It doesn’t matter where he plants his paws, desert, mountains, rivers, or forests, he is happy. It starts when I am packing my backpack. The excitement really revs up when I bring out his. He knows we are going “To the Woods!” I better not say it aloud. His happiness will explode !
He came into my life 8 + years ago. When we first met he was 10 months old and weighed 83 pounds. But he was wrecked. He was emaciated, dehydrated, suffering from whipworm, and all his pads had been cut by a paranoid schizophrenic who claimed he and the overgrown puppy had been fighting the devil. He claims they won.
He came home with me, quickly loved by my kids, and given a lot of time to heal. In about a month he was putting on weight, the whipworms were gone, and he could walk on concrete without expressing his pain with very sad whinning.
This is the time he became the most obnoxious, undisciplined, rowdy, food stealing, do as I please problem. He was out of control !
He had no obedience training and did not even know how to go down steps. He proved very good at grabbing crystal Christmas tree balls and tossing them down the steps just to see them smash. I cringed everytime my five year old daughter would yell out, “Dad he did it again ! ” He was lucky it was her, because she adored him. In no time he reduced the ornaments to the top 1/4 of the tree.
Daily training ! Commands in German ! After all he was a German Shepherd. Trips to the park for more training, and throwing the tennis ball that he will chase forever. In no time he was shaping up to be more of a disciplined dog. What was so much fun is that he is fast, athletic, and powerful.
While all this was happening my marriage was in its death throws. Sad and depressed I would immerse myself into making this dog something. After hours in the park we would watch the sunset as I day dreamed of being in someplace wild, strapped into a backpack walking with my dog. I soon found out that he would repay me ten times over for every belly rub he suckered me into.
In no time we moved out. The marriage was over. Now it was time to change my life. But every obstacle that got in the way did. It is unbelievable when times get bad they get really bad.
He knew it, he protected me and made me smile. One evening as I laid in bed, I called for him to settle in to his bed. He stood fast in the adjoining room looking up and sounded off with a half bark, half howl. I found that strange. What was he looking up at ? I walked into the room as he looked me dead in the eyes then back up again. I had foolishly left a candle burning. I blew it out, and he walked directly to bed. I slept peacefully that night knowing he was there.
We always spent our time on walks and hikes. It was something we both craved. Sometimes I wished we would start walking and never stop. The hikes would take us to rivers where he became a water dog. He loves it ! We swam together and a stick would replace the ball as the best thing in the world to be thrown in the river and retrieved. That is after a leaping splash. We would climb the tall bluffs of the Mississippi river. Picking a line that would give him enough room to put all four paws on a ledge until he can be pushed , pulled or he would jump up to the next. He never hesitated. He never gets scared.
Backpacking, camping and hiking in the Mark Twain National Forest would bring us both joy. Sleeping together on the ground, or in a tent would give us enough rest to continue our foray in the woods. He is a four season dog. Some trips in below freezing temperatures, some in 100º or higher. Soon we were off to other places, deserts and mountains of New Mexico and Arizona to name a few.
He became a fantastic trail dog. Always leading the way, but only getting a certain distance before stopping and looking back until the distance is closed, and he knows we are in sight of each other. He will also run back and forth if his people are not in eye sight of each other. The herder in him wants a close orderly group.
He carries his own food in the saddle bag type packs I would strap him into. It never bothered him, or slowed him down. Recently he carried his own food for a six day trip into the Bell Mountain Wilderness. He leapt over downed trees and hopped onto rock formations just like a pup. The reality is he is 9 1/2 years old now.
He will be on guard at night. Always keeping one eye and one ear open. When the coyotes howl back and forth between ridges his ears pop to attention, head swinging to whichever one was vocalizing. Owls he could care less. A bear once visited our camp at 2am in Arizona. It came out of a tree line popping and huffing. He circled the tents not letting up on showing his displeasure at finding us in his forest. I was sitting up with one hand on the collar and one on the tent zipper. Not wanting a late night bear fight I whispered for him to stay. His body was tense, his ears erect, waiting for the signal. The bear moved on into the opposite tree line, we both relaxed and fell asleep but not before enjoying the cold mountain air and the beauty of the milkyway.
Our adventures would lead us into the beauty of National Forests, National Parks, National Monuments, and anywhere in the wild.
As long as we are outdoors, we are smiling and happy !
Love you Zeusy !