My old trusty trail dog, Mushka has seen the last of her trail running days due to her progressive heart disease. In her day, Muhska could pound out consecutive 20 mile days with me on the mountain bike. Now she can't run for more than a couple hundred feet. I knew this day would eventually come. I'm a planner, so I planned to get a second dog to slide into the role of trail dog as Mushka slid into the role of "hanging out at your feet in the porch" dog. Jesper and I adopted Strelka, a female Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, last year with this passing of the torch in mind.
This may sound heartless and I certainly don't want to imply that Strelka will replace Mushka. I have had several dogs and none replaced the previous one. Each dog has had her own unique personality. However, I know that I need to have a dog and it seemed easier to have overlap than to go without for a period of time.
Jesper and I have worked hard to train Strelka to be obedient, with the ultimate goal to be able to take her off lead for mountain biking. She goes to obedience school almost every week. I've been taking her running to gradually improve her endurance, keeping in mind that, at 1 1/2 years old and 65 pounds, she's still basically the equivalent of a 10 year old kid. So, the miles and pace of the running have been easy. I've kept her on a leash when running, but we knew that would not work for mountain biking.
We decided that we would try taking her mountain biking this past Labor Day weekend. Jesper and I headed up to the Dots Trails near Nederland. These trails allow dogs to run off lead if they are under control. The area is wooded, so Strelka would get a clear sense of being on a trail, as opposed to running in a big grassy field such as Marshall Mesa. The Dots afford lots of bail out options if she got tired or hot. And we thought the trails would have very few users to possibly distract her.
We took off with Jesper in the lead, Strelka in the middle and me bringing up the rear. Would she stay on the trail? Would she avoid our tires? Would she chase wildlife? Would she have fun?
Strelka seems to have natural trail dog talents! She stayed mostly on the trial, she avoided our tires, she didn't chase wildlife. And most importantly, that dog had so much fun! Her face and entire body smiled! Jesper and I had so much fun watching her have fun! We stopped the ride after only a few miles; gotta keep it fun and a overly exhausted puppy might not think of the experience as fun.
We have the makin' of a good trail dog!