Author Topic: Sophie's Story -- chapter 5  (Read 18 times)

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Offline OffGrid9

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Sophie's Story -- chapter 5
« on: November 09, 2017, 06:50:52 PM »
Chapter 5 ? 23 October, 1994

Sunday night.  Deer opening this year was 15 October, so I was up on Bald Mountain again.  This time I could go down to Summit Spring and get water, two 15-gallon barrels and two 6.5-gallon cans per trip.  Yep, I finally got me a Jeep.  It's a ?69 Kaiser CJ-4, nice little rig, old but still sound.

My dad and Yoko were up there with me, and we stayed up there for an entire week, from the 14th through the 20th.  Uncle Bob and Sage dropped in for overlapping three-day visits.  Yoko took care of the dogs while Dad and Bob and Sage and I were out looking for deer, and then around noon most days I?d take Sophie out for a couple of hours hunting grouse.  It was a lovely week, and everyone enjoyed it, despite no one getting a buck.  I did pretty well on grouse, bagged eight of them in four days hunting, which is better than average for me.  Sophie was perfect, and got every one, even one that set its wings and glided a couple hundred yards down a steep slope.  Sophie broke as soon as I fired, and was on the ridge-top in time to get a good line.  I thought she was way off track, but she found the bird. 

We got some snow on Monday the 17th, about four inches, and it stuck around.  Didn?t keep us from taking the Jeep down for water every other day.  It's a real luxury to have 20 or more gallons of water a day.  In a rocky area, we set up a small ?personal-privacy shelter?, fully enclosed except for a floor, with a zipper door.  We put in a wood pallet for a floor, and had a folding nylon camp-chair inside.  We heated water on the stove in a huge (four-gallon) cauldron, dipped up two gallons of boiling water into a bucket with two gallons of cold water.  We could each take a four-gallon bucket-bath every night.  It's an incredible experience, pouring the last of the hot water over your head, letting it run down through the wood slats to the rocks, toweling off inside the shelter, then wrapping the towel around your waist, putting on flip-flops, and walking 30 feet through falling snow with clouds of steam rising from your body, into a large wall-tent with a wood stove keeping it at about 70 degrees.  You put on clean skivvies and sweats, and make yourself a cup of hot chocolate/coffee, spiked with a shot of rum.  Yoko hands you a plate of pot roast and veggies.  After dinner, you lay down on a good firm air mattress and your favorite dog comes over and lays down on her pad and puts her head on your lap, and smiles at you (don?t tell me she isn?t smiling).

I don?t believe it gets any better than that.  And I have to say, it's mostly because of Yoko -- she keeps the fire going, heats the bath-water, makes dinner and coffee, and does a hundred other little things that make it all go precisely the way it should.  Dad and I offer to do chores, to clean up, to wash dishes...but she doesn't want our help, it would just put a twist in her knickers because we wouldn't do it according to her sense of order.  The only thing she lets us do is cut, split, and fetch firewood.

Tuesday noon, I took Dad and Yoko in the jeep for a slow snow-prowl around the mountain, down past Summit Spring, out to Rocky Saddle, then back to Elephant Rocks and the yellow-rock canyon.  We went slow, let the dogs walk behind.  It was a lovely, sunny day, but cold.  Around 3:30 the clouds came in and the wind kicked up pretty stiff.  Time to go home.  When we got halfway back up the road from Summit Spring, we noticed that Sophie was missing, and nobody could recall seeing her for the last mile, not since the rock-crawler playground above the yellow-rock canyon.  I drove Dad back up to the tent, got the fire going in the stove, and then Yoko and I took off on foot in search of Sophie. 

We hot-footed back along the circuitous path we?d traveled in the Jeep, back around to the canyon-rim.  Lots of tracks in the snow, but nothing I could follow.  Seemed like there were dog-tracks going every which way.  We again retraced the path we?d followed in the Jeep, yelling ourselves hoarse in the steadily increasing wind and snow and darkness.  Finally, we had to give up.  With an aching emptiness, we hiked back up the road to camp?where we found Dad standing one-footed on a makeshift foot-stool, two big log-rounds he had stacked.  He was desperately trying to hold the front peak of the tent on the pole to keep the wind from tearing it down.  Dad is 79 now, and in pretty fair shape, but he had been, quite literally, on his last legs. He was glad for help getting down. 

?and there was Sophie, inside the tent.  Dad said she had come up through the woods, straight from the canyon-rim, about two minutes after Yoko and I had left.  She knows the mountain so well by now that when we left the canyon rim she just took the short cut back to camp.  If I hadn?t been so happy to see her, I?d have shot her.

We re-pegged the tent fly, tightened all the stays, ate a quick meal, and stoked up the stove for a long winter?s nap.  What a day. 

