Sunday, May 30, 2004

Keeping Track

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Where The Trails Used To Be

Kettle Valley Trails
Sandy and I used to walk the trails behind the Kettle Valley housing development in Kelowna. They were excellent trails. Five minutes by car from here, and 500 feet or so higher than we are. In winter, it would snow there before and it snowed in our yard. That was good for Sandy; she loves the snow. In the summer, the trails were hot and dry, but the creek ran through a gully, and Sandy could almost always talk me into a side trip to the creek.

Dogs ran off-leash on the Kettle Valley trails, and Sandy loved it. Most of the time I would walk between 3 and 5 miles. Sandy easily tripled (at least) that distance, running ahead, running off to the side, running straight up a ridge, running around behind me, and then bursting out on the trail 10 yards ahead of me, tongue hanging out, pacing impatiently while I caught up.

We had an understanding. She could charge ahead (or behind, or parallel) but every so often she had to check in. I could always find her waiting for me around a bend or at the top of a rise. Once she knew I had seen her, she would take off again. The other part of the understanding was that she had to come when I called her, and, I agreed not to call her unless there was a good reason. As long as she checked in, there was hardly ever a reason. It all worked very well. I would get some exercise, she would get even more exercise, and she got to track things and find things and bark at things. Once we got home she would sleep for three or four hours.

Sandy watching a squirrel on the Kettle Valley Trails
Sandy watching a squirrel on the Kettle Valley Trails

The biggest golden retriever I ever saw
One morning we headed down a new (to us) branch of a trail that wound through the trees and eventually led to a small clearing. I don’t know why the clearing was there; it didn’t seem natural. Maybe it was made in anticipation of future development. I often saw the stakes that meant property had been surveyed.

Sandy burst into the clearing and came to a dead stop, ears up, tail up, everything focused on … what was that brown flash? At first, it looked like the biggest golden retriever I ever saw, moving at a high rate of speed. Then, I thought, “Man, that dog has a really unusual looking tail!” And then Sandy took off after it. It was a white-tailed deer, and it could really run. So could Sandy. I could hear her barking, and it was getting farther and farther away.

Well, I had to wait until I thought she’d come when I called. I waited, and then I called her. Another dog trotted up, followed by his man.

“You’re looking for that brown dog?” he asked? “She’s chasing the deer…over there.” (Sweeping gesture with his right arm.) “She’s really moving.”

“Ok, thanks,” I said.

“You know that’s a $500 ticket, right?

I called her again.

She trotted up to me, looking pleased with herself. “They have to catch me first,” I know she was thinking.

The bone
Sandy found a bone one day, right in the middle of the trail. It looked like a leg bone from something about the size of Sandy, maybe a coyote. It still had a little…gunk…hanging off it. She picked it up, glanced over her shoulder at me, and once she realized I wasn’t going to take it from her, off she went down the trial.

Sandy is not a retriever. You rarely see her carrying a stick or a ball, or a bone, or anything at all just for the sake of carrying something. If she can’t convince someone else to do it, she might carry something she wants from here to there. But only if she wants it there.

She carried this bone about 50 yards, then veered off the trail and dug a hole at the base of a tree. Into the hole went the bone. Again, this was unusual. Sandy doesn’t usually bury things. If she digs at all it’s because she thinks there’s something down there like a mouse or a mole. She came back, met me, and walked with me down the trail. When we got just past her hiding place, she went back, dug up the bone, and repeated the whole process farther down the trail. She did this half a dozen times. On the way back, she buried the bone in the first hole again before we left.

We came back a few days later, and Sandy went through the whole thing again. A few days after that, the bone was lying in the middle of the trail again. Sandy walked up to it, sniffed it, and showed no further interest in it at all.

What was all that about?

The fire
The summer of 2003 was hot and dry. One Friday night in August, two lightning strikes hit the wooded areas on the edge of the city, and within a couple of weeks 30,000 people and their pets and livestock were evacuated.

When we were allowed back home we found a sprinkler on our roof, 2 inches of ash on the deck, and we discovered that the fire came within 400 metres of here. The Kettle Valley trails were consumed by the fire, along with several homes in and near the subdivision. The devastation was complete. The whole area was closed, logged, and now the area is consumed by the construction of new homes.

Sandy doesn’t understand why we don’t go to those trails anymore. She loved running free up there. Other burned out areas are starting to come back to life. There are no trees, but there are beautiful flowers in new meadows. With the end of the KV trails came new construction. We walk up there now on weekends when there is not so much heavy machinery. Now there are roads, stop signs, mailboxes. Soon there will be “No Dogs Allowed” signs in the “pocket parks”. I wonder if Sandy even knows we are walking where the trails used to be.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

My Dog Sandy

Hello and welcome.

This is my dog Sandy. She came to live with us after being in the Kelowna SPCA, where she had been locked up for being a stray. We think she was born around October 1, 1999.

My Dog Sandy

Sandy is the best dog that ever there was, even though she's not always the best behaved. You can find more pictures of Sandy here.