Last night, scrolling through Youtube, I ran across a video entitled “Hiking 25 Miles on the Mardi Himal Trail in Nepal” by filmmaker Kraig Admas. Hoping to see Kraig travelling in the beautiful trails of Mardi, I immediately clicked on the video. However, more than the scenic beauty of the Himalayas, my whole attention was stolen by a stray dog who joins Adams on his journey.
On the first day of the trek, Kraig is accompanied by a pup, which he nicknames as Ghost. Ghost is a self-proclaimed local dog guide of Mardi trail. He hikes together with Kraig, wags his tail and reassures his newly-made friend of the route. He even shares meals and bed with Kraig. A permanent resident of the Himalaya, Ghost parts away from Kraig before the final day of the trek.
Going through the comment section, I was further intrigued to discover that this is not an unusual scenario. In fact, many people have had a similar encounter with stray dogs while trekking the Himalayas. These furry animals simply join the trekkers, guide them on the route, return back and wait for another person to repeat the journey.
In 2019, a stray dog named Meera made headlines after she climbed the 17,000-feet tall Baruntse peaks along with a group of climbers. A mix of Tibetian mastiff and Himalayan Sheepdog, Meera is speculated to be the first of her own kind to achieve this milestone.
The most likely reason why these canine species hang out with the trekkers is food. Unlike other species, dogs have evolved to depend upon humans for both food and security. With no specific owners, the stray dogs may be attracted to the tourists who are generous enough to provide them with food.
However, why do they have to follow the trekkers? They could have just waited for another traveller to pass by and provide them treats.
This may be explained by the genetic makeup of dogs. Studies have shown that dogs are genetically predisposed to be outgoing. These genes make the dogs hyper-sociable and friendlier than any other animals. But, dogs do know when to be alert and protect their human companions from enemies.
Dogs often seek comfort and affection from humans and are programmed to please. Even a gentle touch releases oxytocin hormone in their brain, which is also called the happy hormone. This might be the reason why dogs chose a human friend to travel instead of wandering alone.
It always fascinates me the level of complexity and understanding dogs have developed to establish such a unique tie with a human. Human civilization indeed made a smart move when they decided to domesticate these four-legged animals 10,000 years ago.
Nevertheless, travellers hoping to find themselves a dog guide, do need to take in consideration of Rabies, which is very common in Nepal. Sometimes, befriending these stray dogs may turn out fatal. Anyone planning to travel should vaccinate them beforehand as immediate treatments may not be available in most of the places. Likewise, the Nepali government should take serious action on vaccinating dogs and providing them with safe space.
If you are wondering, what happened to Ghost? On another video, Kraig explains that he met Ghost on his way back with a group of other travellers. Ghost immediately recognized Kraig and even shared final goodbyes with him.
Maybe Ghost was lured by food. Maybe he found comfort in Kraig. Maybe he loves the mountain. Maybe it was just another habitual journey for him. Whatever that ‘Maybe’ be, it’s intriguing to understand how close of a bond we share together. It’s a unique adaptation and with precaution can be cashed in. Maybe ‘Ghost’ is waiting for your companionship at Mardi trekking route.