Doug Cook

Alfie and I try to have a new hiking adventure each weekend. One of the weekend days is a “Doug day” for working around the house and yard, and the other a “dog day” for hiking with my four-legged companion.

Inevitably, come mid-Sunday afternoon if we haven’t had a hike at some point during the weekend I get the look from Alfie. I always have a local hike back-up plan if we haven’t gone out of town.

For out-of-town locations, I do research on the computer for locales where we have never been. It’s fun for both of us — me getting to see a new area and Alfie to enjoy some new smells. I have come to believe that each dog’s No. 1s and No. 2s must have its “unique” scent. Plus, there are the wild critters — mice, bunnies, raccoons, and who knows what else.

Usually, I try to find places where there is a water source, so Alfie can get a drink and take a dip.

A couple weeks ago it was Dead Timber State Recreation Area. Since I do not have a smartphone, I print off maps of the route to drive and back that up with written directions: Highway 91 to Highway 275, stay north on Highway 77 through Winslow (you get the picture).

Although this usually works, I have driven my share of dusty county roads, where, there soon is found a better way.

At Dead Timber, I placed the daily admission in the unmanned pedestal. There were a few people in campers/tents at a small campsite. Surprisingly, some of the trails were minimally maintained. In some places the plant growth (weeds) were 6-feet tall. One word entered my mind — ticks! On both Alfie and I. He is treated for them and I had put on spray, but those ticks are pesky critters.

Although there is a lake, it appeared to be stagnant water with algae on a lot of the surface. I tried to keep Alfie out of it, and was mostly successful. I always carry along a water container and bowl for him and stop for drinks frequently in shaded areas.

We hiked for a couple hours and then rested in a picnic pavilion to cool off. There was a nice breeze from the north, and as Alfie nosed around and then settled in for a nap, I read a novel.

I found a new route back, all on paved roads. Not surprisingly, the ticks appeared. I pulled a couple off my arms and dropped them out the car window. I wished them luck (not really) for their walk along the highway.

That night, while trying to sleep, I caught a couple crawling up my neck. Those met a worse fate. I hope not to be turned in to PETA, but what I do is hold them in tweezers and then light a match under them. I think it’s quicker and more humane than flushing them down the toilet (can ticks swim?) or squashing them.

But that “tick attack” was nothing compared to what was waiting to happen on the next weekend’s hike!

Doug Cook is president of the Board of The Friends of the Jeanette Hunt (Blair) Animal Shelter.

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