Hiking With My Dogs Changed My Path In Life

Today’s blog is part of our Saturday Editorial Feature and sponsored by Zoopar. Zoopar has gear for the avid dog parent that loves to travel or hike. With accessories, harnesses, leashes and even pet toys, they have it all!

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that the Girl Person behind 2 Traveling Dogs, that’s me, well, I battle with depression.  And it is not just a battle I have fought for a short time, but for as long as I can remember.  It didn’t start because I had a bad life circumstance, or illness.  It was just…always…there. Kind of like that old friend who you don’t remember how you met.

Before Brickle and Digby, I really had no idea how bad my depression was.  Sure, I was diagnosed, and I went to doctor after doctor.  I went on pill after pill.  Treatments would work for awhile, and then stop working.  I would think that I could beat it myself, go off medications, and start that downward spiral that took all of the energy I had to pull myself out of it.  And although I have always considered myself a strong person when it comes to willpower, I could not will myself out of this one.  I took to overachieving and what some may call high-functioning depression.  I held down jobs, I took care of my grandparents’ property, took care of my family, and held it together.  Pretty.  Darn. Good. And I did this for years.  Many. Years.

I don’t tell you all of this for anyone to feel sorry for me, or to feel bad about treatments or therapies they choose for themselves.  No.  I tell you this simply because if I can help anyone, even just one person to feel better, and to make their dog’s life better in the process, then writing this dog blog for over seven years would have been worth every word.  Every tear.  Every late night ramble.

I was not really an “outdoorsy” girl growing up.  In fact, I wasn’t athletic, but clumsy.  I had little self confidence, and I never even pictured myself traveling.  When I look at my life’s picture now, I know that as a child, or young adult, I would have never recognized myself, because it was a long path to this spot.  And I am still going.

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Fast forward to 2009 when we adopted Peanut Butter Brickle.  It was apparent right away that Brickle wasn’t going to be one of those dogs that was content just to be a dog.  Yeah.  Brickle needed exercise, or he chewed up furniture.  He needed walks, or he ate our shoes.  He needed to play with other dogs, or he got sad.  I read every book I could.  I wanted him to be happy, yet all other dogs in my life before him had seemed to amuse themselves.  We didn’t know what to do except to adopt another dog!  So next came Digby Pancake.  And he was the most challenging dog I could have picked.  It took many months to realize that their well-beings were going to depend on one thing.  That they felt fulfilled.  That they had a job.  That they had a reason to get out of bed every day.  And I was no different.  What could be our job?  Together?

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I read that dogs liked schedules.  I had not started this blog, and we had not even thought about our first move to California, so traveling wasn’t even on my mind.  But something I read struck me.  I read that some dogs liked the job of hiking.  I read that dogs enjoyed trails and accomplishments and problem solving.  I read that this could make their behavior better.  That they could be happier.  And I thought to myself, you know, I could use a little exercise outside of my cubicle.  And I could spend more time with my dogs.

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But as we found our first, two mile trail that weekend, I second guessed my decision.  Could I really do this? Should I really do this?  Was I in good enough shape?  Was I safe out here?  What about snakes, or other animals on the trail?  Once again, my self confidence was nothing.  But as I forced myself out of that car, I will never…ever…forget the first five minutes.  The dogs. Were. Thrilled.  They sniffed, they each tried to lead on the path, and they were in their element.  Totally in their element.  I forgot my self doubt, I looked at my new hiking shoes, and I was me.  This was me.  This was unlike any pill I had ever taken.  I literally felt a cloud lift off of my chest and out of my head.  And I have never been the same.

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Sometimes, when we are trying to solve one problem in life, we are focused on what we think is the only way to face it.  Hiking wasn’t something that I aspired to take up.  But all of a sudden, here I was in the woods, noticing things.  Trees, birds chirping, normal parts of a day.  But when you have the Depression Monster, you are blind to these things.  No one was out here in the woods judging me, or worrying about what I was wearing. No one cared that I tripped over every tree root, or was slower than most.  It was just me and my dogs and no depression.  And that one trail changed my life.

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It wasn’t a conscious decision to keep hiking day after day.  It was like breathing.  I just did it.  And for those ten years that I was on medication, I have had ten more without.  The best medicine for me includes the outdoors, trails, travels, and you guessed it…dogs.  Because knowing that they are loving the journey just as much as I do makes me keep going.  I still wake up days with that heavy monster on my chest.  But when you know that two other lives are depending on you, you have to get up.  You have to keep going.  You have to walk that path.  Because being on the path together is life.

