West Virginia is a pet-friendly paradise with outdoor adventures and scenic road-trip routes. It’s also where one sweet pooch found his way into a loving new home. They say travel is transformative, but not always in the ways we expect.
My now-husband, Joe, our dog Mynah and I were on our way to a campground at New River Gorge National River when this fluffy black creature darted out from the woods. The day was getting long in the tooth as we approached our campsite on the New River Gorge and shortly after we passed a sign for Prince, West Virginia, the road threw us for a curve. As we rounded it, a mass of black scruff on four legs emerged from the woods and stepped toward the road.
We were about to face the kind of challenge you can only experience through travel.
Joe jerked the wheel slightly before easing onto a wide stretch of shoulder a few yards up. I handed him a bag of dog treats and soothed Mynah, our two-year-old Australian Cattle Dog/Sheltie mix. Joe walked toward the apprehensive, pitch-black furball standing at the edge of the woods.
After a few minutes – the treats apparently having done the trick – the creature hopped into the car.
If her barking was any indication, Mynah was nonplussed. But the two dogs sniffed one another as we turned back toward town in search of a shelter.
The only shelter in town was closing for the day, but they obliged our request to have him scanned for a microchip and even cut off the too-tight flea collar – the only sign of human interaction the microchip scan confirmed.
We decided he’d camp with us that night, leaving my mobile number with the shelter. If no one claimed him, he’d accompany us on the next leg of the journey, a Fourth of July weekend gathering at Joe’s aunt’s farm near White Sulphur Springs. After that? We weren’t sure.
As we set up camp by the river, Mynah and the mystery dog chased each other around. I kept thinking the critter would disappear into the woods, but he stayed close by.
We speculated. Perhaps he got lost while camping with another family or ran off from a nearby farm. He was accustomed to humans and showed no aggression toward Mynah.
It wasn’t long after we fed the dogs that a torrential downpour settled in for the night.
They play-fought in the tent for hours, wrestling on top of us as we attempted to sleep. Adding to this, the food we gave mystery dog apparently disagreed with his stomach and gas ensued. At least he was housebroken, apparently.
The rain cleared overnight. The dogs chased each other as we broke down camp. Once or twice the scruffy dog waded into the river, gravid from all the rain. I was terrified he’d be swept away into the rapids. But he always swam right back to shore and shook off the water before I could jump in.
We headed into town for some dry dog shampoo. Still no word from the shelter. So he came along to the farm.
Over the long weekend, the black scruffy dog stayed near us. We tried to guess his name, and called out several to see if he’d respond. Charlie? Max? Chip? Spot? Shadow?
A cousin of Joe’s, a veterinarian, guessed by the look of his teeth he was about two years old. She said if we found him where we said we did, he’d likely been abandoned. Who knows how long he’d been out there? The thought of someone leaving this sweet little guy alone in the wilderness was sickening. Who would do that?
Our stay goes by; no call from the shelter.
Dog-Friendly Experiences in West Virginia
With all of its open spaces and trails, West Virginia should be at the top of your list if you’re traveling with Fido. Here are some of the best ways to experience the state with your best friend in tow.
Go for a Low-Key Hike at Long Point
While hikers flock to Endless Wall for legendary New River Gorge vistas, you’ll find equally amazing views across the gorge at Long Point – minus the crowds. An easy trail takes you two to three miles to scenic overlooks of the gorge as well as Wolf Creek.
Afterward, head to Arrowhead Bike Farm in Fayetteville. The on-site Biergarten, the Handle Bar, features plenty of pet-friendly seating, an extensive beer list, a menu to satisfy all dietary needs and even a goat pen.
Make a Day (or Night) of it at Dolly Sods North
With more than 1,000 feet of elevation gain, this nearly 12-mile trail within Monongahela National Forest offers mountain views, camping and plenty of open spaces for four-legged family members to frolic. It’s a long haul, so make sure you have plenty of food and water before you start your trek.
Play Around in FIDO’s Backyard
If you’re passing through Morgantown, this expansive dog park is about 20 minutes southwest in Fairmont. It’s a large fenced-in park with an enclosed space for smaller dogs as well as some wooded terrain where you and the pup can stroll in the shade.
Once you’ve worked up a thirst, head over the river to The Rambling Root for a beverage on the pet-friendly patio.
Splash Around in the Greenbrier River
If you want to experience this storied, 100-mile river with the pup in tow, you have two options: get out on the river’s gentler stretches in a canoe or kayak (with life jackets, of course), or hike alongside it on the Greenbrier River Trail. Formerly the site of a railway, the trail features old-school railroad vestiges as well as beautiful river views. Leash up and take to the trail in Marlinton – it won’t be long until you’re surrounded by natural beauty.
Stroll the Panhandle Trail
Connecting the suburbs of Pittsburgh to Weirton in the West Virginia Panhandle via nearly 30 miles, this trail covers part of the route of the fabled Pennsylvania Railroad, which at one point ran from Pittsburgh to St. Louis. If you’re in West Virginia, the best place for you and Rover to access the trail is in Colliers. If you head west, you’ll reach the Ohio River shortly. Or, head east toward the Pennsylvania border (the Panhandle is very narrow here). Either way, the pup will love it.
We’d thought about leaving him with Joe’s aunt and uncle at the farm as the resident farm dog had recently passed. Taking him to a shelter was an option, but not one we liked. So was bringing him home to Florida to see if anyone we knew was in the market for a rescue pup. He was getting along so well with Mynah; they played ceaselessly as we explored the farm’s vast acreage. We had no plans of getting a second dog, at least, not for a while. Still, the sweet-if-unkempt pup who wandered into our lives on that wooded road had quickly endeared himself to us. Who would we be if we were to ditch him now?
On the trip home, he’d bark at the cars we passed on the interstate. They seemed to confuse him; it’s possible he’d never even seen them from this perspective. Somewhere along the way, we started to call him Prince, after the town that was near where we found him. The name stuck, and he stuck around. Five years on, Prince loves barking at the UPS truck when it pulls up to our house. We play squirrel videos for him, and he tries to chase them. Every morning, he sits on the floor by my side of the bed and waits for me to wake up so I can scratch his head. He makes friends with every person he meets.
Life wouldn’t have been the same without him.
Has a travel experience changed your life? Tell us about it in the comments below!