We take Havana everywhere with us - she's part border collie, part heeler. Since she always goes fishing with us and most of the time Troy and I are in the water, too deep for her to venture, we put a bell on her collar, which makes it much easier for us to hear where she is, for the rare times we don't see her. One cold winter day out on the river, I noticed that she kept lifting her paws as they were cold - so we bought her some of those booties that they make for dogs. It was pretty hilarious watching her get used to those. She pranced quite a bit when we first put them on her, but then she got used to them, although she does continue to "high-step" as she walks. She also has her own backpack that she carries her doggie treats and poop bags in and . . . she has a bright yellow rain slicker.
- Shannon Thatcher and Troy Kapinos, Salt Lake City
Rags, a big, beautiful, shaggy English sheepdog, showed up on our doorstep. He adopted our family as his own, and we adopted him right back.
He loved camping with us. One night on a trip to Moon Lake, as the family was sitting around the campfire, Rags started growling and backing up. This wouldn't have been so unsettling if we weren't in the big, old outdoors on a dark, black night. All of a sudden, the growling grew worse, and we all made a dash for the camper, but Rags beat us to it. Before the door was even completely opened, Rags was inside and lying on the bed.
- Beverly Fercik, Spring Glen
We can divide our backpacking days into two eras: before dogs and after dogs. Before dogs, our trips were relaxing, quiet and uneventful. People would ask if we had a nice vacation and we would say we did. We hiked. We fished. We made campfires and cooked some interesting trail food. We occasionally saw other people, but we seldom talked other than a quick "hi" in passing. After dogs, all our trips became interesting and exciting.
The dogs [Clanci, then Sadie and Lucky] have improved our diets on trail. They often carry spaghetti, a few cans, and a couple of frozen steaks for the first night. It's the only job they have and they are always delighted to be on trail. Once camped, Sadie is always trying to interest us in a game of ball, Frisbee or fetching sticks. [The dogs'] enthusiasm is contagious. We find ourselves smiling and laughing at their antics constantly. On one trip, some young men nearby asked if they could play Frisbee with [Sadie]. They had played Frisbee among themselves earlier, but it wasn't nearly as fun as playing with Sadie. We could hear them laughing in awe at her abilities.
Once we decided to swim with her. She panicked with us in the water. She was sure we would drown. She tried to pull us out. Finally, she got out and barked at us until we gave up.
The dogs are always aware of wildlife. We see their ears perk up and they turn to look. We also look and we've learned from them. Our wildlife instincts are substantially better. We see 10 times the amount of wildlife we saw in the past. They've trained us. The dogs can see long distances. Just last year Sadie pointed out a mountain sheep on the far side of a large lake. She quietly watched it with her eyes and body posture. I used binoculars. Without her, I would have never spotted it.
- Janet and David Fericks, Sandy
I feel guilty if I go outside to play without my dog Vana. And I always have more fun when she's joyfully romping along beside me while skiing, hiking or jogging.
I have snuggled up with her in a tent on a few occasions on backpack trips or in our Westfalia Syncro Camper Van, which she is named after. Vana is a black Rottweiler mix from the Humane Society.
The best gear that I've found are small clip-on bike lights. I've been able to keep track of her on dark moonless nights on hikes or just at the dog park with that red blinking light attached to her collar. This is important, since Vana follows her nose and not necessarily the sound of me calling her name! I've seen collars that have the lights built in, but you can sometimes find the much cheaper lights at the drugstore.
- Shelly Quick, Salt Lake City
We take our dog Skooter on several backpacks every year and have done so for three years. These trips range from overnighters (five miles) to weeklong trips to the Wind River Range in Wyoming and the Uinta Basin (25-40 miles). Three tips:
- Dogs, just like people, need to be in good condition to go out for a week backpack. We walk our dog several times a week and when spring comes, she gets to wear her pack with some light weight in it. We also take her on day hikes.
- As for food, we take "doggie MREs." These are the wet food in pouches available at any grocery store. They are a bit heavier, but they have a lot of fat and keep a dog going all day. Dogs need plenty of calories especially when it is colder! Skooter is about 40 pounds and she gets four pouches per day plus assorted snacks from whatever we are eating, and she still loses weight on a week pack.
- Finally, our dog always sleeps in our tent and between us on our pads. This keeps her warm and dry. Dogs get stiff and tired, too, and if made to sleep on hard, cold ground, will tend to pull muscles just like people.
- Leslie Orgera, Sandy
Nine Rules For Hiking With Dogs
- Clean up after your dog. Never, ever leave "land mines" on the trail!
- Don't let your dog run free, especially around other hikers or where dogs can chase wildlife or livestock.
- Keep your dog quiet, especially at night.
- Don't let your dog bother other hikers in camp or on the trail.
- Give horses, pack animals and other hikers the right-of-way. Many people are frightened of dogs.
- Be nice to the people who believe you should not have the right to backpack with your dog. Don't give them any reason to complain.
- Never forget that your dog depends on you.
- Be a responsible pet owner. Leave the trail and camp spots as clean or cleaner than when you arrived.
- And the most important rule is - enjoy yourself.
- Source: A Guide to Backpacking With Your Dog, by Charlene G. LaBelle (Alpine Publications)