RedCloud, my foster dogson, that is. On Red Hill, the cute li’l fire tower mountain in the southeastern Catskills. That’s where I took Red “hiking” for the first time today.
All canines needed rescue remedy by the time we got home. I needed a glass of wine (way past medicating with Klondike bars). He is such a colossal moron in the car, he managed to get himself and both girls totally distraught. I was alone (wait – who’s the moron?). What was I thinking…
Red Hill is a short hike, and is relatively easy, as Catskill hikes go: not too steep, not too long, no big ledges or cliffs, not too rocky, not too muddy, no tricky water crossings. You get the picture. A perfect hike for non-hikers. So off I go, alone, for Red’s inaugural hike, on the gorgeous SATURDAY of a three day weekend, in prime leaf-peeper season. I am a fucking moron.
But I don’t know this yet. I am thinking “I’m leaving my home at 2:30 p.m. No one will be on the trail at this late hour. I will have the woods to myself, to introduce Red to hiking without the distraction of other people and (dog forbid) dogs.” Fail.
But I am getting ahead of myself. There is the small matter of getting to the trail head – a short 50 minute jaunt from the house. Red is shimmy-shimmy-cocoa-NUTS in the car, spinning in circles in the way back (with long suffering Lily who selected the wrong seat for that trip), barking at top volume, and generally acting as if he is in grave danger. Then he started farting, just to ensure severe offense to every sense organ. Poor guy was working himself up into a real lather, but after oh, say, 20 minutes of that, I was rather certain that I wanted to commit violent acts.
We made it to the trail head where I was greeted by a totally full parking area and children and the elderly spilling out of expensive SUVs in front of me. I shifted into hypervigilant mode, counting number of vehicles in the lot, taking note of the composition of the group ahead of me (who would Red annoy the most and just how wide a berth would we need?), and keeping Iske and Lily close (off leash) while managing Red on the leash.
I decide to get on the trail ASAP and move AFAP (as fast as possible) to create some distance in between me+woof pack and the white sneaker gang. After a couple of bends in the trail and crossing a sweet little stream, I try letting Red off the leash. Fail: He turned around and ran back to the crew of non-hikers – actually recrossed the stream after acting scared of it when we crossed the first time. Grrr. So back I ran, leashed him, and then once again, hustled up the trail to put a little distance between us and them. Tried the off leash thing again (I know, now you’re yelling at the computer screen “Stop doing that, you moron!” I know. I agree.). Red stayed with me for a while, but made it up a little rise faster than me and at the top was out of sight. I yelled and he reappeared. All good, right? Wrong. Two hikers from up top show up moments later and greet him like they are old friends. “He came to visit us,” they tell me. Not cool. The woof pack gotta stick together – no unsupervised visits.
The hiker couple warns me: “There’s a pit bull up ahead.” Christ. This hike just keeps getting better. Red gets leashed, Iske and Lily and Red get draggged off the trail and sit nicely in the woods, maybe a yard or so from the trail, to allow Mr. Pit to pass. Mr. Pit is with a large group of people who are fascinated with my dogs, so they walk by as slowly as possible, allowing a child to hold Pit’s leash. Pit is straining at the leash, and Red is barking like a madman, and they are so wowed by his wag and deep bark, they just shuffle by, as if on thorazine. I’m starting to hate hiking.
The rest of the hike is leashed (thus proving that even morons can learn). At the top, Red and Iske and Lily and I climb the fire tower, much to the shocked delight of the volunteer up in the cab. “We’ve never had three dogs in the tower before,” he kept repeating. “No one’s ever brought three dogs up before.” It was all good until time to go back down. Red adopted draft dodging mode: hell no, I won’t go. I had to pick him up and carry him down one flight to the first landing. Have I mentioned that he’s gained weight nicely?
In truth, it wasn’t all that bad: Red didn’t jump on anyone, and didn’t chew on anyone’s hands or other body parts. He tried hard to get Coffee Bean (the volunteer’s dog) to play, using very appropriate dog language. He made it all the way back to the car off leash, earning many “good boy”s for coming when I called every time, which was very freakin’ frequent. He had his first experience of quenching his thirst at a spring, and his first time walking on the rocky and rooty footing that is quintessential Catskills. He listened and stayed close and behaved beautifully when he wasn’t in the car, and wasn’t distracted by people or dogs. There is hope.
I selected a route home that minimized car traffic since that seems to maximize Red’s moronic barking. I still arrived home in tears. They were tears of frustration due to the overwhelming urge to to very bad things to my sweet doggie. Instead, I was verbally abusive to my husband. That helped.
And now, it’s all a funny trip report and a memory. Red and Iske are lying on the upstairs dog bed together, tolerating a new level of intimacy and proximity I wouldn’t have predicted possible so soon. They are both snoozing – and that was the whole point of the trip. An evening characterized by relaxed dogs dozing by the fire is worth a lot of aggravation, which is good, because that’s exactly what I had.
His saving grace? He really cares about what I think. He really wants to hear “good boy.” He does want my approval, although sometimes he acts like such a MORON it is hard to find anything he’s done right to praise.
I’m bringing someone with me when we drive to the trail head tomorrow.