Tough choices: safety v. freedom

Thanks to everyone who attended my Hiking with Dogs presentation at the Washington Trails Association TrailsFest. It was a wonderful event, and I was honored to be a part of it. One of my topics — a perennial topic — was whether dogs should be off-leash in the backcountry. While most of my advice suggested erring on the side of a leash, I know that there are times when a well-trained dog is so good it hardly seems necessary.

Today, I learned the sad story of Casey, a 12-year-old Labrador/Shepherd mix, who was euthanized after suffering severe injuries as the result of a fall during a hike in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. The announcement came to me from DoveLewis, an awesome 24-hour Emergency and ICU Animal Hospital in Portland. While it’s fuel for keeping dogs tethered, my first reaction was not: Why wasn’t that dog on a leash? My first reaction was those poor people; this is going to haunt them for a very long time. A few hours later, DoveLewis sent out a follow-up press release that put the guardians’ grief and guilt in a considered and compassionate context. I thought it was worth a read.

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