Ambassador Field Notes: Bodie's First Road Trip
- Allison Hartz
By late September every year I get the itch to head north. It’s a sort of homesickness. Growing up in New York, I loved fall and welcomed it, knowing ski season was right around the corner. Now living in Virginia, fall comes late. As I scroll through Instagram, I admit to being jealous of my friends out west and up north, and the cozy images they share, filled with sweaters and flannel, and trees that are orange and red.
This year was no different. I was pulled north to find fall and cool air, and for two other important reasons – Riley and Bodie.
Riley adores autumn, too. The lower temps put a spring in his step. Giving my senior a break from the heat and continuing to do as much as I can with him always gives me a good reason to hop in the car. Also, after losing Kona and adding Bodie to our pack, it was time to get him exposed to life on the road and out on the trails.
Riley started adventuring with me when he was just a few months old. I attribute so much of his “can and will do anything” attitude to everything I exposed him to at such a young age. I don’t want things to be any different for Bodie.
This year we headed to the Southern Tier of New York to explore Allegany State Park. The plan was to scout out as much as possible on a trip with both a senior and a puppy. We wanted to give Bodie a trip full of firsts with big brother Riley leading the way.
We checked off lots of to-do items on Bodie’s list in just a few days. It was his first time:
- riding in a car on an extended trip
- sleeping in a camper
- sitting next to a campfire
- hiking off leash
- scrambling over huge boulders
- sitting in a hammock
- exploring creeks
- swimming in a super cold lake (not on purpose)
Paddling is always at the heart of what we do. Bodie loves water, and he’s already a confident, natural swimmer. Prior to this trip we had been doing short paddles with Bodie and working on his stays, but he’s not ready for much distance yet. In Allegany we were able to paddle short distances together before he became overstimulated from the constant motion of the paddle and the rippling water. Keeping paddles short with Bodie was perfect. We’ve got all of next season to build his confidence, and it left time for me to do some longer paddles with Riley. Spending one-on-one time with my old boy has been really important to me. It’s easy for the puppy to get all the attention, but Riley needs breaks from all the puppy playfulness, and I need him to know he’s still super important to his pack. Together we explored all of Quaker Lake. The water was calm, and the colors were stunning.
Hiking is another activity we love, and being able to hike with Riley and Bodie was probably the highlight of the trip for me. Riley was all smiles and he stayed by my side for several miles exploring caves, boulders and creeks. I was thrilled that Riley comfortably and eagerly trotted next to Bodie. Naturally Bodie wandered off some but never went very far. When he did get too far ahead of us, I used it as a teachable moment. All I had to do was say his name, and he came running back to a handful of treats. It’s so important to me that my dogs have a solid recall, so I make coming positive, fun, and oh so worth it. Every. Single. Time. It was also wonderful that Bodie got to witness Riley staying close – senior dogs are the best teachers!
And then there’s downtime. Hammocks and campfires are part of road-tripping, too. More importantly, I think it’s vital to help pups of working breeds understand that downtime is part of life and that it’s ok to be tired. Bodie learned that the warmth of a campfire can come in handy when you (not on purpose, but sort of on purpose) jump into a cold lake. All on his own he figured out that a camp chair, a fire and a cozy jacket can fix the shivers. Note to self: put three chairs in the camper from now on.
I especially enjoyed a cuddly hammock session with Riley. Bodie sat in the hammock for five minutes tops before hopping out to play and explore in the creek below. My ultimate hope is to convert him into a snuggler like Riley, but this will take time!
Overall, Bodie’s first road trip was a wild success. He handled each of our adventures with complete confidence, and the experience proved to me that we’re right on track – if not ahead of ourselves – with his training. I’m excited to see how he progresses in the next few months. We didn’t log a lot of miles this time, but that’s ok. It’s like I’ve always said – it’s not how far or fast you go that makes an adventure special; it’s the company!
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