April 25, 2021

Happy Tails, Until We Meet Again

userBy Gwen Dildine user2 Comments

This Earth Day, we lost a part of our world, our beloved German Shepherd, Seren. Reflecting on over eleven years wandering the Pacific Northwest with her, I realized that she and her brother, Micah, were likely the reason I started writing all those years ago. In fact, she even wrote a guest blog, and I can prove it. Always the pack leader, Seren put in just as many miles building this site as Steve and I have. Given that conclusion, I owe her one last post.

A Growing Family

Our journey starts in College Place walking Walla Walla University’s campus before dawn and watching the sunset from wheat fields near Martin Field Airport. Our sweet neighbors placed a ladder on their side of the fence so they could reach the dogs and pet them at will. They joined us on road trips through Montana, and I can still remember the look on Seren’s face the first time she saw a buffalo.

Twin Sisters (Photo Credit: Steve Dildine)

The centerpiece of many photographs of our adventures, Seren was always polite on the trail despite her intense focus on the task at hand. She would pack her own snacks, motivate the family up a hill, and try to convince everyone to do it all again the next day.

I have many pictures of nursing our babies on hillsides, atop mountain peaks, with my feet dipped in a river, always surrounded by Seren’s watchful eye. Micah was more focussed on sneaking in a nap when the opportunity presented itself. Sharing the adventure with all members of the family is soul soothing. It is no secret that being in nature is healing. “Studies demonstrate that outdoor recreation delivers personal and social benefits on which healthy, happy communities thrive,” and I would add healthy, happy families (Outdoor Recreation Economy Report, 2017).

I often close my eyes, take a deep breath, and think of one particularly moody day near Zig Zag Trailhead looking out at the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness Area. It was spring, a storm was rolling in, and I truly don’t have the words to describe how beautiful it looked and felt. Ironically, the site would have been perfect for any Earth Day campaign.

Dogs & Nature for Emotional Health

Those with dogs experience a similar joy snuggled up by a campfire or attempting to share a tent. I’m guessing regret is just part of grieving. Not appreciating what we have until it’s gone–the sound of her flopping at my feet when I sit down to work on the website as everyone sleeps; her ability to pick the exact spot in the garden where I was going to work to take a nap; or her endearing patients with one little girl in particular who loved to brush her hair.

Grouse Mountain Trail (Photo Credit: Steve Dildine)

This was our daughter’s first hike without long stretches on dad’s shoulders. The Grouse Mountain Trail is one of our favorite family hikes, just challenging enough to build character and incredibly rewarding views the entire trip.

Appreciating All Things Big & Small

As I scroll through my Instagram feed desperately searching for a distraction, Earth Day is yet another profound reminder to appreciate our world before it is too late. I’m willing to guess that, no matter what your registered party, ensuring those soul soothing, family bonding experiences live on is worth action before left to regret and reflection. There are countless ways to engage in the betterment of our planet that are meaningful to you. As outdoor enthusiasts, one of the best things we can all do is leave no trace when recreating, which includes packing out the dog poop. Trust me, it isn’t always fun. Remember, we hiked with two German Shepherds for a decade.

The last hike Seren went on was with Steve, and they ventured into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness past Oregon Butte on the Smooth Ridge Trail. Even in her old age, Steve preferred her company and exceptional fitness level on the more remote trips. Since that trip, she enjoyed nightly walks around town, and I’m pretty sure she deserves credit for babysitting for the first few months of the pandemic as the kids transitioned to being alone in the morning while we worked.

Bridger Mountain, Montana (Photo Credit: Nannette Goyer)

Our babies were thrown in a wrap or backpack from the day they were born (okay a few exhausting weeks after the day they were born). At every stop to feed, change, or stretch, Seren was always by my side. I’ll spare you the more intimate proof of this, but behind her more serious side was a whole lot of nurturing.

It seems so obvious–family and the outdoors. The health and preservation of both demand a thriving planet. On this heartbreaking evening when it feels like we lost the center of our universe, I find myself wondering what will it take for us to save our world?

Belated happy Earth Day, and thank you sweet girl for being fiercely dedicated to your pack and making my time on this Earth full of fur and love.