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In the fall of 2013, we took a near-perfect trip to Banff and Jasper Parks in Canada. We had all of the papers for the dogs in proper order and we got through the border with no problem at all.


We set up camp at the Johnston Canyon Campsite. We got a beautiful spot. It was right on the end closest to the river. I don’t know why no one else had taken it. There were only a handful of other campers in the campground. We were isolated from them by a number of campsites.


We had Paul’s pop-up camper trailer. It was fairly comfortable for what it was. The dogs got the bed at one end of the trailer and Paul and I got the bed at the other end. The dogs shared the bed quite well with no skirmishes. Paul and I did, too.


We had brought along a wire enclosure (ex-pen for those who show pups) to keep the dogs from running around the campground. Paul set it up and put Preston and Ursus in. I could see right away that it wasn’t going to work very well. There wasn’t even enough room for them to lay down. At one point, Ursus started walking away. He took the enclosure – and Preston—with him.


Okay. So Paul rigged up a larger enclosure using the pen as part of it and tying it to the camper to make it larger.


Five minutes after he had put the dogs into this, a squirrel ran across our campsite. Without a moment’s hesitation, Ursus leapt from a standstill right over the enclosure. Poor Preston, who wasn’t quite the jumper that Ursus was, was left standing in the enclosure.


Paul and I laughed.


Well, that wasn’t going to work.


The next idea was to tie a rope between two trees and attached their leashes to it so they could run back and forth. This worked really well until the dogs got their leashes tangled up so much that they were stuck side-by-side. Ursus, of course, took umbrage to this and attacked Preston. He didn’t hurt him at all, fortunately. But Preston didn’t have any room to get away, either.


So, we disentangled them and tried the next idea. This time we put clips at a distance where their leashes stopped on the rope with just enough room for them to touch noses should they want, but they couldn’t get tangled up. This turned out to be the best plan. They both had a fairly large area to roam in. They both could reach the water bowl.


Finally, we had a system that worked where no one would get hurt.


We wandered around Banff for a few days. There was one place that I was avoiding but that also was drawing me in: Johnston Creek. I know how most of those places that have to cater to people of every type of movement of life: there is a paved path for people with wheelchairs that leads to a place that is relatively beautiful and crowded. However, the absolutely gorgeous places are ones that you have to hike into.


Fortunately, we decided one day to go to Johnson Creek. It turned out to be amazing whether you were in a wheelchair or walking. Since it was late Fall and children were in school, there weren’t all that many people here, either. Granted, there were more people here than anywhere else we went on the trip (except Lake Louise).


It was beautiful. There is a paved path next to an enormous crevice where absolutely clear, blue glacier water tumbles down faster than a luge in the Olympic Games.


We walked up and up to the Upper Falls. At this point, there is a passage cut through the stone and just enough room for two or three people to stand at the other end and see the huge water fall. I went in first while Paul held the dogs and waited. It was lovely. The rocks you had to walk on were covered with water and it was hard not to slip. Of course, the Canadian government had made sure that there were guard rails so that you didn’t slip down.


I slipped back to where Paul was holding the dogs.


“How was it?” he asked.


I shrugged. “It’s okay.”


He frowned and shook his head as he always does when I give him my “it’s okay” answer.  To me, it meant that it really wasn’t any more wonderful than the rest of it.


So, Paul handed the leashes over to me and went in himself. Camera in hand, which meant he would be in there for a while.


As I was standing there, Ursus suddenly jumped up and the next thing I knew he was on the other side of the guard rail.


“Oh, my god,” I thought. There was about a foot and a half between the guard rail and the 100 foot drop off into the torrential waters.


I was horrified.


“C’mon,” I coaxed as I pulled at the leash to edge him toward the railing. “Come on, Ursus.” I said. I pulled gently at the leash and he finally started to crawl back between the upper and lower rails of the guard rail. I pulled at his collar. I pulled at his ass. Finally, I got him back to the correct side.


When I had gotten him to the right side and stepped away from the guard rail and held tight to his collar, I looked around. I saw an old Chinese woman sitting on a bench about 15 yards from me. She had a look of concern and patted her chest over her heart in a universal signal of relief. I put my hand to my chest and nodded in agreement. We had both been watching with wide eyes that can’t look away.



Paul came back innocently. I was having a coronary. Ursus didn’t care. Preston seemed clueless. I explained what had happened to Paul.


“Wow!” he said.


Later, Paul loves to tell the story. In his version, there was always a squirrel on the other side of the falls.


There was no squirrel.


I know what really happened:


Preston: “I bet you can’t jump over that fence like you did the one in the campground.”


Ursus: “What? This one is even shorter than that fence he kept me in as a puppy.”


Preston: “Yeah. Maybe.


Ursus: “Yeah? Watch this……”

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