I’ve been photographing and journaling my travels for nearly 10 years. In that period of time alone I have traveled over a hundred thousand miles, visited 38 states and several countries, and during this entire time my near constant companion has been my loyal dog Gus.
Gus is a energetic, extroverted big miniature schnauzer who decided I looked like a good bet 10 years ago. I think it’s paid off for him. Since that time we have had countless experiences exploring the world.
Dogs gain an energy in exploration. They live to smell new scents. Meet new people. Explored the unexplored trail.
Humans have one scent organ. Dogs have a second called the Jacobson’s organ. It’s a direct pathway to the brain, bypassing many of the scents that would turn off humans. They are engineered to explore.
Together, Gus and I have hiked the mountains of Vermont, Colorado and North Carolina. Frequented the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Michigan. Explored the backwoods of the Appalachians. Walked farm fields in Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Kayaked and swam in the deep water of the Great Lakes. Lived as natives in the urban confines of downtown Chicago, Cleveland, and Dallas. Done pub crawls in Charleston and New Orleans.
He has regularly traveled with me for work. Gus has stayed over 500 of mostly well behaved nights in a hotel – nearly earning his own Starwood platinum card – but is equally at home camping in a tent in the middle of the wilderness.
Gus has meaningfully visited 32 states. Not merely passing through, but exploring and staying. All by car. It is impossible to know for certain, but I estimate he has traveled nearly 100,000 miles with me in that time. He is possibly the best dog for road trips since Steinbeck’s poodle, and far more fearless.
We drove through the Big Horn Mountains of Yellowstone in 2008 and unexpectedly encountered a blizzard. We made our way down the icy switchbacks of the eastern escarpment with me white knuckling the steering wheel and Gus sleeping peacefully in the passenger seat.
We drove across the highways of Iowa during a fierce prairie blizzard that sent cars careening off the side of a road. We were the only car on the road between Des Moines and Omaha. Visibility was limited to 10′ in front of the vehicle and we traveled in a single lane at no more than 25 miles per hour. Gus again sleeping in the passenger seat.
We recently returned from a trip to New Orleans. Louisiana and Texas had been receiving torrential rains for days and our GPS was routing around accidents and roads closed due to flooding. We drove the country back roads, passing cars that had hit the shoulders and found themselves sunk in feet of mud. Gus spent most of the trip playing with a ball or bone in the passenger seat.
We rode across small car ferries of a turbulent Lake Champlain in northern Vermont with waves crashing across the hood of my vehicle. Gus looked on in wonderment, and then settled in for a nap.
Gus is a master of maximizing nap time in vehicles. He sleeps in all manners on the passenger seat. On his belly. On his side. On his back, legs sprawled. He knows no fear in a car as long as I am nearby, or more importantly my free hand for the occasional rub.
This fearlessness isn’t always the best thing for his master. He howled with the wild wolves of Yellowstone from the confines of his safe vehicle while his father was outside photographing a nearby grizzly. A few years later while in a bitter cold camp late at night in the Green Mountains, from my side near a roaring fire Gus sprinted into the dark, hitting an animal broadside not 20 feet away, sending the stunned animal rolling. Gus thankfully came back quickly on command, as I only then noticed the white on black stripes of the skunk (he did avoid being sprayed).
We woke one morning in a tent in the Rocky Mountains to find ourselves surrounded by a herd of dozens of elk that were wandering down to the grassy hole. I found myself thankful at his discretion on that occasion.
Along the way, his personality (and frankly, eyelashes) has opened conversations with people of all backgrounds. Dogs have a wonderful way of starting conversations with strangers. In Montana, an 80-year-old man on the front porch of the local watering hole asked me about my dog. That turned into a conversation where I learned this man had surveyed the back country of Yellowstone over a 30 year period beginning in the 50’s. In New Orleans in the French District, at least 20 people a day of all ethnicities came up to meet him. I learned a perspective of the area we visited through their stories.
In most of these photos, Gus has been at my side. If these photos are my memory of what I experienced, he has been a main motivation for me to get out and experience the world. I have loved these past 10 years, and hope for many more new roads and adventures together.