Alpine Canine’s Buddy Buses Run on Time So Dogs Can Run Off-Leash in Missoula

By PAM VOTH

Snow hiking, Missoula, Montana, Photo ©Pam Voth

“Snow” hiking with her Alpine Canine pack overlookingMissoula

Thanks to Alpine Canine, there are some very lucky dogs in Missoula who have learned to tell time.

I was running just a touch late when I headed out to meet up with Jeremy, an Alpine Canine pack leader, on his Monday morning route. He was kind enough to wait for me, but I’m afraid I may have gotten him in to trouble with a few of his four-legged passengers. When it’s time for the pack to board the orange Buddy Bus for their day’s adventure, these dogs don’t like to be kept waiting!

Slpine Canine's Buddy Busses

Alpine Canine pack leader, Jeremy, loads dogs into thebus

“Riley,” Jeremy’s golden retriever and official Alpine Canine greeter, rode along and welcomed each excited dog that climbed aboard. I was grateful for Riley’s graceful diplomacy as he explained that our tardiness wasn’t Jeremy’s fault at all and “oh, by the way, please smile for the camera.” Posing for the camera wasn’t on the schedule.  A day of hiking with the pack was.

Alpine Canine's Buddy Bus

Riley on the Alpine Canine bus waiting to greet dogpassengers

So, I left Jeremy to finish picking up the rest of dogs and drove to the Dog Recreation Ranch to join Alpine Canine’s general manager, Kate, as she led her “Day Trippers” pack on a hike.

When I arrived, Kate had just answered her cell phone. Someone was calling to check on the orange bus. Was it running late? Her dog was driving her crazy just staring out the living room window making a frantic whistley-whiney sound. During the course of their brief phone call, I gathered that indeed the bus had just arrived and the uber-excited dog was able to join his friends on board. Whew. A huge sigh of relief for dog and person alike! I felt so bad that I had been the cause of all this stress. I mean, I had been only 5, maybe 10, minutes late.

Who would have guessed these dogs knew, down to the minute, what time it was?

“Dogs like routine,” Kate explained. And dogs like to hike! It’s why Alpine Canine offers hikes to over 200 Missoula dogs per week on its privately owned, 72-acre fenced property on the city’s northwest side.

There is a hike tailored to every type of dog, from rigorous Adventure hikes to gentler paced Seniors and Squirts hikes. And all hikes include pick up and drop off in one of Alpine Canine’s buses or van.

The Day Tripper hike is a new offering and seems to be catching on. Dogs who join this hike may be a little too busy to hike more than one day per week. Or, perhaps they are new to the whole hiking thing in general and need a smaller pack to help them get comfortable with the routine.

Dog photography by Pam Voth, Alpine Canine

“Snow” on a hike with AlpineCanine

“Snow,” a beautiful white pointy-eared, fluffy-tailed dog is a shining example of how the Day Trippers hike can help a dog shed her shyness and learn to enjoy pack activities. When Kate first met Snow at her home during the evaluation interview, the dog was so shy she wouldn’t even leave her person’s side. Snow had been nervous about getting in the van with other dogs and just wasn’t sure about all that sniffing.

Kate has interviewed hundreds of dogs and is a great judge of canine character. She was pretty sure that deep inside, Snow was a dog whose whole world would open up if given a chance to make new friends and run with a pack of her own.

Snow hiking, Missoula, Montana, Photo ©Pam Voth

“Snow” hiking with her Alpine Canine pack overlookingMissoula

While Alpine Canine doesn’t offer obedience training per se, Kate did what she always does when introducing any new dog to a pack. She managed the behavior of all the pack members and made sure Snow felt safe while she learned the ropes and built up her confidence. After just a few hikes, Snow understood there was a routine she could count on. Every Monday morning, at 9 o’clock sharp, she gets to join her friends for an off-leash hike on a sunny slope over looking Missoula.

Who wouldn’t look forward to that?

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It has been said, “There are dog people, and then there are people like photographer Pam Voth.” While Voth has a knack for creating unique images of any subject, her distinct rapport with Dog is expressed through direct and personal portraits that capture the authentic nature of canine and human interaction—or in her own words, “pure dog-ness.” Pam Voth has developed an artful style for photographing dogs so intimately that you can almost smell the biscuits on theirbreath.