Friday, July 1, 2011

Dog Tired

Most dogs I've seen on Echo Canyon Trail seem to do quite well. The little ones amaze me, the way their tiny legs move so quickly up the stairstep-like rocks. Camelback must be like Mount Everest to those guys. If it's true that dogs take after their owners, evidence of that old saying can often be found on steep trails like Echo.

Other dogs, including some I've seen on Camelback, are mismatched with their owners. They're the couch potatoes -- or just old -- and their owners more resemble human chihuahuas. I use that breed as an example because chihuahuas have a lot of energy, but they're not all that smart.

One day last year, I saw this sad-looking black dog looking extremely peaked at the top of the mountain. After I arrived at the summit I spent a few minutes watching as the dog's owner tried to get moving down. The dog was simply done hiking. Or so it thought. Of course, it was just halfway. It had no intention of walking any further. The guy at the end of the leash coaxed his animal repeatedly, getting it up and moving a few feet at one point. But it just plopped back down like a sack of rice. The man pulled on the leash, gently, for a few more minutes. Then he picked up the dog, straining as he lifted it by the chest and butt. He draped it over his neck and began hiking down the gravelly summit area, moving slowly because the dog was obviously pretty heavy. At that point I began heading down myself and didn't see them again.

A couple of years ago in late June I noticed a similar situation and blogged about it in Valley Fever. I mentioned that the mutt weighed about 85 pounds, causing a reader to say he/she didn't think that was too much for a Golden Retriever. I'm not sure what it weighed, but it looked fat to me. The same reader also took me to task for the crappy picture, which I'll reproduce here because no one can stop me.

The worst, though, is something I haven't taken a picture of but might someday: Ultra-hiker parents taking their non-ambulatory infants to the summit and back in a baby backpack. This drives me crazy and I never did that with my kids. I realize that it's too easy to be critical of other people's parenting skills and I'm not perfect, but I think taking a baby up Echo Canyon trail puts the child at too much risk. The incline means a misstep and trip puts you on the ground with much more impact than on level ground. Even though those backpacks have shoulder straps, the child's head could strike a rock, causing a concussion or breaking its neck. And speaking of neck, infants have heads that are too large for their bodies -- they aren't designed for constant bouncing on serious hiking trails, and I can't help but think their necks are straining too much. Looks like it, anyways. True, I've never heard of a kid dying or getting hurt in this manner in all the years I've been observant of Camelback news, but I can't help but think this behavior isn't wise. I felt the same way once upon seeing a woman rollerblading on a beach boardwalk with her infant in a front-loading baby bjorn.

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