Bonding With Your Dog on the Appalachian Trail: Pet Travel Thursday

Things You Find on the Appalachian Trail book coverWhat’s the best way to bond with your newly adopted dog? How about a nice long hike?

Getting to Know Your New Dog

Kevin Runolfson wanted a dog to walk. He adopted Rufus, a year-old, chocolate lab/Shar Pei mix at the Humane Society. Four months later they began hiking the Appalachian Trail together from Georgia to Maine.

Somehow they survived—the snakes, the rain, the terrible hell cows. Despite Rufus being afraid of snakes, the rain, and terrible hell cows.

Runolfson kept a journal of his trip and later published it as The Things You Find on the Appalachian Trail: A Memoir of Discovery, Endurance and a Lazy Dog. You’ll find my full review, Longest Dog Walk Ever: The Appalachian Trail, at A Traveler’s Library.

But here at Something Wagging, I’m most interested in the human/canine bond and how to strengthen it. Kevin and Rufus have a strong bond when we meet them in this book. And they’re still hiking together today, ten years later.

Would a long walk with your dog bring you closer together? If you’re attracted to the idea of taking your dog on a big adventure, you might want to ask yourself some questions.

Questions to Ask Before Dragging Your Dog Up a Mountain

Runolfson probably should have asked these questions before hitting the trail with Rufus. But I’m glad he didn’t. Or they might not have had an adventure to share with us.

Honey the Golden Retriever rock climbing at Ithaca Falls

Rocks don’t hurt my paws. They’re protected by floofie fur!

Does my dog like to hike?

I get the feeling Rufus would have been happy hiking up onto the couch. But what makes him even happier is being with his person. When given a choice, Rufus prefers to hike by Kevin’s side.

Am I willing and able to carry my dog over obstacles he won’t/can’t cross?

At the beginning of the hike, Rufus refuses to climb over fallen trees, walk through water, or cross bridges. Runolfson has to carry him. Eventually, Rufus gains confidence and manages to conquer most of his early fears.

Can my dog carry his own supplies?

For the most part, Rufus carried his own food. But when it was too hot or the dog started chafing from the pack, Runolfson had to carry the dog’s pack along with his own.

Will my dog be frightened by things we find on the trail?

Rufus’s scary things list was pretty long: campfires, rain, thunder, lightning, bridges, streams, cows (hey, those bad girls can be tough!), being left alone… Well, you get the picture.

Can I keep my dog safe and healthy?

Of the more than 2000 people who try to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season, only a quarter make it. Many get sick or injured. Most just get exhausted.

Runolfson took on a big responsibility by bringing Rufus along. He did a great job keeping his friend healthy.

And, toward the end of the trip, when Rufus’s paws were showing the results of miles of rocky climbs, Runolfson took him off the trail immediately.

Fascinated by the Appalachian Trail

I’ve read many memoirs by people who have hiked the trail. I’ve fantasized about being one of them.

But until I get the courage to walk the trail barefoot (I am incredibly sensitive to blistering in any kind of shoe after only three miles or so), I’ll enjoy the trail through the experiences of others.

If you like traveling alongside a good writer, you’ll enjoy Kevin Runolfson’s account. I did.

And, if you’re lucky, you might win the copy of the book donated by McFarland publishing. Use the Rafflecopter below for many chances to win the prize.

 Would a six month adventure make you and your dog even closer? Or, if you asked her to carry her own food up and down the Appalachian range, would she bite you and run away?
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: The publisher sent me a PDF of this book for my review at my request. They also provided the book for this giveaway. My opinions are my own and to stay honest, I’m giving away the book.

The book link is to Amazon. If you buy it there, I will get a small commission. Thank you for supporting Something Wagging This Way Comes.

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  1. Like you, I love reading stories about Appalachian Trail adventures. I’ve harbored a fantasy of completing the hike in one go. Instead, I’ve just tackled short spurts of it here and there… but never with a dog. I think that would be a wonderful bonding experience as long as you can keep your dog safe and healthy on the trail. I’m definitely going to check out this book. Sounds great!

    • I’ve read a number of Appalachian Trail memoirs but this is also my first by someone hiking with a dog.

      Carrying your dog over the fences where the trail crosses private property sounded especially horrible. And in the Smoky Mountains, dogs aren’t allowed. Runolfson had to kennel Rufus for that part of the trip.

