True Tales: Canine Throwdown

I stared into my dog’s big, brown eyes. “I’m so sorry,” I said, fighting back tears. And then I threw her off a cliff.

Three days earlier, a few friends and I had ventured out on a mid-winter ski trip up Mount Blackmore. When it was time to head back, we decided to traverse along the ridgeline and drop down directly above Blackmore Lake. The ridge hike took longer than predicted, and we were tired and hungry by the time we were ready to drop toward the lake. “Where’s Tikanni?” I asked my boyfriend. We’d seen her a few minutes before, and assumed that she followed the others, waiting for us below. Maybe she was in the parking lot, waiting for us to arrive? We waited over an hour hoping she would show up before calling it a night.

The next day, she wasn’t at the trailhead. I skied to Blackmore Lake, thinking I’d encounter her there, but I had to leave her for another wintery night. The day after, I retraced our path to Blackmore, and then slowly back down along the ridge. Midafternoon, I reached the place where we had last seen her. Had she wondered off in a different direction and gotten lost, buried in an avalanche, or attacked by a cougar and left to die?

“Tikanni!” I screamed and heard a faint bark in the distance. I slowly made my way back up, trying to follow the sound. There she was: staring down from a 30-foot cliff. She had fallen onto a small ledge and there was no safe way for me to reach her. Sadly, I skied down while she howled in the distance, left outside for one more night.

Early next morning, we packed our ski bags and headed back up. Finally there, I roped in and my boyfriend slowly lowered me down towards the cliff. As I approached her, the snow beneath me gave way—now I was stranded with my dog. There was no way I could pull us out of there, and down was the only way out.

I had no way to hold both Tikanni and the rope on the way down. I couldn’t take her with me, but I wasn’t about to leave her there—my only option was to throw her off the cliff. As she flew through the air, the moments we spent together flashed before my eyes. She disappeared into the snow, and was gone. I held my breath until she suddenly burst out of the snowpack. I managed to make it off that cliff with the rope stopping five feet from the bottom—close enough to jump down. After sleeping for two days straight, Tikanni was back to normal—except for her new fear of heights.