In an effort to prevent their beloved Irish setter from jumping over the backyard fence, they bought a dog backpack and loaded it with 20 pounds. The extra weight did not stop the dog from clearing the 6-foot-high fence, leading the couple to their revelation.
"Clanci never missed another trip we took. It was her life," Janet Fericks says. "She was a great escape artist at home, but she was a totally different dog in the wilderness. She, like us, just loved being away from it all. I have no doubts that dogs feel the same sense of wonder and enjoyment of being in those wild places. In fact, they have made our appreciation [of the wilderness] better."
Clanci has since passed away, but the Ferickses are now joined on their overnight adventures by Sadie, a Lab and English setter mix, and Lucky, a young Afghan and Irish setter mix. Both dogs carry backpacks on the trail.
One of the greatest debates among outdoors enthusiasts centers on dogs and whether they belong in the backcountry, along the rivers, in the lakes or in the parks.
Still, even as the debate rages, there are more outdoors products and gear than ever available for dogs.
Etiquette: Most dog owners understand that not everybody adores canines, particularly those dogs that might lick, bite or steal lunches from other recreationalists. Nothing can ruin an outdoors adventure quicker than tiptoeing through dog feces - also known as "land mines" - or having to fend off an aggressive mutt. And remember that Big and Little Cottonwood canyons are closed to dogs because they are watersheds.
Many books - from Hiking with Dogs, a Falcon Guide by Linda B. Mullally, to Camping and RVing With Dogs by Jack and Julee Meltzer - are full of tips and guidance to avoid problems.
"Be nice to the people who believe you should not have the right to backpack with your dog," notes Charlene G. LaBelle in an extensive etiquette list in her A Guide to Backpacking With Your Dog. "Don't give them any reason to complain."
Rick Campbell, a Salt Lake Valley veterinarian for 25 years, says "socializing the dogs to accept other dogs" is key to creating a positive outdoors experience for all involved.
Campbell and his wife, who often spend time on the trails with their dog, say they are surprised by the number of dogs they encounter that show aggressive behavior to other dogs and sometimes to people.
"We have run into some pretty gnarly dogs and seen some fights," Campbell says. "It is easily preventable."
Start socializing dogs when they are young, he says. Dog parks and obedience classes are a good place to expose new dogs to your pet. If they learn how to accept new dogs at an early age, they will be more likely to accept other dogs on the trail.
Those without dogs can help keep canines in line on the trail by avoiding them.
Janet Fericks says even people who do everything they can to control their dogs can be stymied by other hikers who stop to say hello to the dogs.
"The problem we have, more than people not liking dogs on the trail, is the people who want to pet them as we pass," Fericks says. "We try hard to make our dogs ignore other dogs and people on the trail, and then hikers come up saying, 'Oh, look how cute,' and then they stop to pet them. That makes it hard because it sends mixed messages to the dogs."
Gear: Part of what makes dogs on the trail so "cute" is the wide range of gear available for them.
Debbie Cook, a veterinarian technician in the intensive care unit at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, saw what people were spending on equipment for their dogs and started an online retail business, http://www.pawsonthetrail.com, about a year ago. Cook and her husband carry everything from life jackets to goggles to first-aid kits - all for dogs.
Although she thought tents and toys would be top-selling items, Cook says car safety vests, which sell for about $20, are the most popular.
Dog fashion is also growing in popularity, but you don't always have to buy canine-specific gear.
"We bought a woman's small-sized down vest from Ralph Lauren for Sadie because it was on sale. It hardly weighs anything at all and we sewed a little pocket on front. Before we go to bed, we fill a water bottle with warm water and it helps keep her warm through the night," Fericks says. "I also bought myself one, so we are kind of twins."
Outdoors specialty stores are also paying more attention to dog owners. REI carries a variety of items ranging from dog backpacks to tents to energy treats for the trail.
"Personally, I think these taste better than PowerBars," one REI employee remarked seriously about the doggie energy treats.