Today’s episode is with Chelsey and her two girls Freya and Stranger @2WanderGeeks, working and playing in their backyard wilderness in Montana alongside other service dogs in training. Chelsey and her husband Andrew live on the edge of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and right from their doorstep, they take the dogs hiking and backpacking regularly.
To go back, Chelsey’s story begins with her service in the Army in Afghanistan. On her return to the states and dealing with PTSD, she was able to rely on the comfort and security of her dog. Foxy, a rescue from New Mexico, also inspired Chelsey to get into the outdoors and to start service dog training. Fast forward a few years and she adopted another rescue dog, Stranger a Malinois, from Grateful Dogs in San Francisco @gratefuldogsrescue25. This time, Chelsey was looking for those specific high drive, working dog traits that would make Stranger a great search and rescue service dog. Though Stranger, who has a few traits typical with the breed, did not become a service dog, it wasn’t long till Freya was adopted and trained. Freya, a lab and shepherd mix from Woods Humane Society @woodshumanesociety, joined the family in summer of 2019.
Having Foxy had led Chelsey into an active outdoor lifestyle including backpacking and hiking, though Foxy was unable to do some of the more strenuous hikes due to age and hip issues. When Chelsey and Andrew applied to backpack the entire length of the Continental Divide Trail, they unfortunately had to leave both Foxy and Stranger behind. Considering the extreme weather conditions in 2019, the dogs would most likely not have enjoyed it. The trip was funded and supported through the non-profit organization Warrior Expeditions @warriorexpeditions that helps veterans accomplish long trails, cycling trips, and paddling expeditions, with a focus on mental health through outdoor experience. Because Chelsey was unable to complete the CDT in 2019, she is currently training along with her trail partner Freya, to backpack the remainder next summer.
One of their favorite spots to hike is Blodgett Canyon, which leads up to Blodgett Lake right on the Montana and Idaho border. And the CDT is just 40 miles/ 64km away. But really, any trail in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness area is a great trail. Most recently they hiked Big Creek trail, where they followed wolf and elk tracks for miles. Further south is the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, a wonderfully named area that encompasses 2.3 million acres/ 9,500 km2, the single largest federally managed wilderness area outside of Alaska. Along with the also wonderfully named Goose Hump Wilderness, there are more than 3.3 million acres/ 13,000 km2 of roadless protected land! Most of this area was originally inhabited by the Niimíipuu, also known as the Nez Perce Tribe.
Chelsey’s shout outs go to Michelle Revoir @michellerevoir and Sean Gobin @veteranvanlife who run @WarriorExpeditions. The two service dog organizations that she works with are @DogTagBuddies and Canine Companions for Independence @ccicanine.
Thanks for listening!