COMMENT

People have been walking and running in the Whakarewarewa Forest for many, many years.

That wonderful stand of exotics, south of the city, was a recreational hub long before the pioneers of MTB started throwing a leg over modified road bikes in Marin County, north of San Francisco.

It was created by the singular vision of the New Zealand Forest Service starting in 1897.

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There are photos from the early 1900s in the Rotorua Museum archive, taken from the city looking south to the Tokorangi ridge line, all scrub with the straight-line roads up the hill like Pram, clearly visible.

All in public ownership until binned as part of the misguided privatisation by the Labour Government in the late 1980s. There's less and less of this unique experimental arboretum every year as it's harvested.

Part of the privilege of living within sight of that forest is choosing when to ride. So many locals have told me they can't be bothered when it's wet, because a good day will come along eventually, so no urgency.

And bike preservation. Our trails, when wet, can be a drivetrain killer.

Mostly, it's because of one of the first rules of mountain biking – try to avoid trails when they're wet.

Walking is a great substitute and provides a very different perspective on the forest.

My first real experience of Whakarewarewa was with Carolyn in the early 1990s, walking our pair of boisterous working dogs, Bella, a border collie, and Lucy, a Blue Heeler. Joining us on bike rides followed soon after.

They loved every outing until, in that natural arc of dog's lives, they started to slow down between 12 and 13.

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Just over a year ago a new mutt arrived among the extended Rotorua whānau. Pipi is a poodle/pug cross with all the energy and intelligence of the former and the comic stylings and good nature of the latter.

She enthusiastically embraced all the wonderful aspects of our forest from the very first day and has become a fearless explorer, climber and swimmer in the Puarenga Stream, at the Duck Pond and a couple of secret spots.

There are steep, almost vertical banks alongside Fern Drive, south of Waipa, that she'll traverse like a mountain goat.

A recent book, Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You by Clive Wynne, a psychologist and founder of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, concludes that dogs have the capacity to love.

This is more than just that happy-to-see-you exuberance dogs exhibit. It runs deeper, emotionally and psychologically.

Like humans, dogs also experience the release of oxytocin when they interact with dogs and people they like. This is the same hormone that a new mother experiences.

It's joy, really.

A month ago another pup arrived. Otis is a griffon/poodle cross and at 12 weeks and one day, this week, weighed in at 1.55kg.

Even though he's a featherweight he's already loving the forest and tentatively dipping all four paws in the Duck Pond and at the beach at Holden's Bay on Lake Rotorua, as well as coming when his name is called and sitting on command.

Like Pipi, he definitely gets the oxycontin flowing in me.