Tag Archives: dogs

Big Ambition, Little Legs: A Dog’s Adventure

Yesterday we put our old dogs’ little legs and stamina to the test on a long hike through Fort Ord National Monument.

For our human legs, a 4 1/2-mile hike wasn’t much to write home about. An afternoon jaunt, a walk in the woods (literally)*. But for 10-year old little dogs, 4-and-something miles was the canine equivalent of a marathon. A marathon they were unprepared for and also might have been led to believe** was more like a trip to doggie Disneyland than a long run. Because, you know, EVERYTHING that begins with getting into the car is their favorite thing!

*Oh yeah. ‘Cause we totally weren’t sweating.
**”You wanna go in the car? The CAR? You wanna GO? Who wants to GO? Wanna talk a WALK? O-kay! Let’s GO!” 

Ready to go out (or to get out.)

Ready to go out (or to get out.)

The best* thing about dogs is their short-term memory, which is inconvenient when they are back in the kitchen scrounging for snacks after you’ve just told them to GET OUT but helpful when you’ve mislead them into a different type of adventure than they were anticipating. So when we arrived and it was evident that a happy Pluto was not actually going to greet them at the gates of a grassy paradise full of Beggin’ Strips and fire hydrants, they were still excited to hit the trail because every new thing in the boring life of a house-bound little dog is their favorite thing!

*And most frustrating.

Ford Ord was just designated a national monument in 2012 and has been developed for public use since then with a series of trails, some of which include interesting relics from the Ohlone tribe and decrepit dugouts from what were probably military exercises when Fort Ord was still an active base. The views – from Fremont Peak to Toro, encompassing the Salinas Valley – are gorgeous, particularly on an overcast day when the marine layer is rolling in to the valley from the west and the clouds are creating a soft, thick blanket of grey across the sky that allows just enough sun to illuminate the hillsides, freshly green from our recent desperately needed rain. It was actually the perfect place for a hike with little dogs, as the road leading in is gravelly and fairly even, and the trail itself includes both soft, sandy gullies (not so ideal for short legs) as well as hard-packed earth at the summit.

Welcome to Fort Ord National Monument.

Welcome to Fort Ord National Monument.

Gorgeous views on a stormy day.

Gorgeous views on a stormy day.

The dogs entered this new paradise excitedly* and trotted happily along for about a half a mile before the panting began, and one began lagging and the other shortly followed suit, so that before we had even hit the trail head, we had stopped 3 times: for a “business break”, for a makeshift water break** and for a general rest and recovery***.

*A walk! Our favorite thing!
**BF MacGuyvered a water “dish” out of a poo bag. Brilliant.
***For the dogs. Right. The dogs.

And upon arrival at the trail head, in Robert Frost-esque fashion our paths with our respective dogs diverged in the woods: Baylor, rejuvenated by the break and the adventure of something new, charged forth upon the trail less traveled, as he loves to do, exploring the path with new purpose, dragging me behind him. Snoop, on the other hand, less excited at the prospect of the uphill path, dragged his paws more and more slowly until he was scooped up and enjoyed the rest of the hike from a cozy vantage point of his papa’s strong arms, with legs dangling languidly, eyes half closed in exhausted happiness. And not long after, it became clear that while Baylor faced no shortage of ambition in sniffing, exploring, lifting his leg* and charging forth after shadows, creatures, etc., his 10-year old legs were a bit short on stamina and he was similarly scooped up and carried comfortably to the top of the ridge.

*The one remaining good leg.

A man and his mutt.

A man and his mutt.

Camouflage dog.

Camouflage dog.

Ever the intrepid hiker, Baylor takes a breather.

Ever the intrepid hiker, Baylor takes a breather.

I got your back, dog.

I got your back, dog.

Two tired little dogs.

Two tired little dogs.

True to form, when I wasn’t carrying the dog, I was documenting our day, partially because I’ve also become obsessed with the perfect iPhone photo* and also because I was so delighted by the pretty little wildflowers** all along the way. Documenting is dangerous when you aren’t paying attention, and in my quest to take the perfect picture I almost stepped right on several stinkbugs,  narrowly avoided an encounter with a mountain biker and allowed the dog to wander freely in what is apparently active mountain lion territory while my patient (and half-amused, half-exasperated) BF steered me clear of each of these hiking hazards.

*Until I purchase the perfect point and shoot.
**I found this fantastic website on wildflowers that helped me identify a couple we saw and couldn’t capture the countless others dotting the hillsides with pops of purple, blue, red and yellow.

Tidestrom's Lupine.

Tidestrom’s Lupine.

Baby Blue Eyes.

Baby Blue Eyes.

Pet owners are ridiculous in their human-like indulgence of their fur babies, and we are no different: we didn’t even think twice about tromping down the trail side by side, our pets in our arms, laughing at our own ridiculousness and the half-comatose happiness of our weary old dogs, whose little legs proved to be shorter than their ambition – but whose contentment was well worth the extra weight we carried, even as we raced back to the car through a rain storm that caught us just at the the tail end of our adventure.

Our dogs’ short memories means that they’ll have this same experience next time we arrive at Ford Ord – but unlike our canine counterparts, we’ll remember and be more prepared.Though our little dogs may not have been able to make it as far as we would have liked, the distance they did travel rendered them exhausted and snoring* throughout the evening and prompted us to remember, even just for a few hours, how wonderfully re-energizing a simple hike can be.

