Last But Not Least: Leo

And the last of the pack is Leo.  I won’t go into a full recount of how he came to join our little zoo but if you want to catch up, it’s all in this post: Then Along Came Leo.

I knew he was part of the pack the day after I brought him home.  Usually when I’m working, the dogs spend the day with a friend of mine but she was unavailable that week, so I had someone else stop by my house to let them out.  I put Leo in a room with food and water and a baby gate across the door so they could get acquainted without any issues.  When I checked in with the woman letting them out, she told me that both times she had gone to my house, the gate had been taken down and all the dogs were together.  Sure enough, when I walked in the door I found Leo waiting for me.  I’m not sure who took the gate down but they were determined to not let anything keep them apart.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Leo is his blue eye.  There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just blue and the lack of pigment around the eye makes it stand out even more.

It’s funny how he and Jack share some of the more, shall we say, interesting personality traits but Leo takes it to a whole new level, especially with tug.  I have actually stood on a toy and he has pulled so hard that he moves me across the floor.  It’s not far but considering the fact that I outweigh him by 125 lbs, I’d say that’s pretty impressive.  Leo is always up for a game of fetch and, a bit of a confession here, I’ve made use of the fact that my house is an open concept and tossed toys for him while watching TV. 

Leo has a bit of an obsession with my yoga mat and jumps on as soon as I unroll it.  He takes advantage of me being distracted by getting in all the kisses he can whenever my face is within reach or leaving his toy near me and whining until I throw it for him.  Or he’s just started putting them on my back when I’m in a plank position.  Planks are hard enough without worrying about what’s being put on me.

He has two speeds: full ahead and all stop.  When he gets really tired, he’ll walk through the house and then just flop  over wherever he’s standing.  If I have a fire going in the wood stove, I often find him passed out on the brick pad in front of it.  Which is great because he inevitably gets a good coating of ash on that whole side.

I have never met a dog that loves to roll as much as Leo does.  I mean, it really is something.  I have considered putting a sandbox, or at least a sandpit, in the backyard for him; he rolls that much.  I thought maybe he had itchy skin or something, but he doesn’t scratch, there’s no dandruff, no flaky skin.  I guess he just loves it that much.

I wasn’t sure how he would handle camping and I had set my tent up in the yard before our first trip to see how he dealt with it.  There were no problems at all.  In fact, when I’m setting up camp he tries to be the first one in the tent.

Leo never misses a chance to climb.  If we’re walking down a sidewalk and there’s a raised flower bed or wall or barrier, he’ll be walking along the top.  We were hiking through a forest and found a small pump house, and he jumped onto it and climbed to the peak.  OK it was barely a peak since he was eye level with me but it sounds impressive.  He was probably using it as a vantage point to find a new place to roll. 

Breed:  Boston Terrier

Born:  May 26, 2012

Nicknames: Wee Man, Little Man

Quirks: likes to sleep under the blankets when it’s cold but has to be against the back of my knees.  If we’re camping, he will usually squeeze into the foot of my sleeping bag before he remembers how tight the fit is and then crawl back out, making sure to climb over my ribs.  Leo is the best guard dog of the lot and will often be the only one to meet me at the door when I come home.  He’s a canine hoover and will eat anything and everything except some dog treats.  I don’t get that one.


You Don’t Know Jack

Continuing with my “getting to know the dogs” series, next up is Jack.  My brother got him as a puppy but when he started having children, he found that he didn’t have time for Jack.  I remember we were sitting on his porch and I told my brother I was thinking of ending my relationship.  A few minutes later, my brother told me he was thinking of finding a new home for Jack.  Without any hesitation, I said I would take him.  He had a discussion with his girlfriend and a few days later, I was driving Jack home.  Even though he and Piper had played together, I was a little worried about how they would get along.  We went for a walk and then Jack fell asleep on the dog bed.  So no problem at all.

Jack was actually part of the reason I was drawn to boxers; he’s got a few of their superficial traits. But what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in attitude.  He’s not mean but he has no problem letting other dogs know what he thinks of them and has faced down great danes and mastiffs.  He truly is a big dog trapped in a small dog’s body.  He also thinks himself to be the mans man of dogs.  He’ll present toys to them with a little growl, inviting them to a challenge of wits and strength I suppose.

