A little gigantic adventurous life

Buffy passed on January 20th, 2022, leaving behind the broken hearts of those who loved her and a quiet celebration from the many cats she had tormented throughout her life.

As a young puppy, Buffy loved to explore, play and learn. She also loved to challenge herself physically by climbing the walls of her pen while her person was away so that she could conduct scientific experiments in their absence, such as: What happens to a plant when you shred it? How much dirt is in the bottom of a plant pot? Are books chewable? If you open the bottom of a flour bag, will the flour spill out or stay put? How many paw prints can you cover the floor in?  For scientific rigour, she even repeated experiments multiple times until her person realised that she needed a high security prison set up to keep her in her pen, and the experiments had to cease, for the moment.

While the pen eventually disappeared, her curious and scientific nature did not. As she grew up, she continued experiments in whatever setting she found herself. Confined to a wire crate with a plastic bottom, she decided to discover if she could dig through the bottom all the way to China, or perhaps her favourite park nearby. It was an experiment driven by a desire to explore and help the world. After all, travel would be so much easier if we could just tunnel our way there. However, it ended with only the destruction of the plastic crate liner and the carpet and subfloor below it. Her efforts cut short – she was never given an opportunity to get beyond the subfloor.

Eventually she retired from scientific experiments and switched her interests to landscaping. Upon moving into a new home with a backyard lined with bushes, she worked to trim the bushes, grabbing mouthfuls of the branches and ripping them off. She was a new landscaper, and the uneven trimming of the bushes showed her lack of skill, but she kept trying. When a new tree was planted, she decided it really didn’t work for the flow of the yard and she grabbed onto it, entering into a tug-of-war match against Earth itself that she won when she ripped the tree out of the ground.

No one ever appreciated her experiments or her landscaping skills as much as she did, but that never seemed to bother her.

In the human world she found herself in, she got frustrated by her inability to use words to communicate like the people around her did. One day, she decided to try and develop her own words in hopes of conversing with her bipedal companions. Being part husky, this wasn’t against her nature, but she was only part husky and the words she made sounded more like growls than howls. Nevertheless, she didn’t care what anyone thought and she would greet everyone with the more-growls-than-howls, sometimes scaring people away who thought it meant she was about to bite them.

Buffy once trained as a search and rescue dog. She learned that her nose was a powerful tool and she could use it to find people and objects left behind. This was an exciting trick which seemed to always result in a terrifically fun game of fetch and tug. Although she never officially joined a team due to her person’s work requirements, she did continue to practice this skill. For years on hiking and skiing adventures she would find discarded tissues, old socks, even a pair of underwear she happily returned to her person. However, her person never seemed quite as excited about taking these finds from her as she had been in the past. 

Buffy’s sense of exploration was a perfect fit for a new home at the base of the Canadian Rockies. Instead of attempts at digging her way to China, she now explored upwards and left most of the ground where it was, a development her person seemed to approve of. She summitted numerous peaks and found the reaction she got from her human companions odd every time she put her toes to the edge of a summit and looked down the mountainside. They always overreacted, shouting and grabbing hold of her as if she might step off the summit. Alpine lakes provided the best swimming spots on hot summer hikes and she never hesitated to demand a never-ending number of sticks thrown in to retrieve. She often wondered why they left the lake at all since it seemed like the perfect place to exist, sometimes her person wondered the same thing. On backcountry hikes, she carried her own food and even hiked 10 kilometres out of the backcountry with an injured paw because she refused to be carried. Once home, she happily let the humans carry her in and out of the house for potty breaks, but she would never let that happen in front of the wildlife.

Buffy also developed a skillset in skin treatments. She made sure that no mud puddle within her vicinity ever went unexplored for its skin rejuvenating properties. Often she even found mud puddles in places where there should not have been mud puddles, like the desert. She seemed to truly believe in the healing power of mud, ensuring that she always covered most of her body in it before she got back into any vehicle to be chauffeured home. It never seemed to help with her hotspots, but she did it anyway.

