On The Trail With Gus

I’m a big advocate of rescuing dogs from shelters. Of all my furry, barking and drooling companions, each I have rescued from a shelter. I’m not one for puppy mills or pet stores.

CJ was my mini schnauzer, he was with me for several years before passing away on my lap from congestive heart failure. He passed away last May. By June I felt I was ready. So I took a trip to the shelter, just to look. Yeah, right, just look. Moments after walking in I saw Skippy, a Jack Russell Terrier Mix. On his cage was a sign that read; “ask me to smile.” Needless to say I curious. So I asked to meet Skippy in one of their visiting rooms. Sure enough Skippy broke out into a big smile shortly after meeting me. His upper and lower lip peeling back to reveal his teeth and a genuine smile.

Seven months after I brought Skippy home he passed way suddenly from a tumor that had ruptured in his stomach. When the vet told me the news I was crushed. How could this be? We haven’t had much time together. Apparently during his long stay at the shelter the cancer developed and went unnoticed. It’s no fault of the shelter. Those of us who are advocates and supporters of shelters know of their limited resources and how they rely on donations just to operate. The people at the shelter were heart broken when I told them the news.

Last year I lost two friends in a span of 8 months. It was a loss that affected me in a big way, so you can imagine my reluctance of finding a new dog. However, if you’re a dog person like me you know the affect they have on our hearts. When I met Gus we clicked. It was the same click I had with CJ and Skippy. The strange thing is in the short time we first met I saw bits of CJ and Skippy’s personality in Gus.

I put in the paperwork to adopt Gus and within days I received a call and was on my way to bring Gus to his new home. It’s been less then a month since he’s joined our brood, our family and he’s had no trouble fitting in. His first hike with me took place the day I picked him up from the shelter. I knew right away he’d make a great hiking companion.

Since then we’ve been on a few hikes and we’re looking forward to many more. Like any Jack Russ, he’s a hunter. The moment he sniffs out a scent he is quick to track, pulling on the leash and whining as to say; “let me go.” But as with any new friendship we are still learning from each other. Gus is younger then my previous dogs. He’ll be a year old this April. So that means he’s full of energy and getting him to listen and obey means repeating commands. I caught myself the other day sounding like Bill Cosby in his comedy special from the eighties. “Gus, come here. Here, here, come here.”

Gus is learning to trust me and I’m learning to trust him. Trust in any relationship is very important. Without trust, there is no relationship.

Yesterday, Gus experienced a big lesson in trust. We were hiking the trails of Canoe Creek State Park when we come to a foot bridge. It was our only way across the creek and not taking it meant back tracking. As I stepped up onto the bridge I felt a tug on the leash. When I looked back I found Gus laying low on all fours and whimpering. He was frozen and would not move. He was scared to cross the bridge and I was’t sure why. Was it the sound of the creek roaring from the winter snow melt? Was it the height or the sound of the wood as I stepped on it? All I knew was my little buddy was scared and there was no way he was going to cross that bridge.

I had three options; carry him across the bridge which I did not want to do while wearing a full pack, back track and lose time on the trail, or show him it was safe to cross. I opted for showing him. To any would be on looker the sight would have been “interesting” to say the least. With Gus laying as close to the ground as he could I proceeded to get on all fours wearing a full pack in the mud right next to him. He looked at me, ears drooped and still whimpering. I looked him in the eyes and told him it was going to be okay that we were going to cross this bridge together.

I wasn’t sure what he’d do or if he’d follow. I simply stepped, or should I say crawled in faith. I slowly began to crawl on my all fours across the bridge. The first few steps I took alone, but then as I looked back I saw Gus crawling the same way I was. His head was down and butt reared higher, he began to make his way across. When he caught up with me he looked me in the eye and I reassured him it would be okay. Side by side we crawled across the bridge until we reached the other end. I was proud of him and excited. “Good boy;” I shouted several times. And in Gus fashion he hopped to his feet, jumped into my arms and licked my ear.

Gus and I continued our adventure through Canoe Creek with one more bridge crossing before reaching the end. And you know what? Gus crossed that second bridge with confidence and no hesitation. Gus not only took a step of faith but he also took another BIG step in trust.

And so my adventures on the trail with Gus are not over. As a matter of fact they are just beginning and we have a world of trails to explore together.

Maybe you’re struggling with trust and find yourself having moments like Gus where you crouch down low, frozen, unable to move or have no desire to move. Taking a step of trust also means taking a step of faith. Maybe taking a step towards trust means crawling, but it’s far better then not taking a step at all. Remember, hike by faith and trust Him.

34383_401455977997_1335587_nBrian Ford is the director of Hike By Faith, an avid hiker, loves the outdoors and is the faithful companion of Gus the trail blazer for HBF.

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