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.

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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.

If You’re Reading This…

If anyone could blog from beyond the grave it would be my pal, Logan. I found this letter tucked in amongst his favourite toys…

Dear Friends & Family,

If you’re reading this then I guess I’ve moved on, to wherever it is we go when our time on this earth is complete. Maybe we come back, maybe we don’t. If I do come back, I think I’ll aim for a body with a longer lifespan, like a tortoise—nah, too slow—or maybe a parrot—but then some cat might get me. Perhaps best to stick with dog or cat or horse, some creature I’m familiar with, or hey, how about human?

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Definitely not a tortoise.

But enough musing about what the big, unknown future might hold for the soul of an old dog. That’s me, an old dog. I know I’ve been saying it for a couple of years, but now I really feel it, in my bones and to my core.  As you’ll know if you’ve been reading the blog of our adventures, I’m a fighter, a fighter with a tendency to rise from the mats on the count of nine. I’d like to say I’ve got one more in me, that I can bounce back from whatever it is I’ve felt creeping up on me this past couple of weeks, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. The medications don’t help like they used to, the trips to the vet for the Legend injection aren’t giving me their promised bounce, and the distance between the house and the barn just keeps growing.

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Who’d have thought I’d ever run out of bounce?

My hope is that they’ll let me go, not drag things out until I’ve become a burden, allowing the me they’ve known all these years to be replaced by someone they don’t recognize … or enjoy. It can happen. I saw it happen with Chelsey as she got older and crankier and so difficult for all of us to live with. To remember Chelsey with a smile on your face you have to go back a ways, to when she wasn’t old and sick. I want to go knowing I made them smile that very day. It’s the least I can do for all they’ve given me: a good home, enough freedom to keep an independent spirit happy, jobs to occupy my Border Collie half, a diet to appease a fussy eater, adventures galore, the best of care in my old age, and love, of course, plenty of that.

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Horse dog from the day I arrived.

 

To Chico … I admit I wasn’t sure about you at first, hackles up and peeing on a wall in my house, but you grew on me in the years that followed. I’m glad they found you and happy to have shared our many great adventures. Look after them all for me, the humans, the horses, the barn cats, and keep telling your stories on Fur-idays.

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Is he staying? (January 2011)

To Nollind … I know I was your first love when it comes to dogs, but I’m pretty sure I’m not your last (I’ve seen you hoist Chico up onto your lap when he’s cold). I’m glad I got to be the one to turn you into a dog guy, to convince you that dogs do belong on the furniture, show you that dog poop is not toxic (despite how it smells), and teach you there’s nothing quite like the love of a dog.

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A boy and his dog.

To Teresa … For finding me all those years ago in the Bargain Finder (and wasn’t I a bargain?), for taking me into your home and your heart, for catering to my whimsical appetite and need for freedom, and for all those hours and dollars you spent searching for the solutions to my physical challenges in my later years … thank you. I’m sorry for the decision you had to make for me at the end of my life but know that you were right, it was time to say goodbye. I told you you’d know.

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Even acupuncture couldn’t keep me from getting old.

To my snowbirding pack … I’m sorry I was such a rotten travelling companion. Thank you for always taking me along anyway. Despite my near deafness, I heard the recent chatter about staying home for the winter to look after me. So, what are you waiting for? Start packing! I’ll be right there with you for every stop along the road.

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Lunch and walk break early on in our first journey south.

And to all of you who have been following our adventures these past seven years, thank you for reading, for commenting, for caring, and for noticing when a Fur-iday goes by that you don’t hear from us. This is Logan signing off, unless of course there’s a way to communicate from the other side of what they call the “Rainbow Bridge”. In that case, I’ll be in touch.10-Logan-ifyour-logan