Dogs and the Smokies

 

Howard Baker Hobo the Wonder Dog

Howard Baker Hobo the Wonder Dog

Howdy hikers, Kevin here! In my thru hike of 2k16, I’ve encountered so many great things and ways of doing things. There will be many posts to come expanding upon that, but for now I’m sticking to trail dogs and specifically how they relate to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Dogs and Me

My family dog Parker! He rocks.

My family dog Parker! He rocks.

Allow me, fellow dog lovers, to state that I LOVE dogs. On my runs I stop to meet dogs. My girlfriend will cross the street to meet and pet dogs, no matter the situation, or how much of a hurry we’re in. I currently don’t have a dog, because I’m still working a crazy work schedule. I grew up with a mom highly involved in our local S.P.C.A so I’m very much a dog person. Trail dogs have upped my mood too many times to count while I was on trail. Hiking near a dog made my day every time. I’m overjoyed when hikers have dogs on trail, because most dogs are too! The right breeds LOVE being in the woods and walking all day. Unfortunately, most national parks don’t allow domesticated animals of any kind on their trails. Specifically, on the AT, Baxter State Park, Bear Mountain State Park Trailside Museum, and the Smokies are places that disallow furry friends.

WHY NOT?

Unless you’re sporting a service animal, your dog can’t hike with you within National Park boundaries. Why? Check it. ↓

  • Dogs can be disease vectors.
    • Dogs can carry diseases foreign to the area they’re wagging their tails through. That’s no bueno for natural ecosystems and the other little critters that live there.
  • Dogs can chase and threaten local wildlife.
    • Lil’ animals that live in areas dogs are passing through can be pretty startled and threatened by their presence. Some can even hide in their nests for an entire day after something as benign as the scent of dog. Drama queens? Probably, but they’re little and don’t want to become chew toys.
  • Predators can be threatened or angered by your pup.
    • Your dog might start barking at a bear cub, maybe asking them to play, who knows? Bear cub goes back to his/her cave to get mom because dogs are loud and that cub is “ascarred.” Mom runs out of her cave and roars why her cub is getting bullied. Your
      Courtesy of Caters News Agency

      Courtesy of Caters News Agency

      dog retorts with a bark because why the shit would he/she know bear speak? Signals get crossed and you or your dog might get hurt.

  • Ecosystems are delicate and dogs can sometimes trample fragile plants off trail.
    • Dogs love running around in everything. The dogs I’ve hiked with must have hiked double the miles of their owners, just investigating smells and other forest life.

So, What do I do?

So, alternatives to taking your dog through the Smokies are a plenty! The one requiring the least effort by far is to have a friend or family member watch your pup while you hike through the Smokies or any other national parks. Super easy and cheap!

If you find yourself lacking friends or family in the area, there’s a few kennels that offer boarding, pick-up and return. These below are straight from AWOL’s 2016 AT Guide. Download it, buy it, you NEED IT. The 2017 guide is now available, so I’d start there. I found this information around page 28 in the 2016 guide. I haven’t had experience with any of these fine establishments, so I’d ask around if you’re unsure.

Loving Care Kennels LCK offers dog pickup at Fontana Dam and return to Davenport Gap. $350 for one dog, $500 for two. Mail drops are also available. Vaccination records are required. Recommended to call two days in advance (at the NOC for NOBO’s) for pickup.

Barks and RecreationB&R does not offer rides. You personally have to drop off and pickup your dog to and from 2159 East Parkway in Gatlinburg. Call to check current prices, vaccination records required. (Favorite name EVER)

Standing Bear FarmSBF offers kennel service and doggies pickup and return. $250 for one dog. Call for more information. I’d bring vaccination records just to be safe. These guys also have a solid resupply option in addition to being a pretty kick ass hostel.

lovingcarekennels009

Loving Care Kennels

There may be more kennel services available but these are the quick and dirty ones. Check the 2017 AWOL guide for updated pricing. Before you get too locked up on the price, remember, boarding can be a great break for your dog and Loving Care Kennels even has a doggie pool for your pup to play in!

Service Animals

Service animals are welcome and legal in most public places including the entire Appalachian Trail. If you require a service animal for any reason, please take them. I ran into several hiking service dogs and they were all great. I’d ensure they have the proper training and maybe a service animal vest along with paperwork. Service animals are great tools for people of all walks of life including a few close friends of mine who are former service members. Thanks for your service guys! That being said, service animals are often unwelcome in some public places due to the assumption that a particular person may not have a legal service animal at all. People masquerading their dogs as service animals or registering them online unnecessarily are doing a disservice to those who actually need service animals to function.

Wait, can’t I just register my dog online as a service animal to go through the Smokies so I don’t have to pay for boarding?

Courtesy of 4knines.com

Courtesy of 4knines.com

Short answer yes, but please don’t. Dogs falsely registered as service animals may lack the proper training actual service animals have and require. This puts service animals in an already gloomy light from previous abuse of the system outside of the trail. I’ve ran into several former service members complaining of this problem. I’ve also ran into several hikers adopting the practice of falsely registering their dogs as service dogs with no knowledge of the damage they’re doing to those who actually need them. If you see someone in this situation, talk to them in a calm manner and educate them. Tell them to board their dog where required, even if they’ve acquired a permit already.

 

 

 


Ok, that’s it

Thanks for reading everyone! I hope all 2017 thru-hiker hopefuls have a wonderful time. Take care of your pooches! I’ll be posting more now that I’ve gained more motivation

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Comments 1

  • Jennifer Williams : Feb 8th

    Thank you for this. Now, if we could send the message out to every single tourist. We were just hiking alum cave last week and saw a family with a dog. Before I could even think about my my 5 year old son calls them out! “You’re not supposed to have dogs here”… normally, I would tell him to mind his own business, but I was proud of him for this one.

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