Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Life Well Lived

"Dogs' lives are too short... Their only fault, really."   - Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Somewhere in the Nevada desert - 2012
It's great to have a companion when you venture into the wilderness, but human buddies can be complicated. Many adventures have been cancelled because people have jobs, families, and other obligations. Planning an outing with other people requires coordination and compromise.  Humans are... well, human.

Dog buddies, on the other hand, have no such problems, and that's why we love them. They're ready for an adventure at a moment's notice. They'll let you choose which path to take, and follow you faithfully. They completely trust you. They are simple. To a dog, you are the only obligation. 

For nearly seven years, Allie (a Bernese mountain dog affectionately known to many as "Allie-bear") was a part of my daily routine. Thousands of times I fed her and let her out first thing in the morning. Hundreds of nights she kept me company as I studied through law school, and then the bar exam. Four times I moved to a new town where I knew practically nobody, and each time we made new friends together while exploring new trails and new mountains.

The best part about Allie was that she was also my co-adventurer. She was ready for anything at any time-- hiking, skiing, mountain biking, trail running.  Over the years we walked, skied, and biked hundreds of miles together in perhaps a dozen states from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

If dogs have an imperfection, it's that their lives are too short. Recently, Allie's life ended at the age of seven when I arrived home from work to find she had died of an apparent heart attack. Despite the brevity of our time together, Allie was the best co-adventurer I could have asked for. The collection memories below is dedicated to her life and the many adventures we had together.

My adventures will no doubt continue, but Allie will be dearly missed.

I brought Allie home to Virginia in the spring of 2007. Pictured here is Allie and my friend Dylan on Allie's first backpacking trip - Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia - October 2007

Back in those days I had to drive a long way to find snow -  Mount Kearsarge, New Hampshire - January 2008

On a frozen lake in New Hampshire - January 2008

In 2008, I left the east coast for the University of Idaho. Here we are straddling the continental divide while working our way west - Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado - 2008

Exploring the Bitterroot Mountains of the Idaho panhandle

That next winter, northern Idaho received epic snowfall.  Allie was chest-deep (and then some) on Moscow Mountain, Idaho - January 2009

A few months later, the snow on Moscow Mountain was long gone - Summer 2009

After a year in Idaho, our march west continued: Cooling off in Adam Creek - Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon - 2009

Our next stop was the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon - Making some early season turns in the Willamette Pass backcountry - November 2010

Allie was a wise dog... in that she knew to take advantage of a crash - Willamette Pass backcountry, Oregon - May 2011

After finishing law school at the University of Oregon, I took a job in the tiny town of Brookings on the southern Oregon coast. Here we are exploring one of its many secluded beaches on a rare sunny day - 2012

On a weekend camping trip to northern California's redwood coast. Allie was investigating a group of seals poking their heads out of the water just offshore. The seals were equally intrigued by Allie - September 2012

Another year, another mountain range - Siskiyou Mountains near Cave Junction, Oregon - New Year's Day, 2013

In January 2013, I moved to my current home of Medford, Oregon, where I'm fortunate to be surrounded by 360 degrees of mountains - Dutchman Peak, Oregon Siskiyou Mountains - April 2013

What turned out to be our last ski adventure together - Mount Scott, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon - June 2013

Special thanks to all my friends who rallied around me the last couple weeks, to my cousin David for the quote appearing at the top of this blog post, and to Washington Post writer Joe Yonan for this article on coping with the loss of pets, which helped me put Allie's death in perspective.


Mike Bullington said...

A great article. Thanks for sharing.

SemperGumby said...

A beautiful tribute. Love you, bro.