Thursday, May 22, 2014

When Hell Freezes over - a hike with Ralph

We took Ralph the Menace on a 9 km hike around Frame Lake which was as much an exercise in patience as it was in physical health. Ralph, who is technically still a puppy, was very curious about everything and everyone we encountered, and this curiosity, I’m sorry to say, had a weird kind of incendiary ripple effect on the mother/daughter dynamic.

The trouble began before the hike even started, when we first got into Guinevere’s truck, a thing with peculiar problems of its own. When Guinevere first suggested a hike around Frame Lake, I did not realize we would have to drive there in order to do it. 

It is a peculiar paradox to me that a person would drive a distance with the sole intent of walking. It seems to defeat the purpose.

But that is neither here nor there.

As far as getting into a truck with Ralph so that we can walk him, I looked at Guinevere doubtfully. This was unwelcome news to me. I asked, “Have you ever even driven with Ralph? How do we know that he won’t go wild in the cab of the truck and cause us to get into an accident?”

Guinevere gave me her signature condescending look, as if my question was completely preposterous and Ralph was the best behaved canine on the planet (even though we know from personal experience this is patently not true).

She then reassured me that she had driven with Ralph before and she was QUITE sure he would be fine. According to her, I just had to hold onto his leash as he obediently (and I would say "magically") sat at my feet, since Guinevere would be the one driving.

This whole scenario was RIPE with potential for controversy, but that was only acknowledged in hindsight. In the moment, and during the extensive discussion phase of our plan, we were too wrapped up in combat to give much thought to consequences. Besides, we secretly enjoy our mutual pugnacity – love might be the emotion that keeps us close, but friction is the mechanism that keeps our mother/daughter relationship interesting.

So with our plan set, we put Ralph on his last leash, the only one left that he hadn’t chewed in half, and tried to get him in the truck. 

He would not cooperate. 

I got up in the seat and tried to gently pull Ralph in after me, but he stubbornly refused to budge. Guinevere just sat there in the driver’s seat urging ME to “hurry up”.

With sweat beginning to form on my brow, I angrily snapped my head in her direction and demanded some help because Ralph, COULDN’T SHE SEE, was NOT getting in the truck despite my urging. Finally, Guinevere reluctantly got out of the driver’s side and came around to help. It took both of us in the end to hoist him into the truck.

“Unbelievable,” I muttered, “if this is any indication of the next few hours I think we are in for some troubled times ahead!”

Already Ralph was trying to get up on the seat in between eating an empty Tim Horton’s coffee cup that had fallen on the floor. When he was done with the cup, he moved onto a container of antibacterial wipes before turning his attention to my shoe laces.

By the time we reached our destination he was actively biting me, breaking skin on my hand at one point, while simultaneously biting his leash with me yelling at Guinevere that we were about to lose the last leash! 

She, as was fast becoming her habit, blamed me for Ralph's disobedient behavior, saying I was letting him chew the leash on purpose, to which I screamed, “I’m sitting right here beside you and you can SEE the hell I’m being put through and STILL you blame me?! There’s no controlling him!”

All she did was snicker as she told me not to yell, which was infuriating because as soon as it’s her having to deal with her nightmare dog, SHE’S the one yelling. Then with Guinevere thinking it’s hilarious, and me about to have a heart attack trying to get Ralph under control, he managed to gnaw his way clean through the leash. 

I informed  Guinevere, in a barely controlled tone, of this unfortunate turn of events while screaming at Ralph to stop biting me. “Guinevere! I’m going to need a rabies shot now because of your psycho dog!”

Guinevere had no concern for my injuries and instead got mad at ME for Ralph ruining yet another leash. It wasn’t so funny now that she had to buy a new leash in a place, the Northwest Territories, where the price of everything is tripled.

“You act as if I could have stopped him! There’s NO stopping him, Guinevere! He does whatever he wants!”

“That’s because you let him,” Guinevere said through gritted teeth.

Suppressing my, what I could feel would turn into full-blown rage if I wasn't careful, I ignored the utter fallacy of what she was accusing me of and instead said, “Well, we have to get another leash now if we’re still going on this stupid hike”.

So we did, bickering the entire time, much to Guinevere’s embarrassment, as there were other shoppers in the pet store who could obviously hear our irritation with each other. 

By the time we reached the start of the trail, I was covered head to toe in dog hair (an experience I truly believe is one of the most uncomfortable of life's various mild yet aggravating unpleasantries). The dog hair was also causing me to sneeze. Guinevere thought this was hilarious and exploded in laughter at my misery - that is, until I pointed out the water bottle she was about to take a drink from was also covered in dog hair.

The commotion she caused dancing around, sputtering dog hair out of her mouth was perfect revenge and it was my turn to laugh. We were not happy with one another AT ALL at this juncture and the hike hadn’t even started yet.

Then we were off, but first I made sure she understood there was NO WAY I was EVER holding Ralph's leash if he was attached to it. She would have to do ALL the dog walking herself. I was merely there for emotional support.

“Emotional support! I’m more likely to get emotional support from a random duck paddling around on the lake than I am from you!”

“So rude. I’m your mother and will give you all the support you could possibly need”. Then we both laughed. So ridiculous.


As the hike went on with the normal bickering one might expect, we also began to notice that although Ralph continued to pull on the leash and on at least two occasions managed to break free from Guinevere’s “tight” grip and charge at a couple people walking past us along the trail, he was actually, for the most part ,very friendly to passerbys including other dogs.

Unbelievably, we did have fun in between our minor arguments, even with my litany of complaints and Guinevere's sometimes trivial (at least from a mother's point of view) preoccupations. She, for example, obsessed, practically the entire time, over how her newly purchased and pricey runners were getting dirty as we hiked. I was incredulous. She did know where we were going when she put her runners on!

Along the trail there were of course points of interest with informative plaques providing context. The environment was beautiful, but what surprised me and gave me pause was a piece of written wisdom in the midst of all that wilderness. The synchronicity, or what Carl Jung also referred to as a "meaningful coincidence", of "happening" upon the following lines exactly as we were in the process of "taming" the unruliness of Ralph's innate tendency to rebel, was not lost on me:  


"The rock of the Canadian Shield contributes a wild and desolate quality to the land; the boreal forest attempts to tame it".






By the time we finally emerged from the trail and were on our way home, our mood was much improved. And it was with this improved mood that we were approached by a gaggle of 4-year-olds outside Guinevere’s apartment. They were smitten with Ralph and to our surprise and delight Ralph, rather than jump up or nip at one of the children, reciprocated their fondness by licking them, wagging his tail and sitting still so they could pet him.

The swarm of children that gathered around Guinevere and Ralph were so taken with the entire situation that even as Guinevere bid them farewell they refused to let the moment pass and followed her. 

She looked like the Pied Piper, but instead of luring rodents with a tune, she attracted the favor of these adorable children with the lure of Ralph.

At the end of what should have taken under 2 hours but took more like 6, we had a new-found likeness for Ralph. When we got home he was docile and sweet. 

It was a feel good moment.

But moments pass as life marches on and this was no different. 

The very next morning, with my guard down after the feel-good times of the day before, and my maternal feelings towards Ralph still flowing, things unfortunately returned to "normal" as I let Ralph out of his pen. The first thing he did was make a mad dash for the kitchen, jump up on the kitchen counter and knock a pot of coffee on the floor. The loud bang brought Guinevere running, all blurry eyed from sleep. "Mom! What the?!"

And the fight was back on.

1 comment:

  1. Now I have tears cause my face is sore from laughing

    ReplyDelete