By Jack Rightmyer
When Abe came into our life in September 2009, Judy and I were still grieving the sudden death of our dog Wyatt six months earlier. “I’m not so sure I want a dog yet,” I said to my wife. I reluctantly went along with her to meet some new pups that had just arrived from Georgia and were up for adoption. When Judy picked up the 10-week-old Great Pyrenees-golden retriever named Abe, we immediately fell for him, especially when he cuddled softly into Judy’s neck.
Abe was an adorably cute puppy. From the start, he had the temperament of a therapy dog, friendly to everyone he met and loving each dog he encountered. Judy and I have real passion for the outdoors, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and spending weekends at our camp on Loon Lake in Chestertown. All Abe wanted to do was to be outside with us.
Together the three of us hiked High Peaks, went on long adventures into the Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness and explored the Adirondacks.
On our relaxing summer days at camp, Abe loved jumping off our dock far out into the lake to retrieve a thrown stick. He would do that for hours if we let him.
A great thing about hiking with a dog is how they let strangers start a conversation. “What kind of dog is that?” “What’s his name?” “How old is he?” “Can I give him a treat?”
One of his favorite trips was our yearly cross-country ski into the Santanoni Great Camp. Abe would get so happy in the snow he would often just run around in circles beaming with an enormous smile. “He’s doing a zoomy,” my granddaughter Maggie would scream with joy.
It was a March 2019 ski into Santanoni when we first noticed Abe was showing his age. He had no problem making it to the camp, but he was laboring the last two miles. “It’s probably because we’re skiing and he needs to run much of the way,” I said. But that summer he also struggled getting down the rocks on our descent from Crane Mountain, which he had climbed many times before without difficulty.
Judy and I realized it was time to scale back activities with Abe. Many big dogs get hip problems as they age, and Abe was no exception. He now receives daily doses of anti-inflammatory medications, and he seems to be doing much better. We also know there are some hikes that are out of his reach, such as a very steep climb or a more than four-mile journey.
Like so many Adirondack hikers, my wife and I love the challenge of climbing the High Peaks and trekking far into the backcountry. Hiking now with our senior dog has introduced us to short and equally beautiful adventures such as along the Chester Challenge trails and to Adirondack fire towers. One of our favorites was the Bald Mountain fire tower near Old Forge last fall, a two-mile round trip with a beautiful view of Second, Third and Fourth Lakes. After, we stopped in the town of Inlet so Abe could swim around to soothe his sore hips.
Abe no longer jumps off our dock at camp, but he still loves to swim and ever so gently kick his legs to stay afloat. Water has always been one of his favorite things so whenever we plan a hike with him today we make sure there’s some water at the end that he can lie down in to cool off.
On hot days in the summer at our camp Abe loves to dig a hole and lay down with his head poking out. It must be comforting. He’ll watch the clouds drift by and the ducks swim in formation, and he is teaching me a valuable lesson about aging. He’s showing me that we will not be able to do all we could before, but if we love the outdoors it will always be part of who we are.
Many dogs never leave their backyard, but Abe has hiked mountains throughout the Adirondacks, the Catskills and Vermont. He’s run on Cape Cod beaches. He has met hundreds of people who have cuddled and loved him. Abe still spends a good portion of every day outside watching the world go by, and with his smile, brings joy to many people.
Abe has lived a rich life.
Send pics of your dog having fun in the Adirondacks to firstname.lastname@example.org
More to Explore
Subscribe to print/digital issues of Adirondack Explorer,
delivered 7 times a year to your mailbox and/or inbox