It’s National Pet Month. And, in recognition of the unconditional love and joy they bring us, we thought we would highlight this fabulous article on Dogventures by Bill Gibb. Here he chats to Jessica Knowles who feels empowered to try adventurous things as long as her trusty dog is by her side.
Sense Of Adventure
As a primary teacher, daily life followed a routine pattern for Jessica Knowles. After looking after her young charges in the classroom, she would – like millions of others – head home and put her feet up in front of the TV.
But the arrival of her first dog, Hungarian Vizsla Pepper, changed everything. She found a new sense of adventure, swapping the sofa for hiking, cycling, paddle boarding and kayaking. Always with Pepper by her side.
When she tragically lost Pepper aged just four, she couldn’t bear to be without a canine companion, and new Vizsla Rufus is now for ever with her. Jessica, who’s thirty, documented on a blog that attracted 40,000 followers how her wellbeing improved immeasurably by getting out with her dog. Now she’s sharing her off-the-beaten-track adventures in new book “Dogventures”, which she hopes will give other women the confidence to find their own outdoors spirit.
“I’d never had a dog before Pepper, and I couldn’t have imagined how much of a difference she’d make in my life,” Jessica, who lives in Staffordshire with husband Tim, says. “Getting out for a walk in the evening would detox me from that day at work. Each walk gave me so much fulfilment in my life.” But those routine local walks in fields soon became so much more.
Jessica has always had a sporty streak, and having a dog alongside gave her a free-spirited independence. “Everything seemed so much more colourful and exciting,” Jessica explains. “I would only really do active things with Tim – not on my own. “I had always seen the likes of Bear Grylls and Ben Fogle on TV having all sorts of adventures and felt I wanted to do some things like that, too.
“It seemed like a very male thing, though. While Tim might go and do something sporty with his friends at the weekend, I’d never say to my girlfriends that we should go hiking or mountain biking.”
“They are starting to come round to it now, but it somehow didn’t seem like a natural thing. With Pepper beside me, however, I felt like I could go and have my own adventures. I felt empowered to go and do it myself.”
The pair were soon out on long mountain bike rides or taking to the hills. Pepper was just as happy on the water. She’d join Jessica in the back of the kayak, or sit on the paddleboard, looking all around her as they took to the river. Sadly, though, that all came to an abrupt end when Pepper’s rare illness caught up with her.
“It was absolutely awful when I lost Pepper,” Jessica says. “I felt like I’d lost my sense of purpose. I knew I had to get another dog and we’re overjoyed to have Rufus.”
Jessica posted pictures of her canine adventures on Instagram and amassed a big following as lots of women got in touch asking how they could follow in their footsteps. After the huge interest in the Dogventures website she set up, Jessica wrote her book.
“So many more people have realised how important the outdoors is over the past couple of years,” Jessica explains. “I think it’s a way of life that gives so much and makes you feel so much better. I just wanted to encourage more women to have the confidence to get out there.
“Sometimes the richest things in life are the simplest, and you don’t always have to follow the norm.” While Rufus is the spitting image of much-loved Pepper, Jessica has discovered one different character trait – Rufus really isn’t keen on paddle boarding.