Amber + Ariel

Shelter Dog Inspires Mountain Journey

Amber + Ariel

From the moment I saw her blue and brown eyes, I knew Ariel had a sense of adventure in her.

Together, Ariel and I discovered our love for the mountains, inspiring my dream of becoming a part of the Adirondack 46ers – a club dedicated to hikers who have summited all 46 High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. This was a dream that I never thought I would be able to attain.

"I am who I am because of her, and I cannot thank her enough for that."

Ariel was eight-years-old when we climbed our first mountain. I didn’t think it was possible for us to hike all 46 peaks, but we would at least enjoy some of them while we could.

Mt. Marcy, the highest point in New York State, was our first Adirondack High Peak. To stand at 5,344-feet felt like an entirely different world. Every worry was so small. I was so small, but the world was so big and so was my love for Ariel standing beside me. Ariel had a genuine smile on her face as she gazed out over the mountains.

In our spare time, Ariel became a Canine Good Citizen and registered therapy dog working with children.

When Ariel was ten-years-old, we embarked on our most challenging hike — the Great Range Traverse, where we encountered ladders, cliffs, and over 24 miles of rough terrain. Ariel surpassed these obstacles with ease. We raced the setting sun across the exposed summit of Mt. Haystack, and I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom. We sat together taking in the magnificence of the Adirondacks as the world was plunged into darkness and I thought to myself, this is what it feels like to be fully alive.

By Ariel’s 11th birthday, we were over halfway to our goal, and she had given me every reason to believe in her and myself. On August 20, 2016, on the summit of Mt. Colden, we became Adirondack 46ers.

Every single day, I still aspire to be the kind of person Ariel thinks I am. She has changed my life, and I have found my best friend in her. She gave me the courage to do something I never thought I could.

She spreads joy and love to everyone she meets and has brought adventure to my life. She has shown me how to find happiness in the simplest things and inspires me to make the most out of every moment. I am who I am because of her, and I cannot thank her enough for that.

We dedicated our finish hike to the shelter where I adopted Ariel from, Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, hoping that our journey would inspire others to adopt and go out and seek an adventure.

Each year, Petco Love invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Amber Pitcher won Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands, New York a 2016 Holiday Wishes award.