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Tag: hiking

Would you eat your dog to stay alive?

Marco Lavoie.jpg A hiker who was stranded in the Canadian wilderness for nearly three months after a bear destroyed his supplies had to eat his beloved dog to survive.  When Marco Lavoie was found by rescuers on Wednesday he was just days from death and had to be carried to a waiting helicopter.  The 44-year-old had been trapped with little food and survival equipment since July after a bear ransacked his campsite near the start of a planned three-month solo hike.Three days after his dog saved him from a bear in the Canadian wilderness, a stranded hiker ate his German shepherd to save himself from starvation.

Unable to find any food, Marco Lavoie, 44, killed his dog with a rock and ate him, according to the Canadian news agency QMI.

According to news reports, the first words the hiker uttered, after being found close to death by rescuers last week, were: “I want to get a new dog.”

Lavoie — after a bear destroyed his canoe and food supply — was stranded for three months in the wilderness about 500 miles outside Montreal. After the bear attack, he sprained his ankle and was unable to hunt or find any other source of food, according to reports.

Lavoie, an experienced hiker who often spent weeks in the wilderness by himself, was rescued by helicopter on Wednesday. He’d lost 90 pounds and was suffering from hypothermia. He was listed in critical condition in a hospital in Northern Quebec.

Survival expert Andre Francois Bourbeau told the Toronto Sun that Lavoie’s decision to eat his dog was a good one.

“He survived because he made good decisions. Eating his dog was one of them,” said Borbeau, the author of a survival guide. “You have to be desperate, but there’s no shame in (eating the dog),” said Bourbeau. “Hunger squeezes you so much that you would accept food that’s not normally possible,” said Bourbeau. “You can crave slugs and bugs.”

I’m sure there are many others who hold that view, and who’d point out that man – by virtue of that “dominion” he has over other animals, by virtue of being the superior, more developed being, by virtue of his position atop civilized society – has every right to chow down on his dog when trapped in the wilderness with no other options available.

But we don’t find much virtue at all in his actions.

We see more humanity in the dog, who loyally went along on his master’s silly wilderness trip, scared off a bear to protect him, and — despite any hunger pangs he might have been experiencing, despite his master’s hobbled condition – didn’t make a meal of Lavoie.

Man and his guide dog hiking 1,000 miles

A legally blind North Carolina man and his guide dog are hiking a thousand miles for charity.

Trevor Thomas, of Charlotte, and his guide dog, Tenille, set out on April 6, hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind, which is where Tenille came from.

“The dogs are very expensive, the school receives absolutely no public funding at all,” Thomas said. “It’s all done on donation.”

blindhikerThomas, who calls himself “Zero/Zero,” a reference to his eyesight, was the first blind person to complete a solo hike of the entire 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail.

He has also completed two hikes through the Shenandoah Mountains, four through the Smokey Mountains, and, according to his website, is the first blind person to hike the length of the John Muir Trail in California.

“Getting Tennille was probably the best decision I’ve made since going blind,” Thomas said. “She has changed blindness from a negative to a positive, especially in my interaction with people. Now that I have Tennille people want to engage us, they want to find out more about this amazing dog that I have.

“She is literally the final piece in the puzzle to be able to undertake this trek working as a team, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to get from one end of this to the other. Just the sheer companionship alone is worth its weight in gold,” he added. “Tennille’s not only a guide, she’s a friend.”

For more information about his hike, visit blindhikertrevorthomas.com

Reynolds: The man, the smokes, the legacy

So he played a big role in getting a nation hooked on cigarettes. So he was the richest man in the state of North Carolina. So he was the sort of fat cat businessman from whom I tend to initially withhold respect — based on my automatic assumption that they had to crush a lot of butts on their way to the top of whatever heap they are on.

I wanted to hate him — for being the father of my addiction, for the fact that I can’t finish this blog entry without taking a break for one of his products — but, after a little research, I think I almost like R.J. Reynolds, and, even more, the estate he left behind.