We started packing up Wednesday night, and were off the mountain and back to Vashon Island by 1:30 on Thursday.  Sophie had a ball watching me put the wall tent back up in the front yard so I could hose/brush it down and then let it really dry before packing it away for the winter.  Every time I turned around, she was inside the tent again.  I believe she thinks that the tent will somehow magically transport her back to the mountain.
I got the tent dry, and everything packed away in the carport shelves by 2 p.m. on Friday, and took off for Yakima again:  BIRD hunting.  On Saturday ? yesterday ? Bob and I were down in the valley looking for pheasant, a week after opening.  We had no real luck, kicking up lots of hens in range, lots of roosters flushing wild, 60 or 80 yards out ahead of us.  Lots of dust, lots of heavy brush, physically punishing.  I was trying to negotiate the side of a dry irrigation ditch, whose sides were pure rock.  Halfway down I fell hard, harder because I was trying to protect my old Remington pump.  Nicked the stock and dinged the side of the action anyway, but not bad.  I wound up limping badly from a slight sprain.  Shoulder is sore, too.  I?ll heal.

Like the old joke goes, when Sophie grows up, she wants to be just like me:  in the afternoon we noticed she was limping, too, on her left front leg.  At first, we thought it was just caused by one of those damned multi-spike puncture-vine horrors, and sure enough, we did find a sticker once, but it was in a hind paw.  Her limping got worse as the day wore on, and it wasn?t caused by puncture-vine stickers.  About mid-afternoon I decided not to go on.  We were both limping so badly I gave up and took her home.  I?ve been giving her aspirin for 24 hours, and she seems to be recovering now, her limp is much less severe.  So is mine.  But I wish I knew what was bothering her.
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22 April, 1995

A brief note.  Last week I found out Sophie has a special kind of arthritis, in all likelihood caused by lack of proper nutrition and lack of calcium when she was a puppy.  Having puppies when she was little more than a puppy herself didn?t help either.  Growing those puppies sapped her of calcium, and her bones never developed properly.  The X-rays show that her left shoulder bone is actually split at the top, yanked apart by ligaments and tendons pulling harder than the fragile bone could support.  It looks like a piece of celery, with the wide end split about an inch.  The split bone must be chewing up the tendons and muscles.  It hurts.  And it isn?t going to get any better.  If there is any operation to repair it, Dr Nell Kauffman didn?t tell me about it.  She knows that I have two kids in college, and couldn?t pay for something like that, anyway.  She just said to make sure Sophie eats right, and not to push her too hard in the field.  Easy to say.  Try to tell Sophie to take it easy.  I?m going to have to get another dog, and alternate the two of them to ease the stress and damage to Sophie?s shoulder.

I don?t think Yoko is going to be very happy about getting a fourth dog.  But two of our current gang are hers:  Nana, a little yellow cocker spaniel, and Max, a 125-pound solid black German Shepherd.  They were both dumped on us by son Sage, when he couldn?t take care of them.  The decision to keep them was Yoko?s, and she?s honest enough to admit it.  She loves Sophie, too, and she can see that I have to do something.
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31 July, 1995

About a month back, on 3 July, I drove Yoko over to the Nile Valley.  It?s on the Naches River, about 15 miles up-canyon from Naches, across the river from highway 410.  We took the Jeep.  When we got there, we looked at a litter of Labrador puppies that was six weeks old.  The mother is Beauty, a pretty black lab owned by Bob Boyd, a farmer.  He swears that both Beauty and the daddy, a local yellow lab, are like Sophie:  basic hunting dogs, short on etiquette but long on enthusiasm, intelligence, and nose. 

I am getting wiser in my old age:  I let Yoko pick out the puppy, and I let her choose a name for her, too.  That way, I get her buy-in on the new dog right up front.  Shrewd political move -- if she hadn?t chosen the one I wanted, I would have over-ridden her, and screw the politics.  But I kept pointing out the curiosity and boldness and intelligence of this one little funny-colored female, and Yoko chose her.  How could she not choose her?  All lab puppies are cute, but this one is clearly the cutest puppy that ever lived.

She isn?t one of the three normal colors:  black, chocolate, or yellow.  She is about halfway between strawberry-blond and cinnamon-sugar.  I call her a cinnamon lab. Bob Boyd had papers on the litter, and he swears that only the registered yellow lab came near Beauty, so I guess she is a purebred lab, all right, but?.   Ah, what the heck, I?m not going to show her, or become a breeder, so her color isn?t important.  She is pretty, and brave, and intelligent, and already shows sign she might become a good retriever.  What more could I ask?

Yoko named her Leila, a name I heartily approve of ? it?s a pretty name, and is easy to shout, and doesn?t sound anything like the names of the dogs of folks I hunt with.  And she likes Sophie.  Sophie isn?t really an enthusiastic fan of the world?s cutest puppy, but she tolerates her OK.  Maybe Leila brings out her mother-instinct.  But I?m not sure Sophie is going to understand, the first time I go out for a hunt with Leila, leaving Sophie behind in a kennel.  I?ll try to delay that event until a time when the shoulder pain gets so bad that Sophie will be ready to sit out an afternoon hunt.  I hope.
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25 December, 1996

Two more seasons hunting with Sophie since my last entry.  I haven?t really gotten around to training Leila much.  She is cute, and friendly, and lovable, and sharp as a tack, and likes to fetch tennis balls.  She is very small for a Labrador, maybe 20 pounds less than Sophie. She would make a good hunting dog, but I just can?t make myself leave Sophie behind.

