I almost lost Ace at Niagara Falls – and in the worst imaginable way.
After leaving Saugerties, we headed across New York state, stopping overnight in Syracuse, mainly because Ace desperately needed a bath. I think even he – scratching a lot of late — agreed with that assessment. He jumped right into the Motel 6 bathtub, sat patiently as I used the ice bucket to soak him down, and smiled as I scrubbed him with an oatmeal-based flea and tick shampoo, rinsed him and toweled him off, using every flimsy white towel in the room
The next day, smelling better — him, at least — we continued to Buffalo, where I got a break from motel charges and fast food by staying with an aunt and uncle in Amherst.
My father’s brother and his wife, while dog lovers, are not believers in the whole idea of them living in the house. Their children’s dogs, and even their own dog, were never permitted in the house. I respected that, and figured, with the temperatures still above freezing, one night as a real dog wouldn’t hurt Ace.
I laid his blanket near the door, and he had a spacious, well-manicured, fenced backyard at his disposal. He seemed to enjoy everything about being outside – except for the fact that the people were inside. He’d sit at the window and gaze in forlornly, especially when he sensed food was being served
Only twice during the night did I hear him whine – and in a way I’d never heard him whine before. Usually he will emit a two syllable sound, when he’s upset or impatient. Something like “ruh-ROOOO.” On this night, he came up with a four syllable one, something like “ruh-REEE-RAAA-rooo.”
The next morning, when I stepped outside, he was the most energetic and playful I’ve seen him since our trip began. I think a night in the fresh air, as opposed to a Motel 6 smoking room, did him good. The stop did me good, too. My aunt and uncle fed me well, and sent me with a sack lunch on my visit to Niagara Falls.
It was only a slight hassle entering Canada after crossing the Rainbow Bridge (not be be confused with the mythical one where pets wait for their owners before going into heaven). I feared, with all I’m toting inside and atop my car, someone might feel the need to search it all; instead I just got a verbal grilling.
“What’s the purpose of your trip? What’s all that in your car? Are you carrying any firearms? Do you have any tobacco?”
My answers seemed to satisfy the Canadian agent – except for the one pertaining to the purpose of my trip. He spent a long time looking at the ohmidog! magnet sign on the side of my car.
“It’s a website about dogs,” I explained. “Right now, I’m traveling across the country with my dog, like John Steinbeck did, and writing about it.”
“I don’t get it,” he said. “Do you sell stuff on your website?”
“Not really,” I answered.
“Do you breed dogs?”
“How many dogs do you have in there?”
“In the car you mean? Just one.”
He handed me back my passport and signaled me through, and I followed the signs to Niagara Falls, which led me to an $18 parking space a short walk away from the falls.
Once there, as has happened at other scenic wonders, some of the tourists seemed more taken with Ace than the tourist attraction.
At least 20 people took his picture. Some asked to pose with him. One volunteered to take a picture of the two of us together, with the falls in the background, as if we were honeymooners. And at least 30 asked the eternal question: “What kind of dog is that?”
Although the sun wasn’t in the right place, I tried to get some photos of Ace with the falls in the background. The edge of the falls, on the Canadian side, is blocked off by a railing. There’s a stone wall, about two feet high, with iron rails running above it. The stone wall was wide enough for Ace to get up on and sit, so I had him do so — right next to the sign that said “Danger.”
I had taken a few shots when a gaggle of tourists stopped, one of them with a little girl who just couldn’t stop squealing at Ace — squeals of delight, but squeals all the same. Ace isn’t a fan of the squeal. As I was holding on to his leash, putting my camera away, and answering questions about my dog, Ace – I think to distance himself from the squeals — jumped over the rail.
There was grass on the other side, about six feet of it, before the sheer drop. He walked toward the edge, to the point that I was leaning over the rail, holding his leash, trying to reel him back in. I pulled him back to the wall, and when I told him to jump back over he did.
Fortunately, no authorities saw the incident and I didn’t get the scolding I probably deserved. Then again, neither do all those people who seem to not give a second thought to holding their young children over the rail to give them a better view.
We moved along after that, weaving through all the tourists – and there were hordes of them, from all over the globe, some stopping me so they could take Ace’s photo, some asking to borrow him to pose with (Okay, but not near the rail), some wanting their children to meet him. One Japanese man, clearly wanting to ask about Ace but not a speaker of English, simply gave me a thumbs up.
Back in the car, well away from the falls, I scolded myself again for letting my attention get diverted, and unwrapped the ham sandwiches my aunt had prepared. I ate one of them. You can guess who got the other.
Sitting there in my $18 parking space, happy I hadn’t lost my dog to the roaring natural wonder, I gave silent thanks — that the only Rainbow Bridge either of us were crossing that day was the real one, and for the day I met him at Baltimore’s animal shelter.
