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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