Stories of Utah Dogs, Cats & Their Humans
Outdoor recreation isn’t just for humans. Read on about these Utah dogs and cats who love getting outside as much as their owners do.
Brody Leven, Katie Boué, And Spaghetti
Brody Leven travels the world as a professional adventure skier. He has skied in remote areas of Africa, Central Asia, and the Arctic. Working with sponsors, who fund his expeditions, he writes, produces films and lobbies for climate change solutions.
Katie Boue, after leaving a private sector job, creates education curriculum around public land advocacy and stewardship. “People want to do good, they just need tools,” Katie says. She enjoys climbing trailing running, and kayaking on what she calls an “approachable level,” as opposed to Brody’s globetrotting adventures.
Along the way, they added Spaghetti to the mix. A rescue from Apple Valley, Spaghetti was picked up on the streets of Las Vegas where it was suspected she was hit by a car. The couple found her at a shelter run by a husband/wife vet team who take in dogs that other shelters don’t want to deal with. Katie describes her as a “dumpster doodle,” someone’s attempt at making a designer dog as a poodle/terrier mix. She sheds very little, making her a perfect fit for Brody and his dog allergies.
Soon after her adoption, Katie and Brody started taking Spaghetti along on their travels, and she’s been an excellent traveling pet. “She is miraculously down for anything. At home she will sleep for 18 hours, but in the Uintas she goes on 10-mile hikes, paddling, and trail runs. She wants to be with us and is super excited to do whatever we are doing.”
Their most memorable trip was Spaghetti’s first time in Moab. “The area is special to Katie. It is the reason she moved to Utah. When we took Spaghetti there, we worried about the heat and prickly conditions, but she loves it. She runs and does what I call face-first zoomies. She zooms around the desert and experiences the same joy as Katie. We judge how happy she is based on how pink her fur is from the desert sand,” says Brody.
When traveling with a pet, Katie and Brody say it’s important to know the specifics of where you are going and find places that are dog friendly. Katie adds, “Move through the outdoors with attention. Keep sustainability and stewardship in mind and leave things better than you found them.”
Zac Robinson and Kenneth
Zac Robinson is a cat person. “I am bucking the trend from crazy cat lady to crazy cat guy,” he says.
Zac likes to camp every weekend, usually with his buddy, Craig Armstrong, another cat lover. “Everyone else had dogs on their trips and we decided we wanted to take our cats,” says Zac.
Their first trip with Zac’s Kenneth and Craig’s Millie was an Indian Creek climbing trip. “We took the cats and they did all right, but ultimately they didn’t have much to do during the day. They were stuck at the base of the wall while we climbed.”
Craig started to investigate other trip ideas and tried to plan something the cats would enjoy, and that is when they hit on slot canyons.
They never tried slot canyons before, but found a wide world of small climbs. They cats were able to climb on their own, because when you put a cat in a slot canyon, there is only one direction to go. They can’t wander off, but they can still explore. “We never wanted to drag the cats along, we wanted them to be able to go at their own speed.”
They’ve been taking the cats on adventures for five to six years and usually get out once or twice a month when it is nice in the desert.
While not wanting to put words in his cat’s mouth, Zac thinks, “They seem to enjoy it. We take them somewhere safe and they can explore. At camp they stick close. And we are careful to pick secluded spots where the odds of running into someone else are slim or none. Kenny has a Kenny-size camp chair and likes to sit next to the fire. He doesn’t wander off because he has been exploring all day.”
Zac’s advice for other cat owners is to “Go at the cat’s speed. Pick objectives and set goals on what you think is realistic for cats to do. Then is it more enjoyable for the cat. I see ads for cat backpacks with pictures of folks going to national parks. That is not realistic because pets are only allowed at the campgrounds, not the trails, at Natural Parks. You know that cat didn’t do anything.”
Kenneth and Millie are rescues and Zac urges anyone with an inclination to visit Best Friends, Paws, Nuzzles and Co, or any other organization to “snag your own animal to take and explore with.”
Melissa Felker, Chris Bruhn, Wicket, Irish, and Finn
Melissa Felker describes herself as a military brat. “I lived a good portion of my life in Germany and then moved around the states a lot.”
After high school in Washington she was recruited to the row team at Notre Dame.
She moved back to Washington where she met her future husband, Chris Bruhn, (aka “Pirate”).
She I wanted to move to Chicago and he wanted Boston. They chose Salt Lake City, as “someplace in the middle,” says Melissa.
Both Melissa and Chris are active outdoor people who love to ski and mountain bike. “We took it up two years after moving to Salt Lake, but it didn’t stick. A few years later we tried again and it stuck like glue,” Melissa says.
They have three rescue dogs, Wicket, Irish and Finn, and decided to bring them along when mountain biking, trail running, and backcountry skiing.
Wicket is a Border Terrier mutt who started out trail running and Irish is a Teacup Irish Wolfhound. Melissa say she adopted Irish just before she was scheduled to be put down. She had been kept in a cage as a breeder dog, and the couple basically had to teach her to walk. She was scared and nervous, but she bonded with Wicket. They knew they could start taking her on runs and later biking because she would stick close to Wicket.
Their newest dog is Finn. They were looking for a high energy dog who might be harder to find adoption. Finn fit the bill. He had been adopted and returned three times in six months. Melissa describes him as a “long hair Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix with long legs and a tiny body. He is super hyper, but gets away with a lot of crap because he is super cute.”
Wicket and Irish are getting older and not able to go out as much, so Finn has become their main traveling companion.
Melissa and Chris bike with the dogs off leash. “We tend to find trails where we can go fast down and hit jumps. That doesn’t bode well for a dog on a leash.”
They like to go to Driggs, Idaho, which Melissa describes as a small town where almost everything is off leash. They also look for other places that are lenient about off leash and tend to go earlier in the day when there are fewer people.
The dogs are trained to stay close to the back wheel and usually don’t wander off—unless they catch a scent. But for the most part her dogs are pack dogs and stick close, even rounding up their humans when they feel it necessary.
Melissa’s favorite memory was a time when the wildflowers were in bloom at Driggs. “I got to watch the dogs frolic in the flowers. It was like The Sound of Music.”
Melissa’s advice for other pet owners: “Always carry treats and water for your dogs. It keeps them closer and just like us they need to refuel, or they won’t keep up with us. Start small. Go longer. Be patient.”