There’s a loud roar. Suddenly, I jump upright from a deep sleep. Feeling something hairy and moving at the bottom of my sleeping bag, I began frantically kicking and yelling. I hear the yelp of a very frightened dog and my heart skipped a few beats. It was only Scout, my skinny little beagle.
It’s dark out. It takes me a minute to realize where I am. I was in my cabin in base camp Ottari on the Blue Ridge Scout Reservation. I look at my watch, its 2:33AM. I feel through the dark to the bottom of my sleeping bag where the shaking, scared beagle rested. I had adopted the skinny little beagle about a month earlier from the local animal control unit. The reservation had a strict rule about no dogs in base camp, so Scout had to spend his nights living at the camp ranger’s house with several other dogs. He actually had better living quarters than most of the summer camp’s staff, especially those of us who worked for the high adventure backpacking program High Knoll. Scout, however, did not seem to care about his cushy living quarters; the dog had developed a severe separation anxiety problem since he’d come home from the pound. He howled and barked continuously whenever I left him, ate through several crates [even metal ones] and was a master of climbing fences. I reassuringly loved on him and apologized for rudely awakening him, then apologized to the five other girls in my cabin whom I had also woken up.
I noticed he had about a foot’s worth of his yard tie out hanging from his collar (one of those vinly coated aircraft cable dog ties you’d find at any pet store). He’s chewed through ANOTHER one. I thought for sure the thicker one would do the job, and I cringed at the thought of how badly his teeth must hurt.
Somehow the little runt had chewed off his dog tie that kept him secured to the ranger’s porch (he had access inside through a doggy door btw), climbed over the chainlink fence, and hiked his happy butt down the road, into base camp, and out of the hundreds of tents and dozens of cabins, found mine. It just so HAPPENED that I left the door cracked so my room mate could get in, and she hadn’t noticed me sleeping there and left the door open thinking I was still at the shower houses when she went to bed. Dumb dog.
The next morning, I wrapped him in a towel and snuck him into the shower house with me, knowing I was risking getting into a lot of trouble having him in base camp AGAIN. I couldn’t leave him in the cabin, he’d start howling again! Dumb dog.
That Summer was filled with so many similar stories. Scout got out of this contraption and out of that setup and blah blah blah. Countless times the dog found his way into base camp during meals, or to the ranch during my lessons, or even found us in the woods during horseback rides. It was a nightmare that only continued when I moved into a townhouse with three other girls to finish my final year in college. Howling, destroying miniblinds trying to look out the window to find me. He really did go through the “Terrible 2’s” most people describe for their children. We also discovered that he had epilepsy, and that the stress caused him to seize at the slightest scary thing.
So, in a last minute attempt to get rid of some of his energy, I started taking Scout on hikes with me. He sucked at first. He’d get tired and lay down on trails
and look at me as if to say “Carry me MOM!!!”. Eventually, our daily walks and hikes began giving us both energy and strength we hadn’t had before. We began running a little every day during out walks, and eventually he started going on overnight and weekend long backpacking trips along the AT with me.
I noticed a change at that point. He stopped howling for me when I left. I guess he realized I’d always come back for him. I no longer had to keep him in a crate reinforced with about 20 carribeaners, he had stopped having accidents and destroying things around the house. He listened better, I started bringing him to the horse farm more often during lessons and rides an he pretty much always stuck by me off leash. I’d never had a dog that would listen off leash before. He has yet to have another seizure since he began hiking with me.
Flash forward to today and we’ve got a 100% transformed dog. Even friends who’d known him during his terrible 2’s comment on how different of a dog he is now. Scout is not only my pet and snuggle buddy, he’s my running buddy, my hiking partner, my horse barn backup, my child/chick/hot guy/ugly guy/old person magnet, and my garbage disposal. He’s an excellent trail partner and carries his own pack loaded with food, a squeaky kong ball, and treats. He gets along with every and any animal he meets and will tolerate small children dragging him around by the ears. We tried having him tested for the canine good citizenship award, however he has never been taught to lay down on command, which is one of the requirements. The tester lady told him he would pass with flying colors otherwise, and asked if she could nominate him for a therapy dog program. So we still have a thing or two to work towards, but I fully intend to get that darn “lay down” trick down pronto!
Scout will be hiking the Virginia portion of the AT with me. From Damascus to Harper’s Ferry. Dogs are not allowed on all parts of the AT, and it can be very rough on their feet and pads to hike. He will be getting back into shape with me prior to our journey. Look for updates on Scout from his Beagle Blog!!!