Becoming a Backcountry Bulldog
Story and Photos Contributed by Leda Olmsted
Last winter, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I stumbled upon a picture of a female bulldog that was free to a good home. My inner dialogue instantly said, “I wish! There is no way Bula, my alpha female bulldog, will let another dog into our home. Especially not another hard-headed bulldog.” Two months later, a friend asked if I had heard about the free bulldog. My heart sank, knowing that this poor pup was still trying to find a home. My inner dialogue changed: “Well, I guess I could go give her some love, take her on a walk, and see if Bula lets her into our home.” That’s where it all began.
When I first met Mazzy, she was extremely nervous and shy. She carried a lot of extra baby weight and was terrified to be in public places. She would crawl across the ground and search out the nearest parked car or object to hide under. I was told from her foster family that she had been overbred and neglected. It was apparent that eating and nursing puppies were her only pastimes. I asked the foster family if she had any “bulldog quirks,” because surely she has to be obsessed with something. There’s a certain switch that can be turned on in bulldogs that unleashes their inner monster. Bula’s switch is skateboards, snowboards, and especially paddleboards. They only told me that she snores and breathes loudly, farts a lot, she can’t walk for more than 15 minutes, doesn’t like the snow, and she loves to snuggle. Pretty much the standard bulldog qualities – nothing new to me.
I called my boyfriend and had him throw Bula into the car and meet me at a trailhead to introduce the pups. About 5 minutes into the walk, Mazzy had boarded the struggle bus. Bula left us in the dust, and I encouraged Mazzy to keep up the good work of putting one foot in front of the other. We brought Mazzy back to the house, and surprisingly Bula allowed her inside. I invited Mazzy onto the couch to snuggle and that was the moment she stole my heart. She threw her heavy body across my lap, closed her eyes, took a huge sigh of relief, and fell asleep on my lap. I felt as if I could energetically remove all of her suffering and neglect. This dog needed my love. The decision was made, Mazzy had found her forever home.
Mazzy quickly gained a sense of confidence and adventure from hanging out with her new sister Bula. She now walks in public without the need to hide in fear. She loves hiking, playing fetch, she has even joined us cross country skiing. She is still working on her agility and is nowhere near as nimble as Bula, who was raised on adventure. During her first visit to the lake, she actually tripped, fell off the dock, and sank right to the bottom like a cinder block. Thank goodness it was only 3 feet deep and we got to her quickly!
Her most recent adventure was a roadtrip from Colorado to Northern Michigan. Michigan is a water lover’s paradise, so we made sure to pack a Ruffwear Float Coat to avoid any more dock accidents. This would be Mazzy’s first time to the beach and her first time paddle boarding!
Upon arriving, our first stop was the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a 35 mile stretch of pristine beach along the coast of Lake Michigan. As Mazzy walked down to the water to get a drink, a wave crashed over her. At first she was shocked, but she quickly began to play in the waves, chasing them up and down the shoreline. This was the start of her new found love of the water.
The next morning, Mazzy reclaimed her power from her previous dock fail. My mom threw a tennis ball for her Golden Retriever over and over again. With a sense of curiosity, Mazzy watched the other dog jump off the dock and into the water. Then, before we knew it, Mazzy followed along, dove off the dock and swam around, without sinking! Her swimming skills were not up to par with a Golden Retriever’s, so I put her Float Coat on and watched her swim all around, with no desire to come back to shore. We had just discovered Mazzy’s bulldog quirk, the water.
Each day of our trip, Mazzy would run down to the water, jump in, and swim around. Being in the water was her mission. Thankfully, I knew that with the help of her life jacket, she could swim around safely on her own. After she felt satisfied with her swim, she would run over to the hose, and patiently wait for someone to spray her off, so she could attack the stream of water. Her entire trip turned into a cycle of swim, hose attacking, and deep napping.
After seeing that Mazzy could swim well, I decided it was time to get her onto a paddle board. I was slightly nervous that Bula would be a big bully and not want to share her board. Surprisingly, Bula was so happy to be on a board that she didn’t care at all about having to share her space. Mazzy had become a mermaid trapped in bulldog’s body, and keeping her on the board turned out to be a difficult task. She kept leaping off the board, swimming around in circles next to us, and when she felt content, finally coming back to the board. The handle on her Float Coat was definitely put to good use while pulling her back onto the board time and time again.
To wrap up our adventures in Michigan, we drove north across the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula, where we joined my brother for a night of camping near Lake Superior. Bula rarely sleeps when we camp. Rather than cuddling, she prefers romping all night long, acting like she is hunting something in the woods. Mazzy, on the other hand, was the perfect tent companion. I threw down her Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag, and she crawled inside and passed out with contentment.
Mazzy is now living the life that she could only dream about just a few months back. Between the love from her family, the sense of adventure from Bula, and her Ruffwear gear to keep her safe and warm, she is well on her way to becoming a true backcountry bulldog.
Leda Olmsted, Bula, and Mazzy split their time between the mountains of Colorado, the Great Lakes of Michigan, and the surf of El Salvador. Leda is a yoga teacher and lover of outdoor adventures, especially those on the water. She leads women’s empowerment and adventure retreats based on yoga and board sports, as well as yoga trainings nationally and internationally. Follow Leda’s adventures at @fluid_sup and Bula and Mazzy’s adventures at @backcountry_bulldogs.