Your canine companion will love the exercise, and so will you — just prepare for more stops, starts and sticks.

Share story

OLIVER WAS 9 months old: an adorable, black-and-white-spotted bundle of energy with a long tail that whipped side to side.

He bounded into my life for a summer weekend, rolling around in the backyard grass, chewing ferociously on sticks and finding every escape path from the yard that he could.

Oliver is a staple at my husband’s office, and Chris had grown attached to the puppy and offered dog-sitting services. I was on board, as long as we could take him hiking.

I met Oliver outside the office. He was bigger than I realized, and when I took him for a little walk to a nearby patch of grass, he practically dragged me along. He was strong.

Oliver also had never been on a hike. Hiking considerations change with a dog, I soon discovered. Normally, Chris and I choose hikes based on mileage, elevation and the payoff of a summit or alpine lake. Dogs are not allowed in national parks, for example, among other restrictions. Because Oliver was new to hiking, we were wary of taking him somewhere with too much elevation. I have seen dog revolts on trails, where they plop down in puddles, refusing to go any farther.

We figured Oliver would love hiking, but we decided to take it easy on him, and headed to Twin Falls near North Bend. At 3 miles round-trip with 500 feet of elevation, plus the Snoqualmie River and waterfall, it was a perfect puppy playground.

I soon learned hiking with a dog, especially a young one new to hiking, also means a lot more stops and starts. Oliver’s excitable puppy soul was delighted by the sights and sounds of a trail, and he pulled almost the whole time, eager to find the next stick or see what was around the curve of the trail. To our relief, he tended to ignore other dogs and people on a day when the trail was packed.

He was more concerned with sticks than with the hike, and kept trotting with his latest acquisition in his mouth. As Oliver carried his latest stick, one passer-by commented, “Damn, I wish I was as happy as that dog.”

On the way up to the waterfall, Chris held on to Oliver’s leash. I walked behind, carrying our water and snacks and watching Oliver dart this way and that, yanking Chris along with him.

Once we reached the falls and turned around, I wanted a turn. Oliver took off and nearly dragged me down a hill. I gave him back to Chris.

We decided to see whether Oliver could swim. The Snoqualmie River at Twin Falls is beautiful and shallow, with lots of rocks to navigate. Slippery river rocks were new to Oliver, and confusing at first. He was nervous about crossing little eddies, despite a lot of encouragement. We were tempted to toss him into a pool to show him he could swim, but refrained. If he were our dog, we might have.

Instead, with a lot of coaxing, Oliver eventually got into the water, and soon scrambled across rocks like a pro, finding wet sticks lodged in them. He seemed to like the water. We let him play while we cooled off our feet and enjoyed the gorgeous vistas.

I had hoped Oliver had burned out all his puppy exuberance on the hike, which was just long enough for Chris and me to feel as if we’d had some movement that day. Oliver seemed tired on the way home, chewing on a stick from the river.

But as soon as we got home, Oliver was racing around the yard again. Maybe we should have taken him on an 8-miler. Next time, Oliver. Next time.