End of an Era – My Trail Dog Gets Old

Today the vet confirmed what we suspected for a while, but have been trying to ignore. Molly, our beloved shepherd/lab mix and my trusty trail dog, has entered her golden years. For the last couple of seasons our time out on the trails would increasingly be followed by limping. The vet suspects arthritis. While she is far from the end of her life (I hope), she doesn’t have that same oomph that she once did. Still seemingly youthful, the bursts of energy she musters are now countered with limping, and slow recovery. The high impact that comes with running behind a bike now appears to be a bit much for her. As the winter recedes and my focus shifts back to mountain biking, I’ve come to the realization that her days of joining me might be at an end.

Personally, I’ve never really liked riding alone. For me mountain biking is all about the opportunity to get out with good friends, be they human or canine, and enjoy the trails together. Plus there is the whole bears issue. There is a sense of safety in numbers, and although it is highly unlikely that should I encounter a crippling accident or suffer a bear attack, Molly would pull off Lassie style heroics to alert my family of my whereabouts, there is a certain comfort that I take in knowing that I have company with me.

My trail dog Molly scopes out the landing for me
Molly scopes out the landing for me

With the birth of our kids, getting out to ride became less about planning far off adventures with friends, and more about ducking out for a quick rip when the opportunity presented itself. I am fortunate to live minutes away from a great trail network in Burke mountain, and for a period it seemed there was hardly a summer weekend where Molly and I wouldn’t whip out for a ride. Sometimes a long one, sometimes as short as a 30 minute loop down Franks, one of my favourite local trails, but always the two of us. The sight of me collecting my helmet was enough to send her into a tail wagging frenzy, anxiously awaiting the moment the car door would open so she could jump in and assume her awkward half sitting, half standing pose as she braced herself against the corners while we made the trip to the trailhead. Once on the trails, she would cover at least twice the distance I would, constantly running ahead and behind as I laboured up the climb. Then the fun part would come. As I bombed down the descent, without fail she would be right there behind me, matching my speed, and in many cases surpassing it. A rustle in the trees would often send her charging out of sight after an elusive squirrel, but she would always catch back up, happily bounding after me. And when the ride was finished, she would eagerly be looking for more. We always had a good time out there.

Now as I gather up my gear in preparation for a ride, Molly still goes through enthusiastic ritual, but as much as it pains me, I know it is probably for her own good that I don’t take her along. When I return she greets me as if we haven’t seen each other in years, and acts as if everything is cool, but I’m sure I can see a hint of jealousy in her eyes.

Here’s a video I put together a few years ago of us our enjoying the local trails:

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