Growing Up Together on the Road Less Traveled 

Story and Photos Contributed by Ruffwear Ambassador Laura Patton

The first time I went to the shelter “just to look” I was 19 and in my first year of college. I fell head over heels with an 11 pound bowling ball called “Puppy 4” and known by shelter employees as Skunk (he smelled weird).  He came home with me. A year later, Titan and I went back to the shelter, “just to look,” and came home with Star. The three of us were a young and unruly crew and, honestly, we all had a bit of growing up to do.  

With lots of extra energy to burn, we grabbed our friend Chelsea, put in our notice to the college that we would be taking a quarter off, and the four of us hit the road. We were full of excitement and the West was our playground. Over the next four months, which turned into yearly extended trips, which turned into cumulative years on the road, the four of us grew up together on the road less traveled.

Our endless explorations manifested countless lessons. We learned to sniff out the backroads and hidden campsites. We learned how to pack the car just right so that everything and everyone had a place. We learned how to snuggle up on chilly nights and how to avoid going crazy while spending days on end in the car while it rained. We learned never to skip a gas station if you’re not sure where the next one will be. We learned how to find the best hikes, the deepest powder, and the most solid rocks to climb.  We learned not to have a plan because things won’t always go according to it. We learned to backpack long distances, and balance on paddleboards. We learned how to bike tour and how to fly fish. We learned that dog fur is the perfect spice for every meal.

We learned that Star liked our group just the way it was and didn’t need to meet any other dogs thank you very much. We learned that Titan will hog the whole bed if you let him. We learned that Star boops you in the nose when it’s time to get up in the morning and that even though Titan acts like a lazy boy, he can easily hike 20 miles in a day. We learned that when Star is relaxed her pointy ears finally lie down flat and that Titan loves snow more than anything, except maybe getting your apple core (minus the seeds of course!) when you’re done with it.

We traveled tens of thousands of miles, from coast to coast, from New Mexico to Alaska, and back again. We sweltered together in deserts, climbed to the tops of snowy mountains, descended into deep valleys, and danced across grassy flower filled meadows. Chelsea and I turned 22, 23, and 24, and the dogs turned 2, 3, and 4 while the miles passed by under our tires. Before we knew it the dogs were entering their senior years and we were in our late twenties. We started our journey as a band of young rapscallions, exploring every corner of diverse geography we could push the car to, and we grew to a bonded pack of experienced travelers, not afraid to venture into unknown territories.

While on the road we spent every minute of every day together. Titan and Star’s needs morphing into ours, and ours into theirs. The diversity, depth, and sheer number of adventures we had together while exploring the roads of North America made our connection unbreakable and I grew to know my dogs on a deep and wonderful level. In a way, the road raised us, and created a love for adventure that is still the cornerstone of who we all are. If you are lucky enough to get the chance to tell your dog to “load up” and put some miles under your tires, I hope you do. Because exploring the world with your pup by your side has to be the best thing there is.

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