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So you think you want to thru-hike - part 5
So you think you want to thru hike. Hiking with your puppy.
Hi, this is part five of a series of notes I'm sending around on thru-hiking
AT. So far I've covered the following topics:
* Part 1. Intro.
* Part 2. Reading essentials
* Part 3. Planning.
* Part 4. Money considerations
I'll have the following notes covering these topics:
*Hiking with a partner
*What do I eat
*What should I take with me
*Blue blazing vs. white blazing and other stuff
I will try and avoid some of the conventional things that you can just read
in a book.
I hiked with my dog. He didn't make it the whole way. I sent him home from
Kent, CT. He was a pooped pup! I do think he could have made it but it
would have been out of complete loyalty to me and not enjoyment on his part.
I decided to take him with me because he loves to hike and frankly, the
company he would give me would be very welcome. It actually was. Would
I take him again if I thru-hiked? I have to give a big "NO". I don't want
too forward but here it comes anyways... (So, be warned).
I did enjoy his company and I do think he did enjoy some of the trail. He
soon got tired. I got faster and healthier, he got slower as the Summer heat
hit us. I was socializing with people. I didn't think I would as much as I
before I started the trail. As I socialized more, I enjoyed his company
He became more of a burden. I'm freezing in the Shenandoahs... I rent a
cabin. I had to sneak him inside. If I had a dollar for each time I snuck
past a NO PETS sign, I'd be a rich man. If you take your dog, either you
break rules or you don't have the same off-trail fun that everyone else is
having! It's plain and simple, having your dog is a commitment to your dog.
The hikers that had their dogs did not do the off-trail things that I was
after I sent him home. When I went to New York City, I had to bribe a motel
owner to let him stay. When I went to the movies in Carlisle PA, a movie
theater employee snuck my dog in the back way so he could stay in an
Let me tell you. It got tiring after awhile. I felt like I needed a break
having him. When you're on the trail, you have very few responsibilities and
really enjoyed not having them. My dog was a big responsibility. It is a 24
hour job. It was tough when he headed into the woods without my knowing
to eat something. What fun it was when he threw it up in the tent! Many dog
owners on the trail do not take good care of their own dogs.
I'm going to give some dog stories... All of them are horror stories...
am outside of Damascus camped by this pond. A friend is on the other side.
His dog hears my pot rattle, swims across the pond stops in front of me to
and shakes pond water into my food. I'm at a shelter trying to heat water
breakfast, three times I turn around and have another friends dog right there
behind me. I trip over the dog once, avoid it once, and trip over it's leash
once. I'm in a shelter trying to sleep... 6:30 in the morning, this dog
whining. Twelve people are now wide awake. This same dog kills some
chickens at the Duckett House in Hot Springs because it was not on a leash.
watch another dog chase one of the two moose I saw on the trail out of my
This is why I think dogs have a bad reputation on the trail. Having a dog on
the trail is like smoking in public or talking about abortion. It's very
controversial. Many people think it cruel to put a pack on a dog and have it
hike all day. If you take your dog, you will get some criticism. You will
people questioning how you're taking care of it.
So, here's my philosophy on dogs on the trail. If you do take your dog, do
* Keep it out of the spring. Dogs will lay down in the water that others
want to drink directly from. If you want to be a blacklisted and hated
let your dog in the water.
* Make it a person's responsibility to meet your dog (not the dog's). I
to see dogs running loose at camp or at shelters. They ran up to every
there. I didn't mind too much but I do think it should be the person's
responsibility to meet your dog, not the dog's. If someone wants to meet
dog, they'll go up to it. Keep it tied out of people's way. After you hike
day, you want to cook and eat in peace without having to shoo someone else's
* Keep you dog off other's equipment. Many many times I saw a dog crawl
into someone else's sleeping bag. Track muddy paws onto someone's
* Do NOT take too young of a dog! I saw a 6 month old puppy this Summer
with a pack. This poor dog did not have the bone structure of an adult. The
poor dog was still growing even. This poor dog will be prone to hip
and deformed bones and probably will look forward to a short life.
Here's what you can do to help your dog make it the whole way:
* High performance food. I fed Bentley ("No Pulling") Science Diet High
Performance. It is very high in calories based on the weight. At 45 pounds,
Bentley needed 1 pound of food a day.
* Prepare his pads. I used this spray on his pads called Pad Tough.
to help the pads grow thick. He never wore out his pads on the trail - even
the Pennslyvania rocks.
* Learn your dog's signals. Watch and learn how your dog tells you it's
thirsty or tired. Listen to them.
* Hike with your dog behind you if your dog is aggressive. I kept Bentley on
a leash at the beginning of my hike because he will bark at people
from the other direction. Later on, I learned that if he hiked behind me
off his leash) he was NOT aggressive. I taught him the command "Behind".
When I was in the lead, I became the "alpha-male" (in essence the "lead
Suddenly, Bentley let me take charge and he stopped barking. As a side note,
I couldn't tell where he was behind me so I then placed a jingle bell on his
* Have a plan for your dog to go home. Give your pup and yourself a rest.
It's like having kids, you get a sitter periodically or you'll go bonkers!
Imagine 6 months with your dog, 24 hours a day with no break. It will wear
on you, believe me.
Lastly, contact Tom Grenell. Tom is a vet who hiked with his two dogs and
wrote an article on how to hike with your dog. Send him a self-addressed
envelope and he'll send you the article. He is at Animal Hospital of
715 N. Main St., Emporia, VA 23847.
I hope I'm not too controversial with this note. Many hikers do enjoy having
their dogs with them. I did enjoy having mine too. I do think that it is
decision to be taken lightly. Again, if I were to thru-hike again, I would
him home or only have him for a short amount of time.
Hope you are all enjoying these notes. Thank you for you positive support
and feel free to comment either directly to me or the group.