‘Adventures with Karlie’: Local resident’s new book details local hikes with her disabled dog

"Adventures with Karlie" by La Jolla resident Andie LaComb chronicles her local hikes with her senior dog.
(Provided by Andie LaComb)

La Jolla resident Andie LaComb hopes her first book offers readers inspiration for bonding with their pets as it serves as a memorial of her beloved canine companion.

“Adventures with Karlie,” published in February on the first anniversary of Karlie’s death, maps out the story of LaComb’s relationship with her senior dog and their hiking adventures in San Diego and southern Indiana.

LaComb began hiking with Karlie late in the dog’s life and kept it up even as Karlie battled a rare and debilitating disease that slowly took away her ability to walk on her own.

LaComb moved last year to Indiana to live part of the year, but the hikes detailed in “Adventures with Karlie” took place mainly in the San Diego area. She lists more than 30 local hikes, including La Jolla Natural Park, Black Mountain Open Space Park, Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, Hosp Grove Park, Kate Sessions Park, Liberty Station, Miramar Reservoir and Santa Margarita River Trail Preserve.

LaComb began writing the book as Karlie aged, intending it to be a memorial for herself.

But she thought others could benefit from her memoirs and hiking tips, so she later decided to publish the book.

LaComb began hiking with Karlie in May 2019 after the death of Karlie’s “sister,” Anna, a 12-year-old dog LaComb adopted several years ago, three months before she adopted Karlie, who was the same age.

Hiking together was a way for LaComb — and Karlie — to process their grief over losing Anna.

In January 2020, LaComb began to notice oddities in Karlie’s behavior and movements, leading to a diagnosis of geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy.

A dog wheelchair helped keep Karlie active through her disability.
(Provided by Andie LaComb)

The two kept hiking, adapting to Karlie’s slow decline in mobility, a hallmark of the disease.

“Their back end gets weaker and weaker and they lose a lot of muscle mass,” LaComb said.

She first tried a harness that LaComb would hold to support Karlie’s back end, but Karlie “absolutely hated it. I hated doing something that she hated.”

LaComb then found a dog wheelchair to support Karlie’s rear legs. She got Karlie accustomed to the wheels by having her do laps in the basement before taking her outside for longer jaunts.

Eventually, Karlie trekked all over with her wheels.

Getting muddy would give Karlie the biggest joy “because she’d gotten out and gone for a hike,” LaComb said.

Karlie’s story is inspiring, LaComb said, “because she had a disease that affected her greatly.”

“You don’t have to bubble-wrap your old dog or your injured dog or your disabled dog. You can get out there and do things and just be happy with the day you’ve got. Worrying holds you back.”

— Andie LaComb

LaComb finished her book after Karlie’s death last year.

“It’s really a good mix,” LaComb said. “A memoir about our bond and battling this disease,” combined with information about each hike, including parking and toilet availability and other details.

She also created the website LiveLikeKarlie.com to promote what she calls the greatest lesson Karlie taught her: “Do what you love, enjoy every day and always smile.”

LaComb believes it’s important to keep a dog active despite a disability.

“You don’t have to bubble-wrap your old dog or your injured dog or your disabled dog,” she said. “You can get out there and do things and just be happy with the day you’ve got. Worrying holds you back.”

LaComb now is working on a second book, this one about both Karlie and Anna.

To purchase “Adventures with Karlie,” visit amzn.to/3mr6pZ6.