90 days with man's best hiking companion

Coal in Palmer Park

90 days with man's best hiking companion

Coal on Spruce Mountain

Towards the end of last year, I wrote about bringing a dog into our family. Not too long after, we welcomed Coal (a reference to his dark coat and the gray streak on his chest) into our home. As we had hoped, Coal's turned out to be a wonderful companion.

During the 5 weeks of training mandated by All Breed Rescue and Training, Coal's proven that he's very smart —  as mom used to say, maybe too smart for his own good — but gets into a lot of mischief.

At 15 months old, Coal behaves like a new puppy; boundless energy and so, so eager to please. Play time would never end if he had his way. When I've commented to people about his energy, I'm invariably told it's like having a two-year-old kid, which, to someone who's never had kids, doesn't help much. At the dog park, Coal chases and wrestles with the other dogs, tangling and play-snarling with them until he's too tired to run any longer, but he's happiest when out on the trails.

His excitement when I put his harness and leash on him is so over-the-top it's funny. On the leash, he stays close, but he also wants to sniff EVERYTHING he sees. He's also easily distracted — squirrel! — which makes keeping a good steady pace almost impossible. In places where he's allowed to be off-leash, he runs like the wind, but also makes sure to stay within sight of me.

There are challenges with wanting a dog to be a hiking companion. Many places, such as most National Park Service sites and Colorado State Parks don't allow dogs on trails at all. Dogs have to be leashed in Colorado Springs city parks, and leashed or "under control" in El Paso County parks. I don't have a problem with any of that, the rules are there for reasons, but the look I see on Coal's face as I leave him behind when going on a hike is heartbreaking.

There are other challenges, too. If I'm taking Coal on a hike where he has to be leashed, It's almost impossible to also use two hiking poles. I also have to carry more water and some treats, at least until I set him up with his own pack. I'm also not sure if he'll be able to do the longer 10+ mile hikes I have planned. But regardless of any challenges, Coal has made our lives richer, and my hiking more enjoyable. I look forward to many more years and miles with Coal as my companion.

Happy trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.