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The bark side of snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is arguably the quietest, most poetic, and exhilarating of all winter activities. At least that’s what the marketing people want you to believe.

My experience says otherwise, however.

Sure, it is a great excuse to enjoy the winter woods and get some much-needed fresh air and exercise. And, yes, nothing makes you appreciate a warm fire and a hot chocolate more than a morning of snowshoeing.

But there is a dark side to snowshoeing too. I’m referring to something few people speak of, and then only in hushed whispers. I’m talking about snowshoeing with your dog.

You’d think this would be one of those wholesome experiences an entire Disney movie could be based on. Of course, you’d be wrong.

For a dog’s sole purpose in winter is to step on, and often hitch a ride on, the back of your snowshoes – and generally at the most inopportune times too. For instance, while breaking an uphill section of trail. Clearly, this is a deterrent to fully enjoying any snowshoeing outing – particularly if your dog is a Great Dane.

As you would expect, having a dog on board makes the snowshoer suddenly wonder why one of his legs is not working as it should. Luckily after 20 or so steps of dragging a canine laden snowshoe, most of us realize there is a freeloader sitting on our snowshoe.

The following five minutes will then be spent trying to command, beg, threaten, cajole or bribe your dog to get off the snowshoe. Unfortunately, most dogs have selective hearing and know a good thing when they are onto it.

All this is to say, getting a dog off of your snowshoe is never an easy thing. Before the dog leaves the snowshoe in question you will have tried issuing a firm verbal command, using a hand signal, blowing on a whistle, asking nicely, yelling, cajoling, bribing, threatening violence, vowing to  withhold affection, and begging. In a best-case scenario, this will cause your dog to step off of one snowshoe and hop onto the other.

It’s usually at that point that my dog barks at me. It’s her command for me to continue on so she can continue to enjoy the ride. That’s typical of every dog I have ever owned.

Experience has shown me that this is something you cannot give in to. Because if you just give up and move obediently whenever the dog barks, you are no longer in charge and the dog has won. That’s why I ignore the barking and only move when I am good and ready.  This allows me to hold my head up high as I give my dog a free ride up the hill.

Frankly, I cannot help but think that this is canine revenge for all the sleighs we’ve made their kind pull. The part that annoys me most is right at the end of the excursion, when you catch up to that one person in the group who thinks your dog is cute. That person will invariably note that you look exhausted while your dog looks fresh as a daisy.

The best thing to do at that point is to agree and politely ask if they would mind snowshoeing a quick circuit with your dog – just to exercise her a bit more.

When they return a short while later your dog will still look fresh as a daisy – although it will probably have a raspy voice from barking too many commands.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

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