Two truths about living in Bellingham and Whatcom County: 1. It‚Äôs going to rain, and 2. We love our dogs.
Unfortunately, the two don‚Äôt necessarily mix all that well.
While the smell of a wet dog is bad enough, it still beats the destruction a muddy dog can wreck on the interior of your car or home. It‚Äôs about this time every year that many Whatcom County residents wonder why in the world they chose lighter shades for their carpets, sofas or bed spreads.
‚ÄúWe love our dogs, and we want to do everything with them,‚ÄĚ Angi Lenz ‚ÄĒ owner and lead trainer of Tails-A-Waggin, a Bellingham dog training and daycare center ‚ÄĒ told The Bellingham Herald in an interview last week. ‚ÄúBut with some of the things ‚ÄĒ let‚Äôs be honest ‚ÄĒ they‚Äôre a little bit of a pain in the butt, and muddy paws are one of them.‚ÄĚ
But keeping your four-legged friend indoors for the entire rainy season is not the way to go, as canine cabin fever can drive both you and your dog over the edge during the seemingly endless dark and stormy months we‚Äôre just now heading into.
So how do you enjoy Whatcom County‚Äôs great outdoors with your dog while preventing them from caking everything you own with a coat of Whatcom County slime?
The Bellingham Herald asked Lenz, Bellingham Parks Development Manager Nicole Oliver and Emily Bastow of Whatcom County Parks and Recreation for their mud-free ‚ÄĒ or at least mud-free-ish ‚ÄĒ suggestions of where to take your dog on a hike.
They provided the following Not-So-Dirty Baker‚Äôs Dozen of dog- and people-friendly walks, though please remember to keep your dog on a leash when and where it‚Äôs required and bring materials to clean up and pack out after they ‚Äúdo their business:‚ÄĚ
‚Ė™ Bay to Baker Trail: According to the city‚Äôs website on the trail, Bellingham is acquiring land between Roeder Avenue and Irongate Road along an abandoned railroad line. A trail has been completed between Orchard Place and Irongate Road, and Lenz said it is covered with crushed limestone that ‚Äúdoesn‚Äôt tend to get muddy at all.‚ÄĚ
‚Ė™ Bloedel Donovan Park: Though Bellingham requires all dogs in city parks to be on a leash, they are allowed to go off leash in Bloedel Donovan from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. In addition to a number of trails at the park, ‚Äúthere is a lovely, huge field for frolicking in the grass ‚ÄĒ no mud,‚ÄĚ Oliver said in an email.
‚Ė™ Boulevard Park: One of Bellingham‚Äôs most popular parks offers paved trails, a boardwalk to the Taylor Street Dock and spectacular views of Bellingham Bay for those times that the sun actually does poke through the rainclouds.
‚Ė™ Community Park at Cordata: Oliver called the Cordata Park a ‚Äúhidden gem of trails‚ÄĚ located at the end of Meadowbrook Court. The crushed limestone and bridges curve through forests and an open meadow, she said.
‚Ė™ Hovander Homestead Park: The Whatcom County park south of downtown Ferndale, and in particular the two-mile Nooksack River Trail, provide a great option, Bastro said. The trail, which follows the river, is mostly gravel, limiting the number of puddles for your pup to frolic in. There‚Äôs also an off-leash area for dogs at the north end of the park along the trail.
‚Ė™ Interurban Trail: Though the entire length of the Interurban is good for excursions, Bastro highly recommended dog walks along the 3.5-mile section between Arroyo Park and Larrabee State Park. ‚ÄúIt is graveled and really good,‚ÄĚ Bastro said. And the views of Chuckanut Bay along that portion of the trail don‚Äôt hurt either.
‚Ė™ Lake Whatcom Park: The Hertz Trail in Lake Whatcom Park offers nearly three miles of spectacular views of Lake Whatcom from the shore. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve found if you follow the leash laws and keep your dog on a leash, they generally stay pretty clean,‚ÄĚ said Bastro, who also is a dog owner. ‚ÄúIf you let them run and get off the trail, that‚Äôs when they‚Äôre going to get muddy.‚ÄĚ
‚Ė™ Northridge Park: Located north of Lake Whatcom in the northeast corner of Bellingham, Oliver said the park features a loop on crushed limestone through the forest that is a great trail for both people and their pets.
