By: Kate McDonald Vaden 

Adventures With Tiny

I always grew up with big black Labs. They are fantastic dogs.  They love people; they love other dogs, they love swimming and hiking and exploring the world with their humans. Then I went to college. I still wanted a dog, but it was impossible to find an apartment that let me have a Lab sized dog, so I knew that, if I wanted a dog, I was going to have to settle for something under 30 pounds. I debated, and I decided I still really wanted a dog, so I went to my local humane society and got this tiny, 12-pound, shivering mutt, and named her Piper.

I quickly decided that this new dog was going to be a rock star. She would not sit at home on the couch and be a perfect little lap dog. No. She was going to get out there and learn how to travel in the car, go on hikes, swim, camp and interact with the world around her. So I grabbed her harness and a leash, and we started exploring.

We started off with small walks just to see how she’d handle a minimal amount of exercise. She was fantastic on the walks and had extra energy to boot, so we began to go on short hikes. She was still kicking it. Eventually, she started going on long hikes with me, and she handled them all like a champ.

I started taking Piper everywhere with me. She went on hikes, she went on camping trips, and she went to the lake and the river with me. Just like I expected, she turned out to be a rock star. She loves to adventure. Eventually, I got married, so she got a big brother named Aeze (he’s black Lab mix, of course), and they are the best of adventure buddies.

We don’t let Piper’s diminutive size stop us from exploring, but we do have to make some adjustments to our plans to accommodate for her size:

1). Piper has a lot of energy, but she hasn’t figured out how to expend her energy over a long period, so we have to make sure she doesn’t wear herself out at the beginning of hikes. This is a pretty easy fix that can be done by ensuring that she wears a leash, so she doesn’t spend all her energy running up and down the trails unnecessarily. Sometimes when she gets really hot or tired, we’ll just throw her up on top of our backpacks where she likes to rest for about 5 minutes before she goes again.

2). When we go up to the snow, we put a number of layers on her. She wears a dog sweatshirt under her heavy dog jacket, and we still need to get snow booties for her. At this point, she’s still content to hang out inside one of our jackets when she gets too cold, but she still likes to get down and explore when she feels warm enough, so warm snow booties are a must.

3). When we go camping, we make sure that Piper sleeps in a sleeping bag because she easily becomes cold at night. I am always cold, so she usually sleeps with me. If you have a small dog, but don’t like them to sleep with you, make sure you give them some substantial bedding, so they don’t get too cold. If your dog gets especially cold, you could even boil some water, put it in a Nalgene bottle, and leave it in the blankets to warm your dog (this tip works well for humans too).

4). It’s important to plan for water trips. I am sure there are some small dogs out there that love to play in the water. Piper is not one of those dogs. She knows how to swim, and she’s very good at it, but she’s still not super into it. We like to go swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking, so we bought Piper a lifejacket to wear when she goes with us. Piper pretty much only goes in the water at lakes, and pools. She’s not as strong of a swimmer as her brother, and it’s hard for her to battle a strong current, so she doesn’t go in rivers or the ocean, she’ll just stay on land.

Even though we have to make these accommodations to explore with Piper, we still manage to get out in the world to explore and experience. We get to do the things we enjoy with the creatures we love because Piper and Aeze go everywhere with us. Adopting a small dog was something new and foreign to me, but I can happily say that Piper has been and will always be one of my favorite adventures of all.