I Went Into Town for Peaches and Came Back With a Puppy

Per usual, I had pulled the short straw among my dirt-bag friends while on a rock climbing trip in the Sierras during the spring of 2013 and was elected to make the 60-mile round trip into Bishop, Calif., to replenish our group’s exhausted water supply. Although inconvenient, I realized that I could also retrieve a one-pound box of peaches to present as a trophy to a girl who climbed better than me and often gazed off into the alpine desert with Colt 45., sky blue eyes and sun-bleached hair that danced in a loosely tied bun on her sun-kissed shoulders. She had a gentle affection for peaches.

Driving down the empty, sandy, washboard ridden road towards town, I let my hand surf in the air out the window. Over the course of our month long stay in the Sierras, I had begun to consciously sculpt my days around simplicity. I learned to acknowledge and appreciate the way the sun felt on my face after being out in it for too long, and the great satisfaction that comes when you wake with the sun and sleep with the moon. I had less than $100 in my bank account and I had never felt more alive. It was around this time in my life that I truly discovered freedom.

About five miles outside of town, I slowed as a coyote-shaped silhouette clumsily rambled across the road in front of me. I slowed to a stop and realized that the little ball of fur that was attempting to navigate the baron landscape was actually a very young, very timid looking shepherd puppy. To say the least, he looked like he was a long way from home.

Although I’d never thought of myself as what some would call “a dog person,” I’ve come to posses a great appreciation for life and living things. I parked my car on the side of the road and slowly approached the four legged nomad whose fur was covered with a thick coating of the same Sierra Nevada moon-dust that filled my shoes and occupied my sleeping bag at night. For some reason, I picked him up. He looked back at me with golden eyes that glowed with a petrifying amount of intensity, charisma and, at that moment, gratitude.

I pulled into the parking lot of the general store, my new friend sitting patiently at attention in the passenger seat. I spent the $40 I had rationed for freeze dried meals for the rest of the week instead on an aluminum dog bowl, a 20-pound bag of dog food and a leather collar. My final $50 went towards a tank of gas, 10 gallons of water and of course, a one-pound crate of Georgia peaches.

I went into Bishop on the day I found Tucker with the intention of gaining some sort of recognition for my admiration of a beautiful soul that I had grown fond of on the trip. She personified the newfound definition of freedom I had discovered while living in the back of my Toyota Tacoma, traveling around the American West for the summer. While we never became anything more than good friends, I realized that I had found a different, yet equally important, type of companionship when I took Tucker under my wing.

Since that day years ago, Tucker has accompanied me on many, many adventures. Many of the more responsible figures in my life shuddered at the idea of me having a dog throughout my first years of college. It could pose potential problems such as not having the time, money or commitment that comes when another living thing depends on you for survival. It’s been an adjustment, sure, but the allegiance that Tucker and I have to each other outweighs any inconvenience that including him in my life has caused.

He’s a working dog. His good looks and uncanny ability to walk into the frame for a photo have made him the subject of countless photographs I’ve taken while experimenting with what I’ve learned freedom to mean. Tucker has given me the courage to experience the world alone, while never actually being without a companion.