Because this was his first "training hike" my plan was to carry him in his pack until I was on a pedestrian trail, let him out, and then slowly stroll behind him as he explored for a half hour or so (ready to grab him when any hikers—especially hikers with dogs—appeared).
This was to be just a familiarization tour. "See, this is what the forest looks and smells and sounds like." "No, don't crawl into those brambles" "I'm walking on the path, come walk with me." (only with no dialogue; just clicks, come-here's, and good-boy's.)
Preparation: Beach towel in the bottom of the pack; zip-pockets with a bottle of water, 20cc syringe, small container of kibble, day-glo orange kitty collar, and training "clicker".
1/10th of the mile into the forest (still on the fire road) and Pow is pushing at the pack's zipper. I let him out and, immediately, we are hiking. Full walk. Striding out.
He never leaves the trail and consistently stays ahead. Five minutes into the hike, a couple approaches ahead of us. Pow stops, turns and comes back to me. I pick him up. The couple and I talk (Pow doesn't try to get down) when I continue to hike, he struggles to get down and...back to hiking.
First pedestrian trail on the right—he heads down it like it was the only destination. I follow. For the next
.5 mile he keeps ahead of me most of the way. At the bottom, he stops and I can tell from his ears and posture that he hears something ahead. I pick him up; 20 seconds later a jogger comes around the bend and passes us.
For the next .25 mile, he's a bit underfoot and reluctant to dash ahead. He also meows some, so I pick him up and carry him (until he indicates he wants down).
On two occasions, he raises his hackles; I pick him up and listen. Nothing. (I assume these reactions are to sounds and/or smells unavailable to my miserable excuse for ears and nostrils.)
We take a break. Beach towel unfurled, drink water, and rest for ten minutes. He never leaves the towel.
At the 1.25 mile point, Pow is slowing (me too). The terrain, which up to now was downhill or flat, is now a gradual uphill climb along a ridge-line. He's no longer dashing ahead much, instead he sticks with me or follows 5-feet behind. We take another break at the 1.75 mile mark and Pow naps under my arm for about 15 minutes.
We explore the woods a little, then back to the trail. I can see he's tired—I zip him in the backpack for the last few 10ths of a mile.
I hiked 2.25 miles; Pow probably hiked 1.75 miles.
I am amazed by his stamina, ability, and natural stick-to-the-path-edness, which I can't say I've witnessed before. It took me 10+ hours to train my last cat to hike and there were still some days when we'd hike for 0.5 mile and he'd crawl under a shady log 'fuckit, nap-time' and others when he'd head into dense brush 'Path? Silly human. I prefer this direction, follow me."
Color me giddy-up glorious purple as pleased plum pudding (with tired feet).
I feel that I have it in my soul to become one of the great artists of the age and that future historians will remember me not for what I have done for Germany, but for my art. — Adolf Hitler (unimaginative and dull painter; gifted with the ability to be horribly wrong about almost every thought that entered his head).