I often wonder how I would be today if I had not found this path in life.  I often wonder if my dogs would be as fulfilled.  Because that one path started us on the road to self confidence, to travel, to animal rescue, and to where we are today.  It’s a crazy place.  But I am happy our trails led us here.

If you are suffering with depression, you don’t have to go on a ten mile hike through the Appalachian Trail, or travel to 48 states in an RV like us.  Your path may be different.  But I will say that trying to make our dogs happy and fulfilled may be a great start to a path of happy.  And I think that it is worth a try.  You are worth a try. And your dog is saying…”let’s go!”

If you want to start on the path to hiking with your dog, you need some fun gear! We like Zoopar.  Zoopar’s mission to unleash a sense of adventure and curiosity we share our dogs.  Their vision is to strengthen the bonds between pets and their parents through high quality, durable and fashionable pet products. We love their harnesses, their travel gear, and their outdoor gear! Check them out! #Zoopar #UnleashYourNext

-Rachael Johnson, Owner and Girl Person of 2 Traveling Dogs

This post is sponsored by Zoopar.   I am being compensated to help share information about Zoopar, but 2travelingdogs.com only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. All statements made reflect my true opinion of the product. Zoopar is not responsible for the content of this article.

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Follow That Dream. Or That Bird.

This is Sheriff Peanut Butter Brickle.  Some things seem too good to be true. Like my handsome.  Some things seem highly unlikely.  Such as if there is anyone that stinks worse than Deputy Digby Pancake.  And some things are just crazy when they happen.  And you wonder.  Am I seeing what I am seeing?

You guessed it.  We got back to our camping spot here in Jacksonville, Florida.  And we got back to nature. The beach.  Our happy place.  And one. Red. Bird.  The Scarlet Pimpernel was back. And I thought, wow, this bird really is a stalker.  He keeps following us to our campsite here.  It was actually quite scary.  I started having flashbacks.

I sat on the couch and I looked at the Scarlet Pimpernel.  He had quite a fondness for this Big Blue Treat Wagon of ours.  No matter how many pieces of tape we put on the mirrors, or bags, he still had to look at himself and his reflection…not unlike myself.  But why in the world was he stalking us? Or why were we stalking him? We thought when we last left, that would be our final time together.

I thought and I thought about why such a literary and educated bird would want with a Big Blue Treat Wagon and driving us crazy.  What was he up to?  He wasn’t try to wake us up in the morning like birds usually do.  No…he was too late for that.  That wasn’t his job or his endeavor.

It was almost like he was trying to tell us something.  And this something must have been very important.  I can only imagine that when we drove back to that Tampa place that he may have been hitchhiking the whole time.  I thought that it would be pretty easy for a bird to catch the wind of a Big Blue Treat Wagon RV.  But why. Why. And then. It came to me.  He wanted to turn 2 Traveling Dogs into the 3 Musketeers.

You know, I have never thought that a bird would want to join our mission to “Make Rescues The Breed Of Choice”. I mean, why would a bird want to travel? Why would a red bird want to be in a blue RV? And then I thought, you know, I kind of do understand it.  To The Scarlet Pimpernel, he realizes that he could do so much more in life, and go further with a little help.  He can fly faster when he follows us and holds on. So many of us think that if we follow our dreams, we have to do it all alone.  Some of us think that we don’t need any help.  But following your dream can mean accepting help to get there and helping others get there too.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is distinguished and I have to admit, his red feathers are fit for royalty.  Red and brindle kind of go together, so I have decided not to arrest him.  The truth is, I particularly can’t figure out who is following who or who is teaching who? And I think that is the best part of all.  Just enjoying someone while we can, while letting them just be themselves is what we should do.  So Scarlet Pimpernel? We meet again in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.  You may have followed us to Tampa. We may have followed you back. But what we have started is more important.  A friendship.  And we can see where that leads.  I do have to warn you though. Deputy Digby only sees a candy bar when he hears 3 Musketeers.  So I would fly right.

-Sheriff Peanut Butter Brickle

Did you miss Girl Person making a special dessert for dogs? Get the full recipe and watch below.