Adventures to Accommodate our Aging Pup

I have headed out on some pretty epic trips this year (which I will get to, I promise!), and at the same time I’ve found myself closer to home than ever before. Similar to last year, there has been a funny combination of big, majestic events and adventures, contrasted with small, quiet moments. Time is certainly flying: I blinked, and it’s November. Clearly, all my grand ideas of writing consistently, or summarizing trips promptly did not happen.

The most significant reason that we have been close to home, is that beloved Feist, my thirteen-and-a-half years old Cairn Terrier, doesn’t have the stamina she had when she was young, so we can no longer throw her onto a wild and demanding trail for 14 hours and expect her to emerge cheerful and unscathed. She is a bit more adverse to gruelling conditions, and bit more fond of her comfy bed by the fire. She is still keen, enthusiastic, and delighted to be adventuring together…she just adventures at a vigorous trundle, rather than an unbridled sprint.

We are figuring out how to accommodate her, so she still gets to adventure with us and be part of the excitement and enthusiasm, so, many of our adventures look a bit different. Feist has grown more discerning and disdainful as she gets older (i.e.: anything boat or water related is a no-go), and when we spend too much time in the snow, the snow balls up in her paws so badly that she is rendered immobile and quite irritated; however, that doesn’t mean she’s planning her retirement from hiking. She still patters her paws in excitement when we start setting up the tent. She loves a good hike that includes lots of jumping and leaping (conveniently, with a human right behind her in case she needs the slightest boost) and luxuriates in front of the fire extra hard after she’s been hiking in the rain.

I obviously don’t want to write my lady-love off (and yes, I regularly refer to her as my lady-love), so here are some ways that our adventures together are looking a bit different, and how we are accommodating her slightly slower pace and consistent love of togetherness:

  • New Local Trails: We try very hard to make every hike a little different, so there is variety for all of us. The most obvious way to change things up is to try new local trails. The Sooke Hills have proven themselves to be a gold mine of short (< 15 km) hikes with dozens of small hilltops to explore. Sometimes we try to string a few different hills together, or take a new route up a known hill, so we are going on an adventure together (rather than doing our ‘usual’ race up and down a known trail).
  • Carry Rocks: When Feist isn’t feeling up to a very quick hike, we add 20 lbs of rocks to our backpacks. That way, we are still getting a good workout from our hike together and are strengthening our ligaments and muscles for when we head off backpacking. We also don’t feel resentful that we are wasting our time on a mellow trail when we could be challenging ourselves!
  • New People: Let’s be honest: even at 13, Feist is still moving faster than many (most?) of our friends. We are taking the opportunity of a slightly slower dog to take our friends with small kids or new hikers on hikes up some of our favourite hills and routes. There is still the ‘new exciting place’ energy that Feist loves, and we are moving way slower than if it was just Feist and I. And I like to think that she really enjoys showing off her favourite places and hiking prowess to a new generation.
  • Add in a Stop or Two: Sure, we’ve hiked some hills or mountains a hundred times (not an exaggeration…I did the math), and there is still something special about stopping at the top to make ourselves a good cup of coffee or have a nice tea. We bring our jetboil, aeropress, and a comfortable bum-pad so we can sit for a while, let Feist recoup from a possibly strenuous hike, and take in the scenery. Or, sometimes we stop at little viewpoints at which we’d never stopped to enjoy and munch on a sandwich together (obviously sharing the requisite portion with Feist). It makes the trips a little different and more special.
  • Stay Somewhere Cozy: Sometimes, after a wet, miserable day, you just want to sleep somewhere cozy and dry! Feist has notably started to prefer adventures where we stay in a small cabin with a warm fire, or make our way home in the evening, rather than sticking it out in the rain and damp. So, we work around her schedule – she’s a master at sleeping in the car, so we can sometimes drive a bit longer, and she gets to sleep well in the car or at home.

Feist has many years of adventuring left (forever, if you ask me), and she comfortably knocked out a solid 15 km bushwhack hike for her 13th birthday. We want to make sure that all her adventures are accessible, comfortable, and blissful, and we’re looking forward to all of them.

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