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Celebrating International Dog Day with Osprey Ambassadors Nicol and Kaia

Imagine you’re walking along a dirt trail surrounded by tall and looming trees, and strange noises are echoing off the mountains around you. Your friends all said they were too busy so they couldn’t tag along. So, you ended up walking in the woods by yourself. But not totally alone—you have a dog! 

“What’s my dog going to do if you see a bear?”  

Well, friend, they’re going to keep you company as you safely navigate the outdoors.  

 

Hello and happy International Dog Day! My name is Nicol and I hike with a 24 lbs Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Kaia. Yes, you got that right. I hike with a small potato and we enjoy many big adventures together.  I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, but moved to Calgary for school. My parents were both refugees from Vietnam and, as such, I grew up without hiking or camping. After all, why would we go back to living in the woods, trying to survive? Put that way, it would’ve been such a silly thing for my parents to think about leaving a home that they worked hard to obtain, just to voluntarily squat under a bush to pee.   I didn’t start hiking until my third year of university when I studied abroad in Hong Kong. I met people that were incredibly adventurous and I envied their mindset. In Hong Kong, you can take a bus, hike up a mountain and get back in time for dinner!   When I came back to Canada, I filled my life with non-stop adventuring. However, growing up as I did, I didn’t have many friends that enjoyed hiking. I actually remember going on a hike with one of my friends and, after getting to the top, she pulled out a Starbucks cup from her purse and exclaimed, “We’re never doing this again!”   But I loved it. I loved the feeling of being free in nature, with all of my thoughts and all of the world to see. I hiked, camped and travelled mostly solo—that is, until my Kaia came into my life.

My brother was actually the one to introduce Kaia to me. Our family dog had passed away after 17 years (five of which being a tri-pawd), and he thought we needed another dog in our lives. Fast forward a couple of months and we brought home our little potato puppy.   My brother eventually got an incredible job offer away from Calgary and so I was left with this sassy, smart and energetic little thing to myself. We bonded instantly.  We started out on walks around the neighborhood. There were times when Kaia would stop and sit, refusing to move. Sometimes, she’d even grab the leash with her mouth and pull backwards! I read up on this and realized she might’ve been bored walking the same route, going to the same parks. Solution? We went on our very first hike.  It was a small, three-km trail with little elevation gain. She loved every bit of it. She sniffed as many strands of grass as she could, she rolled in poop, she jumped into the water. Kaia loved the outdoors as much as I did. We’ve spent every week since out in the wild together.

We get all of the dad jokes when we’re hiking together: “Where did their legs go?”; “The Queen’s dog would like a ride now!”; “How did such a little thing make it up here?”  It’s wild to think, especially because corgis are a herding breed. These dogs have an abundance of energy and are always ready for an adventure. Seriously, put a corgi near some sheep and their instincts to chase will kick in.  One of the most common questions we get is “How do you start hiking with a corgi?” And I think it’s true of hiking with any dog: proper conditioning. I firmly believe that any dog, working or toy, large or tiny, can hike with proper conditioning. You’re not going to throw your shepherd or a yorkie on a mountain and expect them not to tire if they’ve never hiked before!   I started with those walks around the neighborhood when she was still puppy-aged. And because puppy joints are still fragile, it was important for us to take it slow in terms of increasing both distance and elevation gain. We moved from walks around the city to walks around urban parks. Then we added distance, and then more elevation gain.

The most important thing, though, is making sure you’re equipped to take your pup on an adventure! Just as you bring enough water and snacks for yourself, make sure that your dog has all they need. In my Osprey Skimmer 28L, I pack: 

  • A pet first aid kit, which includes gauze, vet wrap, paw wax, and the correct and safe dosages of Benadryl 
  • Water in either a bottle that she can drink out of or a collapsible bowl 
  • Boots in case of scree or jagged, sharp rocks 
  • A winter jacket or a cooling jacket, depending on the season 
  • Two bags of dog food samples 
  • An emergency sling or way to take your pup out in case of injury 
  • A pouch to keep her poop in so it doesn’t stink on the trail 

I probably over-prepare because I’m very paranoid of getting stuck somewhere without extra gear to get by, but I figure that’s better than the other option. I bring all of the above for all trips we take, either on short hikes or backcountry trips, during which I’ll add her little sleeping bag and more food.

 

 

Little Legs, Lots of Adventure 

So, where have we been?  Our very first adventure away from home was a trip out to Tofino on Vancouver Island. We hiked through mud to find a crashed plane, and then we cleaned ourselves off at the beach. We’ve travelled to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to see the northern lights dance in February. It was freezing at -55 degrees Celsius! We stayed indoors for much of it, but Kaia dressed out in two layers and her boots when we were on the snow.   Once I found out I could fly with Kaia, we flew down to Missouri and took a road trip from there through Colorado. We saw red boulders—a striking contrast to the blue mountains we’re familiar with! In Colorado, we decided it was only a few hours more to see Utah and all of the natural arches. And I most definitely cannot forget seeing Oregon for the first time! The Pacific Northwest definitely has my heart.  It’s interesting looking back at all of the grand adventures we’ve had. How did I ever prepare for all of the different landscapes, temperatures and hikes? I’m always proud of how much Kaia does. She’s such an impressive dog, but it doesn’t come without careful planning.  In the summer months, and especially for areas that are a little grassier, I make sure Kaia gets a flea and tick preventative. There are so many different types on the market now, but Kaia takes an oral one that kills ticks if they bite. She’s never had a tick on her during tick checks at the trailhead, but I’ve found one crawling on me! We also have a cooling jacket that works through evaporation, but we’ll avoid hiking for too long if it’s above 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit)! Making sure your dog has lots of water during the summer months is most important. Heat stroke can happen in a few short minutes, so be certain to look at their gums and be cautious of excessive panting, confusion and vomiting.

 

On those really hot days, we either hike early in the morning, late in the evening or we make it a paddle day on the water. Kaia’s name actually means “the sea” in Hawaiian, so she was destined to always be on the water. We introduced the kayak and paddleboard at home, where she was able to sit or stand on it while I rocked it back and forth on land. With that practice, pushing off onto lakes has been so easy. It’s especially great with a small dog since she can’t really tip me over!  In the winter, Kaia gets paw wax to protect her paw pads from sticking to the ice, or boots because salted surfaces is damaging. We’ve lived at the 60th parallel and were used to -50 degree (Celsius) days in the tundra. While Kaia still loved frolicking in the snow, I’d never let her stay outside for too long. If I was freezing to death, she’d be right along with me—maybe an hour behind with that double coat! Be certain to take them inside as soon as they’re lifting their paws, hunched over, shivering or refusing to move.  We’ve had so many fun adventures throughout the years, and it’s always so great to read messages or hear from people that Kaia has inspired them to hike and travel with their dogs. It’s even greater seeing more and more people battle the stigma of small dogs on big hikes. We’ve organized local hikes including dogs of all sizes, as well as corgi-specific hikes, and have really loved every bit of it. We love bringing like-minded people together, especially dog people.  I hope this inspires you to adventure with your pup today!  Nicol is a member of the 2022 Osprey ambassador cohort(Se abre en una ventana nueva)! Follow Nicol and Kaia on Instagram(Se abre en una ventana nueva) to keep up with their adventures!