closure, of course, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, that’s keeping us home this year. I’m mostly okay with the situation. I love home—my favourite beds, trips to the barn, exploring our prairie landscape, and I’m normally included in all outings to town or to the city.

City outings sometimes involve one of these magical places — the drive thru!

A few years ago, I wrote a post about loving snow, and I do. What I’m loving less as I get older is the cold. Logan used to talk about getting cold more easily as he aged and I thought I’d be different, but recent events have changed my mind.

If I’m moving, I am comfortable in almost any weather, even my paws don’t get cold. I stepped into a mountain stream to get a drink on Monday and continued along the trail as before, toes quite comfortable.

Cooling my tongue and my toes in Ribbon Creek.

But, when I stop moving, the chill creeps in quickly, I feel the cold seeping through my camp mat, and the frost crawling into my bones. That’s when I start to shiver, just a little at first, and then it takes over and is like someone hit my vibrate button and turned it to the highest setting.

On Monday, we went on our second “day camping” outing of this stay-at-home winter. I think these day trips are designed to keep us all from getting cabin fever and missing our desert time too much, but I’m not sure it’s working for me. I love the hiking part—there’s nothing quite like a new trail and Ribbon Creek was fantastic—but the picnic in the snow and cold, other than the food, not a huge fan.

Love the exploring part of our day-camping trips.

Evenings can get chilly in the desert at this time of year, and I sometimes need some blanket support, but out in Kananaskis on Monday, I had a woolly coat, was wrapped in a blanket, sitting next to a roaring fire, and still shaking like a leaf. Built for comfort not for cold.

A January late afternoon in Arizona.
A January late afternoon in Alberta.

T’s planning to bring a thicker bed for me on the next day camping adventure, to put more between me and the snow. I’m happy to hear it and hoping it will help, and yet I hate being such a wuss when it comes to cold. I like to think it’s the winters south, not age, that have softened me, but since this is our third winter in a row at home, I’m not sure this theory continues to hold water.

A thicker bed would be nice. And staying on it probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Despite the increasing chill as the sun dropped below the mountains, I did eventually fall asleep, once I’d had a beef chew, two turkey weiners, a few potato chips, and my dinner.