The Snow and The Missing Dog

We are only two days into 2016 and already it has managed to be an adventure!

winter stormA good amount of snow fell yesterday so I had the chance to do one of my favorite things-bike through a silent, snow covered woods. The new year couldn’t have started out much better than that.

I am typically a very cautious bike handler-I avoid anything that puts me in danger of falling like the plague.

But when I am alone in the woods, sheltered by the trees, I feel bold enough to go beyond my normal comfort zone. It must be the thick layer of snow, making the ground seem closer and softer in case of a crash. Every time I get a chance to ride in a snowy forest, I leave with a better understanding of how to handle my bike.

That is not why I bike in the woods though. I bike in the woods because it is a blast!winter berries

We got even more snow overnight, I saw lots of snowplows on my commute this morning. When my shift was over, the coworker who was taking over for me mentioned that her red lab, Brady, had gone missing that morning. She asked me to keep an eye out for him on my way home.

As a fellow dog lover, my heart sank. There is nothing worse than not knowing where your dog might have run off to.

But I had a hunch.

If I were a dog, exploring the world by myself for the day, I would head over to visit the free-spirited, bold animals that reside on Fence Fail Farm. Who knows? They might even share a few valuable tips from their years of experience as escape artists to a fellow escapee.biking by the stream

I didn’t have a lot of faith in my theory, because my coworker lives a mile or two away from Fence Fail Farm, but as I pedaled slowly past the farm, I carefully scrutinized each dog on the property. The two border collies, a beagle, a non-descript hound…

…and a red Labrador.

I chuckled and called my coworker. Then I tried to coax Brady over, but he was clearly enjoying his newfound freedom and was not interested in leaving his new friends. Even bribing him with my emergency stash of energy bars didn’t work. He gobbled one chunk of Clif bar that I tossed his way but he didn’t seem too enthused about the taste. Maybe peanut butter flavored bars would have been more alluring!

My coworker’s husband soon came in his truck to pick up the wayward canine and once the pair were reunited, I went on my way.

Biking commuting has so many benefits, but I never expected finding a lost dog to be one of them.

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If I am loopy, I blame the chemicals.

Shammah in snow

I don’t know who is more excited about the snow, me or my dogs.

After bidding my dogs farewell this morning, I carried my bike down the stairs and out into the snow.

 

Locking my door behind me, I set out down the road. The streets in town were covered by a few inches of snow and it was still snowing steadily. When I hit the main road, I found that it was well cleared and I was able to make good time, giving me the freedom to explore a few trails along the way to work.

It was a great ride but I did make a grave mistake, I pulled my water bottle from it’s cage and unthinking, put it to my lips.

Yuck!

All the salt and who knows what chemicals from the road had coated the outside of the bottle, including the nozzle. From the sloppy state of the roads I should have known that would have happened. I cleaned my mouth out as best as I could. Now if my body corrodes from the inside out, at least I will know why!

I arrived at work feeling ready to tackle the day, although I must admit it was hard to be stuck at work when I knew that there was fresh new snow outside.

But finally I cooked one last meal and my shift was done. I scurried around quite comically, until at last I was suited up and ready to face the cold again.

Everywhere I looked there was beautiful snow and the closer to home I rode, the deeper the snow became. Passing snow plow drivers waved at me and suddenly it felt like no time had passed since last winter. Everything clicked into place and I felt so happy and light, like I was back where I belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I had so much fun during the spring, summer and fall…

…but winter will always be a special season to me.

 

Cyclists as Herders

Yesterday evening, my four year old nephew and I were talking about Border Collies and how they herd sheep.

“Why do the dogs hurt the sheep?” He asked.

Oh dear. I tried to explain the difference between “herd” and “hurt”, but I had the feeling he was more than a little confused. So I showed him a few minutes of this youtube video.

 

My little nephew was fascinated and before long, he and his younger brother were chasing their eighteen year old uncle around the dining room. Apparently, he was the closest thing to a sheep that they could find to herd.

But there is one thing that I neglected to tell my nephew about herding animals. And that is that cyclists are pretty awesome in their own right as animal herders.

This morning, as I was biking to work in the dark, I spotted two deer standing by the roadside. As I neared them, they stood silently, staring deeply into my headlight.  A vehicle came toward us from the opposite direction and I became a bit concerned: what if the deer decided to make a mad dash across the road and the car crashed into them?

I shouldn’t have worried. As I continued pedaling toward them, the deer suddenly realized-

“That is not a car!!”

And in a panic, they hightailed it for the woods.

It seems bizarre, but animals seem to trust speedy cars more than a person biking slowly by. I guess it is desensitization; they see car after car pass by day after day and they just get used to it. But around here, a cyclist is enough of a novelty to seem like an unknown danger.

So the fact that animals are afraid of me, combined with my slower, safer pace make me an ideal animal herder. I am so ideal that I think I will ask the Department of Transportation to give me a stipend for the role I play in keeping animals off the road.

After all, I have a great resume. I have herded sheep, cows, turkeys, mice, deer, snakes, turtles, rabbits, skunks and other animals to safety, away from the road.

Please realize, however, that I am still a novice. I can’t, for the life of me, direct dogs to get off the road. With a dog, I am the one who gets herded.

Naughty, Naughty Sheep

My local area boasts a number of small, family run farms. Many of these farms proudly display their name on a sign out front.  On the road I use to commute back and forth to work, there is a farm without such a sign. That is okay though, because in my mind, this farm has a name. Over my years of commuting, this farm has become known to me as Fence Fail Farm.

I am not completely sure what the situation is: either the farmers have no fencing skills or the animals are brilliant escape artists. Maybe it is a combination of both, I don’t know. But I know one thing for sure. On Fence Fail Farm, the animals escape their pens whenever they feel the need to do so. And apparently, they feel the need to do so most of the time.