Ace and I hang out there at least once a week — roaming the 130 acres that were part of his 1,000-plus acre country home, known as Reynolda.

The mansion is an art museum now. There are formal gardens, and a one-time village that’s now home to galleries, shops and restaurants.

But what we like best are the hiking trails that take you through thick woods and open meadows, rich with wildflowers and wildlife, past beds of pine needles and vines of  honeysuckle so pungently sweet they penetrate even a smoker’s jaundiced nostrils.

I got my start in cigarettes at, probably, age 16, pilfering Salems from my mother. Then I moved on to unfiltered Pall Malls — also a R.J. Reynolds brand, and also pilfered, in this case from a neighbor.

I remember my mother used to put her Salems in little ceramic holders. The little cups with a dozen or so cigarettes in them could be found around the house, serving almost as decorations. She didn’t smoke them that often, and when she did, she didn’t inhale.

I did — first her throat-searing menthols, then the neighbor’s filterless Pall Malls, before working my way up to Marlboros; those, after all, were perceived as the most manly, and didn’t leave you spitting out little pieces of tobacco.

Like most smokers, I ponder quitting at least weekly, most recently last week as I walked the trails of Reynolda, past a vine of honeysuckle that was leaning out into the path, the tiny tendrils of its blossom waving in the wind, like beckoning index fingers.

If only I could be hooked on honeysuckle, I thought. If only its sweet essence could be inhaled. Then I realized that’s exactly what I was doing. As I wondered if honeysuckle might be my salvation, I realized, if somebody studied it enough, honeysuckle could turn out to be bad for us too (though I don’t see how something with “honey” and “suckle” in its name possibly could).

Then too — even if honeysuckle did satiate that urge, and even if I harvested my own and came up with a smokeless way to imbibe it — it would still lack that ease of use that plays such a big role in getting us hooked.

It was R.J. Reynolds who made smoking so convenient.

In 1913, Reynolds developed the pre-rolled, packaged cigarette. He priced them low, called them Camels, because Turkish paper was used, and they helped propel him to the top of the tobacco heap.

Reynold was born in Virginia to a tobacco-growing, slave-owning family. He attended two colleges, one of them in Baltimore, and went to work for his father before striking out on his own.

In 1874, he moved to what’s now Winston-Salem to start his own tobacco company.  He started his own tobacco company in what was then Winston. There were 15 other tobacco companies in town, but his outgrew them all.

Reynolds was an astute businessman and a hard worker, and he quickly became a wealthy man. He married a woman 30 years his junior, his former secretary Mary Katherine Smith, who, historical accounts suggest, helped bring out his progressive and philanthropic sides.

She successfully urged him to shorten the work hours of employees, pay them more and provide them with meals, schools and nursery services.

When he built what would become Reynolda House, he also had a village constructed nearby where workers could live. It’s now called Reynolda Village, a collection of restaurants and shops. Also on the grounds, golf being his passion, he commissioned a 9-hole golf course, which now serves as the grassy meadow where Ace likes to romp, or just rest.

Before he died, in 1918 of pancreatic cancer, Reynolds served as a city commissioner and helped get both property taxes and income taxes approved.

He also granted endowments to Guilford College, the Oxford Orphan Asylum, and the Baptist Orphanage, in addition to a lot of  other charities and churches in the Winston-Salem community. He became the first southern man to establish a hospital serving African-Americans. He donated as well to establish the Slater Industrial School, which became Winston-Salem State University.

R.J. didn’t get to enjoy Reynolda House too long. He died the year after it was completed.

His daughter, Mary Reynolds Babcock, would donate it for use as an art museum, and the Reynolds’ philanthropic ways would continue. About 300 acres of the Reynolda estate was donated to Wake Forest University, which moved from the town of Wake Forest to Winston-Salem in 1956.

