Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why I don't own dogs

Joanne and I decided the weather was nice enough yesterday afternoon to take a hike up Rabbit Creek and pick blueberries.

"We'll take a few of the dogs," she added. Sure, why not, I thought.

She's dogsitting the Mcloughlin Group for one more week, as Simon decided to return to Galena for a few more days on that post-flood construction gig. He's supposed to return home next Wednesday.

In the meantime, I haven't picked blueberries in Fairbanks for a couple of years, and having a girlfriend to go hiking with is also a great bonus. She decided to load up Porky, Brownie, Jasper and Cowgirl in the bed of the Toyota so they could roam and get some exercise while we picked berries.

Simon and Joanne seem to think it a great idea to drive up Moose Mountain with a load of dogs to accompany them. They clip their collars onto a short length of chain anchored in the pickup bed, where the dogs are then supposed to stand or lie down quietly and dutifully for the duration of the ride, and not be tempted to lunge out at any passing moose or squirrel or dog or leaf or god knows what. Shortly after we got underway, Jasper leapt over the side where he hung briefly by his collar like a side of beef before Joanne screeched to a halt, ran around to the side, and lifted the 80-pound dog back in.  You would think Jasper learned his lesson to stay put in a moving vehicle. But did I remind you these are sled dogs? For the rest of the short ride it was: JASPER, STAY! BROWNIE, NO!! COW--QUIT IT!!!

Thus arriving without further mishap, we parked on the side of a dirt road and unclipped the dogs, who immediately flew out of the truck like unguided missiles straight into the road as speeding trucks whizzed by. HEY GUYS, OVER HERE! Joanne called out as we marched to the trailhead.

Once on the trail, all we had to do was look for berries, and keep an eye on the four huskies, who had a tendency to disappear off the trail now and then.

I guess the big mud puddles on the trail were a blessing to distract them. That, and the fact that they would be in the back of the truck to air-dry/de-stinkify on the way home.


As we hunted for berries, we found many more mushrooms, including one magnificent coral mushroom that I pointed out to Joanne. "What a find--this species is a real delicacy!"  As I said this, Jasper slid down the hill, right into the prized delicacy, and smushed it into a million muddy pieces.

But the piece de resistance? It began with much barking as the dogs chased something just off the trail. I was wearing my bear mace on my belt. There had been reports of a grizzly on Goldhill Road a couple of weeks earlier. I braced for the four dogs to explode out of the bushes with the enraged bear close behind. Instead, the dogs emerged onto the trail sporting long white tusks.  They'd chased a porcupine, and now the blueberry picking trip was over. We turned around and marched back to the truck. We loaded the dogs, clipped them in, and Joanne got out her leatherman tool and pulled the quills out of Porky's nose and Brownie's muzzle while I held them. Jasper by some miracle had managed to stay out of the fray and remained quill-free. Cowgirl, on the other hand, got the worst of it--fifteen or so quills deeply embedded, and she pawed at them, driving them in deeper.

We got home and tried to hold her to remove the rest. Joanne was quick enough to get one or two, but Cow resisted and bucked and jerked away the minute she got close with the needlenose pliers. I went over to Simon's nextdoor neighbors Glen and Joanne, and got Glen to come over and hold Cow's jaw open with leather gloves while Jojo got a couple more out. The rest were just too deep, and Cow fought the whole time.

So, to the vet we went. Cowgirl was given a sedative, and thirty minutes later we had a meek and woozy dog sporting no more quills.

Duration of the expedition: all goddanged afternoon

Cost of expedition: $88 in vet fees plus $20 for two bottles of much-needed wine for the two dirt-and-doghair-covered women.

Number of blueberries picked: ZERO

Doofus #1 (Brownie): nine quills

Doofus #2 (Porky): one on the nose and one below. Joanne somehow manages a smile.

The Queen of Quills: Cowgirl, showing off her new Billy-Bob teeth!

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