A Last-Minute Change: My Hound Dog Joins Me

I introduced myself in my first post so now  it’s time to introduce my hiking partner: Dixie, the hound dog referred to in the title.

Dixie rucked up and ready for AT conditioning.

There Was No Dog in My Hiking Plan

Before I go too far I have to acknowledge a few truths.  There are many reasons not to hike the AT with a dog, and honestly, I agree with most of them.  Furthermore, although I’ve dreamed of hiking the AT for decades, I never had the desire to bring my dog with me. I just never really gave it much thought.  Obviously, my outlook has changed.

My original plan was that Dixie would stay home with Brenda while I hiked.  If you read my first post you know that is impossible.  My sons aren’t in a position to watch Dixie for five to six months due to college dormitory restrictions or living in a downtown Minneapolis apartment with a full-time job.  I did receive a few kind and sincere offers to watch her and initially that is exactly what I planned to do.

Things Change

Dixie has always been “my” dog even when the entire family was living together. She is a rescue, abandoned as puppy in a roadside ditch.  She caught my eye because she looked like she’d develop into a great runner.  We made a connection. I was looking for a running partner and she was looking for a home.

That was six years ago.  I’m not exaggerating when I say we’ve walked, hiked, or run nearly every day since.  She has also gone on a few backpacking trips and nearly every family camping trip and vacation we’ve taken. More importantly, she exhibits true signs of joy when she is outside and engaged in physical activity.

After Brenda died I started taking longer daily walks, sometimes multiple walks.  Dixie was my constant companion as I spent time on the roads and trails sorting life out.  She doesn’t say much but she listens well.   It wouldn’t be literally true to say she saved my life, because I’d still be here without her.  But my life is better with her and she eased the grieving process with her constant companionship and endless energy.  I began to think I really don’t want to do this trail without at least starting with Dixie.

Don’t expect good selfies from Dixie. She thinks they are just opportunities to give dog kisses.

I Did a Lot of Homework

I found a lot of information, and strongly held opinions, about dogs on the AT.  One of most helpful was a two-part article right here on The Trek, Hiking the Appalachian Trail with a Dog (Parts 1 and 2), authored by “ATRAILLIFE,” or Minutes, Serial, and Rooney.  You can read the articles https://thetrek.co/hiking-with-a-dog-part-1/  and https://thetrek.co/hiking-with-a-dog-part-2/

I appreciated and have used a lot of the specific information on gear, diet, costs, dog care, and regulations in these articles and other sources.  Ultimately though it was the “attitudinal” questions that gave me the perspective I needed to make the final decision.  Specifically in part two, under the heading “Is your dog ready for a long distance hike?” they laid out a series of questions and scenarios.  Only when I was able to give an honest, well-thought-out “Yes” to these questions was I able to really get onboard and get excited about hiking with Dixie.  I moved from “No way” to “Let’s go!”

In the end it didn’t come down to gear or money but what attitude I would adopt.  Life is like that; skills are nice but our attitude will make or break us.  In survival school they call it the “Will to Survive” and “Positive Mental Attitude.”  What we carry in our minds is more important than what we carry in our packs.

My Plan to Maintain My Positive Attitude by Remembering…

–Dixie is my hiking partner because I want to share the trail with her.  I have other options but we are both happier together.

–The nature of my hike will change. I won’t be as free as others might, but I’m OK  and ready for that.

–The additional costs won’t break me; it’s just money and the experience is priceless.

–I am fully responsible for Dixie’s health, safety, and enjoyment but I’m also concerned with the health, safety, and enjoyment of those around us.  She will always be under my control and leashed whenever required by regulations, her safety, or for the safety and consideration of other hikers (or wildlife).

–I believe she will thrive on the trail but if she doesn’t I have several bailout plans and will make other arrangements.

–I see many others benefits beyond companionship.  Having a dog is an obvious conversation starter and shared bond.  I look forward to meeting other hikers with dogs and helping each other out.

–LNT applies to both humans and dogs.

Leave only tracks.

Only 12 days until we start our adventure. Thank you for your amazing response so far.  I really appreciate the support. If you see us on the trail please stop and say hello.  If you are following from home, send dog treats.


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Comments 9

  • GrayGhost : Mar 2nd

    Pete –
    You have a great attitude and outlook for your trek ahead on the AT.
    When u get near Front Royal and Linden VA (where I maintain 2 miles of AT) I’d like to meet you and provide some Trail Magic for both you and Dixie! Pls stay in touch,
    Vienna VA
    AT Linden Va at Rt 55 and I-66

    • Pete Bromen : Mar 3rd

      GrayGhost, Thank you so much! I’ve added you to my contacts and will keep in touch. The AT community has already been so supportive, I can’t wait to meet you and so many others!

  • Erin Whittemore : Mar 2nd

    So excited to follow your updates on this adventure!

  • Debbie Sanspree : Mar 2nd


    Looking forward to following you and Dixie and your many adventures..

  • Peggy S Cobleigh : Mar 3rd

    I look forward to following yours and Dixie’s adventure. I too hope to hike the AT with my German shepherd Alexis. I hope to learn a lot from both of you. Happy Trails😀

  • Michael Westhafer : Mar 4th

    I hope you and Dixie have a great journey. I am looking forward to following your updates. If you need anything while in North Ga, let me know. I am not too far from Springer Mountain which is one of my favorite trail running and hiking spots. Also- Neels Gap/ Blood Mountain and Woody Gap. I am also a military vet and look forward to a possible through hike one day. God Bless.
    [email protected]

    • Pete Bromen : Mar 6th

      Thanks Michael! I’ve saved your contact info. Maybe we will see you out trail running when we pass through. I hope you get to thru hike someday.

  • Lindsay : Mar 8th

    Looking forward to following your journey! I’m hoping to take my husky NoBo in 2020. When you get up to the nj/NY area let me know, I’ll bring treats! 🐾

  • Kelly : Mar 8th

    You and Dixie have a great adventure! I’ll look forward to seeing any posts and progress. How to we follow you?
    I have a friend who already started by the handle Ewok. Tell her hello if you happen to run into her.


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