Friday, June 17, 2011

Pleasant Mountain - Take Two!

Today we went back to Pleasant Mountain in Fryeburg for another splendid hike. It was the first time for a couple of our newest hikers, and they loved it just as much as the rest of the gang! We hit the trail at 9:45 a.m. and got back to the car at about 1:15 p.m., so we had a solid 3.5 hours of hiking. Mike and I were very sweaty by the time we got to the top! Lots of very interesting things happened along the trail today...

The gang treed a chipmunk and they were quite proud of themselves. Angus, Lyla and Jethro were among the leaders on this hunting expedition. I got one decent photo of our little chippy pal, and he was shaking a bit!

Mike and I spotted a snake on the trail and we took video and photos of it...even getting one with its red tongue (ewwww) jutting out at us. The dogs were completely unaware of its presence, nearly stepping on it!!

The bugs (black flies as well as mosquitos) were out in swarms today and that made the hike difficult for the humans and a few of the dogs as well. Tonya kept rolling around on the ground for relief and we sprayed her with our own human bug spray. Lola has hardly any fur on her face and the bugs really attacked her. She swelled up with hives toward the end of the hike and we were incredibly worried about her. She dipped herself in the water and dragged her face on the ground, poor dear. We think she might be allergic to bug bites and hope her vet can provide some relief for her, as we are too afraid to bring her back out on the trail until we have some advice and a plan.

When we got to the summit, we were greeted by a lovely swarm of dragonflies. They are wonderful to see because they eat the mosquitos and black flies!! Yay! You will see a lot of them in our summit photos today! We also encountered two couples on the summit. Jessie and Rosie were all over one couple, who I think were finishing up their lunch! We had to put leashes on them to keep them from ruining our reputation on the mountain.

We had no trouble with showers, thunder or lightning while hiking, thankfully. Almost everyone is swimming now, and Angus was just a total joy to watch in the pools at the bottom of the waterfalls. He loved it! Jessie and Rosie are getting the hang of it, and in the photos you’ll see all FIVE of our Lab hikers swimming together. No surprise there. You can see Casco giving the babies the eye, though. He didn’t want to serve as a life preserver for them!

We had a few mud hens among our pack today. Jessie and Angus and Sophie found a nice mud hole to roll around in. Jessie was black up to her shoulders! I think perhaps the mud provided a bit of relief from the bugs....but boy, did it stink!!

Speaking of stinking....we had a gassy dog in the car today, and wouldn’t you know it, she was sitting right on my LAP! We had Lyla Italian Greyhound/Min Pin Mix with us today as a favor to her momma, and she had the worst gas on both the trip up and the trip back. Thanks, Lyla, for your contribution!! Lol...

We had a case of “human error” with our seating arrangements for today’s hike. Won’t make that mistake again! We decided to try having all the dogs in one area by folding the back seats forward and moving the safety gate behind the front seat. Well, what that did is allow Jessie to try and wrestle with Rosie the whole way to Fryeburg. And when they got done with that, they decided it would be great fun to try and chew the seat belts, the bed liner, etc. Duke joined in on the wrestling, too. The older dogs were very unhappy with all of this. They just wanted to rest and relax while waiting to get to our destination. We even had to move Casco up to the front seat (imagine CASCO on the floor in front of my passenger seat) because Jethro was squishing him and he was crying and threatening to jump out the window. So, it was a mistake, as I said, that we corrected before loading everyone back up for the ride home. Nice, quiet ride on the way home....despite having to stop five times along the way to check on Lola to be sure she was comfortable and breathing normally (due to the swelling/hives).

Anyway, ALL of our hikers are fantastic once we hit the trail. Jessie is a monster on a leash, though, and this made it really challenging for Mike on the bottom portion of the trail when ALL our hikers except Casco and Tonya go on leashes. He had six dogs and I had five on leashes. Jessie nearly pulled his arms out. Not sure what we can do about that.....but it was really challenging not to fall over or get hurt.

Everyone stayed together at all times. Sometimes Lola and Lyla would wander on either side of the trail, but they always came when called or signalled with the squeaker. Lyla LOVED the food rewards. Sophie labored a bit coming up the trail, but that’s likely normal for her breed and we stopped a lot to be sure she had herself under control. She loves to hike! Addie was wonderful yet again and is just terrific all day long. Duke is probably our happiest hiker all day long. He can’t resist eating grass and chewing sticks all the way up....and all the way down. He and Rosie fight over sticks and then Angus comes over and settles things by stealing the stick. Perfect.

Angus continues to amaze us with his love for the trail, and now for the water, too! I just love to watch this boy swim! Molly continues to grow in confidence and had a wonderful time today. She follows Mike now as much as she follows me! Love it! And she’s spending more and more time NOT velcro-ed to our ankles. Yay!

