By Nicolas Fernandes
Meet the dog lover who has paddleboarded with her canine companions around the USA – traveling to 16 different states.
Maria Schultz, 36, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA, has taken her two Australian Shepherds, Riley, 9, and Kona, 4, on road trips around the country, enjoying fun activities from paddleboarding to hiking.
She longed for a dog since childhood, but her mom Sue Bax refused, insisting that a pet required a lot of attention – words that would stick with her later in life.
After adopting Riley in 2009, she started taking her pooch everywhere with her, from running errands to her place of work, while traveling and to partake in some of her favorite outdoor activities.
She brought Kona into the family five years later and since then the traveling trio have been inseparable.
In addition to an annual two-week trip and several weekends in the summer, they spend a few nights a week paddleboarding in the spring and summer and hiking during the winter.
Art director Maria and the dogs have gone on adventures throughout Virginia and to 15 other states in the Northeast, Midwest and South as well as Ontario, Canada.
She said: “I was never allowed to have a dog as a child, but I read as many books about them as I possibly could.”
“My mom always said we wouldn’t have the time to take care of a dog properly because her and my dad worked full-time and we were always traveling.
“My mom engrained the idea in me that you don’t get a dog to leave it behind.
“After I had been out of college for a few years, had just moved in with my fiancé and was only working 10 minutes away, I finally felt like I had the time to give a dog the attention he deserved.
“Having a dog for the first time was just such a wonderful feeling.
“When we’re traveling there seems to be a sense of wholeness. I feel like everything I need is with me.
“The dogs are brighter, happier and more tired at the end of each day. I think they feel as fulfilled as I do after a day of adventuring together.
“We have not
traveled west yet, but it’s definitely on our bucket list.”
While her husband John, 47, is also a dog lover, he doesn’t share her love for dog paddleboarding – allowing her to have one-to-one time with her dogs.
She added: “It really helps that we share a love for dogs.
“He’ll go on a 30-mile mountain bike ride while I’m paddleboarding with the dogs.
“It’s nice that we have different interests, but I can still enjoy myself spending quality time with the dogs.”
“Unlike people, my dogs are always up for anything.
“Sometimes a friend or my husband won’t feel up for a paddle, but Riley and Kona don’t care what the activity is as long as we’re together outside.”
Maria describes Riley as a “once in a lifetime dog” because he is very sociable and intelligent and was easy to train, which allowed her to bring him on trips since he was a puppy.
While tagging along on her paddleboarding adventures was not the easiest thing to learn, he got the hang of it after just one day.
Bringing Kona along wasn’t as simple, with it taking her four months to get used to being on the paddleboard.
“Kona was confused for the first four months. She just kept walking from the nose of the board to the tail.
“She did not like the car at all. She got carsick a lot and would cry.
“The first dog I ever had was the dog that most people only get once in their lifetime.
“Riley has always been super easy to bring on road trips. He loves the car.
“I had a lot of problems with Kona when I first started bringing her on road trips. It was about a year and a half before she was comfortable being in the car.”
While the trio goes on adventures during all four seasons, the dogs seem to dislike warm temperatures.
Out of their 17 destinations, their favorite has been Bar Harbor, Maine mostly due to its dog friendly environment.
While in Bar Harbor, Maria brings the dogs to Acadia National Park for both hiking and paddleboarding.
She said: “They don’t like the heat. They enjoy cooler temperatures much more.
“The town is super dog friendly and there’s great food there too. The dogs especially love the cooler temperatures up there.
“We’ve spent a lot of time up there, and we keep finding new trails and water ways to explore.
Her travels with the dogs also inspired her to write a book entitled How to SUP with your PUP, a guide on how to teach a dog to stand up paddle (SUP) in 2013.
She wanted owners to realize that they can do more activities with their dogs than they think and be just like Riley and Kona.
Maria said: “Writing that book was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Readers have come to me and told me, ‘my dog can do this.’
“Do you have to alter your plans to bring your dog all over the place? Absolutely — but the amount of fun you have outweighs the cons.
“Adventures are always better shared.”
To learn more about Maria and her dogs, visit mariachristinaschultz.com/.