Voices in the Wilderness – Simone Durney

Ode to the Free Dog

After a few years of discussion, my partner and I decided to adopt a dog. Yes, the covid-19 lockdowns influenced our decision to find a dog at that particular time, but we were thrilled to have the extra time to bond with them.

In May 2020 we found our new best friend – Jerry. He is assumed to be a black lab-heeler mix and was 15 months old when we crossed paths. It was Jerry’s second visit to the same animal shelter when we stumbled upon him. While completing the adoption paperwork, the person that was helping us assured us that he would be in good hands with our mutual desire to get out and explore. It didn’t take long for us to introduce Jerry to our favorite wild places.

My partner and I both grew up with adopted dogs but had learned different ways of living with them. My family’s philosophy was that the adopted dog had clearly run away before so the dog should therefore live its life on a leash. My partner grew up in the country where dogs ran free. So, on our first adventure with Jerry in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness I was anxious about letting Jerry run free since we had only had him for a short time. Reassuring me, Jerry returned and frequently circled back to give us a big dog smile.

It was clear from that first hike that Jerry was meant to run free in wild places.

I quickly picked up a regular regimen of trail running to efficiently exercise both myself and Jerry. Trail running allowed Jerry and I to explore mountains, rivers, and valleys quickly, while teaching us t

hat each moment is fleeting and should be cherished. While running, Jerry and I always make a point to stop and smell the flowers, admire the lighting, enjoy the fluffy snow, and of course take time for trail snacks. This running style allows the miles to melt away and bonds Jerry and I further with each step.

While Jerry and I love other activities, our preferred mode of transportation is running as it gives us both a sense of freedom and flight to explore the wild. Jerry is now four and half years old and his favorite thing is running fast in the wilderness. Yes, he is capable of leash strolls in urban places, but the wilderness is where his heart belongs. As wilderness is a place free of judgement and filled with the unknown in hopes of telling its story. I think we should all take after Jerry by running wild and free in the wilderness.


Simone Durney is first and foremost a dog mom, but in her spare time she is completing a PhD in Ecology and Environmental Science at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. Her research evaluates Parnassius clodius butterfly populations and native flowering plant populations to understand the effects of climate change.

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