Talk of the Town - Nature calls August 28 2003

Why would anyone voluntarily wander into the Georgia wilderness with a chiropractor and his dog named Gator? To walk with the Dog Hikers of Georgia, a club dedicated to active dogs and their owners. Each Sunday at 10 a.m., the club meets for a five-mile hike over the easy, yet undeveloped terrain near Lake Allatoona.

"It's the only club in Georgia where members can run, jump, swim, play and sniff each other's privates," says Dr. Dan Batchelor, the club's founder. The good doctor began the weekly walks in December 1993 after he could find no other hiking club that allowed pooches to tag along. Since then, the club has grown so popular that between 30 and 40 dogs meet each week to frolic in the wilds of north Georgia.

The hike takes about an hour-and-a-half, Batchelor says, and stops are scheduled to allow the dogs to paddle the waters of Allatoona. And because the pace is moderate, anyone who can walk a 15-minute mile will have no problem keeping up with Rover. Be sure to bring your own swim trunks because at the end of the trek, the humans tend to join the dogs in Allatoona. Batchelor describes the scene as "like watching wildebeest cross a river."

The Dog Hikers of Georgia meets Sundays at 10 a.m., rain or shine. Take I-75 north to the Red Top Mountain exit, exit 285. Follow the signs to the dam and park in the dam parking lot near the Batchelor Clinic van. 24-Hour Dog Hiker hotline 770-992-2362.