We often brag that we have the best fans in the world – people and pets alike. And it’s not only how handsomely they wear our tags that keeps us smiling; it’s also the stories they tell and the heartwarming thoughts they share with us
Sue and her Boxer, Olive, are an outstanding example. We think you’ll agree once you hear a bit more about their adventures together...
When Sue Met Olive
Before Olive was even a twinkle in her eye, Sue had a German Shepherd/Boxer mix named Chesney. Sadly, Chesney had bladder cancer (the terminal kind). She also wasn’t too fond of other dogs (except for puppies), so to avoid making Chesney’s remaining time miserable, Sue didn’t have any plans to bring another dog in the home. She thought about adopting a 2-3 year old again in the future, but had “zero intention of adopting a puppy.” That is until Sue met Olive.
Olive was born into Minnesota Boxer Rescue, where Sue has volunteered since 2008. Olive was the runt of a litter of 5 girls that were staying in a foster home. The people that intended to adopt Olive got cold feet, but this was understandable because “a puppy is a lot of work.” As a result, the adoption coordinator at the rescue center notified everyone that there was a puppy left without a home. They extended an adoption invite to volunteers (volunteers are pre-screened and approved to adopt). Sue was inclined to help Olive, but she also thought how this would impact Chesney:
“Chesney liked puppies and likely only had 2 months (max) left, so I replied to our coordinator that I wanted Olive. Then I thought, ‘oh crap, what did I just do?’ But, as it turns out, it was a great decision. Olive helped give Chesney a little boost in energy and excitement, and she certainly helped build a bridge over grief for me after Chesney passed. It’s pretty hard to be down and out with a crazy puppy flying around. If Boxers are the clowns of the canine world, a Boxer puppy is even crazier! I brought Olive home at 8 weeks old on December 20th, 6 years ago.”
How Hiking Became Their “Thing”
Sue had always “loved to hike.” And even though Boxers aren’t known for their hiking and camping abilities, they do have a reputation for athleticism and definitely need exercise and stimulation to maintain a healthy life. Turns out, Olive really loved hiking/camping, and, as Sue confirms, “it worked out great for the both of us.”
Sue started hiking with Olive when she was young. This helped Olive learn to love the outdoors and take on “various terrains, pretty steep climbs, muddy hills, hidden waterfalls,” and much more, without any fear. Their adventures started with a few local state parks, but Sue had an inkling that there were “even better ones to see.” Of course Sue wanted to take this on with Olive by her side. Their adventures took them from the SE MN metro area, to hiking all of the MN State Parks:
“I mapped out all of the distances to each park. We would camp at one site and try to hit the area parks each day during a trip. We tackled the various regions and our last one was the NW area of MN. There were some challenges there like Garden Island State Rec Area. You have to venture into Canada and then back into MN, then charter a boat and take it 12 miles out to the park (which is an actual island!). It’s on Lake of the Wood, a huge lake that goes between MN and Canada. The day before we went they had 6 foot waves, so it was pretty bumpy out there. That was probably the most interesting of the adventures.”
The Gang’s All Here
Olive and Sue hike alone every once in a while, but they always camp with another person and often another dog. Olive’s buddy, Brody, (also an alumni of MN Boxer Rescue) frequently joins them with his mom, Lisa. The camping gang started a fun tradition for documenting their journeys: Olive (pictured right) and Brody (pictured left) sit by the state park sign at each location to have a picture taken. Sue recalls, “It’s pretty funny: They hop out of the car, head to the sign, and sit.”
Tackling Unpredictable Wildlife
When it comes to braving the outdoors, Sue and Olive have managed just fine: “We have a knack for always camping in the rain! We have been in some really bad storms with the tent, but the dogs have always done great. It seems that during a storm the dogs are more calm in a tent (with just nylon covering them) than in a house. We haven’t encountered any crazy wildlife. Once Olive had a giant woodchuck next to her when she was sleeping by the fire, but she had no clue it was there. I nearly hurt myself trying to get to her before she realized anything was going on.”
Hiking Safely is Top Priority
For starters, Sue always has human and dog first aid kits on hand. Sue also ensures the dogs have up to date pet ID tags (they are microchipped too) and carries a couple of coats for Olive for colder temperatures. During the hot summer months, swamp coolers help cool down the dogs – Boxers don’t do well with high heat. Sue also had automatic start installed in her vehicle so she can regulate the temperature and safely leave the dogs in the car while she runs errands. At their home away from home, Olive has her own little tent that she hangs out in while the gang is relaxing by the fire. According to Sue, “People always think she sleeps in it. Nope. She’s in the tent with us.”
The Future Adventures of Sue and Olive
Sue and Olive have started tackling parks in Canada and Wisconsin too. Visiting parks all over Minnesota has allowed them to see so many places and communities that Sue admits she “probably would have never ventured to had it not been for this journey. It’s actually pretty cool to hear a town on the news and know where it is because of the state park that is there.”
Sue is extremely excited that this coming year will be different than the past: “Some friends surprised me and bought a camper for me! I was shocked as heck, but they knew that I wanted to camp earlier and later into the year, but it can get quite cold and rainy in Minnesota. This is a pop up and it has a furnace. Olive will be quite happy, she is ALWAYS cold. We are going to pay it forward by buying a couple bundles of firewood at each park and leaving it at various campsites during the middle of the night on every camping trip!”
The Moral of the Story
We met this adorable pair on National Take a Hike Day, so it is only fitting that we close with some words of encouragement from Sue: “It’s been a blast and such an awesome thing to do with your dog. Hiking and camping stimulate all of your senses at once. Plus, you are away from computer screens and phones too!”
Thanks, Sue and Olive, for making us smile and for being such an inspirational duo (love to Brody and Nessa (the pretty white pup) too!) We cannot wait to see what you do next! Photos by Sue Stanek and Grape Soda Photography.