We just received this note from Bethany Soxman and her Belgian Malinois, Grizby sharing their tale of thu-hiking the Continental Divide Trail together this past summer. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail runs for 3,100 miles connecting Canada to Mexico along the continental divide.

Help us congratulate Bethany and Grizby for what they believe is the first canine thru-hike of the trail and an amazing accomplishment! Read her story below and learn more by reading Bethany’s blog.


This summer my dog was (I’m fairly certain) the first to complete a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail.

We began our adventure June 20th at Chief Mountain in Glacier National Park on the Canada/Montana border. We hiked through 5 states: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. We made it to the New Mexico/Mexico border on November 14th. Grizby’s character and big heart was shown throughout the trip; from the rough water crossings where the Web Master Harness saved him from being washed down stream to a waterfall cliff, to the harsh terrain along the top of the divide, he endured long waterless hot stretches through the Great Divide Basin, and freezing temperatures hiking through fresh snow in Colorado.

IMG_2132He definitely made the hitches into towns easier as most dog people picked us up right away. He even received some trail magic including a thick slab of venison.

Most dogs would not have been able to survive the trail but being a Belgian Malinois, his work ethic is unbeatable. Even with sore pads, as soon as I picked up my backpack he would immediately get up and get right on trail.

On average he carried 10lbs. of food (4 day ration) and my hiking partner or I would carry the rest. We averaged 20-25 mile days. Grizby came in handy at times finding the trail when it was covered with snow, sniffing out springs, and even swam across a stream and retrieved a sock I had left behind (It took me about 5 minutes to figure out how to teach him to do that).

Grizby truly embraced the brutality of the CDT. To see our whole story, you can read my blog at bethanysoxman.blogspot.com.


33 thoughts

  1. I think what’s a bigger concern than exactly how Grizby qualifies as a service dog, is the absolutely idiotic rules prohibiting dogs from the trails in the first place. They have as much right (if not more) to get out and enjoy our country’s protected wild spaces as any human hiker! C’mon, let’s get our priorities straight here.

  2. “Bethany Soxman is a full-time staff trainer [at Crossroads Pet Resort] working in all facets of our training program. She currently has two rescue dogs; a Pitbull/Shepherd mix and a Belgian Malinois with whom she currently competes with in French Ring Sport. She has first hand experience with aggression, having to overcome some behavioral issues with her Malinois, so she can relate to owners with similar problems and enjoys helping owners rehabilitate their own dogs. Along with the other trainers, she is always expanding her knowledge by studying and attending seminars by top trainers.”

    But no mention of “service dog” knowledge, experience, or training seems like a pretty serious oversight.


    1. Jerry,
      As spelled out in the ADA “regulations”, that is not a question you can legitimately ask. You can only if the service animal is required because of a disibility, and what task the service animal is trained to perform.

      Both of those questions were answered: 1) Yes, 2) Medical Alert.

    2. Sorry but there is still something ‘Fishy’ with this story. If you can’t see that then perhaps you need a ‘service dog’ too.

      1. Greg: Alas, a Walmart greeter can’t ask why an obvious pet is needed as a “service dog” because Walmart is subject to ADA. I am not subject to ADA when asking obvious questions about someone apparently breaking the law. I can ask. She doesn’t have to answer, true. Free speech works like that and free speech wasn’t outlawed by ADA. Absolutely nothing in ADA prohibits Ms. Soxman from disclosing, say, “I’m insulin-dependent and for some bizarre reason my dog is more accurate than a blood-glucose monitor like the monitors that Iditarod musher Bruce Linton uses at -40F instead of one of his 16 dogs. That’s why I bring my 45-pound dog and carry some of its food instead of just bringing a 12-ounce monitor.” or whatever her legitimate disability is. If she has one. Her silence is deafening.

        +1 Jerry. It is an oversight in ADA that a flight attendant or supermarket worker can’t insist on simple answers to simple questions. As a result, we have unleashed, poorly trained pets, uncrated in the airplane cabin so the owner can save $100 and ill-mannered lap dogs peeing in the produce aisle.

        When you put yourself out to the world as having done this amazing event, more so when you put your dog out there as having done this apparently illegal but otherwise amazing thing, you should get in front of the obvious questions about why you and your dog get to do this wonderful activity that law-abiding people don’t get to do.

        I like to hike with my dog. She’d love to do long backpacking trips in National Parks. But like playing loud music, hacking down live trees, harassing wildlife, having campfires above tree line, and letting the bears get my food, there are things I’m not (and shouldn’t) be allowed to do on public lands.

  3. Yes Grizby is a service dog (medical alert). He (although it’s not required) has been certified and we continue to train him for his task. He is NOT an emotional support animal. I do not condone or recommend anyone trying to fake a dog as a service dog as it’s a federal offense. For those looking to do a thru hike of the CDT with a pet dog I encourage you to find alternative routes that will take you around any areas where dogs are prohibited. Hike your own hike. The reason he does not have his patch on his new backpack is that the patches do not fit with the new design because of the zipper. Instead of a service dog patch I just used his ID badge although neither are a requirement for a service dog. I realize there is a huge issue with people faking service dogs and causing issues for those who legitimately need their dog for their disability.

  4. Did you ask (which you’re legally allowed to do under ADA), what service the dog has been trained to perform? Please do so! If it’s an acceptable service under ADA, then that will quiet a lot of very unhappy folk, including me!

