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Alberta’s amazing natural beauty offers diverse landscapes to explore—the gentle sweep of the prairies, interrupted here and there by scratchy, craggy badlands, eventually rises into chiseled, towering mountains. But what is hidden away in such fantastic scenery that could affect our journey with our dogs? While in the province, Tessi and I sojourned at a friend’s place, which is tucked away in a neighbourhood in Calgary. Though there is a dog-friendly aspect to the city itself I should have delved into investigating, I couldn’t escape the bustle fast enough in my excitement to revel in the surrounding countryside. We took in destinations convenient for day tripping
  • Gondolas are a fun and easy way to admire the mountains from assorted lofty viewpoints. In Banff, Tessi and I headed up Sulphur Mountain in a four-seater cabin. Dogs can ride for free, but must be kept leashed while visiting.

We didn’t travel as far as Jasper; however, curiosity led me to read up on the canine policy of the Jasper SkyTram, since I had viewed the raw scenic beauty from it years ago. The company states well-behaved dogs are allowed, but must be muzzled during the ride (muzzle is provided). I’m not surprised, I guess, since the company packs up to 26 sightseers in a tramcar made to hold 30.

Keep in mind the air grows chillier at higher elevations. You may want to dress your furry companion in a coat if he or she easily feels the cold.

  • The presence of fresh glacial-fed lakes allowed Tessi a delicious convenient drink source. (Nevertheless, keep in mind some pooches’ systems are sensitive to water they are unused to.)
  • If Tessi and I had surrendered ourselves to the active pulse of Calgary, we could have taken its public transit as leashed dogs are allowed. Calgary Transit states: “Dogs are welcome on board for free, but there must be a leash on your furry friend. Other animals can also ride for free, but they need to be in a carrier or cage.”

As with many Canadian cities, Calgary offers its own share of off-leash parks.

  • South of the city, at the Okotoks Erratic, I freed Tessi for a much needed run. I took comfort in the idea that in the vast open countryside, I’d be able to spot any appearances of large animals, or even other 2-legged visitors since the destination isn’t a designated off-leash area. Beware of the nearby highway for pooches untrained in proper call-back.

Always, always please pick up after your dog, as families—families with children that run off the path and all over—also spend time in these places.

  • As we abandoned the diverse delightfulness of Alberta to start the long haul back to the familiarity of our home province of Ontario, I discovered one final treat—an off-leash area in the last bit of badlands we’d experience. It’s just off the main thruway at the Saamis Tepee in Medicine Hat. I was a bit unnerved after our wander when a fellow dog walker mentioned that rattlesnakes live in the region, though she has never encountered them herself.
  • Wildlife of all sizes and temperaments is everywhere:
    • Rattlesnakes inhabit the arid grasslands of the province. At Dinosaur Park, I asked aIMGP9082 local woman, who was playing docent for her visiting family, about this potential danger. She said they usually stay out of your way, but she recommended not using hands, or paws, to climb up onto unseen rock since snakes tend to sunbathe on them.
    • Speedy, bouncy hares darted all over the Calgary neighbourhood we stayed in. During our walks, Tessi yanked me constantly from her end of the leash in an effort to chase these unusual creatures—similar to the bunnies at home, yet different. As we left the neighbourhood on our final day, I needed to brake for a Labrador retriever pursuing one as it zigzagged across the road from one yard to another.
    • The scent of gophers had Tessi’s nose roaming at the Saamis Tepee before actually coming across one of the critters hiding in the undercarriage of my car. I was quite happy to let her chase it away. On the crest of Sulphur Mountain, however, she could only stare longingly from the end of her tether at the numerous golden-mantled ground squirrels popping up all over and I could tell the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep we saw filled her with intrigue.
    • We saw none of the bears, coyotes or cougars also calling the province home. Each species has its own inherent danger to be aware of. Due to the thick forests covering much of the mountainous region, I heeded the advice to keep dogs leashed. I kept imagining one kind of beast or another hiding behind any given section of trees. And, to add, these animals have been known to wander into the cities.
Important Note Keep in mind, when letting your dog loose that he or she should have excellent callback, especially in unfamiliar settings. Some of the places I free Tessi, I only do so because she is well trained and listens to my commands.

© Cheryl Smyth, 2016DSC_0090

This article is dedicated to Lynda, Henry and their schnauzer Phoebe. Their hospitality made our trip easier and most enjoyable. Thank you. I just found out (May 2016) that Phoebe has joined her doggy friends in heaven. I remember our neighbourhood walks, when I took Phoebe with us. Whereas Tessi strained on her leash to get those hares, Phoebe, who was used to their presence, paid no attention to them.   Comments Send your comments to me at or to my Facebook page and I’ll add them below.
  • The winter we spent there was very cold (-20ish) and Max didn't seem to want to go outside. I finally figured out that his feet were cold. Once I bought him boots, he was fine.