Dog Gone

One thing you learn in the planning of a thru hike is the inevitability of a change in those plans.

Norman, my rescued boxer/pit mix was adopted in 2012 with the expectation that he would thru hike with me in 2016.  He is now 4 1/2 years old, healthy, and hates backpacking.  Don’t get me wrong, he loves hiking, romping through the woods, and just being a dog.  He does not like being out for more than a day or two.  He doesn’t like weather… heat, cold, rain, snow.  I actually took him to have his heart checked this summer when he laid down in the road this summer on one of our daily walks.  The test showed nothing wrong with him- he is healthy, a little overweight, but healthy.  He is also very dramatic and stubborn.  I blame the boxer half of his brain for the drama and the pitty half for the stubborn.  He doesn’t like to carry a pack.  he pouts and acts like a mule-he also doesn’t like to have his picture taken.  What he does like is sleeping in and laying in a sunny window or across the newspaper you are trying to read- kind of like a cat.  Even with me carrying all of his supplies on our final shakedown hike this fall he was exhausted and did not enjoy himself.

I have spent a lot of time and money trying different packs, coats, wicking dog shirts, and trying different foods, researching dog friendly lodging, planning resupply points along the trail and availability of the specific food he does the best with.

I know there are strong opinions on both sides of bringing a dog on the trail.  I think each owner needs to make responsible choices based on their knowledge of their own canine companions.  Personally I hope to see many happy trail dogs out on the AT this year.  Unfortunately Norman will not be one of them.

There are obvious benefits to leaving him home.  The cost of my hike will be seriously reduced.  I will be able to stay in hostels and resupply in town instead of paying for private motel rooms with the additional pet fee and having to plan and pick up mail drops every 5-10 days.  One of the biggest benefits for me will be my reduced pack weight.

What is it they say about the best laid plans??? So now with less than two months to my start date I am looking at a very different hike.  Norman will be warm and dry sleeping in late and laying in the sun while I am out in the elements asking myselt who the smart one is.

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Comments 4

  • Tyler : Jan 7th

    I really wanted to bring my dog along too, but I had one very specific goal. That was to finish the AT. I know it can be done with a dog companion but the chances are highly reduced, especially because a dog can’t blatantly tell you whats wrong. My pup goes on all my conditioning hikes with me and I’m pretty sure she hates it. If she’s not tail tucked from fear because of the predator scents, then she’s dragging from the exhaustion at just under 4 miles. As much as I wish I could have her with me, I just don’t think she would enjoy it.

    • MorningLori : Jan 7th

      I sure will miss his company but know it is the right choice for him. Glad to know you are paying attention to your dog’s needs as well <3

  • Anubis : Jan 10th

    My dog and I have been section hiking the AT in LASHes but I’ve always been concerned about what I would do with her once we got to Baxter State Park….we you able to research a way for Norman to complete that part of the Trail with you? I wasn’t sure how strict the BSP officials there were about dogs and I can’t imagine finishing the AT without her

    • MorningLori : Jan 11th

      The rules in BSP are very strict and should be honored. Unless your dog is a service dog with papers they are not allowed. GSMNP and the zoo in New York are the only other locations on the trail where dogs are not allowed. BSP has been having issues with thru hikers not honoring the rules in the park and it has caused some tension in the last couple of years….


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