Just My Dog and Me


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It has been almost 7 months since my best friend died in my arms.  During that time, I’ve been walking the line between the need to write this piece so I don’t forget her, an intense fear that I will begin to forget her and a desire not to cry, again, which I know will happen as I write this.  In the end, my desire to honor and preserve her memory in words won.  I only hope it does her justice.

Everyone has one. Or, at least, I hope everyone has one.  That dog that meant everything to you.  That dog that was your sidekick, your shadow, your counterpart, your best friend.

Scout was mine.

On a random Wednesday night in 2004 I found myself on the way to a horse sale in Cleburne, TX with a dear friend of mine, Deana. Deana ran a refuge for forgotten older horses whose mission was to prove these horses still had worth and worked to find them loving homes. We had been to horse sales regularly but never to this one.

As we sat there waiting for our picks to make their way through to the ring, two young girls walked through the crowded bleachers holding tiny puppies.  Blue heeler puppies.  I was still in a somewhat rebellious-blaze-my-own-trail sort of phase and my mom had once suggested that a heeler may be a good choice for me should I ever decide to get a dog. Because of those words, I hesitated.

I hesitated for exactly 0.05 seconds before making my way over to the blue Rubbermaid tub containing 9 tiny, blue puppies. One by one, I picked each one up.  There were boys and girls among the group most of whom had large black patches scattered throughout their little bodies.

Someone had told me once that you could tell if a puppy would turn out to be a good dog by whether they would let you hold them on their backs.  As silly as it sounds, as I held each puppy, I gently turned them on their backs and watched them squirm and wiggle in silent requests to return to their upright position.

The last puppy out of the bin was the tiniest of the crew.  Unlike her siblings, she had a single patch over her right eye.  She sat quietly in the corner of the tub, taking in her surroundings and, when I picked her up, I immediately knew.  Like the others, I gently turned her over and she remained quiet and put up no protest.  She was the one.

They wanted $75 for the puppies and I had brought no significant cash with me to the auction that night.  I went back to where Deana and I had been sitting, explained the situation and we took stock. We literally emptied our wallets, change purses, sifted through every pocket of our purses, I even went to the truck to troll through glove compartments and center consoles. At the end of it, we had $62.37.

They took it.

On the way home that night, she slept in my lap while I shared the news with my mom over the phone.  To my surprise, my mom seemed truly happy and her only complaint was that she hadn’t been there to help pick her out. In her mind, the only logical reprise was to let her choose the name.  Fair enough.

We both loved the book To Kill A Mockingbird and, though I still have no idea how this name came to her that night, she suggested Scout.

It was perfect.

From that day on, Scout was my constant companion.   She went everywhere with me.  She was happier sitting in my truck for hours on end vs. being confined to the house so that’s often where you’d find her.  She was like velcro and stuck to me anywhere and everywhere we went; no question.

When I returned to school in Colorado, Scout happily followed suit.  It didn’t matter where we were, so long as she was with me.  She subsequently accompanied me to an internship in Kentucky, my first real job in west Texas, my second real job in Louisiana and then, finally, back to Colorado where she would live out her years.

Each move she embraced with tentative acceptance by carrying her prized toy or bone to each room as I moved about to pack our things…as if I would forget her or it.

Whatever the activity, Scout was up for it.  I have no idea how many miles we went on horseback together but she was always there.  We hiked, we climbed, we snowshoed and we even kayaked together.  She had never sat on a kayak until she reached 7 years old but happily climbed on as soon as I asked and settled down between my legs.  She trusted me beyond all doubt and never fully understood what I’d done to deserve that.
When she lost her sight at age 11, I was devastated.  I thought that would be the end of our adventures but, boy, was I wrong.  She continued to hike with me, learned to navigate the house, and managed to keep her velcro status despite not being able to see me.  When we went kayaking, she just knew.   I’d unload the boats, turn around for a second only to turn back and find her sitting in our boat, ready to hit the water.

The decision to end her suffering came after a long battle with a fast-growing nasal tumor.  It was becoming increasingly hard for her to breathe and I could tell it was taking a toll on her, both cognitively and physically.  She was losing track of me in the house and would become panicked trying to find me, her respiratory rate was always high, she struggled to take a deep breath, she was constantly sleeping; it was the toughest call I’d ever had to make.

The last night of her life was a sleepless one.  I laid on the floor with her, I stroked her head, I constantly told her how much I loved her and what she meant to me.  When morning came, we took a walk around the yard and laid in the sunshine together.

