Ski Dog!

I’m sure many of you will agree that February was a cold, cold month. At least it sure was on the west side of the continent. Even the low elevation parts of Arizona, the places we normally spend the winter, had cold and snow. And February’s cold extended into March and is just now, finally, looking like it’s going to let us be.

Going for walk on one of the really cold days.

The cold weather did ground us a few times, when the wind-chill was just too nasty. We’d go out for a little while to tend to horses but then come right back to the house instead of heading out for a walk or a snowshoe.

The snowshoe tracks make the snow a little easier to stay on top of.

But, sprinkled very sparingly into the long cold stretch, were a few days that sneaked into the single digit temperatures (still below zero Celsius, of course.) On those days, we went skiing!

I’ve skied with T many times across the prairie. When there’s enough snow to cover the rocks and stubble, it’s her favourite way to get around in winter. Logan used to come too, back when he was better able to manage the deep snow, and T would sometimes attach one of us or other to a strap around her waist so that we’d stay close. Now that was entertaining! I may be a Heeler but I’m not much for heeling.

Our first interaction with oncoming skiers. I’m ready!

Anyway, the skiing this year hasn’t been on the flat of the prairie but out in the foothills of the Rockies. The biggest difference? Man, do they go fast as soon as there’s even a slight downhill section of the trail. I can’t remember the last time I did so much running. Lucky for me, the peeps aren’t in great skiing shape so we didn’t tackle any steep or lengthy trails, but I was still exhausted by the end.

Doing my best to keep up! (Stay until the end for when the cameraman almost falls.)

The first ski day, a couple of weeks ago, was my big test. They told me if I didn’t wander off the trail, bother other skiers, or cause any wipeouts, they’d bring me again. I almost blew it early on, trotted across the trail in front of T when I smelled something in the woods. If we’d been on a flat section it would have been fine but we were on a downhill and she was going pretty fast. It was more of a side-swipe than a dead hit so we both stayed on our feet, and I learned my lesson. Don’t cross in front of the skier. In the end, I passed with flying colours, got a bunch of praise and treats. It was a good day.

It was a good day.

We went out to the Bragg Creek Trails again this past Tuesday. The trail was a little tougher, more work going up for all of us, and I had to really hustle on the downhill section. What makes it possible for me to keep up is that the trails are all very well packed so it’s almost like running on bare earth. In the deep snow I’d be done for.

Ski Day #2 – Working on my gold star!

Again, I stayed on the trail, out of the way, and with the skiers. Another gold-star day! This is a good thing because I hear we’re headed out for a bigger ski trip next week, to the Cypress Hills, and I don’t want to be left behind in the trailer or the truck every day.

I’ll try to report in from the road!

Tuckered out at the end of the trail.
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Winter Whoas

We knew it would come. It always does. Winter weather of the prairie variety. Technically, it’s been winter since November in our part of the world, we even had some wintry weather in early October, but we didn’t have any serious winter conditions until a week ago. Last Friday it blew in and hasn’t left us.

We horses are generally very good at adapting to changing conditions and weathering cold temperatures, but this year I think we got a bit complacent, maybe even forgot just what Old Man Winter can be like when he turns on us. We went from weeks of mostly above freezing daytime temperatures and reasonable overnights to the minus 20s, 30s, and even into the 40s with the wind chill. The wind has come from a variety of directions but all of them nasty COLD.

Winter weather moving in.

The biggest concern around here when we get a big weather change is Nevada. He’s just not as tough as he used to be. Years ago, he was the guy who’d head out to graze in the worst of conditions. We’d watch him walk out into the storm, thinking he was crazy or incredibly brave, or both, and we’d inevitably feel compelled to leave our cozy shelter and follow our fearless leader.

At 28, Nevada’s much more sensitive to changes in weather and feed. T was three days into adding something new to his diet when the weather turned cold and snowy. She and Nollind had fed him and headed out for a dog walk when I started to see the signs of a bellyache—stretching out like he needed to pee, pawing at the ground, restlessness, and no interest in his hay cubes.

Nevada enjoying his daily private lunch.

I watched to the south where I’d seen the peeps and Chico disappear over the hill. “Come back! We need you!” Thirty minutes later, they reappeared half a mile from home, making their way at that excruciatingly slow pace that humans travel. “Hurry!” I wanted to shout.

T noticed the symptoms right away and they came to the old guy’s aid. Light walking, TTouch belly lifts, resting him out of the north wind that was now blowing with bitterness. Nothing was working. After an hour and a half, the symptoms were getting worse. Time to call the vet.

Looking south into the snow.

