Thursday, February 18, 2016

Their Absolute All

 Up until only a few days ago we were still seriously and completely embedded in winter.
And then early this week temperatures began to climb, and for a number of consecutive days we have had temps in the upper 40s and into the mid 50s.
One morning I am coming home from Cedar Butte after an abandoned cross country skiing trip because it was so cold and windy.
By that same afternoon snow was melting all over town.
For days now, snow has been quickly melting.
And LC and I have learned for the first time just what water can do to our house.
On the second day of too-fast snow melt I walked into the mud room and the floor was covered with water.
As I stood in surprise at this unexpected development I quickly realized that the creeping water was headed towards the living room door.
Oh hell.
We spent a couple of hours that afternoon shop vac'ing water inside the mudroom, and then breaking up ice, shoveling snow, moving as much water and melting white stuff as far away from the house as we could.
 That same routine has been repeated twice a day for the past few days, in a (thankfully successful) attempt to keep water out of the house.
As I write this temperatures are still above freezing and snow and ice is still melting.
The ground is soaking wet everywhere, and large ponds of water lay all over town including a few places in our front yard.
In short it is a mess, and with still huge amounts of snow remaining, we anticipate a soggy and muddy mess for at least a couple of weeks.
Snow was SO much more fun when the air was freezing and so was the ground....................

These pictures were only taken a couple of weeks ago when the world was still hibernating in winter.
There was so much snow on BLM land that I had abandoned walking (or even snow shoeing) out there with Kory.
I made that reluctant decision after losing my dog for a couple of hours.........
I had been snow shoeing out on public land with Kory on a very beautiful, sunny and frozen day.
As we reached a trail head I turned right and picked up one more snow-covered trail, while Kory went straight.
That was not unusual.
She wanders where she wanders and when I call my dog she eventually breaks off from whatever intriguing thing has captured her attention so that she can return to me.
Calling her regularly I slowly continued snow shoeing along the trail.
When I reached a post about 1/4 mile away I finally stopped, turned and yelled at Kory in a voice that was meant to let her know that I was serious.
I stood in the snow watching my dog.
She broke off from the old deer carcass that I knew was sitting underneath a sage bush, and began to run in my general direction, bounding and leaping through the very deep snow.
Only..............instead of turning towards me, she turned towards a low rise, and I watched as she ignored my calls to her and then disappeared over the rise.
I called her, and called and called some more, already knowing that she was too far away from me and knowing that I was eventually going to have to head off trail and go across country to track her down, but reluctant to begin that trek.
It would take me 15 minutes to even reach the rise.
10 minutes after she disappeared I called LC, gave him a couple of different areas I wanted him to drive (in case she circled back and hit one of two roads), hung up the phone and headed towards the rise.
15 minutes later I stood on the rise looking out over a vast, uninterrupted, seemingly endless canvas of white.
Usually I love the vastness of this terrain.
At that moment I was intent of just finding my dog and I called out to her while scanning the horizon, hoping that I would quickly see a moving brown spot in the snow named Kory.
The snow was so deep that the only way she could make her way through it was by leaps and bounds.
As I searched the sea of endless white looking for a moving brown spot, I alternated between being annoyed that she had disappeared, worried that she had disappeared, and amazed that she had covered so much territory in such deep snow.
Where the hell WAS she?
There were tracks all over the place - coyote, deer, rabbit, presumably my dog, bird........
It was difficult to figure out which way she had gone.
I headed for another rise.
As I did, I could hear LC beeping the horn of the truck near the trail back to my right.
Calling him again , I asked him to also head down Taber Rd and pick up Big Butte Rd.
I was beginning to get worried.
Kory knew this area very well after roaming with me for over two years, but the clouds were very low and I could not see any of the buttes either in front or in back of me.
If I could not see them, then Kory could not see them.
Between losing sight of those landmarks, and how different BLM land now looked covered in endless, deep snow, I was concerned that she would not be able to orientate herself.
If she could orientate, then I could easily picture my dog wandering aimlessly in any possible direction.
And that worried me. 
Still snow shoeing further and further away from town I stopped when I topped every rise and fruitlessly searched the horizon.
 I called to her frequently, and then stopped when I heard LC calling to her from Big Butte Rd and then beeping the horn.
Long story short (or long story long) 90 minutes after I first lost sight of Kory I finally saw that moving brown spot that I had wanted so much to see.
Even from a long distance I could see that my dog was very very tired.
Jumping and leaping and bounding through snow had worn her down, and she was working hard to slowly but methodically make her way back to me.
Relieved to see her I called LC and then asked him to meet us in back of town at the trail head..  
It would take Kory and I at least 30 minutes to get back to the road.
Very tired, my dog eventually caught up with me and as she approached with head down, she walked up to me and collapsed at my snow-shoed feet...........
I squatted down in the snow to stroke my dogs' head and I continued to stroke her and rub her ears while I gave her a few minutes to rest before we made the trek through the snow back towards Atomic City.
I had not realized how much I had zigged and zagged while trying to reach different points of high ground on BLM land.
Sometimes we followed my snow shoe tracks back and sometimes we had to break through more snow, but eventually we made it back.
That was the last time this winter that I had gone out onto BLM land with Kory.
The snow was just too deep.  The distances were just too vast.   The world looked just too different.   She could travel too far and too fast compared to the slow speed of a middle aged woman on snow shoes.
We'd head back out in the spring.
But not through the rest of winter........................... 

