Trail Dogs

DCIM100GOPRO A Tale of Adoption

Little Dog's Rhapsody in the Night

He puts his cheek against mine

and makes small, expressive sounds.

And when I'm awake, or awake enough

he turns upside down, his four paws

in the air

and his eyes dark and fervent.

"Tell me you love me," he says.

"Tell me again."

Could there be a sweeter arrangement?

 Over and over

he gets to ask.

I get to tell.

-Mary Oliver

Finding a Companion

I adopted my dog, Liko, from the pound when he was a year and a half old.  I had recently endured a particularly bad break up and as a young 20-something-year-old, I naively thought a dog would fix it. I knew I didn’t want a puppy, something I would have to nurture and care for, I wanted a companion.  Someone to fill the void that I had found missing in my heart, someone who could just be.

According to his Humane Society papers, Liko was picked up somewhere in Waianae.  He had a microchip and they were able to contact his owners, but for whatever reason, they had chosen not to come get him. We had both found ourselves alone after, coincidently, a year and a half relationship.

The day I found him he was sitting in the hollow cement and chain link kennel they keep the dogs in.  He sat, stone eyed, as a young child reached his hand in between the diamond chains.  The boy scratched behind Liko’s ear and commented, seemingly to no one in particular, “You should get this dog.” His mother called, and the boy ran off. I stayed, looking at this brindle pittbull with dark honey colored eyes. He stared back, a cool and yet curious stare.

I went to the front desk to ask about him and the woman told me his story. She also stated bluntly, “I don’t touch the pittbulls,” and slide the nylon leash across the metal counter top¹.  Feeling slightly indignant I walk back to the kennel and slipped the leash over his wide square jaw. His eye looked calmly up at me, how could she say she wouldn’t touch you, I thought to myself and we walked down the hallway together, his paws padding quietly on the ground behind me. I took him to the park area and sat down on a bench. He sat next to me, leaning his warm body up against my leg. I knew he was the one.

With his calm and gentle nature, Liko did more than fill the void in my broken heart. He was my constant companion, and with many hikes to secret waterfalls and evening strolls down cream-colored beach sands, we rebuilt the trust we had lost the year before. We were a perfect adventure pair, and when I met my husband and learned to ride, we became an adventure trio. Now, over 10 years old, Liko still loves to hike, but at a much slower pace.  When we load the bikes to ride, he will run to the truck, put his paws up on the tailgate and insist to be brought along. But time brings change, and as with many things, we’ve had to adjust what we do to keep him safe.  Here are things I have done recently and over the years to keep our dog happy and healthy in the trails.

Keeping Your Trail Dog Happy and Healthy

  1. Yearly checkups with the vet. Liko was already full-grown when I got him, but some breeds need time for their muscles and ligaments to grow strong before walking or running on uneven ground. The vet can help you determine if it is healthy for your dog to be out in the trials.  Also, all dogs need their vaccinations to ensure they are safe from germs and bacteria.
  2. Keep him behind you in singletrack trails. Keeping your dog behind you, especially when riding singletrack, is important for a few reasons.  First, it discourages your dog from running off if he is not in the lead. I like to keep Liko between me and my husband when we hike so I can keep an eye on him.  Liko was never much for running along when we ride (he gets too tired) so the second reason to keep your dog behind you is something I have read about more than experienced myself.  According to many trail riders, you want to keep your dog behind you when riding so can avoid running him over.  I can only imagine how horrible it would feel to crash and injure your dog in the trail!
  3. Bring lots of water. I always try to bring at least 3 liters of water when I hike.  Having lots of water can help strive off dehydration and thus overheating.  Signs of overheating include: panting, red/glazed eyes, and a dark red tongue and gums.  If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it’s a good idea to take a break and give your dog lots of water.
  4. Follow leash laws. Leash laws are usually there for a reason, be it hunters in the area, poison, or any other hazard that could befall your precious pup.  Although a leash law means you may not be able to ride with your pup, it’s always best to play it safe and follow the law.
  5. Protect the paws. Just like our feet, dogs paws can be sensitive to heat, cold or rough/sandpaper like surfaces. In many trails, dog’s paws are fine, but if there is a chance that the ground could become extreme, there are boots that you can put on your dog. Liko has a pair that he wears when we hike out on the rocks near the ocean. Although they might be a bit of an annoyance at first, your dog will appreciate it later.

As Mary Oliver describes in her poem, there really is no sweeter arrangement than that between a dog and his owner, and every day that Liko wakes us up and we get to tell him we love him brings more and more joy to our lives.  I am forever grateful for my trail pup.

If you enjoyed this article or would like to share the story of your trail dog please comment, like or subscribe to I would love to hear from you! I’m also on Facebook and Instagram @trailridermama



¹Standard practice is for the attendant to leash and walk the dog to the “meet and greet” area, not hand over the leash to the potential adopter.


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