    1. Bethany posted her comments above (see user kbk9). Grannyhiker, we really do appreciate the comment and welcome the discussion around the increase in people misleading the park system with “therapy dogs”. This is a real issue and we are glad that there are people passionately voicing concerns about this abuse. As a company made up of outdoor enthusiasts, we understand and embrace the need to enjoy outdoor spaces in a manner respectful to rules and regulations.

  5. John,
    There are transient and controllable medical conditions that can be sensed by a service dog. High or low insulin in a diabetic is one of these. I know a number of diabetic hikers, and this could be the case here. Or something similar.

    ADA guidelines specify what services qualify. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. You can ask only two questions concerning a service dog: 1) Is this dog required because of a recognized disability? and, 2) What service task has the dog been trained to perform?

    Bethany’s lack of disclosure is a disconcerting, to say the least. Given her presence here and on other sites, I am surprised she has not explained the situation, which is now casting an unfortunate shadow on all service dog owners. Secondly, by proudly proclaiming a “First”, via the “service dog” label, without additional information, has the potential of encouraging abuse. (I note that after Encampment, Wyoming, Grizby’s new pack did not have the “service dog” patches, further confusing the question of legitimacy.)

    I feel resolution is important, especially in light of her comment regarding the possibility of hiking the PCT.

    Hopefully she will be forthcoming in the near future.

    1. Hi Greg. Bethany posted her comments above (see user kbk9). As also stated above, we really do appreciate the comment and welcome the discussion around the increase in people misleading the park system with “therapy dogs”.

  6. Ruffwear looks bad (to me) by implicitly condoning this sort of find-a-loophole-to-do-whatever-you-want behavior. Conveying that “She let us know that Grizby is a service dog” does not address people’s legitimate concerns about honesty, legality, the safety of other hikers, of wild animals, disease transmission, and canine waste disposal. Clicking your heels together and declaring your pet dog a “Service animal” is NOT the spirit of the ADA exemptions although it is, alas, the policy promulgated after the passage of ADA. The blog details numerous times that the humans aided the dog by carrying dog food, while crossing rivers, tending to canine injuries, etc. The are no reports that I saw in which the dog provided a legitimate service to the humans.

    This is being held out as some extraordinary achievement, “first canine thru-hike of the trail” when canine thru-hikes AREN’T allowed on the trail. “First owner to have the gall to pass off a dog as a necessary service animal when they themselves are able-bodied” seems the case from the blog and statements repeated here.

  7. If one is able to hike more than 3,000 miles why does one need a service dog? What is Bethany’s disability that requires a service dog?

  8. RUFFWEAR SAID: “We encourage anyone who plans a thru-hike or any other outdoor adventure with dogs to know and respect the regulations for the areas they are traveling.”

    Did you encourage her to respect the regulations? I can only assume that she mis-labelled her dog as a “service dog” to get around the rules that everyone else respects. Just because you buy a patch for the dog on Ebay doesn’t mean your dog is providing ADA-required service for your ACTUAL disability. Unless she has an actual disability for which that dog was trained to assist, she should not have the dog in those Parks and on those trails, nor should RuffWear continue to promote ro condone this activity.

  9. While under the ADA, a person cannot be asked about their disability, they can be asked what specific task the dog has been trained to perform. The many service dog organizations such as Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Companions for Independence (the two I have worked with out of many such organizations) are extremely concerned about the abuse of passing off pets as service dogs (which may or may not be true in this case). So are those of us who pay through the nose to have our dogs kenneled if we want to hike in National Parks!

    What really needs to be amended is the law concerning service animals. I have to reveal my disability (legally blind without glasses) every time I have my driver’s license renewed. The same is true for people needing workplace accomodations for their disability. (I’ve been there, too, although the disability was temporary–I had to provide physician’s signature.) Ditto for children needing extra help in school, such as my autistic grandson. It seems to be only those with service dogs who don’t have to reveal why the dog is necessary.

  10. You said – “We’ll ask Bethany and get back to you.”

    Have you initiated contact?
    When do you expect a response?

    It is important for folks to know that dogs cannot typically travel on trails through National Parks. Bethany’s blog could give a lot of people a false impression.

    Thanks for your efforts in clearing up this matter.

  11. “Glad she had a service dog hiking on her own.”

    Bringing your dog on a solo hike because you don’t want to be alone doesn’t make it an ADA-defined service dog. It just means you don’t want to follow the rules that everyone else does.

  12. Please be honest with us: Did you scam the NPS with fake service dog ‘labeling’ or do you have a real ADA defined disability? Funny this wasn’t mentioned in the otherwise interesting blog.

  13. Required to perform tasks due to her ADA-defined disability?

    “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

  14. I hiked along Beth and Griz most of the trail. Griz is a service dog and thus was able to get into both Glacier and Yellowstone National Park.

  15. Re: Glacier NP. Pets are not permitted on trails, along lake shores, in the backcountry…
    Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, under physical restraint, or caged at all times.

        1. Hi Greg, We got a chance to contact Bethany. She let us know that Grizby is a service dog, which allowed her to travel with Grizby through the park.

          We agree and understand that people need to know and respect where and when dogs are allowed in some wild spaces. We encourage anyone who plans a thru-hike or any other outdoor adventure with dogs to know and respect the regulations for the areas they are traveling.

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