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Monday, April 1, 2013

Dog Gone

We have always been dog people. When Mark and I met, I already had a dog that I had found wandering the streets of Sacramento. Shortly after we started dating, he got a puppy that quickly became a small pony. Over the years we've always had one or two dogs filling out the family and filling up the house with fur and paw prints.

In 2007 we lost our last one to cancer and we found ourselves without a dog for the first time ever. While it was very sad, it made planning camping trips much easier. We could decide on Friday that we wanted to run to Tahoe for the weekend and off we'd go. No arranging for a dog-sitter or worrying about whether dogs were allowed on the trails if we brought them along.

Of course this came to an end when Mark, cruising the Sonoma County Animal Shelter website, spotted what would become what we now refer to as his Internet Date. It was puppy love. I wasn't so sure she was the one, but Mark was positive so we found ourselves once again being owned by a terrier mutt. Here she is:

Cute huh? Yeah, that's what we thought. All the way up until we brought her home.

We like to go to the shelter because we feel it's the right thing to do. We both work so we don't have time to get a puppy socialized and housebroken and all those very important things that make a dog a good roommate. Turns out, Tiga's former owners didn't have time for that either; feral would be the word for her. She barked at us, peed on the rug, chewed shoes, stole food, you name the bad behavior and she owned it. There was no way we were going to be able to leave her with anyone until we got things worked out with her, and we had already signed up for vacation time in just a few weeks.

After looking through our maps we decided the best place to go would be the Lakes Basin region in Plumas County in northern California. There are lots of options for camping and it's surrounded by National Forest land, which means dogs are allowed on the trails. (It's surprisingly hard to find dog-friendly trails in California. There are often rules restricting them to campgrounds and paved trails only, which is incredibly limiting for both the dogs and the people who are tethered to them.)

So, we packed up the camper and the dog and headed north. Thankfully, she liked to ride in the truck and was pretty happy tucked in with all our gear. We found a good spot, strung up a line and clipped her in with a carabiner so she could run back and forth on the line but still be on the leash.
Tiga, in the process of covering our jackets with fur.
When you decide to bring a dog camping, you sign yourself up for a whole new level of filth. Camping is not a clean hobby, and some dust and grime just goes with the territory. Usually, unless you're in a spot right next to the RV with the satellite dish and non-stop generator, you aren't any stinkier than your neighbor. But a dog just adds a certain something to the party. Bring an old rug for her to lay on and she'll lay right next to it in the pitch and pine needles. Bring her to the river and she'll find the only dead fish on the beach and roll in it. Nothing--not your clothes, your sleeping bag, your food--will be without dog hair clinging to it like powdered sugar to a donut.

We were used to this, but our other dogs had been much more sedate and a lot more refined in their behavior. They knew the drill and stuck to it. Tiga on the other hand...the Tasmanian Devil would have been a calmer traveling companion. We tried all our usual tricks to keep her entertained while we tried to cook dinner; walks, sticks, balls, time-outs. Nothing was working. So we hatched a plan; we'd take her on a long hike and make her so tired she wouldn't have the energy to be bad.

The next morning we made our way to the trailhead for Haskell Peak. Up a series of dirt fire roads, the Haskell Peak trail starts out in the forest, climbs up for a few miles then goes straight up to the rocky top of the mountain. There's a 360 degree view of multiple lakes and mountains including Mt. Lassen and Shasta. It was a beautiful clear day with temps in the 60s, perfect hiking weather. We had Tiga on a harness and she was pulling like a sled dog. I must confess I didn't really discourage her on the way up; I was a little out of shape and the altitude was getting to me. We got to the top and admired the view for a while, but it was really windy so we started back down after having a quick snack.
Tiga and Mark enjoying the wind in their ears on Haskell Peak.

Since Haskell Peak is located on National Forest land, logging and grazing are allowed. On our way up we had heard cow bells clanking in the forest, but hadn't actually seen any cattle. When we got back down to the forest level, Tiga was pulling at her leash as was becoming her habit. Mark pulled back on her to try to get her to settle down and suddenly the buckle unsnapped from the harness. For a split second, Tiga didn't know she wasn't attached to anyone. When we moved in to grab her she moved back, realized she was free, and launched away.

We had only had her for about a month and she didn't really know her name yet. She hadn't had much time to bond with us and she was never (truth to tell, she still isn't) that great at coming when called. So the chase was on. Mark dropped the backpack and took off after her. I tried circling around to where I thought she was headed, calling for her and cursing at her by turns. She and Mark had completely disappeared in the trees, but I could hear Mark crashing around and yelling up ahead. I could also hear cow bells much more clearly and suddenly realized Tiga just might be meeting up with much, much bigger doggies. And I didn't think they would be willing to play with her nicely. Crap.

This went on for just a few minutes, when I heard Mark yelling that he got her. She had stopped to dine on a fresh cow patty and Mark had snagged her while she was chowing down. Why again aren't we cat people?

We have learned since that double clipping is the best insurance against unplanned outings. Tiga has calmed down some since then and actually knows her name and gained some manners. But she still perks up and licks her lips when we drive by the "doggies" in the pasture.
Asking for forgiveness. Or a snack. Probably a snack.