If you're not in the rock climbing world, you might not know who Sasha DiGiulian is, but I'll bet you're familiar with the little rock climbing emoji - 🧗. That, my friends, is Sasha herself. (If you are a climber, you most definitely know who Sasha is).
photo by @janvincentkleine
Sasha has held world championship titles for climbing many years over, and has claimed multiple First Ascents (not just Female First Ascents!) around the globe. Sasha is a serious badass.
But we're really here for Sasha's dog, Moose-Chaga!
We had a wonderful call with Sasha where we talked all about Moose, mushrooms, Crocs, emojis, and serious objectives.
Wilderdog: So, tell us about Moose!
Sasha: Moose is an 11 month old, 90 pound Bernedoodle - the biggest in the litter. My fiancé and I brought Moose home last year during COVID. We got him in the summer in between my five hip surgeries. We had discussed the idea of getting a dog for a while; then, during the pandemic, I started to settle into being at home, and you know, building my lifestyle around what that looked like. I was actually healthier and happier not traveling as much. It seemed like the right time to bring a new family member home.
Wilderdog: And, Moose's full name is Moose-Chaga. What does Moose-Chaga mean?
Sasha: I wanted to name him Chaga - the king mushroom of medicinal mushrooms. It is immune boosting, endurance boosting, the super mighty mushroom. I'm obsessed with mushrooms and how they can affect your performance. They also are black, brown, and white color, tri-color, like him! My fiancé wanted to name him Moose because of how big he is.
Wilderdog: We love that Moose gets to go climbing with you sometimes. How often does he get to come along?
Sasha: I'll bring Moose to the crag if both my partner and I will be there. One of us can be on the ground while the other is climbing to be near him. He's a big gentle giant, but he does get so excited when he sees other dogs.
Recently it's been really hot, and I don’t want him to be dying in the heat, so he's been staying home a bit more. Maybe about 50% of the time he comes.
Wilderdog: What kinds of climbing days are best with dogs?
Sasha: I always make sure it's not too hot out, and that the crag has a good place for Moose to be. If there’s a scramble and a bushwhack, and you're hanging off the ledge belaying, that is not the best place. Solid ground and a shaded area for Moose to hang out are best.
Wilderdog: What do you bring for Moose when you take him climbing?
Sasha: Ohmygosh like packing for a child. Just kidding. But I bring a bone for him to chew, freeze dried treats, his favorite squeaky toy (a parrot currently), a water bowl, his long leash, and also a towel or something small that is his ‘place’ so he knows where to go. Although, I'll often put a towel down, and he’ll choose the dirt. Not sure if it's effective. I always bring at least two liters of water, or more if it's a hotter day.
Wilderdog: My dog Charlie sometimes cries when I get too high on the wall - does Moose seem to care?
Sasha: He did for sure when he was a puppy. He had this annoying whining, but we’ve been working on training, so if we say 'no whining', he stops. We've done a ton of training with Moose. We work on being clear and consistent with our expectations, but it hasn’t been easy. Training is a lot of work! He’s a big dog, so any rude behavior like barking or pulling is more noticeable than a small dog and we want to make sure to catch it. Barking definitely isn’t pleasant for people when they’re climbing.
When you have a dog, you realize you’re drawn to other dogs and you notice them more. I would be bothered for sure if another dog is losing his mind at the base, so I don’t want Moose to be a disturbance. Its a pretty important part of the day for me, so like if he hasn’t had exercise, that would be a reason not to bring him on a climbing day with no hike in. I don’t want to be unfair to Moose or the people around me. You can come if you behave, but you can’t come climbing otherwise.
Wilderdog: I once witnessed a dog eat someone’s else’s sandwich out of their backpack at the crag. That guy was not too pumped. Have you had any negative experiences with dogs at the crag?
Sasha: I’ve had my sandwich eaten by a dog once and I hated it! That’s my food! Moose is not food driven; he's more attention driven, but he’d never go for someone else’s food. We do keep him tethered by us, but mostly so he doesn’t run up to another dog to play - that’s our main thing.
Wilderdog: So you didn't have to train Moose not to eat sandwiches. What about sitting on the rope?
Sasha: I myself am guilty of sitting on the rope sometimes! So it's not a strict thing, but it's not something that’ll really happen. We’ll tether him away from the rope, and since he doesn't like to be hot he'll normally find a nice shady spot.
Last summer we made the mistake of giving him a rope chew toy, and maybe that wasn’t a great idea - associating chewing on ropes with playing. That's why his toys now are parrots. I don't want to create an association with climbing rope and toys.
I really don’t like it when dogs take climbing shoes and socks.
Wilderdog: That happens?!
Sasha: It does! I've had a dog take my sock and now my sock is all wet. Now I wear Crocs. Moose is obsessed with Crocs - they're so durable! I haven’t gotten jingles yet. (Jibbitz?)
Wilderdog: Do you take Moose along for multi-pitch climbs, or just single-pitch days?
Sasha: People do that? I don’t think I'd bring him out if I was doing a multi-pitch. There's no point. He’d be happier at home.
Wilderdog: How do you travel for climbing with a dog?
Sasha: The biggest issue is that I hate leaving Moose, so I find myself much more selective about which trips I do choose to go on; which is a point I was getting to before we got Moose, but really catalyzed by having him, now! Most of our trips lately are domestic, so we started driving a lot so he can come with us.
We've always had a cat sitter anyways, so we have someone stay there when we leave. I refuse to put Moose under the plane, so I'd love to figure out a way to travel with him, but don’t know how I’d actually do that. Let me know any suggestions, haha!
We recently road-tripped to Red Rock instead of flying so that we could bring Moose on our last climbing trip. It sucks leaving the dogs behind! Its the worst when you’re packing... Moose will get so upset. If I have a suitcase and I walk out to the car, instead of trying to get in the car, he just looks at me, all sad.
Wilderdog: Any other tips you have for climbing with dogs?
Sasha: Make sure you have something with you to make them feel comfortable, and occupied, like a bone or chew toy. Go to the crag early. It wasn’t easy when we first started bringing Moose. He would get anxiety when I would leave the ground, but he learned that Mom goes up and then she comes back down.
It's very important to be near your dog. Even if he's not in the way of anyone, I don’t want to come down off the wall to help a situation. A dog parent needs to be present if anything goes wrong. I want to focus on climbing when I'm on the wall. You don’t want your dog to detract from your experience with climbing. Leave your dog at home if you can’t give them the proper attention while balancing climbing hard.
Wilderdog: Last big question, does Moose have any big objectives this year?
Sasha: To be a really good boy.
Thanks so much, Sasha, for giving us the lowdown on what it's really like being a pro-climber's dog! We fully believe Moose will send his objectives this year.
Follow Moose on Instagram here to keep up with his adventures - @moosechaga