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Let Rover tote it.

When I was young, I guided hikers through Rocky Mountain forests. Some peaks and wilderness lakes seemed much harder to reach then than the same destinations seem today, 25 years later.

Am I stronger now? No. Today I hike with help-physical and mental. Wherever it is permitted, I hike with my pack dogs.

They subtract weight from my pack, for one thing. Shifting 12 to 15 pounds to each of our 45- to 60-pound Sainoyeds is a bonus indeed. And dogs exert less wear on the wilds than ally other pack animal.

Better yet, the dogs heighten my forest experiences. They lend me their superior senses of smell and hearing so that I am aware of the blue grouse and deer and other creatures that I otherwise would overlook. And because they lessen my burden of water, food, and clothing, they make room in my pack for binoculars, spotting scope, or cameras to improve my vision.

Here are some pointers on dog packing:

* Leash dogs everywhere in the wilds except where uncertain footing makes off-leash a safer way to traverse a cliff face or stream. In many of the most popular hiking areas, dog leashes are required. Refusing to obey this commonsense concept of trail etiquette has caused dogs to be barred from many trails.

Leashes also protect the dogs from large predators and from porcupines, poisonous snakes, and natural traps.

Also, if your dog is not within leash length, you are less likely to share its senses of smell and hearing. And finally, most hikers hesitate to trust their possessions to packs carried by unleashed dogs.

Pack bags should hang from the top of a dog's back, and not drag too low or bulge out from a broad-backed dog. A breast band should focus the weight over the shoulders rather than at midback. Padding helps thinly coated or short-haired dogs. Double bottoms on the bags protect your possessions, which you should enclose in plastic bags.

* Teach the dog to avoid bumping the pack into things by having him wear the pack around the house. Gradually condition the animal to carry 25 percent of its body weight.

Include first-aid materials for the dog as well as for yourself. Take tweezers or needle-nose pliers, dog boots (available from sporting-goods stores and dog supply catalogs) to protect torn pads, buffered aspirin, and over-the-counter diarrhea remedies. Be sure your dog is up on all its shots; rabies occurs among wild animals.

Have dogs carry their normal food. Sharing your food may cause digestive upset.

Each dog should wear your name and phone number. Take along an extra leash and a trowel to bury your and his feces.

Don't let a dog approach other hikers unless they initiate the approach. Prevent continuous barking. If you meet horse, mule, or Ilama parties, move your dogs well off the trail.-KENT DANNEN
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Forests
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Dannen, Kent
Publication:American Forests
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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