My dog Denali is everything, always. What I mean by this is that her personality is one that does hold grudges, gets angry, or blames you for anything. At any given moment she is ready for an adventure and is ready to show you how fearless she is. She can give you love and show you your value. Now as some of you know my journey with Denali, named after a location of my favorite book as a kid, "Into The Wild," was anything but smooth at first. This is where my amazing wife, Kaitlyn, shines. She took the reins and was fearless with Denali. I on the other hand was having a hard time finding ways to connect with Denali, partly because all of sudden there was this thing starring at me that wanted my attention all the time. I know what you guys are thinking, "Wait until you have kids, Will." I felt like maybe I had done something I shouldn't have, like maybe I wasn't the best for Denali. This proceeded for months and in the meantime Denali grew closer and closer to my wife she was the one that was running the show.
One random Friday I came home from work early which was the first time that Denali had been home alone together. I looked at her and she tilted her head and gave me those eyes. "Fine, lets go on a hike, but if you pee in the car I'm turning around." I said. I loaded her up in the Subaru and we started on our way up the mountain. We ended up at one of my favorite fishing holes that has some trails along the river. I get out of the car and open up the side door and Denali jumps out and shows the type of excitement I had not seen in her, it instantly made me smile. We started on the trail and that's when she won my heart. To see her face her fear of a new place was a sight to see. Before I knew it she was jumping on logs and getting in and out of the small streams constantly look back at me as if to say "Dad, look at me!" We ended hiking around 5 miles that day, poor girl was exhausted by the time we got back to the car. With her running ahead of me and then back she probably doubled the distance! I knew we had to go home, my wife was going to be home from work soon and Friday traffic had already started up. But that's when I looked at her again, "what if we stay just a little bit longer?" Her wagging tail was all I needed for approval. I opened the back of the Subaru and got out some treats for her and of course for me. We just hung out and talked for a while longer. We talked about everything. My fears, her fears and the future that was ahead of us. She laid down so close to me starring out at the wet and green scenery. I don't know if you have ever had this happen or remember the first time it did but when a dog gets close to you and lays their head on you, it is magic.
“When a dog gets close to you and lays their head on you, it is magic."
Denali is three now and we have been through so many more moments together since that day. Good, bad, hard and sad, she has been right there. I feel like we made a promise to each other that day that no matter what life brings our way, we would go through it together. And we have. From the laughs of watching her play in a sprinkler all summer long, to the tears of when my father passed away last April. She has a way of knowing and showing. If I am getting upset and my voice starts showing it she jumps on the couch and puts her paws on my chest as if to say "Come on daddy, pick your battles, let this one go." And I do. If you were to ask me 5 years ago how my life was going, I would have told life was good and I was pretty full of myself. Looking back now there was a part of me that needed to be challenged in ways only a dog can. I've been humbled. I know she will leave before I do, that's the unfair part about this whole thing. But everyday from here on out, she is everything, always.