"Never mistake comfort for happiness" - (paraphrased from a Frazz comic strip)
The trails along the Cranberry Lake 50 are in Adirondack Park in Upstate New York, which is 632 miles away from our home. This means I will have to drive longer by myself than I ever have. Sparkle will have to ride in a car longer than she ever has. We will spend more continuous time camping than either of us has done in the past, testing the durability of our equipment and temperament.
We will be exposed to hazards such as bears, porcupines, moose, beaver dam crossings, hyperthermia friendly weather conditions, widowmakers (google it, it’s a forestry term), and contaminated water.
We will most likely hike for days without cell phone coverage or seeing another person and will be several hours from the nearest vet. Sparkle hates car rides. I’m not terribly comfortable with the unscripted social interactions you tend to have when you’re traveling alone. It seems like when I’m solo, which is not that often, people feel it’s their duty to try to talk to me. I like people, but am not always in my element among the non-dog folk. Having a striking dog who has similar feelings towards these kinds of interactions (both of the human and canine kind) does not make this easier. I actually feel more comfortable with the natural hazards we may face. I have a hunch she does too. Sparkle’s kind of scared of the dark, doesn’t love the tent, and hates loud noises like thunder. She doesn’t really like her body being touched, but will be wearing a pack. We’re both active, but neither of us, not even she, moves continuously for the 6-7 hour days that I expect we’ll have and for days on end. Sparkle doesn’t like to be left alone and I’m terrified of losing her.
At this point, you may ask yourself why we should even attempt this. You’ll remind me that my first principle of this trip was safety and the second, respect. What I have written may sound unsafe to you and unfair to Sparkle, who will have to deal with some fears and discomforts that she has if I go through with this. These things are actually exactly the reason why I’m going as they are the very types of reasons people don’t get out of their routines and live their lives. They are so afraid of taking a risk; of things going wrong.
Let me assure you that I have spent a great deal of time thinking of the risks and the fears and how to mitigate them. While you can’t plan for every contingency, you can be prepared. While you may not be able to conquer all fears, you can quell many. While most people cannot get up off of the couch and crank out a feat of endurance on demand, they can do so with time.
What I will be doing is something anyone can do and I am doing it in hopes that you will not merely resign yourself to that which is holding you back. So, let’s begin…
My first step has been to break down the trip into three focus areas, built of a foundation of being prepared for emergencies and having the right gear to support the trip:
In future posts, I’ll be breaking down what I’m doing in each area, but I will share with you here, the foundation associations and behaviors, and activities that will be a common thread throughout. Many may sound familiar to those who have taken a basic obedience class from us. What will be different is the context in which these activities will take place.
Teaching a handful of behaviors and changing a handful associations means that I won’t have constantly be thinking of all of the situations I don’t want to have happen. Consistent with our training philosophy, I will do my best to reward what I like, prevent what I don’t, and create positive associations where neutral or negative ones exist.
We have already begun work on a number of fronts including working with people, dogs, body handling, hiking, recalls, and stays. I’ll show off some of this when I cover our preparations for travel in my next post.
Angela and Lowell, your friendly Harmony Dog Trainers!