Click here for this week’s European Volksmarch schedule.
With summer’s warmer weather upon us, we all need to be extra aware of the hazards of dehydration. This is not only true for us, but also for our pets. A lot of people take their dogs with them on volksmarches, and the dogs can develop problems. We don’t have any four-legged friends with us, but our friend Jennifer West is an expert on volksmarching with dogs. We think now is a good time to repeat her advice on dogs and volksmarching.
• Just like humans, dogs need to be conditioned to walk long distances. Build up your dog’s stamina before taking him (or her) out for that first 10-, 20- or 42-kilometer trail. Additionally, dogs must be acclimated to hotter weather. If the weather is extremely warm and your dog is not used to the heat, consider leaving him at home for the day to prevent the risk of heat stroke.
• Carry plenty of fresh water — if you’re chugging water between control points, just imagine how thirsty your dog is. Remember, if you have a smaller breed of dog, his legs are working harder and faster than yours just to keep up with you.
• If you eat food along the trail, just imagine how hungry your pet is. Carry dog snacks or a zippered baggie of food, especially on those longer trails, because your dog must keep up his strength, too.
• While dogs should be on a leash at all times, some people remove it in open areas so the animal can run free. Upon seeing another walker and dog, replace the leash immediately. While you might know your dog is friendly, the other owner doesn’t and would feel much more comfortable and safe knowing your pet is under control.
• Be sure that children are old enough and strong enough to capably handle your dog in case he gets anxious, excited and/or uncontrollable.
• Check your dog’s feet for cuts or other injuries, especially if you’ve been walking through rough terrain or on trail sections consisting of large, sharp rocks. If feasible, carry your dog over these dangerous areas. If he is too heavy or the area is just too large, slowly navigate a less injury-prone path to the other side. Speaking from experience, it’s a terrible feeling to see your dog leaving traces of blood each time he takes a step because he cut one of the pads on his feet.
• Carry a small pet first-aid kit with you consisting of at least non-stick pads, gauze, cotton and a bandage. More information about pet first-aid kits can be found in Pet First Aid, published by the American Red Cross and The Humane Society of the United States. Contact your local Red Cross office if you are interested in this extremely handy dog and cat emergency guide.
• If you’ve been walking in tall grass, be sure to check your pet’s entire body for burrs and insects such as ticks. Keep your dog well-groomed to reduce the chance of ticks and fleas and to maintain his health.
• Keep a spare towel or blanket in your car in case of inclement weather — these items will help keep you from having to clean the inside of your car when the wet and muddy pooch decides to shake himself clean!
• One last piece of advice that I cannot stress enough: Be constantly aware of your surroundings. In the past several years, I have seen hundreds of dogs on the volksmarching trails. I have rarely encountered a walker’s dog that was not well-mannered and under control, and I have always felt very comfortable. It’s the dogs running free in the towns and surrounding areas that concern me the most.
If you take Fido walking on a hot day and you carry no water, or if you drag him behind you for 10 or 20 kilometers because he’s out of shape, you run the risk of injuring or, worse yet, killing him. Can you reconcile that in your heart? Are you willing to take that chance?
If you’re like me, your dog is a valued member of your family, a responsibility that you accepted when you brought him into your home. To express his love and gratitude, he will faithfully follow you to the ends of the earth just to be with you. As the owner/parent, you have to make those tough decisions and sometimes say, for his own good, "You have to stay home today."
We hope these tips will help keep your four-legged family member healthy and happy and keep you from making mistakes that some of us have made and regretted.
Xhoffraix, Belgium, is a tiny town with an unusual name.
We have done this walk and really enjoyed the beautiful walk through the Parc Naturel des Hautes Fagnes. Make sure you take your camera, but leave your dog at home; they are not allowed on the 30K and 42K routes.
If you live in the Kaiserslautern, Germany, region, think about attending the weekend event at Bruchweiler-Bärenbach. This is always a great walk; the area and trails are beautiful. If the weather is nice, relax after your walk in the Fest area outside the start hall and enjoy a variety of food.
Walk the 5K, 10K and 20K on Saturday, starting 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and again on Sunday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The finish time is 7 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday. On Saturday, Bruchweiler has a Sommernachtsfest (summer night party) featuring a dance beginning at 4 p.m. Herbert Kühnel will perform for the crowd again this year.
Thanks to the following folks for sending in those piles of flyers: Maya, Tom and Petra Casarez, William Castro and Maureen McHugh-Castro, Manfred Dahl, Lew Harrison, Egon Hatfield, Wayne Henry, Ramona and Horst Kechelen, Tim and Luchi Lynch, John and Patty Marsh, Pat Patterson, Dawn St. John and Nancy Shawley.
Miscellaneous short notes about this week’s volksmarch events:
• For you folks in the Netherlands and Belgium, the town of Gulpen, Netherlands, is having walks on Sunday as well as the following Wednesday. We have done these walks several times and we know they will be well organized and hilly.
When Rick Steves said, "If you want to see all the way across Holland, all you have to do is stand on a chair," he was not referring to the Gulpen area.
Some words of wisdom from Clark Soeldner, our Italian walking connection:
• For me, the highlight of the Bordano walk is the dozens of butterfly-themed murals painted on the houses in Bordano (found on all trails) and Interneppo (found on the 14k and 21k routes). The 7k is flat while the 14k and 21k are in the hills.
With a start card, you’ll enjoy reduced admission to the "House of Butterflies." To reach the walk, exit the A-23 at Gemona-Osoppo in the Trasaghis direction. Look for the sign to Bordano to the right.
• A warning about the Piancavallo walk; this walk will find you traversing the summer cow pastures. Beware of the biting flies and the "decorations" left on the trail by the cows!
E-mail volksmarch walk information, or a tip on a volksmarch you would like to recommend, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09703-0278.