Last week I went up to Maine for a bit. Sadly, my mom’s dog Lucy had been hit by a car and I was heading up to help out. Some lady had hit Lucy while mom was checking her mail. Mom had Lucy on a leash, but somehow the driver didn’t see her and ran her down!
Now, before you panic, Lucy is and is going to be OK. She’s not dead or paralyzed, but she was pretty out of it after the accident in a combination of shock and painkillers. She had to get stitches and she had badly bruised her mouth, meaning she couldn’t eat solid foods for a while. You know what you can feed dogs who can’t eat solid foods? Microwaved babyfood with pills hiding inside!
I stuck around the house, using Lucy’s harness to lift her outside to go to the bathroom. I made sure she took her pills and that she didn’t chew her stitches. At one point we had to put a mitten on her, but I think by now, one week later, she’s already had the stitches out!
Now that Lucy is fully on the road to recovery, I want to write about another puppy that I met recently! But first, let me set the stage.
Now, where did I last leave off on my adventures…
After Pauli, Shorena, and I had our dental work done, we decided to head off on a two-ish hour train ride south of Lviv to a village Pauli had head of with some good hiking. We spent 3 of our 2 grivna tram tickets to get ourselves to the train station and got an early start to the day.
At the train station, we bought some delicious snacks! We got a couple of nice pastries and a bottle of Borjomi mineral water! Pauli and I each got a cheese Danish. I was looking forward to it, but when I bit into it, it was dry and horrible. Shorena contentedly munched on her breakfast sandwich while Pauli wrote postcards on the train ride. Before long, we had arrived at Slavske!
We only had a vague idea of where to go, but the village was nestled in a quaint valley. Really, any direction we picked would lead to a nice mountain hike! We stocked up on supplies before wandering into the heart of Slavske. We bought a small baguette, a bag of croissants, and a sausage. After all, what else do you need when you go hiking?
There aren’t many landmarks in Slavske, so we headed for the most prominent one we could see:
We parked on a bench and made ourselves some “sandwiches” with our supplies.
Satiated, we wandered in an upward direction towards a cemetery. Maybe the path picked up again on the other side? Turns out it didn’t.
As the day began to warm, we realized we had not thought to get any water! We passed on visiting the shady teahouse nestled sort of against a garage and found a little convenience store. With two liters of water and a giant box of juice, we were ready to set out again! But we had only the foggiest notion of which direction to head. Fortunately, we found a touristic map!
We wandered down the road, contemplating whether we should rob villagers of their bicycles. We decided not to. According to the map, we should cross a small bridge and bear left shortly thereafter. As fate would have it, we would never find even the beginning of the hiking trail.
When we found what seemed a likely candidate for the hiking trail, we veered off the paved road. The puppy followed us. We picked our way between the village houses and got to the beginning of the farmlands very quickly. Two old ladies chatted by a fence. We approached them.
“Do you speak English?” we asked, already knowing the answer. The toothless one smiled at us and shook her head, so we tried again, asking in Russian, “Do you speak Russian?” Their eyes lit up with recognition and they told us that they kinda spoke Russian.
Not knowing the word for “hiking,” I asked the pair if they knew where the “tourist path” was. They looked dumbfounded, but we figured, there can’t be that many tourist paths. I mean, when non-villagers are hanging around, where do they go? The women consulted each other in Ukrainian and then responded, “Are you trying to go to the Канадка?” None of us knew that word.
“Да!” we replied. With a flurry of hand gestures they pointed us in the direction of the Канадка. Confident in our destination, we set out up the hill, puppy in tow.
We had a backpack with us, full of sweaters, water, and postcards. It wasn’t terribly heavy, but it doesn’t breathe that well, so we took turns swapping it back and forth, especially as it got hotter and hotter. We weren’t the only ones feeling the heat, though. Le Pup’s tongue wagged out wetly as he sometimes led the charge or alternately lagged behind, pumping his short legs.
At one of our first breaks, we broke out the delicious cool water to quench our thirst. It was then that we discovered that we had mistakenly bought seltzer water. Not exactly the most refreshing choice on a hot hike. We finished the juice and choked down some fizzy water. Le Pup looked like he was hurting, so we tried to get him to drink some. He was not interested in drinking from the bottlecap or from our hands, so we had to get creative.
When Le Pup first started following us, Pauli recounted some bad experiences he had had with dogs–a really bad one in childhood, and a scary time in Batumi getting cornered by an angry stray while out for a jog. He stated a strong preference for cats.
As we continued climbing, we felt increasingly like we had missed the hiking trail by a long shot. The path kept ending at people’s houses. We would have to double back and take the other fork, but we still never seemed to be progressing. We were also mostly in the hot sun, but that couldn’t be helped at the moment.