Although Buffy’s main interests may have seemed to be scientific experiments, exploration and fun, her true love was her people. She had bonded early with her first human who seemed to love her, despite her experiments sometimes bringing her human to tears. Then she adopted another several years later once she discovered she could get him to play fetch and tug for hours on end. She was always ready to follow either of them anywhere they went, even to the veterinarian or the pet wash, which were her least favourite of locations. 

Buffy spent her final years in Revelstoke, where she experienced the deepest winters of her life. She never met a pile of snow that she didn’t stick her head into or rolled on to leave her own version of a snow angel. Needless to say, winter walks were slow. She enjoyed cross country skiing with her people, but lived for days out in the backcountry. She had perfected her backcountry travel, never wandering off the skin track, power napping at snack breaks and impatient with anticipation as her people transitioned to go back down. Chasing after her people, her normally painfully slow people, in chest deep snow was her favourite activity of all time. Those who skied with her had no choice but to learn fast transitions in order to meet her demands. The moment anyone started to transition, Buffy would rise from her rest, limber up, stretch, and become incredibly impatient, eventually barking until they started to ski. Although her barks may have annoyed some, for her partners, she just embodied the reason they were there, to have the most fun possible in the snow.  

Buffy lived a true life of adventure. She lived for mountain summits, alpine lakes, swampy muddy baths, powder days, and backcountry adventures with her people. Her life was full and although she certainly would have wished for more of it, she made the absolute most of her 9 years in this realm and has surely started to conquer peaks of her own in the next while she waits for her people to join her again, ready to greet them with her more-growls-than-howls. 

Buffy, October 21, 2012 – January 20, 2022

How a shock collar WILL change your relationship with your dog, but not the way you may think

Buffy, enjoying some off leash time on an easy hike.

I wrote an article last November about shock collars and how they are not appropriate for adventure dogs, or really any dog. But here I am again, writing another article about this topic that is somehow controversial (I say somehow, since the science on its harms is clear). So why am I writing this again? 

Well, Wednesday May 27th, I woke up to some bad news. While scrolling on my Facebook page I saw this article on Outside Magazine.  It had been out for a while, but I hadn’t seen it yet (I don’t go searching for this author’s articles since I have been frustrated in the past by his lack of expertise and his apparent desire to talk about a topic like he is an expert: See my post Why the right number of dogs might be n+0 ).  But here it was, so I read it and my anger boiled. 

I posted about this on Instagram and tagged some other science-based training accounts to help spread the word and luckily it seemed to take off. So I’m writing this now, to get into more detail as to why this article is wrong, irresponsible, and damaging to dogs. For those who may question my credentials, I am a certified dog trainer (CPDT-KA). To be certified, I needed to have over 300 hours of hands on experience, had to pass a theoretical exam and had to commit to utilizing the Humane Hierarchy with all of my training. I also have to get 36 hours of continuing education credits and provide accurate test taking questions to maintain my certification. So yes, I have more experience and knowledge on this topic than the author. 

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Try something new: Skijoring Part 1

Skijoring is a Norwegian term which translates to “ski driving”. Its origin lies with horses and skis. You get the idea, slap on some skis, let the horse pull you and try to hold on and stay upright. It’s actually still a sport with horses, but in recent years, it’s become a popular activity with dogs. So what am I proposing you try exactly? I want you to consider trying skijoring with your dog (or dogs if you have more than one). That means strapping on some cross country ski’s, investing in a proper harness and skijoring kit, and hitting the trails.  You’ll feel the magic of working as a team with your dog to glide over the snow, the wind on your face, the excited look of your dog, it will be the best experience of your life. There you have it, you are ready to go. … Just kidding. I’ve broken down this post into two because there is quite a bit of information to include. This post will talk about the basics you need to get together before you start working towards getting on skis with your dog. 

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A new decade, a perfect reason for trying something new…

It’s New Years day and it’s a big one. We are starting a new decade and that might be the perfect motivation for some to try something new. There are lots of new things you can try, but this post will focus on what you should consider for trying some new things with your dogs. I will follow this up by more detailed posts every two weeks on specific activities and my advice on getting into those activities in particular.

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