Training Stevie and Me

Stevie and Me

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The story of a man and his pit bull traversing the mountains in the name of cystic fibrosis.
By Devin Featherstone

It’s true what they say, that a dog is a man’s best friend. From the time Stevie was just about a year old we’ve shared countless adventures together. Although she’s one of the laziest dogs at home, when she hits the trails she comes alive.

Stevie is 80 pounds and large in stature, but she fears running water. One day, we’d done a long run through the mountains and encountered a river crossing. The water wasn’t fast moving, and it rose to be about waist deep. Stevie could not cross the river. Instead she watched me start to cross and let out a whaling sound that resembled a trucker’s horn. Obviously I couldn’t leave my dog on the other side, so I ended up virtually piggy backing her across the water. Fortunately for Stevie, her paws remained completely dry.

I have a love for photography and trail running has given me the opportunity to capture moments in places that most people can only dream of reaching. Cystic fibrosis has been a large part of my life. My friend Danger Dan has undergone not one, but two double lung transplants in his mere 30 years of life due to cystic fibrosis. Because I am actively involved with the group, I was fortunate enough to receive green Cystic fibrosis flags. Regardless of the mountain that Stevie and I conquer, we always take a picture of us waving and wearing our green cystic fibrosis flags.

Stevie has become an ambassador for cystic fibrosis, and wears her flag with pride. Her pictures have gone so far as to reach a man in Colorado who was recently diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. He requested to have a flag of his own—his goal is to summit mountains; to not let the disease control his life and his passions. One dog, one flag and a couple of photos on a long run have brought connection and, for me, a sense of appreciation. I have the ability to run. I have the ability to breathe. This is something so many people take for granted.

My passions have provided me the opportunity to see so much beauty. Although running is solitary, there’s something so incredibly special about looking over your shoulder and seeing your dog appreciating what you’re doing just as much (if not more than) as you do. They may not look at the same view and appreciate it at the same level. But they’re with you, and it’s a moment. And it means something. It’s yours, shared.

Since I’ve started running with Stevie she’s forced me to slow down. After a long day of work when the couch is calling my name, she’s always waiting for me to take her out, encouraging me to get out there on days that I might not have. There isn’t a day that I want to run without my dog or see a mountaintop without her standing beside me to share that moment. I truly recommend it and you will never forget those moments—especially if you can tie in a cause close to your heart.