(Hoffman AFB, New Mexico)
Dogs have long been welcome on the mystical white sands of southern New Mexico. When America’s space age began at White Sands Missile Range with the firing of a Tiny Tim test booster on September 26, 1945, it was important to retrieve small missile parts to analyze success or failure. These searches routinely wasted countless man-hours as ground recovery crews scoured vast expanses of desert for often-buried missile fragments. That ended in 1961 with the introduction of the Missile Dogs: Dingo, a Weimaraner, and Count, a German Shorthair. For up to a year before firing, important components of a missile were sprayed with squalene, a shark-liver oil that the dogs could smell from hundreds of feet away.
After a missile firing, Dingo and Count raced among the sands sniffing out the scent objects. With a 96% recovery rate, the program was so successful that other military and scientific agencies requested the services of the original Missile Dogs of White Sands. Today you can hike with your dog anywhere in the giant sandbox that is White Sands National Monument. The world’s largest gypsum sand dunes form when mineral dissolves in nearby mountains during rainstorms. White Sands offers 6.2 miles of marked dog-friendly trails but there is no need to limit your explorations. Any dune is open to a canine hike. Stay alert for reptiles and rodents scampering on the dunes that have adapted to the white sands and are now a funny bleached white color. During the heat of summer, try a night hike - when the moon is full, the park, located in New Mexico on US 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, stays open until midnight. The desert cools off then and the spectral sands are haunting by moonlight.
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