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Canoeing with Canines

The last two nights I have taken different dogs out for a canoe ride. Being their first canoe rides, I chose not to take a camera along just in case things went poorly. You’ll have to take my word for it as I recount my two very different experiences.

Last night … light wind, lovely sun but not overly hot as we’ve had windy, cool weather the last few days. I decided to take Charlie for the test run. I wasn’t even sure the canoe I wanted to borrow would be at the lake and was ready for disappointment.

Charlie

It was there – YAY – but the mosquitoes were ferocious. I had sprayed Deet on my legs and sport-sandaled feet and pulled a hoody up over my head. I got the boat in the water and my stuff in it before I took Charlie down from the car.

It took a bit of convincing to get him to hop in and he was a bit nervous but mostly excited as I shoved the canoe away and into the boggy creek full of vegetation and pond lilies. The mosquitoes followed us for quite a while so I worked up a sweat before they left us behind and we got into some more open water where the breeze was.

At that point I took the hoody off (always a life jacket on though!) and gosh I love the feeling of the sun and wind on my skin. There’s just something about summer air and bare skin that go together. Not in a too-short of skirt and spike heels attract the wrong sort of attention kind of way. Just that bush baby, we were all born nude for a reason kind of way.

Charlie is a steady dog. He quickly accepted that this was a decent adventure and settled in, ears perked up and watching the shoreline the whole time.

When we started out the sunlight was still afternoon harsh but two hours later when we reluctantly pulled back into shore it was that soft golden colour of evening that makes the surroundings so memorable.

I paddled Charlie down the creek and into Shady Lake following the left shore. It was all marsh grasses until we reached nearly the end of the lake before I found a sand and rocky area to pull up. I let him out of the canoe to swim for a few minutes before we carried on and this is where it gets stellar.

[Oh God. Hang on. I need to scratch the mosquito bite on the inside of my right ear. I’ll explain that in a moment. Oooooooooooo feels so good to itch]

As I circled the far shore with Charlie and then paddled back up the channel to the put-in, here’s the wildlife we saw.

First a fish jumped. Then the mergansers swam by. Next, a pelican soared around our heads. That was followed by two loons singing and rising up out of the water dancing chest to chest for several minutes which was mesmerizing. After that we spotted a buck with velvety antlers in the long marsh grass. Soon after that a pair of beavers swam just out in front of the canoe and then one slapped its tail spraying us with water. I had to grab Charlie to keep him in the boat for that. Not more than a couple of minutes later and an elk cow with calf jumped up from the grassy shoreline though I’d have never seen them if they hadn’t because they were so well hidden. They wandered a few feet away then turned to watch us drift by. Cue the hawk diving over our heads followed by more fish jumping. Then I noticed black pointy ears in the marsh grass on shore and let us drift closer. It was a red fox munching on something I couldn’t see. When we got too close for its comfort it stepped back with a giant fish in its mouth, stared at us a few seconds and then sidled off into the woods. Bring on another pair of beavers- another tail slap. Wrap up the paddle with a deer drinking at the water’s edge while Charlie and I shared some crackers and an apple.

Quite simply, it was perfection. In addition to the gorgeous everything around me and the awesome dog with me, I always feel more confident and capable and whole when I’m paddling. Every time I get back into a canoe and take that first stroke, it feels like I’ve had a missing limb reattached.

I thanked God, Buddha, Allah, Shiva and any other gods and goddesses who were listening for the amazing evening. It was very hard to leave but the mosquito swarm was waiting upon our return so there was no gazing back at the water and longing for more time. We sprinted and dove madly back into the car.

Today I wondered if it would be possible to replicate such a spectacular evening and tried to decide which dog would be best able to handle the adventure with as much grace as Charlie. In the end I decided I could deal with Piper’s timidity better than True’s exuberance. The Nervous Nelly vs the Wild Child.

Wrong.

It was an even better night. We’d had a hot day and the wind had completely died off. First, I went down to see if the canoe was there and put it in the water. As I grabbed hold of the gunwale and rolled it upright, I was hit face first by a solid mass of mosquitoes that flew up out of the inside of it. At first I actually thought they were fish flies as I’ve NEVER seen mosquitoes that thick before. Not EVER and I’ve seen way too many mosquitoes in my life. I kind of went into denial because I wanted to paddle so badly.

