Here are a couple of screen shots I took from the NOAA website on days my pups and I have braved the weather and hiked. Like USPS delivery people, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays our journeys. The shot above does not mention the 30 plus mile an hour winds that we had here, punctuated by gusts up to 60 mph. Very exciting conditions! The photo below is pretty typical of weather in high winter. The dogs love it; I simply layer up until l resemble the Michelin man.
We hike daily. I use the term ‘hiking’ as shorthand. For me it includes pack hikes as well as the walks we take in our lovely area. Last year we averaged 3.25 miles a day for both pack & trail hiking.
My preference is to hike in the off-season. We’re almost always the only ones out on the trail, and oh, how I enjoy the solitude. As soon as the weather breaks, other humans emerge. Where were they holed up during the polar vortices of recent winters or that wind storm on Monday? (Weenies!)
I’ve always taken long walks with whatever dogs grace my life. Once I found out about Dog Scouts of America’s Trail and Pack Dog titling program, I became addicted to the activities.
Kiyo is the first dog to earn their 1,000 mile trail dog and 1,000 mile pack dog titles, and has continued to be the first to earn subsequent 1,000 mile titles for both pack and trail dogs. We’re working on her 5,000 mile titles this year. His Redness’s goals for this year include his 4,000 mile trail & pack dog titles.
There are a number of performance people I know who scoff at this accomplishment. “Any dog can walk.”
That’s true. Most dogs can walk.
How many can walk in a mannerly fashion and not drag their owners like a kite on a string? My two will sit politely on the side of the trail as people and other dogs pass. They don’t bolt after wildlife – rabbits, deer, squirrels and even an occasional fox — that crosses our path.
Further, how many of those naysayers have made the commitment to take their dogs for more than a cursory stroll around the block? Even when I was bedridden with Lyme Disease last June, I got myself together so my 2 companions got at least a mile of exercise daily.
Dogs also need to be trained to use a pack. Neither of mine would have appreciated having a pack plunked on their back unexpectedly. There’s also added conditioning that dogs require to ramp up to full hikes with a laden pack.
The naysayers also miss this: hiking is a wonderful way to enable dog owners to enter dog performance sports. I’ve encouraged multiple people to hike with their canines to earn the DSA’s first titles. A number of those have gone on to parkour, nose work, agility and obedience. Every dog sport enhances the bond between people and their four-legged friends. Who cares what sport helped pave that path?
The real reason we hike, though, is not to earn titles. We walk daily because it is time I have away from the rest of life to be with my dogs without the demands of the real world pressing in on me. It’s just us enjoying the outdoors and each other’s company.
It’s wonderful to see how excited they get when we’re getting ready. When I pick up his collar and leash, Toka gives his ‘I am SO happy!’ stretch, and smilingly offers me his neck. Kiyo gives me her lovely smile, and sits politely while we leash up.
This is Oliva De Recat’s “Closeness Lines Over Time” drawing.
Look closely at the one about our timeline with dogs:
This is the main reason why I take my dogs out for their constitutional each day. Every minute that I can enjoy their company, friendship, loyalty, humor and zest for life is to be cherished. Every minute counts.