BC goes to the Dogs

Base Camp is going to the dogs. Last night I heard the first dog barking in BC. At some point every year they will follow climbers to BC and then hang around until the season ends. In 2006 we actually had one dog follow us all the way to C2 including crossing the ladders. He hung around there until one night when he got into our food stores and ate two dozen eggs. The next day he was sent back to BC.

I am a dog person and I think they must sense it. I had just finished a phone call home outside a tea house in Tengbouche. I was admiring the millions of stars visible in the black sky when I sensed I wasn’t alone. I looked down to my right and there was a dog sitting there next to me looking up too. He just glanced over at me as to say “Hey Stranger. What we look’n at?” Once I realized he was no threat I shoved my hands deeper in my pockets and went back to picking out constellations and looking for satellites and meteors. I assumed he would move on but a few minutes later I looked down and he was still there. This time I am sure he said “Hey stranger. Got a biscuit?”

All of this made me think about our two dogs. Although they are both Golden Retrievers they are different as night and day. Kili (short for Kilimanjaro” the female is prim and prissy and would not lower herself to chase a ball. Khumbu my male is a 96 lb puppy. He has proved to be our challenge. He probably wasn’t a year old when I came home from work to discover he had chewed up a brand new pair of prescription reading glasses. I didn’t know what to do so I Googled “my dog ate my glasses”. Did you know you can Google just about anything? There were several veterinarians who had posted that the best thing to do was to feed them cotton. The cotton will entrain the glass and hopefully prevent a perforated bowel. So I got the cotton balls from my wife’s make up stuff and proceeded to feed him about half a bale. Did I mention that he will eat anything? We watched him closely over the next few days and he never suffered any adverse affects although he did crap a sweater and a couple of pair of socks.

Christmas before last my kids were in town with their dogs – my grand dogs. One of my daughters had given the dogs a racket ball to play with. I expressed the concern that it might be a choke hazard besides which those things don’t grow on racket ball trees. Not more than an hour later I hear a yell and look up to see Khumbu staggering around the family room choking on that racket ball. I didn’t know what to do so I jumped up and grabbed him in a bear hug from behind and gave him a sharp squeeze. He coughed the ball half way across the room. I was pretty angry with my daughter and the dog but one of our friends who was visiting said “wow, I have never seen someone give a dog the Heimlich”. That diffused the tension.

Khumbu isn’t just a menace to himself. When I started training for Everest I had a very steep hill behind my home that I would go up and down. Khumbu was all in for this. Kili on the other hand was perfectly content to sit on the love seat at my wife’s feet with her paws delicately crossed quietly contemplating the meaning of life, or a dog treat, whichever. Now Khumbu had no interest in going up and down the hill. He isn’t that dumb. His preference was to set at the top of the hill and watch me. Occasionally he will roll one of his toys down the hill and go chase it. After losing a couple of toys he has developed the technique of standing still and watching to see where they land before barreling down the hill after them. His favorite toy was this big hard rubber thing. I can tell you it is real hard because he has managed to hit me in the back of the same leg twice with it. Once it left a nasty bruise. As winter turned to spring I began to do my long night workouts. I probably should point out that Khumbu is a pretty non-discriminating dog when it comes to toys. If he can’t find his favorite toy a big rock will do.

In early March I was working out and my MP3 player, fortuitously it seems, had just died. I had reached the bottom and started back up the hill when I heard the unmistakeable sound of a rock caroming down the hill. I caught the briefest glance at it in my headlamp and turned sideways as it hurtled pass in the dark. Before the adrenaline could even start to circulate my 97lb rock chasing fur ball came tearing past me at near terminal velocity. Thus ended his joining me on future training outings. Of course my wife took his side explaining that he was only “making your training more realistic”. Can you believe that some people think they know what dogs are thinking?

Tomorrow we move up to C1 and then C2.