Mark visiting the Batoche National Historic Site back in 2003.
About this time back in late 2005, Wendy and I were out for a drive and she wanted to go look at the SPCA at puppies. We had just put down Elway the Halloween before because of liver cancer and I was missing having a dog around the house.
We went in looking for puppies and came out with a full sized, rambunctious and rowdy Weimeraner/Retriever cross that had been badly abused. In the interview room Maggi physically wounded Wendy by jumping all around while Wendy actually said with a straight face that she thought this massive dog would be a good lap dog.
The scene in that interview room at the SPCA reminded me of when two Loonie Toon characters are locked in a room and fighting. It was hilarious and Maggi came out on top. Then in the line to adopt Maggi, the dog somehow wrestled Wendy to the floor and I remember looking down at Wendy who was flat on her back in the lobby of the SPCA and thinking that this isn’t going to end well.
We took her home and she was confounded by the stairs. She had never been in a house before. If you touched her, she would get so excited, she would run off to another part of the house. If she saw your open hand, she would lay down and cry because she was sure I would hit her.
Slowly she became my dog. I remember the first time she jumped up on the bed and slept there. It was a big deal that she trusted me to be that close. Eventually she realized that no one was going to hit her, stairs could be mastered, and a queen sized bed was just about the perfect size for her to lay on. Over time she also realized that scaring the pizza delivery guy wasn’t helping her get leftover pizza and chilled out even with strangers.
We went on countless walks to the park and she was never happier than when she had her frisbee. She ate with the frisbee, slept with the frisbee, went to the bathroom carrying the frisbee, and carried the slimy frisbee to bed.
She loved to fetch and would do anything to get a frisbee. She hurdled a merry-go-round once to come up with an errant toss. She jumped the front of Lee’s car to get another one. One time two Saskatoon Police Officers stopped just to watch her come down with frisbee after frisbee. After some tosses, their black police uniforms had blonde dog hair all over them. They didn’t seem to care.
The one thing that would drive her crazy was fetching snowballs in the yard. She would tear up all of the snow looking for a ball made of snow.
She would never give up and eventually would bring back any snow as a way to save face. Of course I would make another snowball and toss it out there and it would start all over again.
Maggi was always a bull in a china shop and we were worried when we brought Oliver home that she would be too aggressive with him who was still two months premature. I’ll always remember that dog walking extremely slowly across the floor and giving Oliver a little lick before laying down right beside him. For whatever reason Maggi thought of Oliver as her puppy and was forever overly protective of him. When he napped, she slept outside his room. When he played, she always was near.
Maggi was smart and devious. She never really accepted sharing a bed with Wendy and was always trying to kick her off. She would lay beside us and punch Wendy in the head. She would actually uncover Wendy at night while making a nest for herself. She would also try to push Wendy’s legs out of the bed. She may have accepted me as the alpha male but she never ever respected Wendy as the alpha female of the pack.
She liked Wendy and even loved her but never really respected Wendy. Many times Wendy would get mad at Maggi and she would walk over to me and look back at Wendy with a look of “do something about her.” That always went over well.
This fall she developed a lump on her leg. We had it tested and it wasn’t cancerous but a fat deposit. We dealt with that but there was the danger that it could return as cancerous. In December it did and she started to struggle breathing and walking. This week I realized she was in an incredible amount of pain. The lump grew daily and we took her to the vet who told us that it was not only cancerous but had spread to her lungs. There wasn’t any choice and today we took her to the clinic and I held her as they put her down.
I will endure a few weeks of the occasional dark thought, and I will think: ‘Pretty good trade, 159 months of companionship and friendship and unconditional love for one or three months when sadness creeps in. In fact, that’s a fantastic trade.’ I feel the same as when Woody died: The easiest way to not feel this grief is to never have a dog. And what an empty life that would be.
It was a good trade for my family as well.
Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June, we have been picking up some gear for the trip. A lot of people have been asking us what we are taking so here is the quick list of gear that is going.
