When I met her I thought her to be much older, as her face is white and the rest of her fur is red and feathery, but she is four. Her white hair developed when she was two. At first it was thought that she might have a thyroid problem, but testing cleared her health. Winnie may not fit the breed standard, but she is most excellent as a service dog. Winnie minds the health and well being of Michelle, who has a serious medical condition that can cause extreme respiratory distress. Winnie is able to sense and warn Michelle that she is about to be very ill 15 minutes before it happens. Winnie’s warning allows Michelle to take care of herself before a collapse. Michelle and her husband Mike are from Ottawa, and along with Winnie have been our neighbors in Fundy National Park for the week.
The Summer experience in the Fundy Bay area is a combination of river, sea, mountain, fog and wind. The rocky coastline that surrounds the village of Alma below plays hide and seek in the fog all day. The pull of the sun and the moon result in spectacular tidal changes. Boats in the harbor rest on the gravel bottom and it’s a 3/4 mile hike or more to the water at low tide. At high tide, it’s a few yards to the narrow sandy beach and water. All manner of things wash up on the beach, and every day new debris arrives. A dog’s paradise.
Ryder (aka Red Dog) and Winnie have become fast friends, although they are polar opposites. Ryder is all bounce and energy and Winnie is soft and kind. She would never yank Michelle off balance. Ryder can’t resist the lure of the next best smelling thing or the scenery around the corner, so I have to be mindful of him at all times or I’ll find my feet leaving the ground. We have been to three separate obedience schools in his short life, after which he has learned to sit nicely at the door, to wait for permission before plunging into his dinner, and to wait until I get to the bottom of the steps before coming down himself. There ends his patience with being told where to go and what to do. Michelle and I have taken to walking our dogs together. Winnie strolls along placidly, while Ry prances back and forth to show off his manly physique. When Ry sees Winnie coming towards our campsite, he jumps at the end of his tether until they are close enough to greet each other, which they do by throwing themselves to the ground and rolling in a tumble of legs and feet. Winnie does this with rare disregard for Michelle’s well-being. You really can’t blame her though. They are, after all, in love.
Today we all walked down to the beach and watched our two dogs tear up and down the beach and chase toys we throw into the surf. My big red dog dropped his float at my feet and looked up at me with a big smile. He rolled in the sand and peed on every blade of grass. I threw the float and both Winnie and Ryder charged after it, although Winnie held back in deference to him. We people are saying goodbye, as Ben and I are moving on to our next destination. Tomorrow there will be a new beach, with different people and dogs. I wonder, will Ryder miss Winne? Dogs don’t seem as burdened by partings as we are. Most likely tomorrow we will be back at our usual routine of Ryder looking for adventure, and me hanging onto the leash for dear life.