Slopeside with James Patrick: Four-legged fixtures at Pat's Peak
HENNIKER -- Roxy is the unofficial queen of Pat's Peak.
A 5-year-old golden retriever, Roxy simply stares at the doors in the ticketing area when she wants to go outside. No whining necessary. That would be undignified.
The door was quickly opened Saturday morning by her attentive staff and Roxy wandered out to the ski hill and plopped down in the snow. She was patiently waiting for the 10 a.m. lineup, when all the ski and snowboard instructors line up with their students and throw snowballs at her. Roxy doesn't seem to mind; she eats the snowballs.
Just another day in the life for a golden retriever at Pat's Peak.
Don't get the idea that just any dog is welcome to wander around Pat's Peak. On-leash dogs are welcome, but it's the staff's golden retrievers that rule the roost.
Roxy is Kris Blomback's dog. Blomback is the general manager of Pat's Peak, so his dog gets special privileges, like wandering around with no leash. Kasey, Roxy's golden retriever predecessor, also used to rule the roost at Pat's Peak.
"I have no personality," Blomback said. "Roxy is my extension. People that don't know who I am know Roxy."
Blomback seems like a laid-back guy, so naturally when ski patroller Bob Boucher asked if he could bring his golden retriever with him to help the ski patrol, the answer was sure.
"I don't think there was much discussion," Boucher said. "I asked and he just said, 'Yeah, sure.' "
That was about 10 years and a different dog ago. Blizzard was Boucher's first ski patrol dog but was hit by a car and died at age 4. Toby, a 7-year-old golden retriever, has been trained to chase snowmobiles up to the top of the mountain since he was a puppy. While Boucher sits on the sled, Toby chases behind. After five or six runs up the hill, Toby gets to ride on the snowmobile up the hill.
Though he hangs out with the ski patrol, Toby is not quite a rescue dog. No ski resort in the state of New Hampshire has a true rescue dog, though they are common in the West. Toby's job is to calm children down when they fall on a run. Boucher skis up and lets kids pet Toby and talk to him to help keep them calm.
"He is fully trained," Boucher said. "If you drop a hot dog or a hamburger, he'll find it and rescue it ... He's my best friend. I've got the best of both worlds. I work with my best friend."
Roxy doesn't so much work as hang out near Blomback's office. If a guest sits on Blomback's couch, they're informed they will have to stand up if Roxy comes into the room. You can't sit in her spot.
In the morning, the staff feeds Roxy her breakfast. Each staff member gives her a single dog treat. That's not the best way to track Roxy's calories, but Blomback just shrugs at the notion of keeping track of such things. The only place Roxy isn't allowed is the kitchen in the main lodge. She'll get right up to the dividing line in the floor that separates the kitchen from the dining area.
On Saturday, a black Lab showed up with its owner in tow. It's hard to get traction on a slippery ski hill when you're walking an eager dog. Roxy gave a friendly sniff hello, then calmly walked back across the deck to get more love and affection from her human subjects. Being queen has its privileges.
James Patrick's Slopeside column appears each Friday during the ski season. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.