Health wise he has had considerably fewer issues than Piper.  He did get quilled by a porcupine once.  It wasn’t the worst quilling I’ve ever seen but it did require a trip to the vet.  Fortunately he didn’t make the connection between getting hurt and the happy juice at the vet.  He’s had a couple of issues with his eyes but given the protruding puggy-ness, that’s to be expected.

While he may not look it, he is surprisingly agile and can boot around the forests with ease.  He is a bit of a tank through the underbrush but he’ll push through everything. When he walks, he often paces (both legs on the same side move at the same time) so it makes him look like he’s waddling.

When I first brought Jack home he avoided water like the plague.  He would stand at the edge of the river and try to drink while keeping his body as far back as he could.  I waited until it was really hot one day and held him in the river in water that was just deep enough that his feet couldn’t touch.  I let him flail around until he settled into a rhythm and let him go to swim to the nearest bank.  Since then, it has been impossible to keep him out of water.  And it doesn’t matter what kind of water it is: mountain streams, oceans, ponds, lakes.  He jumps in it all.  In fact, when we were hiking through the Catskills he found water I didn’t even know about.  If we are ever stranded in the wilderness, he’s better than a divining rod.

He loves to find the hot spots in the yard and sun himself.  On the hottest days of the year, he will go onto my brick patio and lay down, panting in the sun and ignoring the bowl of water and all the cool shady spots around him.  Then when we go for our walk, he’ll actually lay down in the water because he’s so hot.

If it were up to Jack, he would happily stay in bed all day long.  When it is time to get out of bed, he rolls over onto his back and goes limp.  If it lift him up so he’s sitting, he’ll flop right back over.  Now I usually just scoop him up and lift him down to the floor.  On of my neighbours was getting rid of a mini trampoline and I jumped at the chance to bring it home.  I had wanted to teach the dogs to jump because there are few things as hilarious as dogs jumping on trampolines.  They have no fear of getting on the trampoline, so much so that Jack treats it as his own bed.  It must feel like a hammock, especially with the blanket that he dragged onto it.

He is more possessive of his toys and if he sees someone, human or canine, with one of his toys, he is in for a game of tug.  In fact, it was because of this trait that you can see just how smart he is.  Piper would be chewing on a toy and he would walk over and just take it.  She’d watch him walk away and then get another toy.  He’d take that too.  Eventually Jack would have all the toys around him and Piper would finally go lay down on a blanket.  Jack would try and take that too.  There is the odd time that Piper will not give up her toys.  So Jack figured out that if he barked and looked out a window any other dogs around him would run to the window, leaving the toys ripe for the picking.  The first time I saw this, I thought it was my imagination but I have had other people confirm it.  If only he used his powers for good.

Breed: Boston Terrier/Pug

Born:  December 14, 2007

Quirks: he has something of a blanket obsession: he has a few blankets that he will mound up, sometimes hump into shape, and lay onto top of them as he holds a piece in his mouth and kneads with his front feet like a cat.  Sometimes when the dogs are running around, he’ll wait for them to get close and ambush them.  He has a very specific crouched posture and stands out in the open so it’s no surprise for the other dogs.  They must like that game too because it would be easy to get away from him.  He likes to pose for photos as you can see below.

Piper’s Story

I was kicking a few post ideas around in my head.  Some need some real legwork on my part and as I was planning, I realized that I haven’t really shared any stories about the dogs themselves.  I mean I’ve shared their road stories but nothing about their rather unique personalities.  So each dog gets their own post starting with the one I’ve had the longest: Piper.

My now-ex had never had a dog and kept saying that I couldn’t get one which was fine when we lived in the city but once we moved to the country and got settled, well the no-dog household was going to change.  I wanted to get a rescue but after scouring shelters, all I could find were dogs with either separation anxiety or aggression issues.  I work weird hours so that would be a problem and at the time I had several cats so that was going to be an even bigger problem.  I couldn’t even get my hands on puppies at the shelters.

