Our family dog Kiko is not as young as he used to be.
This point was hit home on Sunday afternoon when my son Alex was walking with him on the Pine Line Trail.
My wife dropped Alex and Kiko off in Whittlesey with the plan to pick them up when they walked the five miles to the Allman Street trailhead. Like any good Boy Scout, Alex came prepared for the walk with backpack stocked with four large bottles of water, two for him and two for Kiko, some bags to clean up after Kiko, and a container to put water in. Because he is 14 and is always hungry, he also brought along a package of cheese and sausage snacks to tide him over for the hike that was planned to take about 90 minutes to complete.
There was a time when Kiko would have done multiple laps of the trail distance before we would have made it even out of the parking lot.
About an hour into their walk, we got a cellphone call from my son asking that we pick him up sooner because Kiko wasn’t acting right. He tried to give us a position based on the most recent crossroad, but for sure only knew he was somewhere north of Medford and south of Whittlesey.
We could hear Kiko’s heavy panting and guessed that he was overheating with the exertion. Alex said he had made sure Kiko had water, only taking a sip or two himself to make sure that Kiko had enough.
My wife and I hopped in the car and attempted to narrow down where my boy and his dog were located. He eventually sent us a picture of Mile Marker 2 that they had just passed. Unfortunately, this also placed them in a stretch where there were no crossroads until he would get to Center Ave. at Mile Marker 1.
I could hear Alex’s concern over Kiko in his voice.
As my wife waited at the Center Ave. crossing, I grabbed several bottles of water and started walking north on the trail hoping to intercept them and replenish their water supplies.
I was a few hundred yards up the trail when I saw Alex come around a bend carrying Kiko. Kiko tends to go limp when you carry him so I was initially worried when I saw him not moving. He stirred as I got closer.
We gave Kiko some water to drink and drizzled more over his ears and paws to try to cool him down. Alex then carried Kiko to where my wife was waiting with the car. We got advice from a friend who is a vet who offered suggestions and warnings not to cool him down too quickly. She reminded us that as dogs get older, their ability to adjust to heat diminishes and they are more susceptible to heat-related issues.
In the short air conditioned car ride home he already perked up noticeably and with the help of a cool bath at home and a long rest Kiko was soon back to his normal self guarding the home against squirrels, robins and delivery people knocking on our front door.
As any parent of a teenager knows, there are times when they can drive you absolutely batty. There are other times when they fill you with pride. In this case, I admired how Alex calmly assessed the situation and took action. All too often people are paralyzed by indecisiveness and doubt. Being able to respond in a crisis is an important life skill.
For the future, it also reminds us that rather than a multi-mile hike down the rail trail, Kiko is much more suited to a loop through the shady, and much shorter Campus Trail.
Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.