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.

Australian Shepherd looking up

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.

girl and dog sitting in the back of a car

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.

dog standing in a field next to a rest stop in Ohio

Australian Shepherd sitting in pink flowers on a cloudy day

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.

dog standing in front of fence looking off to the side

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.

dog standing on a dirt road through green fields in Oklahoma

dog walking down dirt road on a sunny day

Australian Shepherd walking with a blue sky and fluffy clouds

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.

Australian Shepherd standing in a dirt road

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.




  • Bless you and Iris, I lost my Aussie, Sophie Marie when her spleen tumor ruptured. Enjoy every moment, looking forward to part two. Iris is beautiful.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your Sophie Marie. It is a devestating cancer, and it seems like too many Aussies are affected by it. Aussies will always have a special place in my heart – they are all amazing.

  • All of your posts and photographs are just beautiful. I am so glad that you are doing this for both of you. It confirms that notion of doing it now – because we never know what the time is that is available to us. Aussies are the best and you are doing the best for her.

    • Thank you! Iris has definitely taught me the importance of living for today because life really can change at any moment. Gotta love those Aussies!

  • This was such a wonderful adventure to view through you and iris. Stunning photography!!! My pup is struggling with the same diagnosis….enjoying every moment as though it’s his last.

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