Team Walks For Gray Muzzles

ST. MARYS — A Michigan resident — and her furry friend Faith — recently passed through St. Marys as part of a journey that will take the pair thousands of miles along the North Country Trail.

Amy Kwiatkoski started her trek last month with the goal of the North Country Trail, which runs from upstate New York to North Dakota. This year’s harsh winter forced Kwiatkoski and her companion Faith — a 7-year-old Husky mix — to start halfway through the trail.

“We’re hiking to New York, and then we are going to come back and then hike to North Dakota,” Kwiatkoski said. “We’re hoping to be done by the first of November.”

Hiking the North Country Trail has been one of Kwiatkoski’s goals for a long time. She said she hopes to be the first woman/dog team to finish the through hike — all 4,600 miles.

“I always thought I was going to do the Appalachian Trail,” Kwiatkoski said. “But when I heard about the North Country Trail, I thought that was the trail because it goes through so many cities and towns.”

In Michigan, Kwiatkoski volunteers at an animal shelter and works to support rescues — including adoptions involving senior dogs. Kwiatkoski said senior dogs are often overlooked by people looking to adopt.

“The ones that don’t really get a lot of publicity are the senior dogs,” Kwiatkoski said. “That’s why we say join the Grey Muzzle Club ... We are just trying to spread the word to get people to think about shelter dogs in general, especially the senior shelter dogs.”

Kwiatkoski said Faith does well walking along the trail. Currently they average 10 to 15 miles a day and take necessary breaks.

“I’ve had her since she was 3-years-old and so I know her well,” Kwiatkoski said. “She has little booties she can wear ... We have really been lucky. We have a lot of trail angels that help us along the way.”

These trail angels offer places to stay, vet care — if necessary — as well as words of encouragement. While in Delphos, Kwiatkoski and Faith stayed for two days at a local hotel as Faith recovered from an illness.

“She’s doing fine,” Kwiatkoski said. “We trained steadily for six months for this. She’s a good breed to take and we are trying to avoid the really hot temperatures. That is what’s going to get to her the most.”

During down time, Kwiatkoski and Faith track their progress on a website — People can keep up on the pair’s whereabouts as well as read stories written from Faith’s perspective.

“She’s actually blogging,” Kwiatkoski said. “It’s fun. We have fifth graders who are following us.”