My best friend is a little Australian Shepherd named Iris. She’s my constant companion, my muse, and the inspiration behind Beyond the Fence.
There’s nothing I love more than being outside with my dog. We’ve spent days getting up early and driving to mountains in the dark so we could be there for sunrise, and nights camping so we could sleep under the stars. The world is a beautiful, amazing place, and I wanted to see all of it. I also wanted to capture and share all of the amazing things we saw during our adventures. I began experimenting with landscape photography and including Iris in the photos. She was always by my side, so of course, it was impossible to tell the story of our adventures without including her in my photos. Even though I loved exploring the northeast, I dreamed of continuing the project further away. “Maybe someday,” I said, “we’ll travel more.”
During a routine exam, Iris’ vet found a mass near her bladder. After an ultrasound and biopsy didn’t give us a diagnosis, we decided that surgery to remove the mass would be the best option. Iris did well with the surgery but the diagnosis was devastating – hemangiosarcoma and her vet estimated that it would only be three to six months before I would lose my girl.
Iris recovered quickly from her surgery and was back to her bouncy, goofy self. It was hard to believe that we were quickly running out of “someday’s.” Every day we’ve had together has been a gift, but sometimes it takes a change to realize just how special every day is. With Iris still feeling good, I decided that our “someday” needed to be today.
We packed up my old car and headed out on one last grand adventure full of sunshine, trees, and endless roads. We headed west – just me, my dog, my camera, and only a rough plan of where we were heading. I wanted to see the Rocky Mountains and I wanted to find somewhere warm enough for springtime camping. Other than that, I just wanted to enjoy every moment with my dog.
We left Massachusetts and drove southwest, stopping to play and stretch at rest stops along the way. We went for a walk in Ohio and crossed over the Mississippi River into Missouri.
When we made it to Oklahoma, we were both ready to spend some time outside of the car. We got off the highway and reset the GPS to take us along back roads only. “No highways” navigating is my favorite way to explore new places. You never know what you’ll stumble across.
We pulled over on a quiet dirt road and Iris was happy to go for a walk. It was the most amazing, perfect day of blue skies and green grass. With no other people in sight, the world was ours to enjoy.
Oklahoma was our first real stop and I was stunned by how beautiful it was – green fields, red soil, and beautiful blue skies. Coming from the woods of Massachusetts with the horizon always obscured by trees, Oklahoma felt endless. The world stretched out before us as far as the eye could see. The dirt roads that seemed to continue on forever were the perfect symbol for the beginning of our travels.
After our stroll, we climbed back into our car and headed toward our next destination – New Mexico.
To keep reading, go to Part II of Iris’ Grand Adventure.