Thursday, October 3, 2019

Bark Ranger Review

bark ranger training
Finn Earns His Bark Ranger Badge
If you are blessed enough to have a Border Collie in your life, you already know that he needs a job and a purpose.  My Finn is no exception.  His beautiful mind needs plenty of stimulation every day.  It's my job, privilege, and pleasure to find new ways of providing Finn with daily opportunities to take his immense capabilities to the next level.

Recently, when I was planning our next outdoor adventure, I came across information about the Bark Ranger Program sponsored by the National Park Service.  Why had I never heard about this before?  It seems this program is really starting to take off in parks across the country. 

pecos national historical park sign
Arriving at Pecos National Historic Park
Finn and I wasted no time heading for the closest national park with a Bark Ranger Program.  That happened to be Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico.  They launched their program earlier this summer.  Perfect!  A day trip to the Santa Fe area is always a treat.  

pecos national historical park visitor center
Pecos NHP Visitor Center
So Many Architectural Delights
visitors center bench
Such a Welcoming Place
visitors center at pecos national historical park sign
I Could Sit Here Every Day
When we arrived at the visitor's center, it took no time at all to launch Finn's new bark ranger career. The main purpose of the program is to ensure dogs and their humans have a safe and enjoyable time in the park.  Keeping the national parks dog-friendly takes some responsibility on the part of those of us who travel with our pets.

The BARK acronym makes it easy to remember the promises you are held to when becoming a bark ranger team.  First, you promise to bag your dog's waste and to dispose of it appropriately.  Next, you pledge to always leash your pet.  In parks such as Pecos NHP, a leash could save your dog's life.  Rattlesnake sightings are frequent.

Respecting wildlife is another part of the oath taken when you choose to be a bark ranger.  The very presence of a dog in any park changes the dynamic for wildlife.  In order for national parks to remain a refuge for wild creatures, it is critical to avoid any encounters between pets and the animals that call that park home.  

dog in a stroller
Finn's Access to Pecos NHP Included the Main Trail to the Pueblos
pecos mission
Pecos Mission and Pueblo
And finally, every visit to a national park should start with knowing which areas of the park are accessible to dogs.  At Pecos NHP, Finn was able to accompany me on the main trail to the mission and pueblos.  I chose to keep him leashed in his dog stroller rather than use his K9 Cart (wheelchair) due to the presence of rattlesnakes in the park.  I knew it would be the safer option.

In some parks, you can volunteer as a Bark Ranger Ambassador team.  This is something I want to pursue with Finn.  It is my aspiration for us to serve in this capacity at our closest national park (Great Sand Dunes).  First, I'd like to help get a Bark Rangers Program started locally.  I wasn't able to find any Colorado national parks with an existing program.  The only current bark rangers opportunity I found was at Eldorado Canyon State Park, which is a good distance from where we live.

Having previously worked in a national park (Padre Island National Seashore), I get excited just thinking about the powerful teaching moments that take place in park settings.  Even yesterday, shortly after becoming a Bark Ranger, Finn made an impact while engaging with visitors at Pecos NHP.  One couple in particular told me that Finn had made their day and had made them happy.  It takes a special Bark Ranger to do that and Finn has a gift for elevating the quality of a day. 

If you love to travel with your dog, and enjoy sharing the national parks with your pet, I encourage you to join the Bark Ranger Program (you can search online to find which parks already have the program).  I'm really glad Finn and I took that trek to Pecos NHP.  It is surely the beginning of many beautiful and fulfilling connections for us.  I can't wait to see where this leads.

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  1. Congratulations Finn! How very cool that you have yet another accomplishment and badge. I can easily imagine that Finn, and his momma, would make anyone's day when they come in contact with you. You are both real inspirations. I need to see if we have a local park, or one nearby, with the Bark Ranger program. Merlin loves his hikes!

    1. Oh, I can't wait for Merlin to earn his Bark Ranger badge! You will make an awesome Bark Ranger team. Thank you for your lovely comments. I think the highest art of them all is to find a way to make someone's day... to elevate the quality of the day for everyone with whom you come into contact. That is always my goal. I really hope to take the Bark Ranger Program to a whole new level through educational visits. I'd love to visit the schools with Bark Ranger Finn. We already have lots of ideas for Bark Ranger Walks and Talks. He is such a natural born teacher and that is my number one passion, too.

  2. What a wonderful program and what a great idea to try to start one locally! The unbeatable team of you and Finn continues to impress and delight. I suspect meeting you both makes many people’s days. :)

    1. I know you always make our day. Thank you for that!

  3. Diana, I'm so proud of Finn, he's a wonderful little guy. This program sounds like a great thing for him and for you! Finn is a most beautiful Bark Ranger and I think he knows it! :) He will be an awesome teacher!!

    1. Thank you, Nancy. I hope Finn knows he is beautiful. He teaches from the heart.

  4. Sounds like a wonderful program. What a beautiful place as well. I could spend the entire day there as well. Your posts on Finn are always moving and bring joy to my day as well.

    1. I'm glad you are moved by Finn's posts and that you feel the joy. Sometimes I think I shouldn't share so many dog posts, but I do so in the hopes that someone will feel something beautiful.

  5. The Pecos park you visited to earn Finn's Bark Ranger badge is gorgeous. I wish you both success in starting such a program in a park near you.

    I was immediately curious about Iowa after reading your article and looked it up, but there doesn't appear to be any in this state. :) I DID see that Missouri has the Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis. I will have to tell my daughter to inform her friends with 3 German Shepards that they could visit there and get their brood BARK Ranger badges.

    Keep us posted on your quest of establishing a Bark Ranger program in your area. And, please do continue to write articles about Finn and your wonderful work together. They are always enjoyable.

    1. Thank you, Elf. It really was a gorgeous park. Every detail of the buildings was stunning (hand-carved doors, corbels, etc.). We need to go back for another visit, as we barely scratched the surface when we made this first stop at Pecos NHP. It was kind of a rushed trip. All of the national parks have the Junior Ranger Program for kids, but Pecos has a cool version of it for seniors (the Not-So-Junior Ranger Program). I want to earn my NSJ Ranger badge. That's the lifelong learner in me.

  6. What a fabulous program! Love it! Can't wait to participate, Finn looks very handsome with quite the background!

    1. Thank you! Glad you plan to participate. Finn appreciates your kind comments (as does this ranger mama).


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