We cannot say enough good things about our Anabelle, who has grown very attached to Mike. She loves their personal time in the car when she’s the last to get dropped at her house, leaning on Mike and wanting a little petting. How adorable is that? And we truly love having her herd the entire pack as we move up the trail. She is at her best in the woods, as are many of our hikers.

Jethro is all about the food as well as swimming and thrashing through the brush beside the trail. He is a front runner at all times and he enjoyed having Lyla along today to help with that! Lyla was just ridiculously independent in the woods and she, I think, would love to LIVE in the woods so she could hunt 24/7. Nice to have her along today. She got along so well with everyone and had a BALL at the summit playing with Duke. The photos show this!

Mike and I are going to scout a couple new hikes out on Sunday morning so stay tuned for info about that. And there will be NO HIKE on July 8, as DWD will be closed for vacation that week. Of course, we’ll be out scouting locations for future hikes then as well! We’ve decided that it’s probably to dangerous to hike on rainy days, so please use the usual check-in methods if rain is forecasted on a hiking day - check Facebook or the DWD website anytime after 6 a.m. for a message, or call my phone 632-1863 or Mike’s phone 831-9341 to check with us personally after 6 a.m.

THANK YOU all so much for the confidence and trust you have placed in us by allowing your dogs to hike with us. We get so much pleasure out of watching them, guiding them and just being part of their joy on these Fridays! Of course, we’ve both never worked so hard in our lives, but it’s a good way to spend our day! And Casco and Tonya both are doing well as Pack Leaders as well. Casco is sore in the shoulders/paws tonight so we’re not sure if he’ll be able to come every week. After all, he IS almost 10 years old (don’t tell him!).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hike #2 - Fuller Farms Nature Preserve, Scarborough, ME

It hardly seems possible, but we had just as much fun on this week's hike as last week's. Perfect weather, seriously awesome hikers, and another excellent location. This program is turning out to be the absolute HIGHLIGHT of our week!

The Location: Fuller Farms is a 180-acre tract of preserved land placed in the Scarborough Land Trust back in 2001. It is truly a hidden gem. Take Broadturn Road from Rte 1 in Scarborough at the light just after Dunstan School Restaurant where Pine Point Rd intersects Rte 1 on the L and Broadturn intersects on the R. It's a few miles out, on your R. Lots of beautiful meadow land and rolling fields lead to wooded paths, with wooden bridges over some nice streams for swimming. The trail is about 1.5 miles and we did three loops. There are some trail choices once you are in the woods, and we explored them all. The hikers liked the stream and small ponds the best and we spent a lot of time there, letting them play, splash and swim.

The Hikers: This week, Bailey Yellow Lab stayed home to rest. We added two smalls - Addie Schnauzer (Casco's BFF) and Sophie French Bulldog. Jessie Yellow Lab had her first hike as well! Returning hikers included Jethro Choc Lab, Lola Shar Pei/Boxer, Angus Cairn Terrier, Duke Puggle, Rosie Black Lab, Anabelle Sheltie and Molly Morkie. Ten hikers plus Casco and Tonya for an even dozen. Great group!

Jessie was well-behaved and joyous all day long. Like Bailey last week, she took a header into the stream and I caught it with the camera. This scared her but did not deter her from getting back into the water again and again. She traveled really well in the way-back of the Trail Blazer with Rosie, Jethro and Lola. Jessie lost her pink bandana in the water with the help of our bandana-stealing dog, Rosie. Later, Rosie stripped Sophie of her orange one so we put it on Jessie.

Duke had another fabulous hike. Since he and his Mom scouted out our location last Sunday, he blazed the trail and showed his pals where to find all the good stuff! He likes to eat grass... Duke loves the water, the mud, and especially sticks!

Anabelle once again thrilled us with her joyful running all around in the fields and woods. She is truly in her element in the wild, this one! She is a wonderful and responsible hiker. Concerned at all times that the pack stay together when we're moving along the trail, she's a good helper for sure. Then, when we stop for swimming and relaxation, she goes nuts and leads everyone in crazy chases. Love it!

Lola went nuts straight out of the car and worried us at the outset that we wouldn't be able to keep her in control, as she ignored all voice commands and just ran like a crazy woman, bouncing like a wild bunny through the tall grass. But, it wasn't long before she came into line and decided to allow us to get to know her better and build a little relationship. She slipped out of her collar (she's good at this) twice before the hike even started! So...Mike and I would simply put a hand on her whenever we could to get her to trust that coming to us isn't going to restrict her freedom. As the day wore on, she came to us more easily and allowed us to put her collar back on and later, to attach the leash to it to go back to the car. Lola doesn't eat ANY of our treats during hikes. She sniffs and turns away.

