Would you like to walk along the Francis' Path with your trusted four-legged friend, but you are not sure to succeed? Are you afraid there could be problems with facilities or that your dog could not succeed? Then we'll tell you the story of Anna, a pilgrim who walked along the Francis' path with her two Australian Shepherds, Ombra and Ken, living a fascinating adventure.
Nowadays Anna lives halfway between Bergamo e Brescia in the country family's estate and manages a boarding kennel for dogs, where she combines passion and work, and she was, not casually, the first pilgrim to travel accompanied by 4-legged friends along the way.
She walked along the path in May 2013, when the idea of travelling with dogs was still beginning to develop. She left from Piediluco and in a week she reached Assisi, via Valnerina and the Umbrian Valley, following exactly the Route's stages.
Let's listen to her story, to what this journey together with her dogs left her, but mainly to what she wants to recommend to whom thinks to embark on this adventure with his/her dog.
Anna, how did you get the idea of travelling along the Francis' Route?
I got the idea almost casually, since I read an article on the Francis' route in a travel magazine. So I became curious and I asked for information to the administrators of the viadifrancesco.it website and I came in contact with the Francesco's Way consortium that helped me to organize the journey, particularly to find premises that could host my dogs and arrange my luggage transportation. Indeed, my primary need was that my dogs could sleep with me in the same room.
At the beginning did you think to travel alone or did you immediately think to face the journey with your dogs?
I thought immediately to travel with my dogs. I started to walk together with dogs and today, every day, I try to do at least an hour walk with them. I believe that movement for dogs is an essential thing and if you won't move they won't do that either. There's never enough open-space around home or a sufficient garden. It's vital to keep them moving with us.
Before leaving, how did you have to arrange things to manage the journey with your 4-legged friends at best?
I entrusted the consortium, therefore I didn't have to manage logistics, even because I didn't have particular needs except than keeping my dogs in my same room. Firstly, who travels autonomously will have to look for facilities available to host dogs.
What difficulties did you find during the journey?
Actually no particular difficulty or at least nothing forbidding. On the second day, Ombra's paw became a bit cracked, but I had with me all I needed to cure her. Luckily, in May it wasn't so hot and therefore we didn't have the water problem, that could be the main worry for dogs. In Valnerina we have always had the near river, then I could use some small fountain along the path and however I have always kept a small water supply with me in case of need.
Which was the most challenging stage, for you and your dogs? Why?
For sure the route from Spoleto to Poreta, particularly because I went the wrong way leaving the route and I could hardly find my bearings. Finally I walked many kilometers more than expected and I ended the stage only in the late afternoon.
Which was, instead, the stage or place that remained in your heart?
I liked a lot all the Valnerina's area, immersed in the nature, even because I didn't know it very well. The place I liked it at most was Castel di Lago, a small characteristic village that gives a perfect idea of Umbria and of Francis' route.
What did the journey along the Francis' Route leave you?
It was a really positive experience, that strengthened me a lot. I am often oriented to undervalue myself and so I need to arrange everything. Instead, facing this journey alone, only with my two dogs, managing to finish it, going on adventures and facing even small difficulties, strengthened my confidence. When I walked along the Path I was still living in Monza and I didn't work; along the route, along with my dogs, I had the chance to reflect and think a lot, and probably this experience gave me the courage to change life, moving in the family estate and starting my present job.
What would you recommend to whom wants to embark on the Francis' route with one or more dogs?
Firstly, choose a period that is not too hot, because the water need is the main problem for dogs. If you have to bring in your rucksack a big quantity of water, it means adding to the weight of luggage and so struggling much more.
Then it's necessary to assess correctly one's own and one's dog's training, by choosing suitable stages and avoiding to subject them to disproportionate efforts. In that way you shall live a fascinating experience, that will tie even more to your 4-legged friends. Besides, I advise you to consider some days more than necessary to travel calmly, maybe reaching the most important cities and counting a rest day to visit the historical centers. In that way even your dog will have the time to rest, without being too much under stress.
Don't forget everything can be useful for some small dressing, as it happened with my Ombra's paw on the second walking day.
Lastly, it's necessary to pay attention to people and other dogs you can meet on the road, particularly those inside private estates. Along the route, I always left them free, except than in urban centers, but I had the leash at hand to tie them in case of need.
Anna's story is beautiful; it's an adventure together with splendid 4-legged friends that will surely live on in her memory, even because it gave a small contribution to turn her life around.
Today travelling along the Francis' route with one's own dogs is even easier and safer than it was for Anna, thanks to the many supporting services created by the Francis' Way consortium that made the route pet friendly. They range from tourist facilities hosting animals to welcoming kits containing a bowl, a mat to sleep and a toy. It will be also possible to get a collar with GPS tracker that will allow tracing one's own animal, in case of loss.
For information: www.francescosways.com