May 13, 2004 11:00 pm
TRAIL BUDDIES: Ellen Morris Bishop has been hiking with dogs for 40 years. She has parlayed her knowledge into a book that focuses on 75 trails conducive to traversing with dogs.' (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).
TRAIL BUDDIES: Ellen Morris Bishop has been hiking with dogs for 40 years. She has parlayed her knowledge into a book that focuses on 75 trails conducive to traversing with dogs.' (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Looking for information about good trails for hiking with dogs in Oregon?

Finding it was once as difficult as locating a 1920s movie starring Rin Tin Tin, the famous German shepherd.

Today, finding this information is as easy as watching an episode of "Lassie.''

A new book for lovers of dogs and the outdoors is out: "Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon,'' by Ellen Morris Bishop of Enterprise.

Like Rin Tin Tin, Bishop's book is receiving strong reviews. Those who have endorsed it include Sharon Holman, executive director of the Oregon Humane Society.

" are the best trails in Oregon to keep your dog happy and safe,'' Holman wrote.

The book has 75 trails that have been designated as dog-friendly and dog-safe, including 14 of which are in the Blue Mountains, Wallowa Mountains and Eastern Oregon.

Trails designated as dog friendly are those that offer plenty of shade, access to water, have terrain that is easy on paws, no cliffs and no crowds. Shade and access to water are the two most critical elements on this list in Bishop's eyes.

"These are essential,'' Bishop said.

This is why one will not find information about trails in dry, sun-drenched areas in the book. Places like Steens Mountain.

"The rim of Steens Mountain is not a good hiking trail for dogs,'' Bishop said.

One should not underestimate the impact heat has on dogs. Bishop notes in her book that dogs can get heatstroke in temperatures people find comfortable.

"A black Labrador retriever died (4-5 years ago) in Portland of heatstroke on a sunny spring day with temperatures in the 70s. The dog had trotted several miles in the sun — without drink, shade or a swim,'' the author writes.

In the book Bishop unleashes wisdom gained from 40 years of hiking with dogs. In a sense, though, Bishop's book has been in the making much longer.

"For the past 15,000 years, dogs have been our judgmental friends, playmates, steadfast back country partners and and purveyors of solace. No wonder we want to take them hiking,'' Bishop writes.

Bishop has 25 years of experience hiking with dogs in Northeast Oregon. She said that the region is an excellent place to hike with canines because there are many trails that follow streams, there is a diversity of landscape and people are more accepting of dogs on trails.

"People are more open to dogs on trails here. They are used to seeing dogs outside because there are more working dogs. It is a different kind of culture,'' Bishop said on Wednesday.

Northeast Oregon trails Bishop recommends as dog friendly include:

• the Elkhorn Crest Trail to Anthony Lakes,

• the Hoffer Lakes Trail,

• the trail in the North Fork of the John Day Wilderness from Granite Creek to Bear Creek,

• four Eagle Cap Wilderness trails. The trails follow Bear Creek and Hurricane Creek; go to Maxwell Lake and go from the West Fork of the Lostine River River to Sky Lake.

Bishop's book devotes about two pages to each trail. A map plus information on elevation changes, difficulty level, the best time of year to take your dog and much more is included on each hike.

Bishop sometimes does not list spring and early summer as a good time to use trails because there are many fawns, young grouse and other wildlife then which dogs may attack.

Bishop and her dogs Meesha, a female border collie mix, and Dundee, a male Australian shepherd, have accompanied her on many hikes. Bishop and her dogs hiked 350 miles on the trails described in the book.

Meesha and Dundee are good hiking partners for many reasons, including the fact that they respond well to commands. When hiking it is important to be able tell your dog to get off the trail when other people are coming from the other direction. When Bishop says "off trail'' her dogs will immediately step away.

" ‘Off trail' is a handy command,'' Bishop said.

Meesha and Dundee are also good followers, dogs who walk behind their party on command. Bishop encourages people to always have their dogs behind them when hiking because this allows people to have better control. It is generally easier to get herding dogs like border collies and Australian shepherds to follow.

"Hunting dogs like Labrador retrievers want to stay in front,'' Bishop said.

Meesha and Dundee are also good hiking dogs because they get along well with other canines. As a result there are no problems when they encounter other dogs on trails.

Bishop encourages people to make sure that their dogs are socialized before going on hikes. Dogs can learn how to get along with others by being given opportunities to interact with their own kind, the author said.

In many areas of Oregon hikers are likely to encounter cattle, sheep and horses on federal lands. It is critical that dog owners be able to control their animals around livestock, Bishop said.

She noted that dogs which harass livestock can legally be shot in Oregon. Canine owners are encouraged to train their dogs to leave livestock alone. One of the best ways to do this is to train your dog in the presence of livestock, Bishop said. This is best done with a cattle owner who is willing to help.

Dogs should be trained to return immediately on the command "come,'' the author said.

Bishop's book includes a list of things people should bring with them on hikes. These are described as "Canine Essentials.'' The items include a doggie backpack; basic first aid kit; dog food and trail treats; water and a water bowl; a leash. and harness or collar; dog booties and identification tags.

Dog booties may be necessary in areas with sharp rocks. Bishop urges people to use them sparingly because they cause dogs to heat up.

"Dogs sweat through their feet and can overheat if booties are left on too long,'' Bishop said.

Canine owners also need to exercise caution with doggie backpacks. Dogs can carry their own food and water in them but they should not carry more than one pound per 20 pounds of body weight.

Bishop urges people not use doggie packs in warm weather.

"A backpack insulates, it is like wrapping a blanket around a dog,'' Bishop said.

The first aid kit Bishop lists should include hydrogen peroxide. This is used to protect dogs by inducing vomiting after they have eaten raw salmon, or ingested some other potentially lethal material like antifreeze. Raw salmon and is poisonous to dogs because of the presence of a bacteria that lives in one of the salmon's internal parasites.

Bishop noted that one of her dogs once almost died after eating some partially cooked salmon. The dog did not get sick until three days after eating the salmon.

Bishop, a geologist, is also the author of "Hiking Oregon's Geology'' and "In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History.'' She said that writing her latest book forced her to look at trails from the perspective of canines.

"I tried to see what would be interesting to them,'' Bishop said.

Stores where "Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon" is available locally include Earth ‘n' Book and Sunflower Books Book in La Grande and The Bookloft in Enterprise.