Flashback Fur-iday — Logan’s Loop

It’s hard to say just how many miles Logan travelled in his lifetime. The tally started in the years before I knew him and included many an unsanctioned run across the prairie or through the woods as well as countless miles behind the hooves of a horse out on the trail.

Lunch break on the trail at Station Flats in 2011. (Read Tribute to a Trail Dog)

Our canal walk is about a 3-mile round trip, our loop to the big poplar grove to the west about the same, and there have been countless miles racked up in many parts of Western Canada as well as the deserts of Utah, Arizona, California, and New Mexico. Suffice to say, Logan was a happy but high-mileage model by the end of his stay on this earth.

I love to get out and walk, and trot, and run, or just go at whatever pace my leash allows. 

Hiking, Horses and Hazardous Places, February 2015

Hiking at Vulture Peak near Wickenburg in 2015.

We spent nine days camped near Wickenburg and we hiked for two hours every day, and only once did we cover the same trail. Wanderlust doggie paradise!

Hiking, Horses and Hazardous Places – February 2015

One of many, many walks along the canal near home. See more canal photos!

In Logan’s final couple of years, the walks had to be reduced, due to his arthritis and his heart condition. At first, the limitation was set at “no more than an hour” but, in his last year, that hour was reduced to 45 minutes, then 40, then 30, and so on.

… just a couple of years ago I completed the two-hour Majestic Trail hike without a thought beyond enjoying the exercise and the day. This year, all I could think about was getting back to camp, having a big drink of water, and lying under the trailer in the shade. 

I’m As Good Once As I Ever Was – February 2017

Majestic Trail near Wickenburg, Arizona.

One of our favourite walks in that final year was what I like to call Logan’s Loop, a one-mile journey around the twenty acres we call home. It was a favourite because we were normally off-leash, and because of the old irrigation ditch and aspen groves that run down the middle of the hay field. Many different critters make this area their stomping grounds so it is a complete scent-fest for us dogs.

Water break on Logan’s Loop, Spring 2018

As Teresa’s Aunt Manda used to say, “It’s a good life if you don’t weaken!” But I have weakened. For starters, my right front leg is just managing our one-mile morning walks (although I have to say, somewhat proudly, that I trot most of the way).

Still Here, October 2017

Exploring the aspen grove on his loop. Spring 2018

Until T hurt her back last week, we hadn’t walked Logan’s Loop since June or so of last year when Logan could still do it. It was good for T to keep moving in those first days of recovery but not too far, so there we were, back on the loop, exploring our twenty acres and its groves of aspens. I felt Logan there, in the trees and in the hay field, walking alongside us, sharing the sights and smells of the winter afternoon.

Early summer walk, 2018.

It’s been four months since he crossed the Rainbow Bridge but, out on Logan’s Loop, I feel like he hasn’t left us at all.

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Senior? Who, Me?

I went to the vet yesterday for a routine exam and the 3-year rabies vaccination that I need to cross into the United States. The bill read “Examination (Senior)” and said I’d received a “Canine Geriatric Profile”. Ack! When did that happen? With five years between Logan and me, I’ve always been the pup, the youngster, the kid. I guess I kind of lost track of time. I’m about to head into the double digits!

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Time sure flies.

On the plus side, I had a put-it-on-the-fridge-worthy blood panel result for a dog my age. Kidneys, heart, liver, thyroid, red & white blood cells, blood sugar, all solidly in the normal range. I’ve even lost just over a kilo since I was last in. But the senior thing has me a bit freaked out. I know I’m not quite the bundle of energy I used to be, but geriatric?

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Waiting to go for a walk in Kananaskis. And who’s the old guy?

I hope it’s true that you’re only as old as you feel because that would make me six or seven at best. Although I do feel a bit older than that hanging out with my new friend, Ria. She’s three and a half and, man, that girl has some energy. Ria is a new member of the G & S family so you’ll be seeing more of her on Fur-idays in the future. Maybe I can even persuade her to write a guest blog. (Everyone who’d like to hear from Ria, raise your paws!)

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Ria and me at the Chestermere off-leash.

I’ve long striven to become more human. In fact, I’m hoping that my only-doggedness will help me progress in my endeavour (good human word, don’t you think?) Without the constant presence of another dog to pull me into canine-type behaviour, I’m hoping I can fine tune my being-human skills. If I can manage it, do you think I’d live longer? I know I can’t expect the 70-80 years that a human lives (man, that sounds like a long time to a dog), but maybe 20?

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Me in 2011. I admit I’m looking a little more “frosted” these days.

If you don’t think it’s possible, just check out this list on Wikipedia. The Guinness record holder for the oldest dog was a guy named Bluey who, and this is the cool part, was an Australian Cattle Dog! Pretty sure that’s what I am, or half anyway. I know, I know, it’s the quality of the days rather than the quantity, but there’s no harm in setting the bar high, is there?

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Frosted but fresh!

There was one bit of bad news from Dr. Julie today. I have to go back to have a lump removed from my leg. It’s nothing scary at this point but she’s concerned that it could develop into something and I trust her completely. Best get it gone. I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to medical procedures, but they tell me I’ll be sleeping so I’m not too concerned. The part that does concern me is the no food or water after midnight the previous day. No breakfast?! They won’t need to sedate me. I’ll pass out from starvation!

Well, I’m still a little tired from yesterday’s activities and T’s taking me for a walk in a little while so I think I’ll climb into my favourite bed for a nap. Oops, that sounded a bit geriatric, didn’t it?

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I’m not old, I’m just relaxed.

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.