Tribute to a Trail Dog

In nature, canine types are not friends of equine types, largely because they think we taste good. The whole horse-and-hound pairing was invented and popularized by humans. I’m a little less dog-friendly than many of my friends, maybe because I tend to be the smallest in most herds and therefore perceived as the easiest prey. Dogs who have proven themselves to be trustworthy are fine, but any newcomers best be prepared to be chased. I once put the run on a chocolate lab named Jonah who attempted to escape through a gate she didn’t fit through. T rescued her, which was good since I found out later she was a sweetheart and had no interest in gnawing on my legs. Although, she did like my hoof trimmings, but then they all do. It used to give me the creeps to see them chewing on what used to be attached to me but I’ve gotten over it. It’s really just excess, like the hair I shed in spring. They can have it.

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Logan keeping me company on my first ride out of the arena.

Which brings me to Logan. He was another of the good dogs, one of the best maybe. I came to the farm in the spring of 2004 and he came the following January. We spent a lot of years together. I initially greeted him like I do all unknown canines, with a lowered head and flattened ears, but he quickly proved himself a good-natured beast. He liked to nip at our heels occasionally, but not in an effort to have a taste but rather to move us around. His Border Collie herding instincts were strong and he was quick to jump in and assist whenever the humans were moving us from one place to another, like through a gate. His efforts once cost him five teeth when he tried to put the moves on a cantankerous mare named Willow. The rest of us would just lift a foot and flick an ear in his direction, a peaceful “bugger off”, but Willow added bite to her bark. Didn’t stop Logan though. He continued to herd until this year, when his reduced reflexes and stability kept him at a distance.

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He never nipped when we were being ridden.

Although an avid barn dog, where we horses really got in our Logan time was out on the trail. He was trail dog extraordinaire. We did some long treks back in the day, and he’d keep up and then some. His normal position was right behind the last horse in the ride, but he’d often wander off the trail to take a dip in a creek or explore an interesting smell, increasing his total mileage for the day. He had tender paws on more than one occasion after a particularly long day over rough terrain, but did he complain? Never. At the end of most trail days you’d find him curled up in the shade near the horse trailer or wrapped in a blanket on a cool, autumn day.

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End of ride on a hot day.

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End of ride on a cold day.

We horses were sorry to see the premature end of Logan’s days on the trail. In 2011, Chico joined the family and he was a terrible influence on reliable Logan. The two of them were off in the woods chasing all sorts of varmints sending T and Nollind backtracking and whistling and waiting. I remember Logan’s (and Chico’s) last trail day very clearly. The six of us set out on a big loop at Etherington Creek. The dogs were pretty good all day, until we were almost back at camp. Chico spotted a deer and was off and running with Logan hot on his heels. The baying of the hounds faded into the distance as we followed as far as we could on the trail. T and Nollind were angry but also worried when the boys were gone a long time. They eventually returned, as they always did, but that was the last trail ride for those two. In 2012, dogs were left in the front of the trailer when we went to the mountains. As it turned out, it was probably best for Logan anyway, given the arthritis that started developing in his right leg around that time.

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On the trail in Kananaskis Country.

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Always keen to participate in a little rule breaking. 

Logan continued to join us on prairie excursions close to home for the next couple of years but, by the fall of 2014, he had trouble keeping up and making it home. The last time he came with us, he was on three legs at the halfway-home mark so Nollind dismounted, thinking he’d have Rosa carry the poor guy home. We’ve all seen the pictures of the cowboy with the dog riding in the saddle with him, well that dog wasn’t Logan and that dog had probably learned to do it as a pup. And Rosa’s expression was a lot like Logan’s … “What the?!” Just imagine two sets of buggy, brown eyes and you’ll have an idea of how things went. Logan limped home on his own steam. The next time we rode out, the heartbreaking sound of a dog left behind echoed from inside the house.

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Having trouble keeping up to Gidget and Judy in the fall of 2014.

We’re missing him at the barn these days. It became his thing, what he could still do, this past summer. Whenever T was out feeding or grooming or riding, he was never far away, sniffing around or just lying there watching the happenings of the farm. I could see the changes this fall, in his energy, his mobility. We animals sense these things before humans. For a short time in September, we thought we were going to lose both of our old campaigners, Logan and Nevada. But Nevada’s near-death experience is a tale for another time.

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Family photo when we were all a lot younger.

As for Logan, farewell awesome trail dog and keen-if-not-effective herder. This pony won’t soon forget you.

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Gone Camping!

I apologize if I scared anyone with my blog absence last Fur-iday. People do wonder about a guy my age when they don’t hear from me. It’s understandable. But … still here!

On Fur-iday last week I was in the land of no cell phones or internet. I was, get this, camping! None of us thought I was up for any camping this season. From my perspective, it seemed like a whole lot of effort just to be cold. From my peoples’ point of view, a few days in the hills wasn’t worth putting up with a pacing, pooping pooch in a small space.

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Who me? Camping?

The first change that made it possible was something we’ve all been waiting for for a dozen years. I have no explanation as to why but car/truck travel is seeming a lot less of a big deal recently. It’s still not my favourite activity, but no more morphing into a panting, pacing maniac that nobody wants to travel with. I’ve learned to ride it out.

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Drug-free travel.

The other thing is that I’ve been sleeping better at night, even in the house sometimes. Again, not sure how it’s come about but it’s such a relief for all of us. They still keep a light on for me and I appreciate it, but the night terrors have faded.

So, back to the camping trip. Our friends G and S were headed to Kananaskis Country and, in light of my recent normalness, Teresa and Nollind decided to hitch up Sid and join them. I can’t say I was thrilled initially. I’ve become quite comfy in my new dog yard. I’m working on my twentieth (or is it twenty-first?) den, I have the full spectrum of sunny versus shady places to nap, there’s a resident prairie dog to keep in check, and so much to observe in my half-acre paradise. But I try to be a team player, so did my best to look enthused about the journey and not get bogged down in the worries.

Worry #1, Travel Anxiety – Even though I’ve been travelling better recently, I’ve only been on short drives, so I wasn’t sure how a three-hour journey would be. But, I started the camping adventure off strong with the most relaxing drug-free vehicle travel I’ve ever experienced. So much for Worry #1.

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Matching Chico’s cool. Panting only because it was a hot day.

Worry #2, Being Cold – The first evening at dinner, I was treated to a padded bed, a pillow, and an afghan. This good fortune and pampering continued through the weekend. Nix Worry #2.

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Afghan hound.

Worry #3, Being Trapped in Sid All Night – I had my couch, I had a jacket, the light was on. What more could an old dog want? Forget Worry #3.

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Tucked into my couch for the night.

Worry #4, Missing Out on the Hiking – Okay, this one actually happened, and it was a bit of a drag. Chico came back to camp telling stories of his lake walks and, although I’d enjoyed my nap time, I did feel left out. Worry #4 realized.

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Hiking without me. Smiling through their pain.

But, one out of four is not bad on the worry metre. I was a pretty contented canine … until Saturday night.

They thought it was Saturday morning’s pancake breakfast, but I knew different. I am just not a food sensitive kind of guy and I wasn’t going to be taken out by a flapjack. It was something else, something evil, that sent my digestive system into chaos. We’re just not sure what it was yet, or is. We’re still working it out.

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Yum yum. Pancakes!

So my camping adventure didn’t end as strong as it started, but I have no regrets. Mountain air, campfire time, pancakes with a little butter and syrup, and good friends. A word from the wise … when every thing and every time could be your last, savour every bite.

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.