When the road ended at a farm again, we decided to find the farmer and ask where to go. We saw a young man pushing a giant tilling machine up a hill and followed him when he disappeared behind a bush. Pushing onward, we came to a clearing where the young man had begun plowing. To the left, three elderly folks, two kids, and a baby were relaxing under a tree. The boys stopped playing as the whole family turned to stare at us.
I can’t blame them, after all, three obvious foreigners had materialized out of nowhere and approached from an odd direction. From their perspective, we could have come out of their own house or from the woods somewhere. Pauli and I approached with Le Pup at our heels. We established Russian as our shared language and began asking for directions.
“Is that your dog?” one of the women interrupted.
“No, actually. Uh, he is just with us.” Everyone laughed. Two six year-old boys tried to attack Le Pup with toy guns and a plastic knife. We explained our route and destination as best we could. The grandfather laughed, as if to say, “how the heck did you end up here?” When we asked if we could get to Канадка from the farm, he laughed again and said, “Yeah, you see the treeline at the top of the hill? There’s a road there, should take you straight to Канадка.”
I looked up at the top of the hill. “How do we get there?”
The grandfather pointed at the five fences between us and the treeline. Bouncing his hand over the fences he said, “Hop! Hop! Hop!”
Shorena joined us and the baby in grandfather’s arms reached out to her. She took the baby as the grandparents told us that he was named Taras and that he was six months old. As soon as Shorena had Taras in her arms, one of the boys stopped playing and stomped over to his grandfather, a scowl crinkling his little face. He glared at Shorena and whispered into his grandfather’s ear. “This is Taras’s older brother. He is very protective of his baby brother,” the grandfather laughed, taking back Taras.
One of the old women began explaining to Pauli in German how their grandchildren attended school in the village and were studying English and German. As we parted ways, we knew that they would be laughing about the time a Georgian, American, and German randomly showed up in the middle of their field.
After Hop!-ping the five fences and following the road for a bit in the hot sun, we finally found some shade beneath a shed.
The house had several beehives and as we pondered our next move, a six or seven year-old girl came skipping down the path. She stopped dead when she saw us. We were definitely not on a path frequented by tourists. We waved, and asked the girl “Which way to Канадка?” She flailed one arm pointing us back and to the left. She beat a hasty retreat, running up the hill away from us.
Our path took us around to the front of a lone house. We saw the girl run around from the side of the house inside, shouting for someone. Her dad came out, and with him, a lion of a dog. When the family’s dog saw Le Pup, it sprang into action. Man, if you ever facedown a dog bigger than you charging straight at you, you might start counting down your moments left on Earth. Le Pup fled as fast as his tiny legs could carry him. He was staying barely ahead of the huge hound, but there was no way that Le Pup could escape.
Luckily, the man yelled at his dog and called it off, shaming it back to the porch. Le Pup returned to our feet panting, with his little heart beating out of his chest. The man heard us out and pointed us in the direction of Канадка. His daughter, no longer afraid of us, waved goodbye as we headed around their property.
We turned one final corner and in one moment saw and understood “Канадка”!
The top of the chair lift spilled out onto a trio of little cottages and some walking paths. Families were arriving from the bottom of the mountain and popping over to the scenic overlook before heading back down. Inside one of the cottages a woman hawked coffee and snacks. What drew our eye, however, was the barbecue she was operating. We placed an order for three plates of shashlik and grilled potatoes.
Shorena and I decided to pony up for a round-trip ride on Канадка. We rode through the trees and down the mountain to a small park with some swings and a restroom. When we returned, Pauli had finished off a number of postcards.
We settled down with our plasticware and our local beer and enjoyed an awesome mountaintop-cooked meal!
Before you ask, of course we shared with Le Pup.
We wandered over to see the view that all the locals had ridden up for before heading back down. It was going to be dark before long and we had a train to catch.
We got back to town with about an hour to spare. We had coffee at a hotel and then got some cider and some peanuts at a roadside hut. They had a TV and we watched a competition show where contestants had to make the judges laugh. Every round they succeeded, they won some money.
We hopped on our train back to Lviv and settled down for the night. Our adventure was nearly at an end!
BUT NOT YET!
The next morning, we woke up and got ready to leave the apartment. We had a whole bottle of vodka and half a sausage left, however. Having finished our MacCoffee’s for the morning, we decided to have a traditional Ukrainian breakfast of sausage and vodka!
Pauli had an early bus to catch. It was not easy to find. No one seemed to know where it was, including us! He was traveling back to Leipzig via Krakow, and had a long road ahead of him. We bid him farewell and waited for our train back to Kyiv.
Shorena and I spent another day or so in Kyiv, doing some souvenir shopping and seeing the sights. I made a new friend and revisited some old places I remembered from when I had been there in 2008.
Having spent an awesome week in Ukraine, I returned to New York, dreaming of where I might travel on my next adventure. I got a few ideas on the flight…