It was a great ride.
Actually, it was a great walk. Or run. Or occasionally an all-out sprint. That all depended on me, because he always wanted to go. And go he did, legs churning and tail wagging.
Nothing could slow him, or so it seemed. But in recent months, the legs that were so reliable started to fail. That tail that appeared to supply propulsion to his gait now often fell limp. And while his will remained strong, his body betrayed him.
I said a tearful goodbye to my dog last week after more than 14 wonderful years.
He was my reliable companion on mountains big and small, the best hiking partner a guy could want. He was a regular at Section 16, Waldo Canyon and Fountain Creek Regional Park. He happily, and easily embraced the challenge of the Manitou Incline in the years before the trail became legal. (In fairness, he had no knowledge of his trespassing, and his owner pleads the fifth).
He made multiple treks up Elbert, Massive, Harvard, Yale, Grays, Torreys and America’s Mountain. In all, he bagged nearly 30 fourteeners. And the summits were a special place for him; not because of the awe-inspiring views but because of what was waiting in the backpack. Pringles, crackers, trail mix and the last bites of a PB&J.
Any time of day. Any type of climb. And any conditions. Cheyenne was always by my side.
We had a sunny November morning to ourselves outside Alma, and we trudged through the snow on a loop that included Mounts Democrat, Lincoln and Bross. Joined by my brother on a July afternoon, we descended Mount Massive in pouring rain with thunder rumbling overhead. Any idea of running back to the trailhead was dampened by the fact that we had hiked Mount Elbert that morning. (I’m not sure my dog forgave me for that day, even though I’m pretty sure he knew my brother was to blame.)
I adopted Cheyenne as a puppy in July 2004 from the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. The good folks at the rescue almost didn’t let me take him home after I refused to guarantee he would live under my roof. I’d never had a dog stay inside the house, so the idea seemed strange to me. But I did promise to love him and care for him.
Turns out, Cheyenne never spent a night outside unless it was curled up under a blanket at the end of my oversized cot. He seemed to enjoy camping. (Admittedly, trading dry dog food for grilled meat might have had something to do with that.) And, selfishly, he did keep my feet nice and toasty on cool summer evenings outside Aspen, Buena Vista and Estes Park.
He supplied much more than warmth, however. He brought smiles, laughter, inspiration and loads of memories that won’t soon fade. (Seriously, buddy, did you really devour 2 pounds of peanut butter sandwich cookies?! And it’s still hard to fathom how you, as a puppy, peed on my uncle’s face.)
He was one very special dog. And hiking Colorado’s trails just won’t be the same without him.