Category Archives: Dogs

Doggies Running in White Sands

One of the places on my Bucket List that we got to visit on our trip was White Sands National Monument.  Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve wanted to wander over the miles and miles of desolate white sand dunes and pretend that I’m Lawrence of Arabia.

As much as we enjoyed this beautiful desert monument, the dogs loved it even more.  Since there were no established trails, and the nearest other person was over a half-mile away, the dogs got to run around off the leash.  Although the top layer of sand was warm in the winter sun, the sand underneath was cool, soft and comfy on the dogs’ paws.

It didn’t take long for Shadow to start running and Darby to chase after him.  I’ve never seen a dog who loved to run as much as Shadow.  His long legs and strong stride made him hard to catch but a wonder to watch.

But Darby was no slouch herself.  Though she couldn’t hope to keep up with speedy Shadow, Darby was smart and cunning.  She’d chase Shadow just enough to get him running, then stand idly by until he started to tire.  Then Darby would position herself at a choke point to catch Shadow as he ran by.

It’s sad to think that blind Shadow will never run like the wind again.

YouTube Preview Image

Dark Skies Ahead for Shadow

2012 was a great year for the four us—Theresa & me, and our dogs Darby & Shadow.  We saw more amazing natural features in a year than most people see in a lifetime.  But we realized that tough times would come in the future.  It’s inevitable as we age and life goes on.

Unfortunately those tough times came a little sooner than we expected.  Our beloved dog Shadow is blind. 

Shadow has been diagnosed with SARDS–Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome.  SARDS is a disease in dogs that causes sudden and permanent blindness.  It’s an idiopathic disease, meaning that it arises spontaneously from obscure or unknown reasons.  Possible causes include autoimmune disease, toxins, elevations in adrenal sex hormones, and other disease.  SARDS destroys the eye’s retina, which cannot regenerate, and there is no known treatment.

This came on rather suddenly.  I first noticed the symptoms Saturday when Shadow had trouble catching treats that I tossed to him.  He wasn’t the world’s best catch before that, so I wasn’t alarmed, but something seemed amiss.  On Sunday, Shadow had trouble finding treats placed on the floor in front of him.  By this morning (Monday) Shadow wasn’t able to see treats I held right in front of his face, so of course I took him to the vet.  The doctor confirmed that Shadow is losing his eyesight and will be completely blind within days.

When we returned home after receiving the bad news from the vet, I took Darby and Shadow for a hike, figuring it would be one of our last hikes when Shadow could run around off the leash.  Of course I hiked along wide trails and avoided any cliffs.  Shadow’s near-eyesight is gone, but he seems to have enough far-sight to distinguish the wide trail from the bushes along the edge.  Hence Shadow was a little cautious in his movements, but he did well and seemed to have fun.  That’s the wondrous thing about dogs: every walk is grand event.

Darby seems to sense that something is wrong with her brother.  Instead of running off in the woods like she normally does, Darby stayed on the trail the entire way and back, which is very rare for her.  Shadow followed behind Darby and stayed pretty close to her much of the time.

When hiking on our adventure last year, Shadow was always the group leader out in front of the pack, followed by Darby, Theresa, and then me taking up the rear.  I’ve lost count how many times Shadow would fearlessly walk right up to the edge a steep cliff, look all around and survey the land below.  We often joked that the dogs weren’t really enjoying the view beyond the squirrel six feet away. 

But in those moments when Shadow was laying peacefully on a cliff, one paw crossed over another and hanging off the edge of the abyss, I believe he truly appreciated the massive expanse of spectacular wilderness that stood before him.

Shadow enjoying the view

(Shadow at cliff’s edge in Makoshika State Park, Montana in May 2012)

Darby Chasing Shadow on Kluane Lake

YouTube Preview Image

The dogs loved dispersed camping because it meant they could run free.  And it wouldn’t take long before Darby would inevitably chase Shadow. 

This video shows our RV parked along the edge of beautiful Kluane Lake in Yukon, Canada.  The lake’s water level was surprisingly low for early summer, and our RV was a quarter-mile from the water’s edge.  When we returned by Kluane Lake in August, all of this sand–where we are standing and the dogs are running–was under water.

Kluane Lake is the largest lake in the Yukon, covering nearly 154 square miles or 100,000 acres.  We spent a lot of time walking along the lakeshore and hiking the Kluane Mountains that you see rising behind the RV in the video.

Our Little Travel Companions

Our dogs Darby and Shadow have become excellent travel companions.

Darby giving me the look that she wants to be petted

In the beginning of our trip, Darby was a nervous traveler and would get especially jittery whenever our RV would cross a cattle grate or rumble strip on the road.  But over time she settled down, and now she’s quite calm on travel days.  Darby always sits or lays down on the floor between the driver and passenger seats.  When Theresa is driving, Darby often looks up at me with her cute brown eyes, as if to say, “Please pet me!”


Darby and Shadow in the Rainforest

Darby and Shadow in the rainforest

The dogs took a break on a long, steep climb up to a mountain pass in the Olympic National Forest, Washington.  Shadow was so tired that he fell asleep on our short break!  Darby kept a watchful eye on us while we grabbed a quick snack.  Notice the cute little “Alfafa” hair (from Little Rascals) on top of her head. 


Shadow and Darby on Marmot Pass

After a 6-mile hike and 3500-foot climb, we reached the top of Marmot Pass with a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains.  Though our dogs are in terrific shape, they took our lunch break as an opportunity to catch a few winks.  What they really wanted to do was chase the marmots in the nearby boulder field, but we wouldn’t let them. 

We had a brief scare on the hike back down the trail.  Shadow got lost for about 10 minutes.  Theresa and Darby stayed put, while I hiked back toward the pass.  Fortunately I passed by a couple that saw Shadow running up the trail, so I yelled for him, and a few minutes later he came running down the trail, so happy to see me!

Darby the Grill Inspector

Darby inspecting the grill

Darby loves to inspect the BBQ grill at each new campsite.  You never know when there might be a leftover hot dog or marshmallow in the fire pit!

What Do You Mean You Forgot Our Treats?

Darby is not too happy that we forget her treats

Sometimes when we go on short hikes, we only bring one pack with us.  Which also means that sometimes we forget things that are stored in the other pack that we leave behind in the car.  Such as in this case today, we forgot the dog treats.  D’oh!  Darby was not too happy about it.

Our First National Grasslands

Shadow and Darby watch a thunderstorm

Shadow and Darby watched as a thunderstorm raged in the distance over Buffalo Gap National Grasslands in southwestern South Dakota.


Best Friends

Shadow and Darby sitting in the warm sun in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Shadow and Darby are adopted brother & sister and best friends.  Darby is fiercely independent, while Shadow is very dependent, so they make a good team.  Here they are sitting in the warm sun after breakfast at our campsite in Vermillion Cliffs.


Darby: Portrait in Still Life

Darby in the Mojave

I was experimenting with my camera’s built-in filters in the Mojave National Preserve and snapped this amazing textured black & white photo of Darby with her wire-hair blowing in the wind.  Click on the photo to see the fine detail.