Trail Dog Part 01: An Introduction

In this ongoing series, I'll be discussing the process of transforming my dog Poe from shelter pup to the ultimate outdoor adventure companion. Please seek professional advice and talk to your veterinarian or trainer before hitting the trail with your dog.

Jason and Poe hiking the trail at Owl Canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
With Poe at Owl Canyon, Lake Mead NRA. Photo courtesy of @curtnova
“I adopted a shelter dog during the pandemic of 2020 in order to help cope with the feelings of loneliness and isolation...”

Introduction

If you're like me, you've seen a lot of people on social media enjoying the great outdoors with their canine companions. And like so many others, I decided to adopt a shelter dog during the pandemic of 2020 in order to help cope with the feelings of loneliness and isolation that I was experiencing. However, before finding that forever friend I did a lot of research in order to determine the right breed and type of dog that I wanted. It was not a decision that I took lightly, and I'm glad that I spent some time rather than rushing in and making a huge mistake.


With this in mind, I've decided to share my experience - not only the best practices and successes, but also the failures and errors in order to help others avoid some common mistakes and setbacks. I've also tested a fair amount of gear in the process, and will be sharing these results as well. So, without further ado... say "Hello" to the newest member of my family, Poe! Here is his ongoing story.


Choosing the "Right" Dog

For me, choosing the "right" dog meant meeting some basic initial requirements. First and foremost, potty training was a big deal. I knew I didn't have the patience or desire to train a puppy, so that was out of the question. I also knew I didn't want an older dog, simply because I wanted to avoid any possible health or joint issues since this dog would be joining me on the trail. Finally, I have a cat - this dog needed to be nice to other pets. So, a young to middle-aged dog that plays well with others was my focus.

"I've seen a lot of exhausted toy breeds sticking their noses out of the backpacks of their frustrated owners..."

Weight and size was also a major consideration. Anything over 30lbs. was going to be too big for my space and vehicle. Plus, should the dog get injured on the trail I would want the ability to carry him / her to safety without compromising my own in the process. I also wanted to avoid a dog that was too small to safely enjoy the outdoors. For example, I've seen a lot of exhausted toy breeds sticking their noses out of the backpacks of their frustrated owners, but have yet to see one that excels at scrambling across boulders.


Choosing the right coat was also a consideration. I didn't want a dog with long hair that could easily pick up foxtail, cholla seeds and all the other prickly things that are so common in Nevada. With shorter hair, it would also be easier to find and attend to any injury that may occur while exploring. In addition, I planned to take this dog on road trips out-of-state - though not common in Nevada, ticks are much easier to find and track down on a short-haired pup than say, a Golden Retriever.


Finally, I wanted a dog with the appropriate amount of energy for my needs: too much and he might get bored on the days I edit or work on a video; too little and he might struggle to keep up with me on the days I hike. This is where I spent most of my preliminary research before looking at profiles.

"...most of these animals were abused by, and were therefore altogether distrustful of men."

Finding the "Right" Dog

Once I had an idea of what I wanted, it was time to actually begin the search. This process took much longer than expected, but I'm glad that I took my time. I started by researching all of the shelters in my area and began checking their postings daily. I came across a lot of profiles that were close to what I was looking for, but none that checked all the boxes for me. There were a couple of dogs that I liked and tried to schedule an in-person meeting with, but I ran into an unforeseen problem. It turns out, there are some shelters that were unwilling to adopt to a single man, living alone. Some wouldn't even return my emails. One shelter finally cleared it up for me by informing me that most of these animals were abused by, and were therefore altogether distrustful of men. This made me incredibly sad, but also more determined than ever to adopt a dog.


And then one day, I came across the following profile:

Instagram post of a terrier lab mix on false grass turf, excited for adoption.
Poe's Adoption Posting from A Home 4 Spot, Las Vegas, NV

After almost two weeks of searching, this was the first and only post I saw with the word "hike" in it! I knew it had to be fate, so I immediately reached out to the number on the posting. Within minutes, my text was returned - yes, he was available for adoption (not fostering as the posting originally said) and I could set up a meeting with him the next day.


That night, I could barely contain my excitement as I struggled to go to sleep. "Could this be the right dog? Had I finally found my adventure buddy? Would I like him? Would he like me?" So much was riding on that initial meeting. It was worse than going on a first date!


Continued in Trail Dog Part 02: Meet & Greet

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