It’s getting warmer outside, and the grass is greener. We are starting to feel like we need a little fresh air and physical activity to carry us forward through the summer months. What to do?
We are extremely fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We are surrounded by mountains, trees, open grassy fields and an abundance of streams. And, of course, the crown jewel — Wallowa Lake. With such beauty all around us, and the fresh air that comes with it, walking seems like a natural for enjoying all that Wallowa County has to offer while getting in that 60 minutes of physical activity that is suggested for most adults every day. And, if you have a dog (or two), everyone will benefit.
There is an etiquette to walking with a dog. Just like people, dogs are all different. Don’t assume that just because you love your dog, that other people will feel the same way about him or her.
Carol Vencill, president of the Wallowa County Humane Society and obedience training instructor, offers some tips on how to have an enjoyable and safe walking experience with your canine companion.
“No. 1 — the dog needs to be properly leashed trained. You have to have control of the dog,” she said. She added that some dogs are well-trained enough that they are totally controlled by voice alone. She said if people want their dog to have more freedom then they can use a long line of 15-20 feet.
“The leash is for safety reasons.” she said, “On a trail, you don’t know what you’ll encounter. In our county we have cougar and bear. People need to be mindful of other people and other animals.”
She said these include other dogs, horses and even the occasional llama. She said that if you are in an area where there is no one around then you can let your dog off the leash to run around and have a good time.
Also, don’t assume that all dogs like each other. If you are walking toward another person with their dog, on a path, for safety’s sake, stop several feet away and ask the person if their dog likes other dogs. If the person says yes, then you can slowly approach with your dog. If tails are raised and there is a lot of nose sniffing and tail wagging, it is probably safe to say the dogs like each other or at least are willing to accept one another. This is called the “meet and greet.”
Vencill reminds people to, “always get permission and keep it cheerful,” when doing the meet and greet.
But what if the meet and greet doesn’t go well?
“If one growls, don’t pull back,” she said. This lifts the dog’s front legs off the ground and makes it look bigger to the other dog. She said the proper way is to give a short corrective snap on the leash and pull the dog’s head back toward you which gets the focus away from the other dog and back on you. Then move back away from the other dog. As always, offer lots of praise for coming back around to you and, “try not to make a huge deal out of it,” she said.
Other mannerly reminders while walking with your four-legged best friend: carry away any droppings. No one likes to clean up after your dog. It is part of being a responsible pet owner.
Another assumption not to make: just because you love your dog and believe it is friendly doesn’t mean other people will, too. People you may encounter may not know that about your dog, and could become frightened if they see a dog, even though friendly, running toward them. This is why a leash is important and needs to have the dog at the other end of it.
When hiking with your pet, make sure they have a collar on with proper identification. A microchip is also a good idea. Microchips can be scanned at both veterinary offices in Wallowa County, Enterprise Animal Hospital and Double Arrow. If you and your pet become separated, notify the Wallowa County Humane Society and the Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office. If it’s during the week, call the veterinarian offices and check with them to see if someone has found an injured dog and taken it to the vet.
Wallowa County has some excellent venues for walking. A popular route is past Les Schwab, down the path behind the hospital, around the assisted living facility and on the sidewalk in front of the hospital and back to Schwab. This walk can be extended by turning right at the entrance to the assisted living facility and heading west to the stop sign at Golf Course Road, turning right and walking to the golf course. Round trip from Les Schwab, this route is approximately two miles.
Another popular route is starting from the parking lot at the Iwetemlaykin Heritage Park and exploring the paths in the park. Although not paved, and single file, they offer a good workout and spectacular views. There are also a few paths at the state park at the south end of the lake.
In the lower valley, try the three-mile route called the Diamond Prairie Loop.
Despite a lack of sidewalks in many neighborhoods, walking around town is still doable. It is also a good way to meet your neighbors. And who knows? You might find a new walking buddy. Or two.