I genuinely believed that Sora would live to be at least 15. I know we all think our dogs will live to a ripe old age, but with her, I saw how much life she still possessed. I took note of the frequency of her zoomies, the speed at which she would chase after Laila, the voracity with which she would devour her food.
Last New Year’s Eve, Sora joined us for a 17.5 mile training run. Two months prior, in October, she had had a tumor removed, and was on very low activity rest for nearly three weeks. Then, she went through two rounds of electrochemotherapy in November. She was back running and hiking with us as her old self in no time.
As we increased our mileage, we thought for sure we’d have to cut her off. Ten miles, that will be her max. When she finished with a smile and wag of her tail asking to go longer, we brought her on our 12-miler. Our 14-miler the following weekend, New Year’s Eve, resulted in a few wrong turns and we tacked on 3.5 additional bonus miles for a total of 17.5 that day. I know she could have kept going. Two weeks later, she ran another 16 with me.
I felt so confident about her health and that we had finally tackled this cancer thing, after watching her keep up with us for all these miles at 12 years old.
Of course, our Sora was indeed immortal and her last days came much earlier than we had anticipated. Not even two months after that last 16-mile run, we found the cancerous growth had returned — just before heading out for a run, coincidentally. After that last surgery and cancer treatment she was never the same. You know the rest of the story. And if you don’t, well, here you go.
With three years to think about Sora’s death, it caused me to worry incessantly about her. Each time she threw up, had diarrhea, wouldn’t eat, didn’t jump high enough, whatever miniscule thing was wrong, I worried that this was it.
Paranoia and hypochondria aside, what Sora’s frequent bouts with cancer did was remind me of our limited time together and it helped me prepare for that inevitable day. While I constantly thought about The Very Bad Day, more importantly, I took advantage of the knowledge and made every.single.second together count.
And so, as we begin 2019 and you’re thinking of the year ahead, I encourage you to include your dog in your New Year’s resolutions or goals. Because, to put it bluntly, you never know when they will be called to leave this Earth. So you may as well make 2019 your best year together. The list below includes several fun activities to do with your dog. Use the ideas to create a bucket list of adventures and ways to spend time together.
If You Go, They Go
This has been our motto since deciding to bring Sora along on our bicycle tour across Europe and South America. Leaving her behind was never part of the plan. If we go, she goes. The same now is true for Laila (most of the time anyway, since she’s still learning how to behave).
Yes, it was challenging to bring Sora on a plane, cross international borders constantly, stay up to date on all of her vaccines, communicate in languages we didn’t speak that she’s afraid of people and other dogs, find pet friendly accommodations, etc. I could go on and on about all the challenges.
But we made a deal with her that we’d never leave her behind and so we made it work. We traveled in a way that made it easier for her to join us. We ate dinner in the dark and cold in a park because she wasn’t allowed alone in our hostel room. We skipped all of the beautiful parks in Patagonia because they do not allow dogs. We slept on the floor of a ferry with her to avoid putting her in freezing and loud kennel for 12 hours on a cross-island ferry in Greece. We pushed our bikes for 15 hours up and over a trail to make a border crossing before her paperwork expired. We constantly made sacrifices to have her along. But it was always worth the hassle.
Find All of the Dog-Friendly Places in Town
If you’re like me before we began traveling with our dogs, you probably assume that most places in cities are not that dog-friendly. During our travels, I asked more often, since I didn’t know the rules about dogs in different countries. I was surprised to discover the number of dog friendly restaurants, stores, and even some travel companies. So I started asking more once we were back home in the United States. After writing my 99 Awesome Dog-Friendly Things to Do in Portland article, I discovered, well 99 awesome things to do with a dog in Portland. These were things that I had no idea existed or would even think would allow dogs.
So, my challenge to you is to find those places that allow your dog and make a date with your pup to explore your city together.
Do Something outside of Your Comfort Zone
I found that bringing Sora, whether hiking alone, backpacking solo, or taking a short road trip, made it easier to face my fears. While she wasn’t able to help me with any physical challenges like setting up the tent for the first time by myself or dealing with a car breakdown, her presence simply gave me strength.
The most notable gift Sora gave me was my voice. I had to speak up often about her, as she could be randomly reactive. In the beginning, I felt shy and scared to talk to people about her issues and it often lead to altercations between the dogs. However, I quickly realized that I had to speak up for her sake. With practice, it became easier and far less scary.
