WARNING: Those who take life seriously, don’t believe in animal character, and hate rainbows should not read this. You should immediately call a doctor if you do not spark a smile while reading this (even if you do not show your teeth). You may turn into a unicorn while reading this. If this happens, you are probably high.
How do you tell a dog’s story? Where do you start?
When requested from fellow readers to share Skye’s story, I was of course excited. I love my dog, any chance I get to talk about her-I take that chance. I think so fondly of her though, that I don’t think her story is mine to tell….if only she could talk.
So I’ve waited to write this because we have been trying to figure out ways to get her to talk. We watched re-runs of Bill Nye, tried finding the trainers for the cast of movies such as Beethoven, Bingo, and Homeward Bound. We even tried watching the Secret Life of Pets to see if we could figure out the secret of getting her to talk.
Unfortunately, we have not yet got her to talk. Therefore I will do the best I can, trying to tell her story.
Let’s rewind almost 6 human years ago. Skye is a rescue pup from Alabama, who now resides in Maine with her humans (me and my husband). Her life started out similar to most Lifetime movie plots. Her mom was a feral yellow lab, her dad…not so sure (probably part mountain goat. Possibly part energizer bunny). If not rescued, they would put her down due to the high population of dogs in the south. Skye was the runt of the litter, and also had the most energy. Those characteristics steered most adopters away from her. A challenge which my husband and I were willing to accept.
Since moving to Maine with her humans, Skye has been quite the outdoor adventurer. She has been swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, canoed and kayaked many rivers and lakes. Climbed some pretty big mountains, and has seen some pretty cool things along the way.
In January of 2016, the place Skye knew as home was slowly starting to disappear. First went the furniture in the living room, then soon the kitchen, and bedroom. Skye used to have multiple beds consisting of couches, chairs and beds.
By March, all of these things had been traded in for a packable, lightweight, synthetic insulated bed (Ruffwear’s Highlands bed). Her nice stainless steel bowls with the fancy bowl riser were replaced by collapsible, plastic bowls which were soon also replaced by disposable plastic Tupperware.
March 20, 2016, was the start date of what Skye may have considered her longest car ride and longest walk ever. Me, my husband and Skye rented a car and drove from Maine to Georgia. We arrived in Georgia March 22, 2016. On March 23, 2016, we set out by foot (and paws) at Amicalola Falls, Georgia and went north along the Appalachian Trail.
We were together pretty much every day, for about 7 months straight, and each one of those days was some place new and outdoors. Everything we needed was with us, whether it be within or on our backs. It was amazing! Walking around knowing that no matter what, we were always together, and always had a home. However, Skye couldn’t really get into her backpack because, well….she doesn’t have opposable thumbs (Lucky for her, she always had helpers around to assist her).
The three of us would snuggle in our MSR Hubba Hubba tent, Skye either at the foot of us, above our heads, or right in between. By morning she would be on one of the sides, sitting on the door, practically pushing the door out with her body. Clearly at that point you could tell the dynamics of the tent were not made for three family members to lay side by side all spread out.
Skye would typically be the first one up and out of the tent all ready to go at camp. She would always make sure everyone knew that by going around with her collar tags jingling. She would start to sniff around others tents. She would sniff so much that she would cause herself to sneeze. Ok, if you’re not up by now then you will be by the time our dog decides to do something she really shouldn’t be doing and we have to yell across the campsites.
There weren’t many doors along the trail. You were surrounded by many different types of trees, various creatures, various terrain, and super-fast squirrels and chipmunks.
The water is not usually kept in a bowl anymore… and the weird shaped swan looking thing where the humans used to get water is nowhere to be found. Instead, both the humans and Skye Dogg were all drinking near the ground. The only time doors would really come between Skye and her humans was when one would go to the privy. However, it wasn’t until this adventure that Skye started witnessing her humans going to do their business outside like she had been doing for years. The bond was strengthened, Skye knew at that point that she was one of them, or were they one of her? Whoa.
We met so many different people every day. You would learn their names but sometimes not always remember. However, one particular individual would always be remembered, Skye. Skye didn’t even have to say a word, people would always introduce her, and still everyone always remembers her.
