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Only a mad woman drags three small dogs all over the face of a mountain looking for a film canister.
As most of you know, our K9 Kamp Challenge is underway. (Have you checked it out yet? If not, you totally should.) This time around, we’re asking you to tell us how you get fit with fido. Inspired by a few of our K9 Kampers, Gizmo from Terrier Torrent who does this cool activity called geocaching and Chester & Gretel from You Did What With Your Weiner who are avid hikers, we set off into the mountains this weekend with three very handsome dogs in tow in search of a cache.
Just what is geocaching?
It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt, but instead of clues and riddles, you’re given co-ordinates on a map and you have to use your piePhone or a GPS to try to find a hidden item when you get there. It’s a way to smoosh together technology and a love of the great outdoors. Ever since Gizmo woofed about it, we have been dying to give it a try. After all, we have some of the most beautiful hiking around here in BC and I love exposing the dogs to new locations and new smells. The only problem?
Hiking with three small dogs is like trying to nail jell-o to a tree.
They tried to be good, oh man they did! (By “tried to be good” I mean that Feliz zig zagged back and forth determined not to miss a smell, Kol insisted on peeing on everything, even long after he was running on empty and Luey was just Luey: nuts.) In the end, all our problems come down to one thing: my lack of preparation. Here are my tips to help make your first geocaching hike a breeze.
- Make sure the area you’re hiking is dog friendly to YOUR dogs.
Colour me surprised! Even though the park we were hiking in was 100% dog-friendly, the particular trail we were on wasn’t well suited to my mini mutts. While a bigger dog would have had no issue navigating some of the bigger obstacles, I found myself lifting three three small dogs over a woof load of fallen trees etc. when they decided they were far too delicate and dainty to try scaling them. Plus, we never reached our cache since it was in a non-small-dog-friendly location. Boo to that!
- Pack lightly.
Apparently packing for three dogs is much like packing for three very spoiled Sultans. Not only did we need essentials like water and a travel dog bowl, I also found myself packing “non-essentials” like snacks to bribe Koly & Lu not to eat animal droppings, a cool pack for each dog just in case they over heated and a few basic first aid supplies since, let’s face it, I’m a klutz and trying to wrangle three rambunctious dogs does not make me any more graceful. If hiking were to become a regular thing for us, I would definitely invest in a quality dog backpack and make Koly haul his own crap around. (Both literally and figuratively.)
- You only have two hands – plan for that.
Um, reality check? Last I checked, I only have two hands. How the woof I thought I was going to hold three leashes, manage my bag and use my phone to track the cache coordinates is kind of beyond me. Maybe I imagined I was turning into Octo-Mama? At any rate – it just wasn’t possible. Luckily, I had our multi-function leash with me – what a lifesaver! (I’m super excited that we’re giving one away as a part of our K9 Kamp prize package) Having a hands free leash meant I could loop Kolchak around my body and add a coupler to attach Felix, freeing up my hands to hold Lu’s leash while working my cell phone in the other. If you think you’ve got more dog than you can handle even with a hands free leash, use a lifeline – phone a friend.
- Stay on the trail.
As tempting as it is to let your dog off leash to roam the mountainside and follow his nose, you want to stay on the trail, which means Fido should too. After all, you’ve just invited yourself into Mama Bear’s house, you’d best not put your muddy paws up on her coffee table too. There is all sorts of wild life out there, don’t let it get you. Mama bears are NOT that forgiving. Raccoons, squirrels and other furry vermin aren’t much better.
- Be realistic.
If you’re dogs have never hiked anything steeper than a pile of blankets, you might need to accept that a five hour hike is not on today’s agenda. Look for a geocaching trail that is rated within your fitness level and keep an eye on the time. After a few hours of traipsing about, my dogs made it clear that we were done for the day – even though I never found that cache. (So close and yet – so far away!) Listen to your dogs and what their bodies tell you. Call it a day when you need to. The geocache trail will always be there and you can try it again. You don’t want to get this look from your dog.
Geocaching is hard work!
At the end of the hike, we all felt pretty great, though some of us were sleepier (and snackier) than others. Of all the dogs, I was surprised that Felix, who is probably the least muscled, loved it the most. His favourite part of any walk is the smells and the chance to get that close to nature clearly rocked his fluffy little world.
The best part for me was the added fun of not knowing where the geocache co-ordinates would lead us. Given the choice, I may have choice the better travelled path, avoided the worst of the dog-lifting obstacles and not gotten nearly as good of a work out, plus I’m still totally enamoured by the idea of a path laid by strangers all leading to the discovery of a hidden treasure. (Plus, my friend Candice totally got proposed to on a geocaching hike. You hear that Daddy?!)