Today, the Reynolds family name is stamped on much of Winston-Salem, including the library at Wake Forest, the airport, a high school, a park and an auditorium, and the various components that make up Reynolda — Reynolda House, Reynolda Village, Reynolda Gardens.

(Having recently returned to my ancestral homeplace in Winston-Salem, moving into the modest apartment in which my parents lived when I was born, I thought about naming it and its adjoining patch of grass after me. But I’m only renting, and Woestendieka doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like Reynolda.)

My honeysuckle encounter, and the hours I’ve spent slow-walking with Ace around Reynolda, have got me thinking I need to do more walking and less smoking, more pursuing of health and less feeding of urges. They’ve gotten me thinking too about how times change, and how things we were told were OK turn out not to be –  like slavery and smoking, which, not to diminish the massive evil of the former, have much in common.

I don’t blame R.J. Reynolds for inflicting the scourge of cigarettes on society. He was a product of his times, peddling a product of his times, and pouring some of the profits back into his community. Far more devious, I think, were the subsequent generations of tobacco pitchmen and the marketing techniques they used, aimed as they were at young people (Camels) and women (Virginia Slims and Eve).

Light up — if you want to be cool, if you want to be sexy, if you want to be liberated, or if you merely want to be a rugged Marlboro man.

Most of us — though it took decades — wised up and saw through that. Smoking is bad, and bad for you — always has been, always will be.

At least, maybe, until they come out with All Natural Smokeless Honeysuckle 100′s, which would have the added benefit of leaving you smelling sweet.

Then, and only then, will we have come a long way, baby.

(For more about visiting Reynolda with your dog, see our next entry.)

Man dies in fall trying to save his dog

A South Carolina man fell 125 feet to his death after trying to keep his dog from going over the ledge at an isolated waterfall.

David A. Lewis, 29, died Saturday on a hike in Greenville County with his girlfriend and dog.

An autopsy was scheduled for yesterday, according to the Greenville News.

“His dog got away from him, and started running for the falls. Then he went after his dog and reached for his dog. And as I understand it, when he reached for the dog, they both went over the falls,” Greenville County Deputy Coroner Kent Dill told WYFF

The dog was able to get his footing and get back to level ground, Dill said.

The girlfriend suffered some bruises while trying to make her way down to Lewis.

Lewis was a landscape architect with Earth Designs in Pickens.

Are we thirsty in the desert? Oh Ace is

Ace — though he seems to appreciate the slightly wobbly stability our temporary trailer home in Cave Creek, Arizona, is providing — woke up Saturday morning raring to go.

Where, I do not know.

Maybe, with all the driving of the last six months, he now feels the need to ride. Maybe it was the crisp morning temperatures; or perhaps he’d gotten worked up by all the coyote howling the night before. They sounded as if they were having a feast, or a fight, or possibly an orgy.

Ace galloped out of the trailer, ran up to the car and took a seat in the dirt, his wagging tail kicking up dust and a look on his face that said, to me, “What are we waiting for?”

So, on the spur of the moment, I decided we’d revisit Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area — 2,154 acres of desert that over the years has been home to cowboys, Indians and mining operations. Now it’s part of the Maricopa County park system — and it’s just a few miles of paved and dirt roads from where we’re staying.

I’d driven out there last weekend, hearing it was a good place to romp with dogs, but didn’t really explore. On Saturday, I tossed Ace’s leash, water bowl and jug in the car, and off we went — planning not a long hike, just a 30 minute tour to better check things out.

The first thing we encountered was not a gila monster or a rattlesnake, but an extremely nice sheriff’s deputy. He was explaining the lay of the land to me and suggesting some trails when three guys on horses rode up. Ace, who had been around horses only a little — like back when we were passing through Maine — was a perfect gentlemen, and sat at my side. His eyes got big, as they seem to do when he’s amazed, but his hackles stayed down.

