October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and we at Hike Like A Woman love our four-legged hiking partners. For our second installment, we hear from Ambassador Jessie about Neena and Ryuk and shelter dogs can rescue us.

All of my life, my family has owned (or been owned by) rescued and adopted animals. When I was in college, I volunteered time at a local county shelter walking and training dogs during the day. It was there that I met Neena- a stray, about 2 years old, a mutt- probably part pittie from the look of her. She and I bonded during my time there, and when I moved home at the end of the term, I adopted her.

Neena has been my constant companion ever since that day. Over the last 10 (!) years, she has been with me, through ugly break ups and crummy relationships. She was there for me when I graduated college, moved to multiple city apartments, got married, bought a house. Most recently, she has been my rock since separating from my partner and moving into an apartment of my own. She will be 13 in the spring, but she still tackles the trails like a champ (albeit much shorter ones now). Neena and I experienced our first camping and backpacking trips together. She has been with me on trips to the beach and we have kayaked on the sound (once… she thought that was a TERRIBLE idea).

Our latest experience together has been raising a puppy. After moving out of my house and into my apartment with my cat and Neena, I wasn’t looking for another pet, much less a puppy. As fate would have it, a good friend of mine would occasionally send me photos of rescue and shelter dogs, knowing that I had an affinity for the Belgian Malinois. One evening, she sent me a link to the county shelter. “Look, they have a baby Mal!” Of course, I looked, and that goofy little face peering up at the camera had me hooked. I was at the shelter the next morning.

The puppy’s name is now Ryuk, after the god of death in Death Note. He had a rough start before I got him, but he is now 5.5 months old and the most amazing little guy. He is too young to do any significant hiking, but we ‘play’ on short trails around town so he can learn the ropes of being a trail dog. Neena is teaching him a thing or two as well. I hope to taking him on his first car camping trip this fall so he can practice being an outdoorsy dog with Neena.

I couldn’t imagine life without a dog, especially life without these two amazing dogs. Two mutts from the shelter who became my heart dogs, both in different ways. It is said that until you know the love of an animal, a part of your soul remains unawakened, and I truly believe this.

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