Never heard of back-pooching before? Me neither, until I came across this video:

Meet Penni

Penni is a dog that was rescued from a tweaker pad outside of NYC. Her rescuer, Blaine, speaks about her with great passion:

…to see how she just comes to life when we’re outside, she’s the kind of dog that will turn a cat person into a dog person. There’s not one person that meets her that doesn’t just fall in love with her.

The video above takes place in the Lake Powell area (Utah-Arizona border). When I saw it, there were many questions. How the hell did he get his dog to latch onto his back like that? Where else has this doggy been? Who is this pooch?

It turns out Penni Dog has her own Instagram, which can be found under the handle @pennidog. The photos are stunning. She’s been to snow-capped mountains in Zion National Park. She’s been to the Grand Canyon. Moapa, Nevada. Valley of Fire. Some of the most majestic locations in the Southwest.

Blaine was gracious enough to take the time for an interview. Here’s more on Penni, her life, her story:

Steve/HMPYG: It says on Instagram that Penni was locked in a basement for a year and that you rescued her, right?

Blaine: Yeah, so I was living about thirty minutes outside of New York City at the time and I was looking for a dog for six months. I think I was rejected by four different rescue groups, them not thinking I’d be a good dog owner because I work in an office job. Basically I wasn’t an unemployed millionaire entrepreneur or something, that’s what they were looking for, but, luckily came across her. The story I got was she was locked in the basement of a drug house for the start of her life. I’m not really sure how old she is, it said something like between a year and two years when I got her. She was thrown out of the drug house, picked up by some cops, the cops took her with two other dogs to the pound. They were next in line to be euthanized that day. I’ve stayed in touch with the rescue group, I send them pictures all the time.

Steve/HMPYG: That’s awesome.

Blaine: They said I’d be a good owner, and then, “trust me, you’re going to love her as soon as you meet her.” She was a mess when I got her. She was a huge mess. Between all the physical abuse and then the stress of everything else, she was in awful shape when I got her. I never seen a dog more terrified of everything in my life.

Steve/HMPYG: Yeah I had an abused dog too, and she spent twenty hours a day underneath the bed.

Blaine: That definitely sounds familiar. There was probably six months before I could really make eye contact with her. I just started from day one, just walks every day, and you know, she had sheer panic with every single noise that she heard. She started becoming more trusting of the world. I’d say at two years, everything was manageable I guess. It wasn’t as nearly as stressful owning her and trying to get her to feel normal. I’ve had her a little over three years now at this point. I’d say we’re as close as we’re going to get to rehabilitation. She definitely has strange quirks, particularly when we’re indoors. That previous traumatization is still kind of lingering, but anytime we get outside she just kind of flips a switch. She’s an entirely different dog when she’s outside.

Steve/HMPYG: That makes her around four years old now?

Blaine: Somewhere between four and five, I’m not really sure. I gave her a birthday of fourth of July. I’m saying she’ll turn five on the fourth of July.

Steve/HMPYG: Where do you guys live now? Henderson?

Blaine: Yeah, so, it’s right outside Las Vegas. I got transferred here for work about two and a half years ago, still working for the same company, still doing your standard Monday through Friday. The geography here is just amazing, it’s been the absolute favorite place I’ve ever lived in my life. It’s pretty much every weekend we’re going out somewhere doing something.

Steve/HMPYG: Same. I moved to Phoenix from NY and I have a rescue too. I take him out whenever I can. Where does that video clip take place? Bryce Canyon?

Blaine: No, that was actually a little slot canyon off the side of Lake Powell.

Steve/HMPYG: Oh really?

Blaine: Yeah, we were there last week. A pretty tough-to-get-to spot off of Lake Powell. It’s funny, I didn’t even know anybody was taking video of me, I just kind of had my head down. We stopped on the way to Reflection Canyon. I couldn’t even tell you the name of it though.

Steve/HMPYG: Does she just naturally latch onto your back or did you train her to do that?

Blaine: The very first time it ever happened, it was just after work one day, we just went off to a little scramble up a little mountain outside of Las Vegas. When we got to the very top of this mountain, she cut a pad on one of her front paws wide open. She was just walking so gingerly I winded up just throwing her on my back that day. I think she was like well, I can walk in pain or I can just do this. (laughs) I had her on my back for a better part of three hours before we got back to the truck.

Steve/HMPYG: Oh wow.

Blaine: And ever since then she’s had no problem with that. Every time I throw her on my back she sits perfectly still, doesn’t fight it. She seems pretty relaxed with it.

Steve/HMPYG: Some people might see that and they would say that’s reckless. I think people freak out when they see stuff like that. What would you say to that?

Blaine: It’s not like all this just happened overnight. What I love about taking videos of her is that you can watch her jumping up and down ledges and stuff and seeing how much she enjoys it. The people that see her inside versus outside, knowing the history she’s had, knowing how truly depressed she was before I got her… just the intake papers from the pound where they did the initial assessment on her, it’s the most depressing description of a dog you’ve ever seen in your life. So to see how she just comes to life when we’re outside, she’s the kind of dog that will turn a cat person into a dog person. There’s not one person that meets her that doesn’t just fall in love with her. And it all just comes down to her attitude when we’re going out doing stuff like that.

Steve/HMPYG: What’s the best thing you’ve ever done with her?

Blaine: That’s a tough one…

Steve/HMPYG: I saw you took her to Havasupai, that must have been cool.

Blaine: Havasu was probably some of the most exciting photos. We did probably 35 or 40 miles the three days we were there. She was right by my side the whole time. People get a huge kick out of seeing us go up and down ladders. She’s perfectly comfortable with that. All those photos of her around Havasu Falls/Mooney Falls, one friend after another says, “You belong in travel magazines.”

