Tag Archives: Dogs

Top 5 Therapy Animals

Animals have a lot of uses in the daily lives of many people around the world, from nutrition to domesticated pets, in addition to their own roles in their respective ecosystems. More recently, some animals have been utilized and recognized for the positive therapeutic impact they have on different demographics, including young patients with autism, cerebral palsy, severe physical disabilities, and elderly patients suffering from physical ailments plus depression and loneliness. Here are the top 5 therapy animals:

1. Horses

Przewalski horse at The Wilds in Ohio.

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Horses are especially recommended by therapists for people with disabilities because of the wide range of positive benefits from horseback riding. For instance, depending on the disability and personality of the patient, horseback riding may benefit the patient socially, or build core strength and  muscle memory. Therapists have noted the psychotherapeutic benefits of horseback riding among at-risk youth and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, making both groups of patients less aggressive and prone to suicidal thoughts.

2. Alpacas

English: Two young male Suri alpacas

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Alpacas are popular for their cute appearance, gentle, and sociable personalities. Those same qualities make them an asset in hospitals. In one Oregon children’s hospital, for instance, an alpaca (as well as the closely-related llama) have been effective in improving patients’ moods and health. However, the benefits of interacting with alpacas is not limited to children, but also includes patients in long-term and assisted-living communities, and physical rehabilitation centers.

3. Dogs

English: Golden Retriever dog (canis lupus fam...

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Dogs have long been used for medical purposes and in actual medical facilities. In some cases, retired guide dogs have stayed in the same facilities as child patients undergoing experimental therapies. Interacting with the therapy dogs, such as petting, walking, feeding, and grooming them, has been ineffective in lifting the spirits and speeding the recovery processes and motivations of patients.

4. Elephants

Elephant from Kruger Park, South Africa. Deuts...

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Though not used as commonly as dogs and horses in the United States for animal assisted therapy, elephants are nonetheless a popular choice in places such as Thailand, South Africa, and Jerusalem. Elephants have been used for young patients with cerebral palsy, people with autism, and more recently, as one aspect of drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Thailand. The fundamentally non-aggressive personalities and sheer exoticism of elephants tend to fascinate and motivate patients.

5. Rabbits

Rabbits DSC00372

[Image: www.wikipedia.com]

Rabbits are sometimes a realistic alternative to therapy dogs or cats simply because of their comparatively smaller size and fewer requisite responsibilities. Patients who have interacted with therapy rabbits have reportedly become more adept at building relationships and cooperating with others, and autistic child patients have improved their ability to understand physical limitations and interpret social cues.

Interested in having your own unique experience with wildlife in the great outdoors? Download our Pocket Ranger® apps to find the best places to experience nature.

Hiking With Your Pets

Both you and your pets love the outdoors. So, why not hit the trail together? Trekking with animals helps you slow down, relax, and explore the outdoors in a whole new way. Here are a few companions that would happily hike to the summit with you.

Hiking with Dogs

You bring your dog for walks, so it’s an obvious next step to bring them hiking with you. Sure, your dog probably won’t care about the scenic vista at the summit, but he’ll be pysched to just spend some woodsy quality time with you. Looking to get out more pent-up puppy energy? Have your dog carry their own water and snacks in a dog pack. On those longer, tougher treks, invest in some dog booties; these reduce the potential for ripped foot pads.

Hiking with Goats

A small herd of Alpine goats make their way through the woods

A small herd of Alpine dairy goats tackle the trail [Image: willowwittranch.com]

Don’t limit your goat to the barnyard! Goats are intrepid hikers, specially suited to tackling rough terrain with gusto. The best part about hiking with goats? Other than the inevitable cute, King-of-the-Mountain moments, a goat will carry gear for you. A goat can carry 25-30% of its body weight; that translates to about 35-60 pounds of gear per goat! Consider hiking with wethers (castrated males) or, if you’re camping and would like fresh milk for your morning coffee, bring along a milking doe. Since goats are social animals, it’s best to bring more than one.

