Sunday, May 30, 2021

We're Back!

Hi there! I started this blog in 2015, hoping to provide helpful reports and insights for hikers like me who favor hitting the trails with their dogs.  For me, that was Ty, the outdoor-oriented Carolina Dog mix, and Tango, the oxymoronically chill Aussie-Malamute-GSD-wolfer, who humored our craving for elevation.  Hiking back then meant out of the house in the early light and returning in the evening.  

By 2017, while my posts tapered off sharply, we continued hiking but mostly shorter, lower elevation hikes to accomodate Tango.  On October 19, 2020, Tango's watch ended, thanks to a well-hidden and aggressive cancer along his spine.  Unaware of the heartache that was a short way down the road, we started fostering a feisty young Carolina Dog in September and, surprise surprise, her status has changed to "foster fail." Tango treated her like a little sister, granting her leeway no other foster had been permitted, as if facilitating the transition we had no idea was underway.  Her name is Arya, and yes, she'd rather behave like a beast than a lady! (Game of Thrones anyone??)  

My hope is to restart this blog to track our journey and hopefully provide some entertainment, useful info, and maybe hope along the way to anyone who finds us. See, Arya is special in a lot of ways but some of the sucky ones are leash reactivity and elbow dysplasia.  Suffice to say, these are not conditions that align well with the hiker lifestyle that she/we love so much.  Blog pages and Facebook support groups have been great sources of encouragement for me and I'd love to pay that forward, if I can.

While I'm keeping our name as Paws on Peaks, expect to see more flat ventures and maybe even wheeled ones more so than grand "peakbagging" excursions.  To that end, you can now find us on IG as @heathen_dingos_of_the_north, though activity is admittedly intermittent.  I'm also hoping to post more about adventuring from the medical and behavioral perspectives, especially in the context of living and exploring the Seacoast (NH) and surrounding area.  

Oh, and if you happen to have checked out our page in years past, Ty is still kicking my ass! She has spondylosis & some hearing and vision loss but none of these are too bad for her 12.5 years on this planet and hike days are still the highlight of her existence.  Actually, this weekend marks 12 years since we first met <3  

Drop a note if there's any topics you want to see and let's get started!  

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

To my noblest goober

        I  won't say goodbye because I still feel you beside me.  I won't hang up your collar because we have so many more places to go.  And I still won't sign cards without your name alongside Ty's. But what I can do is say 'thank you' from the bottom of my heart and beyond, to you and to our family & friends for supporting us through your passage to the next world.

I'm learning that I can grieve and grow at the same time, that peace and pain are not mutually exclusive.  And I've learned, with piercing clarity, how truly fortunate we are.  Tango was the best, most intrinsically good dog we'll ever share our lives with and I think it's going to feel like he's still with us in some way for quite awhile, hopefully. 

    Since his passing, we've been beautifully overwhelmed by the ways our family & friends have found to celebrate Tango and how much love and support we've been shown.  I truly have no words <3 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Gear Review: Groundbird Gear Harness

We recently made another addition to our niche gear collection - Tango has a new Groundbird Gear harness!  

Groundbird Gear is a cottage shop specializing in tailor-made dog packs + harnesses and now camping quilts.  They're especially popular for long distance hiker pups and dogs who don't fit the "traditional" sizes.

While Tango is still kicking trail butt for a 12 year old, he's getting a little gimpy in the back end and prone to taking the less-than-easiest route when it comes to obstacles.  He's generally fine on his own but with our rugged New England terrain, there's times when I want to support him up or down a trail hazard rather than watch him do the 'shaky-legs finish' after landing a jump.  So I choose our hikes carefully and bring the old man. And a Solvit hip support harness, Pack-a-Paw rescue harness, and an assortment of pain relievers.  People wonder why my pack is stuffed to the gills!   

With that context, it was clearly time to put health & safety over his disapproval for "clothing."  I decided to talk to Marie at Groundbird Gear about their tailor-made harness as an alternative to linking our existing Web Master Pro and hip harness together.  Fast forward a few weeks because we know how that conversation ended!

The harness fits so perfectly, it's like the GB team came up to New Hampshire and took the measurements themselves.  I swear they looked at my numbers & the photos I sent and knew exactly how they should've read! 

And the ultimate approval: Tango doesn't try to bow out of the way when I approach him to get dressed.  He moves freely in any situation and appears confident when receiving support, even when it's a quick, unexpected grab because he made a questionable choice like hopping onto a slippery boulder (making me super glad we made the investment - the fact that it's so comfortable and easy to put on means he's in it more than he would be in another brand, increasing the chances I have the ability to assist him).  We're in the wrong season to test how he does with it in hot and/or humid weather but it should be far more comfortable than his other gear, even the lightweight hi-viz vest, being only 7oz of breathable fabric.

The benefits of a custom GB harness (over our experience with other harnesses):
- super breathable (Tango is pretty heat-sensitive for an Arkansas native)
- buckle clips all around - most convenient for both of us when dressing and undressing
- unrivaled fit, i.e. shoulder straps that don't inhibit shoulder motion & belly pad straps that don't ride up on armpits.  I'm fortunate that Ruffwear fits both of my dogs pretty well but this harness is next level.
- two handles - perpendicular, rather than the parallel style I like from Ruffwear, but well-suited to our needs

That narrow chest strap tho!
Special features for Tango:
- extra narrow chest strap with added flex for the dog that has no "gap"
- a longer body to accommodate the primary support function of the harness
- wide belly pad for extra comfortable support
- D-ring at the back to connect a hip harness

I also splurged on upgrading to the Help 'em Up hip lift harness to complement the GB since it's Tango's lower back that I'm most focused on protecting.  The Solvit works just fine but is heavier and a little clunkier overall.  He doesn't wear it often but I think it should fit as comfortably as the rest of his gear.  I've also added a short rope attachment so that I can continue to provide assistance when I can't be immediately behind him.  Right now it's just something I had laying around that happens to work really well but I may MacGyver a new lead soon.  

Comfortable in motion and at rest
With the Help'em Up hip lift harness
A final note on the GB harness: Groundbird Gear was exceedingly pleasant to work with.  I had so many questions, over-thought every little aspect, and took weeks to order after initiating the conversation.  Marie was patient, helpful, and showed how well she knows her craft from start to finish of the project. 

Now to the trails! 

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