The weekend cowboys rode off, and the deputy and I talked some more. I asked if there were any areas where dogs weren’t allowed. He said they were fine everywhere — that rules call for them to stay leashed, but that the rules were pretty flexible. Well behaved dogs, he implied, could romp a bit off leash.

So, 50 yards down the path we chose, off it came.

Ace walked tentatively, avoiding the rocks as he veered from one side of the dusty path to the other, carefully sniffing the various types of cacti as I tried to remember their names, all of which I’d made a point of learning when I moved to Tucson 35 years ago — saguaro, cholla, prickly pear, barrel, agave … my memory of the rest had gone dry.

So had Ace. Not planning a long hike, I hadn’t brought any water — for me or him.

I wasn’t particularly thirsty. We’d only been walking 30 minutes or so, and at a very slow pace, with lots of pauses for sniffing. But Ace, who seems to have a better understanding of the need to hydrate than I, was clearly wishing for water.

He got his wish.

I didn’t know there even was a Cave Creek — as in an actual creek — much less that we were headed towards it, or that it, unlike most alleged bodies of water in these parts, would actually, at this particular time anyway, have water running through it.

Ace, after approaching cautiously, made the most of it. First he pawed it, then he took a tiny taste, then he plunged his head in, taking a long drink, running in circles, then drinking some more.

It wasn’t exactly a raging river, but here in the desert, you take what you can get. We hiked a little deeper down the trail, then turned around. By the time we reached the creek, he was ready to celebrate it once again.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dogs have a way of living fully in the moment – no matter how piddly a moment it is — and we could learn from that.

Our 30-minute hike took two hours. We encountered five other dogs along the way, people on horses and people on mountain bikes, one of whom, as he rode, was singing at the top of his lungs. Possibly that guy was living in the moment, or just a nut.

We had one sour moment, when a lone female hiker snuck up behind me and decided I needed a scolding for not having Ace on a leash.

I hooked him up and let her pass, holding him to my side and assuring her that he was friendly. “That’s what everybody whose dog has ever bitten anybody says,” she said. She kept mumbling as she went by and, once at the trailhead, reported me to the sheriff’s deputy, who — though he didn’t consider it a hanging offense — reminded me of the official rules.

Spur Cross is the newest addition to Maricopa County’s Regional Parks System. Citizens of Cave Creek voted to pay more taxes to help the county and the state to buy the land. The conservation area’s trails pass through through archeological sites of the ancient Hohokam, who once lived along the creek, and one can see relics as well of its mining heritage and its days as a dude ranch.

None of that mattered to Ace. But he sure liked the water.

Overlooked: Scenic but deadly Glen Canyon

It took eight years to build the Glen Canyon Dam — far less to construct the scenic overlook that sits on the edge of the canyon, about a mile south.

Unlike the dam itself, a massive and complex project, building the overlook was a simple matter of putting in a road and parking, adding some steps to make the sandstone trail down to the overlook easier to negotiate, and putting up a stone wall at the base — to keep tourists from plunging from the top of the sheer canyon walls to the river 400 feet below.

The wall is short enough to look over, but its actual height varies, depending on where the wind blows the sand. Yesterday it was about four feet high in some spots, with one tiny section that, for reasons unknown, was built shorter than the rest — only about two feet high. Above the short wall, there’s a steel grate that rises vertically — bolted and cemented firmly into place.

And hidden on that grate — visible only if you look closely — are two names, scrawled with a soldering iron: Cisco and Sadie.

As you might guess, there’s a story behind that grate – previously untold, and very sad.

The ballad of Cisco and Sadie began in Idaho, which is where Dail Hoskins was living before he decided on a change of scenery and moved to Page, Arizona in 2000, bringing his two dogs with him.

Page, less than 50 years old, had emerged as a popular recreation spot by then, thanks to construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which allowed — or forced, depending on your point of view — the Colorado River to back up and form Lake Powell.