*Success!

Tired dogs, happy humans – a perfect end to a perfect day with our canine companions.

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Life With Little Dog

Tonight I’m without my little dog, and I hardly know what to do.

In the almost 10 years that I’ve had Baylor, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been away from him when it hasn’t been a drive-by-push-out situation at Nana’s house* on my way out of town or because I had a long day planned and figured he’d be happier barking at shadows in her backyard than watching the nefarious activity on 3rd Avenue from my city apartment windows.

*”Thanks-for-watching-him-gotta-go-love-you-DON’T-FEED-HIM-PEOPLE-FOOD-bye!”

This morning was a drive-by-push-out situation, not at Nana’s, but at his awesome doggie daycare where they know and welcome every dog*, with the intention of this dog mama having a fabulous evening out in San Francisco, but this dog mama’s lingering cold changed those plans and so here I sit, not at Beach Blanket Babylon as planned but quietly, delightfully doing something for myself…by myself.

*The facility is run a little like a military base: No in and out privileges, no fussing over the dogs, no peeing on the outside bushes (the dogs, not the humans) and all the staff alert each other to each dog’s arrival by Walkie-Talkie: “INCOMING! MIS-ter Baylor!”

Even alone, 10 years’ worth of ingrained reactionary habits as a dog mama cause me to tense or jump at the slightest thing: a dog barking across the way would normally incite Baylor’s wrath of territorial fury and a display of comically intense posturing in the form of warning growls and sharp barks*. The crinkling of a bag would bring him trotting into the kitchen, hoping for treats**, and the jangle of my keys being hung on the hook would induce a hopeful prick of the ears – a walk, perhaps a blissful walk? Only to turn, with a theatrical sigh, back to gnawing his boring bone instead.

*My very favorite: when he barks so hard his front paws jump off the ground, just a little.
**Thanks, Nana.

I’ve been feeling nostalgic about this dog lately: this pain in the ass, growly, stubborn, hilarious, character of a dog who has frustrated me more than I thought possible and made me happier than I could have known since the day I got him and he howled all the way home in his little soft-sided carrier before making fast friends with his new stuffed elephant and settling into my life and heart.

He’s been the reason I’ve taken two walks every day for 10 years, in sunshine and rain, in inconvenient places (like the middle of the city) and beautiful ones (like mountain trails). Walks that I took when I absolutely did not want to or that started off as a good idea and ended up a disaster when I found my hands overly full with grocery bags or the like and the dog overly tired and had to beg, plead and cajole him to make it, panting and exhausted, just a few more steps so we could both fall into our little apartment at the end of our “adventure” and rest – at which point, inevitably, the dog would get a second wind and I would find myself laughing at his tenacity, throwing his little squeaky toy over and over again, to his never-ending delight.

Little Dog is probably a more experienced metro bus rider than most urban Seattleites: he rode the bus with me in the city, trotting happily to the bus tunnel and hopping right on when the 255 or 311 stopped, just like everyone else (much to the amusement of many regular passengers).

He’s explored all kinds of terrain, from dusty desert trails to mucky mountain ones and every beach we can find on the California coast. He’ll be the pokiest little walker of all time on any weekday morning, but given a fresh route to explore, he’ll blaze a trail like a canine Lewis or Clark.

He is the fierce and feared predator of every squirrel in existence (though he’s never caught one, and his “discerning” palette would probably reject a gamey rodent in favor of a plain old rawhide any day).

He’s the king of his domain and will spend hours upon hours sitting expectantly in a patch of sun, lunging at shadows and twitching his tail just a little, happily, in the meantime, and when he’s through, will slowly melt into a blissful doggie sleep, where I can tell his dreams are full of green fields and squirrels and freedom.

Like most major purchases in my life, I failed to thoroughly vet him before buying him sort of on a whim* from a woman whose story didn’t quite add up** and whose move – the reason she ostensibly couldn’t take care of him anymore – I probably funded, so all things considered, I’ve been lucky he didn’t come with diabetes or hip displaysia or something else I could have in no way afforded at the time. His lateral suture surgery last year to correct a torn ACL was a doozy financially, as was the foxtail in his paw from a failed camping trip the year before, but when I see him running down the beach, chasing seagulls with tongue flapping and wild abandon, I know every cent was worth it for his joy – and mine.

*Justified by the fact that surely I was SAVING him from a less fortunate life, right?
**In retrospect.

Baylor has probably been a hindrance socially – it’s not prudent to be out all the time when you have a little being who depends on you. His behavior with small children is a major source of anxiety for me, and he’s never quite gotten over the occasional marking (or blatant rebellion, I’m never entirely sure). But he’s my furry sidekick, my little worrywart crawling into my lap when I cry, my daily delight when he comes in from a walk every.single.day and wriggles happily on his back on the living room rug. He has a million nicknames but everyone knows him as Little Dog and his many adventures could fill a book and have filled my memories over the past 10 years with joy and frustration, and love, always love, for my dog who’s as much a part of me as the color of my eyes.

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After a day full of wild rumpus, Baylor decided to give up being the king of the wild things and returned home, where he found his supper waiting for him, and it was still hot.

As Roger Caras said,

dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.

I love this little dog, dirty paws and all, and I can’t imagine my life without him.