This farm has become the backdrop for many interesting scenes in the past few years. There is often a ATV roaming around the barnyard, herding the livestock back into their assigned places. I have had the opportunity to route an entire herd of cows simply by saying, “Hi there!” (The stampeding cows then frightened a herd of wayward sheep, so really I killed two birds with one stone that day.) I was also able to bike alongside a cow that had chosen to clomp along the road.

This farm is exciting. Every day that I pass by, the chickens and donkeys and sheep and cows and dogs and pigs seem to be hanging out in different locations across the countryside. (Well, I haven’t seen the pigs in awhile, I think they are finally being contained successfully. In a freezer.)

Today was no exception. The sheep had chosen to graze right by the road.

“Guys, what are you doing?” I asked sternly.

Animals are great. They can graze peacefully by a roadside for hours while cars and trucks rush past, but let a single cyclist pass by and…

“Ahh! It’s a thing! We are going to DIE!!!”

These sheep, predictably, had this reaction when they saw me after turning to the sound of my voice. They scrambled back to the safety of their pen, beginning to leap over the sagging wire fence, one by one. It was a hilarious sight and I pulled out my camera to capture the moment. Alas, it was at the bottom of my pannier and by the time I had it out, the sheep were all back in their pen, looking at me, eyes filled with guilt.  DSC01657

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This picture is actually from last week, but it is a better picture of this wild herd than I was able to get today.

As I took a few pictures, the sheepdog-a border collie, began to bark at me.

“Hey, I just did your job for you, you should be thankful!” I retorted.

He was not thankful or impressed and he continued barking at me until I left.

Well then. See if I ever herd his sheep for him again! DSC01661

Are fat puppies the cutest?

DSC01585My brother is dogsitting but he had other commitments this morning so he asked me to fill in for him. He really had to twist my arm but eventually I resigned myself to the hardship of spending my morning with two pudgy puppies. I began the day by biking five miles to the puppies’ house.

This frantically lively pair of Golden Retriever puppies are currently on the brink. They are not so overly fat that they waddle, but they are pudgy enough that their gait is not a walk. They are borderline, they wakle.

Of course, one look and I am a goner. The pair are massively adorable but also sweet, friendly and super curious, exactly how puppies are meant to be. We spent a great deal of time playing outdoors, they chased me around until they were too tired to wakle any more. Then they sat on my lap and gave me lots of puppy kisses.

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Hiiiiii

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Just chilling out in my awesome chair.

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We are puppies, we chew on shoelaces!

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We are puppies, we chew on camera cords!!

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We are puppies, we chew on hoodies!!!

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We are puppies, we chew on sticks!!!!

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We are puppies, we chew on leaves!!!!!

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Haha! Still chewing on your shoelaces!!!!!!

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I can run so fast!

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Me too! (I am trying at least, gimme a break)

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I am a puppy who contemplates the meaning of life.

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Enough with the pictures! GO AWAY!

After taking care of the vivacious little pair, I took the long way home to enjoy the sun that was just coming out from behind the clouds. You could call it a good morning.

New Biking Buddies

DSC00885I got to bike with my big sis today! We started out the day by jumping on our bikes and heading out on a short ride, ending up at our church. My sister makes me smile all of the time anyway, but getting to go on a bike ride with her was extra-special fun. We chatted, found an adorable foal and raced down some hills.

After church I hauled my dogs up to my parent’s house. They are starting to get really excited every time I pull out the trailer-they can’t wait to hop in. By the time I got up to my parent’s house my brother, sister-in-law and their four precious little ones were already there. One of the nephews came over to me and asked, “Can I ride in your trailer?”

So after lunch, I became the entertainment for my nephews and little niece (one of my nieces is a little young for trailer rides), pulling them up and down the road. They were so delighted to get strapped into the little green trailer and were very intrigued by the netting that straps down to cover the opening. I could only take two at a time, so my brother waited with the other child and they waved at us each time we went past.

After many loops up and down the road, it was time for them to go home. One of my nephews who is almost four asked me to carry him to the car.

“Thanks for riding with me.” I said. “Should we do it again sometime?”

“Auntie, I always want to be biking with you.” He replied simply and sincerely.

And that is when my heart melted and I turned into a pile of mush. It was a good day all-around.

My dogs are going places!

I love living without a car. But my car free life doesn’t come without challenges, probably the single most annoying thing is that if I need to transport my dogs anywhere I have to depend on someone with a car to help me out.

But now everything has changed. Guess what came in the mail last week?

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A little bike trailer.

My dogs have got themselves a brand new ride and so far they seem to love it. They are excited to hop in when I tell them to and once we are out on the road they are very calm and either look out the side or lie down. But as soon as we stop, they want to get out right away, whining and acting like they are going to die if I don’t help them out immediately. Then they act like they haven’t seen me for decades.

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What do you think of your new ride, Shammah?

The trailer weighs twenty-two pounds by itself and Panzy and Shammah weigh a total of thirty pounds, if I bring along a few more items I am easily pulling an extra sixty pounds. But I was surprised at how easy it is to maneuver the little beast and on flat stretches and going downhill it feels great. Pulling the thing uphill though? I can feel each and every one of the those sixty pounds, which is why the granny gear was invented I suppose. It is like weight training for my legs.

Pulling my dogs is only one function of my trailer’s new life in Northern New York. Yesterday I stuffed it full of helium balloons to bring to my church. Biking with helium balloons is an exciting but weird experience, I could barely keep the bike tires from floating off the pavement. I can say one thing, it sure made pedaling easier! (Maybe the effect was all in my head though, since I was only carting around six balloons.)

Welcome to the family, little trailer, I hope you are ready to work hard!