I couldn’t have a dog, but nothing could stop me from reading every dog book I could find.
Week after week I’d return my favorite dog stories book to the Colonial Village Library, only to check it back out again immediately. I can still hear the crinkle of its cellophane jacket, smell the musk of its worn pages, see the card tucked inside its back-cover pocket, only my name on each of its lines, over and over, front and back. I was addicted to stories of sled dogs, police dogs, Seeing Eye dogs, and more.
But my mom had made it clear from the very beginning: Dogs deserve tons of attention. She said if I wanted a dog, I’d need to be completely committed to caring for one. It just wouldn’t be fair to leave a dog home alone. So, growing up in New York, my three siblings and I were simply told ‘you’ll just have to wait until you grow up.”
When I did grow up and got a house of my own and a job with an easy commute, I knew it was finally time! Riley, my first Australian Shepherd, with his blue eyes and splotchy brown coat was the dog I’d been waiting for my whole life. I was addicted to his puppy breath and silly nature. I left him alone as little as possible, but when I did, Mom’s words rang through my head, so I started bringing Riley everywhere! Road trips had to be dog-friendly, outside restaurants only, and if I were running an errand he’d happily wait in the passenger seat. I’d even sneak him into the office whenever I could.
When Riley was 5 I learned he had hip dysplasia. His diagnosis drove me to find even more ways to include him in my life, to make each day count. I was an avid climber, but I knew it was time to find a more dog-friendly outdoor challenge… This is how we came to discover supping.
Out on the water we found something special. Learning to stand up paddle with Riley changed both of our lives: it soothed us and deepened our bond. I learned that it’s not how far or how fast you go that makes an adventure special, it’s who you bring along.
My second Aussie, Kona, came into our lives for three reasons, but only two were clear to me at the time. Firstly, I wanted Riley to have a companion on those rare occasions when I couldn’t bring him along and, second, as much as I hated to think about it, I knew I’d need Kona when the time came for Riley to leave us.
The third reason that I couldn’t have predicted, was that while I was still training a particularly difficult Kona puppy, I lost my mom. She was just 59 when she died, and all of a sudden Kona’s Velcro attachment to me became less of a nuisance and more of a comfort. Her constant closeness helped me heal, reminding me of my mother’s eternal love and her adamant message to shower attention on the dogs who brighten our lives.
These days, the three of us are always together, whether it’s on the water, out on the trails, or traveling the country, nobody gets left at home. It’s not always easy, but life is just better shared. When we meet fellow adventurers who’ve left their dogs at home it always breaks my heart. In 2013 I wrote How to SUP With Your PUP and Paddle Tails to help more people find ways to include their dogs in their adventures. My passion is teaching about and sharing the friendship and healing we can find with our dogs, together in nature. And of course, spreading my Mom’s message, in the pursuit of one goal: #nodogleftathome.