The Wild File


Q)Is it OK to take your dog on long runs?

Miles Gavin, San Diego, California

A)Pretty much every canine loves to run, but according to Jacque Schultz, a dog trainer at ASPCA headquarters, in New York, serious runners should pick their breed carefully. Large dogs, such as retrievers, Dobermans, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, make great running mates because they've been bred to have long, graceful strides and sturdy joints. Many dogs don't like to run continuously for more than ten miles, but some hardy breeds—like the Siberian husky—would have no trouble finishing a marathon. Most midsize models are fine for up to five miles. Scrappers like the foot-tall Jack Russell terrier can hold their own, too, but dogs smaller than that don't have the legs or the hearts to keep up. Dogs with short snouts, arthritis, or hip dysplasia shouldn't take on long distances, and age is crucial: Puppies don't fully develop until 12 to 18 months, and high-impact exercise can lead to sore joints or bone damage. Beyond that, use common sense: Start slow, opt for dirt trails over pavement, bring water, examine paw pads, and don't run your Saint Bernard in August. In fact, if a pooch ever shows signs of heat distress—excessive panting, very red gums, or lagging behind—head for some shade, and get him wet.

Q)What exactly is cloud seeding, and why isn't anyone doing it in the drought-plagued West?
Joe Baumgardner, Evergreen, Colorado

A)The Hopi have long danced with snakes to petition the forces of nature for rain, but for the past 50 years conjurers have released silver iodide into clouds from planes or ground-based generators. Sounds like sci-fi, but cloud seeding is based on sound principles. Because rain and snow are formed by water condensing around particles of dust and ice, it follows that adding particles to the air will encourage more rain and snow to form. And so it does—we think. As Brooks Martner, a research meteorologist for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado, explains, "experiments have indisputably shown that seeding produces billions of ice crystals in supercooled clouds. But the evidence is less convincing that these crystals grow large enough to fall out of the cloud." The American Meteorological Society has acknowledged that the practice seems to work, and the private companies that work in the $4-million-a-year industry couldn't agree more. This past winter, a Colorado outfit was paid $650,000 to boost snowfall around the Denver area. There was a 20 percent increase over the previous five years, with totals that doubled those of the year before. But was all—or any—of that snow the result of cloud seeding? It's an unknown, and one that's further complicated in times of drought, when there aren't enough good clouds around to seed. Bottom line, there should always be room for a few talented rain dancers.

Q)If you're lost in the wild with a cell phone, can you get a clearer signal on high ground?
Nick Kolias, Seattle, Washington

A)We'll assume that you're already aware of the limits of your cell phone as a backcountry rescue beacon: Despite the optimism of the "Can you hear me now?" guy, only 65 percent of the U.S. landmass is covered by cellular service. That said, your phone's signals, like an FM radio's, travel in a straight line, so even though they can bounce off solid objects—like mountains—and reach you in low-lying areas, the solid objects don't always cooperate. That's when climbing to higher ground may get you in the line of sight of a tower, if there's one fairly close. You could also heed the advice of Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Andrea Linskey: While hiking, occasionally look down at your handset to note where you get a good signal. If you need to make an emergency call, turn back, and be thankful you dropped those breadcrumbs.

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