Meet Billy, born and raised in Alaska – and a holder of a Swedish passport with stamps from both France and the UK in it. Like any American, he is very friendly, has a love of hot dogs, and is not afraid to make his opinions known. Oh yeah, he’s also a dog.
Billy and I have been exploring the outdoors together for almost a decade now. From nervously listening for bears around every bend in the trail in Alaska, jaunting up French alp slopes, chasing geese into the Baltic in Sweden, to doing our best not to disturb sheep here in Scotland he has been a constant companion.
I know people who have working dogs that are more employees than part of the family, but try telling Billy that he isn’t entitled to a spot on the couch and you’ll quickly realise that isn’t the case with him.
I think that for me it is that close relationship together with the fact that dogs still aren’t human – no matter what traits and feelings we sometimes project onto them – that makes them such brilliant outdoor companions.
There is a certain serenity in spending time in the outdoors alone, without a group of individuals all wanting to make their opinions and ideas heard. At the same time humans are social creatures and you do miss out on that interaction when you are out by yourself. Having your dog with you offers a happy medium, you still get that peace and quiet and you’d be amazed what a difference it makes to be a pack of two.
Some of the best times I have had in the outdoors have been sitting on a slope somewhere, eating my packed lunch with Billy as my only company. The fact that Billy is not always the picture of obedience adds a touch of excitement as well. On numerous occasions my tracking skills have been put to the test when Billy has decided that running after a deer is a more entertaining activity than following the trail we are walking.
But even in the grind of everyday life a dog helps your outdoor life. I think most dog owners will tell you that going outside for a walk isn’t always the most enticing prospect after a demanding day at work – especially if you look out the window and the rain is pouring down. It is safe to say that without a dog you probably wouldn’t be going out on those days.
But with a dog you have to, and I can honestly say that it is rare that you don’t feel good about the fact that you did once you are out – no matter the weather. By having that reason to get out and walk every day no matter the conditions you won’t only be fitter, but a lot of views are often most spectacular in changing weather. Clear blue skies of course make for a nice and pleasant climate to walk in – but they do little to add drama to a vista.
As far as I am concerned there are few places that having your dog with you won’t make it a better experience. Of course, it might mean that you will have to adapt the activity to ensure that your dog is safe, and that you don’t disrupt sensitive animal life in the area. Here in Scotland we have truly spectacular access rights, and with that comes a responsibility not to abuse them. That applies to everyone that sets their foot outside the front door – whether you are human or canine.
Having said that, it is easy to find places where you and your dog will go unnoticed and leave a minimal footprint behind without sacrificing on the experience.
So, for your next adventure, make sure that the four-legged member of the family has a spot front and centre. I know Billy will ensure he has.