Huskies, Happiness, & a Return to Health

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Huskies, Happiness, & a Return to Health
A cross-country road trip dreamt up in a hospital bed, actualized

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Photo Sonia Jones

When I was seven years old, I hosted my own travel show. There’s video evidence of it somewhere, on a VHS tape, in a box, securely hidden in my mom’s house. If you were to locate it, a VCR, and the patience to suffer through 80s graphics, you’d see me walk into frame and smile—so confidently, SO self-assuredly you’d think I was possessed by Ryan Seacrest—and announce: “Welcome to our indoor, outdoor fun. You’d better grab some popcorn because it’s going to be <exaggerated> VERY, VERY funny.”

The rest of the home video follows me from “exotic” location to location as I show off my bunnies, zoom down the street at “lightning speed” on my bike, and perform—at great lengths—my (very basic) piano skills.

I’m cringing now just thinking about it. But even as I do, I can feel a smile creep at the corners of my lips.

Everything is so much simpler when you’re a child. You imagine going on these amazing adventures and bringing your best friends—your treasured toys and pets—with you. It’s all so simple and pure and straightforward.

And you just know, you KNOW, that when you’re older you’ll live them out. You promise yourself you’ll make waaaaayyy better decisions than the stuffy adults around you and turn your dreams into reality.

But then slowly over time, without ever really meaning to, you become those adults and all the trials and tribulations your parents faced now become yours. You start saying that dreaded phrase, “one day….,” and it takes something monumental to bring you back to those larger than life ideas you’d once been so connected to, so intent on living out.

Which is where our story begins: October 7, 2015 in the emergency room of my local hospital.


Photo Cindy Hughes, MuddyLove.com

Like you, I had always dreamed about travelling with my dogs, and by my early 30s, my “one day…” had evolved into a full-blown vision. Not that I would actually ACT on it. No, no, I had that sucker neatly tucked into the back of my mind for special occasions (like avoiding adulting by daydreaming). But I had it all planned out: “one day” I wanted to take my dogs across North America from one ocean to the other. Over picture perfect mountains, across endless fields of wheat, around crystal clear lakes, all bookended by the oceans we’d swim in. We’d lie out under the stars, the dogs surrounding us, and it would be....

Beep… beep… beep….

We’re in a hospital, right? Connected to machines at two a.m. Or did you forget?

Which seems like a terrible time to be thinking about “one days,” but let me assure you, when everything is stripped away and you’re faced with a life-altering illness, it’s the ONLY thing you think about. And as your “one days...” start to slip away, you panic:

“What if I never get to ______? Why didn’t I ______? Omg, what have I done?”

And as I spent the next five months largely in bed with an undiagnosed neurological condition, at times unable to speak or walk, I started to plan our trip.

Which sounds INSANE now. I had no idea if I was going to be better enough to go, but as my husband Dustin tried his best to hold our lives together, I spent day after day alone in bed with my three best friends, my Huskies Eve, Ice, and Montana, dreaming about the adventures we’d have together as soon as I was well.


Photo Sonia Jones

So, I did what any (not so) sane person would do…. I started Googling pet-friendly accommodations, driving routes across Canada, and tried to figure out how to pack  months-worth of food and gear into a Mazda 3 hatchback.

I remember thinking: this is just an exercise in self-preservation; we can’t afford this; there’s no way in hell anyone is going to let us bring three Huskies into an Airbnb, let alone a hotel; the weather across Canada is a logistical nightmare—if we leave too early we’ll freeze and if we leave too late, the dogs will roast in the summer. Is this even feasible?
 

“When everything is stripped away and you’re faced
with a life-altering illness, it’s the ONLY thing you
think about.”

 

There were just so many questions: how many hours a day would the dogs tolerate in the car? Would the dogs stay in a tent without eating it? Can dogs even go on ferries?

