When Jackie told me almost fifteen years ago that she was going to start showing Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, I have to admit that I gave her a sideways look. I’m a Marine Corps veteran. Over the years, we’d had an Akita (Madison) and a Labrador (Forrest). I like large dogs. You know, dogs you can do things with outdoors.
“Aren’t Cavaliers froo froo dogs?” I asked.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now, a Cav is not going to fend off a coyote like a Great Pyrenees will do (though some might try), but it’s almost as if God has given Cavaliers a built-in dial.
If you want a Cav on your lap while you binge the latest Netflix drama, set for “chill.” If you want to play fetch in the back yard, set for “zippy.” Now, as far as fetching goes I should say Cavaliers are not Labradors. Every Cavalier we've ever had loves to chase down the ball. They will do this all afternoon. Getting them to actually retrieve might take some training. We’ve found that about half of all the Cavs we’ve ever had picked up retrieving right away. And why not? They are Spaniels. The birding is in there. Some of our Cavs took a little work to draw out the inner retriever!
My favorite Cavalier dial setting lately, however, has been “go-for-it.” Here in San Diego County we are blessed with a lot of great hiking. My favorite spot is Mission Trails Regional Park. There are five peaks there. The best known is Cowles Mountain. Everybody calls it "cow-els," but it’s named for a famous California raisin baron, and it seems the correct pronunciation is “coals.”
I like Cowles Mountain, but I really like North and South Fortuna. These peaks are less traveled, and the views are just as rewarding. Fezzik and I climbed South Fortuna on Easter Monday. About six miles round trip, so not a froo-froo dog at all!
A final word about Cavaliers and hiking—or any dog and hiking. You will see notices at all the trailheads about not hiking with your dog when the weather is hot. Folks ignore these signs, I’m afraid, and that’s nothing short of cruel. And even when the weather is mild, take along plenty of water for your best friend. I have a silicone collapsible bowl that fits easily in my backpack. And giving my buddy a drink gives me an excuse to take a break!