As usual, I hunted dove on September 1st ? opening day ? in both 1995 and 1996.  In 1995 we even limited on the second day of the season, and there were still some birds around on the third day, too.  That?s a first for me.  Uncle Bob and I and Sage and Don (just in ?96) hunted on the Yakama reservation in areas that were easy on Sophie, no irrigation ditches to cross.  She did fine ? you don?t have to move around much if there are plenty of doves.

I got up into the mountains for grouse three or four times in each of the two years, always in our happy hunting ground.  Sometimes alone, sometimes with Uncle Bob or Dan Dupre or one of my boys.  I am learning to hunt slowly, apart from the others, and when Sophie looks in pain, we just take a nice break.  If it?s sunny, I?ll find a place out of the wind with plenty of grass, and we?ll lay down, sometimes even take a nap.  I?m going on 53, and it?s getting easier for Sophie to convince me that a nap would be a good idea.  Funny, we seem to jump up about as many grouse in my new leisurely hunting style as I did when I pushed hard.  I stop frequently for ten or 15 seconds to look around, paying particular attention to the downwind side.  And damned if birds don?t sometimes scare up while I?m just standing there.  Even better, they don?t all flush at once.  One will pop up, and then a few seconds later a second or third bird will flush.  So I?m covering a lot less country, but seeing as many birds.  I believe that in years past, Sophie and I may have pounded past many a downwind grouse that just hunkered down and waited for us to go by.  Too soon old, too late smart.

I haven?t given up hunting pheasant entirely, but most of the feel-free-to-hunt land on the Yakama reservation is old-growth brush, and so hard on Sophie that I?m not doing much of it.  Maybe a couple of two-hour hunts each day, with plenty of aspirin in between.  In '95 I hunted pheasant on two consecutive days, and it almost killed Sophie.  This year we just went for one day, and got two roosters.  She seemed to tolerate the pain well, and clearly enjoyed the hunt.  I just don?t know how to leave her behind.  She loves it as much as I do.
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13 August, 1997

On Saturday the 9th I went on a horseback ride with Uncle Bob and his riding buddy, Mitch, and I took Sophie along, with some hesitation ? I didn?t want to push her shoulder too far.  Mitch wasn?t too happy about having a dog underfoot ? he worried that the horses would hurt Sophie, or maybe get spooked by her.  I said Sophie had been around Uncle Bob?s horses off and on all her life, and had no problems with them.  I asked Mitch to give it a try for quarter of a mile, and if he still had misgivings, we?d split up.

I hadn?t been on a horse since Utah State, back in the mid-?60s.  I weigh a lot more than I did then, so I needed a big, strong horse.  That?s what I got:  Drum, one of Uncle Bob?s ex-racehorses, not the prettiest thoroughbred you ever saw, a bit a of a hammerhead.  But strong and tough and easy to ride and surprisingly sure-footed on a mountain trail that sometimes got pretty steep.  We started up Red Rock Creek trail, which takes off from the end of the Bumping River road, about five miles past Bumping Lake.  It climbs up to Fish Lake in about seven or eight miles, then goes on up to join the Cascade Crest trail maybe four miles south of White Pass.  I figured to turn back as soon as either Sophie or my posterior started to show signs of pain.  Bob said that was fine by him, and away we went.

It was a very leisurely ride, on a warm summer day, and both Sophie and my backside did better than I?d expected.  We went all the way to Fish Lake, and another mile or two up towards the Cascade Crest trail, when I realized that we?d gone almost nine miles, and had to go almost nine miles back.  Sophie was already starting to favor the left front leg.  I realized I?d gone way too far, and might have to carry Sophie part of the way.  I told Bob I was heading back, and he and Mitch decided they?d come with me.

If I thought Sophie would fold, I was wrong.  She made it back with flying colors, the limp getting a little more pronounced as we went along, but seemingly not very bad.  I asked Bob if he wanted me to come back to his place to help with the horses.  Bob knew I had to be home on Vashon Island that evening, and said it would be nuts to add 70 miles to my drive, just to help with a couple of simple chores.  We both smiled.  He knew I?d had no intention of driving to his place.  We shook hands and I drove out as he and Mitch were loading the horses into the trailer.  That night I had beef pot-roast, with potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Poor old Sophie got dog food and aspirin, but I gave her some of the pot-liquor, and I sneaked her a couple chunks of the beef, too.  Both of us were crippled up pretty bad.  She?d slept all the way home on the seat of the truck with her head on my thigh, and as soon as she finished eating dinner, she fell asleep again.

Even with the aspirin, she could hardly move on Sunday or Monday.  Yesterday she started walking pretty well, and today she seems perfect, better than normal.  That ride was a bit too much for her, but the exercise seems to have been good for her.  But I don?t think I should push it too far.
The older I get, the better I used to be.  --  I thought my Dad coined that...but he stole it from Lee Trevino