Life Lessons learned from a pocket-sized adventure pup

“I think your dog has an issue.” our dinner guest observes, pointing uncertainly towards the little white fluff ball dragging his bum across the carpet.

“Oh, gaw. MAX. No!” The fluff ball stops, mid-scoot, hind legs up in the air and blinks at us. With very few teeth to his name, his pink tongue sticks out the front of his mouth.

I shrug at our guest, pick up the fluff ball and throw him out into the snowy 14 degree weather. “He had an itch. He’ll work it out, out there.”

Majestic beast, not so good at first impressions.

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Now 12 years old, Max and I have been together too long for me to be any sort of embarrassed. He’s my ride-or-die, my four-legged soulmate, my adventure buddy; but I’ve eaten watermelon that weighs more than he does. Many people doubt his capabilities as an adventurer, my boyfriend included.

“Let’s bring Max!” I proclaim and Taylor, on any day, is suddenly defeated. Do we have to? He’s too small, too slow. He requires extra attention and extra gear.

“Yes,” I say. He’s my ride-or-die.

I’m not largely a social person. There are very few individuals, dogs included, I would invite so consistently on adventures (adventures get complicated), but Max is one of them. Why? He exhibits all the characteristics of a great, backcountry explorer.

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Covering a surface area of less than half a square foot, can Max hike 8 hour days? Chase along my cross country skis? Climb mountains? Traverse waterfalls? Not really. But like any successful adventurer, Max has the willingness to try anything. It’s not the skill, strength or gear that gets you up and over that mountain; it’s the attitude.

Max, unless deprived of his evening dinner, does not complain. If he has an itch, he’ll figure out a way to scratch it. A simple three-word question, inquired with the proper inflection, proves his sheer willingness to do anything. “You wanna….go?!” Chaotic howls and dancing from my tiny prancer ensues. He has no idea where he’s going but he’s 100% down to take it on.

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That’s all I can really ask for. And more than I’ve received from many humans.

A few years back, I traveled into the backcountry with some physically fit, sport-inclined strangers. One of the biggest guys in our crew, tall, muscular, a rugby star, complained to no end. He poured out community water so he wouldn’t have to carry it. He faked injuries. He drove everyone nuts for weeks, before returning to the front country and his sport scholarship.

A book by its cover, I suppose.

Many people often ask me about my job, what it is I actually do, how I manage to spend so much time outdoors and get paid to do so. Though I’m no guru, I help and offer advice when I can. “Come out with me for a weekend,” I say. “We’ll go camp and I’ll show you.”

Rarely ever is my offer accepted, which doesn’t affect my bottom-line, but speaks volumes about a person’s willingness. They want to know, but they don’t really want to go. 

Willingness. Communication. A good attitude. Those are the only real necessities for a successful backcountry adventure; a successful life, if you ask me.

Max can’t carry his weight in water. He’ll communicate if he’s struggling with something, and our hiking party can adjust accordingly. I’m willing to carry Max on occasion, because he’s willing to get out there and try, and not afraid to tell me if something is beyond his ability. More than I can say for our rugby star.

The backcountry has taught me how to be a better camper, but the difficulties I’ve overcome out in the field have taught me invaluable lessons I bring into my work life too. Max, my 12 lb. warrior, isn’t physically able to do it all, but he’s always ready to try. If he fails, that won’t change a thing.

Maybe more people should be like my little butt-scooter.

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