‚Ė™ Maritime Heritage Park: Like Bloedel Donovan, Maritime Heritage Park, right near downtown Bellingham, allows dogs to be off the leash between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. The park offers crushed limestone trails that go under bridges and along boardwalks above the water.
‚Ė™ Semiahmoo Park: Although it might not be as long as some of the other suggestions, you just can‚Äôt beat the views of the 0.8-mile trail along the Semiahmoo Spit. ‚ÄúWhen the sun is out, you can see Mount Baker, and you always have the views of the water right there,‚ÄĚ Bastro said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs also mostly gravel and not very muddy.‚ÄĚ
‚Ė™ South Fork Park: South Fork‚Äôs newish, 2-mile loop off Mosquito Lake Road runs through a grassy meadow next to the Nooksack River. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs mowed grass, so the mud is good, you have a meadow and you pass through some historic barn ruins, so there‚Äôs lots to explore,‚ÄĚ Bastro said.
‚Ė™ Squalicum Harbor: Not one you‚Äôre likely to think of right away, but the paved walkways provide a good place to exercise your four-legged friend and keep them cleaner. ‚ÄúThere are a lot of adventures for dogs at Squalicum Harbor,‚ÄĚ Lenz said. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre dealing with all kinds of scent factors that are more stimulating to a dog‚Äôs mind.‚ÄĚ Zuanich Point Park, and its paved parks, also aren‚Äôt far away.
‚Ė™ Whatcom Falls Park: Dogs are required to stay on the leash at Whatcom Falls Park, except for the Waterline Trail between the water treatment plant and Bayview Cemetery and along the trail between Waterline Trail and Lakeway Drive. But the park also offers a number of loops that are graveled and great for dog walking. But things ‚Äúcan get a bit muddy on side trails,‚ÄĚ Oliver warned.
If you don‚Äôt mind a trip to Point Roberts ‚ÄĒ and have your pooch‚Äôs proper vaccination records to cross the U.S-Canada border four times ‚ÄĒ Bastro also suggested mixing things up with an outing on the trails and beaches at Lighthouse Marine Park and Lilly Point Marine Reserve.
Another option, Lenz said, is a number of Whatcom County business that are pet friendly and welcome dogs to explore the mud-free great indoors. Tails-a-Wagging is currently compiling its annual Bellingham‚Äôs Dog Friendly Business List.
‚ÄúThe most important thing is that whatever adventure you and your dog are on, you want to make sure they are enjoying themselves,‚ÄĚ Lenz told The Herald. ‚ÄúNot all dogs want to do walks or other adventures, and it‚Äôs important to understand what they‚Äôre saying. We help educate people on how to understand and read their dog‚Äôs body language and know what they‚Äôre feeling.‚ÄĚ
To help make sure your four-legged friend continues to communicate good vibes, Lenz also suggested buying or making puzzles to help exercise their minds while they‚Äôre indoors or making an ‚ÄúEnrichment Smart Box‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ a small box stuffed with toys, snacks, kibble and towels that your dog can tear into and enjoy.
‚ÄúYou want to make sure you‚Äôre stimulating your dog‚Äôs mind, as well as their body,‚ÄĚ Lenz said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs important, same as it is for all of us.‚ÄĚ
Despite your best efforts, if there is a mud puddle out there, your dog is probably going to find it ‚ÄĒ possibly even lay down it.
So how do you get the mud off them, short of hosing them off?
‚ÄúOne of the things we teach dogs is how to spin, and then we teach them to spin the other way,‚ÄĚ Lenz said. ‚ÄúMost dogs have a natural way to spin ‚ÄĒ either right or left, like we‚Äôre right- or left-handed. We teach them to spin the other way.
‚ÄúOne of the good things about that is when they get gross and muddy, you can lay out an old fluffy rug or an old pile of towels on the back porch and have them spin and then spin the other way a couple times. Essentially, you‚Äôve just had them wipe their own feet.‚ÄĚ