Father’s Day Weekend or One of the Reasons I Hang Out With Dogs

The last time I saw my father alive was Father’s Day weekend, 2012. That means it’s been three years, and it’s incredible to realize both how long and short that feels. The urge to send a text about a climbing trip comes less and less, and now it’s more a quiet conversation in the back of my head. Three years. A lot can happen in three years.

I like to be outside on days that make me think of my dad. I’ve had friends join me for hikes, I’ve climbed outside, I’ve climbed inside, I’ve been rained out. The actual thing doesn’t matter that much, so long as it’s something I think he’d have fun doing. This year, for the first time, I spent both days of the weekend with dogs.

My dad always had dogs. First there was Mr Scott, a german shepard my grandfather swore my dad stole from him, who stood guard over me and my sister like we were his pups. Then there was Sadie, a beautiful german shorthair pointer who ruled the living room and went on point for small song birds in the backyard. She was field trained and some of my favorite memories of her are with my dad, his keys jangling off of a carbineer as he threw the canvas training bird. His last dog was Kobe, a block-headed and sweet yellow lab who went into the field a few times but was really happiest being spoiled by my dad and step-mom. There are more photos of Kobe than any of the other dogs, which means Kobe is in some of the last pictures of my dad where he really looks like the man I remember. It was one of the last long weekends I spent with my dad and I remember walking along the shore in Long Beach Island with Kobe, throwing a stick into the ocean and watching the dog fearlessly jump into the waves, unstoppable.

Dad and Kobe

This is the first time I’ve had dogs in my life since moving to Seattle. Topher and Giles are adorable English Cocker Spaniel monsters. True field dogs, they excel at bringing me everything in my apartment, and it often takes a few minutes in the morning to track down shoes. They aren’t mine, but they love me anyway. We left early Saturday morning and headed out to the North Cascades to hike Lookout Mountain. I’ve spent a lot of time in the mountains this past year, but it’s been mostly alpine, with snow and a large group. It felt strange to grab a light day pack, even if I still made sure to bring a first aid kit, head lamp and spare lamp and bivy, just in case. WAC has me a little paranoid.

The trail was surprisingly hard to find, a small pull out for a parking lot and a nearly camouflaged maker indicating the trail-head. From there, you head up. The trail is soft but constantly switch backing through a forest. Everything is covered in moss and light filters through the upper canopy like we are in some sort of fairytale. This place still feels utterly foreign, more Ferngully-primeval imagined world than the rolling hills of the East Coast. At one spot the trees open up but the underbrush crowds through and our legs are scraped by blackberry thorns and thistles. The dogs are on leash but relentless—despite their small size, they seem to have endless energy. We let them loose when the trail pours into an alpine meadow and even tighter switchbacks. Wildflowers spill over the dirt and the dogs are russet slashes in green, bounding ahead of us and running back, over and over.

Justin and his boys

We reach the fire lookout and the views are, of course, amazing. There’s a field of scrubby grass and we find a stick and toss it back and forth; Giles has a mouth of sawdust and a dog-grin. They sleep the entire car-ride back. In total—a 9.4 mile hike with 4500 feet of elevation gain/loss. Not bad for little doggers. It feels like a hike my dad would have done, though he would have been able to point at the mountains surrounding us at the top and named each one. He probably had stories for a few—of why he didn’t climb it or the adventure that happened when he tried. It’s frustrating not to know, to make these things up in my head.

PC Justin Treadway

PC Justin Treadway

I spend Sunday with my friend Elaine and her dog Eugene. Elaine’s the kind of friend that understands difficult days and does what she can to help difficult days be a little easier. We meet up for a decadent brunch surrounded by the muscled men of Queen Anne. It’s a relief to be in a place with so many young people—there aren’t daughters with fathers anywhere near us. We head to Seward Park in south Seattle and Eugene happily stretches across the back seat of my car, her brown head against the fabric of the seat. When we take her down to the lapping waves of the lake, we realize—she’s never seen whitecaps before. These are tiny things, but they disappear in front of her and she’s afraid at first, before deciding she can Kill All The Water. We start calling her a Salty Seadog and she does her best to run off to kill more water, sending us chasing her down the pebbled beach. Once we get her back on a leash we walk for a while, exploring the old hatchery, dipping back to the water on the way back to let Eugene cool off before heading back to my car. We spend the rest of the day watching bad movies and meeting up with friends to watch the sun set and drink wine on a rooftop. It isn’t a very dad-themed day, but it’s perfect, surrounded by people that I care about, laughing and sharing stories.

Eugene attacks the water

I think my dad would laugh if he found out that my plan, over Father’s Day weekend, was to spend as much time with dogs as possible. I think he’d like them all, though I’m not really sure. That’s the hardest part—I don’t get to send my dad pictures of Topher and Giles leaping over fences, or Eugene discovering how strong she is compared to water. I don’t get to tell him about my boyfriend and how he teases me for climbing mostly on ropes but, sometimes, puts on a harness and comes to my side of the gym. I don’t get to tell him about the group of women I know and how we easily move from climbing shoes to cocktail dresses, ready for whatever adventure we’ve created for ourselves.

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