Bruised Butts and Muddy Dogs

Kim and I decided to head to the Uintas for a day hike. Our go-to guide for local day hikes listed Fehr Lake Trail as a short, easy hike, which was perfect for the amount of time and energy we had that day. You can find more about the trail here. This entry is more about the lessons learned from this trip, mostly related to taking my dogs with us.

I don’t often take my dogs hiking with me because I’d really rather be able to just relax and enjoy the experience. Taking one not particularly kid friendly dog and another shy, injury prone dog on a hike doesn’t lend itself to relaxation. But our hike would be short and the elevation gain would be minimal, so I figured I’d treat them to a little bit of the great outdoors.

Jack and Nina hiking
The calm before the mud.

Canine Lessons Learned

  • You probably try to avoid that muddy patch. Your dog doesn’t. In fact, your dog might want to step knee deep into that muddy patch, stick their nose in it, and splash around in it.
  • Bring towels for wiping your dogs down, and bring something to cover your car seats (see above). I had no towels. Luckily, though I didn’t bring a blanket specifically for this purpose, I had one that covered part of the trunk. Pro-tip – if you don’t have an all weather mat for the cargo area of your hatchback, you might be able to just flip the trunk carpet over so that the dogs lay on the plastic / rubber side.
  • Dole out post-hike food slowly, unless you want to see it again shortly. Jack doesn’t normally gobble up his food. He doesn’t normally throw up his food. Luckily, the blanket (see above) caught it…mostly.
  • If you use e-collars to refocus your dogs’ attention, and the rechargeable batteries in the collars need to be replaced, don’t wait for an off leash hike to discover that they are completely dead.
  • Don’t forget training treats for reinforcing good behavior.
  • If there’s water on the trail, dogs will drink it. Depending on the quality of the water, this might need to be avoided. Bring water for them. Collapsable bowls are awesome.
  • Your dog’s on leash and off leash behavior will not magically improve just because you’re on a trail rather than a sidewalk.

Human Lessons Learned

  • Make sure everyone has the right footwear. Flip flops on a trail that has a thin layer of mud over rocks – on a slope – is a recipe for a bruised bottom.
  • Even under the best of conditions, if you’re hiking your dog on leash because there are small children on the trail, the dog may put tension on the leash at the wrong time while hiking over a thin layer of mud over rocks on a slope. This may exacerbate the problem of wearing flip flops in those conditions.
  • Know what you want out of the hike and plan accordingly; however, misadventures can be more fun than adventures.

Now go out there and have some misadventures (but stay safe).

A Bittersweet Reunion

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to have a friend, who is also a dog trainer, take Nina to live with him. Nina has moderate-to-severe fear-aggression issues. Practically anything new, whether it’s a person, other animal, or sometimes inanimate object, causes her anxiety. I suspect that she has pain issues that lead to aggression as well.

Sometimes she signals that she is uncomfortable with a situation. Sometimes she doesn’t.

Andrew knows how to handle dogs. He knows Nina. If anyone could have kept her in check, it would have been him. Unfortunately, Nina’s stay in Idaho hasn’t gone well. She regularly has ‘spirited disagreements’ with Andrews dog. She’s snapped on people. She’s lunged at people on walks. Fortunately, none of these instances have been bad, but they could have been.

I’ve done everything I can think of with Nina. She’s had both knees replaced. She takes pain medication. She’s been to a 6 week intensive boot camp to try to solve the problem. It hasn’t.  She might do well in the right home – one that is child free, other animal free, very calm, and in the trust of someone who understands how to deal with fear-aggressive dogs. Someone that good with dogs, but doesn’t have any. Good luck finding that, right?

For the next few weeks, Nina will have to be isolated from other animals when I’m not monitoring her. When she’s interacting with our other animals or anyone other than me, she will have to be muzzled. The margin for error is just too low. It breaks my heart because 9 days out of 10 she is a sweet, sweet dog. It’s that 10th day that causes the issue She’s never attacked me, but I know how to read her and know that she needs space. To me, she’s a sweet dog that has issues. To the world, she is a danger.

I have been an absolute wreck all week long. I know Nina is in pain. I know her fear causes her to lash out. I know that unless managed very carefully, she is a danger to other people and other animals. I have other animals to consider. I hope to one day have children. This is not the environment for Nina. I’m heartbroken over this.

I’m heading out to pick up Nina in just a few minutes. It’s a five and a half hour drive each way. I should be happy to see my sweet Nina again, and part of me will be, but I’m instead dreading what may have to happen next. I’m going to die when I see how excited she is to see me.