And then there were rescues: they all have this disclaimer about being able to come onto your property at any time and they could take the dog back.  Now I think that anyone who has followed this blog would know that these dogs live pretty good lives.  I mean, they have a backyard, can take over the furniture, and sleep in the bed with me.  But the thought of someone telling me that I’m not doing a good job?  I get the reason why but my alpha tendencies don’t deal well with that.

So I decided to go with a breeder.  I liked her; as soon as I walked into her place, she introduced me to every dog there including a dam with her two week old litter of 10 (?!) puppies.

A few weeks later, I got a call to come see the puppies that were ready to go.  It was a bit early but oh well.  I stood in the yard as the breeder dealt with another visitor.  By this time, there were seven puppies left and I watched them interact with each other.  I had told myself that I wasn’t going to settle for a puppy and would only leave if there was a good bond.

A group of them hung out near me, wrestling and fussing with the laces on my shoes.  When most of them ran away, one light brindle female with a tiny patch of white on her nose stayed next to me.  I pet her for a second then stopped and waited to see what she would do.  She went and played a little, sniffed around the yard, then came back and looked up at me.  I scratched her ears a bit and stopped.  After a few seconds, she left and went back to her inspection of the yard.  None of the other puppies had paid any attention me and I said to myself that if this one came back a third time I would be leaving with a puppy.  Well I think we all know how that story ends.

It took me a few days to come up with the name Piper and there is an official reason and a real reason behind the name: officially, I come from a family with a strong military background and there’s always a piper.  The reality is that Rowdy Roddy Piper was my favourite wrestler when I was a kid.  There, the truth is out.

Piper bonded to me very quickly and I like to think it was because she knew that she would be well taken care of.  See she’s not the healthiest dog in the world and has had almost every condition that can afflict boxers and then some: mange, an aural hematoma (cauliflower ear), a tumour removed from her leg, food and environmental allergies, cysts between her toes and on her stump, growths on her gums that can’t be removed because she had an episode of vestibular syndrome which is like the dog version of a stroke, and she caused some damage to her right hind leg.  The only thing that she was able to avoid were problems with her heart; it has always been strong.

Her best friend is my cat Chase.  They are almost opposites in colouring: Chase is a dark calico and Piper is a light brindle.  They sleep together, groom each other.  When Piper was little, I would catch her chasing after Chase and yell at her to stop.  Then one day I watched as Chase walked up to Piper and actually instigated a run.  All this time, Chase had been inviting Piper to chase her.  What a sassy little cat she is. I was able to catch this video of them:  You can see Martini having nothing to do with any of the lovin’.  Normally as soon as I pick up the phone to film, Chase runs away because she wants no proof that she likes a dog but I was at home sick so I was able to capture it on the down low.

The ex didn’t like the amount of time I spent with Piper and told me all I did was spend time with “that damned dog”.  My response was “Instead of what?  Spending all my time on the couch watching cartoons?”  Then one day I told him that Piper and I were going camping and I took her to Algonquin Park where we hiked into the backcountry.  For me, it was a bit of soul-searching.  I had been thinking that it was time to end the relationship, a relationship that had been one of the few constants for the previous 12 years.

Unfortunately I had to end the trip a day early because I tweaked my knee but I had the answer I had been looking for.  The entire time we were hiking, not once did I feel lonely or wishing that he had been with me.  Piper and I sat next to a river after setting up camp and I felt a weight lift off me as we leaned on each other, tired after a day on our feet.

We’ve seen so much more since that hike and done more than I ever thought possible.  I know that my time with her is going to be short, shorter than it is for most dogs.  With that in mind I work my hardest to make sure that she, and all my animals, have the best life they can.

On a side note, I wish that I could post some puppy pictures, but when the ex moved out shortly after that hike, he took the computer and all the pictures that were on it.  He was supposed to give me a copy.  Five years later I’ve accepted that won’t happen.  I’m not sure if it was some ploy to keep in touch but I won’t play that game.  But enough about him.

So without further addue, heeeeeeere’s PIPER!!!

