A Hiker's Best Friend
There are countless ways to stay entertained on the trail. You can take in the views. You can sing the song that has been stuck in your head all week ("Summer Night" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Hey, don't judge me! It's not my fault it's such a great song). You can call out the flora and fauna you come across. You can talk about the NBA playoffs (oh goodness, it's almost over and then we’ve got nothing!). We have, however, an option to stay entertained most can only dream of.
We have Zoey!
Staying entertained on the trail has never been so easy. Zoey likes to take the lead to make sure we are in the clear and then jumps back to the middle Between Andy and myself. She's always checking to make sure the one behind her is safe and not drifting too far from the group. She chases squirrels and the occasional falling rock down hillsides. She takes in views at overhangs and distinctively goes toward rock faces off trail. In case you’re new to these postings, Zoey isn’t some strange girl we picked up on the trail, she’s Andy's two-year old boxer pup.
Zoey has been an absolute champion on the trail and it’s with great sadness I announce that she is no longer on the trail with us. It's not because she can't handle the terrain. She has walked nearly 1,000 miles with us and shown no signs of stopping. The problem is that she's a damn boxer. Boxers have short snouts meaning overheating comes easy. As the summer is kicking into high gear, along with the degrees, Zoey just can't take the heat so we are getting her out of the kitchen. With Zoey leaving the trail I thought I'd write to any of y'all who are thinking about bringing your little Fido on a long hike.
When your furry friend is out on the trail with you, you have to be observant of their needs. Are they thirsty? Stop and get them some water. And, YES dogs can get Giardia so make sure you give them filtered water. Maybe Ceasar Millan can train a dog to know the difference between a clean mountain spring and a dirty rushing stream, but I know I can't, so don't confuse them by letting them drink at some sources and not at others.
Just like you, Sparky's going to expend a lot more energy than usual on the trail so you must make sure they are receiving more energy than usual. For Zoey, we give her the same amount of food as usual but add on a tablespoon or so of olive oil to get her much needed extra calories the trail calls for. The olive oil (in a plastic bottle to save weight) will easily fit in Zoey's backpack along with six days worth of food. Depending on how you ask, a dog can carry 10-30% of their own body weight. I've only heard 30% once and I can't imagine putting a dog through that. We keep Zoey's bag around seven pounds on the first day after a resupply which is just under 10% of her 72lb frame.
The worst part of having a dog on the trail has to be (some) other hikers. While most are just happy to see a dog and have their moral uplifted by the loving lady others tend to get a little aggressive. They say dogs aren't meant to be out there on the trail. They're right, dogs are meant to sit on a couch all day in a small apartment waiting for us to get home and get 0 exercise (I hope you read that in a sarcastic voice). Some claim that we are using her as a pack animal. The opposite is true. While Zoey carries her own food, Andy carries her sleeping bag and coat. It's ok if an audible "awwww" just exited your mouth at the thought of a doggie sleeping bag because it’s adorable.
Before Queen Z can get in the tent and get bundled up in her Ruffwear sleeping bag she has a few steps that must be followed. First, we have to check her paws and make sure they aren't too red from the tough days work. If they look pink we add musher's cream (same cream used on the Iditarod) between her toes. Second, but most importantly don't forget to check her for ticks. We once found 15 in one day! Dogs stay low to the ground and are covered in fur making them far more susceptible to ticks than us. Zoey also loves rolling around in tall grass. Good luck limiting that. Zoey's last stop before stepping inside the tent is getting a good wipe down from her dirty paws. Your tent is your home. Your small, stinky, already dirty home. No need to bring in extra filth.
Once she's in, brace yourself for a fight for space similar only to the coveted armrest fight that ensues in the first few minutes prior to take off on every plane in the world. Only this will not end in a couple minutes; Zoey will paw, kick, and nose herself into position all night. Stay strong! If you don't have a dog bed like Zoey’s, this will be less of an issue.
You have another living creature counting on you on the trail and with that comes responsibilities. The responsibilities are well worth it to have such a moral boost with you all the time! Man's best friend is also a hiker's best friend. Don't let anyone tell you different!
I'm thru hiking the AT north bound to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. If you're interested in finding out more, and contributing to my cause, please visit my HikeFor account. Remember to follow my journey here at HighlandFrog.com and to "like" the HighlandFrog Facebook page to be notified about future articles and updates! Thanks for your support!
One step at a time,
Geoffrey, aka Messiah
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