I ran back to the car for Piper and she followed me down. BOOM! Swarmed! She was terrified of the canoe and was actually whimpering and back peddling as I tried to convince her to jump in. I had to keep puffing out to keep the bugs off my mouth and take little gasps of air in. They were up my nose and in my ears and behind my sunglass lenses and fighting to get into my mouth. They were landing en masse on my bare forehead. I looked down at one point and couldn’t see black hair on Piper’s leg anymore because they had coated her so effectively. It was disgusting.

Piper was scared and unhappy. I was trying not to panic because of the swarm and be patient with her. It was a losing battle. Twice I got her into the canoe and she immediately jumped out, once pushing the canoe away from shore and getting hung up on the gunwale with her back legs in the canoe and her front paws flailing in deep water. I thought about paddling away with her stuck like that and seeing if I could haul her back into the hull once we were out from shore but then I had a reality check and realized it probably hurt and she could drown so I freed her. I was going to give up but then I was instantly angry and thought:

NO! We’re canoeing damn-it! Cesar Millan would not think it was cool if I give up and let Piper’s fears win. I picked this battle knowing how bad the bugs are so no complaining. I need to follow through!

One last heave ho and in she went and I jumped in and pinned her between my thighs and shoved us away with the paddle.  I could feel the bugs biting and had to muster mind over matter and trust that they would leave us behind like the night before if I could paddle us out far enough. I took a few strokes blindly through the swarm and as they thinned, reached down and started to smear them bloody off of Pipers legs and face. It was awful. The dog and I were covered in smelly marsh muck to boot and soaking wet from her earlier panicked boat exits.

But as the bugs thinned and the canoe became rhythmic on the water, I felt her relax a smidge and soon I noticed she was sniffing the air and looking over the edge, not in an I’M SO OUTTA HERE panic but in a curious manner. Then we spied two bucks along the shoreline so I let the canoe drift along about 20 feet out.

Well, this was so cool for her. She sat right up, ears forward and was alert and eager. I had to keep quietly telling her to stay which she barely did. Then the bigger of the two bucks started pawing the mud and the tail went up and his body rigid and then he let loose with a sound I’ve never heard a deer make. It was a giant, audible, forced exhale. It kind of throat honked at the end but it was that blast of air that was so impressive. He did it twice and then kind of turned and hopped aggressively towards us in the water a couple of times and still pawing at the edge. He huffed once more and then ran off. A beaver then slapped its tail and Piper was nearly done for. The excitement was too much. I had to grab her and hold tight and then paddle to the far side of the lake. It took her a while to settle down again and she never totally did. She really wanted to swim after that buck. I’ve read that Great Danes were used to hunt large game historically. Maybe her instincts were kicking in.

Pretty Piper

I decided not to press my luck by going all the way into Shady lake and out for too long. I knew I needed to take her to the Waskesiu Lake by car where there was a proper shoreline so we could both get the marsh mud off of us so I headed back after maybe 45 mins. She exited the canoe like a model with her long legs and with the confidence of a lioness. Hard to believe it was the same dog!

Then we ran like stink for the car. I tossed her in and ran back to pull the canoe up on shore and flip it over. I think we had about 200 mosquitoes in the car with us all the way to the swimming spot. It felt sooooooooo good on the bites to stand in the cold lake water. And now we’re home.

So, it wasn’t as good as my paddle last night but it was worth it and I’m glad I persevered and got Piper in the canoe. I knew she’d love it if I could just get her out on the water.

And now I have to do some mental preparation before taking True. I need to do some mindful meditation ahead of time to get my patience on and then I need to discover my funny bone when I actually get her out there because I can already foresee that it will be a rodeo event all its own trying to keep her in the canoe. She’s going to freak out with how much fun it is and she’ll want to be in the water more than she’ll want to be in the canoe until she’s in the water and then she’ll want to be back in the canoe before she decides she’d rather be back in the water again oh my god. And of course I’ll indulge her to a point because really, dogs live for the moment and I do get a kick out of providing them with experiences that speak to their natures.

