Dogs and the AT

21 Apr

*Please note that this post may offend some. That it is not my intention. However, I do want to bring to light other not so typical viewpoints about the AT.

It is so hard for me to understand why dogs are not appreciated on the AT. My trail partner and I have read post after post and article after article about dogs on the Appalachian Trail. People are very negative towards our four legged companions. Don’t they have more of a right to be free in the woods than we do? They are, after all, descendants of the wolf. These creatures were roaming the woods of North America way before our English ancestors were. ( I know not everyone’s ancestors are English, however it was very much a white man’s vision to build the AT.)

I love my dogs. They have and always will be a part of my life. I take them to the dog park, the grocery store, and I used to take them to work. They are well behaved. They actually do not want you to pet them right away. They want to get close enough to smell you, and then they wish to go on their merry way. Our dogs are our trail companions. They always have been. They have grown up faithfully running by our sides on trails throughout North America and even parts of Europe. We feel guilt when we leave them at home alone. Even if it is only for an hour. We simply cannot imagine packing this trail without them.

With this being said I am going to bring to light some controversial viewpoints. Everyone is asking me and my canine to respect them and their wants for the trail. Why is it this is so, but my wants for the trail should not be respected? I have no desire to entertain screaming whining children or bongo playing hippies, yet this is supposed to be perfectly acceptable. Yes, my dog may bark at times. It could be to defend our camp from a bear, or a psycho, or maybe it is because a troop of boy scouts are loud and taunting. This is apparently not okay. However I am expected to quietly endure hours of awful guitar playing and rants about not understanding commercial life after only a week in the woods? Please, give me a break.

My trail partner and I actually have beautiful singing voices. We sing together quite often. But I can guarantee you that we will not sing  in the presence of others, for we respect that they may not like our voices or simply want to enjoy the sounds of nature. Just because you can somewhat play a few chords on the guitar does not mean I want to hear them. I grew up with guitar as a constant in my house, but unless you are as good as an average classical guitarist…I do not want to hear it. So, this is when I will politely excuse myself from the situation. Interestingly enough I will manage to do so without making a scene or some sort of passive aggressive comment about you and your guitar. Why can’t it be that you simply do the same with the dogs?

Now…what about misbehaving children? Why is it okay for your child to scream and whine, or bother people with tons of unsolicited questions, or run around camp in other peoples way? Why is this cute, but my untethered dog a nuisance? I have an answer… It is not. It is not cute or okay. In fact may it be more of a bother than my dog.  Please know that if you ask me leash my dog  but you have a 3 year old running ahead charging at the “puppy”, I may ask that you do the same with your untrained child.

Now let’s talk about those groups of 20+ boy scouts. I LOVE the scout program. I think it has potential to be awesome and I used to do lectures for both the boy and girl scouts.  Just don’t begin to lecture me about the principles of Leave no Trace and then support a group of 20+ people setting up camp at the same place at the same time. Talk about noise pollution!  I simply cannot grasp how these things I am expected to endure but my dog cannot walk freely in the woods with me.

So here is my promise to all of the above, and those with opinions that lie in between.I promise to not stay in the shelters with my dogs if there are other hikers already there. If we show up at a respectable evening time and are by ourselves…we will stay in the shelter. So if you come in later it is then your choice to stay with or without the dogs. Our dogs are actually better off the leash. I promise to evaluate the situation and make the best decision for everyone involved. I know the actions of my dogs better than anyone else. You have to trust in me to make the best decision the same way I trust in you as a fellow hiker of the trail. I promise to tether the dogs at night close to the tent or the shelter. This way no one has to worry about being awakened with a cold nose in their ear. We are all out there together. Your desires are most important only to you. You need to appreciate that my desires may be different. We will share the same space for a very small amount of time. So in our passing I promise to respect the way in which you wish to experience the trail as long as you respect my wants/wishes for my experience.

Thank You.


3 Responses to “Dogs and the AT”

  1. Julie A. Wilson April 22, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    WoW! Awesome perspective on dogs! I hike with my mini Australian shepherd and she is an amazing do to hike with. She will bark at times, when she is startled, but other than that is very well behaved. I love having her out with me. Although, I do have to disagree with you on one point! I LOVE having the wet noses in my face when it’s time to get up! I actually have 2 mini aussies and both love to climb on top of my chest and lick my face when it’s time to get up! Sometimes, it’s the best part of my day…but I understand and dog kisses are not for everyone! 🙂 Anyway…I thought I would say that I loved the post and totally agree with you on every single point! (well, except for the wet noses part!)

  2. Molly F. Randolph October 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    I only learned about this blog today, so have not been able to follow it in chronological order. What fun it is to catch up!
    In my opinion, dogs are excellent companions for women on the AT. Women should not be prevented from having such an adventure because of safety issues.

  3. Gritz October 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Dear TTC2,

    I myself am a very experienced AT Hiker. I have walked 1440 miles from Maine to Buchanan VA and am planing to finish in GA as well. I just want to say one thing about dogs on the trail…… I LOVE BEAR! Ole Bear and I had the opportunity to hike together for some time on the trail. However, we are no longer together. Therefore; I MISS BEAR! Although, some dogs on the trail can be dangerous for amazing hikers like myself. For instance, I was bitten by DogMan’s Dog “Wayah.” With this being said, it needs to be known that the dog was in more pain than I as my large muscles most likely broke a few wolf teeth. Anyway, to sum all of this up I think BEAR is the shit, not to be confused with simply shit but in fact THE shit as in he is awesome and needs a medal for doing a 42 mile day plus a few run backs. If I had Bear in my arms right now I am pretty sure fireworks would happen, that or bad looks from Carrot.

    Happy Trails,


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