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A Car Crash Kills A Man’s Best Friend & Home. How To Rebuild?

Andrew Muse and his dog, Booter, swing out into space below Looking Glass Rock in Moab. Andrw Muse photo.

Andrew Muse was in Moab before his younger sister’s wedding in Santa Barbara setting up a rope swing on top of Looking Glass Rock, a rock formation that forms a natural amphitheater with a keyhole on one side that betrays a view to the south. Andrew and his friend had set up a rope swing, and were getting ready to belay Andrew down to swing out into space above the red desert below. Andrew had mounted a climbing-grade harness on his golden retriever, Booter, who edged up to his owner as Andrew clipped him in. “He trusted me beyond what I’d even seen another dog trust somebody. He was not a pet to me; he was so much more. He was an extension of who I was.” Booter had trusted Andrew countless times before, one time jumping off a nearly ten-foot drop on a steep rock face to land in Andrew’s arms below. This time was no different.

Andrew wrapped his legs around Booter’s torso, and the pair dropped into space, the weight slinging them far out into space towards the horizon and the sun. Booter and Andrew swung back and forth in the still desert air until the energy of their pendulum ran out, and they were lowered to the ground. “Booter loved it,” Andrew said.” There was not point he didn’t want to do it, even as we climbed to swing out over and over again. He loved these adventures just as much as I did.” Having been blown away at the level of trust and companionship Booter had given his human partner, Andrew had plans to breed him, to birth more little golden adventurers.

WATCH: Andrew Muse's complete Tiny Home Adventures webisode series

On the way back from the wedding, after Booter and him had surfed some small waves together on the same board, Andrew had looked down from the windscreen for a brief moment while on the highway to grab a sip of water. When he looked up again, the back end of a tractor-trailer was slamming through his truck just six inches from his right shoulder. The trailer smashed through the truck all the way to the end of the truck bed, and the pair of vehicles rode in this horrible unison together for two hundred yards. Andrew stuttered. “It was like the scene of a fucking movie.” The truck was now on fire. He couldn’t open the door. Finally, a passing car pulled over and yanked the door off so Andrew could climb out from the wreck. His right leg was pinned, his left ankle sprained. Andrew immediately climbed back in to try and free Booter, who was still in the truck cab.

Andrew's truck following the collision with the back of an 18-wheeler. Andrew Muse photo.

After securing him from the inside of the demolished truck, Andrew found Booter was unconscious, but still breathing. Paramedics showed up, but Andrew refused their help, imploring them to save Booter instead. They rigged up some oxygen to him. His breathing got more labored. They tried CPR. Still, the breathing slowed. Andrew tried mouth to mouth. But Booter, Andrew’s dream companion, died there on the side of the Utah highway in the dark night. The life faded out of him so quickly after he had just been lying happily alongside his best friend on the return from another adventure together.

Andrew had wanted a dog his entire life, but waited until he was 22, with a secure job where he could bring his dog to work with him, before picking one up. He hated when people picked up dogs on a whim; he wanted to give his dog a stable life. After searching around some shelters and breeders, Andrew found a litter he could afford about two hours from his home in Park City. When he went to check them out, the dog that would become Booter was “the coolest–just calm, cool, and collected.” He fell asleep in the lap of Andrew’s then-girlfriend, sucking on her thumb. When Andrew came back a few weeks later to pick his new dog up, and put him in his car, Andrew was worried the puppy would have separation anxiety out of leaving the litter. “Instead, once he got in the car, he was like, ‘Sweet, you’re going to be my new dad!’ He had manors, he knew his size, he was great with kids and other dogs. He was really the perfect dog.”

Booter resting after his first adventure with Andrew. Andrew Muse photo.

Their first adventure together, Andrew took him to Spanish Fork hot springs for a hike. Booter would hike eagerly for five minutes, then tire, after which point Andrew would toss him in his hiking pack, where the pup would fall asleep for ten minutes before popping back up and wanting to run around again. The name Booter came when they’d be running around the backyard in Park City, which looked right up at the massive Kings’ Crown park jumps. Andrew kept having to jump around, since his new puppy would always end up underfoot. Booter became the name.

As their time together wore on, Andrew dreamed more and more about heading out on the road for adventure full-time. He bought a truck and a $500 camper that was almost 40 years old, moved from the master bedroom into the garage of his rental to save money, and began putting hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into converting the camper into the mobile home of his dreams. He found some sponsors to offset his costs and donate some gear, spent months saving up his own cash, and then hit the road, producing the Tiny Home Adventure series as he went.

Booter and Andrew passed out in front of their mobile home after a long day in the woods. Andrew Muse photo.

Booter and Andrew went rock climbing together, built rope swings, hiked, climbed, went kiteboarding, sandboarding, splitboarding, kayaking. They camped under starry nights, alongside oceans, lakes, rivers, deep in the woods. They were some of the richest experiences Andrew had ever enjoyed. But that phase in Andrew’s life is irreplaceably over, both materially–the crash totaled Andrew’s truck and destroyed virtually all his personal belongings–and spiritually.

“I need to learn as much as possible from this fucked up, awful tragedy as I can, and hopefully inspire others to not take things lightly. You could lose everything in a second. Andrew said. ”Hug your dog, hug who’s close to you.” Miraculously, one of the only things to survive the wreck were the hard drives that carried gigabytes of memories of Booter & Andrew’s time together, much of which was used to create the memorial episode of the Tiny Home Adventure series you see above. Andrew ventured into the wreck against the firefighters’ pleadings to recover it. “I’m so lucky to be here, to have walked away from that accident. I’m thankful to be alive, but my life has changed forever.”

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But, while it seemed that everything was lost, “that my life was gone beyond reconcile,” it was not. While Andrew had feared that all he’d invested a decade of his life into was gone–the truck, the mobile home, his equipment, everything–his friends, family, and total strangers have come out of the woodwork offering to help. A Youcaring campaign has raised nearly $24,000 in two weeks, with donations posted alongside notes of gratitude for contributors’ own pets, or glowing anecdotes of Andrew’s kindness and Booter’s friendliness. “Everybody’s support has been shocking, overwhelming, breathtaking,” Andrew said. “The support from friends and family, even from people I don’t know, has been astounding. I now don’t think hope is lost.”

Booter and Andrew take the plunge together while exploring Yosemite. Andrew Muse photo.

Andrew implored me that whatever gets donated “will not be spent foolishly,” that he’s a minimalist. He just wants to get back to a livable situation, and ultimately to doing what he was doing before. But in a way that is, in his words, “evolved.” Thanks in no doubt to someone who gave him so much and whose trust could never be matched.

At the scene of the accident, a volunteer firefighter responded to the call whose family breeds dogs. They’ve offered Andrew one of the golden doodles they just bred, the litter just three weeks old. Andrew is hoping that by the time the puppies are eight weeks old, he’ll have found a home, stability, and security, and can provide an amazing life for another amazing dog to wag its tail at the site of a river, trail, or rope swing. 

Check out Andrew's Youcaring campaign, and hug your dog tonight.

About The Author

stash member Ryan Dunfee

Former Managing Editor at Teton Gravity Research, current Senior Contributor, current professional hippy at the Sierra Club, and avid weekend recreationalist.

I am an owner and operator of a small Tow Truck Adelaide company and I respond to too many road deaths. Make sure you look after yourself.