Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dog's best friend?

An Out There blog reader (who just commented on the Mount Hood post below) read my mind, questioning the love behind climbers taking pets up mountains with them.

A short version of a story by the AP:

Despite the feel-good story of Velvet, the black Labrador mix who helped keep three Mount Hood hikers warm and alive, some experts say taking dogs up the mountain for warmth and companionship is a foolhardy practice that could do more harm than good.

“Any sport that requires safety gear, like harnesses, crampons, ice axes and rope, is probably not an appropriate place for a pet dog to be,” and could endanger both the dog and owner, said Julie Kittams, a Portland veterinarian for sled dogs in the Iditarod.

Taking a dog on a mountain-climbing expedition, she said, is “like caring for an injured team member. It just hinders your ability to get safely off the mountain.”

The rescue prompted climbers to chatter on mountaineering Web sites such as cascadiaclimbers.com about the wisdom of bringing a dog on an expedition. Climbers noted that some dogs are bred for snowy environments, but other hikers wondered about potential risks for the animals.

Velvet’s owner, Matty Bryant, did not respond to requests for an interview Tuesday. Velvet suffered cuts and scrapes on her feet from exposure to the snow and went home with bandages, antibiotics and pain medication. She was expected to make a full recovery.

What do you think? I took my Lab on backpacking trips in the Sierras when I was a kid, but there was no technical climbing involved and no snow, either. She didn't go up Whitney with me and she never went anywhere that she couldn't easily be carried out.

6 comments:

UltraRob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
UltraRob said...

I've taken my dog on lots of different trips. The longest I've had him in the backcountry has been 5 days with long hours of hiking each day. He's a lab and husky mix and is really tough. If I don't take him he gives me the evil eye when I get back.

I've never taken him on any climbs where I was expecting to need my ice axe or any other technical gear. There's just too much that can go wrong. When I do things like that, I deal with the evil eye when I get home.

One time on a 3 day trip along the Colorado/Utah border I ended up running into some cliffs he couldn't get up. I was using one of Kelsey's books and if you've ever looked at one you would understand why I ran into something I didn't expect. He had 2 pages of hand drawn maps and description for a 3 day off trail route. It was a loop hike so it would have been a long way back. It was pretty dangerous getting an 80 pound dog onto the ledges and tweaked my back.

Another time I took him snowshoeing overnight and used some of my dry clothes to make a bed for him in the tent. He was warm enough that he melted the snow under him and he and my clothes were soaked in the morning but he was fine.

zen said...

Backpacking, hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing are one thing. But no dog belongs on any glaciated, crevassed, technical summit expedition, especially in winter. A very poor choice indeed.

Dave Philipps said...

Dude, they were hippies. What are you going to do? Leave the dog in the VW?

quickclips said...

I've taken my dog backcountry snowboarding, snowshoeing, trail running, backpacking, mountain biking and so on, but when it comes to climbing I take hime cragging and thats it. No mountaineering for my pooch. He guards the VW.

Dena Rosenberry said...

The most important job a pooch can have.
Signed, happy squareback owner