I used to be that asshole.
You know the one … the one who calls out “he’s friendly” while their dog bounds joyfully along the trail unleashed and uncontrolled.
Shep was friendly and he did have very good recall. That doesn’ t mean he should have been off leash in places where he shouldn’t have been.
With Bella, I’ve learned to be a better dog mama, and it’s why we’re (mostly) leashed while hiking in Spokane. I say mostly because we learned recently why it’s important for us to establish that trust level with her.’
But more on that later. First let’s look at five reasons to keep your dog on leash while hiking in Spokane.
1. Play by the rules
Leashes are the law in the City of Spokane. If you get busted with your dog off leash in Spokane, you can get hit with an $87 fine.
I would be so embarrassed if a police officer or a park ranger approached us with even so much as a reprimand, let alone a fine book.
Because we do know better, right?
Even with a leash on, we can still make beautiful portraits of your dog. See?
You don’t know what you can’t see. And if your pup is off the trail roaming and enjoying sniffing every pile of scat, there’s no telling what he can get into. (Or then there’s Bella who likes to roll in the poo … have I mentioned we’re a frequent guest at the do-it-yourself dog wash at Julia’s Jungle in Spokane Valley?)
If you stray over to Idaho and Montana for a day hike, your dog can get caught in a wildlife snare. Trapping is legal in those states.
Back home in Washington, certain types of traps are legal but your dog is less likely to lose a leg or his life if he gets caught in it.
The dangers of wildlife was one of the first things more experienced hikers taught me when I first started with Shep.
An off-leash dog can find wildlife and draw them back to you.
“Hey, Mom, I made a new friend. Can I call him Teddy?”
Uh yeah, no thanks. Luckily, even in grizzly territory in Alberta, the most dangerous animals we ever saw were deer and chipmunks.
More recently, I’ve been enlightened to another reason why on-leash hiking is the best practice for wildlife.
For yesterday’s Outdoors section of The Spokesman-Review, I interviewed long-distance hiker Whitney LaRuffa about leashed hiking in Spokane. A Leave No Trace master educator, Whitney’s big concern is with the wildlife and their experiences with loose dogs.
“We shouldn’t disturb or harass wildlife,” Whitney told me. “We’re visitors in their environment. You know, a marmot has a pretty rough life. He survives on grass. We don’t need to make that life more difficult. We don’t need to let our dogs run free and chase the marmots.”
No. 6 of the seven Leave No Trace principles is, of course, “respect wildlife.”
4. Peace of mind
Folks, I can’t even begin to tell you how many Facebook posts I’ve seen where people are searching for lost dogs in the woods.
The hiking groups in Washington and North Idaho frequently have people looking for help in finding their dogs. The pups just strayed away or got spooked and took off.
There’s an easy solution: keep your dog on leash. That way you know where she is at all times.
5. Respect for others
There’s one little factoid about humans that shatters my ass every time I hear it or think about it.
Not everyone likes dogs.
I know, right? I just don’t get it. Did you know there’s even a subreddit dedicated to people bitching about the existence of dogs? Like, they hate dogs so much that they started this forum on Reddit to complain about dogs.
Anyhow, there are people on the trails who don’t like dogs, or maybe just don’t appreciate them. They may even fear them.
And they don’t want our dogs running toward them or worse, jumping on them. It doesn’t matter what size either, whether an “oh but my dog is so small and so cute” dachshund or a “no, really, he’s a big softie” Great Dane.
Even a goofy Lab can leave a person with a bite history terrified on the trail.
There’s a lot more of us hiking in Spokane since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Let’s all be good ambassadors for the dog pack and make sure everyone enjoys the trails.
Except for the real haters in the subreddit who wish to eradicate dogs from the planet. They can screw off.
Enjoy the day hiking in Spokane
I take the rules pretty seriously. Even though I used to be a scofflaw, my exceedingly responsible husband has lightened my penchant for risk-taking.
It doesn’t help that Bella has been resistant to recall and likes to wander … er, bolt … when she gets the chance. That’s typical for a Maremma sheepdog. Her stubbornness, independence and defiance are all bits that we love about her.
While hiking in Spokane and North Idaho, though, she is on leash.
We’re working on it.
A few weeks ago, we were hiking down to Evans Landing in Sagle, Idaho, for a Paws of the Panhandle session with Cat and Newt. The day before, great gusts of wind blew many of the tall, gorgeous pines that populate the hill along Lake Pend Oreille.
We had to climb over, under and through trees and branches. Getting Bella through while on lead was impossible.
I had to hope and hope and hope she wouldn’t take off.
So it woke me up to the idea that I need to work with her off leash and establish that trust, allowing her some freedom in places where leashes may not be required.
Hiking in Spokane, we won’t get to test that out much unless it’s absolutely necessary.
That’s OK. I like having her by my side.
All around the circle
Know before you go.
If you frequently enjoy hiking in Spokane, no doubt you have one of the trail apps on your phone, like AllTrails or WTA for Washington Trails Association.
Most of the trail notes indicate whether leashes are required or even if dogs are permitted on the trail (note: dogs are not allowed on trails at the Little Spokane Natural Area).
And check the reviews so you’ll know beforehand if there was a recent blowdown in the area. Glad I figured that out after the fact … derp!
In the meantime, take a different trip into the pet photographers’ blog circle. It was photographer’s choice week under the topics and that’s why I wrote about hiking in Spokane, one of my favorite subjects.
Let’s see what the other photographers are writing about. Start with Jessica Wasik with Bark & Gold Photography, celebrating the joy and love between Pittsburgh pets and their people.
At the end of her blog post, click the link to the next photographer in the circle and keeping going until you find yourself back here to me and Bella hiking in Spokane.
It means you’re home.
Right where you belong.