Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Hope This Works

Kona and I always hike solo. It's our time together and Kona's time away from the scary sights and sounds of the city. We're happy on the trails, just the two of us.
So when a friend invited me on a group hike, an all day group hike, I hesitated. I worried Kona would be scared by the company, which would ruin the hike for both of us.
With Kona, it's easy to overdue things. While exposure to new experiences helps many dogs build confidence, new experiences typically push Kona beyond her ability to cope and only reinforce her fears. But I thought this was a challenge Kona could handle, or so I hoped.
When we met our friends at the parking lot, I opened the car door but left Kona in her crate. I wanted her to hear me talk to our hiking partners, in hopes Kona would connect that these were people I knew. I was happily surprised to see another dog in our group. While Kona doesn't have impeccable social skills, other dogs can still be great icebreakers for her.

When Kona hopped out of her crate, she looked around, sniffed a few ankles and started pulling for the trailhead. And so the five of us humans and two dogs took off for seven hours on the trail.
Kona showed how far she's come with people. While she dodged every outstretched hand, she showed no stress by the new company. I soon relaxed and enjoyed the trail.
Kona led the way. Our group's pace was slower than what we're use to, so we stopped every few minutes to let everyone catch up. Kona kept a lookout for her new "buddies."
Before long, we reached our first saddle.
The wind whipped up and over the canyon. As I held my hat, I looked at Kona for signs of stress. While the wind pinned her tail awkwardly to the side of her body, she looked anxiously only for the next lizard.
We trudged along, tucking in and out of the overbearing wind with each contour of our climb.
After 4,000 feet of climbing, and one close encounter with a sleeping rattlesnake (I, of course, would never almost step on a sleeping rattlesnake. Nope, not me.), we made it to the summit. While the rest of our group sat down for snacks and water, Kona proceeded to entertain everyone with her lizard pouncing (which she didn't give up until it was time to start our descent).
Kona and I, along with a friend, jogged the descent back to the parking lot. Kona showed her only obvious signs of nervousness when my friend jogged close to my heels. (Someone chasing you can be scary!) As long as my friend stayed several paces behind, Kona seemed fine.

My crazy pulling monster willing trotted behind me as we neared the end of our long adventure. We made several stops for water before making it back to the car.
As we jogged into the parking lot, a group of five kids shouted, "Look at the dog!" and Kona's tail went straight to her belly. We made a sprint for the car, where the allure of barbeque chicken overpowered the screeching kids and Kona chopped down a much deserved snack.

I think our day worked just fine.


Barb said...

Wow - 4,000' of climbing - that's some hike! No wonder Kona didn't care if she wasn't ahead of you on the final descent. I'd have been ready for some BBQ chicken, too! Glad your hike went so well, AC. Hours of hiking those rubble-filled trails would leave my feet aching!

Kathy said...

wow, that sounds like a heck of a hike, but how impressive Kona sounds. It sounds really great and like you had a good time. Whoo Hoooo!

Sara said...

Tears were filling my eyes as I read this. What an amazing accomplishment for Kona (and you). She was in her element, with potential stressors added in, and she thrived! Dare I say, relaxed! Your heart must have been filling up with warmth.

I have to go back now and look at the photos. I was too busy reading to stop and look.

Diana said...

Im so glad Kona did well. Thats great! Glad you didnt step on a rattlesnake.

Dawn said...

What an accomplishment for her! And of course you...but especially for her! Bet she slept well that night!

Two Pitties in the City said...

Wow, this is so great for Kona! She has come so far! I've been reading a lot about Hike-a-Bulls in SF and they were saying how much the rhythm of hiking in a pack can be great socialization for dogs.

Stella said...

My heart was singing when I read this story of your group climb with Kona! Each time I read about Kona or Marg overcoming a previous fear I give you girls (AC and Sam) all the credit.


Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

I'm glad to hear it went so well. Lilly had a bit of trouble on our recent hike with the girls from Cowgirl by Proxy. She has NEVER gone FLAT on a hike before. It was very sad. I have several theories, but Lilly simply is who she is and feels how she feels at any given point.