Backpacks: To carry the gear, we have some frameless backpacks with hip straps. You can spend a lot of money on these and after reading around, we think we found the right balance between comfort, durability, and price.
I am carrying a 65 litre pack. It is lots big enough for an overnight trip and this way Mark and Wendy don’t have to carry as much stuff. It will hold Wendy’s and my tent, the cook set, and sleeping back with a lot of space left over. I won’t use all of that space but it is there.
If I was walking the Appalachian Trail, I would definitely have purchased a more expensive backpack but it’s only a day and we are only taking so much stuff. Mark and Wendy have some smaller bags that I bought there bags on clearance for a combined $30. They are 40 litres and have the external straps they need. They should do the job.
Tents: Wendy and I are staying in a three man tent we bought for $16 from Wal-mart. They had a loss leader going last winter and we got it then. It’s light and just big enough for the two of us. The tent opens up and hopefully we will be able to sleep under the skies rather than under the fly. If it does look like it could rain, we’ll be fine underneath it.
If I was going camping rather than backcountry hiking, we would have gotten something larger and higher quality. Weight and size are a factor. Also the price was insanely cheap ($16 on sale). If it doesn’t last, no harm done but the reviews online were pretty solid. It’s no where near as durable as a tent from the North Face but then again, it won’t be asked to do much more than keep the mosquitoes or drizzle off of us. If it was just me, I would got with a two person tent but this way there is just enough room for us and some of our gear.
Mark is staying in a one person tent from Eagle’s Camp. It is small but it will be only him and his bag. Either way it is really light and since Mark will be carrying it in and out, he will appreciate the weight. We bought some ropes to add as guy wires which opens it up a bit. It’s small but it is light.
We did waterproof and seal the seams and upgraded the tent pegs to something lighter and more likely to stay in the ground. If the weather is miserable, we should be okay.
Sleeping bags: Mark had a sleeping bag but Wendy and I wanted new 1.5 pound sleeping bags. We will have foil covered sleeping foams as well and inflatable camping pillows at well which are small, light, and are more comfortable than our bags. We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.
For the kitchen, we have a Primus Classic Trail Stove and Primus fuel canisters. Stoves have their own fanboy culture which I understand but for the price, it can’t be beaten. I know this isn’t the stove to use when it’s winter but since we are doing the hike in June, we should be okay. It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.
As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set. We picked up three sporks and we are set to go.
As for water, I have talked to a lot of people who had drank right out of Kingsmere Lake with no side affects. There are giardia warnings about the water so we will have some water filters. It’s way cheaper using purification tablets but I am told they are disgusting. Since we are walking along side the lake, we will be using collapsible water bottles to keep weight and volume down.
Food: Basically MRE’s. We have been to Cabela’s weekly testing out one or two of them each time. We will eat some snacks on the way in, have a nice dinner (well away from the campground to keep the bears away) and then a big breakfast in the morning on our way out. Hopefully we get going in time to be back in Waskesiu for a late lunch before heading back to Saskatoon.
Clothes: I went out and invested in some decent hiking shorts and shirts this summer. As a friend of mine told me that chafing is not something that you will want to do while on the trail. We also went to Cabela’s and got tested by the Dr. Shoal’s machine for the kind of insoles we all need. While the custom Dr. Shoals insoles are right there, a row over are competitor insoles designed the same way for a fraction of the cost. They make hiking boots feel a lot more comfortable and will hopefully make the trip more pleasant.
Technology: We won’t be taking much technology along although we will have a GPS, compact binoculars, and some rugged cameras. We will have our multi-tools and a hatchet with us but I don’t know if that is considered technology or not. In case we do get some rain, we have some gadget bags which are essentially waterproof zip lock bags for gear. It says that you can submerse them but I’d rather not. What they do a good job of doing is if a tent or bag does leak, your stuff will still be safe.
Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.