By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Dana Gage and his German shepherd Klaus never miss a day of walking. Whether it’s over the trails and rocks of the Medicine Bow National Forest or along the Massachusetts coast, the pair have traveled a lot of miles in their eight years together.
But in recent years, their exploits have gained a following.
Thousands of people follow Gage’s Facebook page to live vicariously through the man and his best friend.
“I take pictures while I’m on the trail, because it’s beautiful and I enjoy photography,” Gage told Cowboy State Daily. “I do it for exercise and the adventure, and to get him out and to continue this desire, this longing, to give him the best life that I possibly can.”
Gage’s love for photography began shortly after he enlisted in the Navy while stationed on the West Coast.
“I was in the commissary, or the Navy exchange,” Gage said. “One day, I saw this scratched camera. It was a Canon AE-1 and I thought, you know, I think I’d like to take pictures. So I bought it. And that was the beginning of my photographic crusade, if you will.”
Gage said that when he took a job as an engineering technician at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne in 1996, he fell in love with the state of Wyoming.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, this place is awesome,’” he said – but it wasn’t the landscape that had captured his heart.
“It was the friendliness of the people that really took me aback,” said Gage. “They wonder where you’re from, and they’re talking and stuff, and that was really kind of unheard of in California. You know, people have some pretty big social fences there, and they do on the east coast, too, where I’m originally from – but it didn’t know that until I started living here.”
Gage said he made friends in a motorcycle group, where he became the unofficial photographer.
“I was a regular at the biker bar here in Cheyenne called the Eagle’s Nest,” he said. “And I was one of the few people that was able to take photographs of our different events, our parties or gatherings.”
Love At First Sight
It was while hanging out at a bar with friends eight years ago that he met the pup that would become his best friend, but he didn’t think he was ready for the relationship.
“I was at Al’s Pub in Cheyenne, and another friend of mine brought this puppy to where she knew me and my buddies would be hanging out,” Gage recalled. “And she says, ‘You know what you need in your life? You need this puppy.’”
But Gage said he had plans to travel after retirement, which was just a few years away at the time, so he resisted – for just a moment, that is, until she handed the 8-week-old puppy to him.
“And it’s almost like when somebody proposes in public,” Gage said. “You can’t say no, right? I hate when people do that.”
“But he was really, really cute,” he added. “So I said, ‘OK, he can stay with me for 24 hours – meet me here tomorrow, and I’m probably going to give him back. … Well, you know, the rest is history.”
Walks With Klaus
Gage said the nightly walks with Klaus, as he named his dog, came about because he felt guilty about leaving the pup at home all day.
“Each night after work, he and I would go out for at least an hour, usually in town to run around and to do stuff, and we would do it after dark in the wintertime,” said Gage. “It never stopped.”
Gage said that’s when his love for photography and Klaus began to overlap.
“Social media had just come online, it was becoming popular, and I thought, ‘Well, if I took a picture a day and posted it, then I would I would fulfill that need to be part of social media,’” he said.
He felt that because he had a built-in model in his puppy, his photographs would garner more attention.
“Then I found out that one picture a day wasn’t enough, so I made it like three or four or five of our adventures,” he said, also asking for feedback from his Facebook friends, he tried to decide if he was posting too often.
“But they always said, ’This is something that we look forward to in the morning, to see your pictures of your adventures,’” Gage said.
So he continued and ventured further from home.
“Eventually we expanded,” he said. “On the weekends we’d started going up to the Medicine Bow National Forest, which is just gorgeous, anytime of year. It’s just amazing up there.”
Gage has added drone footage to his Facebook page now, enhancing the experience for his followers. But he’s also expanded the number of his walking partners.
“I’ve got a buddy in town, and he’s got a hound, and a lot of times he comes with me,” said Gage. “And we decided to start this meetup group to guide others into Vedauwoo and the Medicine Bow National Forest.”
That meetup group counts around 400 members, about a dozen or so who will show up once a week to go on a group hike. Gage said the group’s members have made up their own names for the rock formations and trails that they’ll hike.
“There’s a lot of the peaks and prominences and rock formations and stuff that don’t have proper names that weren’t named by the USGS or whomever does that,” said Gage. “So we make up our own names. We’ve got Three Sisters Rock, and we have Wind Tunnel Rock, and Klaus has his own rock.”
Gage said the best time to hike and take pictures is sunset, especially in the Medicine Bow National Forest.
“Sunset in Vedauwoo is just amazing, and nobody is there,” he said. “It’s 30 miles from Cheyenne, it’s 20 miles from Laramie, and rarely is anybody up there, which is great for pictures. It’s great for not scaring the animals – and the moose population has bloomed. So we run into moose almost every time we’re up there.”
Gage said he takes Klaus on road trips about once a year to visit his native Massachusetts. And of course, he documents his daily walks with his trusty sidekick.
“We stop at the Mississippi River, we stop at the Great Lakes,” he said. “The Indiana Dunes is a wonderful beachfront place that has very few people in it. And then we hang out on Cape Cod.”
Gage said that in the years since he and Klaus first met, they’ve only missed one day of walks.
“We missed one day last summer due to COVID, and that’s it,” he said, adding that they don’t even slow down in the winter. “If you throw a bunch of layers on and even some ski goggles because of the wind, you can still go – and of course, you know, he’s a German shepherd. He loves that weather.”
Gage’s photography can be found on his Facebook page, Dana Gage Photography, and hanging at Three Crows Gallery and Gifts in downtown Cheyenne.