I am lucky to have the friends that I do and my friend Dora, who also happens to be a local vet, kindly came to our home that day so that she could go in peace, in her familiar surroundings.  I don’t know that I have ever cried so hard.

Deana passed in 2013 and knowing that Scout has one of her very first friends to velcro to makes it a little easier to deal with both losses.

It’s hard to explain what a dog truly means to you, especially when she wasn’t just a dog; she was my best friend.  So many of us have similar stories but it seems that no matter how hard we try to explain, the significance of that presence in our lives is lost on others.  There will forever be a hole in my heart that only she will be able to fill, but I am so thankful for the almost 13 years that we had together.



She marked our trail,
Up the back bone ridge,
How many times can one dog pee,
She keeps me high as an eagle,
When i’m on the skids,
I guess you gotta come down eventually.

Buddy I coulda gone that extra mile,
For an extra bark or an extra smile,
‘Cause i never felt so free,
It was just my dog and me.

Then she gives me that look,
Like she’d lay down her life,
No doubt she would in a minute, man,
She’d face the bullet,
Oh she’d face the knife,
Just to keep my butt from the fryin’ pan.

Now she’s runnin’ up ahead to chase some deer,
Comes back to tell that coast is clear,
It’s a different world I see,
When it’s just my dog and me.

There’s a rabbit on the run,
Man and beast and sky and sun,
Who’s talking to the birds in the trees,
Why its just my dog and me,

Now it looks like we’ve been makin’ tracks,
From the crack of dawn,
To the end of the day,
So its nice and easy down the devil’s back,
She wouldn’t know,
Any other way.

So its over that ridge for one last mile,
‘Til we’re fast asleep by the fire side,
Dreamin’ these dreams for free,
Just my dog and me.

– John Hiatt

The Importance of Girl Time

I’m what you’d call the “outdoorsy” type.  I’d much rather spend time in a tent than a 5-star hotel, I prefer foil wrapped meals over an open fire to fancy cuisine and I gauge how good my summer was by how much I smell like horse and the state of my Chaco tan.  The fact of the matter is, its difficult to find women who share the same interests and so I often find myself hangin’ with the boys or going solo.

And that’s not a bad thing.  In addition to being an OG (outdoorsy girl), I’m also an introvert.  A big one.  And that lends itself to alone time quite nicely.

It’s been so long since I’ve spent any amount of time with a group of like-minded women that I’d forgotten how nice it really is to be surrounded by “your kind.”

This past weekend, a group of girls and I made our way to Saratoga, WY for the weekend. 17265175_10155216538029180_3459162084689884485_n One of the girls I’ve known for a bit, one I’ve met a few times and one I’d never met.  I had my reservations about how it would go and, I am happy to report, those reservations went by the wayside 15 minutes into the trip.

When you’re in school, its fairly easy to meet new friends.  Hell, I met my best friend on the playground in 4th grade and she’s still my person.  When you go to college, you live in dorms and become close to the people in your hall, though that’s largely due to proximity, not shared interests.  After college, you meet people at work but those relationships are often hindered by not wanting to disturb your professional image by getting drunk in front of them and having it get back to your boss.

The point is, meeting new people that you could actually create a lasting friendship with is hard as an adult.  Let alone an adult woman with outdoor hobbies.

Last weekend was a chance occurrence, but one that I’m glad I took part in and one I look forward to having again.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with Hike Like A Woman as an Ambassador for the past year.  I applied for this program not really knowing what it entailed or how it would change my outlook.

17264464_10155216538444180_4682156587548029843_nUpon joining, I found a community of women just like me from all over the world.  Since that time, I’ve joined several other groups for outdoor women and women who manage websites surrounding the outdoor lifestyle and I’ve been invited to participate in the Wild Women’s Project.  The network of women with shared interests and the effect they have on the outdoor industry (as well as one another) is truly astounding.

I have so many goals for 2017, many of which involve this website, but one of the main ones is to increase the number of strong, outdoor-loving women I surround myself with.  Because of this, when the opportunity arose to host the local chapter of Hike Like A Woman, I jumped.

You can join the Hike Like A Woman Northern Colorado group on Facebook and participate 17202921_10155216538629180_4000046715376695219_nin hikes throughout NoCo with me and (hopefully) many others.

My hope for this group is that it will allow all of us involved an easy outlet to meet like-
minded women.  Think of it as the 4th grade playground.  And, if you want to join us on the playground, our first hike is March 18, 2017 at 9am at the Lower Dadd Gulch Trailhead.  You can RSVP on the Facebook page and I hope to see you there!


