Hiking with Dogs is Balm for the Soul

November 2018 Issue

My go-to solution for anything that ails me: a nature walk with my dogs.

November can be a tough month. Many of my friends complain about feeling blue in November. The time has just changed. The days are short and cold and yet the ski or snowshoeing trails are not yet ready. Things can just seem overwhelmingly bleak in November.

whole dog journal editor nancy kerns

I offer my friends the only remedy that has never failed me: I tell them to go take a hike! But they need to bring their dogs, too – and to try to find a place where they can really breathe some fresh air and escape from other people for a while. The absolute ideal is if they have access to a place where they can safely walk with their dogs off-leash, without endangering their own dogs or anyone else’s.

The place where I live in northern California is not the most beautiful part, and it’s far from anywhere glamorous or affluent – but I have access to unlimited amounts of open space where I can walk with my dogs off-leash. It makes me feel indescribably rich, especially because I hardly ever see anyone else out there. I work on my dogs’ recall daily to keep their responses quick and enthusiastic – and when they do stop on a dime and spin around to run back to me on cue, well, that in itself puts a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.

I have had friends say to me, “You are so lucky to have this space to hike in, and so lucky to have such good dogs!” I know what they mean, but luck has nothing to do with it. I moved here mostly to be closer to my father in his last year of life and didn’t think I would stay here after he passed away. But I ended up falling in love with the trails and open spaces, and have stayed a dozen years now. There a lots of things that I enjoy that I don’t have here – but on the other hand, I have never had access to this much off-leash space with so few other people sharing it. Our hikes help me stay fit enough to keep up with my very fit dogs and fine-tune our communication and relationship so they are keen to stay with me – no matter what long-eared, cloven-hoofed, or flapping and feathered temptations might jump up and run or fly away under their noses! Both are ongoing goals and constant sources of joy.

So, if you are feeling blue for any reason, here’s my advice: Go take a walk with your dog in the most open space you can find. Enjoy your dog and the air, and clear your mind. Trust me, you’ll feel better afterward.


October issue Correction: Our review of warm winter coats in the October issue misidentified one product we reviewed. The coat made by Mountain Mutts Dog Coats that we reviewed was the Powershield Winter Coat, not the Boulder Coat. Also, we neglected to note that the company will alter any coat that doesn’t fit your dog perfectly, at no extra charge. We were unaware of this service, and now that we are aware, we have increased our rating of the product. Please see the online version of the review, which has been corrected and updated.

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