Asha’s energy level has mellowed out as she’s become older. She still has a bit of puppy left in her and I think she always will. Her breed, an American Akita is typically not a hyper, high-energy dog and does well with a daily 30-minute walk. We go for longer walks when we have time.
I loved hiking with her and taking her to Cedar Bog, a short hiking trail that is fifteen minutes away from where I live. The key word is “loved”, as in past tense. I loved bringing her with me until an incident last winter…
On a nice winter afternoon, I took Asha and my daughter out to Cedar Bog for a walk. Asha was on an 8-foot lead that was connected to a hip belt that I was wearing. Back then I used a longer lead while hiking. It provided freedom to explore and for me to maintain physical control. I have not used the 8-foot lead since that day.
A small off-leash dog ran up from behind us without warning and darted directly in front of Asha. Asha did not know that the fluffy white domesticated dog was not a threat to herself or her family. Her raw-instinct was to pick up the dog in her mouth and shake it. During the scuffle, I was pulled onto my ass while trying to reel Asha in.
I bawled my eyes out, unable to comfort my daughter who witnessed something she should not have. I was frozen. I texted my friend and she called me immediately. Her words soothed me and she kept me steady while we walked back to the car.
I think back to that day and wonder what would have happened to my dog had she killed that small dog. Would Asha have been deemed a dangerous dog and required to wear a muzzle in public? Or worse, what if she was euthanized? What would the emotional affects be on my daughter who witnessed the entire thing had her beloved dog killed another dog? How would my best friend killing another dog affect my mental health?
To be honest, Asha hasn’t done much hiking with me since that incident because I have been nervous to take her to places where there are off-leash dogs. There are designated on-leash areas and designated off-leash areas. The rules exist for practical and common sense reasons.
Asha has lost out on good quality exercise and bonding with her family because other dog owners feel they are entitled. Asha deserves more than just a walk around her neighborhood. What makes one dogs quality of outdoor life more important than another?
Asha has spent time in busy tourist places like Riding Mountain, Banff, Lake Louise, city parks, and farmers markets all without any incidents. But I have been nervous to bring her back on to a trail.
We went out last night.
I will be honest, my stomach sank when I saw about eight cars in the Cedar Bog parking lot and I knew at least a hand full of those cars would have dogs in them. We saw a dog exiting the trail as we entered. Relief was felt when I saw the dog was on-leash.
I worried that an off-leash dog would come upon us at every bend where I couldn’t see the trail in front of me. I constantly looked behind me, not for fear of a bear or sketchy male, but for an off-leash domesticated dog.
For the longest time Asha didn’t have to wear her prong collar and walked fine in just her harness. I’ve started using the prong collar again for my peace of mind. Does she really need it?
Feeling anxious and anticipating alarms to go off is not good for my psyche while hiking. I deserve to give myself better than that. I turned on Dierks Bentley’s new album, The Mountain and lost myself in the lyrics. Before I knew it, I had a smile on my face and forgot all about being paranoid about a random dog surprising us.
In time, I am sure Asha will join me out on the trail as often as she once did. She still is my favorite partner on the trail. I’m hesitant about off-leash dogs and it has been hard for me to move past.
I also worry for Arya who is a mere 13 pounds. She does not stand a chance against a large off-leash dog that has a natural and instinctive high prey-drive.
I have two overnight hiking trips in September that I would like to bring Asha on. Time will tell if I am comfortable with her joining. Otherwise she will lay around at home and do nothing. That is not fair to her or to me for my time with her.