Hiking with Cats

So, you can’t expect a cat to carry things for you nor can you milk them. And not all cats are going to be cool with the idea of wearing a harness and heading out into the woods. However, there are cats (especially breeds like Bengals, Pixie-bobs, and Savannahs) that are just thirsting for the mountains and other wild places in the world. How to start hiking with your cat? First, get your cat used to walking on a leash. Do this by heading out into the backyard a few times, and just milling around together. Once comfortable with its harness, you can journey out onto the trails. Wear a sturdy framed backpack, so when your cat is tired, you can shoulder your best friend and hike on.

Hiking with Llamas

A girl walks a llama in the woods

Image: blog.timesunion.com

For hundreds of years, people of the Andes mountain range have been hiking with llamas. Llamas are surefooted, agile creatures, well-suited for rocky terrain. They are adept at browsing for food while hiking, and cause no more impact in the high country than deer. Llamas are also great guardians. On farms, they are used to protect goats and sheep, but when hiking, they guard their human friends against bears, coyotes and panthers. Planning a backpacking trip? Consider taking along a llama or two. Your back will thank you! Just like goats, llamas make great pack animals. Llamas can comfortably carry up to 25% of their body weight, so an average of 75 pounds of equipment per llama. With a llama, you can say goodbye to the days of carrying heavy stuff, like camping stove and tent!

Hiking with Pet Pigs

A pot-belly pig with a backpack on hikes in Malibu

Romeo, the pot-bellied pig enjoys jaunts in Malibu Creek State Park, CA [Image: Jessica Feldman]

While your pet pig probably won’t be tackling the AT or the PCT, leashed pet pigs would be happy to amble down a woodsy path or two with you. Adult pot-bellied pigs and micro-pigs are often sedentary and are not particularly agile, but they still need exercise. Make sure to choose reasonable trails that both of you can appreciate. If your pig is especially spunky, consider buying a larger dog pack and saddling him with water and snacks to enjoy together at the summit.

Hiking with Parrots

Why leave your parrot home when you both could be climbing to new heights in the great outdoors? Admittedly, taking a bird hiking is a bit of an endeavor, but this doesn’t mean that it won’t be awesome. Unless your feathered friends are insanely well-trained, keep your parrots wing-clipped and on a leash so you won’t lose them. If you’re not comfortable with having your bird on your shoulder, get yourself a portable bird carrier. Some models are styled like backpacks, and are perfect for hiking. You can also add a perch or two to your backpack frame.

Hiking with Donkeys

A woman hikes alongside her pack donkey

Image: www.enlightened-traveller.co.uk

Donkeys make ideal hiking companions. Donkeys are friendly, child-safe, sure-footed, and adept at carrying heavy loads. Guiding a donkey along a trail has been compared to walking a dog; it is that easy to do! Donkey trekking is popular in Europe, but can be enjoyed just as much here in the States. A donkey can comfortably carry 88 pounds, and is a great buddy to have for longer excursions. If you and your family are hiking, donkeys are perfect for carrying younger, tuckered-out kids, so that way everyone makes it to the summit and back again.

Before hitting the trails with your furry friends, be sure to check the rules and regulations at your state parks by using your state’s Pocket Ranger® app. 

Suggested Gear List:

  • Binoculars
  • Backpack
  • Camera

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and much more

Do you take your pets on hiking trips with you? We’d love to hear about your hiking adventures!

Doggone It: Three Four-Legged Adventurers We Love

Many moons ago we offered up advice for taking your pawed pals out on the trails, and since then we’ve been hearing more and more tales of hiking pups and the impressive feats they’ve achieved with their owners. Just as we look to nature for daily inspiration, we often find strength and motivation in the lives of our animal friends. In addition to offering loyal companionship, these four-legged travelers keep us going when the trek gets rough, and teach us a valuable lesson about overcoming physical and mental obstacles.

Image: www.gotothemountains.wordpress.com

Image: www.gotothemountains.wordpress.com

Here we have three amazing animals to inspire your outdoor adventures, because after all, if our furry friends can do it, you can too!


Image: www.emsexploration.com

Image: www.emsexploration.com

At the tender age of 5 (human!) years old, this New Hampshire pup has completed a majority of the state’s 4,000-foot trails, including the Wildcat Ridge Trail, a portion of the Appalachian Trail known for its rocky terrain and steep inclines. Willow’s owner and hiking companion, Ben Cargillon, says that the hardest part of touring the country is leaving her behind, so bringing her along for the trek only seems right.