Instead of wandering freely on BLM land, Kory and I over the past while have walked on the snow-covered gravel road that leads out of town.
Taber Road extends almost all the way to Blackfoot, and the start of that road begins about 1/4 mile from the house.
BLM land is on both sides of the road for many miles, and then eventually it alternates between BLM land and huge swaths of private farm land.
I snapped these pictures one day a couple of weeks ago.
It had snowed overnight.
The day was completely colorless.
 As we walked along the silent and empty road I watched my pup happily run and play on the road, investigate new sage bushes and telephone poles, dig new holes, explore this new place with relish, and I smiled.
She was a happy dog, and her happiness pleased me..................  
Buttes were completely obscured by an inversion of heavy cloud cover, and with the new snow it was almost impossible to tell where the road ended and where public lands began...................
Click on any picture to enlarge..................
This was the first of many walks we took over a number of weeks and on this first occasion I was pleased that Kory and I had found a place that worked for both of us.
The road acted as a mental barrier for my dog.
She could have easily wandered onto BLM land on either side of the road and run miles away, but she did not.
Instead, she wandered down the road, wandered off the road to explore briefly, wandered back onto the road to travel further, rinse and repeat.
Yes...............I was pleased with this idea.
It worked when snow was too deep on BLM land for me to be able to keep my dog contained.
A look in the direction of Cedar Butte and Big Butte, that on this day were both completely obscured by heavy cloud cover...............
If you click on this picture you will (barely) see Kory standing at the back corner of one of the old silos that stand silently on the outskirts of town.
On the way back towards town my dog wandered off the road, followed her nose as she followed endless bunny tracks in the snow, and quickly found her way to the back of the silos.
I called to her.    She danced and pranced and jumped in that happy way that she has when she is loving where she is.
I called to her.
She disappeared behind the silos.
Picking up a side road I trudged through the snow in search of my dog, calling her frequently and knowing that there were many bunnies hidden in the abandoned hay bales that were stacked behind the silos.
Endless bunnies for endless chasing..................
As I continued walking down the side road I could barely see my dog, who by this time had now traveled to the far end of the silos.
Heading back the way I had come I again picked up Taber Road and again walked past the last of the four old silos.
Kory was sitting in the snow and I called to her.
Happily, in her happy Kory way, she ran towards me, knowing in her happy Kory way that momma was over it. It was time to go home...........................
Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made............Roger A Caras

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