Tom & Savannah Go for a Walk (Around the World)
"Wanna go for a walk?" takes on a whole new meaning with Tom Turich and Savannah – the tenth person and first dog to walk around the world. The pair's story is sure to inspire and have you re-thinking what's possible with a dog by your side.
On another cool day in Kyrgyzstan, Savannah watched the yaks ruminate while their long coats flicked like willow branches in the breeze. In the summer, the mountains were green and where the shepherds didn’t lead their stock the earth was bright with onions, tulips and edelweiss. There were no trees at our altitude. The land was bald, but the yaks were big as boulders and they seemed a push away from tumbling down the mountain.
From a long way off, Savannah was curious about the yaks despite their thousand pound advantages. They spotted her early - for such hulking animals, yaks are surprisingly quick and skittish. Savannah never neared them. The yaks vanished down the mountainside before she could utter a bark.
Savannah paused to gaze at the many-layered mountains ahead. In another place, another country, I would have whistled for her to come back, but in the Kyrgyz mountains there was no need. Here there were no towns, no cars, no wolves, no dogs, nothing that might mean keeping her under a closer eye. Savannah was free to roam. The land was hers. After walking twenty-two thousand miles across thirty-eight countries we had finally reached a place Savannah might consider paradise.
Of course, her life didn’t begin with such ease.
As a puppy, Savannah was found shaking against a median on a Texas highway. She was mangy and abandoned, brought to a kill shelter, then saved from that kill shelter by Austin Pets Alive!
I found her there, four months into my walk around the world.
When I began my seven year adventure, I never imagined I’d do it with a dog beside me. I was walking the world in part to find freedom, not the responsibility of caring for another being. But after months of camping in strange places, I realized how much better I’d sleep if I had a dog beside me. So in truth, I adopted Savannah for selfish, perhaps anachronistic, purposes - I wanted her to patrol camp.
At four months old she’s was hardly intimidating. Nor could she be bothered to listen. She hated the leash, was unmotivated by food, and passing cars froze her with terror. As I tramped down Texas, forced to push Savannah in the basket of my cart because she refused to walk, I grew convinced I’d made a terrible mistake. How was I suppose to get this dog to walk around the world when I couldn’t get her to walk more than twenty feet?
Thankfully, I soon discovered Savannah’s weakness for salami. During our daily training sessions, the scent of cured meat provided enough incentive for Savannah to brave the big, scary world. Salami by salami, she found her footing. Her paralyzing fear of cars abated. The jangle of the leash excited her. By the time we reached Mexico, we were walking twenty-four miles a day with ease.
In Central America our bond solidified. She grew taller, stronger and more confident. In the frantic cities, I kept her leash tight to navigate between moto-taxis, pushcarts and crowds as a single unit. We spent every minute of every day together. When I ate, she curled at my feet. When I napped, she dozed beside me. While we walked, she either pulled on the leash in excitement or I felt her ear brushing against my calf.
As the sun set in a field in southern Mexico, I looked at her watching the landscape and thought, “I love this little bugger.”
But that love was only the water’s edge of affection compared to what I feel for her today. For seven years we explored new places and new cultures side-by-side.
We walked jungle, desert, heat and snow. South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and North America again passed under our feet. And somehow, no matter the conditions, Savannah’s tail was always held high. I know there were days when her muscles ached and her stomach churned, but she never whined for a break, she never dropped to the ground and refused to go on. She only ever pulled forward - curious to see what smells, what sights, and what kindnesses lay ahead.
It’s that part of her I admire most. She’s unflappable; steady as the tide, still as the stars. I’ve seen the world but nothing has brought me to such awe as my dear Savannah. She’s taught me to live with stillness, to go about my work without complaint and to keep my tail held high through it all.
The walk is over now and we live in the lush, rainy hills of Seattle. I write and Savannah is retired. She’s become the first dog to walk around the world and I the tenth person. I take easy pleasure in our shelter from the elements, my bed at night, and a warm shower as winter climbs the windows. For a while we were restless.
Adjusting to a normal life has been difficult. There were days we walked suburbia for hours simply because we didn’t know what to do with ourselves, but gradually we’ve settled into comfort. No longer does Savannah have yaks to meet or mountains to roam, but she has the park where she darts to her friends and her tail wags wildly.
After walking the world, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
Check out @theworldwalk on Instagram to retrace the stories and photos from Tom and Savannah's walk around the world.