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We sat down with Alena and Lenny to find out where Lenny got his special nickname, their favorite adventures in the Alps (like skiing together!), and Alena's advice to others who are thinking about adopting a dog with a disability.
Tell us a little more about you and Lenny.
I am 25 years old and I am a student, ski instructor and ski guide and work as well as a photographer. I grew up with sports, my biggest passion is skiing and I love to be outside in the nature and the mountains. My adventure dog Lenny is a shelter dog and we are not 100% sure about the breed, but he looks and acts like an Australian Shepherd. We don't know his exact age, but we think he is around 3.5 years old.
Where do you live?
I live in a small village in the south of Germany, directly on the border to Austria in the middle of the Alps. I grew up here and I think I will always be based here.
What made you create your @lennywiththeshoe Instagram account?
When I got Lenny I already had a lot of photography experience so I wanted to take pictures of my pup and started posting them on my personal Instagram. But soon there were many lovely pictures and I wanted to share them without my personal profile being overwhelming with dog photos. So I started Lenny his own instagram and found out that there is an amazing dog community on Instagram.
How did Lenny get his nickname "Lenny with the shoe"?
After we adopted Lenny we found out that he will need to wear a shoe forever so when it was time to pick him an Instagram handle he was already wearing the shoe. I wanted a handle which was unique and people would remember, so we thought @Lennywiththeshoe sounded good it was easy to understand for Germans and I was happy it was still available.
The shoe doesn't seem to hold Lenny back on your adventures. Do you ever have to worry about Lenny on longer adventures? How do you know when he's at his limit?
Honestly, when he gets tired its usually for other reasons than his foot, he doesn’t wanna go on when he is hungry. In general he is a very sporty and active dog, I think it would take a lot for him to reach his limit. Longer adventures will never be a problem, the only thing I don’t do with him is to do like marathon runs. But more because it’s not my favourite to do, on the mountain Lenny will always be ready ;-)
Do you have any advice for people who have a dog with a disability or are looks to adopt one?
Don’t be afraid!
I think that is the secret if you fall in love in with a dog with a disability. Because if you think this dog is your soulmate, your forever best friend, a disability should not affect your decision of giving him a forever home. And with all kind of disabilities there is a solution, mostly easier than expected. You just have to find out what works for you and your dog, and I know the dog will be so thankful that you have helped.
What is Lenny's best trick?
I guess people have the most fun with "shooting“ him. You hold the hand like a gun and say "boom“, and he falls quite dramatically, sometimes even with sound. But that’s just stupid stuff. For me the best thing he can do is called "arm“. Where he jumps into my arms on command and I carry him somewhere.
When he's not climbing mountains, what is Lenny's favorite pastime?
He loves learning tricks where he can move. Quiet stuff were he has to sit and watch something is still a bit hard but tricks which include walking, running, turning are his favourite. Brainwork is very important for him and it’s one of the things that wears him out the most. Also the fact that he loves treats makes it very easy to teach him - he get really excited when he knows we are about to do brainwork.
Does Lenny Ski with you? Will he ever become a Ski Patrol Dog?
Yes he started skiing the second winter after we adopted him. We thought about having him become a Ski Patrol Dog, but in Austria (where it would make sense for us) the dogs start in very young age with the training, so Lenny was already "too old“ when we had the idea. Usually dog owners are already a part of the Mountain Rescue Team when they enroll their dog in ski patrol but I was never part of that team.
How did you teach your dog to ski with you? Does Lenny ski on a leash?
Before taking your dog skiing its important to find out how your dog reacts to the skis themselves, others on skis, and yourself when wearing skis. Start slowly with no other skiers around and get him used to situations in ski resorts step-by-step. It can be dangerous to ski with your dog and I would never let anyone else go skiing with Lenny other than myself or my parents. Its very easy for dogs to get injured with the edges of the skis and cut their paws. I would never be able to forgive myself if he got hurt while skiing.
Lenny is on a leash when there are people around because I am afraid others could come to close. Also he likes to be on the leash because it’s like a connection between us and he knows I cannot ski away from him (he is always afraid I could "run“ away). When there are less people I take him off leash.
How did you get into photography?
It started when I was around 15, I took my brothers camera because he wasn't really using it. At first, it was fun just taking photos of me and friends, and soon I became know as the girl who always had a camera with her. I posted some photos on social media and soon after people started asking me who took them. I started taking more and more photos, until I eventually bought myself my first professional camera and lenses. From there I fell into a job as a sport event photographer and the story continued...
What kind of camera do you use?
I have used a canon 5dmark4 for the past two years, before I had the mark2, which I also still use sometimes. I always change and upgrade my lenses, most of the time I take photos of Lenny using the Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 which is also my favourite lense. I've also been using the Canon 24-70mm 2.8 II more and more. I just work with natural light and I am always on the search for the best sunrises and sunsets, which makes photography really adventurous.
What is your favorite adventure you've taken with your dog so far?
Very hard to make a decision. But I think it was our first big adventure where I did a roadtrip for 2 weeks in the north of Italy and parts of Austria I have not been before. It was our first big trip, alone with nobody else and that made it so special to experience places you always wanted to see without a human, but your dog.
But then also this year was amazing, I did another roadtrip for 1 1/2 weeks trough Italy and France, which was amazing because was on the seaside the first time in his life. Then in summer we spent a whole month on the seaside in the north of Spain, which was the biggest trip we did so far.
What does Lenny carry in his Ranger Pack?
He mostly wears his Ranger Pack for overnight hikes when we sleep on the mountain. He carries another pair of shoes (in case one shoe get’s destroyed), his food and his gummy food dish.
Whats next for you?
We are more spontaneous with our bigger trips, when I get enough time to take a 1 week trip I just pack Lenny and we're off! We usually don't even have a plan when we start the trip but just end up trying to find a good place to hike and camp.
Where can people find out more about you?
On Lenny's instagram @Lennywiththeshoe and also my personal instagram @alenapaschke. I post lots of stories and do videos for all the trips we take.