Never knowing for sure what the pace would be each day, Skye would often run to the bright, pretty, young human or to the prince magically transformed into a werewolf. Wait, I think that may be the description for Beauty and the Beast. Correction: Skye would typically run from long haired human, to almost as long haired human.
Despite how many awesome campsites they all stopped at, they seemed to always keep going. It was never clear to Skye what was wrong with each place we stopped & why we had to keep going. Regardless of how much every day was the same, it was always something different as well. Treats were more frequent, as well as every meal, and there was much more peanut butter and cheese.
It was like living a live taping of Animal Planet when walking through cow pastures, chasing rabbits, hiking with wild ponies, seeing a baby deer and many snakes and bears. The views, the sunrises and sunsets never got old.
Sometimes you may have felt like your dog was trying to kill you. Why else would they fart in the tent?
There was always a cool stick to bring back to humans.
Skye was getting attention from more than her original two humans. It seemed her family had expanded. The longer they were outside, the more family they gained, and smells developed.
Skye was typically in the front while hiking. Often stopping right in front of everyone to take some time to observe something or smell the flowers. She would also be sure to run to the human furthest away to make sure everyone was alright. It is estimated that Skye probably did at least double the miles as everyone else. It is also estimated Skye’s finish date would have been in about April rather than October without any distractions. But, it was all about the smiles- not the miles. Nonetheless, if you weren’t paying attention and Skye found a new smell, you could easily get off the trail.
Skye was sure to always be happy to see everyone she saw. Always gave them plenty of kisses and would leave them with some fur as a gift. Skye took the chorus of Paul Young’s, “Every time you go Away” to heart.
Skye was always sure to go the extra mile, literally. And if you took a break, Skye was sure to take a nap. I could not count how many times Skye would practically fly down the toughest spots on a mountain, then stop and tilt her head as though she was confused as to what was taking us so long.
She’s a good listener and doesn’t criticize. Even if she’s not listening to you when you talk, she makes it look like you’re less crazy talking to yourself.
No matter how many times she would attempt to get a squirrel, or chipmunk, and fail- she never gave up.
When we did take breaks from hiking and got rides to places, we always rode in something different. Sometimes it would be in a fancy, leather interior car. Sometimes in the bed of a truck with wood chips and mulch, a canoe and sometimes even a trolley.
The thunder storms were not fun. No one wants to hike in the rain, but when it’s your only way to get someplace, you have to hike. Sometimes if you put up enough stink about not wanting to hike, you can get carried- well, only if you’re as cute as Skye. When you finally get to set up shelter, it takes a whole lot of cleaning and attempts to dry off to pretend you’re really warm and clean. It typically takes about three storms to accept that your former off white mutt is now the color of the mud you had been treading through. Have fun with it.
Sometimes you don’t ration and time your food correctly and need to get creative and make do with what you have as a family. Luckily, Skye is willing to eat peanut butter chicken and apple sauce and tuna with us so we don’t have to share kibble.
When the humans arrived at trail magic, they were always kind enough to share with Skye. Poor Skye sometimes had to have chicken freshly grilled, bacon and even hot dogs. (Is it cannibalism if a dog eats hot dogs?)
Skye took any opportunity she could to run through pretty much every form of water and to roll in the grass (among other things we don’t always care to share). The Ruffwear Palisades pack she was using had definitely seen better days.
If following her, I am sure to always have my heart pumping. Whether it be chasing her up a mountain, or trying to figure out what to do when she decides to eat a bee- in the middle of the woods- when you are 20 miles from the nearest animal hospital, it’s never a dull moment.
For someone who had never packed her own pack a day in her life, and probably had no idea what we were doing each day, she was the best backpacker I knew out there on the trail. She was always the happiest backpacker I saw on the trail too.
14 states, 4 seasons , and over 2000 miles. Dogs aren’t allowed in Baxter State Park where the end of the Appalachian Trail is. We made sure Skye was there with us in spirit.
By going on adventures together, we learn so much about each other and life. Always enjoy those simple pleasures of good company and a walk . Live in the now. Be loyal. Drink plenty of water and take the time to swim, or even just float. Follow your instincts. Keep chasing and digging for whatever it is you’re after. Don’t forget to stretch. Always get excited and love unconditionally.
Life’s ruff, get a dog.
As always, Happy Tails and Trails to you.