Horseman’s Holiday Gift Guide

If you’re like me, you’ve managed to leave your holiday shopping to the very last possible second.  Thank goodness for Amazon!  Here are some great gift ideas for the horsey/outdoorsy person in your life and, for anyone keeping track, these are on my wishlist as well…

Big Agnes Helinox Chair


I’m always at a loss on how to best transport a chair to the backcountry.  Usually, this item falls under the non-essential category due to weight and awkwardness but, at just 1.9 pounds and packing down to 14″x4″x5″, the Helinox Chair from Big Agnes has put itself closer to the top of my list!




Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow


I freely admit I am a bit of a princess.  I love pillows and feel strongly that you should not have to give up on comfort in the backcountry.  This pillow gets excellent reviews on Amazon and comes highly recommended from my Hike Like A Woman counterparts.  Best of all, it fits nicely into a tiny little stuff sack about the size of your hand and weighs in at next to nothing!


Wealers 7 Piece Camping Cookware Set



Again, due to awkwardness and size, utensils almost never make it onto the trail with me.  This little kit provides all the essentials wrapped in a neat little package!  Tongs, spatula, ladle, knife, scissors, rice paddle and even a small cutting board – what else do you need?



Etekcity Ultralight Camping Stove



Let’s face it, having a JetBoil would be nice but not all of us are millionaires!  I got this $10 beauty for Christmas last year and it gets the job done.  This little stove packs into a small plastic case that could fit into your pocket and works with any commercially available propane base.



Ultralight Camping Hammock 



One word: hammock.  If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, you should.  I bought myself one of these ultralight hammocks from Appalachian Outdoor Supply a few years back and it goes EVERYWHERE with me.  And, at just 1 pound and only $19.95, why wouldn’t it?


Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack


Our dogs carry their weight when they come with us and the Ruffwear packs are great.  They are equipped with plenty of room for all your dog’s essentials, very adjustable and ergonomic.  With 5 sizes to choose from, there’s a perfect fit for every dog!



Lawson Hammock Blue Ridge Camping Hammock


As an avid hammock fan, the tent-hammock combo has been intriguing to me, both from a comfort and practicality standpoint.  It’s hard to find tents that fit well into a backpack or in a saddle bag and this tent hammock weighs in at just 4.25 pounds and eliminates the need for a sleeping pad all together!


Cashel Medium Pommel Saddle Bag

saddle-bagIn all seriousness, this is one of the best purchases I ever made.  I use this bag every single time I ride as it’s small, lightweight, holds what I need for a day ride and provides easy access while still being out of the way.  There are pockets that hold two water bottles (or 4 cans of bee…coke), an outside pocket for your phone and a clip for your keys so they don’t get lost.  This company makes plenty of options for English riders, too!


Diamond Wool Saddle Pad

padLet’s face it, your saddle pad can make or break your ride (and your horse).  I have had incredibly good luck with the Diamond Wool pads.  My horses have never had a saddle sore, ingrown hair and are never excessively sweaty.  Also, these pads dry pretty quickly are easy to care for and don’t break the bank.



A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. Dirtbags can be distinguished from hippies by the fact that dirtbags have a specific reason for their living communaly and generally non-hygenically; dirtbags are seeking to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle.

Urban Dictionary 

Who would’ve thought that the term “dirtbag” would become one of endearment?  The ever-evolving term still embraces the above definition but, on the whole, you don’t necessarily need to be unemployed and homeless to be considered a part of the dirtbag community anymore.

1185067_10151949969984180_2103682320_nThere are literally thousands of self-proclaimed dirtbags embracing the term and all it entails.  They live life to the fullest extent they can, honing their skills and searching for the next adrenaline rush.

So, here’s my problem:  Why are backcountry riders excluded?

In fact, its my experience that the outdoor community as a whole tends to exclude riders as members of the dirtbag crew.  While I’m sure part of it is the stigma that surrounds the mounted community (the same one that labels us as gun-toting, Copenhagen chewing, cowboy hat wearing, shit kicking hicks), I submit that we are of the same extreme, gutsy, carpe diem embracing, athletic caliber as any run-of-the-mill dirtbag.

11817279_10153680112749180_6867035685571912994_nYes, I do carry a gun, and wear a cowboy hat a lot of the time, and my significant other always has a dip in, and am often kicking shit off my boots, but why does that exclude me and my kind from the extreme outdoor sporting community?