Rosie, like Jessie, fell into the water and it scared her but didn't stop her from going back in again and again. They are getting their water wings, these young Lab girls! Rosie is a fiesty hiker. She loves to pull on everyone's bandanas...including her own. She eats grass and mud and chews on sticks along the trail, and she's not opposed to stopping to wrestle with Jessie or Dukey at every opportunity. Bugs seem to love Rosie and I removed horseflies and a tick from her face along the trail.

Molly again impressed us beyond words as our littlest hiker. She felt much freer this time to get out and explore the woods and she even went swimming on her own! She waded right in, swam a bit and then climbed out. Nothing to it! She still prefers to stick close to Mike and I, which is totally fine. Sometimes, the other dogs trample over her as they fly by! She's really great for us and is also good at telling her fellow hikers to buzz off if they annoy her. When we stop for play, she's crazy and runs all over the place, which delights her pals.

Addie had a truly amazing first hike. She is wonderful off leash and stuck near the front of the pack all day. She had no problem with coming back to us when asked...even if it took her a time or two to "listen" to the command or squeak from our recall toy. She ate treats throughout the day and got into the water to cool off. She is perfect for our group and we want her with us from now on!! Casco, of course, was delighted to hang with her for the day!

Sophie Frenchie is seriously athletic and was really happy all day. She runs crazy-fast. She road up front on the floor at my feet with Duke and they are now inseparable. They cuddled all the way home! Sophie does get winded and we stopped to let her catch her breath here and there. She ate treats through the day and drank water as needed, but not as much as I would've liked. I worry about her getting overheated. We'll keep an eye on her. She's a total swimmer, too! Wow!!

Jethro was great on the trail. He's all about Julie's treats, for sure. At the house, he seems a bit anxious and uncomfortable, but I gave him an unbleached rawhide bone post-hike and that helped him relax and chill out. Jethro is learning NOT to jump on the gates and walls at school so please help him with this and don't give ANY attention to him when you come to get your dog or drop off your dog, thanks. It's been a while since he came to the house... Back to the hike - Jethro is independent and we trust him in the woods. He returns to me easily. His greatest joy is racing with Lola and Casco for the lead as we go along. Good boy!

Angus had another stellar day and was just terrific. Judy - if you could establish email contact with me, that would be great. Thanks. Angus loves Molly and they stick close during the day. He also was delighted that Addie joined us. Angus rode in the backseat with Addie and Anabelle and Casco and Tonya. They arranged themselves in different piles and were good riders. Angus loves to swim!! We love to watch him do it, too. Angus was simply made to be in the woods. He's totally in his element and is a wonderful hiker.

Precautions: I sprayed all the hikers pre-hike with Earth Animal's Bug-Off! organic tick and bug spray and will continue to do so before every hike. You MUST do a thorough check for ticks after we hike, please. We check but can't guarantee we got all the crawlies. I put paw soothing Musher's Wax on Lola. If your dog's paws seem beat up from the trails and woods, let me know and I'll do their paws pre-hike too. Offer lots of water to your dogs post-hike and expect that their poops will have lovely things like GRASS in them. WHY they insist on acting like cows, I do not know. Casco threw up in the woods and it was mostly grass, for goodness sake! Such goof balls!

Next Time: Not sure of your destination yet, but we're busy scouting.... Can't wait to do it all again!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Our First Big Hiking Adventure with Dogs!

The Hike: Pleasant Mountain via the Firewarden's Trail, which is located on Wilton Warren Road off 302 in Fryeburg, ME. 2.5 miles to summit. 3.2 hours round-trip for our group. A pretty tame hike with waterfalls, streams and pools for cooling off.

The Weather: Couldn't have asked for better - 60's, sunshine and a nice wind blowing on the top 1/3 of the hike. The black flies and mosquitos were out but not too pesky.

The Pack: Age range - 4.5 months to 9.5 years. Size range - 6 pounds to 85 pounds. Breed range - Morkie to Puggle to Sheltie to Lab. Leg length - 3 inches to a yard! Experience range - years of off-leash hiking to first-timers! These dogs totally bonded as a pack, got along famously and were amazing together!

The Car Ride: About 1.5 hours to get there, as we had construction and a.m. commuter traffic to
contend with. Duke Puggle road on the floor, front seat passenger side. Molly Morkie road in Julie's lap. Anabelle Sheltie was supposed to be in the back seat, but inserted herself between the two front seats on the console so she could "help" with the navigation and supervise
Mike's driving. In row two, we had Angus Cairn
Terrier on the left sharing the view out the window with senior hiker, Casco Bernier. Anabelle's hind end occupied the middle of the seat. Tonya Bernier had the right window so she could feel the wind ruffle her ears. In row three (the "way back" gated rear compartment) we had Rosie Black Lab, Jethro Choc Lab, Lola Shar Pei Boxer and Bailey Yellow Lab. Everyone rode really well...with only a few whines of "are we THERE YET?" The ride home was rrrreeeeeaaaallllyyyy quiet.