Image: www.blog.sfgate.com

Image: www.blog.sfgate.com

California hiking duo Diane Castañaon and John Forsyth will never think twice about bringing their dog along on treks again, after the 13-month Anatolian Shepherd saved Diane from a potentially deadly rattlesnake attack last month. Luckily for the couple, Shakira spotted the venomous snake on the path before they did, and went into instant defense mode. This pro pooch stood erect and alert between her owners and the predator, without unleashing a single bark or growl to set the snake into motion. Shakira’s calm and cautious actions allowed John and Diane the time to react smartly, and they were able to scare the rattler off the path with a few small stones. Had it not been for their heroic companion, Diane would’ve most likely stepped on the snake or provoked it as she passed it by, either of which would’ve likely incited an attack. While rattlesnake venom poses an even higher threat to dogs, their impressive ability to keep calm when it counts makes them heroes in our book.


Image: www.metroactive.com

Image: www.metroactive.com

Like most dogs her size, Biscuit has a lot of pent-up energy that can be a bit overwhelming when released in a domestic setting. Luckily for this Jack Russell terrier, her owner is an outdoor enthusiast who doesn’t mind bringing this energetic pooch along on his adventures through the wilderness. The challenging and often dangerous sport of rock climbing has proven to be an excellent outlet for Biscuit’s excess energy and provides unbeatable companionship for her owner. Biscuit is described as being “all muscle and attitude”, and her small frame and need for speed make tackling some of the most challenging boulders a breeze for this tiny pup.


5 Greatest Animal Companions

Animal companions and parks go hand-in-hand. If you’ve ever taken your pet to a state park, you know how much our four-legged friends absolutely love the outdoors. The moment you release them from the car and they smell the pine trees or hear the rush of the river, their tails start to wag like crazy and they tug on your leash, as if to say, “Come on, come on, let’s go already!”

Well, today, we’re counting down the five greatest animal companions of all time in honor of the connection our animal friends have with us and with nature. Perhaps you’ll see a bit of your own animal friend in one of these loyal companions. Or if you don’t already have a pet, perhaps you’ll be inspired to finally get that friendly beast you always wanted!

5. Joey from War Horse

Joey is the horse at the center of “War Horse,” which began as a children’s novel before being adapted into an award-winning play and subsequently a blockbuster movie directed by Steven Spielberg. The book, play, and movie all tell the story of a colt from the countryside of Devon, England, who gets sent off to the First World War. He first belongs to Albert Narracott, a young boy whose alcoholic father gives him Joey as a present only to one day sell the horse to pay off debts. A young cavalry officer named Captain James Nicholls purchases Joey at an auction, trains him, and takes him into battle. After Nicholls is killed, Joey ends up in the care of two young German brothers, then a sick, orphaned French girl, and finally back with Albert, who by this time has enlisted in the army and finds a battered Joey in the fields of combat. Though War Horse is a sweeping story of war, at its heart it tells the story of an innocent creature’s will to survive and return home, and the loyal human friend who never loses hope of finding him again.

Joey from War Horse

Image: www.reeltimes.blogspot.com

4. Hedwig

With all the magical creatures and colorful characters in J.K. Rowling’s massively popular Harry Potter series, it’s easy to overlook Harry’s faithful and unassuming white snow owl, Hedwig, but for those who take a moment to reflect on her relationship with Harry and her function in the novels, Hedwig stands out at as a stark and striking embodiment of purity, grace, and innocence. Readers will be quick to recall how Hedwig delivered messages for Harry throughout the series, but most probably forget how she also served as his companion during the summers when he was away from Hogwarts and became his sole link to the wizarding world.

J.K. Rowling herself has said that Hedwig’s life represents Harry’s innocence, which (spoiler alert!) makes her death in the seventh and final book even more heartbreaking.


