I adopted my first dog, Wiley in 1998, my good friend JT adopted Tucker T at the same time. We were roommates at the time and throughout the dog’s lives they were never apart more than a few weeks. We hiked the CT together with our dogs in 2000, spending 40 days and nights together. We did so many hiking, camping, skiing trips together it is not countable. I spent more time in more serious situations with my dog and T as well, than any other person, creature, ever.
Wiley died in 2011, two weeks before the start of the Tour Divide. It brutalized me, It took weeks and months to not start crying at the thought of her gone, no longer here on this earth. Every time I turned around I expected to see her eyes and face looking at me, wondering what we were going to do next. I think back and it was the TD that made it possible to get over her loss and move on. I still cry when I think of her and the way she approached life, Full On.
Now two years later her crazy ornery brother is starting to fade, it seems to scratch at the wound that Wiley left. I just can’t get it in my head that they will be all gone, the tenacity, the go for it that no human can match, gone. Nothing like watching your best friend die, die of old age when you are still relatively young.
I suppose I don’t have as many human connections that go as deep as I did with my dog and her brother. I mean I love my family, my friends, but that dog was something else. She stood by me when I was a struggling to find myself, my place, through snow storms, thunder storms, mental storms, drunken nights, so many girlfriends, rentals, jobs, still always there. Always ready for anything. Her brave smile, the loving way she approached life, will never leave me completely. Now it turns the knife in my chest thinking of her brother leaving us as well.
Few people have done what Wiley did in 13 years or what Tucker has in 15 years, most would just be getting their drivers permit. T’s hiked the CT, the CO section of the CTD, skiied countless mountains, cross country loops than he could shake a stick at, plus countless backpacking trips, runs, bike rides and frisbee sessions. It is just so painful to watch a being with so much energy and love of life fade away. I think us humans could take a cue from the way dogs take things on, not with doubt and fear, but jump in with a big smile and figure it out. My friend Erin Roberts wrote a song, Animals Should Live Forever. I love that song and I am borrowing the title. Perhaps if we humans lived life like so many dogs do, the world would be a better place. For all the wonderful dogs out there that brightened our lives, accompany our adventures and eventually slip away from us, we miss you beyond words.
So long as memories of you exist, we will think of you and love you. Wiley Jean, Tucker T, Sparky and countless others not so sure where you may end up, may you rest in peace.