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Monday, May 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Dogging it can keep you sane as well as healthy

Fishtrap  Recreation Area, at more than 8,000 acres, is one of several large blocks of Bureau of Land Management land open to the public and ripe for exercising people and their dogs. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
Fishtrap Recreation Area, at more than 8,000 acres, is one of several large blocks of Bureau of Land Management land open to the public and ripe for exercising people and their dogs. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
By Rich Landers For The Spokesman-Review

Sheltered from the fallout of society’s woes, dogs have been having the time of their lives this month.

Dogs love attention and exercise, and they’re getting more than ever as people stay home from school or work to help curtail spread of the novel coronavirus.

Even couch potatoes can be motivated into a healthier lifestyle by a dog’s pleading eyes. Whether it’s a walk around the block or a romp in a national forest, scheduling regular “dog time” can help cure what ails you. Labs, collies, mutts – any of them can serve as your personal trainer for shedding extra pounds. They can also be your shrink with tail-wagging therapy for depressing news.

The High Drive Bluff trails, like other public areas around Spokane, have been bustling with hikers and runners. Old farts who normally find weekday solitude on local trails have been finding much more company, including kids, plus a lot more dogs. Even outdoors, social distancing has been difficult there and in other popular outdoor areas such as Riverside State Park’s Bowl and Pitcher, which is why state parks have been closed.

My Brittany Spaniel and I looked for places to be alone for our runs, and found plenty of space in and out of town.

Most of the dogs I witnessed out and about at local outdoor open spaces were happy, save for the occasional cases of on-leash pets being terrorized by aggressive off-leash dogs. Spokane County Code requires dogs to be leashed and under control in most public areas, excluding designated areas of dog parks. The law specifically prohibits allowing a dog to aggressively approach another person in public areas.

So here’s a challenge to dog owners: Consider adding a training component to dog time. Spend a portion of each outing to teach or emphasize “heel,” “sit,” “fetch,” “off” or the all-important “come.” Maybe Spokane could emerge from the pandemic as the community with the best-behaved dogs in America.

And while we’re at it, let’s be the best dog owners by respecting the space of other people, and picking up our dogs’ poop.

Spokane County conservation areas such as Antoine Peak in Spokane Valley are popular for hikers with dogs on leash. Scablands areas – Slavin Conservation Area comes to mind – are prime dog-hiking destinations during spring with road-like trails that make it easy to comply with social distancing. Hours can be devoted to exercising in the vast U.S. Bureau of Land Management areas just west of Spokane.

It seems reasonable for a portion of us to exercise occasionally by spreading out, avoiding crowded areas and driving a bit to open spaces – just don’t stop en route to risk possible spread of disease. I also don’t let anyone pet my dog.

Items I take along on dog hikes include a leash, e-collar, a quart or two of water, collapsible water bowl, sometimes a retrieving dummy, always dog pooh bags, hand sanitizer and Halt! dog repellant spray in case of an encounter with an aggressive off-leash dog – or a menacing moose!

Be aware that tick season has started. Many people pluck ticks from their dogs as they show up. I prefer prevention with my dogs, which are in the field daily. They have been virtually tick-free in the years since I started using repellents such as Frontline or oral products such as NexGard.

Dogs like routines for all body functions. Even on cruddy weather days, when staying inside is tempting, my Brittany’s wiggly morning enthusiasm can’t be denied.

We like getting up with the sun, hearing the birds sing, relishing the neighborhood or open spaces before most people come out. Social distancing is not a burden when I’m with my dog. Alone together, we’re in blissful peace.

After dog time – morning, noon and night – I always scratch him behind the ears and watch him melt with satisfaction. And then I can wash my chapped hands and be better at whatever else I’m going to do, while sheltering in place.

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