Poodles climb mountains
It is early. Too early to be awake, in my opinion. But before I even open my eyes, I can feel the gaze of five very excited dogs, honed in on my face. They are watching me, waiting for me to show any sign of consciousness… because when I’m awake, the adventures begin.
I barely open my eyes, just enough to peek through my eyelids and survey the hounds that have huddled around me. It doesn’t matter though, they know I’m awake and no amount of faking sleep or keeping my eyes closed is going to dull their excitement.
Four poodle tails have popped straight up in the air. All four tails are swishing back and forth. I see Kluane’s tail wagging so fast, it almost looks like a propeller ready to carry her away. The poodle tails don’t make a sound as the four poodles lay around me on the bed. Bellies resting on the bedspread, feet sprawled out on all sides, and tails swishing wildly, straight up in the air.
Thump Thump thump
One tail hits the bed in a steady beat. That’s the Catahoula. My rescue girl who entered my life as a foster fail. Jupiter. My sweet, high energy, too smart for her own good, Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog… she tries so hard to be a poodle. But her genes give her away every time.
She can’t stand the wait any longer. While the poodles wait patiently with tails straight up in the air, wagging silently, Jupiter is on my face, licking me and nuzzling me.
She needs her adventure. And she won’t let me rest until we’ve climbed a mountain or swim in a lake today.
I roll out of bed. As soon as my feet touch the floor, the game is on! All four poodles are on their feet. Tails wagging wildly in the air. Pali bows into her play stance while Wallace jumps off the bed and back on the bed and then off the bed again. Bryce and Kluane stand on the king bed, pouncing their front feet to a beat only they can hear in their head.
”Let’s play! Let’s play! Let’s play!
I look at my brood. Four poodles and a Catahoula. A funny combination of dogs. The best combination of dogs for my world.
“I can only take two of you, today.”
I know they’re dogs. I know the science says that dogs don’t understand the complexities of our language… not really. But I can’t help but sense they know exactly what I’m saying.
Tails slow their wag for just a moment. Five pairs of eyes stare up at me, pleading. They understand… the majority of the pack is going to be left behind.
But I’m fair. It is a rare occurrence that I take my whole pack on an off-leash, outdoor adventure at the same time. I do make sure they all get to take turns. Adventures typically happen for two dogs at a time. And this time, it’s Pali and Kluane’s turn.
I’m dressed now and ready for the day. There is no time to wax poetic about the morning. Not when I have poodles to hike and mountains to climb. I toss my hair into a ponytail, grab my water, kiss my loves (dogs and human alike) and head off to the mountains.
Kesugi Ridge is our goal today.
The Great One, Denali, is in full view today. Alaska’s weather is hot and the sun is high in the sky. No clouds on the horizon makes for the perfect hike up to the ridge for a full view of the largest mountain peak in North America, Denali.
Our trek isn’t too difficult. But, at the same time, not too easy either. We head up an 1100 foot elevation gain in about two and a half miles of hiking. The climb meanders up the edge of the ridge through ferns and devil’s club. Spruce trees and Cottonwoods fill the view for the first mile and a half or so. Beneath the devil’s club, in the shade of the Cottonwood trees is the perfect resting place for bears.
But today, I don’t worry much about the bears. The weather is approaching 80ºF. Bears are not wandering trails in this heat. As unnatural as this hot weather is for my Alaskan genes, it is even more so for the bears who call this area home. I know all too well, as long as I keep myself and my dogs out of their cool resting areas, they won’t come looking for trouble from me.
So we climb. Pali and Kluane bounce and prance along the trail. They stop every now and again to smell the air. Their tails wag when they scent something familiar… another dog, a particular species of bird they love to chase, another human.
We cross over creeks where the girls stop to splash in the cold water and take a break to get a drink from the fresh mountain run off. At one point, both girls stop and look up. They are scenting the air again. Pali’s tail drops just a bit and Kluane looks to me.
”good girl” I tell Klu. She’s remembering her training.
When in doubt. Look at me.
I call the girls to me and we continue on our hike. The cool water and shade of the creek bank is a welcome respite. But as wonderful as it is for us, I keep in mind that other animals who share these woods are also looking for cool and shade.
No need to engage in a confrontation when everyone involved is a little hot and bothered. There are plenty of watering holes to go around.
The rest of our Kesugi Ridge adventure is relatively uneventful. Of course, we love the views. The girls love the opportunity to romp among the growing ferns along the edges of the trail and I am enjoying the time I get to share with these two girls.
We rest at the top of the ridge and soak in the view.
How lucky am I?
To live in such a place. At such a time. With such wonderful company surrounding me.
After some moments of rest and play. We head back down the ridge.
It is time to go home to the others in our pack.
But the adventures of the day are far from over. Home means the water hose, frisbee and balls. There are three other dogs waiting to play.
There is probably something in the smoker too. A pork shoulder or a brisket. And this means new smells and an extra yummy lunch.
And later, if we’re lucky, a trip down to the lake where we can swim and dive off the dock and lay on a blanket while the sun dries our skin (or our fur)and we rest for just a while.
This crazy, perfect life with four poodles and a catahoula.
I can’t imagine my world any different.