Construction on the dam began in 1956. It’s the reason the town of Page exists, and it provides water and electricity to much of the west. It was also very controversial, and still is. While completion of the dam in 1964 allowed water and electricity to be harnessed, it also represented a huge disturbance to the ecosystem and meant the loss of much of the beautiful scenery of Glen Canyon. The controversy surrounding the building of the dam is viewed by some as the beginning of the modern-day environmental movement, and it still sparks debates pitting nature against industrial progress.

Partly to showcase the government-built dam — one of the largest in the U.S. — the overlook was built later. It’s part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, falling under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

The trail down to the overlook is less than a mile. The view, minus the power lines, is magnificent. To Hoskins, who after arriving in Page had bought a little motel, the overlook seemed a good place to take his dogs, Cisco and Sadie, for a hike.

It was about ten years ago that he took the dogs there, and let them both off their leashes. They were generally good about sticking close by and not wandering off.

But, after a few minutes, when Hoskins looked around to find Cisco and Sadie, both had disappeared. He feared the worst, and what happened turned out to be just that. One of the dogs, not being able to see over the wall, had — maybe in pursuit of wildlife — leapt over that shorter section, plunging hundreds of feet to his death. The other immediately followed.

Hoskins blamed no one but himself, and watching his face as he retells the story, it’s clear he still lives with the guilt. In the days after losing his dogs, he hired a river outfitter to take him to retrieve their corpses, then gave them a proper burial.

Hoskins later learned that at least four other dogs had met the same fate, plunging over the same short section of wall. When he called government bureaucrats to tell them what happened to his dogs and see if that short section of wall could be built up, he was told that his dogs should have been on leashes.

He agrees that much is true, but the hazard remained. So he decided to handle things himself. He welded together slabs of steel, forming a large, barred grate, about five feet wide and five feet high. And without getting anybody’s approval, he snuck down to the site with a friend in the dark of night, carrying along the grate, cement, water and tools.

Amazingly, this being just after 9/11, and amid a period of heightened security at the dam, no one noticed he was there. He secured the grate deep in the ground using concrete, filling the gap that existed over the short section of wall. It took a few hours.

No one has ever traced the work to him, and apparently no one was angered by his addition. The park service has affixed a sign to the grate that reads: “Defacing natural features destroys our heritage. Graffiti is unsightly and illegal.” 

It appears Hoskins got away with his dark-of-night, do-it-yourself construction project.

“I did it so it wouldn’t happen to any more dogs … or kids,” he says, though one gets the impression the covert project also served as both an outlet for his grief and a tribute to his dogs.

On one rail of the grate, he inscribed with solder the names of Cisco and Sadie.

Ten years later, the blowing sandstone has yet to brush their names off, and the grate still stands firmly in place, solid as a rock.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)

Robert E. Lee Park will rise again

releemastoffBaltimore County plans to spend $6 million in local and state funds to begin the first phase of improvements to Robert E. Lee Park — one of which is to establish a dog park within the park’s 415 acres.

Long a popular, but unsanctioned spot for dogs to run off-leash, the park — owned by Baltimore City but located within the county — remains officially closed. The footbridge leading to it was condemned as unsafe and recently demolished. The county will soon sign a long-term lease and take over management of the park.

While there is pressure from some groups to declare parts of the park off limits to dogs, plans call for a fenced-in area where dogs can run unleashed, and have access to the water. In all other areas of the park, dogs will have to remain on leash — a rule that will be enforced by park rangers.DSC02802

Work on a new bridge, estimated to cost about $2.8 million, is to begin in March and take about six months to complete. Construction of a fenced dog park and trails will start in late spring, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Plans call for the park to include a nature center, hiking and biking trails, fountains, benches, restrooms and improved access to Lake Roland.DSC02811

I took these photos at the park last year, while it was still open, but a little down at the heels. I’m fairly certain dogs, leashed or unleashed, didn’t vandalize the signs — more likely unleashed humans.

New dog park opens in Mount Airy

The Maryland town of Mount Airy has opened its first dog park.

