"Dog travel has become a hot topic," Hirschfeld says. "I think it's a circular thing--more people are getting dogs and wanting to take them places." Her book takes a giant step toward leading Colorado folks and their mutts in the right direction: Not only is it complete--evaluating trails according to dog-friendliness, recommending lodging alternatives, explaining rules ranging from Forest Service edicts to hotel policies, discussing traveling-doggie etiquette, and listing animal daycare facilities, pet supply outlets and emergency veterinary services available throughout the state--but it's also personable and even entertaining, with first-hand descriptions and a rating system using tail wags in lieu of stars.
Hirschfeld obviously did her homework. But she couldn't have done it quite so neatly without Clover, a five-year-old golden retriever who served as her research assistant/guinea pig for the year and a half she spent delving into her subject. "She was the perfect traveling companion," Hirschfeld says. "She's a friendly, charismatic dog. I only wish she could have typed. I would have been able to dictate my notes to her in the car while we were driving."
But even the perfect dog can behave just like a whiny kid en route. Clover, for instance, isn't enthusiastic about riding in the car. "She just sits there and looks miserable, like she's just tolerating this because she knows know we're getting somewhere," Hirschfeld says. And agreeability and enthusiasm, even in a dog, can have their drawbacks. Last year, during her travels with Hirschfeld, Clover tore her ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments, found in back of the knees in humans and dogs alike) and had to undergo major surgery. "I had to do some hikes without her," says Hirschfeld. "But she's fine now."
All in all, Hirschfeld admits it's helpful to have a hound as well-adjusted as Clover on the road. Once ensconced in a hotel room, Clover makes herself at home. "She goes in and sniffs all over, checks out who might have been there before," Hirschfeld says. "Then she settles down. Basically, she sleeps a lot and gets excited when we go to the door. I don't have to worry about her chewing up hotel rooms or barking endlessly all night long."
Such problems, Hirschfeld stresses, usually begin with the owners, rather than with their dogs. "Their dogs might not be properly trained, and they know it," she says. "But they leave them in the room anyway. Make sure your dog will be a good guest." She also recommends that owners, much like parents, must remain flexible, plan ahead and be ready to account for any possible scenario.
That worked for Hirschfeld and Clover, now at home in Aspen. The hard part is over, Clover's back in one piece and the book is done. But Hirschfeld also wants to give credit to her cat, Blue, who stayed at home while she and the lucky dog gallivanted around the state doing research. "The cat probably had huge cat parties while we were gone," she says.
By the way, Hirschfeld has no plans to write a Feline Colorado.
Cindy Hirschfeld signs Canine Colorado: Where to Go and What to Do With Your Dog, 7:30 p.m., Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl St., Boulder, 447-2074.