Try a New Sport Together
When my dad and Dave purchased ski passes last winter, I decided to give snowshoeing a try. I didn’t want to get a ski pass, mainly because I couldn’t bring Sora along. Snowshoeing allowed us to continue on our winter adventures together. I discovered heaps of new trails to explore and also embraced the gray, rainy days knowing that it meant snow in the mountains.
Similarly, we tried paddle boarding during a visit to Bend and fell in love with the sport. So much so, we got our own paddle boards. Rental places are often dog-friendly, just be sure to call ahead and ask.
Take a Solo Trip
Sora and I did plenty of solo activities together, but only one small adventure that was just the two of us. I wish that we had done more. The one trip we took together was an overnight backpacking trip in WA. I had camped hundreds of times, but always with Dave. I had never done it on my own and this was a great opportunity to test my limits, but moreover, bond with Sora in a different way. When you have only yourself and your dog to rely on, it’s quite remarkable to see how it cements even the strongest of relationships.
Plan a Dog-Friendly Vacation
You don’t have to bike around the world like we did. I’m not talking doing something extravagant (unless, of course, you want to! Then go for it!). You don’t even have to travel that far. Simply plan a trip that involves your dog. Take a road trip, head out for a day trip, go camping for the week, visit the beach you’ve always promised you’d go to play fetch. Visit that place in your home state or country you’ve always dreamed of going to, but have never taken the opportunity before. And bring your dog.
You’ll be surprised at the number of activities you can find that are dog-friendly, as I mentioned earlier. Further, planning vacations around your dog often leads you to places you would never otherwise visit. Since so many activities are not dog-friendly, you find the ones that are, which lead to off-the-beaten-path gems.
Some of our favorite dog-friendly vacations include:
- Visiting the Willamette Valley’s Wine Country, in Oregon
- Spending a weekend at Suncadia in Cle Elum, WA
- Tossing treats across hemispheres at the Equator in Ecuador
- Cycling along Oregon’s Scenic Bikeways
Read 9 Tips to Make Traveling with a Pet Hassle Free for our suggestions and best practices.
Tackle a Challenge Together
There are endless outdoor challenges you can complete with your dog! Take a look on Instagram and you’ll notice that many doggos are joining their humans for the 52 Hike Challenge. My friend Amber completed both the Adirondack 46ers and the Catskills 3500 challenges with her dog, Ariel. Another friend attempted the Carolina Mountain Club’s Waterfall 100 last year. It’s likely that there is some sort of hiking challenge wherever you live.
If you are a runner, many cities host dog-friendly fun runs throughout the year. Trail runs tend to be more dog-friendly. Back in 2014, Sora and I completed the 20-mile Peterson Ridge Rumble in Sisters, OR. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, check out Rainshadow Running, who hosts several dog-friendly events.
Lastly, you don’t need to sign up for anything or attempt an organized challenge if you don’t want to. Make up your own goals. Run or hike or walk 2019 miles together this year. Or 1000. Start where you are at and reassess six months in. You can always change it. This is YOUR goal!
Discover New Places
My favorite way to find new trails is to use Google Earth or Maps.ME. Just zoom in to the green areas and look for trails. Sometimes, they’re duds, sometimes you find secret spots you’ll go back to again and again.
Alternatively, purchase a hiking book for the area in which you live, visit a new town you’ve heard of, find hikes on Wikiloc, Visit a local outdoors store and ask the staff where their favorite hikes are located. It could even be something simple, like trying out that awesome dog park you’ve always heard about, but have yet to visit.
Meet New Friends
Just about everywhere we visit, it seems that we have an Instafriend living in that same location. We often meet up with our social media friends when we travel. We’ve even gone on days long road trips specifically to meet people we know only through Instagram. I’ve taken visitors on hikes in Oregon and Washington and passed through towns we never otherwise would have were it not for Instagram.
All that said, Instagram is not the only way to make new friends who have dogs. Meetup groups are still quite strong in many locations around the world. Hiking and outdoors Facebook groups are also great places to meet new people in your area or where you may be traveling.
Teach Your Dog a New Trick
I love using tricks and training to bond with my dogs. I taught Sora new tricks up until she died. Dogs love to learn from us and it’s fun to show off their new skills to friends and family.
Use games to improve your dog’s recall or focus. Play hide and seek on the trail, hide their food around the house and make them find their dinner, or start agility classes. Not only will your dog be better behaved, but you’ll grow closer by working together.
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