He has hiked mountains and valleys, visited national monuments, run 5Ks for charity, and been featured on the cover of a magazine. His name is Gizmo, and he is retired Wiscasset Police Department Lt. John Allen’s pet Shih Tzu.
Since adopting Gizmo from the Lincoln County Animal Shelter about six years ago, John and Lori Allen have crossed mountain ranges and toured the West. Gizmo has been right there with them.
Recognized by the Appalachian Mountain Club for hiking all of New Hampshire’s 48 mountains over 4,000 feet, in addition to New Hampshire’s Belknap Range and fire towers, Gizmo recently took a cross-country journey with the Allens.
He scaled mountains, descended canyons, and visited national parks and monuments along the way.
The small dog’s big accomplishments were so impressive to editors of the Desert Pet Companion, a Palm Spring, Calif. publication devoted to the pet community, Gizmo was featured on the cover.
The public attention is something Gizmo is accustomed to, John and Lori Allen said. Gizmo has a special strut, akin to John Travolta’s walk to the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” in “Saturday Night Fever,” the Allens said.
Despite his nearly 25 years of service with the Wiscasset Police Department, “people don’t know me,” John Allen said. “They only know me as Gizmo’s dad.”
Gizmo came into the Allens’ life through former Wiscasset Police Sgt. Kathy Williams, the Allens said. Lori Allen’s parents were longtime residents of Wiscasset. After Lori Allen’s mother moved into an assisted-living facility, the couple searched for a pet to keep her father company.
Williams immediately scooped up Gizmo, who had just been placed for adoption at the animal shelter. “She knew he was the perfect dog for someone,” John Allen said.
Her father was unable to care for the high-energy Shih Tzu, but didn’t want to give him up, Lori Allen said. The Allens were the next in line to take in Gizmo.
The Allens are avid hikers. “We said OK, but if he comes to live with us he’s going to have to hike,” John Allen said. Hike Gizmo did.
The first time on a trail, Gizmo was a little hesitant. “He didn’t know what he was doing there,” Lori Allen said. As soon as he saw another dog hiking the trail, Gizmo felt right at home.
Six years later, Gizmo has hiked hundreds of mountains. There is not a mountain in Acadia National Park that Gizmo has not hiked at least twice. “His little feet have gone a long way,” John Allen said.
The Allens recently returned from a six-month cross-country voyage in their RV. Before the trip, the couple had debated buying the RV; however, after Lori Allen learned of the tragic, accidental death of a recently retired co-worker, the decision was made.
The Allens headed west in their new RV with no particular destination in mind. They ended up visiting too many national parks and monuments to name. Gizmo’s adventures were documented on the blog Gizmo Goes West.
On his trip, Gizmo scaled mountains up to 11,000 feet. Had he not been on a leash, he would have charged down California’s slot canyons, or narrow, deep canyons formed by water rushing through rock, without waiting for the necessary rope. “He has no fear,” John Allen said.
While camping in California, Gizmo ran in 5K charity events and participated in a dog show to benefit the local animal shelter. At the dog show, the Allens met an editor for Desert Pet Companion. Soon thereafter, Gizmo was featured on the cover.
Gizmo prefers the roots and rocks of New England for hiking, but can handle any terrain, the Allens said. At 10 years old, Gizmo is giving no indications that he is slowing down. “We did a lot of hiking before him, but he keeps us going,” John Allen said.
John Allen was initially reluctant to take Gizmo in, he said. His golden retriever of 16 years had passed away, and was not a dog that could be replaced, he said.
He also initially thought Shih Tzus were “froufrou-y” dogs, he said, but Gizmo proved him wrong. “I would always adopt after this,” he said.
To learn more about Gizmo’s adventures, go to gizmogoeswest.com.