_ I've been meaning to tell you how much our puggies have changed since walking with you. Over the holidays we were visiting a lot of different households where, in the past, the puggles were not necessarily praised for their manners and calm behaviours! But this year... what a difference!!! They're so much more relaxed and happy, Chris and I are overjoyed!! I'm so grateful you came into our lives!
It's not me (well, maybe a small part) - it's the trails!
Uisce is sleeping on the sofa beside Caroline as I write this. He is so loving and attentive! I take him to High Park three times a day and he always walks right with me. There were times he watched a dog playing roughly with Frida or Frida playing with another dog, and he'd go to the dog he thought was overdoing it. Then I'd say. "That's OK. Leave it, sweetie," and call him to me. So now he looks at me and sometimes I say "Let's go see," and he helps me break something up or I tell him it's alright and he stays with me.
It's such a pleasure to have him stay with us! And both Caroline and I love him.
About his food - yesterday I roasted a chicken for him and cooked carrots and he ate that. And today I gave him more cooked chicken. I remembered you said you give him raw beef, so I bought some for him today (beef shoulder). And I know he loves cheese, so I bought some for him as well. He ate both and loved the cheese! So he's doing wonderfully.
I know he misses you both greatly; he cries when we're in the car and I comfort him. Other than that he's happy and relaxed and he feels our love.
I'm sure you must be having a beautiful time. Know that Caroline and I are putting our hearts into caring for him. He is a beautiful soul!
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Yesterday I worried my new friends, two pugs named Ernie and Bella might not be ready for trail hiking. I and their owners (family) had been inspired by the image of the puggies experiencing the sense of freedom that comes from being leash-free on the trail.
But at the High Park off-leash area, Ernie had roamed too far and although he was found on the other side of a fence along the path, he had traveled and stood alone and somewhat confused away from Bella and our pack. He had visited with me at our house before the walk, sharing Frida's toys and treats, and being cuddled by me and my daughter Caroline. I always do this with new dogs, as well as with dogs who hike regularly with us. I think it helps develop a powerful bond - we become relatives.
Anyhow, Ernie and Bella's family reassured me: they had thought Ernie might get carried away, but they had been willing to have him hike off-leash. They suggested Ernie stay on lead if I felt more confident, but should I sense a shift in his staying power, I might give free rein another try.
Yay and yay! Today we came home for some quality bonding and then headed out for Humber bay Park East. Ernie gets anxious in the car, so he likes a reassuring arm around his torso. Bella watches over him.
At first I kept Ernie on leash, but within five minutes he was running through the bushes and along the path. Whenever he came within arms reach I'd call his name and give him a peanut butter star from Fetch on Roncevalles. I like to think the honest affection I felt for both him and Bella helped keep both Puggies (as well as for Giselle who shared the hike) within range, but I know those treats were tempting.
After the hike, Bella and Ernie came home with us once again, briefly this time. On the way back to their house, Ernie was calmer in the car. From time to time I'd say "I know, it's not easy for you" and I'd hold him close. He didn't understand the words, but I do believe he felt my empathy. There seemed to be a certain flow between us, deepened by our hiking time, and I felt honored.
I love trail walking with my canine companions. And I wish all my dogs were trail-ready. Before I take a new friend on a trail, we go to High Park. Some dogs will explore and check back in. Others share their discoveries alongside. Occasionally, a new friend will get too carried away with roaming.
And so I ask all humans of the dogs who hike with me whether their dogs are trail-ready. I always hope they are; but dogs can get lost on a trail. And human voices cannot carry far enough or may not be heeded. I walk such a dog, a bright, energetic fox terrier who finds a scent and follows it. In our trail walks, she will have to be on lead, followed by a romp with other dogs in an enclosed off-leash area. Her human is working hard to improve her dog's recall. And when the time comes, they will both accompany me on a test trail walk.
So it's vital to inform your walker/ hiking guide of your dog's habits and tendencies. Trail walking may commence immediately or may become one of your primary goals for your dog.
My Frida has been hiking with me since she was a puppy. She acts as canine guide and companion and was born to this work. When the hike works, everything is in sync, dogs, human, earth, sky, all.I am wishing this for you and your dog.
Tomorrow is a busy day. I'll pick up Q., a Boston who adores both Frida and me (affection which we return), in the early part of the morning, before the Aussiedoodle arrivies for his one-night stay-over. Frida does much of the welcoming; she has a gentle, enthusiastic way of putting dogs at ease. And I think, in my human way, I greet in a similar fashion. And then we'll go for our second hike of the day -- a wonderful shared time and natural way to bond.
At noon, we'll return home: I shall eat lunch with my daughter Caroline, and then off we go, Aussiedoodle, Frida and I to pick up a pug/French bulldog for a hike along Humber River. The pug loves to explore, but all my canine friends do. More and more I feel their joy in running through forest trails. They have their own rhythms, running after smells, each other, easy-going walking, dashing off again, returning for a treat and happy word; I have become committed to hiking with my dogs who come into their own on the trail.
And later, a stop-off at T.'s place, who is missing our hikes due to a recovering sprain on his right leg. We're just walking along the blocks near his house. He goes about sniffing and generally enjoying our stroll, but it's not the same.
This week I am determined to bring my dogs to Clareville. I'll report back after that hike.
Janice is the founder of and primary caregiver at Happy Trail Dogs Service. She is also the founder of an arts-related non-profit and worked in the fitness industry for over two decades. She is an artist, editor, writer, and mother of two wonderful women and a glorious lab named Frida.