Trails & Tails: Hiking With a Tillamook Coast Dog

For my enthusiastic black Labrador, Lilo, hiking is the best way to spend any Tillamook Coast day.

I adopted Lilo when she was five and hiking saved her life.

Because her early years were spent indoors and inactive, she was dangerously overweight.

She needed an exercise regimen and her prescription was the Tillamook Coast’s miles of forested trails, such as her fast favorite, Oswald West State Park.

Black Lab Oswald West State Park

Lilo ponders the forest at Oswald West State Park

Before heading out, I habitually check off a few things for her comfort and safety:

• A sturdy leash and collar is a must year-round as they provide a gesture of courtesy and goodwill to other hikers. They also provide a measure of security for dogs along trails with steep drop-offs and prevent them from chasing rogue squirrels.

• Remember identification for your dog. Lilo’s reflective tag includes my name, address, and phone number. I’ve come across too many frantic dog owner’s on a trail whose dog bolted and wasn’t wearing any ID. A state park you are visiting for the first time on vacation is an intimidating place to search for your dog.

• Ideally, you should carry a quart of clean water for your dog for every three miles you plan to hike. State parks often have facilities where you can fill up on water; Oswald West, for example, has water in the main parking lot, but if you hike to a more remote location like Cape Falcon, that is not an option.

• There’s no way to put this gently: pick up after your dog does his/her business. It’s the polite thing to do. I’ve had many an excellent hike marred by finding something other than mud stuck to my soles. Oswald West provides sturdy bags for hikers to pick up after their dogs. Take advantage of them; trust me, park rangers will love you for it. Bagging the waste and leaving it by the side of the trail is not “mission complete.” When it comes to the rules of the trail, if you pack it in, pack it out.

• Something to snack on for Lilo is always on hand, partly because we often are hiking until after her dinner time, but mostly because she likes a reward for getting where we’re going. And who doesn’t?

It’s important to remember that not everyone likes dogs. Many people just want a quiet, leisurely hike where they can take pictures, watch birds, or soak up nature.

Lilo is an essential part of hiking. I couldn’t imagine being on a trail without her, but I try to not to impose her on everyone I meet. When I encounter other hikers, I can usually tell by their body language if they enjoy dogs. If they break out in smiles and continue briskly towards us, Lilo’s ears are probably in for a good scratching.

If hikers slow, scowl, or stop, they want no part of a dog. Regardless, I stop and pull to the side of the trail, making Lilo sit. The other hikers can then come to me or pass on by.

A fellow hiker recently told me that dogs had no place on trails and he always left his at home.

Seeing the goofy doggie grin that hiking always gives Lilo, I can’t imagine a crueler punishment.

Black lab lease required sign

Like it or not leashes are required at all state parks

Dan Haag

Born and raised in the great white north of Minnesota, Dan Haag felt the pull of the north Oregon Coast in the early 90s. Finding that rain never needed to be shoveled, he married an Oregon girl and settled in Manzanita, where he works as director of the Manzanita Visitors Center. He is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a variety of state and national publications. He spends his free time wandering the area’s many trails, supporting the Oregon wine and beer industry, perusing coastal bookstores, and chasing his black Labrador, Lilo, along the beach.

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