While many photographs on this blog have a “Where’s Willett?” feature, we haven’t given the dog much time in the spotlight. He is certainly an integral part of the adventure and much of our day is divided between scolding and cajoling him. So, without further ado, Willett’s very own post.
He is currently sleeping off his second day in Shenandoah National Park after performing laudably under a strictly enforced leash law. Thus far in the park we have seen two deer, one dumb bunny, a few snakes, a turkey, two baby bears (!!!), and about 8.3 million ticks. Willett has calmed considerably in the face of such wildlife, although he still charges a few feet into the brush to show us he’s ready to defend us when the bunny attacks. And for the record, no bears were treed during today’s interaction–the wee things just scampered off into the woods while we hollered and scanned the surroundings for mama bear.
As anxiety-provoking as the omnivorous black bear is, ticks pose a significantly greater threat to us. Willett has had a Lyme disease vaccine and uses a monthly flea/tick preventative that appears to be fairly effective at killing the ticks that affix themselves. That said, ticks are not welcome guests in our tent so we spend a good bit of time each night thoroughly inspecting his nooks and crannies armed with a pair of tweezers. To our surprise, the number one spot for hidden pests is between his toes. Ick. As for us, we check ourselves daily for ticks and wouldn’t waste a moment getting tested for Lyme disease should any of the symptoms emerge. Luckily we have yet to remove any ticks from between our toes–or anywhere else, for that matter–aside from brushing a few off our shins after a grassy interlude.
Anywho, back to the dog. A few fun facts:
1. During last Wednesday’s storm (a 12 hour affair worth its own post) Willett slept better than any of us as the tremendous winds blew the tent down twice and thunder and lightning raged on.
2. The toughest dog situations are best handled with Fig Newtons. We were able to silently steer him within a few feet of some very large cows when the trail passed through an occupied field by holding a Newton directly in front of his nose. Previous encounters with cattle, sans cookies, were much less successful. I now keep a stash of Newtons, peanut butter pretzels, and doggy jerky strips in my pocket for encounters with oncoming hikers. He has a knack for barking furiously at anyone demonstrating fear or apprehension towards him, a habit we prefer to keep in check. His progress is slow but not insignificant.
3. Depending on the day and his behavior, Willett has a variety of trail names. On an average day, he is “Hops,” the third party of our trio–I go by Fig and Travis by Duck (more on trail names to come…). After a particularly long day we began calling him “Jiminy Bearface,” an odd derivative of Hops. Most often, however, he earns the name of “Dog Quixote” for his tendency to raise a ruckus over falling leaves, irregularly shaped stumps, and other minor anomalies of nature.