Is it a drought again? Or was the snow of 2017 the anomaly?
As I see the first blossoms of Spring, I realize that we are not going to see much more rain this year if any. It’s depressing. We had five years of minimal rain before they even declared a drought in California. Then 2017 came and it appeared like the drought was over. Looking back, a day cross country skiing in Yosemite National Park was a celebration of snow and water. A reminder came recently in an episode of “Visiting With Heull Howser” from 1995. As he interviewed the Mammoth Lakes with the Dept. of Water and Power during their measuring expedition, they were adamant about not predicting snowfall from year to year. 2018 is a reminder of the extremes we live in.
After a quick lap to see and photograph Yosemite Valley, we headed up to the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard AreaYosemite Ski & Snowboard Area. We parked in the ski area parking lot and headed out Glacier Point Rd trail. While it’s an easy trail, there aren’t the epic views of the valley that you see from the trails (and with heavy cloud cover, there were no views anyways) It was great to see so much snow in California after years of drought. Next time it snows, we will be back out to the hut at Glacier Point.
When our first dog, Tank (a 170lb Mastiff), started to rip apart the house for entertainment, I read Cesar Millan’s “Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems.” One of his key points was that no matter how big your yard, you have to take your dog for a walk. It was a concept I needed to hear. I had thought “We have 2 acres, the dog can entertain himself.” Yeah, by destroying it.
What a difference when we started walking the dogs. A mile around the field and everyone was happy. They had some exercise, a dip in the pond during the summer, a little ground squirrel chasing, and lots of smells. The old smells, the new smells, the smells that changed since yesterday. Stories that we can only guess. Thirteen years later, we still go to “the field.” The third generation of dogs, Cash, Roxy, and Sheba take their lap. The only command, I usually give is to “heel” when we cross the road. The rest of the time, the dogs can be dogs.
When we hike it’s different; the dogs have to behave. Any open space is an hours drive so the first thing the dogs learn is to settle down in the truck. Getting up at every bend in the road gets old after a while and they lie down to sleep. The carry over is when we run errands, they are calm from the beginning (except for the initial excitement of getting in the truck). As we get on the trail, their energy is unbelievable. Ha, ha, they don’t realize we are going 6 miles. A hike teaches them to conserve their energy; they will get their exercise.
The next thing we look for with a new dog in a hike is to learn who the pack leader is. With Sheba and Ranger, it came when they picked the wrong trail and we walked on without calling for them. A couple of minutes later, they came running up the trail to find us with panic in their eyes. They seemed so relieved to find us. Never again did they choose a trail without looking back for approval. Cash stopped to sniff and go the bathroom. Sheba and I continued on around a bend in the trail and watched as he panicked when he realized he didn’t know where we were. He bounded down the wrong trail so I yelled to him before he was 2 steps away. Again, you could see the relief. And while the panic only lasted a second, he’s never lost sight of the pack again. Roxy was a little different. She was so alpha from the beginning that she was leading the hike from her first time on the trail. Ten miles later, she was still ready to go. But she got it too. On her second hike, at San Simeon Point, she took off down a side trail while we all kept hiking. When she got back on the trail, she could see us because Cash had gone back to check on her. It was the fastest we’ve seen her do the 100 yd dash. The beauty is that we didn’t have to say anything. She got the point and, while she still runs down the side trails to see and sniff, she is always back on track when we catch up.
All our dogs have been “rescues” and, with the exception of Sheba who grew up with us, none seems to have any experience in the wilderness. They are so curious about everything. The sights, the smells, the sounds. The sudden rush of a bird flushed from the bush, or the barking of an elephant seal pup. I love when they miss the deer frozen yards away. Unfortunately, unlike a walk at the “field”, we have to correct them on the trail to keep them safe and stop them from chasing animals. But the trade off is worth it. We see their confidence grow with each hike. Ranger would not cross a 12” creek on his first hike. A couple of months later, he had been to the beach, the snow, and the desert and watched Sheba’s every move to learn to be a dog. Cash’s insecurities disappear on the trail and his genuine excitement at the beach is great to see. While Roxy never lacks for confidence at home, it’s funny to see her confront her insecurities like running water around her feet or the waves in the ocean.
I think the biggest benefit is that the dogs trust us. We are not the overbearing pack leader scolding them at every turn. They realize, that if we are giving them a command, it’s for a good reason. If we make them sit before opening the truck door it’s because we want them to be calm and not jump into traffic on the occasion when we take them out on a busy road. The dogs learn that sometimes they need to be patient because we have to run errands but we will always provide something fun to do. And most of all, we will let the dogs be dogs.
My writing can’t keep up with life.
Three weeks ago we adopted Cassius from a German Shepherd Rescue in Sacramento (http://www.gcgsr.org). He’s so well behaved, knows his commands, and wants to please. A couple of good hikes and he understood our expectations. We had been looking serioiusly at rescue sites for a month and had a list of dogs we were interested in. His adoption was planned.
This week, after 6 months of drama, we were given another dog; an unanticipated event. In July of 2017, we heard about a German Shepherd that needed a new home so we inquired and found out that she had already been adopted. In August, we heard through the grape vine that the German Shepherd had “destroyed the house” and “had to be kept outside.” We had seen her tied to a 10’ rope for days in the 108 degree heat of last summer. After a “discussion” with Animal Control, the owner built an enclosure for her but she sat out there, alone, for months. Every time I went by she was sitting quietly in her side yard pen. After someone called Animal Control this week because she was sitting in the rain with no shelter, the neighbor gave us the dog.
Roxy hit the house like a fireball. Excited as a kid on their first sleepover, Roxy and Cassius played “chase” non-stop for the first hour, then we went for a walk in the field, then another hour of chase. This wasn’t the same dog I had seen sitting quietly in her pen. This was a ball of energy looking for friendship, companionship, and leadership. Somehow, she was part of the pack from the beginning. As a member of the pack, she was allowed to run to her hearts content around the entire yard (2 acres), wrestle with Cassius uninterrupted by our corrections, smell everything no matter whether it is a tree stump on a walk or the dried cherry I was putting in my morning yogurt, and praised intensely for doing things right. She has full reign of the house because we trust her. In turn, she has to follow the rules…no jumping on the couch, no wrestling in the house, no begging in the kitchen and no going out the front gate whether opened or closed. This evening, as I watch her sleep on her back, I realize that it has only been 2 full days with her and she is a different dog.
The difference a little exercise and affection make.
I am still trying to mentally leave 2017 behind. So I took the dogs for a hike at San Simeon Point.
While I’ve always gone out to the point, I have never followed the trails beyond. There are 2 rows of Monterey Cypress that draw your eye in (see Which Way? for other thoughts on visual pathways). But the route is dark and narrow and never looked that appealing. The fog was hugging the coast so there weren’t any grand views of the coastline; it was the perfect day for this trail.
Luckily, the dogs had so many scents to follow that I had lots of time to take pictures. As I was hiking, between the cypress, I could not see the ocean. But the breaking waves took my thoughts away from the past and put me into the moment. The usual trail has lost it’s appeal over the years due to drought conditions and the loss of so many Monterey pines. The new trail, following the coast in an unmanaged eucalyptus forest, wasn’t great but it brought to places that I had never been.
At the end of the trail was a remote beach with a small colony of elephant seals. The dogs and I sat on the edge of the cliff and watched and, more interestingly listened, to the group as they basked on the beach.
Photo’s from a trip to Old Town Sacramento and the California State Railroad Museum. 9/8/2016.