Breed:  Boxer

Born: February 13, 2010

Nicknames:  Booger, Boog, Pretty Girl (because she is)

Quirks: she has to sleep under the covers.  She will stand on the bed and snort at me until I lift the blankets up for her to slide under.  If I don’t, she’ll wait until I roll over and dart into the gap.  Then she flops down next to me with her head on my shoulder so she can be the “little spoon”.  Piper loves the vet which is crazy with how often she has gone there.  She will wake up out of a dead sleep if we drive anywhere close, whining until I let her out of the car and then drag me into the office.  She doesn’t really care about toys but she will occasionally toss one around then pounce on it with her front feet like a polar bear stomping on the snow.  She is not possessive about her food or toys.  She LOVES pureed pumpkin and rice.  If I’m cooking rice she will stand next to me in case I drop some.  Piper loves the water but she has an unusual swimming form: she will paddle with her front legs but tuck her hind legs up and use them like a rudder, I guess to compensate for not having a tail.  Piper is not much of a barker but I have taught her to sing (growl) and speak (bark) on command.  She likes to lean against people’s legs which I have since learned is a boxer trait.  If I’m sitting next to her and try to stand up, she’ll often push her head against my chest so I keep sitting.

The photo of her on bed below is not my bed; it’s one of the grossest hotels I have ever stayed at on the outskirts of Albany.  I just had to set the record straight on that one.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

The road trip season is officially over for us.  We’ve been lucky that it has stayed this nice for this long so there’s no complaining.  While I did not have the time to take the pack on a real road trip, I did take them for a hike through a nearby forest.  I couldn’t help myself…I just had to share some of the pictures.


Does it get any better than this?


Getting their bearings

I tried to take some artsy “falling leaves” photos.  The dogs were surprisingly good with me tossing leaves over them.


Is there something on my head?


Not a care in the world.


Jack: always ready to strike a pose.


Something got their attention.


A moment of stillness.


And Leo at full speed.

After our hike, I took the dogs for a walk and stumbled across a local craft brewery that was closed.  Quite unfortunate because they’re dog friendly.  Yes you read that right: a dog friendly brewery!  Hopefully I can post about it soon.

And since the road trip season is mostly over in the soon-to-be Great White North, I have a series of posts I’m working on.  I’m open to any suggestions or ideas or questions that anyone wants to send my way.

Last Day on the Road

Day 14

Starting mileage: 8879.6

Sleeping in a Corolla with a, shall we say portly pug/boston terrier, on your gut is not the best way to start a day.  On the plus side, we were finally on the road early after a walk and they had some breakfast.  And then down the road in Marquette, we found Huron Mountain Bakery.  Now I’m not saying that I grabbed donuts with my berry scone and coffee.  I’m not saying that at all.  But I did and we all know that I did.


Berry scone. It may not be pretty but so good.

As we were driving in between bouts of rain, there was a break that just so happened to be near a beach.  The pups needed to have some exercise and there was no one around as far as the eye can see sooooooooooooo they had a chance to run.


Leo enjoying a roll.


Piper having a bounce.


Jack takes his beach stroll very seriously.


A relatively calm Lake Superior.


Exploring the beach.

They tore around for a little bit and by the time the rain started up again, they were panting and walking themselves back to the car.  One of the advantages to having short-haired dogs is that they don’t get too dirty but oh my was there ever a lot of sand coming off of them.

They passed out pretty quickly, waking up only when we crossed the border at Sault Ste. Marie which was the most painless crossing of the whole trip.  I was going to stop in Bruce Mines at The Bobber Restaurant but I decided to keep going.

I ended up stopping at a trailer at a gas station and for the life of me I cannot remember where it was.  I’ve done a pretty good job keeping track of food joints for most of this trip but by this point I just wanted to get home.  I ordered a burger and watched the steady stream of locals which I always take as a good sign.  The burger was insanely good.  Or I was really hungry.  Either way it was a good meal.  The dogs had a few bites when they could pull themselves away from their adoring fans of course.


Somewhere along the side of the road.


I loved this bridge.

Then, finally, we made it home.  I was so tired I didn’t even unpack the car, just bringing in the blankets for the dogs as they reacquainted themselves with their spots on the couch.  I sat down and soon had Piper resting her head on my lap as Jack curled up on the other side while Leo pulled every toy out of his toy box to make sure they were all still there.

