[pct-l] Hiking with dogs--A horrid lesson to learn--a long story

dsaufley dsaufley at sprynet.com
Fri Jul 16 15:54:57 CDT 2010

Marion, I'm so glad your dog survived.  Some dear friends of mine lost their
dog while out on a run on a local trail in Towsley Canyon (near Santa
Clarita). The dog, a male Weinmariner, was in the prime of its life and fit
as a dog could be. The trail was local to their home, a place they'd taken
the dog again and again.  However, on this day it was very hot, and before
my friend, who loved the dog enormously, made the turn for home, the dog
collapsed and could not be revived. The dog died on the trail and my friend
will probably never forgive herself, though she truly did not know what the
consequence could be until it was too late.

>From my friend's painful lesson we learned that dogs do not perspire as we
do, and their cooling system is not as efficient as ours. They don't
off-load heat well.  Once they're affected with heat exhaustion, their
prognosis is not good.  

I'm afraid that people don't either know or consider consequences when it
comes to their animals or themselves.  We've had two senior hikers (65+)
hiking along the Section D detour -- 45 miles on the Mojave floor in the
past few days (mid-July!).  One was determined to go northward to Kennedy
Meadows, but by  chance (a miracle in my book) he broke some teeth and was
getting off the trail, otherwise his stubborn persistence was to continue
across the desert. Another was spotted walking along Soledad Canyon
yesterday, enroute to the KOA. Triple digit temperatures and high humidity
have hopefully convinced him that the even HOTTER temperatures in Sections E
& F were not worth risking.  At least he said he was getting off the trail;
I can only hope so.


-----Original Message-----
From: pct-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:pct-l-bounces at backcountry.net]
On Behalf Of Marion Davison
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2010 1:18 PM
To: Pacific Crest Trail List
Subject: [pct-l] Hiking with dogs--A horrid lesson to learn--a long story

So often people ask, "Can I hike with my dog on the PCT?

I have been hiking with my dogs on non-National Park segments of the PCT 
since 2003.  But after my experience this past week, I will never hike 
with my dogs again.

We planned a two week, 100 mile trek and started on July 9.  Wishing to 
avoid snow and mosquitoes, we started north from Kennedy Meadows.  It 
was hot and humid--a thunderstorm cycle was beginning.  We made a late 
start the first day, so when we reached the river campsite at the first 
footbridge we camped.  The dog was doing fine.  She had done a 13 mile 
two day trip in May on Section C, so we figured she was fine and fit 
enough. The dog is a six year old husky-retriever who normally has a 
very heavy double coat.  However, we had shaved it all off in March due 
to an outbreak of mange, so it was only somewhat grown back and quite 
thin on much of her body.  She weighs over 100 pounds.  She has always 
been a very large dog and has been hiking with us for the last five years.

On day two we headed for Beck Meadows.  It was hot and humid with a 
heavy overcast.  Each time we found water, she flopped into it and drank 
copiously.  About four miles up trail, she began to vomit.  We  had to 
keep heading uptrail to find a possible camp.  We found one after 
another slow mile and gave her many rest breaks.  She got there and 
acted pooped but normal all evening.  It rained hard but briefly in the 
late afternoon.

On day three we decided to turn back and take her home--she obviously 
wasn't up to this trek in this heat and humidity.  So we headed south. 
Once again it was hot, humid, with major cloud cover and distant 
thunder. About a quarter mile from Crag Creek she began to refuse to 
walk, and collapsed in the shade.  She was panting hard and her eyes 
were glazed.  She became unresponsive.  We gave her some water and I sat 
with her.  Ray went on to Crag Creek and set up camp there. It rained 
off and on all afternoon, so she got quite wet.  I sat with her until 6 
PM and she did not revive.  Ray came back with a stretcher arrangement 
made by a tarp and 4 ski poles.  We tried to carry her with it, but I 
was not strong enough.  It kept slipping out of my hands.  So then we 
tried using a llama saddle as a sling, and several straps to put her 
weight up on our shoulders.  In this way we were able to carry her the 
quarter mile to the camp.

On day four we laid over at this camp and watched her closely, providing 
her with plenty of water and offering her food.  She ate a bit three 
times during the day, and we watched as her reflexes gradually returned. 
  She began snapping at flies and responding to her name.  In the 
evening she began walking very short distances around the camp.

On day five we determined to start walking back toward Kennedy Meadows, 
hoping to make a mile a day no matter how long it took.  So we packed up 
and hiked south.  We stayed together, stopping the llamas whenever the 
dog needed a rest.  After three hours we had traveled a mile and she was 
unwilling to go further.  I found a very marginal camp beside the trail 
and Ray carried her a hundred yards to it.  We spent the long, hot day 
there, rationing our water, observing the dog, hoping the llamas could 
cope without getting a drink that day (at least they are able to glean 
moisture from the plants they eat--leaves, needles and grasses). The dog 
relaxed in the sun and behaved normally, moving about camp to find the 
most comfy spot where she could watch her beloved herd. The weather that 
day was hot and clear, no rain.

On day six we arose very early and I took the llamas down to the camp by 
the footbridge.  It took us only 20 minutes to make the hike.  The 
llamas got the water they needed.  Ray followed with the dog.  It took 
them an hour and twenty minutes to do the mile, but they made it.  We 
spent the day at the river camp, soaking our feet in the river which was 
very turbulent and brownish black, full of soil and soot.  It is 
draining a huge burn area.  The dog spent the day in the shade beside 
the river where it was about 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding 
area.  50 feet from the river our thermometer read 106.

On day seven we again rose very early and I started hiking with the 
llamas at 7 a.m.   Some horse folk had told us there was another camp 
beside the river about a mile closer to Kennedy Meadows, so I headed for 
it.  Ray followed with the dog.  I got there with the llamas in 20 
minutes, and he got there with the dog in 40.  She seemed willing to 
keep going, so we decided to go for it.  I was at the parking lot with 
the llamas in another 20 minutes, and he got there with the dog 80 
minutes later.  He didn't have to drag her or carry her, she walked 
there willingly, just very slowly, taking a lot of breaks.  By 9:30 a.m. 
we were driving home.

So we learned a very hard lesson.  And we will never take our dogs on 
another trek.  Once I got home I did the research and found my dog had 
suffered either heat stroke or heat exhaustion.  She was inches from 
death and may have permanent damage.  She is behaving normally now but 
it was such a close call.  From the moment we realized what danger she 
was in we had to do everything right or she wouldn't survive.  And it 
was sobering to realize we couldn't just carry her out and go home.  We 
had to design the rest of the trip to get her out under her own power.
We were fortunate that we weren't that far away from the car.  We were 
fortunate that it rained and cooled her down at the crisis point.

So if you plan to hike with your dog, I hope you can carry it. Read up 
about the symptoms and treatment of dog heat stroke and heat exhaustion
> http://www.canine-epilepsy-guardian-angels.com/heat_illnesses.html
before you make up your mind.  The PCT will certainly present you and 
your dog with just the right combination of heat, humidity and dry 
conditions somewhere on your journey.  Certain types and conditions of 
dogs are more susceptible than others.
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