Tag Archive 'canine companion'

Mar 18 2019

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Matika Passes Away

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A couple days ago, Judy and I said goodbye to our long-haired German shepherd, Matika, as we put her down. The paralysis in her hind legs, due to a disease called degenerative myelopathy, started causing all kinds of problems. We decided against taking it to the bitter end, which would only make her suffer.

Matika had accompanied me on nearly all of my excursions into the woods during the past 12 years. I nicknamed her Wilderness Dog back in 2009 during our arduous trek through the 100 Mile Wilderness in northern Maine. She impressed me with her endurance on that hike.

Matika loved the woods almost as much as I do. She would start dancing about excitedly whenever I pulled out my hiking boots. Towards the end I occasionally snuck out for a rigorous hike alone, but it wasn’t easy leaving her behind.

She got into trouble a few times – with raccoons, skunks, porcupines, etc. – and on many occasions I had to sleep under my tarp with her soaking wet and caked with mud. Swamp dog. But she was a great hiking companion overall. It’ll be a big adjustment hiking without her.

Truth is, I won’t be hiking without Matika for a long while. Her ghost will accompany me, I’m sure. It’s like that once you’ve bonded in the wild with another creature. Matika wasn’t my pet, she was my canine companion. A companion in wildness. A free spirit. A happy dog. Yeah, she’ll be with me in spirit for many more hikes to come.



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Sep 08 2013

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Canine Companion

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Matika, JA photoYesterday, while I was out promoting my Adirondack book, a fellow asked me what my next adventure would be. I told him that I wanted to do the Cohos Trail in northern New Hampshire. Would I be hiking it alone? he inquired. No, I told him, my dog Matika will be accompanying me. He looked at me like I was crazy.

I have a few friends whose company I enjoy on the trail, and I like going out with my wife Judy every once in a while, but Matika is my #1 hiking companion. She’s my #1 fishing companion, too. In fact, during the past seven years, she has been with me on nearly every outing. Usually I mention her sniffing around in the background. Occasionally I write about her at length. Sometimes I don’t mention her at all. But she is almost always there.

Matika is a long-haired German shepherd that Judy and I rescued from an animal shelter in 2006. Her origin is hazy but we know the breed. We had another dog like her several years earlier. When we rescued her, the vet told us she was about a year old. In dog years, that makes her about my age now. If we’re going to do another trek together, we’d better do it soon.

Matika is smart, quite attentive, and gentle. She’s a good dog. She’s bossy with other dogs, though – a trait I haven’t been able to correct. She loves people. I can’t help but feel she’d make a good companion to a good number of dog handlers. But it’s my good fortune (and Judy’s) to have her in my life.

Matika loves the woods as much as I do. She also likes her soft bed and other creature comforts so I had my doubts about her penchant for wildness at first. But that doubt vanished when she hiked the 100 Mile Wilderness with me. After that trek, I’ve called her Wilderness Dog. And for the most part she has lived up to the name.

We’ve walked many brooks, bushwhacked, and hiked countless miles together. We’ve been overheated, bug-bitten, cold, rain-soaked, and muddy together more often than I care to recall. She’s slept with me beneath the tarp so many times that it would seem strange now to sleep under it without her. Matika is not my pet. Nor am I her master. She’s my canine companion, and there is no one who understands my wildness better, my wife notwithstanding.

Who is going with me on the Cohos Trail?  Wilderness Dog, of course. And that seems perfectly natural to me.


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