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Trails Make Everyone Happier

May 12, 2014

By Eric Goldwarg, UVTA Board Member

In early February, my wife, Emily, and I drove from Lyme, NH, to Terra Alta, WV, to pick up the newest member of our family, an English setter puppy named Rode (pronounced ROW-dee, named after an Italian ski wax company and also short for Rodeo, since Emily is from a Wyoming ranch family and the pup bucked and spun like a Brahma bull). Our older dog, Birch, came from the same breeder about 10 years earlier, and is Rode’s great-uncle. Birch joined us on the road trip to reconnect with his long-lost Appalachian kinfolk, though he didn’t show any sign of recognition. We left West Virginia early on Sunday morning and arrived back in the Upper Valley late that night.

Like all puppies, Rode was a terror in the house. He peed on the hardwood floors, he pooped on the Oriental rug, he chewed antique furniture, he shredded paper in the recycling bin. He barked, he whined, he howled. Birch was not happy about sharing his home with a puppy, and in the early weeks, we had to keep them physically separated at all times; Birch only succeeded in drawing Rode’s blood twice. Emily and I were stressed and frustrated. Tears were shed (not Rode’s, as he could not have cared less about how we were feeling).

We hunt upland birds with Birch, and plan to hunt with Rode, too, so we started getting Rode out in the woods on his very first day. The snow was deep, so we stuck to well-packed trails at Pine Park in Hanover, Boston Lot in Lebanon, and around Huntley Meadow in Norwich. We quickly realized that taking the dogs out on the trails provided the respite we needed. Off leash, Birch and Rode ran around and got along beautifully. They tired themselves out. Rode came when called, could not destroy any of our property, and didn’t bother anyone with his barking.

I have always been an enthusiastic trail user (hence my position on the UVTA board), but I was becoming obsessed, often taking the dogs for off-leash trail walks three times a day. The more I walked Rode, the more I came to see the joy of raising a puppy, and the chaos in the house felt more like a minor nuisance than a cause for serious stress. In short, trails made everyone happier.

Emily and I are expecting our first child in June; Rode will be six months old when the human puppy arrives. We also just bought a new house, which backs directly onto a large Town of Hanover conservation property heavily laced with trails. We chose this house deliberately, knowing how important it is to have easy access to the outdoors.

This summer, yet another addition to our family will join us on the trails, and I have no doubt that each walk will reduce our collective stress and bring us closer as a family. We just hope the baby won’t have an appetite for gnawing antique furniture.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 6, 2014 10:43 am

    Trails really DO make people happy. Thank you for writing about this topic.
    Kelley Dole

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