Sunday, 14 March 2010

Thoughts on the JOGLE - and with a dog...

This is rather a late reflection on the hike - apologies for that.

Where do I start....I'll try not to make this too long a post as I ramble on!

My original reason for doing the hike (briefly), was the need to do something different (I get bored easily and need a new challenge), a break from the rut you can too easily slip in in day to day life, and 3 months just me and my dog - which I thought would be bliss!

I've always loved hiking, always hiked with my dog's, and enjoyed backpacking for a few years now too, so I thought I was pretty well prepared. Big mistake. I ended up replacing virtually all my old backpacking kit with newer lighter versions of everything...which ended up being pretty expensive!

I love being on a mission - planning the route, sorting the kit - all that sort of stuff is so much fun. The moment John left me at John O'Groats and it was just Patch and I walking alone it did briefly go through my head "Oh my god, what have I done!". It was very strange to know I had a month before I would see John again, and the usual luxury of picking up the phone to talk to people whenever I fancied was on hold to conserve the phone's battery life. It was a strangely lonely feeling - but at the same time I felt wonderfully free.

For me the hike became very difficult mentally as Patch's noise phobia's kicked in towards the end of day two when an RAF jet screamed over. She went into a panic - and she didn't enjoy the hike again until we were on the West Highland Way around 3 weeks later. After that she worried every time a jet went over, or there was traffic noise, or the noise of industry in the distance, or passenger jets entering / leaving the airport at Glasgow in the distance - or we heard people out shooting rabbits.

On the radio recently I heard a comment from a mother saying how a mum is only as happy as her unhappiest child - it was a debate about a mother who helped her daughter who was surffering from ME to die. The comment I feel is very true also to dog owners. If your dog is miserable you will feel the same. This was my problem on the hike - Patch lost all confidence and constantly listened to the skies for aircraft or other noises, she was constantly looking for somewhere to hide and at times it was hard work just getting her out of the safety of the tent in the mornings so I could get packed up to go - then she walk walk along miserably with her head and tail down. I'd made a big mistake - I thought the hike would help her with her phobia's but that wasn't the case at all. Eventually she went home when I met John for the second time after 620 miles so she did well, but she'd had enough.

The thing is, we live in a "Low Flying Area", so Monday to Friday the RAF jet's zoom over and Patch spends all week hiding in her bed - so really she was no worse off on the hike, but I had to make the decision that she was better off coping with it in her own way by hiding in bed.

So with Patch worried and miserable it was impossible for me to enjoy the hike. It's not possible to feel happy while you watch your dog suffer. Once Patch went home I felt miserable that I was without her so I increased the mileage, changed my route and got back as soon as I could.

So overall, the hike was an amazing experience - although I spent a large part of it miserable for doggy reasons, I'm still glad I did it and have many fond memories. I met some great people along the way and made some new friends, I learned more about Scotland and England, and I learned a whole lot about lightening my backpacking load thanks to comments left on this blog! I think about the hike all the time - it will always be a part of me. I remeber one evening somewhere in Englad when I had walked 26 miles and found no campsite or B&B...I'd walked 30 miles the day before and was looking to just stop and get my tent up - I was soaked and my boots felt twice as heavy as they had been sodden for about 14 days. I was still miserable as I hadn't long left Patch behind. I decided to stick my tent up in a muddy corner of a crop field - there was just no-where else. About half an hour later I heard a tractor enter the field, and he drove straight past me to get to the next field - and back again later. He never stopped and told me to move - he just carried on. I was so grateful!

I think long distance walking with dogs is a great think to do - but you have to know your dog. Patch loves hiking - but needs our other dog around to give her a confidence boost. A few years ago (soon after patch came along) I lost my collie, Ellie to a tumour on her spine. Ellie would have gone anywhere and done anything with me. Although she was also a rescue dog I was lucky enough to have had her from a pretty young age and she had a wonderfully laid back character with no nervous issues. We would hike for miles - she would have covered a lejog / jogle with no problems.

When long distance hiking with dogs it is so important to know your dog inside out so you will notice a minor problem before it develops into a major one. I found myself watching Patch more than the surroundings - constantly looking for signs of discomfort. Every night I checked her feet - not just the pads but in between the pads for signs of soreness or stones. If a dog is unhappy he is unable to tell you so you have to think of everything and be aware to pick up on problems. Also the dog will be needing a fair amount of extra food when covering miles - his usual tea will not be enough. Some evenings Patch eat 2 tins of dog food (she's only a jack russell!). I always carried plenty of dry food for her (I put beef jerky in it to encourage her to eat more) but when on campsites with shops I gave her some nice tinned dog food. It goes without saying that they will need plenty of water stops to keep hydrated also.