Hike Highlights: The saints and angels conspired to make this quite a spectacular day in every way possible. We had absolutely NO mishaps, issues or problems. The weather was gorgeous. The dogs were incredibly well-behaved, happy and downright joyful to be free in the ME woods. Mike and I slowly and steadily let our fears and worries float away as we headed up the trail. This pack was amazing. At the summit, we were almost tearful as we watched our whole pack zooming around enjoying the beautiful views, the meadow-like lushness of the mountain top and the wind zipping along. We were at the top of our little world! Along the route to the summit, we encountered a foursome of hikers with a Shepherd named Lara. They were so impressed with our pack and Lara wanted to continue up with our crew! We shared snacks
and a bit of lore from our travels and continued on up. When we got back to the car post-hike, they'd left a note in the dust of our back window -- "bark bark!" Indeed!

The Hikers: Lola was ridiculously energetic and happy on arrival. She tore through the woods
non-stop, zipping up and down the trail, buzzing through streams, leaping over fellow hikers -- it was hilarious. She was a pack leader for most of the way up, blazing the trail for us. She probably got 50 miles to our 5 under her belt for the day with all the running around she did!

Jethro was another trail blazer and hike leader. He is so fit and agile, we were truly in awe. He showed the younger Labs all about water play and swam several times in the shockingly cold pools below the waterfalls. Like Casco, Jethro loves to tear through the pucker brush alongside the trails. He stuck close to Casco and the two became good buds by day's end.

Rosie was our youngest hiker...but she is already well-versed in the art of hiking with humans. Her parents take her out almost every weekend. Rosie was a riot in the water, which she loves
but isn't completely comfortable in just yet. She got in over her head and was splashing up a storm. Hilarious! And she made sure that no stick was left untasted along the trail's edge. She and Duke and Bailey had fun carrying them together and playing tug.

Molly was our tiniest in size...but that means NOTHING. She has more energy than anyone in the pack. She took her time getting comfortable being off-leash and free and stuck close to Julie's ankles for most of the way up. When we got to the top, though, she went wild and showed us just what she's made of. Lola couldn't get enough of chasing her 'round the mountain top with Angus. On the way down, Molly was relaxed and traveled ahead of Julie with the pack!

Bailey is a goofy goober. His big body doesn't quite move the way he wants it to at times...and he lost his footing (or Angus pushed him -- who knows?!) and he splashed face-first into a pool at the beginning of the hike. The photos of this are amazing! He got himself sorted out just fine and wasn't opposed to more water fun later on. He's a great hiker and stayed with the pack at all times. Bailey did seem to be limping a bit near the summit...maybe in the right front leg.

Since he's such a big, hearty boy, I would recommend supporting his joint health with a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement. Casco's been on one for years and we swear by it for keeping his joints and bone structure healthy. Ours is vet-prescribed, so ask your vet about it ASAP.

Angus was simply fantastic all day long. He was off leash very quickly after the hike began and never ever waivered from staying with the pack. He interacted well with everyone in the pack and loved the whole experience. He loved riding with Casco in the back seat and they are now good pals (yay). Angus got into the streams and waterfalls with the rest of the pack and just loved getting wet and cooling off. He worked hard, played hard and was bleary-eyed and blissed-out on the ride back home.

Duke Puggle was the BOMB on this hike. He'd NEVER been off-leash before and let me tell you, you'd never have believed it. He is a master hiker and outdoorsman. The whole experience was just fantastic for him. He loved being with Bailey (his BFF) again as well as with Rosie. They shared sticks, ran through the woods and streams and at the summit, had a wrestling contest. Duke rode like a champ in the car, too. Mike and I thought he had the best space - on the floor at my (Julie's) feet all cozy on a soft towel. He looked so content!

Anabelle Sheltie also amazed the human pack leaders on the hike! She stuck close to us at times and always brought up the rear...making sure that the pack was together and all were accounted for. But....there were times when Anabelle couldn't resist going bonkers and ran through the woods and fields along the trail with wild abandon. The rest of the pack couldn't help but chase her, which she loved. The photos of these rampages tell the story. She was an absolute delight to have in our pack, in every way possible. When we got back to the car, we loaded everyone in....but Anabelle didn't want to cooperate. I think she wanted to keep hiking! I sat down on a log and waited with her until she decided to accept a cookie and a promise that we'd bring her back to the mountains soon.

The Next Adventure: The Pack Leaders are still plotting and discussing the next adventure...but we will say this: EVERYONE is invited back next Friday! We were so energized and thrilled by their love of the trail and their ability to stay together. Couldn't be more pleased!! Drop 'em off here next Friday between 7 and 8. Who knows what's next.... Our first hike experience will be tough to beat, that's for certain.