Yesterday we put our old dogs’ little legs and stamina to the test on a long hike through Fort Ord National Monument.
For our human legs, a 4 1/2-mile hike wasn’t much to write home about. An afternoon jaunt, a walk in the woods (literally)*. But for 10-year old little dogs, 4-and-something miles was the canine equivalent of a marathon. A marathon they were unprepared for and also might have been led to believe** was more like a trip to doggie Disneyland than a long run. Because, you know, EVERYTHING that begins with getting into the car is their favorite thing!
*Oh yeah. ‘Cause we totally weren’t sweating.
**”You wanna go in the car? The CAR? You wanna GO? Who wants to GO? Wanna talk a WALK? O-kay! Let’s GO!”
The best* thing about dogs is their short-term memory, which is inconvenient when they are back in the kitchen scrounging for snacks after you’ve just told them to GET OUT but helpful when you’ve mislead them into a different type of adventure than they were anticipating. So when we arrived and it was evident that a happy Pluto was not actually going to greet them at the gates of a grassy paradise full of Beggin’ Strips and fire hydrants, they were still excited to hit the trail because every new thing in the boring life of a house-bound little dog is their favorite thing!
*And most frustrating.
Ford Ord was just designated a national monument in 2012 and has been developed for public use since then with a series of trails, some of which include interesting relics from the Ohlone tribe and decrepit dugouts from what were probably military exercises when Fort Ord was still an active base. The views – from Fremont Peak to Toro, encompassing the Salinas Valley – are gorgeous, particularly on an overcast day when the marine layer is rolling in to the valley from the west and the clouds are creating a soft, thick blanket of grey across the sky that allows just enough sun to illuminate the hillsides, freshly green from our recent desperately needed rain. It was actually the perfect place for a hike with little dogs, as the road leading in is gravelly and fairly even, and the trail itself includes both soft, sandy gullies (not so ideal for short legs) as well as hard-packed earth at the summit.
The dogs entered this new paradise excitedly* and trotted happily along for about a half a mile before the panting began, and one began lagging and the other shortly followed suit, so that before we had even hit the trail head, we had stopped 3 times: for a “business break”, for a makeshift water break** and for a general rest and recovery***.
*A walk! Our favorite thing!
**BF MacGuyvered a water “dish” out of a poo bag. Brilliant.
***For the dogs. Right. The dogs.
And upon arrival at the trail head, in Robert Frost-esque fashion our paths with our respective dogs diverged in the woods: Baylor, rejuvenated by the break and the adventure of something new, charged forth upon the trail less traveled, as he loves to do, exploring the path with new purpose, dragging me behind him. Snoop, on the other hand, less excited at the prospect of the uphill path, dragged his paws more and more slowly until he was scooped up and enjoyed the rest of the hike from a cozy vantage point of his papa’s strong arms, with legs dangling languidly, eyes half closed in exhausted happiness. And not long after, it became clear that while Baylor faced no shortage of ambition in sniffing, exploring, lifting his leg* and charging forth after shadows, creatures, etc., his 10-year old legs were a bit short on stamina and he was similarly scooped up and carried comfortably to the top of the ridge.
*The one remaining good leg.
True to form, when I wasn’t carrying the dog, I was documenting our day, partially because I’ve also become obsessed with the perfect iPhone photo* and also because I was so delighted by the pretty little wildflowers** all along the way. Documenting is dangerous when you aren’t paying attention, and in my quest to take the perfect picture I almost stepped right on several stinkbugs, narrowly avoided an encounter with a mountain biker and allowed the dog to wander freely in what is apparently active mountain lion territory while my patient (and half-amused, half-exasperated) BF steered me clear of each of these hiking hazards.
*Until I purchase the perfect point and shoot.
**I found this fantastic website on wildflowers that helped me identify a couple we saw and couldn’t capture the countless others dotting the hillsides with pops of purple, blue, red and yellow.
Pet owners are ridiculous in their human-like indulgence of their fur babies, and we are no different: we didn’t even think twice about tromping down the trail side by side, our pets in our arms, laughing at our own ridiculousness and the half-comatose happiness of our weary old dogs, whose little legs proved to be shorter than their ambition - but whose contentment was well worth the extra weight we carried, even as we raced back to the car through a rain storm that caught us just at the the tail end of our adventure.
Our dogs’ short memories means that they’ll have this same experience next time we arrive at Ford Ord – but unlike our canine counterparts, we’ll remember and be more prepared.Though our little dogs may not have been able to make it as far as we would have liked, the distance they did travel rendered them exhausted and snoring* throughout the evening and prompted us to remember, even just for a few hours, how wonderfully re-energizing a simple hike can be.
Tired dogs, happy humans – a perfect end to a perfect day with our canine companions.