by The Mighty Quinn
Well that was quite the excursion! I could probably generate quite a few pages of observations from my four-paw perspective. But I think it wiser to stretch (mmmmm, stretch!) the reports out a bit while I let it all soak in. I do want to share some tidbits from the Washington trip so here goes!
I really love my work and role as Adventure Dawg (t.m.?!). Guiding the big guy up a mountain really puts my skills to the challenge. There’s so much subtlety to it I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t hit the trail with us can fully appreciate everything I have to do! Some of you may have seen our cool You Tube video, or the one from the Nashua Telegraph Online which really showcases me at work on a mountain. I cannot wait for everyone to see the fantastic high-end video release we’ll have for you in mid-August, showcasing the Mt. Washington experience. I’m not one to wait too long, though, so in the meantime I hope you all like this little video montage put together by Tracy.
Watching us work, you may notice that Dad uses this strange phrase – “hup-pup” – with me all the time, and particularly often while we are hiking through challenging portions of a trail. I’ve been asked what it means and the answer isn’t simple: in clever human fashion its meaning changes constantly depending on the situation. Today, though, I’ll let you in on some of my and Dad’s trail language, our own sort of secret code we’re developing for our hikes.
In normal situations, hup-pup usually means Dad wants me to go forward, or sometimes go faster – like after I pause to show him a curb, or when he wants to pick up the pace (which I love!)
In the case of our mountain excursions it usually means Dad has noticed an obstacle I’m showing him. Hup-pup from Dad means I should evaluate how big the challenge is, and let him know how I think we should handle it. Here’s how I do it.
If I proceed after a single pause and hup-pup, I’m showing Dad a minor obstacle. This is a normal alert level – I call it Quinn-Con 1 – and is pretty similar to a hup-pup in “real life.” I’m usually pointing out a step or small jump up onto or over whatever I’d shown him. In these situations I expect he’ll be able to follow me easily, and we usually proceed smoothly past the obstacle.
My harness location always gives him a lot of information, too – am I above or below him, for example – and I may even position myself to give him easier footing, to protect him from a rough spot, or to give us a better angle of approach for the next obstacle. After all, mountain climbing is one constant obstacle after another – but I’m up to the task!
Other times, Dad will give me a hup-pup, but I’ll stay put. This is what I call raising his alert level to Quinn-Con 2. Yep, I’m ignoring a command from Dad! This is called “intelligent disobedience.” I think the “intelligent” part is right, but the “disobedience”? I think it’s a bad rap, and here’s why: When I ignore a hup-pup, I’m alerting the big guy that his command might get him into trouble. After all, my first priority is Dad’s safety!
So, when I don’t proceed after that first hup-pup, I am raising Dad’s awareness of the difficulty of the obstacle – maybe it’s simply a higher step than I think he realizes, or perhaps I see that the footing is rougher than even his rubbery ankles might withstand. Let me tell you it is challenging to be looking right at a problem and be fairly certain Dad doesn’t fully understand it, since he’s telling me “Let’s go for it Quinn!” So I make him wait until I’m sure he gets it. He’s pretty good at praising me for my decisions, and that helps me feel confident warning him whenever I need to.
The third and final alert rating I use – Quinn-Con 3 – indicates the challenge is really hard. In these cases, even after Dad’s second hup-pup, I won’t advance. More often than not, I’m warning him that not only is there a very big step up, but perhaps a lip and or other serious footing challenge that he must attend to. Our next maneuver may very well require Dad to drop my harness if he can’t keep up with me (if, say, I have to crouch into a Mighty leap – though sometimes we surge up together and I love that!), or I feel he can’t keep his balance next to me safely.
Commonly Dad will wisely sweep with his hiking stick to locate the impediment I’m pointing out to him. I’m way easier to follow and to trust than the stick, though. Plus, for Dad the stick enhances balance and stability and should remain planted as often as possible. I know all of this, so I don’t alert to this level unless necessary.
Sometimes, though, I’ll cut right to the chase. Instead of going through all three alert levels, I’ll actually give a little backwards push into the harness right from the first hup-pup, to let Dad know we’re heading straight to Quinn-Con 3 and he can go head and explore options for getting past the obstacle without holding my harness. This is usually my most serious warning, and countless times I’ve saved his knees from nasty protruding rocks this way. Dad is pretty good at respecting this approach and almost always gives me a bit of extra praise for the decision. This also helps us make good time through the mountains, which Dad and I both appreciate – there’s Adventure to be had!
Sometimes Words Speak Louder than Actions
So I said that I use the backwards harness push move as my highest warning level and that is mostly true. For very severe situations, though, I’ve developed the patented Quinn Whine. You hopefully all know I do not whine. There’s no whining in the mountains! This is just my way of vocalizing to Dad so I can really get his attention. I continue to wag my tail as proof that I’m still excited and enthusiastic, but I simply must make the man aware of the impending peril which I’m sure he hasn’t yet grasped. Dad always reads me loud and clear, drops my harness and very cautiously explores the area. In fact I encourage him to question nearby humans in these situations, so they can alert him to whatever he might not learn from me. The results of this approach are mixed but at least he knows it’s my professional opinion that he’s a little crazy to be undertaking the section of “trail” immediately in front of us!
All this with one basic command – and all this is just when going upwards on a trail. The down hup-pups have a whole different array of warning levels. But I’m not revealing all our trail secrets just yet!
While I didn’t quite track the number of times we worked the ‘hup-pup’ during our eight-hour hike up to Lakes of the Clouds, I can tell you it was literally thousands of times on the journey. It’s no wonder we both burn an incredible amount of mental energy on our mountain adventures. Plus, my many mighty leaps make me physically tired (wouldn’t you be?) and having to stabilize the harness as Dad maneuvers takes some work too.
All in all I give us both tremendous credit – but there’s no doubt in my mind who is top dog! In fact guess who was standing on the pin FIRST at the very summit of Mt. Washington when our journey was complete! Check out my summit photo!
Mighty Quinn – Adventure Dawg