Hiking life: a dog’s perspective

Hiking life: a dog’s perspective

Man backpacker sitting on a big boulder with 2 backpacking dogs

Faith and Toro are best dog friends and practically inseparable.  They have been fur siblings for 3.5 years and hiking partners for most of that time period.  Faith, who just turned 6 years old last week, was adopted from a Lab Rescue organization that pulled her out of a terrible living situation.  She is shy with people, devoted to her human parents and Toro, and still learning to trust others during new situations.

Backpacking man walking across a bridge with 2 backpacking dogs

Toro will turn 9 in January.  Through a language miscommunication, his Spanish speaking first family dropped him off at my work for me to adopt, even though that was not my original intention.  After dog sitting for a week, we knew that we could not let him go to another home.  Toro is our precious 90 pound boy who adores his family and loves to steal fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden and kitchen counter. 

What do they think about hiking? Read their stories below.

Faith

A brown dog wearing a red backpack and laying in the woods.

It is Monday and I can hardly wait until Friday! I know that I should be resting today, but I am too excited about what our next hiking adventure will bring. I practice sprinting in the back yard while Toro lounges on the Queen Anne sofa in the Living Room.

On Thursday, I count the hours until Mom gets home. She carries the human backpacks into the kitchen and starts organizing the supplies. I laugh when she spells “H I K E” to Dad. Does she really think that I don’t know that it spells “amazingly, fun, walking, running, climbing adventure in the woods”?!

I am usually pacing in the kitchen on Fridays, waiting for my parents to arrive from work. They run into the house, chuck their work stuff into a pile on the kitchen table, grab all of our H I K E gear and load the car. They change our collars to ones with emergency information, a nightlight and GPS tracker and then we climb into the back of the Suburban.

Brown and white dog laying in the back of an SUV
Faith rides in her cozy spot in the back of the Suburban

The drive to wherever we are H I K E – ing usually takes a lot of hours. I am patient and snuggle into a comfy place in the vehicle. Toro starts whining as soon as we pull out of the driveway and it really annoys Dad.

We usually sleep in a dog-friendly hotel as close to the trail head as possible. Toro sleeps on the floor. I get the king-sized bed. But since I am generous, I allow Mom and Dad to sleep on the edge. I want them to get a good night’s sleep so they can keep up with me on the trek!

Brown dog, laying in the middle of a large bed
“My bed” – Faith

At the trailhead, we all put on our backpacks. I politely lift my paws so that Dad can slip on my bright red pack. I get SO excited that my tail repeatedly wags and smacks Toro. Toro does not like wearing his backpack. He tries to get away from Dad so that he doesn’t have to carry any supplies.

Woman hiker and a hiking dog crossing a foot bridge on a trail.

Mom and Day each wear leash belts around their waists. I heel on Mom’s left. When she gives a command, I obey because I don’t want to miss out on any H I K E fun. Toro pulls on the leash and gets tangled up a lot when we first start walking. Every time Dad says the same thing,

“Seriously, Toro?! Is this your first time hiking?”

Backpacking dogs, a woman and a man walking at sunset in the mountains.

Sometimes we get to walk off leash and I love that! I run ahead of Mom, then back to Dad and up to Mom again. I know how to follow the trail since I am a super sniffer. Toro sometimes leads us astray because he likes chasing deer. I don’t see what is so fun about trying to catch other animals. I just know that chasing after Toro is a great time!

A dog eating out of a collapsable bowl in the woods.

At our campsite, I am usually the first one to eat all of my food. Mom doesn’t really like camp food, therefore I often score some of her meal, too! When it is time to sleep, Mom and Dad get into the tent first so that they can claim their spots. I squeeze between their sleeping bags and they call me “middle spoon”. Toro sleeps near our feet. It doesn’t take long for the snoring to start; I am not sure who is louder, Dad or Toro! Mom sleeps with earbuds and I wonder if I should get some too?

A dog laying on her side between 2 sleeping bags in a tent.

The next day, after packing up our tent, we continue our adventure. I love climbing on rocks and swimming in creeks, ponds and lakes. My favorite thing is standing on top of a mountain, looking out into the valley, feeling the sun on my face. I pretend that I am Queen of the Hill.

