As I stepped outside, the morning air cool to my skin, I listened to the gentle river beyond the motel. While I waited for Cullen to finish with his early morning business, I couldn't help but lose myself in the blackened morning. I knew that in just a few hours we would officially be returning to the mountains and our new hiking season would be on its way. Our original goal for the weekend was to bag two peaks, Mt. Moriah and Mt. Wildcat, however if you’re lucky enough things never go as planned. The weekend of hiking taught me that teamwork is everything, and without it we would not get to experience all the beauty this world has to offer.
As we began our first hike up Moriah, via Stony Brook, I felt as though this winter had never laid us off. We were right back to doing what we love most. Cullen was back to himself trotting proudly through the forest with strong poise. Most of the trip up we were overshadowed by the thickness of the snow covered hemlocks, making the morning air even cooler. However, the coolness would soon fade and I was peeling layers off and Cullen would trade his snowsuit for a thin camouflage jacket. Due to the fact we passed most of the people snowshoeing their way up, our hike got a little bit more difficult. I didn’t pack my snowshoes, which I regretted as we approached the stunted woods near the top. The soft deep snow made each step feel pointless. This gave us no choice but to find our mountain legs in rapid time. Although, I don’t think Cull dog had any issue with this, seeing him gallop through the air soft powder turning back to check on me repeatedly.
Although I seemed to struggle reaching the summit of Moriah, there was no shameful feeling of doubt within me. I knew I would reach the summit. I was certain because I had the greatest kind of friend to motivate me. The kind of friend who only needs to look you in the eye to provide you with enough power to move mountains, or in my case reach the top of one. As we reached the summit I took my pack off as fast as possible. My eyes couldn’t comprehend the beauty displayed in front of us. No words I could write will ever be able to describe the magnificence of the snow covered mountains that day. The sky was as clear as the air we breathed, the sun provided more than welcoming warmth, the views stretched out further than my eyes could follow, but the little dog sitting before me made this moment whole. Without the sight of him with me, the experience would have been half as great.
As we sat on an open ledge overlooking the noble Presidential Mountains and the Carters I knew that this was the kind of memories that last a lifetime. No words spoken between us, just each other’s company was more than sufficient. The views before me were more than breath taking, but I didn’t find myself drawn to them. I was lost in a soft body of fur smelling of a sweet, musk-like rustic scent, and listening in on the small breathes entering and exiting two little lunges. I was drawn to Cullen more so than I ever had been. Having no idea of the time spent on this ledge our connection was broken by a nice older man, who I would ask to take a photo of us; a photo that would later bring tears to my eyes.
After we finished chatting the man continued his unhurried pace to the top as Cull and I went all out on our decent. I found that he loves it when we run and go a little wacky on the way down. So, as I howled complete randomness we descended Mt. Moriah in a hasty fashion returning to the company of the women we love most. We rested our legs and swiftly fell asleep.
Waking early the next morning I felt myself a little apprehensive about hiking. Due to the fact I originally planned on hiking one peak, which would have been a 9.8 mile hike. I found myself packing up for a 12 mile hike. Cullen and I would attempt to reach the summits of Carter Dome, South Carter, and Middle Carter. Not quite sure I was up to it Cullen convinced me otherwise. His spirit was full of readiness, jumping up in complete excitement and scratching his back paws as though he were a charging bull gearing up for full attack. This transformed my apprehension to anticipation, and I couldn’t wait until I saw him grace yet another summit. We ended up finding our way to all three summits that sunny Sunday morning, and enjoyed the company of the neighboring mountains, the whispering winds, and most importantly each other.
The forest secretly spoke of spring to those who chose to listen close enough; with every drip of an icicle, with every thud from a clump of snow released from a pine branch, and with the muted crash from the brooks still being plastered in snow and ice. We sat upon our fourth and final mountain of the weekend, Cullen once again was able to open my eyes to something else. As this little 16 lb dog sat before me gazing into the outstretched valleys below I saw him as an equal more than ever. We always refer to our dogs as “he’s mine” or “I own that dog”, but the truth is I do not own Cullen. He is not a piece of property, such as this computer I am typing on. I give him the ability to make his own decisions, and those decisions continue to lead him back to me. Cullen is more of a friend, brother, and partner. He pushes me forward when I think I have had enough and he comforts me when I have had enough. This dog and I do not make it to the top of mountains because we work separately, but because he has shown me that becoming truly selfless creates an indestructible bond; it creates an unmatchable team.
So, as we sat on Middle Carter Sunday afternoon, our 4th peak in 2 days, I thanked him. I held him close, feeling his warmth against my face, smelling that sweet musk-like rustic scent once again, and whispered “thank you for all that you are” and just after I said such words he slowly closed and then re-opened his eyes, for much longer than a standard blink. His eyes told me everything.
A dog can be much more than a pet if given the chance. He can become your partner, and through teamwork you can experience great things. He can lead you to places you never though achievable, but the trick is to work as one. To let him work with you, not for you; for true friendship is never true if controlled. Once you find that companionship with your dog there will be no need for a leash or a fence, the support of your bond is what will keep him close.