Sometimes, just when you least expect it, your life turns a corner, and it’s as if the sun starts shining a little brighter. That’s how it was for my husband John and me, when Gizmo came into our lives when we were living full time back in New England. Back in 2010, we got Gizmo as a companion for my dad, but he didn’t feel he could keep up with his needs, and he insisted that we keep Gizmo as our own.
John and I have always been big hikers and campers, and we were afraid a Shih Tzu might not be able to keep up with us. But for the first three years we had him, we hiked all 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are over 4,000 feet high—anyone who hikes all 48 becomes a member of the 4,000-footer club, dogs included.
Gizmo went on to hike the Belknap Range mountains (14 mountains) and all the fire towers of New Hampshire. He has a total of 3 patches on his Ruffwear hiking harness for all of these accomplishments. Gizmo has hiked many more mountains than the ones on these lists. He has completed most of the mountains in Acadia National Park and many others in Maine. In addition to camping and hiking, Gizmo comes along with us when we kayak and when we are out on our bicycles.
This past fall, John and I decided it was time to take some time off from work and explore the country with Gizmo. John is retired from law enforcement after 30 years, and I “pretired” from my full-time job as director of the emergency department in Brunswick, Maine. I continue to work summers when we’re back in New England.
Gizmo biking with John
Last October 1st, we headed west. We decided to document our trip with a blog, “Gizmo Goes West,” so everyone could follow our adventures. When we left, we really didn’t have a final destination in mind, but we knew our first big stop would be in California. We had planned to spend a couple of weeks seeing sights along highway 395. We Met lots of people along the way who suggested we check out Palm Springs. We had a couple of months booked for travel, and then we were planning to move on to Arizona. But once we got to Palm Springs, we fell in love with the area and cancelled our Arizona plans.
Relaxing on inner tubes
We have enjoyed the desert with all of the surrounding mountains. We love that you can be warm and in shorts in Palm Desert and, a little over an hour later, you can be hiking in snow, surrounded by pine trees instead of palms. We initially struggled to find hikes to do with Gizmo, but one day we picked up a copy of Desert Pet Companion and found a list of great dog-friendly hikes! We posted the list on our refrigerator and began working our way through.
For all his athleticism, Gizmo is a lap dog extraordinaire when he’s not hiking. Shortly after my dad died, John and Gizmo attended therapy dog training. When we are back in New England, Gizmo loves coming into the hospital to visit me at work. The nurses and doctors think his visits are the best therapy for recovering from a stressful day. When he visits the hospital, everyone knows and loves him, from the custodians to the CEO. He has quite a following.
Gizmo and Lori hiking up Black Mountain
And he’s making fast friends in the desert, too, with every new adventure, just as John and I are. The three of us are already planning our return for next year. We have been won over by the sense of the community, the fun activities, and the perfect weather here in the desert. Gizmo is so happy we’ve made it our second home!
Fearless on the front of a kayak