In the works for 18 months, the Mount Airy Dog Park, located on the grounds of Watkins Park on state Route 27, will hold a grand opening Wednesday, but is already open to dogs and their walkers, according to The Gazette.

Use of the park is free to town residents, whose taxes paid to build it, but they are required to register and get a pass. Residents should bring a water bill to prove residence, and have a county registration tag for their pet.

Non-residents can get passes allowing use of the park for the rest of this year for $15. The fee is $20 starting in 2010.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, town officials will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The town has spent about $12,000 on the park, mostly for fencing and signs.

Additional improvements – including landscaping, a pergola and pet waste posts, are expected in the future. Routine maintenance will be handled by a nearby resident volunteered to cut the grass in exchange for his two dog’s 2009 entry fees.

Pet owners must sign a waiver when registering their dog, as well as review the rules for the park, which include no aggressive dogs, picking up after their dogs, and not leaving pets unattended.

The special tags required for admittance to the Mount Airy Dog Park. are available at The Pet Loft in the Mount Airy Shopping Center, 309 E. Ridgeville Ave., Mount Airy.

Hitting the trail with your dog

     Hiking a trail with a dog on a leash has always struck me as a little unfair.
    You go, at least in part, for the feeling of freedom it gives you, yet your dog remains tethered — in the midst of a wonderful new world of sights and smells, but unable to veer off the path and explore them.
    So any book that lists off-leash hiking areas for dogs — and how to safely and responsibly make the most of those rare opportunities — is a valuable tool.
   Author Jenna Ringelheim’s newly-released “Best Hikes with Dogs: Boston & Beyond,” is the latest in a series published by The Mountaineers Books of Seattle.  (The others are include New York City, Oregon, North Carolina, southern California, Arizona, New Jersey and more.)

    A 28-year-old conservationist and dog lover, Ringelheim highlights numerous opportunities for hiking with your dog in and around Boston – all of them sanctioned leash-free areas.

    Ringelheim lives in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she is the executive director of a nonprofit environmental organization, Wild Gift.  She has two Portuguese water dogs, Tasman and Millie.

    “People have strong feelings about dogs in natural areas. So one of the things that I explain in the book is that you have to be responsible,” Ringelheim said in an interview with the Boston Globe. “The entire first chapter explains how to have a responsible dog on the trail … It’s all about making the right decisions.”

    Immunizations, training, and getting your dog used to the woods are among the areas covered by the book– as well as more common sense reminders, such as always having a leash, water, and waste disposal bags, in reserve.

    Ringelheim spent a year researching dog behavior as well as area trails after completing her master’s degree in urban and environmental policy at Tufts University.

    “Dogs these days often find themselves pent up inside all day waiting for their owners to get home, so having a place where your dog can actually get out and be a dog is important,” she said. “But when dogs are on a leash, they pick up a lot of their owner’s fears. Often, you’ll see fights between dogs on leashes because they have a higher level of anxiety than when they are off leash. . . . Off-leash, in the woods, they relax. After all, that’s where they used to live.”

    Ringelheim got the go-ahead from her publisher to write the book the same day her first hiking companion, a Portugese water dog named Cobi, died.

    “I was hiking with him. He had cancer, and he had a major heart attack basically in the middle of the woods. I had to carry him out . . . and when I got home there was the e-mail from the Mountaineers  saying they wanted to talk to me.”

    Ringelheim puts a strong emphasis on dog care, and the importance of dog owners checking ahead to take stock of hunting seasons, dog drinking-water sources, “paw-friendliness,” and suitability of the terrain.

    “We have weekend warriors that work all week and then play hard on weekends, and their dogs may not appreciate that,” said Ringelheim. “Like people, they need to get in shape first before they take that 10-mile hike on Saturday, especially because dogs are really eager to please their owners. They’ll just keep going until they die. That’s partly why heatstroke is so common for dogs on the trail.”

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