Good to be home again.

Finishing mileage: 9837.9

Heading Home

Day 13 (No you didn’t miss a day.  These are days from home not days travelling)

Starting mileage:8065.9

Even though we stopped moving for only a day and a half, it was a refreshing pause.  Not that we didn’t have some excitement.  Jack decided to go chasing after something in the forest and we ended up losing him for a little bit until my grandma saw him strolling along the side of the road going who knows where.  I also helped my grandpa take the dock out of the water for the winter.

It was a grey and drizzly kind of day which is probably for the best since I had to be home.  I could either do two long days of driving which would get me home with a day before work or three days which would give me no down time.  Then there was the decision of the route.  I usually go north which takes me along the north shore of Lake Superior instead of the south route that takes me back into the U.S.  The map said that the south route would be three hours shorter so I decided to go that way.

It rained almost all day long.  It did break for a little while in Baudette, Minnesota which is where we found Willie Walleye.  That thing is horrifying.  But Cafe X was within walking distance so we were able to stretch our legs while I caffeinated for the drive.



Willy Walleye in Baudette, Minnesota

As it was getting late, I passed by campgrounds thinking that there’ll be more coming up.  You would think by now that I would know better and would stop as soon as I realized it was getting dark.  But there’s always that drive to get further down the road before stopping.  With patchy cell service, it was also hard to find places to stay in case camping wasn’t an option.

And then the deer came out.  It’s funny: I hadn’t seen any deer at home for ages but in a short stretch of road, I saw lots.  After the third deer ran across the road in front of me, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and pulled over into a rest area.  I was hoping that there would be a campground close by but no such luck.  At least it was warmer than it had been in Idaho.

I took the dogs for a walk and poured them some food and water which they promptly ignored.  I fluffed up their blankets and climbed under one for me, draping it over my feet just as Jack jumped onto my belly and somehow wedged himself under the steering wheel when I tipped my seat back.  Piper stayed in the back seat and rested her chin next to my ear which is as adorable as it is irritating.   Yes she’s a snuggler but you try having a boxer sigh in your ear all night long.  Leo piled up the blankets and nested in the front seat and the back seat, hopping from one to the other.

Small price to pay to not run over Bambi.

Back into Canada

Day 11

Starting mileage: 7755.8

When I went to the lobby to check out, I was really surprised that the Knight’s Inn had free breakfast.  It was your standard continental breakfast with very little in the fruit department but that didn’t stop me from making mini wafflewiches with jam.  I actually ate a couple of yogurt cups as I waited for my mini waffles (so cute) to cook.  I decided to try the coffee and it was horrendous.  Fortunately Bully Brew Coffee House was a few minutes away.  And I mean come on!  How could I not stop at a coffee house that is practically themed around a bulldog?  There were even little samples of dog treats.  Jack liked them.  Piper sniffed then gingerly nibbled one.  Leo the little vacuum that he is? turned his nose up at it.  Cheeky monkey.

It was a relatively short trip to the border at Pembina.  And here is something funny: I stopped at the duty free because I told some friends I would grab them something.  The duty free shop is actually quite a distance from the actual border.  So I saunter on in and take my items to the counter.  I pay for it then have to give my license plate to the woman at the counter who also takes my purchase.  Because the store is so far from the border, you pick and pay for your things there but then actually pick them up from a trailer actually at the border.  I had quite a time trying to wrap my little brain around that.  She explained that they have to be able to actually see you cross the border with your things.  It makes sense but just seems like such a cumbersome process.

So I’m waiting in line and pull up to the booth and the gentleman working in there starts asking me the usual questions but he’s facing his computer screen so I couldn’t hear a thing he was saying which meant that he had to repeat himself with every question.  I could see him getting frustrated and I was getting frustrated but it’s like “Dude look at me when you’re talking!  You’re in a little glass house and I’m in a car with my windows open and the wind and the cars so don’t get all pissy with me!”  Inside voice folks.