There will be no snacks for that trip and no gear. I’ll be wearing my bathing suit and be ready to self-rescue in deep water. I have a couple of days to mentally prepare before I’ll have time to take her and maybe just maybe JUST maybe please God and Buddha and Allah and Shiva and all other gods and goddesses that are listening, please burn off some of the mosquitoes with some sunshine and heat between now and then. PLEASE!

In the meantime, that isn’t acne on my forehead. They’re mosquito bites. Honestly! Look inside my right ear. You’ll see them there too. ARG!!!

Calamine, Calamine, Calamine lotion. Ain’t got no Calamine lotion. Itchy,itchy, scratchy, scratchy oooooo I got one on my backy. Get that fly with the fly swatter get ‘im!

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Posted by on July 18, 2013 in PonderQs

 

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My 5Km Problem Dog

You know what the problem is?

PIPER is!!!        Too cute for her own good

Cute as a button. Social as a butterfly and bouncy as a kangaroo.

This is Piper chillaxing last week in what was once her puppy bed. Easiest pup on the planet. Now she’s a moose. Random June 2013 007       Piper in the pool 008

And here is Piper enjoying her Sunday afternoon following our 5km run today. As you can see, her life is very stressful.

Random June 2013 025

So the problem is this. I’m trying to speed up my overall time and increase the amount of time I run versus walk on the 5km but Piper is screwing it up.

The dog has legs a mile long and she’s lithe as a leather belt. My friend Laura calls her the string bean which is appropriate. I have taken to running with Piper and True, a little husky, to help burn some excess energy out of both of them and to get into better shape myself.

People stop to watch Piper run and I have been literally stopped before while bike riding with her by people who want to tell me how stunning she is with those long legs. She glides.

This is True after our run the other day. That is how I like a dog to look after a run.

True Pooped

 This is Piper.   Problem Piper   Not pooped.

The Route:

I head out the front door and head straight up a hill, through some woods and onto the highway where we then run a big rectangle pattern that finishes in town. Now that holiday makers are returning there are lots and lots of people and other dogs around that Piper would like to socialize with.

Everything falls apart in that last 2 km in the heart of town.

She pretends to be having heat stroke. She behaves as though she might pass out and have massive heart failure on me unless I slow to a walk. So I do and what does she do then? She pulls to meet people and dogs, a giant mass of wiggles and tail waggles and when I realize I’ve been had and attempt to run again, she’s looking over her shoulder and blindly being dragged down the street by True and me so then I’m pretty sure people must think I’m the world’s cruelest dog owner dragging a giant black dog down the street who appears on the verge of heart attack when really it’s the giant black dog who is attempting to drag me down the street.

What a bugger!

Let’s recall how damn cute and well behaved she was when little.  more piper 006_1 more piper 005_1

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2013 in PonderQs

 

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Cranky Pants Cat

I’m on a cat theme again today. My black cat took a running charge at my pup this morning as I was trying to leave for work and it was like telling two arguing children to settle down and cut it out because the pup hadn’t done anything wrong (this time) … and it was silly so I wrote this for Day 24 NaPoWriMo (Naitonal Poetry Writing Month) 

Cranky pants cat

Spat at me

Hissed at the pup

And scratched her knee.

 

Cranky pants cat

Flattened his ears

Growled at the dog

And swatted her rear.

 

Cranky pants cat

Full of P & V today

Settle down, relax

True just wants to play.

 

Kitty cat Jack

What’s the ruffle in your fur?

Let me scratch your chin

let me hear your purr.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2013 in PonderQs

 

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Running with Dogs

A content version of weary

Overcomes me.

Eyes droopy and legs weak.

Lips burning from sun and lungs wheezy.

I have run this day.

With dogs at my side

I feel powerful and confident.

With dogs at my side

We are a force to be reckoned with.

Beware squirrels and bunny rabbits of the forest.

The pack is panting, plodding its way past

We stop only for them to munch on elk droppings while

I blow my nose.

With dogs at my side

Running

We are anything but hip – gangling Great Dane, punk husky and asthmatic, allergic 40-year-old woman.

But we run because it feels good.

Because we can.

Like a kid at recess blowing off steam and sweating hard.

