I am new to this forum, and just starting to plan a CT thru-hike for summer 2013. I am wrestling with whether or not to bring my dog first because that choice will affect lots of other gear choices and planning issues. Buddy is a chocolate lab and has some experience hiking here in CO, but neither he nor I have ever been on more than a 5-6 day backpacking trip. I usually hike with Buddy off-leash (unless prohibited), but I am reading on lots of sites that even other dog owners say you should always hike with your dog leashed. I have also read that you should pack out their poop -- which I have not been doing, though I move it farther off the trail if he goes close to it.
Bottom line is, with all of the "should do's" and extra gear people recommend bringing (dog first aid, pad/bag for sleeping, etc.) it sounds like maybe I should just leave Buddy at home with my husband and kids?
I'd like to hear from some of you who have hiked the CT (or other thru-hikes) with your dog or without -- and why you made the choice you made. Also, if you hiked with your dog, did you leash them all the time? What did you do with poop? What special equipment did you bring for them beyond food, water, bowl, dogpack? Did you have trouble with town visits -- finding a place to stay, eat, etc.?
Though I really love hiking with Buddy, all of these logistics are tempting me to leave him behind...
Thanks for your thoughts!