This was a different route to my grandparents so I was able to see slightly different parts of Manitoba.  I also got hungry.  So hungry that I pulled over onto the shoulder and started shoving the last of the pizza down my face hole.  That’s one reason why I think pizza is the ultimate road food: every town has a pizza place, it’s often the only place open late, they usually deliver, and you can eat it the next day no matter where you are.

Soon, I turned down the road my grandparent’s place.  It never ceases to amaze me just how quickly the dogs know where they are.  Jack and Piper have been there a few times before but our visits are a year a part.  I was a few kilometres away when I noticed that I could hear a slight whine and some panting from the back seat.  I snuck a quick peek and there’s Piper staring out the window and getting all antsy.  She only gets like that when she knows she’s going somewhere fun, like the pet store or the vet (seriously she LOVES the vet).  Jack and Leo were also wiggling around in their harnesses.

When we parked, I had a hard time undoing everyone from the car.  I just had enough time to stand aside and let the bounding mass of canine run up to see my grandparents.


Jack and Leo checking out the dock.  Piper was digging in the sand next to me.


The lake at sunset.

That night we cracked into the Fraidy Cat wine from Oz Winery.  It’s a Kansas muscat and has the sweetness that I expect from that varietal.  It was more of a dessert wine and was almost ice wine sweet though lacking in the syrupy mouthfeel.  Does it sound like I know what I’m talking about?

We also had some chocolate from the box that I had bought in Michigan at the Chocolate Garden.  I’m actually a little surprised that I was able to keep my paws off of them.  I guess when you keep stopping for donuts and pie you can avoid the chocolate.

Crossing North Dakota

Day 10

Starting mileage: 6791.1

I barely slept since I could not stop watching The Last Alaskans and didn’t get to sleep until 2:00 am.  Whoops.  And with trucks moving in and out of the lot next door, I kept getting woken up.  The plan had been to leave early but that didn’t happen.  As usual.  What can I say: I’m not a morning person.

Then I found out that there can still be hazards for dogs in a parking lot: I was walking them along a strip of grass and trees at the back of the lot when I felt a tug and looked back to see Jack holding a front foot up with his big puggy eyes staring at me.  Crap crap crap I thought as I dropped to kneel next to him, my mind already reeling through first aid for glass or other damage to his paw.  I looked and saw a thorn sticking out of the pad of his paw.  And this thorn was MASSIVE.  Fortunately it was just the tip and as soon as I pulled it out, he jumped up and put his paws on my shoulder to lick my face.  Best thank you ever.  We were walking back towards to room when the same thing happened with Leo.  I pulled that thorn out and he went and peed on a tree.  How’s that for gratitude?  Obviously marking that tree was damned important.  As in “F you tree for dropping a thorn that hurt my foot.  Now you are mine!”

We stopped at Main Street Cafe and I had an amerciano and breakfast wrap.  The wrap was quite good.  Not quite Ted’s Tacos good which it seems has become the standard for any kind of breakfast wrap.  Then we continued through Montana and into North Dakota.

I had expected North Dakota to be flat and boring.  But as you can see from the photos below, it’s not much of either.


I wanted to get to my grandparent’s cottage that night but my grandma told me that the deer were really bad at this time of year and she didn’t want me out on the road.  That and I would have gotten in close to midnight so I booked a hotel.  I accidentally booked a room at the Knight’s Inn in Grand Forks after I had driven through it.  I realized my mistake as soon as I bought the room so I got on the phone with Expedia to try and cancel.  Keep in mind this is within minutes of swiping left to buy.  Well, the hotel could cancel but they’d still charge Expedia which means that Expedia was still going to charge me.  I was a little peeved that trying to cancel a room less than ten minutes after booking was a no-go.  I mean, it’s not like Grand Forks was hopping and they’d lose a sale or anything.  What really irked me was the fact that I had already gone past Grand Forks so I had to turn around and drive south 20 minutes then in the morning drive those same 20 minutes north again.  I tried not to be mad at the guy at Expedia who was super kind.  My fault.

I consoled myself with the T-Rex pizza from Rhombus Guys.  It’s hard to stay angry with TV and pizza.


The T-Rex from Rhombus Guys