      It’s making me wonder if anyone has written a trail guide for hiking it with your dog. And if not, I’d buy it if you wrote it. :)

  2. I have always wanted to go on a long trail hike. I’m sure Our Best Friend would love it and even carry his own supplies. I, however, would have to travel with a human who knows how to erect a tent. And the idea of carrying my food and shelter on my back is… unappealing. But I totally admire those who can!

    • Well I’d be happy to set up a tent for you. But carrying your gear? No thanks.

      Funny but what appeals to me a lot is being self-sufficient–carrying everything you need with you and realizing how little that is.

  3. My little tiny dog expresses his opinion firmly when he doesn’t want to go somewhere by sitting down. He loves long walks (a mile or two)–but he definitely would not carry a backpack–he doesn’t even move if the harness and leash aren’t just right! We got a small dog this time around so we would be able to carry him, but if we went on an extended hike, I think we’d be carrying him MOST of the time.

  4. I would love to go on a journey like this with my dog. She has the stamina I am sure, I am the one who may not survive. But I think it would be incredible.

    • Now that I have a dog less likely to run away, I’m thinking we should try the Finger Lakes trail. It’s only 950 miles and it’s right in my backyard.

      If you and Shiva want to join us, consider this an open invitation. :)

  5. Rita enjoys hiking, but she can’t take the heat. She overheats quite easily in her black fur coat. There would have to be plenty of streams for her to plunk down in. My hubby also fantasizes about doing the Appalachian Trail or the PCT, but I keep telling him if he’s thinking me and the dog can manage that, he’s definitely dreaming. :) I think he would love this book!

    • There as as many ways to take a long hike as there are hikers. Maybe you and Rita could hike with the hubby in the morning before heading off to a cafe for lunch and hot showers at the local B&B. Let him trudge through the bugs and the mud. :)

  6. My dogs would LOVE this kind of hike! Me? Not that kind of distance. When we lived in Florida, we vacationed and hiked the trail in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee. Gorgeous. And my dogs are only afraid of loud sounds. I don’t like being far from a real potty.

    Have you tried hiking in hand made leather moccasins? My husband made me a pair a couple of weeks ago and I wear them everywhere, every day. They’re amazingly comfortable. Might be worth a try.

  7. My peoples like to take me on hikes, but short ones. I think I could do the trail, and so could The One Named Nick, but maybe not The One Called Donna. Anyway, maybe she will enjoy reading about it instead, so thank you for having a contest so that I can try and win it for her.

  8. Hi Pamela peoples, also wanted to let you know I read your full review at A Traveler’s Library, but I can’t seem to comment on it….it seems to think I am a spammer instead of a Labrador. Anyway, what I tried to say was “My peoples encountered a copperhead on a hiking trail in VA once, along with a momma bear and two cubs. At least – that’s what they CLAIM. Since they left ME behind with the grandpeoples, who knows what kind of stories they may have concocted.” :-)

    • Sounds, Toby, like you were lucky to be at home. Snakes and mama bears are not fun.

      Sorry you’re having problems commenting at ATL. If you want to try again (to get another entry in the contest), you might have problems because you didn’t check the anti-spam box. It’s at the bottom of the comment and you just need to click on it.

      See if that solves your problem.

      • Thanks Pamela peoples, I did actually click that, and THAT’S when it told me I was a spammer. LOL! I tried again today, and it says this: “You appear to be using an automated comment submission application. Please do not try to automate your spam on this blog! (if you feel this message is in error please contact admin)”

        No biggie. Just wanted to let you know I read it – and it was very well written!

  9. Cali loves to hike! I’m not sure how well she would have done on such a long hike (or me either for that matter!) Sounds like a great book.

  10. Marci Pluss says:

    Well, seeing as how Layla is a 7 lb Yorkie, hiking probably wouldn’t be her thing, although, I do follow a blog with two dachshunds and they hike like crazy! However, that being said, I do like to go on any adventure I can with Layla- be it a small car ride or a boat ride or in a plane. I just love having her around me and I would love to read a book like this about someone who feels the same.


  1. […]  Disclaimers: The publisher sent me a PDF of this book at my request. They also sent me a copy of the paperback which I am giving away at Something Wagging This Way Comes.  […]