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Juniper: From Race Dog to Hiking Dog

Juniper took to hiking as if she was bred for it

We knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into when we adopted a greyhound: A cat in dog form. The breed is capable of top speeds – for a few seconds. And while they enjoy a sprint of their “zoomies” around the yard once a day, the remaining hours are devoted to sleeping. (Usually on the couch) They LOOK athletic but are nothing more than lazy couch potatoes. So when we decided to take Juniper hiking with us on a whim, we weren’t sure what would happen. Would we end up carrying a 75-pound dog back along the trails? (A fun prospect) Or would she hang in there? (Potentially whining the entire time) The result surprised everyone.

Hiking Natural Bridge

Like most greyhounds, especially retired racers, Juniper travels in the car beautifully. Granted, she won’t hop in on her own (she expects one of us to lift her butt in), but she settles in and snoozes regardless of how long a trip we happen to be making. As long as she has somewhere to prop her head and look out the window, she’s happy. So we try to include her when we make most of our long weekend trips whenever possible.

And since my parents love her, they enjoy her company, too.

During one family vacation, she accompanied us to Northern Virginia. She had a chance to meet her first horse (she wasn’t impressed) and roam around a farm (plenty of exciting smells). She spent most of the trip relaxing at the cabin. But my folks wanted to stop at Natural Bridge on the way home. The State Park allowed dogs along the trail, and it was too warm to leave her behind in the car.

But we faced a quandary: would she even venture down the trail? Or did we need to contemplate squeezing her into the shuttle?

My husband was all for giving her a chance to stretch her legs. (I think it was the sight of little dogs making the attempt that did it) So we popped on her leash and headed for the stairs.

Juniper hiking on Natural Bridge with my husband

If you haven’t been to Natural Bridge, it isn’t for the faint of heart. As far as hiking goes, it’s mundane. But there are 137 steps involved in getting from the Visitor Center to the Bridge itself.

We already knew Juniper wasn’t wild about stairs. And she wasn’t exactly light. I pictured the two of us trading off hauling her down the various flights. But she trotted down them without any hesitation. Maybe she took her time in places, but we didn’t hear a single peep of protest. If Mommy and Daddy (and Grandma and Grandpa) were going down the steps, so was she. It was honestly that simple in her doggy brain.

She made it all the way down and back without a problem. (Though she definitely slept the entire remainder of the car ride home)

That was her first introduction to hiking. And it told us she wasn’t averse to putting in a few grueling miles or so. Even over tricky terrain.

Hiking Buddies

After that, we decided Juniper would become our new hiking companion. So long as the weather cooperated, she could accompany us when we ventured anywhere that allowed canines.

And she took to the trails like a hunting breed.

Always out in front, she held to the tracks with an easy gait. Even without our prompting, she seemed to understand the rules of the trail:

  • Move to the side for quicker hikers
  • Pause to allow bikers to get ahead
  • Friendly sniffing is okay, but no barking or growling (as if Juniper was capable of such)
  • Curbing is a must

We could pick a comfortable pace for everyone – no need to do more than keep a hand on the leash. She didn’t even chase after the occasional squirrel (a miracle for her). And when we made the call to turn around and retrace our steps, she unerringly navigated every turn and twist.

Not too shabby for a dog trained to run in a circle!

Last Call

Of course, all of our hiking isn’t without problems.

For whatever reason, Juniper refuses to drink on the trail. We’ve tried everything: different water bottles, bowls, and even our cupped hands. At one point, we even poured the water bottle close to her mouth to encourage some licking. No dice. We avoid taking her with us during the warmer months for this reason. But it’s definitely frustrating.

We also have to take precautions for her health. So we keep her current on her flea and tick preventative. And we have hiking boots to protect her feet from the rough terrain. (She’s surprisingly blase about wearing shoes. Then again, she also wears jackets without a problem)

And, of course, we have to have a comfy bed ready for her at the end of the hike. Because she wants to do nothing except sprawl out and sleep. (Preferably with her food and water within easy reach) Even short hiking trips expend all of her energy.

We ARE talking about a greyhound here, after all.

But it’s nice to see her engaging in an activity that’s a little out of the ordinary. And she gets plenty of compliments. Even if she doesn’t pause long enough to receive them!

Juniper relaxing after a long day

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