One other thing to think about when doing this sort of hike is the security of the dog when you need to go into shops to re-supply. I may be paranoid but I didn't want to take any chances on Patch disappearing when I nipped to a shop so I bought a locking lead by Petloc. It locks around her kneck to make a collar as well as locking the other end to whatever she would be tethered to. It also had steel wires going through the length to prevent it being cut or chewed. This did weigh more to carry but it was worth the security of knowing she was ok.

I've waffled on enough and gone completely off track!

Patch and I are booked onto a 3 day course at the end of this month - it's called a "Dog Borstal Experience" and is run by Richard Clark and Mic Martin from the TV show "Dog Borstal". We are going to concentrate on Patch's noise phobia's. Our plans after that will depend on how we get on. We will definitely do our usual summer of backpacking in Snowdonia and elsewhere (so many places I want to go back to after the jogle) with John and our other dog "Snowy".....but if the course goes well and Patch's phobia's improve there could be a lejog on the cards at some point in the future - I missed so much good walking in my hurry to get back....for all my whinging at the time - I now want to do it again!

7 comments:

John Dunbavin said...

Hi Sophie,
Welcome back and a nice post about your walk and your dog. As you know I spent 5 months with Skye my German Shepherd in the hills and I was forever worried about her welfare during the walk. More worried about her than me. Was she too hot, too cold, too wet, limping, eating enough, thirsty etc etc .. Always watching her. It would have been a lot easier walking without the dog but not as enjoyable!! I knew she was good in the hills as I had spent so much time with her before but sharing a tent day after day with a soaking wet dog was interesting! A tent, dog and midges is also a challenging situation. Hey, good luck with the dog borstal thing and Patch. Dogs can be such a worry. John

Sophie Easterbrook said...

Hi John - you know exactly what I'm talking about!
Patch has always been fine out hiking but this was the 1st time without our other dog - it caught me unawares quite how insecure she is without her in times of worry!
I think you and Skye did brilliantly - maybe one day Patch's fears will be overcome and I can do the same...for now we will still do plenty of hiking - but it will have to be with John and Snowy around for a courage boost!

Andy and Alfie the Dog said...

Hi Sophie very useful post especially for me and Alfie, did patch really get through two tins of food a night? that will alter my plans if alfie does the same!, did you feed patch in the morning too?.
Alfie should be ok security wise as i have a welded link, light chain and combination lock to secure him when I go shopping, I am concerned about other dogs when he cant get away tho! he can be aggressive with them so not something I'm looking forward to!.
Alfies only health problem is a badly set rear leg which he broke as a pup, I hope this wont cause problems. since we bought him from his last owners the quantity of walking he does has made it unnoticeable, when he sits down it does stick out oddly yet I'm still to meet a dog who stands on two legs as well as him!
Only 25 days till we start our Lejog and i'm still considering changes to my gear, how well did your golite pack hold up? i'm sorely tempted to change my 55 litre pack for a golite pursuit 51 litre pack but have no experience of them,
Any further hints would be gratefully received at this end!
Thanks
From us both!

Sophie Easterbrook said...

Hi Andy, yep, I'm afraid it's true - she'd often eat two tins of dog food - normally she's not a big eater, but on the jogle she was!

I carried about a kilo of dry dog food (Wainwrights) to make sure I always had enough for her, and I tore up my beef jerky and put that in with it to encourage her to eat plenty. She had it constantly available in camp - I only packed it away when leaving in the morning. Whenever I was passing a shop close to camp - or at a campsite with a shop I bought her tinned food to encourage her to eat plenty - and to make her dry dog food last longer. Sometimes she would eat two tins at night - and then a third in the morning!!

When I ran out of the dry dog food I found Bakers Complete was about the smallest batch of dry complete food I could buy - it would add 1.5kg to my pack and isn't great quality food (plus it's actually a bit moist so unnecessarily heavy!).

I'm glad aldie's leg is doing well - these muscly terriers cope quite well with these sorts of problems don't you think?! I bet all that walking has made it so much stronger.

Changing from my heavy old Gregory backpack to the Golite is the best thing I did - it was fantastic. No problems what so ever with it, really comfortable - excellent.

The Golite pack is probably something I will not replace untill it literally falls apart as I'm now so fond of it (and I love new gear!). Although it now looks well used there are absolutely no signs of problems with it. I love it!

Sophie

Sophie Easterbrook said...

Sorry Andy - I meant "Alfie" - not "Aldie"! I'm a bad typist...I'm sure Alfie doesn't want to sound like a supermarket...!

Andy and Alfie the Dog said...

I dont think Alfie can read, so he wont be too upset.......tho having said that who knows with dogs..........................?!

sr said...

Superb Effort. Well done. I am still amazed at the different types of journeys people take from one end of our country to the other. My trip wasn't as unique as yours, but I am still proud of it and I am gathering together as many of the different stories as possible to help inspire others. You could post your story at http://www.landsendtojohnogroats.com/jogle-lejogs/2009-jogle-and-lejogs or if you want you could write a longer article.

Regards
Stuart