Steve/HMPYG: Yeah I saw someone [on Facebook] say that and it’s very true. I see that she likes yoga mats. (laughs)

Blaine: Every one I’ve owned fell victim to her, and it’s weird because she doesn’t destroy anything. Since I’ve had her there’s only been two or three things she’s gotten into besides that. For whatever reason, she’s got some special taste buds for the yoga mats.

Steve/HMPYG: You have any words for pit bull haters?

Blaine: I get it…I get it because there’s this social stigma associated with them, there are laws being enacted all over the world that outlaw them. It’s no different than a person. You put a person in the wrong environment, they’re gonna turn out the wrong way. If you want to raise a dog to be like that, raise a dog to be an ugly dog, that’s exactly what you’re gonna get.

Steve/HMPYG: I totally agree. Thank you so much!


The Way a Dog Can Shape Our Cosmos

What is beautiful about Blaine and Penni’s story is the embodiment of small impact. Blaine made the choice to rescue a dog. She went from being close to death to a lifetime of experiences that we all probably envy. Blaine gave her a piggyback ride out of necessity one day, and now she takes to his shoulders like a squirrel monkey. These small things are vastly inspirational. Seeing Penni in Zion might make a procrastinator somewhere stop delaying, and start to take action. She may (hopefully) change some minds about pit bull breeds. Whatever the impact may be, getting to know this story has been a true privilege.

A Final Suggestion

Check out this pet bed from

Furhaven Orthopedic Mattress Pet Bed




Photo Credit: Nick Wrzesinski Instagram: @nick_wrz

The Must-See Destination in Phoenix, AZ

This August is going to mark my sixth year living in Phoenix/Tempe. When I moved, I was a Long Island transplant, not really sure how long I’d spend here. With a beautiful wife now at my side and lifelong liberation from raking leaves/shoveling snow, it’s looking like forever I’ll stay. In this article, I’ll share with you the one location that captured my soul and kept me living here.

Recently, as I was getting ready for a camping/fishing trip up to Bartlett Lake (80 minutes from Phoenix), I was stopped by an out-of-towner. He was here for the NCAA Final Championship, taking place in our great city. His question was simple: where should I go?

I dropped my kayak in the truck bed and thought about this for a moment. What defines the Arizona experience? What can’t you miss if you come here only one time?

The obvious answer is the Grand Canyon. But if you’re limited to just the Phoenix area, there’s one destination not known to many tourists. Even people who live here take it for granted. It’s not some hip Mexican restaurant. It’s not the Musical Instrument Museum (even though that’s cool as s#*t). It’s the grandest and most pleasant sight you can find within the 50-mile radius.

The McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Local Phoenicians may disagree with this. Don’t listen to them. The McDowell Mountain range was the experience that made me fall in love with this area. Though technically located in Scottsdale, it’s considered part of the greater Phoenix area. It’s home to a wealth of various hiking trails and networks. If you like crowded and cramped trails, you’re better off heading to Camelback mountain. But if you want to experience beauty and freedom, head to the McDowells.

The Hohokam gathered here over 500 years ago. Now the surrounding area is a magnet for the wealthy and affluent. The trails vary from easy to wheezingly difficult. When at a high elevation, you have your choice of two sublime views. Look to the west, and you can see the entirety of Phoenix, bustling and buzzing like a giant electric circuit. Look to the east, and you witness the vast empty stretches of desert that extends for miles and miles. Look in either of these directions, and you might undergo a mystical transformation that I myself have been through.

…every time I took a drive, I was drawn into the scene of the setting sun illuminating eastward mountains. I later learned that these were the McDowell Mountains.

I was never much of a hiker back in NY. How could I be? I lived on the south shore, where the most strenuous walks were on the sands of the beaches. But in general, I wasn’t even that physically active. I had a few gym stints, took one fitness class, and probably kept up a routine for eight weeks at best. It didn’t look like this would change in Arizona, where one of my first destinations was In-N-Out Burger. But every time I took a drive, I was drawn into the scene of the setting sun illuminating eastward mountains. I later learned that these were the McDowell Mountains. I did some research, grabbed a backpack, and drove out to roads I had never seen before. It was 5 a.m. and the world was quiet. I stepped out of my car, and had no idea where I was going. I took a wrong turn and my hike seemed to be done after .4 miles. Determined to reach greater heights, I turned around and ventured deeper into territory unknown to my cognizance. I spent the next few hours in awe, my body numb to the agony I was putting it through. Fast forward, and I spent the next few years going from trail to trail, park to park, mountain to mountain. I got to be immersed in the glory of love with my wife in Havasupai. I spent countless hours in solitude bonding with my dog on slabs of rock. My life was transformed, and it started with the majestic McDowell Mountains. I know this all sounds like subjective biased nostalgia. Maybe it is, but you’d have to find out for yourself.

For your convenience, I’ve narrowed down three trails with varying characteristics…

For popularity and interactive exhibits, check out GATEWAY TRAIL

For silent contemplation surrounded by beauty, check out LOST DOG WASH/QUARTZ TRAIL

For challenging your hiking fitness and endurance, check out TOM’S THUMB TRAIL

  Hopefully that college basketball fan was able to go out and find these trails. Maybe he got too drunk at the game and went back to Ohio in regret. I’ll never know, but at least the Tar Heels came out on top. In any case, if you find yourself in Phoenix, make it out there for your own sake. Your heart and your mind will thank you.

…here it is, the gorgeous behemoth herself…