We went to Ruffner today and hiked the Buckeye Trail. I tried to find an archive of today’s temperature and failed. I’m sure it exists but I don’t feel like spending any more time on it. Suffice it to say that it was hot. Hotter than I thought it would be after last weekends cool snap. And apparently it was just a snap. It seems to be a word of mouth thing that I learned when I got a husky that if the weather gets over 80 degrees serious husky owners tend to not push their dogs in activities that would cause them to overheat. This seems to actually have been a good rough estimate. Too far above the 80 line and I notice a serious decrease in stamina during outdoor activity.
I’ve read some posts by hardcore husky owners who monitor the temperature and wake up well before daylight to walk their dog in the coolest possible weather during the summer months. I have to say I did this at first too. But the heat has made Whiskey sluggish, relieving some of his desire to go go go. So I’ve been, essentially, a little off the hook. I can skip one day of physical activity and he’s okay. I skip two though and I’ve got a demon on my hands…
But right, I’m here to tell you about the trail. So the trail is nice. It slopes slowly downward till you get to the wetlands trail. About halfway there is an overlook on the right. There are lots of potential for good off trail hiking in the winter when the view opens up because of how many mines/ruins are out in the woods.
I passed a couple whose dog was off leash. That’s against park rules, but I get it. It’s hard to say no to your best friend, especially when the woods were as empty as they were (everyone else know it was too bloody hot). He apologized sheepishly to me while clicking the leash in place, but I’m no dog police. He told me if I had come ten minutes earlier they could have fun; free together and running in the wild… I smiled and nodded my agreement- but I lied. Whiskey won’t run free– like that anyway. He’s of husky stock and they are among other things, excellent escape artists. They also have never met a stranger which can be seen as being unloyal by some but really it’s just in their nature to believe that the person they meet in the wild is just as cool as you are. They are also bred to be independent thinkers who can make their own decisions when pulling a sled. This unfortunately transfers to non sledding activities like: “do I want to come when you call me,” and my favorite “but there is a dog 3 blocks away. I can smell him. I’ll see you later.” Since our dog doesn’t have a chip and since I can’t bear to lose him he is never off leash unless in a securely fenced area. Then he can run “Free” to his heart’s content. Sometimes I envy those non leashed dog owners, but then I think… if I wasn’t willing to be there for Whiskey, where would he be? And I leash him up and thank the lucky stars I have a crazy dog. Leash or no.
So much to that man’s dismay- I wouldn’t have let him run free. He would have kept running. It’s not that he doesn’t love me, it’s that he loves everything else just as much. We had the park to ourselves. We sat at the overlook. But in the summer it’s not as impressive as when the leaves are turning in the fall or when the leaves are gone and you can make out more of the landscape.
I must now confess how I nearly killed Whiskey. Poor Whiskey was overheated but this became clear near the bottom and by this point we had to go back up the mountain. There was no other way around it. I let him have a long break, let him have all the water and reminded myself to bring two water bottles next time. He has frothed around the mouth before when he was at a dog park and was overheated. He did it again today. I made him slow his pace back up the mountain and he scared the bejesus out of me. I promised him long and hard that I would never take him out on a hike on a hot day. Ever. By the end of the trip he was still foaming a bit around the muzzle. He began to walk a little funny and wanted to lean right next to me (he’s normally a take charge and lead guy). He was panting more heavily that normal. All signs that indicate some level of heat stroke. I felt rotten. The trail was only 2 miles total but it was just too much for him in the heat.
I know better, but I just didn’t check the weather. He’s now surrounded by two new toys and I bought two different kinds of new treats (survivors guilt anyone?) and as he chews away on his new squeak toy (the last one we got him lasted about 30 minutes. This one has set the new record at 4 hours) I think he has forgiven me. Tomorrow I promised him we’d mosey around a local park (NO hiking involved) and check out a stream. He seems happy with the prospect.
Here are some links to help educate you about heat stroke in dogs. Most of the official sites do not indicate foaming at the mouth as a sign of heat stroke. However, many “regular” dog owners like myself have blogged and written about their dog running around like crazing and getting a little frothy as they drool and cool off. So I’ve included one of those sites too.
I couldn’t help noticing all the dogs at ArtWalk today who were very over heated looking. Several owners were taking breaks with them on the sidewalk, frantically trying to get them to drink water out of cups. The day did just get hotter. All I could do was nod sympathetically and wonder if they’d get two new toys as well.