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Hiking with the Help of a Pup
A guide dog helps his partner complete grueling thru-hikes.
Recently I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail and was reminded of an amazing human-canine team. Ten years ago, Trevor Thomas lost his eyesight and moved into a small room in his parent's basement. Being an avid mountain biker and snowboarder, Trevor had a hard time adjusting to his new life. He could no longer hold a job or even do simple tasks like tell time. Soon Trevor fell into a deep depression that he calls "being on death row in a self-imposed prison."

Then his life was turned around by long distance hiking and his seeing eye dog, Tennille. Trevor began in 2008 with a solo thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He figured, if he could walk from Georgia to Maine, he could do anything. Since then Trevor has walked more than 20,000 miles on some of the country's loneliest and toughest long-distance trails.

On the trail Trevor feels normal, calling nature the great equalizer since it treats everyone the same. Trevor has learned to listen to the sound of the wind to "see" the landscape. He can tell if there are rock walls, valleys, hills, and water. Trevor says every time he comes out on the trail, his sound vocabulary grows.

Trevor would hike with his group, Team FarSight, until he got his seeing eye dog, Tennille. Since then the pair trekked nearly 6,000 miles just the two of them. They've completed North Carolina's nearly 1,000 mile Mountains to Seat Trail, the only hikers to have completed the challenge that year. In 2014, they finished the Long Trail in New England and in 2015, they did a thru hike of the 500 mile Colorado Trail.

They're an amazing team. Tennille knows how tall Trevor is and can warn him about low-handing branches. She can also find trails, water, and even campsites. Trevor says he's the big picture guy and Tennille does the "detail stuff." They're perfect hiking partners together.

Now Trevor lives independently in Charlotte, N.C. and makes a living speaking to others about what you can you achieve when you push your limits. Trevor and Tennille are currently on the Appalachian Trail again and you can follow their progress on Facebook.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photography by Sean Cope

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