Sunday, December 16, 2012


A great friend recently had asked me if I could imagine if Cullen ended up in the hands of someone else and had become a lap dog. I didn’t answer at that moment in time but the truth is I can’t. Cullen is a dog meant for great things and no matter who he went with he would have made a change in their life for the better; just as he has done for me. I truly believe I am not the main reason why Cull is hiking the highest summits in New England or even why he does half the amazing things he does. The fact of the matter is if it weren’t for him I most likely would have never even considered hiking all of the 4,000 footers or even started hiking at all. Cullen shines a light too bright to look past. A light that has helped me see the beauty in life, even in the darkest of times.

Cullen was always a dog with a lot of energy. Nothing could get his active personality to simmer. Not even three mile runs at age three months (probably a 10 mile run for his little legs). He constantly was pushing me for more, and as time took its course Cullen and I started going for longer runs, kayaking, mountain biking, four-wheeler trips, and eventually mountain hiking. Which leads us to our 8 mile trek up the 5th highest mountain in NH, Mount Madison (Dec. 14th 2012).

That morning started off more special than usual. On my way up to the mountains I witnessed two shooting stars, and at the time I just thought it was a great way to kick off our adventure up Madison. We ascended up Valley Way, which is a fairly moderate route that can be a rocky trail at times. The air at the trail head was already cooler than most of the temperatures we had experienced at any of the mountain tops so far. Cullen didn’t look as if to mind. As soon as his paws graced the trail and we were off.  The hike, for the most part, was surprisingly going better than anticipated based on the memory of our last icy hike up Wildcat. Not to say there was no ice at all, but when we did encounter ice Cullen was easily able to show me ways around the hoarfrost.

Ever since he was a pup he hated the ice, always trying to find the routes that avoided it. Now-a-days he is able to navigate the trails effectively enough where if I just follow him I don’t really have to worry too much about slipping. About an hour and half later we reached the junction with Watson Path, which is the shortest way to reach the summit, but it is an extremely rugged trail for 1.5 miles to the top, and of course we decided to take this route. As we made our way forward the tree line started to thin and the wind started to scream. The temperature was dropping fast, so I decided to take Cullen out of his jacket and into his snowsuit. As we were about to exit into the exposed mountain side I saw a sign giving way to a warning. This sign cautioned us that we were about be enter a place that experiences some of the worst weather in America and if you were not confident and prepared then should turn back, because many people have died; we kept moving forward.

The exposed mountain top was more intense than I had originally thought. The winds were so strong it felt like a grown man was pushing me over and the air so cold my water was freezing within minutes. However, Cullen was still moving forward. As we struggled our way to the top I tried taking a few photos and  to gaze upon the vistas, but the weather was too relentless. Too teary eyed from the wind and cold we, unfortunately, experienced the summit for what seemed like seconds. However, those seconds were of great meaning. I got to look across this land with a new set of eyes. Before we started our descent I decided to check the temp. and the reading showed zero degrees. Shocked by this I knew I had to get Cull Dog back into the tress. We safely made our way back into coverage as fast as we could, and from there on our hike down was full of warmth and joy. Cullen had just reached a place no one would have thought possible for him. A 15lbs min pin a top the 5th highest mountain in NH during the winter. There is no end to what is possible.

Most people feel sorry for Cullen when they hear about the adventures we go on, but the truth is it’s not me who has taken us to the mountain tops, it is him. He leads the trail, and with that my life is full of more satisfaction that I thought imaginable. He has shown me to look deeper into things; to see past what my own eyes allow and into the truth. In the beginning I honestly didn’t see Cullen doing all the things he does. I didn’t even have the intention, but his persistence, strength, and innocence is what keeps him true and progressive. He is not undone by the harsh words of this world. His gift is that he doesn’t understand the unkind remarks others have to offer, and with that someone’s sympathy, negativity, or misunderstanding will not be able to deter him from moving forward. Cullen has shown me that if you are able to see past the oblivious, great things can happen. Just take the time to reflect and accept that this world is not here to limit you, but to let your life be limitless.

There is no doubt that those shooting stars I saw driving up were meant for us. I didn’t see one or three or four. I saw just two, a shooting star one right after another. It was not just by chance that the day we accomplished one of the greatest hikes we have yet been on we experienced such a rare and beautiful aspect of this world. Possibly a gift sent from my mother, God, or who knows. All I do know is that the stars were symbolizing the experience we were about to have. Two shooting stars on their way to somewhere full of peace and enchantment. 

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