My first dog in a string of furbabies was Sammie the Wonderlab. Unfortunately, she somehow didn’t get the “lab” memo. She hated other dogs, couldn’t swim, and frankly, wasn’t very bright. Oh, she did enjoy a few labbie things, like wading pools, playing in the sprinkler, and her personal favorite daily activity: running outside in the morning to retrieve our newspaper, and usually a few neighbors’ papers, as well. Her second favorite activity was bounding through our electric fence to chase squirrels. She never learned the “come” command, so our neighbors would be continuously amused by me driving around in my soccer-mom van, door ajar, calling, “Sammie, CHEESE.” Don’t judge; it worked. I usually could round up Son 2 this way, as well.
As Sammie got older, her forays afield slowed as her arthritis progressed. Eventually we would let her out in the morning, help her down the stairs, walk her out to the newspaper, put it in her mouth and help her back inside, adaptivity at its finest.
Soon we realized, after carrying her 65 pound self down the deck stairs multiple times a day, that we needed a solution to help her still enjoy her own backyard. Hubs came up with the brilliant idea of building a ramp. Oh, it was a beauty! Edges so she wouldn’t slip off, artificial grass to prevent slippage, a gentle angle to ease the descent.
Hubs was justifiably proud … until we realized that no amount of cajoling or cheese curds would get that girl to use said ramp. Eventually she did partake of it, albeit while being snuggled safely in our arms. If we were not immediately accessible to her, she would choose the other set of stairs and tumble down them.
We now live in the Colorado mountains, Sammie is in heaven chasing squirrels and stealing newspapers, and HRH Lily is our constant canine companion. Lily is perhaps a smidge brighter than Sammie, but since she is afraid of plastic bags, the refrigerator and her reflection, I’m guessing she wouldn’t use a ramp, either.
Recently I heard that the Colorado Department of Transportation is considering building an animal crossing over or under I-70. This is the main access to Colorado’s most popular ski areas, and along with rock slides, avalanches, blizzards and out-of-staters, wildlife/car collisions are an increasing problem. Some areas of Colorado have already built similar wildlife crossings. I tried to read the scientific data regarding their efficacy, but I got distracted thinking about the definition of ungulates vs. carnivores, and if there are any carnivorous ungulates … Basically my skimpy research seems to conclude that those who build them think they are peachy keen, and usage has a lot to do with how they are designed, the chances of human encounters, and accompanying fencing.
I do wonder how we get the animals to actually use these designated crossings. I can’t help thinking about poor Sammie and her rampway. Although she probably wasn’t in any way smarter than the average bear, I think her refusal to participate in the manmade easement is typical animal behavior.
Perhaps we could design snazzy signs to encourage animal participation and point them in the right direction? Employ a wave of friendly crossing guards? A social media blitz? T-shirts and other free stuff given to the first 500 ungulates to cross the road?
Call me crazy, but I think the money could be better spent by directing funds toward a light rail system to get folks safely off the roads and to the Summit County ski resorts. I’m sure the ungulates and carnivores would thank us.