I will slow down when I am old and then

I will stroll with equally old dogs at my side

And at that stride I will still feel

powerful and confident

With dogs at my side.

Day 9 NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month)

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in PonderQs

 

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Great Dane, Great Love

buddies 005

He needed a foster home. I wasn’t really set up for it, living in a rented basement bachelor suite with a Great Dane and two cats, but he needed a safe haven. Those are hard to come by in small, remote, northern Canadian towns that are overrun with hungry stray dogs and where the local rescue agency volunteers’ homes are continually filled to the rafters with pups and cats. I called the rescue agency and let them know that I’d found him and that I’d hang onto the little guy until they had room.

His coat was brown and scruffy and a fat belly protruded around skinny legs. I’d later learn that was because he was full of worms, but initially, I looked at him and thought that with an orange sweater on he’d look just like the A&W Root Bear. I christened him Rooty Root Bear.

My Great Dane, Piper, was just shy of her first birthday when I brought Rooty Root Bear home. I had adopted her as a puppy from a humane society in British Columbia before moving back to Saskatchewan. When I showed her Rooty, she acted as if I’d brought her a new teddy bear. She loved him up and laid on the ground so he could romp all over her, acting tough and chewing on her cheeks and ears.

Volleyball tournie 015      Volleyball tournie 016

Volleyball tournie 018

It was a couple of days before one of the rescue volunteers could meet up with me at the local youth centre to check the puppy out and give him his first set of vaccinations. The first thing she diagnosed was lice. It was all I could do not to vomit on the spot once she showed them to me in the thick of his coat crawling about. If he wasn’t so dang cute, I’m not sure I would have taken him back home with me that night. There still wasn’t any room for him within the rescue shelter homes so back I trodded with Rooty Root Bear under one arm and a bottle of delousing shampoo in the other.

I bathed Rooty, the wee guy, in the kitchen sink and then bleached it. I trashed the floor rugs and started washing the dog beds. But how to bathe Piper? A Great Dane and late autumn. Too cold to wash her under the garden hose.

The bachelor suite had only a mini shower stall. Lift your arms to scrub the shampoo on your head and you’d take the skin off your elbows. It was so tight. There was only one way about it. I stripped down to my underwear, got in with her and shut the door. Every time I turned her to scrub another spot her nose went squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak as it smeared across the plexiglass and made me laugh. The situation was so absurd.

Piper turned one. I bought party hats.

Piper's First Birthday 004

It lasted a whole 30 seconds before Rooty Root Bear ripped it off Piper’s head. I put another on her head and then strapped one onto Rooty which he pulled over his face and proceeded to attack.

Piper's First Birthday 008

Piper's First Birthday 012      Piper's First Birthday 009

Piper's First Birthday 013

Rooty Root Bear was a lovely little guy and he mimicked everything his big buddy Piper did. He didn’t have accidents in the house because he went outside just like her. He quit crying at night in his kennel because she put her nose to him at the kennel door and calmed him.  He learned to climb the stairs one by one because he wanted to follow her up and outside. He learned to wait patiently for his food because Piper sat and waited for hers.

I thought about keeping him. I really did. They got along so well and the cats accepted Rooty too

Theodore and Jack 2013

but, I realized, in the town that was my new home there was an ongoing need for short-term crisis housing for strays and I couldn’t keep him and continue to help other needy animals. I sent Rooty south to a long-term foster home in Saskatoon where he was quickly adopted by a loving couple with a young German shepherd who needed a friend. And Piper and I went on to foster several more pups and an adult dog. Always the friend, the social butterfly, the one to calm and play with and cuddle too, Piper has been a fantastic friend to many frightened, lonely, scared, sick dogs in her first three years of life. She is truly a Great Dane with a Great Heart and a lot of Love to share.

Olson play 017      Joe 008

Pup-pup 097

And when I was in my new house with a big back yard… I caved in and kept two of the fosters so now Piper, 4,  has a pack to belong to and she’s never short on someone to play or cuddle with.

Charlie and True.

Summer 2010 040      Autumn2010 020

True 2011 025     True 2011 034

Autumn2010 025 And Piper too!

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2013 in PonderQs

 

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