When we first picked up Cullen he was just this extremely tiny version of a dog. Being the runt of the litter he weighed no more than 4.5lbs, which made me believe he was not going thrive in size. I never could have envisioned him possessing the ability to conquer mountains. However, the truth of it all is that I did not lead Cullen to these mountains; he was the one who guided me.
We ascended Mt. Adams via Lowes’s Path, which was a basic climb. This route is typically considered to be the “easiest” trek up this mountain, but there is nothing simple when hiking in the Presidential Range. The joy we got from having roots, rocks, leaves, and dirt under us was soaring, however, this only lasted for a little bit. The steep mid-section of Lowe’s Path was completely iced over, and once we got above tree line it was a fair mix of snow and rock; a magnificent indication that these mountains are in between seasons. After three hours, we reached the pinnacle and before I had a chance to summit Adams, Cullen had already claimed his rock where he would sit to appreciate the views. As we sat together atop of Mt. Adams, Cullen pressed up close to my chest, I felt more connected to him than usual. Our eyes were fixed on the Great Gulf of Washington, but my thoughts were of Cullen.
I thought about a puppy too small to jump on a mattress placed on the floor, a puppy who took refuge in a pillow case because he was terrified of vacuums, and a puppy who would nap for hours after a simple two mile walk to the end of the road. Never did I dream that this same puppy would grow into such a powerful soul with the confidence, strength, and loyalty to lead me up mountains. That same puppy has grow to be much more than just a dog to me, he has grown be to my best friend.
That night we went to sleep early, only to wake up the same. Our thoughts now were of Mt. Washington. As we reached the trail head of Tuckerman Ravine all doubts that I had about this hike were pushed aside by the willingness and readiness of Cull dog. As soon as his paws hit the trail he was boasting such a proud appearance, which gave me the confidence to triumph over this hike up Washington. We seemed to have no trouble with making friends as we made our way to Tuckerman. Countless numbers of people were blown away by Cullen. Many went as far as to stop and take pictures of him, share a snack, or just talk.
As we reached the bowl, where thousands of skiers go every winter to experience the rush of extreme backcountry skiing; I was instantly blown away by the giant sized ravine before me. As we rested our legs and shared some food I found myself both intimidated and attracted to this challenge. In no time at all we were making our way up this hazardous, icy, and gigantic slope. Most people who hike Tuckerman Ravine in winter do so with durable crampons and an ice axe, and there I was with hiking boots, a single cheap trekking pole, and a Miniature Pinscher. Cullen seemed to have no issue with the climb, but I was a totally different story. My legs were quickly weakened and my traction was less than superior. It was in that moment where I wished I was gifted with four legs and built in crampons.
As we reached the top many people were surprised to see Cullen, blown away at the fact a dog his size made his way up a slope that has claimed a number of lives; both dog and man. However, in that moment my blood and emotions were sky rocketed and there was no time for chit-chat. Cullen and I had a summit to reach, and we were both focused on the rocky path ahead. As we approached the vast summit of Washington I couldn’t help but hold Cullen close. We instantly sat together along the roadway and soaked in the views. Our eyes fixed on the ocean of blue skies and endless valleys of mountains before us. At that moment I trust that he understood, just as well as I, that there was nothing else to do but sit, so we sat, together tangled in an eternal bond between man and animal.
Without sounding too melodramatic, Cullen is one of the greatest gifts I could have ever received. There was a time, shortly after the early passing of my mother, where I felt so bleak and misplaced. I was engrossed in a darkness that discolored my idea of contentment. However, by simply paying attention to the wants and needs of Cullen I was able to color in that silhouette of happiness I yearned for. By trailing him on his chase for adventure and happiness I was able to find my own. Cullen’s travels led me to the person I wanted to be for the longest time, and all thanks to the extreme compassion, dedication, and patience of one very exceptionally brave little dog.