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Still a faithful hiker

For 3-legged dog, 5-mile canyon trek poses no problem

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OGDEN — With three legs or four, a dog is always a man's best friend.

Dennis E. Petersen of Pleasant View has discovered that to be true because "Katie," his Labrador-golden retriever mix, has been his faithful hiking companion, with just three legs, for the past decade.

Despite having lost her rear right leg after being hit by a car at six months of age, this 10-year-old dog hasn't been slowed down by this handicap, only by her age.

Like humans with similar handicaps, the 54-year-old Petersen said, it's too easy to sell handicapped canines short.

"I was ready to put her to sleep after the accident," Petersen said. "But the veterinarian talked me out of it . . . and she's the best dog I've ever owned."

He got Katie for a hiking dog and was very skeptical about her abilities after the accident. But although she staggered around and kept falling over for a few weeks, once Katie found her balance she's been racing along ever since.

"Maybe we should have called you 'Tripod,' " he joked with the animal.

In fact, you have to look very carefully to even notice her handicap because of her long black hair and the extra strength in her single rear leg.

Deseret News photographer Laura Seitz quickly discovered that showing Katie's handicap was not easy.

"Katie's not handicapped enough," Seitz lamented after the dog kept leaving her behind going up the Taylor Canyon trail to Malan's Peak/Basin, the favorite hike for Petersen and his pet. Few camera angles would show the dog had a missing leg.

Other hikers have rarely noticed Katie's handicap. One of those who did spot her disability was a 6-year-old boy. Petersen said he just joked to the boy that it must have fallen off somewhere and to watch for it.

Petersen, who grew up a few blocks from the canyon, fell in love with it. In the past 25 years, he's hiked Malan's Peak at least 2,500 times or an average of three times a week. Katie has done the five-mile hike 1,220 times in the past decade, a tally Petersen can document because he has kept track in a log.

"It's our little getaway," he said. "This is a great outdoor treadmill or stair-stepper with a view."

Climbing about 2,200 feet in elevation, the trail goes half-way up Mount Ogden to a 6,900-foot elevation. Katie has made the longer climb to the 9,575-foot peak, too, as well as to Ben Lomond (9,712 feet).

Petersen buried his previous dog, "Buddy" at Malan's Basin because he made hikes up there, too. He's expecting to do the same for Katie.

At age 10, Katie may be almost 70 in dog years.

Her owner said Katie has always been a happy, smiling dog.

Petersen, who works in aviation electronics at Hill Air Force Base, said Katie's disability has also been a great lesson to not sell people short with disabilities .

He's made a lot of new friends over the years by hiking the same trail and said he and Katie never get bored with the trek. There's plenty of shade, great views and even a colorful history to the canyon. Malan's Basin, a half-mile beyond the peak, was a hotel/resort in the late 1800s.

"Hiking gets in your blood," Petersen said.

E-MAIL: lynn@desnews.com