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.

Best. Day. Ever.

I know it’s not the first time you’ve heard me say so, but last Fur-iday was truly the best day ever! While Logan was home enjoying Logie-Land, I got to go along on an awesome road trip.

As Logan mentioned in his post last week, it was T’s birthday and, luckily for me, she chose to celebrate in a way that included a dog. I like to think I was part of the reason for her choice.

The day started off with a short Logan walk and swim at the canal. In hindsight, I think it was a guilt walk. Logan wasn’t coming along for the rest of the day.

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The “guilt walk”.

When we got back to the house and everyone was rushing around putting things in bags and packing a cooler, I assumed I’d had my walk and would be spending the day at home. Sigh… But, just as I was about to settle in for a long nap, I saw some of my things being added to one of the bags. Could it be so? When my food and bowl went in another bag I knew it was going to be a good day. One, I was going along and, two, we wouldn’t be back for dinner.

The first stop was the T.Pot, one of T and Nollind’s favourite restaurants on the north side of the city. Now I didn’t get to go in for dim sum, but I did get a Timbit from the Tim Horton’s stop right after. I do love Timbits. From there we headed west toward the mountains. I’d never gone to the Rockies without horses or Sid in tow so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was I in for a treat!

Stop two was the Kananaskis Visitor Centre to find out what the trails were like. I had a chance to get out and stretch my legs and check out the “what to do in the event of a cougar encounter” sign. Don’t run?! Who are they kidding? If that image was life-sized, that is one cat I do not want to tangle with. I’d even take the stinky, black and white devil from a few weeks ago over a cougar.06-bestdayever-cougar

Map in hand and some recommendations from the staff at the Visitor Centre, it was a short drive to the Stoney parking lot and trailhead. My first mountain day hike! Despite the scary cougar signs, I was excited and set out at the front of the group. It was a pretty easy walk with nice footing and trees for shade.

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Setting out on the trail.

Soon after we turned off the main trail I could hear a roar that grew louder and louder as we walked. The sound reminded me of the weir along the canal but times fifty. We reached a creek that tumbled over rocks on its way out of the mountains but I knew right away the friendly stream where I had a dip and a drink couldn’t be the source of the noise.

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Cooling off.

Just a little farther along the trail we reached Troll Falls. Wow. So much water pouring over the cliff and crashing into the pool below. I was happy I’d done my swimming where the stream was less violent. There was no way I was going into the pool at the base of the waterfall. Even the air was filled with water.

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Me and my girls at Troll Falls.

Some oohing and aahing and a few photos later, we were on our way back via a different, and slightly longer route. The afternoon was getting hot but, since I’d had a swim, I was fine. The peeps really should have come in with me and I’m sure they realized their mistake about halfway up the big climb on the return trip. Maybe next time they’ll follow my lead.

Next stop was Kananaskis Village for one of my most favoritest things … ice cream! And, although I didn’t get my own, I did get to sample three different flavours and eat all of Susan’s cone.

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Score! Susan doesn’t like the cone part.

After ice cream came a walk to the spot where T and Nollind got married many years ago. I wasn’t at the wedding, of course, wasn’t even a glint in my daddy’s eye that long ago, but I could feel what a special place it was. I sure wish I’d been there on that day. Do you think they’d do it again for me? I could be the ring bearer. Or would I be a ring dogger? If I can convince them to get married again, you’re all invited.

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The wedding spot in the Kananaskis Valley

Back in the car, retracing the route we’d taken, I figured we were headed home. It had been a good day. But wait … I still had dinner in the trunk of the car. They wouldn’t have packed it if we were going to be home by dinner. Sure enough, before we reached the main highway, we turned off on a gravel road, and twenty minutes later pulled into the campground at Sibbald Lake. I was confused. We hadn’t brought Sid. Where was everyone going to sleep? I had a great spot stretched out on the back seat with Susan for a pillow, but what about the rest of them?

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Travelling in style … and comfort.

Turned out it was a dinner stop, and was I ever surprised and delighted to find our good friends G and S set up in the B-loop. Friends, food, fire, more food … it was the perfect wrap-up to a perfect birthday. And I think T enjoyed it too.

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Wrapping up a great day.

 

Made It!

It’s possible I was overly optimistic about the 3-day, desert-to-farm journey and my ability to “crush it” like I did the 3-day, farm-to-desert journey in December. In my defence, if you apply the 7-to-1, dog-to-human age ratio to the three months between the trip down and the trip home, I was almost two years older by the time we started north. The trip wasn’t terrible, it just might not go down as “crushing it” in the trip log.

On our other four winter trips, we haven’t returned until at least the 31st of March, and one year it wasn’t until the 3rd of May. So maybe I just wasn’t ready, you know, mentally prepared. I thought I had another three weeks to psyche myself up for three days of truck time. But, I made it in one piece with only one … what should I call it? … unfortunate incident. I’ll just leave it at that.

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Home at last.

 

The first night home, I was exhausted and slept like the dead but the next two were very restless. The house seemed so big and dark. I missed our cozy trailer and my low-rider couch that’s easy to climb up on. The furnace in the house makes a different noise than the one in Sid. Everything just seemed strange and spooky. I’ve settled in some now, but I’m still having trouble sleeping at night. Mind you, that was happening on the road some nights too. Funny thing is, the day after one of these restless episodes, I sleep like a puppy all day long. Although, Teresa isn’t really seeing the funny in it.

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Morning after the night before.

 

Here at home, there’s snow everywhere, lots of it, and as Chico mentioned in his last blog post, it’s not the nice been-melted-and-refrozen-on-top crusty kind I can walk on. I’ve been stuck more than once so I mostly tend to stay on the road and driveway. I actually got stuck head first in the yard when I tried to get to one of my caragana dens. Teresa had to put her boots on and come pull me out. I used to love the snow, but that was before it became my enemy.

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Um … why can I only see the tops of the fence posts?

 

It’s been chilly for March but that I don’t mind so much. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, and I have acquired a few different jackets for various temps and conditions. No smoking jacket yet but I’m working on it. I was thinking silk might be nice. I prefer the natural fibres.

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The latest addition to my wardrobe, a nice little two-in-one number.

 

Well, it should be time for our morning walk soon. Teresa usually waits until the frostiest part of the morning has passed before we head out for our first jaunt of the day. After that, I think I’ll take a nap. I didn’t sleep so great last night.