Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Dog Saddened by the Loss of His Brother

There is no doubt, that when two dogs are close, and one dies, the other feels saddened by the loss.

When I was sixteen, I had a Dalmatian named Jake. A few years later I got an adult German short hair named Buck from the pound. They became close friends, and we hiked daily in the hills together. A year later, Buck ingested something and went into convulsions, slipped into a coma, and died three days later. I buried Buck on the hill behind our house, but I forgot to show Jake that Buck was gone. Jake grew incredibly sad and a week later, he disappeared and never came back. I scoured the woods and hills and called all the animal shelters in the area, but there was no sign of Jake. I never saw him again. In a few short weeks, I had lost both my dogs and felt empty.

Now in my forties, I’ve gone through the same thing again with my two large Airedales. Jimmy passed away leaving his brother Will alone. However, this time I kept Will in the same room while Jimmy succumbed to lymphoma after an eight-month battle. After Jimmy breathed his last breath and I stopped crying and composed myself enough, I let Will come forward, who was watching with concern the entire time. Will licked Jimmy’s ear and head for about fifteen minutes, and before I put dirt over him in his grave, I let Will see him, and again Will licked Jimmy’s ear in a final farewell. The two of them had done everything together.

Will is a little sadder now without Jimmy, but I let him play with my parent’s dog named Zeke (a German short hair) as much as I can, and that perks Will up because he remembers the time when I used to take all three dogs hiking together. I think Will remembers a little bit of Jimmy in Zeke, when the two of them run in the woods together. Soon I plan to get another Airedale, so Will will have someone to wrestle with again.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Jump Off Joe Mountain

I thought I could hike around Jump off Joe Mountain in a few hours, arriving at the trailhead late in the morning and getting back home in time to make a pasta salad for dinner, but I was dead wrong. East of Sweet Home about twenty miles, my dog and I started out on the old pioneer wagon road that winds over Santiam pass from the Willamette Valley in Oregon to Bend. I began by hiking up the trail a few miles before cutting overland toward the peak. I had to wade a fast flowing creek on a log spanning the river, and while I was doing that I watched my dog as he swam. Be observant when your dog wades or swims across a creek; he or she can get hung up on a log jam and be pinned or swept under. They can’t push themselves off the obstacle like a person can.

     After crossing the creek I trudged uphill toward the east shoulder of the mountain, using the mountain itself for dead reckoning, so I wouldn’t get lost. I’ve always had a good sense of direction in the woods, not as good as a dog though. I clamored over logs with my dog, sweating and breathing hard. You may want to train your dog for a few months before taking him or her on a long, off trail day hike, and I recommend staying on marked trails as much as possible. But they don’t always go where I want to go.

     After rounding the shoulder I could see that circling the peak was going to take longer than I expected. To make it back to my car before dark, I had to either turn around and go back the way I came or really motor hard. I couldn’t resist hiking in new territory, so I chose to go forward. I was nearly jogging on some sections, but the terrain was so irregular and there were so many logs I had to move smoothly if I didn’t want to fall and impale myself on a rock or stick. My dog followed right behind me. He could sense this was going to take longer than normal too, so he was trying to conserver his energy.

     Finally with about an hour before sunset, I rounded the last corncer of the peak on the west side, and started down a steep declines, through trees and brush. It was so steep I could slide on my butt part of the way, but Will didn’t have any trouble at all. He was very sure footed. Fit dogs have better balance than people. They have four legs and a lower center of gravity, but they can’t climb over logs quite so well as people.


It was already near dark by the time I got to the creek. We took time to get a long drink, but not a rest. There was no time; I knew the batteries in my headlamp were going out and that I was going to have to march down the trail five miles in the dark. It took about forty minutes to hike out of the canyon and hit the trail, and by then it was fully dark. I turned on my head lamp but it was dead. Sometimes you can walk in the dark if you have the moon or stars to reflect some light to you, but the was none. I had a light I could use for light, or make a big fire and spend the night, but I had to be home by tonight because in the morning I was scheduled to do something.

     I walked down the trail a half mile, but it was slow and getting even darker. Soon I coluldn’t see anything and was stumbling a lot. I had to go really slow. I realized that dogs see quite well in the dark, much better than humans. Dogs have large pupils and a surface behind their retinas that reflects light back so that receptors have a second chance to detect the photons. So I hooked Will up to his leash and sent him ahead of my two feet. “Go on buddy, show me the way,” I said. He started walking and I kept a feel on his leash. I could make out his presence, but no detail. I could tell when he turned left or right, so I simply followed him down the trail.