Archive for the ‘WholeDog’ Category

At Last, a Good Dog-Friendly Hike

March 7, 2015

It took about a year, but we finally discovered a great dog-friendly hike. And it’s on Mt. Tam, of course.


Mt. Tam is one of my favorite places to hike (particularly in the winter and spring — it’s just unbelievably beautiful). But many of my favorite Tam hikes, like the Steep Ravine or Matt Davis trails out of Pantoll, don’t allow dogs. In fact, dogs aren’t allowed on any of the trails in Mt. Tam State Park.


But what I had failed to notice until recently was that Mt. Tam State Park only covers some of the trails on Tam. Most of the other trails are part of the Marin Water District, and these trails allow dogs on leash. This wasn’t mentioned in my book on dog-friendly hikes, and it wasn’t obvious on the online trail maps of the area (it’s not like the maps of Point Reyes, which specifically highlight the two areas that allow dogs). But once we were on Tam, the trails were very clearly marked.


We made a roughly five-mile loop out of Water District trails: heading up to the West Point Inn via the Nora trail and looping back via Old Stage road to the Matt Davis trail. This loop had nearly everything I like in a hike. It took us across wooden bridges, over creeks and up stairs that had been cut into the rocks. It went through damp, shady redwood groves and along drier, exposed trails lined with manzanita. It had views of the Pacific and across the bay, where we could see the white sailboats by Sausalito.


This is not what most dog-friendly hikes are like, at least from what I’ve experienced so far. The other dog-friendly hikes I’ve taken were often on fire roads or even paved roads rather than actual trails. These hikes didn’t go by creeks, and they didn’t have such beautiful views. They were perfectly fine hikes, if you just want to take your dog somewhere new, but they weren’t what I was looking for.


I wanted the sort of hike that really feels like you’re in the woods. The kind of hike that makes you feel like you’re finally taking deep breath, that unwinds something in you that you didn’t even realize was tight until you were out on the trail. I wanted the kind of hike that drew my attention to the way the sunlight cuts through the trees or glints off the ocean or to the sound of water moving along a creek even during the drought. That might sound strange coming from someone like me who really loves living in a city, but I’ve found that as much as I crave the energy and beauty of a city, I also need time outdoors — and these days, ideally, time outdoors with my dog.



With the New Addition

April 18, 2014

Having a dog is so much better than I’d expected. Being at Baker Beach on a sunny 70-degree Saturday in January is pretty much my ideal winter day, but it’s even better to be there with a dog that races up and down the beach and digs happily in the sand. It always feels cozy to read in front of the heater when the rain finally arrives in February, but it’s much cozier with a shiny black dog stretched out at my feet.


But it took us some time to get used to each other. The first time I took her out for a walk, she somehow wiggled out of her collar and raced furiously around the park, while I stood there panicking and feeling like I’d failed at dog ownership on my very first day.

Mr. WholeHog and I laughed the first time she rolled ecstatically in a pile of leaves, only to realize later that the joke was on us: beneath the leaves, she’d been rolling in a pile of shit.

We learn to keep our socks out of her reach after she ate the foot bed out of one of my slippers while I was in the shower one morning. And we’re still trying to get used to her 6AM wake up calls, when she presses her wet nose against our heads and paws the side of our bed to wake us up.

There were times in those first few weeks when I’d feel spooked when I’d look up and see her sitting silently in the hallway looking at me, but by now I’m comforted by the sight of her. Having a dog who is delighted when I get up in the morning and thrilled when I come home from work in the evenings is life-changing.


She opens us up to new parts of the City. Even though San Francisco is on the coast, we rarely went to the beach before we had a dog, but these days we’re at Fort Funston, Ocean Beach or Baker Beach a few times a month. We’ve spent more time exploring new (to us) parks, like Heron’s Head Park in Bayview or Mission Creek Park in SOMA. We’re spending more time in Glen Canyon and on Bernal Hill. We’re going to pet stores and dog parks that we’d barely noticed before. In the last few years, I’d realized that spending time outside makes me feel happier, and the dog gets me outside everyday.

She adds new landmarks to our neighborhood. There’s the house where she chased a rat out from behind a planter, the corner where she tried to eat a discarded bagel off the street (and threw a tantrum when we took it away from her), the fallen fruits off the palm trees that she tries to eat, the crack in the sidewalk that she stops to smell. Other dog enthusiasts stop to talk to us when we’re out with her. One day I’m walking her by a grungy neighborhood bar and one of the old timers out front murmurs, “Beautiful” as we pass, and I realize that he’s talking about the dog.

