Volksmarch column for August 6, 2009
Stars and Stripes August 6, 2009
With summer’s warmer weather, we all need to be extra aware of the hazards of dehydration. This is not only for us, but also for our pets. A lot of people take their dogs 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 walking long distances. Build up your dog’s stamina before taking him 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 heatstroke.
Carry plenty of fresh water and a bowl for your pet. If you’re chugging water between control points, imagine how thirsty your dog is. Remember, if you have a smaller breed of dog, his legs are working harder and faster than yours to keep up with you.
If you eat 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 leashes, some people remove them in open areas so the animal can run free. If you see another walker and dog, replace your dog’s leash immediately. While you might know your dog is friendly, the other owner doesn’t and would feel much safer 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 him over these dangerous areas. If he is too heavy or the area is just too large, slowly navigate a less injury-prone path. Speaking from experience, it’s a terrible feeling to see your dog leaving traces of blood because of an injured footpad.
Carry a small pet first-aid kit consisting of nonstick 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 walking in tall grass, check your dog’s entire body for insects/ticks and burrs. 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 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 with them. 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 don’t carry 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. 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 the mistakes that some of us have made.
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Notes about this week’s events:
• A walk that looks appealing this weekend is in Langscheid, between Oberwesel and Bacharach on the Rhine. We have not done this walk, but other walks in the area have been very nice. Start the 5-, 10- or 20-kilometer trails both days between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. Finish by 5 p.m.
• The prize at the Memmingen, Germany, walk is a garden troll with a basket on its back. If you want the troll and can’t make this walk, you can get it in Creglingen, Germany, on Aug. 22-23.
• B-medals are the prize at the Wetterfeld, Germany, walk, this year, but last year’s prize was a music box with a pair of hedgehog figures dancing to “Green Sleeves.” Maybe you can get one.
• This is the first time for an IVV bike event at Spilimbergo, Italy. There will be pastasciutta for everyone. Other foods will be available at the fest.
E-mail volksmarch information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09752.