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.

11-Storm-traildog-withstorm

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.

11-Storm-traildog-winter

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.

11-Storm-traildog-endoftrailwarm

End of ride on a hot day.

11-Storm-traildog-endoftrailcold

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.

11-Storm-traildog-withal

On the trail in Kananaskis Country.

11-Storm-traildog-breakingrules

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.

11-Storm-traildog-withjudy

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.

11-Storm-traildog-christmas

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.

Advertisements

Prairie Dogs in the Big Hills

e5e1c-loganoutwindowsmWe’ve been spending most of our time at the farm this winter, a big change from our normal many-thousands-of-kilometres winter adventures. Sid’s parked and covered with frost instead of soaking up the Arizona sun. The horses have also had some frosty mornings, but they’re used to it since they don’t travel south with us.

logan sid snow

Frosty HitchHiker

frosty storm

Frosty Storm

Truth be told, the winter has been very kind to us spoiled snowbirds, with only a few days that haven’t risen above -10C. That’s when we walk in jackets and I wear my Muttluks. Yes, Muttluks, that’s what they call them. Made in Canada, not that you had any doubt. But they’re a terrific invention, really. Living as indoor dogs most of the time, it’s a pretty big shock to the paws walking on snow and ice in very cold temperatures.

dogs in coats

Dressed for the cold

Chico doesn’t wear boots. He could if he didn’t have some strange allergic reaction when wearing them that causes him to freeze on the spot. Funniest thing you’ve ever seen. He doesn’t like the jacket much either, but at least he can still move when he’s wearing it. They call him my “little brother” but sometimes I’m glad there’s no actual blood between us.

But, I digress. I was going to tell you about our adventure in the Rocky Mountains to the west. We’ve been there many times, to Kananaskis Country with the horses, but never to Banff. Although, from the conversation on the drive out, it sounds like Teresa and Nollind used to frequent the place for hiking, canoeing, camping, and pubbing. In fact, it sounds like they spent one of their first dates there, foolishly trying to bike on a trail after a wet, spring snow and, less foolishly, following it up with a soak in the hot springs. But that was long before my time.

in the mountains

End of walk #1

The trip out was the usual blend of shaking, panting, and drooling. If you’ve been reading our blog for a time, you’ll know by now that I’m not the greatest of travellers. And in winter, there’s an added bit of fun for the nervous dog, tiny rocks scattered on the road for traction that turn into projectiles when picked up by the wheels of a passing car. Each one like a tiny little gunshot when it hits the windshield or other part of the vehicle.

on the street in banff

Walking the streets of Banff townsite.

Mountains are impressive, especially when you’re surrounded by them like you are in Banff, but I’m not sure I get what all the fuss is about. You can’t see very far, you have to climb over or find a way through if you want to go anywhere, and they’re really just great, huge pieces of rock with some snow on the high parts. On top of that, there are monstrous beasts roaming around. We have deer out on the prairie, but nothing to the magnitude of the dude that was hanging out along the river trail in Banff. The rack on this guy could have picked up half a dozen dogs without running out of prongs! Chico, of course, would have run off after the beast if he’d not been on a leash. (Again, not a blood relative.) Fortunately, the elk, as I later learned he was called, wandered off toward town without incident.

elk

The great, horned beast (aka elk or wapiti)

watching elk

Notice the tension on the leash. (Have I mentioned we’re just step-brothers?)

A couple of walks along the river, lunch at Magpie & Stump (no dogs allowed), the best chai Teresa’s ever tasted at Jump Start (or so she said) and we were on our way home, out of the big rocks and back to the big flat. Aaahh … so much better. Room for a dog to run off … and a nice, long view for my people to watch me do it.

chico and logan running in snow

Home, home on the range.