And, as I assume is obvious from these rare blog posts, she remaps our lives, too. Buying a house and working to improve it hasn’t always brought Mr. WholeHog and I closer together, but we’re on the same page when it comes to the dog. She makes us laugh with her audible yawns and the terrific way she stretches her front legs out as if she’s a football referee signalling a successful field goal.


When Mr. WholeHog and I crate-train her, we stand together in the hallway, listening to the terrible sound of her whining and crying. And the first time we leave her home alone, we crawl down the stairs together in the dark so she won’t see us leaving.

Last year, we usually spent our weekdays off together out on a hike, but this year, we’ve been more focused on dog-friendly excursions, and we usually find a way to place to stop that feels like a treat for us — getting pizza from the Del Popolo truck after a trip to Fort Funston, or checking out a coffee shop in the Sunset on our way to Ocean Beach.


This year, we even took her with us to Point Reyes for our anniversary. She loved running around on Limantour Beach and she sat outside with us at Marin Sun Farms while we ate burgers. The drive out to Point Reyes through the rolling farmland east of Petaluma is always beautiful, but it was more entertaining this time, with the dog in the back seat, her nose out the window drinking in the new smells.




February 14, 2014

Where have I been? For the last two months, I’ve been fixated on this little lady:


Her picture popped up on the  SF Animal Care and Control Facebook page the day before Thanksgiving, and although I don’t put a lot of faith in gut feelings, when I saw her picture, I had a gut feeling that this was our dog.


Mr. WholeHog and I have wanted a dog for at least a decade now. It was one of the reasons we moved to Oakland, where we soon realized that our new long commutes meant that a dog would be home alone most of the time. And it was also one of the reasons we decided to try to buy a place in SF (few SF rentals allow tenants to have dogs), but the work on our place was so overwhelming that I couldn’t imagine adding anything else to our lives at that point.

We talked more seriously about getting a dog last year, but the timing never seemed right: we were heading to be out of town; it was the middle of apple season at the farmers market; we were getting new windows installed. The right dog never seemed to be available either. There were so many chihuahuas and pit bulls and so few medium-sized lab-mixes.

But when this particular lab-mix showed up on the ACC Facebook page the day before Thanksgiving, we had no excuses: our new windows had been installed just days before; we’d recently come back from a trip to Austin; apple season was nearly over; and we were hosting Thanksgiving this year so we could go to ACC and meet this dog.


At the shelter that morning, I expected to see a line of people waiting to see this young lab mix, but there was just one person ahead of me in line at ACC and he turned left toward the doors marked “Lost Dogs”, while I turned right toward the doors marked “Available Dogs”.

I open the first “Available Dogs” door not knowing how many dogs are behind the door or how well they’re contained. I walk down the surprisingly narrow corridor saying “Good doggies!” and hoping that the big gray pit bull at the end of the hall won’t lunge at me as I walk by (she doesn’t).

When I open the second “Available Dogs” door, the dog I’d come to see is the first dog on the left, sitting up very tall and pressing up against the gate to her pen. When I stop in front of her, she jumps up and licks my fingers through the chain links.

But I don’t have that same gut feeling that she’s our dog. She’s smaller than I’d pictured, and in the “get acquainted room” she jumps up on me incessantly. And when Mr. WholeHog shows up after work, he feels similarly.

We walk away and decide to look at the SPCA, right across the parking lot, where we meet Stetson, a larger, more classic-looking black lab. But Stetson seems uncontrollable. When the SPCA volunteer tries to put a leash around his head, the leash ends up around Stetson’s waist. And he’s too big: when he jumps up on me, his paws are on my shoulders and he looks me straight in the eyes. I go home that night with scratches on my shoulders. This is a point in the first dog’s favor.

What works against her is that there are many unknowns. After looking at so many rescue websites, I’m expecting to know more about our future dog — if she barks or chases cats or is  house-trained. But this dog was found as a stray in a local park so we can’t know if she’s house-trained or if even she’s ever been in a house before.

But in the end, I feel like it comes down to two simple factors: I think she’ll be a good dog, and I think we can give her a good home.

We go back to ACC the next morning and fill out the paperwork. When the volunteer writes “Adopted” on her pen, everyone around oohs and ahhs. The volunteer brings the dog out to be microchipped — “These are the new parents”, she tells another volunteer — and the dog sits down right between Mr. WholeHog and I, and suddenly, she feels like our dog. It feels like she’s adopted us.