Rosie’s Camino for Good

I have a very special companion on my Camino for Good pilgrimage: a sweet three-legged pit bull named Rosie. Her huge smile, enthusiastic gait and zest for life motivate me and countless people we meet on our daily treks through the Bronx and beyond.

Rosie came into our lives as things were shutting down from the pandemic last March.  Rosie had been abandoned and hit by a car. The incredible people at the Yonkers Animal Shelter saved her life but had to amputate her left hind leg because of her injuries. She was recuperating from her surgery but was apparently very depressed from the fate that had befallen her.

Rosie along the Hudson River of Riverdale

My husband and I had lost our beloved dog Lola to leukemia a few months before and didn’t feel ready to have a new dog in our lives. However, Covid-19 was causing many shelters in the area to close to the public. A lot of dogs needed homes immediately, and a friend convinced us to foster a dog in need. That dog was Rosie.  The moment we drove out of the shelter parking lot, this sad dog started smiling and hasn’t stopped since… She was our foster dog for six days. On the seventh day, we adopted her — happily becoming “foster fails.”

Rosie leaving the shelter

Fast forward to February of this year: my college friend Alison Boor told me she was going to participate in the “March to Santiago: 150 Days of Hope and Healing” starting March 1. Would I like to join her? (Well, in spirit since she lives in Bethlehem, Pa, and I live in New York City.) I didn’t really know anything about the Camino, but I looked over the Camino for Good website, and it seemed like a terrific idea. It would benefit a great cause while getting me to walk more in the cold March air. And the idea of the daily reflections hit home with me. Who couldn’t use some hope and healing? I said yes.

Before March 1 arrived, we had a few others commit to our virtual walk: a mutual life-long friend from Toms River, NJ; a church friend of Alison’s in Bethlehem; and my cousin and a friend of hers in New Hampshire.  Along the way, a cousin from Connecticut joined us, and then another long-time New Jersey friend.

Walking with lifelong friend and member of “Seekers in Sneakers,” Christy Baker Tompkins

We’re all walking for different reasons — from battling illness to grieving the loss of a loved one to wanting to connect on some deeper level during a pandemic. We all go at our own pace. One of our group has already finished the Camino and is starting over. We’ve even met over ZOOM a few times to discuss what we’ve been experiencing and feeling. Our group’s name is “Seekers in Sneakers.” However, we have one member who doesn’t need sneakers: Rosie.

Rosie is “seeking” many things along the Camino — squirrels and chipmunks are chief among them — but she also seeks out people who need to talk.  Inevitably, she’ll stop in front of a bench or at a street corner and meet people who love hearing her story and telling theirs. Some of them walk with canes or have some type of illness and find inspiration in Rosie’s determination. When we part, I often notice how they are smiling and walking with a brighter step.

Our path is different almost every time we leave the front door. This is because I leave my over-planning self behind (an important lesson for me) and let Rosie chose the direction we’ll go.  We’ve traversed almost every corner of Van Cortlandt Park, the third largest park in New York City, and we’ve also seen almost every hidden street in Riverdale. We’ve walked along the Hudson River, explored the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, and even hiked through various parks and neighborhoods in Manhattan.

One of the most interesting things Rosie has started doing is that she leads me to the doors of various churches.  She loves basking in the sun on their steps. It reminds me of all the wonderful pictures of churches on the actual Camino posted on the app.

Rosie on the steps of churches in the Bronx.

At the end of every night, I enter my miles from our walk (we average 4.5 miles), then Rosie lies on her back as I look at the corresponding pictures in Spain or listen to the inspiring stories of the Camino pilgrims. It’s a great way to end the day.

Thank you, Camino for Good, for creating this wonderful experience.  Rosie and the rest of us “Seekers in Sneakers” are having a fantastic time.

Thank you to Neal Mayer from New York City for sharing this heartwarming story with the Camino for Good community. Buen Camino to you and to Rosie of Riverdale!