A man and his 2 backpacking dogs sitting on a rocky ridge looking at the fall colors of surrounding mountains

H I K E – ing makes me so happy that I stand and hug Dad whenever we stop for a rest. I want to make sure that he knows how much I appreciate the adventure, the outdoors and spending time with my family.

A brown dog standing on hind legs and leaning on a man wearing a backpack.
Free hugs!

Toro

I used to love hiking so that I could run and run and run. Now that I am getting older, I do it for the snacks. I lay around the house Monday through Thursday, sneaking onto furniture when the parents are at work. On Thursday night I watch Mom pull together the gear for the weekend. I get excited when I see her packing food!

The car ride to the dog-friendly hotel is a highlight of the trip. I whine to let Dad know that I can’t wait to get there. That way he will drive faster.

A man with a dog on his lap and one sleeping on the floor.
Resting in a dog-friending hotel in Fishkill, New York.

At the hotel, I eat my food and snuggle up on the floor, or sometimes on a sofa, and slip into a dream-filled sleep. After breakfast, we drive to the trail and I try to avoid Dad so that he cannot strap on my backpack.

A brown hiking dog running away from a lake and toward a field of white flowers.

Faith is a show-off, running and jumping with her saddlebags strapped to her back. It makes me sorta of angry that she is willing to carry more than me. But on the other hand, if I mope enough, I hardly have to carry anything except our food bowls and some water, and that makes my hike much easier.

A black Labrador licking the face of a man in a selfie
Silly selfie

Before every Appalachian Trail hike, we take a group selfie. I like to mess around during the photos, turning my back to the camera or licking Dad’s face just as he snaps the picture. It makes Mom laugh every time. Not so much for Dad.

Man, woman and black Labrador posing for a selfie.
Serious selfie

As the “man in charge”, I expect to hike first on the trail. This becomes a bit of a problem, because Mom seems to think that she is the one leading the adventure. The leash that is hooked to Dad’s waist is pretty long, so I push my way past Faith and try shoving Mom to the side. After about 10 pushes, Mom does one of two things: she either goes super fast to get away from us, or she moves to the end of the line.

Female backpacker and black lab hiking dog walking down a Rocky Mountain summit

The hike caboose is a good place for her so she can keep an eye on all of us. She carries a little shovel in her pack so that when I poop in the woods, she buries it. She says we aren’t supposed to leave any traces that we were in the wilderness. This is hilarious because at home she makes Dad scoop the poop out of the yard, not hide it in little holes.

Two backpacking dogs walking through a large pond in the woods

When we hike in the warm weather, I get very hot since my fur is black. I wear a special cooling collar that helps me not get overheated. Plus, I lay in any water that I see near the trail.

Two dogs wagging their tales while standing on rocks in a forest

I’ve met a lot of animals along the way. Since I am an imposing specimen, black bears run away from me. Well, all but that one angry mama that stood on her hind legs and growled at me. I am not proud of how loudly I screamed and how quickly I ran away. Dad won’t let me live that one down.

Rattlesnakes are curious animals. I know better than to get too close to them, especially when they are coiled up with their tails shaking. They can strike 5 feet away, so Dad keeps me back by gently pulling on my leash.

I did meet a porcupine on the trail in New Jersey. Let’s just say that if I never meet another one, it will be too soon. #$%^&!

After a weekend of hiking, my family stops at Starbucks to get drinks for the long drive home. We are rewarded with Puppacinos! I love this treat so much that my eyes glaze over as I lick every last drop.

Dogs in the back of an SUV licking whipped cream out of Starbucks paper cups.

Over the past 4 years, I have section hiked 1,120 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Our family hikes between 350-500 miles every year on various trails, but the AT is our favorite. I know that I am not allowed to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains or Baxter Park, but I plan to hike all of the miles in between.

A man and dogs on top of a jagged "humpback" rock, white puffy clouds and a bright blue sky overhead

I’ve climbed many mountain peaks, witnessed gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, and walked through many “green tunnels” of rhododendron and mountain laurel. I have had many great adventures and I hope that they will continue!

A black dog followed by a brown dog, each wearing a red backpack and walking on a narrow trail through a field of white wildflowers.
“The mountains are calling, and I must go!” – John Muir

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