This incredibly difficult year is almost over. I have gone through a divorce, started to build a new life, and see great hope for the future. However, the greatest pain that I have dealt with is losing my fight to tame my Australian Shepard, Brook. After seven years, I had to put Brook down in March of this year.
In moving back to Indiana and reconnecting with so many old friends, I came to understand the connection everyone had with Brook. Typically, the first question from an old friend was about Brook, who they had come to know and love through our many Adventures documented in this Blog, Instagram (@AussieBrook), and on Facebook. If you followed my blog closely, you got a glimpse of the conflict I had with Brook, highlighted in the post “My Dog is Complicated”. I have had many dogs as documented in my 2017 post “Always a Dog”. As a child, my first dog, Cindy, died in my arms after being hit by a car. Cindy II finished raising me and so many other great dogs accompanied my Adventures in Life.
Brook was perfect, beautiful, smart, athletic, but she was also an Australian Shepard with entrenched herding behavioral instincts. As a puppy and young dog she was awesome. I was the Alpha and she was OK with wanting to please me. In her teenage years we were inseparable living in Bellingham, WA, hanging out at Brewpubs, and beginning her backpacking experience in the North Cascades of Washington.
Back in Oregon and through her twenties, we conquered incredible adventures together, but stress was building in our relationship. Everything we did had to be negotiated. In 2019 our backpacking adventures typically included issues with Brook’s behavior.
Brook’s last backpacking adventure was the Strawberry Mountain Trek in early 2020 where she let it be known that she was done with backpacking. What had become obvious was that Brook considered herself the Alpha of our pack and that was not going to work.
The last 2 years I expended incredible energy to manage Brook’s behavior. My grandson was around a lot and Brook could not be trusted around him. We were always on walks where I had to avoid other people, especially with dogs involved.
But she continued to change, you could see it in her eyes. She was struggling with her need to be in control. I kept trying to figure it out by investigating if there were medical issues. Nothing worked, and she had deep behavioral issues probably connected to her herding instincts. It all came to a head one evening when she would not let me put on my crocs to go out to the hot tub. I reached down to put on my other sandals and she furiously attacked me. This was such a decisive event, and I knew that it was over. She had to be put down.
I am ready to move forward to start my new life, but I had to first write Brook’s final chapter. I’m hoping that the pain of failing Brook will end so that I can cherish the good life that we had. There will be another dog in my life, I’m thinking a really calm Golden Retriever who will accompany me through my Fourth Quarter.
Suiattle River Trail
April 15-16, 2017, camped at Canyon Creek.
Finally a fairly nice weekend in 2017 for a backpacking trip with my Australian Shepard, Brook. She is about 17 months old with some backpacking experience, however, this would be her first with the responsibility to carry her own pack. All of this is in preparation for more extended trips as soon as I retire again at the end of June. I decided to take on the Suiattle River Trail because of the relatively low elevation which I assumed would bode well for snow level. Turns out there was no snow all the way to PCT mile mark 2540. The trail was actually fairy dry and the stream crossings were all easy.
The 23 mile drive in on FR 26 turned out to be uneventful as well. There are enough potholes on the second half gravel portion to force you to keep your speed down, but overall the road was in good shape. Only a couple of cars at the trailhead and I only saw 10 people all weekend. River trails tend to be fairly level with occasional views of the river but rarely any scenic vistas. That would hold true for this Trail, however, the lush green vegetation with many beautiful stream crossings offers its own unique charm.
The real goal for this trip was to test Brook’s interest and ability to be my backpacking buddy. I put a full 32 oz Nalgene in each side of her Ruffwear Palisades Pack. She was not thrilled by this requirement to carry her own pack, but she was committed to pleasing me. She figured out what her cadence would be and soon she was in total work mode never straying more than a few feet from my heels. Actually, I am very proud of how she handled this. You don’t train an Aussie as much as you provide opportunities for them to learn. She totally understands the purpose of the backpack now and I believe is honored to have the responsibility.
The hike into Canyon Creek was relatively easy, which I am extremely grateful for considering I am still just a (old) weekend warrior right now. Considering 7 miles in and then an extra 3 miles up the PCT and 7 miles out on Sunday, my slightly sore muscles are not bad at all. The stream crossings we both beautiful and relatively easy.
The campsite was primo with an excellent fire pit, unfortunately, I did not plan for a fire and failed in trying to start one with only a bit of toilet paper and a few matches. Brook managed the campsite with great dedication and thankfully did not find anything with sweet dog aroma to roll in. Temps got down to about 35 but Brook did not get cold and I love my new REI Magma 10 sleeping bag. Brook did enjoy snuggling next to me but was very well behaved inside the tent. It was a great weekend trip on a very beautiful wilderness trail. I am all the more motivated for retirement now.
Introducing our New Aussie, Brook
At the end of my Timberline to Cascade Locks backpacking segment I was crushed by the news that my beloved dog, Abby, had died unexpectedly. Abby was 12+ and not able to backpack with me any longer, but losing her at a time when I was experiencing a dream that she should have been sharing with me was tough. My wife and I knew we would find a new dog when we felt the time was right. Well this post is dedicated to introducing you to our new dog, Brook, another Australian Shepard who is destined to be my new backpacking buddy.
Brook came from Gearhart Aussies on the Oregon Coast about a month and we have survived puppy training. Plenty of accidents have been cleaned up and not to much chewing damage has occurred.
There is a period of time with the new puppy where your lives are not yours. You have to cater to the needs of the puppy at the expense of your own desires. However, you know it is short-lived especially when dealing with the intelligence that comes with the Australian Shepard breed.
Brook is a Blue Merle Aussie with piecing blue eyes. Her color scheme is beautiful with perfect marking of the reddish fur. She has already shown her commitment to being a Broncos fan during last weekend’s AFC Championship. Now we will prepare for the Super Bowl.
We will also hit the trail soon to expose Brook to the discipline needed for backpacking. I like her disposition of displaying initial caution with strangers or unusual activity, however, she quickly evaluates the situation and reacts appropriately.
My wife works in a hospital and would like for Brook to possibly accompany her as a comfort dog for her patients. I think Brook will be perfect for this duty. But the primary job for Brook will be to provide companionship for us, function as a watchdog and allow us to love her unconditionally for the rest of her life. A Dog’s life is so tough.
Here is a video recap of the Gales Creek Hike in Tillamook State Forest.