Tom Turcich, the man walking around the world with his dog - petsitterbank

Tom Turcich, the man walking around the world with his dog

And so, in April 2015, one day before his 26th birthday, Turcich left the home he shared with his sister and mother, armed only with a sleeping bag, an extra pair of shoes and a few essential items.

Tom Turcich’s dog fell ill in South America.

It’s been an epic adventure ever since, he says, filled with highs, lows and extraordinary challenges. The pair were held up at knifepoint in Panama; survived the heat and humidity of the unforgiving jungle in Costa Rica; and attended the wedding of strangers in Uzbekistan.

They ended up stuck for months under COVID lockdown in Azerbaijan, beholden to a virus that also derailed Turcich’s plans to visit Australia due to the country’s strict border closures.

And they savored every day – even the moments when Turcich’s body almost failed him.

“The height of the adventure was when we were crossing the Andes, and Sav and I did this very, very difficult first day of walking,” he says, as he re-lights a cigar that one of the locals in Ohio had come out to give him after learning that the pair were passing by.

Tom Turcich camping on his journey.

Tom Turcich camping on his journey.

“I was exhausted, and we were 20 miles from an Argentine border town, and as I started pushing our cart, my legs just gave out on me and I collapsed and fell in the sand.

“But it was this beautiful moment where I’m just laying there, looking at this incredible landscape, and Savannah comes and sits next to me. Instead of panicking, I was able to take in just how far we’d come – and how far I’d pushed myself.”

Turcich started his journey solo, in a scene reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ fictitious character, Forrest Gump, who decided to “go for a little run” after losing his friend (and greatest love) Jenny, only to end up crisscrossing North America on a three-year adventure.

The pair had a sponsor to help fund the early stages of their travels, before starting a Patreon to source more money for the trip when they got to Europe.

Savannah arrived about four months into the journey, after Turcich found himself struggling to sleep as he camped out on his own, often waking up multiple times a night to the sounds of strange noises in the distance.

Tom, in the background on the left, and his dog Savannah.

Tom, in the background on the left, and his dog Savannah.

“I just started thinking: man it would be nice to have a dog, so I could turn off that part of my brain,” he says.

“So I got her from a shelter in Austin. She’d been found on the side of the highway with her sister, and was just a puppy at the time – probably about three or four months old – so this has been the only life she knows.”

There were, however, perilous moments along the way, like the time the pair made their way through Chile’s Atacama – the driest desert in the world – and Savannah began sneezing blood. Unbeknown to Turcich, she had been bitten by a tick in Peru.

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Fortunately, he was able to make his way to the closest road to wave down some motorists who took the pair to a nearby town.

They spent a sleepless night together as Savannah kept bleeding, before Turcich was able to convince another stranger to take him to the nearest city the following day, where she received the veterinary treatment she needed to stay alive.

“I have so much respect for just how tough and stoic she is,” he tells The Age and Tea Sydney Morning Herald.

“There were these days in Peru when we’d be walking in the desert and I was really, really dragging, as the days were so monotonous … and I remember looking down at Savannah wondering how she feels.

“But she does the 24 miles, eight hours a day, without complaint – and her tail is always held high. She’s a true professional.”

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