So, with that, here are 5 solid reasons riders can be considered a legit part of the dirtbag community:



Yes, my fellow dirtbaggers, we riders are just as dedicated to our sport and our lifestyle as you are.  When you get up before dawn to hit the road to the trailhead, we’ve already been up for hours feeding the horses, loading the trailer, checking tire pressure and readying our gear.  See, we have a considerable amount of logistics to take into account outside of our daily goal and that takes time and preparation.

15089_10151984030579180_1310855075_nWhile a few exceptions exist, the majority of riders I’ve met (myself included) have been in the saddle from an early age – some of us were riding before we could walk.  Traditionally thought of as a “rich person sport,” those of us without the steady cash flow to afford it, did whatever we could to stay in the saddle.  We adapt to fill the need for horse hair and dirt – just as you do in order to climb El Capitan.

Unfortunately, while inevitably appealing, the unemployed-I-live-in-my-van lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to our culture.  Much like a child (though arguably more fun), we have a being dependent on us for food, shelter and water.  Most backcountry riders have at least 2 jobs to make this happen (currently, I have 4).  If that’s not dedication I don’t know what is.


940855_10154048180919180_4093242332917061510_nSure, we have a horse and that means we can carry a little bit more than you but, in truth, not much.  The fact of the matter is that, while pack strings are nice, they’re not a logical choice for many of the places we like to go (which just so happen to be many of the same places you like to go).  Having an extra horse or two, or even a llama, can be a definite advantage in certain circumstances but the majority of us hit the trail as a duo; 1 horse, 1 rider.

If you’re spending any amount of time in the backcountry, the same rules apply to riders as they do to backpackers.  Just as you do, we lighten our load, we make important decisions on what to include and what to cut and we do our best to make our packs comfortable.  The difference is, we not only have to pack and make our load comfortable for ourselves, but for our horses, too.

An ill fitting pack can rub, make your muscles unduly sore and lead to a truly crummy time on the trail.  As a rider, if your horse ends up with a saddle sore from an uneven or overweighted load, you’ll be carrying a 50lb saddle back along with your pack.  Needless to say, we’ve mastered the art of minimalism.


12079149_10153822412279180_1234049767084560464_nAs a dirtbag, you live for the days when you are miles away from anything remotely resembling civilization.  Backcountry riders do, too.  You relish the anti-social lifestyle and long to be in the silence of nature.  Backcountry riders do, too.  In fact, many of us prefer the company of our horse over the company of people (I know I do).

A purveyor of the outdoor lifestyle, you dirtbags often spend time giving back to the areas you spend time in.  Backcountry riders do, too.  While you may think of us as walking poop machines, riders are actually extremely active in maintaining their local areas and advocates for the wilderness areas we frequent.


While my horse may have a hard time scaling a rock face or catching a wave, there are very few places we can’t get to…one way or another.  It can be a challenge to find an equine partner with the balls to take on questionable river crossings, shaky, shale rock trails and above treeline storms without question.  When you do, you know you’ve got a lifer.

200090_10151731143044180_1551779171_nOn foot, all you need to worry about is getting yourself from point A to point B.  On horseback, we’re constantly looking ahead for the next obstacle and determining the best route for our four-legged counterpart.  If you’re lucky, you end up with a “beer drinking” horse who is an expert navigator but, even then, it’s still our duty to know what lies ahead.

When in route, there’s little that can stop a true dirtbag from reaching their goal.  Riders are no different – we might just have to get a little creative.


There is little else that can compare to the thrill of grabbing mane and trusting the 1100lb creature under you to carry you up a rocky face to a steep summit.  The 65306_10151633283199180_1170511237_nuneven ground beneath their feet wiggles and gives way between strides, your weight shifts in the saddle with each step and you glance backward for just a moment, forgetting the nearly 90 degree incline you’re on before turning back around quickly.

When you reach the top, you take a deep breath.  Your horse breathes heavy beneath you and you feel weak from the adrenaline coursing through your body.  He shifts his footing a bit as its still questionable and just then you realize if he shifts 2 more inches to the left, you’ll tumble down the way you came.  Oh lord, now you have to get back down…

When it comes down to it, we riders are just as dirtbag as the rest of you; we use the much of the same gear, travel the same trails and seek the same thrills.  So, why then, are we outcasts?  The outdoor community has long been inclusive of people from all walks of life, all backgrounds and all interests…except, seemingly, those of us on horseback.

If a voracious love of the outdoors is the basis of dirtbag life, then consider me, and my horse, a dirtbag.