Image: www.harrypotter.wikia.com

3. Falkor

The only purely fantastical creature on the list, Falkor is the luckdragon from the enduring 80s classic “The NeverEnding Story.” Though he is a “dragon,” Fallkor looks more like an oversized dog. But unlike your run of the mill giant dog, Falkor can fly and is incredibly lucky in everything he does (hence the name luckdragon). Five other luckdragons are mentioned in passing throughout the series, but Falkor is the only one to actually appear. In the books and movie, we see him helping the young warrior Atreyu on his quest to find a cure for the Empress. And in just the movie, Falkor helps Bastian take revenge against the bullies who chase him into the bookstore. Given his inherently lovable appearance and amazing luck, who wouldn’t want to have Falkor as an animal companion?


Image: www.thatfilmguy.net

2. White Fang

Even domesticated pets like dogs were once wild animals. Every now and then when our pets lash out or refuse to cooperate, we’re reminded that dogs didn’t always live inside houses and exist solely at the whims of their owners. First a novel by Jack London and then an adapted motion picture starring Ethan Hawke, “White Fang” is the story of a wolf-dog hybrid raised in harsh conditions and trained to be a fighting dog, who eventually gets adopted by a young, kind gold-miner who tames and befriends the once hostile and unloved creature. Cynics will be quick to question the literary merits of the novel and will accuse the movie of being sentimental melodrama, but anyone who’s ever known the undying loyalty of a dog will see in “White Fang” a moving tribute to the awe-inspiring bond that can form between man and animal.

White Fang

Image: www.carolslifejourney.blogspot.com

1. Hachiko

Unlike the other four animals on our list, Hachiko actually existed. He has become something of a legend, though, inspiring books and movies, all of which serve as a testament to the enduring power of this true story. Born on a farm near Odate, Akita Prefecture, Hachiko was an Akita dog known for his remarkable loyalty. In 1924, a Tokyo university professor named Hidesaburo Ueno took in Hachiko as a pet, and the pair subsequently developed a routine in which Professor Ueno left for work in the mornings, and in the afternoons Hachiko went to the train station to greet his owner upon his return. This routine continued until May 1925 when Professor Ueno suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died, never returning to the train station where Hachiko obediently waited for him. Amazingly, each day for the next nine years Hachiko continued to appear at the train station precisely when his dead owner’s train was due to arrive. After one of Professor Ueno’s graduate students noticed Hachiko waiting at the station, word of the dog’s loyalty spread throughout Japan and became legendary. In 1934, admirers erected a bronze statue of Hachiko’s likeness at Shibuya Station.

Image: www.fanpop.com

Image: www.fanpop.com

Vicious Dogs Cause Fort Ebey State Park in Washington to Close

The park told the News-Times they didn’t know exactly how they would catch the dogs, but are working toward solving the problem. [Image: www.visitwhidbey.com]

The park told the News-Times they didn’t know exactly how they would catch the dogs, but are working toward solving the problem. [Image: www.visitwhidbey.com]

Two “vicious” dogs have caused a state park in Washington to close to visitors.

Fort Ebey State Park on Whidbey Island will stay closed until the two dogs are caught and removed from the park, according to the Whidbey News-Times.

Park Ranger Brett Bayne told the News-Times he has tried to catch the animals, but they were so aggressive, he was forced to take shelter in his vehicle.

“It’s apparent these dogs have been abandoned,” said Carol Barnes, Island County animal control officer. “It’s very sad.”

Dog food was found in the area the dogs were seen.

The dogs approached two park visitors, Lauryn Wilson and Brad Durham.

The article said they were walking on a trail when the dogs ran up to them. One dog appeared to be a St. Bernard and German shepherd mix, and the other smaller female looked like a pitbull mix.

Wilson said the dogs kept attempting to attack them. They tried to walk away, but the dogs continued being aggressive. She said she thought they might be trying to get help for an injured owner or a litter of puppies, the article said.

“The dogs, I thought, were acting so strangely,” she said.

When Durham followed the dogs, Wilson said they became angry and attacked and bit him, but when she followed them, they seemed to be happy.

“It seemed like they have a problem with men,” she said. “Maybe they were beaten by a man.”

The park told the News-Times they didn’t know exactly how they would catch the dogs, but are working toward solving the problem. [News-Times]