Wendy Picht admits that her four-month-old German shepherd can sometimes be “a challenge.”
“Emma has a ton of energy,” Picht says.
Consequently, Picht is always looking for opportunities to head outdoors with Emma to burn some of that energy off. And when there’s also a chance to socialize her young pup around other dogs – well, that’s an ideal Wendy-and-Emma activity.
And that, according to Picht, is what Happy Tails turned out to be.
Happy Tails is a free program of guided, not-too-strenuous hikes for dogs and their humans who use, or want to use, trails on public lands. Now in its seventh year, Happy Tails developed out of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, a park that is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
The program’s main goal, according to Tracy Albrecht, an interpretative specialist with the Bureau, “is to encourage responsible recreation in the outdoors.”
Perhaps surprisingly, though, Happy Tails is also intended to play a part in supporting the recovery, to healthy population numbers, of the endangered Peninsular Big Horn Sheep.
How so? Again, by encouraging, in Albrecht’s words, “ethical land use, particularly with dogs – restricting dogs on certain trails, and keeping dogs on leash.”
Albrecht has led a pair of Happy Tails hikes this fall, and the last is slated for 8:30 Dec. 4 at Whitewater Preserve.
Each pup receives a souvenir bandana upon arrival, and at the end of the hike, certificates are awarded to the dogs, “all of whom were well deserving,” Albrecht says, “since they were wonderfully behaved, made new friends and got their owners outdoors to learn about Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.”
Wendy and Emma joined Tracy and about a dozen other dogs and their people for the season’s second hike on Nov. 6 on the Gabby Hayes Trail in Palm Desert’s Cahuilla Hills Park.
“It really calmed Emma,” Wendy reports. “And Tracy is amazing. She really gets the dogs as individuals, and she worked with everyone, explaining proper ‘dog etiquette’ on trails and how dogs and people can best respect the flora and fauna we encounter, including the Big Horns.”
The Dec. 4 hike will cover about two miles and last 90 or so minutes, rain or shine. Leashes and RSVPs are required, well-managed dog duos are permitted (“it’s sometimes hard to leave one home,” Albrecht admits), and its recommended that participants bring along plenty of water, plus whatever snacks your dog deserve after a happy outing.
For more information including specific directions to the hikes’ staging areas, call the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center at 760-862-9984, or visit desertmountains.org.