After five years, the honeymoon continues.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, border, buffalo, canada, crossing, danger, dog friendly, dog's country, dogscountry, falls, jump, new york, niagara falls, ontario, pets, rail, rainbow bridge, rainbows, road trip, tourism, tourists, travel, travels with ace, wall, waterfalls
It took eight years to build the Glen Canyon Dam — far less to construct the scenic overlook that sits on the edge of the canyon, about a mile south.
Unlike the dam itself, a massive and complex project, building the overlook was a simple matter of putting in a road and parking, adding some steps to make the sandstone trail down to the overlook easier to negotiate, and putting up a stone wall at the base — to keep tourists from plunging from the top of the sheer canyon walls to the river 400 feet below.
The wall is short enough to look over, but its actual height varies, depending on where the wind blows the sand. Yesterday it was about four feet high in some spots, with one tiny section that, for reasons unknown, was built shorter than the rest — only about two feet high. Above the short wall, there’s a steel grate that rises vertically — bolted and cemented firmly into place.
And hidden on that grate — visible only if you look closely — are two names, scrawled with a soldering iron: Cisco and Sadie.
As you might guess, there’s a story behind that grate – previously untold, and very sad.
The ballad of Cisco and Sadie began in Idaho, which is where Dail Hoskins was living before he decided on a change of scenery and moved to Page, Arizona in 2000, bringing his two dogs with him.
Page, less than 50 years old, had emerged as a popular recreation spot by then, thanks to construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which allowed — or forced, depending on your point of view — the Colorado River to back up and form Lake Powell.
Construction on the dam began in 1956. It’s the reason the town of Page exists, and it provides water and electricity to much of the west. It was also very controversial, and still is. While completion of the dam in 1964 allowed water and electricity to be harnessed, it also represented a huge disturbance to the ecosystem and meant the loss of much of the beautiful scenery of Glen Canyon. The controversy surrounding the building of the dam is viewed by some as the beginning of the modern-day environmental movement, and it still sparks debates pitting nature against industrial progress.
Partly to showcase the government-built dam — one of the largest in the U.S. — the overlook was built later. It’s part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, falling under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
The trail down to the overlook is less than a mile. The view, minus the power lines, is magnificent. To Hoskins, who after arriving in Page had bought a little motel, the overlook seemed a good place to take his dogs, Cisco and Sadie, for a hike.
It was about ten years ago that he took the dogs there, and let them both off their leashes. They were generally good about sticking close by and not wandering off.
But, after a few minutes, when Hoskins looked around to find Cisco and Sadie, both had disappeared. He feared the worst, and what happened turned out to be just that. One of the dogs, not being able to see over the wall, had — maybe in pursuit of wildlife — leapt over that shorter section, plunging hundreds of feet to his death. The other immediately followed.
Hoskins blamed no one but himself, and watching his face as he retells the story, it’s clear he still lives with the guilt. In the days after losing his dogs, he hired a river outfitter to take him to retrieve their corpses, then gave them a proper burial.
Hoskins later learned that at least four other dogs had met the same fate, plunging over the same short section of wall. When he called government bureaucrats to tell them what happened to his dogs and see if that short section of wall could be built up, he was told that his dogs should have been on leashes.
He agrees that much is true, but the hazard remained. So he decided to handle things himself. He welded together slabs of steel, forming a large, barred grate, about five feet wide and five feet high. And without getting anybody’s approval, he snuck down to the site with a friend in the dark of night, carrying along the grate, cement, water and tools.
Amazingly, this being just after 9/11, and amid a period of heightened security at the dam, no one noticed he was there. He secured the grate deep in the ground using concrete, filling the gap that existed over the short section of wall. It took a few hours.
No one has ever traced the work to him, and apparently no one was angered by his addition. The park service has affixed a sign to the grate that reads: “Defacing natural features destroys our heritage. Graffiti is unsightly and illegal.”
It appears Hoskins got away with his dark-of-night, do-it-yourself construction project.
“I did it so it wouldn’t happen to any more dogs … or kids,” he says, though one gets the impression the covert project also served as both an outlet for his grief and a tribute to his dogs.
On one rail of the grate, he inscribed with solder the names of Cisco and Sadie.
Ten years later, the blowing sandstone has yet to brush their names off, and the grate still stands firmly in place, solid as a rock.
(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 2nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: area, arizona, canyons, cisco, cliffs, colorado river, construction, dail hoskins, dam, danger, dangerous, deaths, dogs, environment, environmental movement, fall, glen canyon, grate, hike, hiking, hiking with dogs, lake powell, leash, leashed, national park service, national recreation area, overlook, page, plunge, rail, sadie, safety, scenic, scenic overlook, unleashed, wall