But, with my dogs as an anchor, their endless joy a portal back into the magic conjured up by my childhood self, it all started to come together. And on April 27, 2016, six months after my first hospital visit (most of which were spent entirely in bed) we were on the road, headed to the far west coast of Canada to camp on the beach in Tofino, BC and swim in the Pacific Ocean.

Three Huskies, two humans, and one dirty white hatchback—a rolling adventure we dubbed, Huskies in the Hatch.


Photo Sonia Jones

In just under three months we drove across Canada’s 10 provinces (and back), over snow-capped mountains in Alberta, around impossibly turquoise lakes, and through the grasslands of Saskatchewan. We went on mini-adventures with the dogs, had epic dance parties to our “if-I-hear-this-song-one-more-time…” playlist in the car, and hunkered down and ordered room service under warm fuzzy blankets when it rained.

And as we hit the East coast, where we camped on the bluffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, I remember this one distinct moment where the girls were running along a miles-long beach and splashing in the water, and I just dropped to my knees and cried in pure joy.   

It was the most surreal feeling to know you were living a dream, to be so acutely aware of it while trying to wrap yourself in it and drink it all in. This was it. This was everything I’d dreamed about in bed. This was everything my childhood self had wished for us as adults.

There were SO many picture-perfect moments. But equally important were the stories behind them. There was the trip staple: me taking a million pictures with the dogs looking in opposite directions while Dustin impatiently screeched at me to hurry up. Let me tell you, it is NOT easy to get three Huskies looking the same way… ever.

And even the not-so-perfect moments—the chaos.


Photo Sonia Jones

The camping misadventures in the snow we hadn’t planned for. The nights spent soaking wet in the  pouring rain miles away from civilization with no option but to sleep sitting up in the car. Our ginger Husky, Montana, needing emergency surgery; me accidentally kicking out our windshield in a torrential downpour an hour before we were supposed to board a ferry. Even the trips’ unofficial end in Quebec—where I ended up back in the hospital and the whole trip turned into a recovery mission to get me home. I wouldn’t trade any of it for all of the money in the world.

They say to never meet your idols, because they won’t live up to the hype, but let me tell you, that trip, those memories… I can’t even type through the tears. They’re what kept me going for the next three years in bed. They’re what got me through my convalescence and back to my life, to the mountains with my dogs.

It’s like childhood me knew I needed this adventure to get through the hardest period of my life and help me unlock a skillset that’s so often lost somewhere during adolescence—the ability to live in the moment, to adventure.


Photo Cindy Hughes, MuddyLove.com

People always ask: would you go back? Would you do it all over again? The trip, all those years, even though it encompasses illness?

Yes. One million times yes, as I found my way back to myself. Sometimes when we get in the car to drive to the store, I get the itch to keep going with the dogs and drive up to Alaska or down the Oregon coast. And I want to suggest something to you, or maybe not you, but the little boy or girl inside of you that’s screaming for that big adventure:

It doesn’t need to include a life changing illness.

Don’t wait that long. Don’t make life FORCE you down the path you’re meant to go on. Go willingly before then. Go back to that little boy or little girl, sitting in their cardboard box airplane, the one sitting with their dog, or their toy dog—the adventure companion that holds the key to their hopes and dreams—and find that wonder again.

Our story is a journey of Huskies, happiness, and, ultimately, a return to health.

I can’t wait to read yours.
 

 

Finds For Adventurous Dogs & Their People!


Photo courtesy of @parkerandthepups

Portable Food & Water Station
This Dexas collapsible feeder folds down for easy transport and storage. (from $10, dexas.com)

 

A Road Trip Must-Have!
Effortlessly protect your vehicle with 4knine’s comfortable, waterproof and easy-to-clean seat and cargo-area covers. (from $60, 4knines.com)

 

The Bike Path Less Travelled
Bike with your dog! The Bike Tow Leash attachment allows dogs from 10 to 186 pounds to safely run beside you as you cycle. ($146, biketowleash.com)

Join Sonia's pack on YouTube, IG or FB @huskiesinthehatch

Read more about huskies here!

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