Trip Reports

Jake and the Rotting Rib Cage

9 years ago I adopted my very first dog from a shelter: a 9 month old crazy, energetic, bear of a Black Lab named Jake who I say is like owning 10 dogs + 2. Over the years I’m not sure who’s been training who! There are many days I yearn for a normal dog—a dog that sits quietly, greets people calmly, and respects personal space. But instead I have Jake, who I’m certain has ADD, bulldozes people, and is almost an exact carbon copy of Marley from the bestseller Marley & Me. He’s the greatest worst dog ever and I wouldn’t trade him for the world! He’s my very best adventure partner in crime.


This photo of my dog with his crazy face sums him up perfectly! Everyone else is taking a trail break.  He’s going 100mph.

Last July I spent a few days in the beautiful Methow Valley, one of my favorite places in Washington State. My first day I took a hike along the Robinson Creek trail outside Mazama. I strolled along enjoying the beautiful wildflowers and smelling the fresh air, hands wide in the air having my own The Sound of Music moment. Jake stepped off the trail and began rolling enthusiastically back and forth on the ground. We were both so happy to be outdoors!

Then my excitement turned to horror. He was rolling IN something. What IS that!? My stomach churned as I realized the object of my dog’s attention was an animal carcass. He wasn’t just rolling on it or near it.  He had actually wedged himself INSIDE the entire rotting rib cage.

Inside of it!!!!

He kept rolling, his legs sticking clumsily out from between the ribs, flailing everywhere, pausing only to snort. I could only scream “Oh my God, get out, GET OUT!!!!”

He stopped and stood up, still inside the rib cage, and began to shake himself out of it just as if he were shaking off water from a swim. He stood there proud, looking at me as if to say “wasn’t that the best!?” The shaking only managed to disperse the odor and within a few seconds I was standing in a toxic cloud of decaying death.

I held my breath and ran down the trail towards the creek as fast as I could knowing that having a water dog was my only chance of survival. Jake eagerly followed and jumped right into the creek. He sat there happy as a clam as the water helped to wash away the stench. I was completely repulsed but yet couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous he had looked stuffed inside a rib cage.

Why do dogs roll in gross things? The theories are numerous: to camouflage their own scent, to advertise something really interesting, or as a type of spa treatment. Yep, that’s right. Rolling in gross things can help create a water-resistant coating of grossness for their fur. Whatever the reason it’s a fact of life that some dogs roll in disgusting things more than others. Luckily for me the rotting rib cage incident was pretty out of the ordinary for Jake. Even so, I ended up crafting a little dog cleaning kit for the trail.

Create your own emergency dog cleaning kit.

I love REI’s travel towels so I bought one for Jake and zipped it inside a quart sized Ziploc bag with a small packet of baking soda. Now if he happens to do something truly disgusting on the trail I can clean and deodorize him until I can get him somewhere for a more thorough washing. I use the Ziploc bags with a slider because I feel better knowing whatever nastiness he might get into will be safely zipped into the bag and not touching anything else in my pack, ewwwwww!

I’m happy to report that I haven’t yet had to use the kit and hope I never will! What kind of heinous things has YOUR dog done on the trail? This page talks about the topic in detail.

Happy canine adventuring!

Jake sitting in the Robinson Creek after rolling inside a rib cage, yuck! He seemed pretty happy and proud of himself.