I’ve never been treated for colic and had the “up your nose with a rubber hose” experience, but from what I’ve been told, it is not at all pleasant. As soon as the vet rolled in Nevada attempted to perk up, trying to convince everyone he was just fine. He even passed some manure. But, based on his heart rate and some dehydration, he got the hose treatment anyway, for fluids and electrolytes, along with a shot of painkiller.

When the sedative wore off, he was right as rain, but grumpy about being cooped up in the barn. I was in there too, to keep him company, but I had hay and he had none. As the herd boss, he’s not accustomed to watching another horse eat.

Outdoors is (almost) always better for this guy.

Nevada’s not a big fan of staying indoors, and moving around is good for digestion so, with his heavy winter blanket strapped in place, we were turned out into the weather. Hay nets hanging in the shelter, fresh straw, some loose hay in the big brown feeder and we were set for the night. I think T would spoil us anyway but, when Nevada is under the weather, we all benefit. She and Nollind were back to check on him twice that night, bringing treats for all and a top-up on the hay. When the weather gets mean, it’s a bit like having room service.

Gidget enjoying room service.

By Saturday morning we were down into the -20C range (-4F), the wind had increased and it was feeling very cold. I probably didn’t need one, and she knows it, but T put a blanket on me anyway. I got a new one this year and, I admit, it does feel better than the old hand-me-down that never quite fit me right.

I love the name on my new blanket. Suits me, don’t you think?

A blanket always feels great at first, cuts right down on the wind-chill factor, but then the itch sets in, especially up around the neck and shoulders. Drives me mad! So, I roll, I rub on things, and I mooch scratches from the humans when they’re out each day. It’ll be off as soon as it warms up some and, now that we’ve had our first blast of real winter, I’m optimistic they’ll let me run clothing-free for the next cold snap. Until then, I’ll just accept the blanket for what it is … a gesture of love and caring from T.

After a roll in the snow to remove the blanket … Drat! Still there.

Home for the Holidays

It will be a different kind of Christmas this year … no desert … no Logan. The four of us spent the past two Christmases in and around Quartzsite, Arizona—exploring the desert, lying in the sun, lounging by the Little Red Fireplace. This year we’ll be here in Alberta, and just three of us, unless you count the horses and cats who bring our number up to ten.

Christmas Day last year at Dome Rock BLM (Logan in his favourite spot).

Logan was always the ringleader when it came to opening gifts, being a greater lover of toys than I am. Last year it was a little candy cane squeaky thing. Silly, but he loved it. No matter his age, he never lost the enjoyment of something that squeaked or grunted or otherwise made a sound between his teeth. I inherited a whole basket of the goofy things. I hope T and Nollind give me a bone for Christmas this year. I prefer quiet deliciousness to noisy tastelessness.

Logan with his Christmas toy.

We’ve been out walking in our winter wonderland every day since the snow came. T started out in boots when the snow cover was light, moved up to snowshoes after a dump, and now she’s back to just boots with all the Chinook melting that’s happened this past week or so. For me, it’s four paws all the time, although I wished I had some doggie snowshoes on those deep-snow days. On the plus side, I’m looking svelte, fitting up my near-ten-year-old body for the winter adventures to come.

I keep up just fine on the hard pack.

And by winter adventures I mean Canadian winter adventures, the kind with snow and sunshine and, yes, sometimes cold. T and Nollind had been planning to take us south in early December, then mid-December, then just after Christmas, and then early January, but they’ve decided we’re staying home entirely this year. Sounds like there are a few reasons why, not the least of which is the old horse, Nevada. He’s had some health issues since the end of summer and T wants to be here to care for him on a daily basis. She thinks he needs her right now, and she might be right. I see the way he looks at her every afternoon when she goes out to give him his extra feed and supplements, like she’s just saved his life yet again.

Home on the range

Logan almost kept us home last year but Nollind built him a ten-foot ramp and we were off to the south. Maybe he could do the same for Nevada? Instead of the Fang trailer behind Sid we could haul a horse trailer.

The ramp that made it all possible last winter.

But, since I don’t think that will happen, I’m settling in for a Canadian winter—putting energy into growing an extra layer of fur. I’ll be fine. I actually like snow, as you might remember from my I Love Snow post this spring. And, as much as I miss Logan, there are more frequent adventures and long walks in my days as a solo, easy-travelling dog. Life is good.

Making my version of a snow angel.

I’ve heard talk around the house that we might even head out for some winter camping to places like the Cypress Hills and Kananaskis. In our first trip south in 2011, we spent some time camping in the snow in Utah and northern Arizona. Playing in the snow during the day and tucking into a warm trailer at night? Sign me up!

Snow at Bryce Canyon in 2011

From my home to yours, or wherever you may be this holiday season, wishing you and your furry (and non-furry) family a very Merry Christmas!