Raising an Adventure Dog: How Two Pro Athletes Decided to Get a Puppy

Story and Photography by Graham Zimmerman

“Yes, that’s fine, but we’re getting a dog.”

The Kaberi Glacier is in a remote part of the Pakistani Karakoram near the contested border with India. Rising precipitously from the sides of the glacier are some of the tallest and steepest peaks on the planet – massive walls composed of granite and ice.  One of the tallest of these peaks is the stunning Link Sar, and in 2017 it was unclimbed. 

In August 2017, I was there with a team of fellow climbers attempting to change that. It was a process that had required 3 months of deep concentration while far from the usual pull of emails and social media. It was looking like we were going to be headed home empty-handed, but there was a small blip of potential good weather on the forecast that would require me to stay in the range a little longer than expected. 

From basecamp, on the edge of the gigantic rock-strewn glacier, I called my fiancé Shannon, to ask her if it would be ok if I stayed in the Karakoram for another couple weeks. Her answer was both supportive and simple: “Yes, that’s fine, but we’re getting a dog.”

Now, to put this statement in perspective, the discussion around getting a dog had been going on for a number of years. When Shannon and I first met in 2012, I was living on the road, climbing nearly full time with the exception of occasional geology contracts that pulled me off to wild corners of the world. Shannon was traveling and training constantly while playing professional ultimate frisbee. She had been clear that when it made sense, she wanted to get a dog. For me, the idea of having a dog was wonderful, but when I looked at my life, I was gone all the time and I didn’t have a stable living situation. It was not a lifestyle conducive to an animal dependent upon us for food, shelter, training, and love.

Fast forward to 2017, standing on the side of the Kaberi. I was still traveling, but less, and Shannon was retired from frisbee and had a stable job. We had just bought our first home, and we were getting ready to get married.

Puppy Pickup

We picked up little miss Pebble, our new 8 week old Labradoodle, in March 2018. Shannon had taken a deep dive into breeds, looking for a dog that would be able to join us on adventures but would also be happy to hang out when we were working, and landed on Australian Labradoodles. They were originally bred to be therapy dogs with a friendly, mellow demeanor, a love for company, and enough energy to keep up on adventures. As we drove home from picking our new little bundle of fluff from the breeder, she slept most of the 3 hour drive curled up in Shannon’s lap. By the time we arrived home, we were in love. 

We had taken the job of raising this little puppy quite seriously. By the time we picked her up, we had both read a variety of books on how to raise a puppy and had purchased a vast array of toys, beds, food, treats and clean-up equipment. I also cleared my schedule of travel for 2 months in order to be home to keep track of little Pebble as she learned the lay of the land and how to ask to go outside when nature called. 

Back to Pakistan

It is now September 2019, and I have just retuned from another expedition to Pakistan. On this trip, instead of wondering if getting a dog was a good idea, I was just terribly excited to get back to see little miss Pebble, now almost 2 years old. Also, I didn’t have to call Shannon to ask if an extension on the trip would be ok because we had summited Link Sar. Instead of being torn about staying or leaving, I was simply looking forward to getting home and seeing my lovely ladies, Shannon and little miss Pebble. 

Graham, Shannon, and Pebble are Ruffwear Ambassadors. Follow all of Pebble’s adventures on Instagram.

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