In May 2022, Savannah–a 7-year-old, light brown, mid-sized mutt–became the first dog to walk around the world.
She hasn’t done it alone, of course. Savannah’s owner, 33-year-old Tom Turcich, became the 10th person to walk around the world after he completed his seven-year-long journey on May 21.
Turcich set out on his world walk from his hometown of Haddon Township, New Jersey on April 2, 2015. He adopted Savannah a few months into the walk when he was in Texas, and she’s been by his side ever since. They’ve trekked across continents, through mountain ranges and deserts, and through major cities and remote landscapes.
When Turcich designed his map around the world, he had two criteria: he wanted to hit every continent, and he wanted to avoid as many Visa-related challenges as possible. He used these two guiding principles, as well as research and lessons learned from those who have walked the world before him, to put together a roadmap.
The walk has been mostly continuous over the past seven years. Turcich spent the first year walking from New Jersey to Panama and the second year trekking through South America. He was able to take a boat to Antarctica and spend some time walking there before a bacterial infection put his trip on hold for seven months.
When he picked back up again, he started with Denmark, walked down through Spain to Northern Africa, walked along Italy and the Mediterranean, and entered Asia through Istanbul, Turkey. The COVID-19 pandemic further delayed his travels–and prevented him from walking in Australia– but he was eventually able to continue along his journey. Once he hit Kyrgyzstan in summer 2021, he flew back to the United States to Seattle and has been crossing the country back to his hometown ever since.
Through it all, Savannah has been a loyal companion and protector. Here are 10 things you might be curious to know about Turcich’s walk around the world with Savannah. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
01 of 10
Savannah and Her Owner Needed Each Other
Turcich: “[My motivation to get a dog was] most like the original motivation that man and dog paired together in the first place: Give them food, and they protect camp. At night, when I was camping in strange places, just throughout the night I’d be waking up thinking, ‘Something’s coming.’ When you’re camping alone, you’re always just gonna wake up when a twig cracks or you hear some rustle. So, over and over again, I kept thinking, ‘Man, it would be really nice to have a dog that would be able to hear much better than I can, so I can just turn off that part of my brain and know that she would bark or let me know if something’s coming.’ So that was the primary reason [to get a dog.] It was very utilitarian.”
02 of 10
Training a Puppy on the Road Is Easier Than You'd Think
“I went into an adoption center in Austin, Texas and tried to make a connection with a couple of these dogs and it wasn’t really happening. I was about to leave, and just as I was leaving, they brought out Savannah and her sister, who were just puppies that they found on the side of the highway. Pretty quickly I was like, this is perfect, because if I get a puppy, it’ll be rough for a little while, but this will be the only life she knows. She’ll be perfectly adapted to me and walking every day. So 10 minutes later, I was adopting Savannah.
The first month, it was really frustrating because I was in the rhythm of walking 24 miles a day, and then I threw a puppy in that needs to be trained and obviously is not going to walk 24 miles a day. I had to sort of readjust my expectations and my focus. In the beginning, I would take her out and use some sausages to get her to walk on the leash, and then when she was tired, I’d put her in the back basket of this kind of baby carriage I push, and then walk as she would rest and sleep. When she was ready to get out, I would take her out and we’d walk as far as she wanted to go, and I’d train her as much as I could. Eventually by the time I got to Mexico, she was doing the full 24 miles a day with ease and hasn’t looked back.”
03 of 10
Crossing Borders With a Dog Isn't Impossible, Either
“Probably about 50 percent of the countries in reality don’t even ask for paperwork. They don’t even acknowledge her. And then the other countries just require an up-to-date rabies vax and a health certificate.
For food and water, I just keep a bag of food in the back basket for her and that’ll get me through maybe a week, and then I’m just mindful of the water. She drinks a lot of water, especially in summer. You don’t want her drinking from just any water source, especially in some developing countries where the locals don’t even drink the water. So that’s something, I keep a good water supply for her to drink and keep her from drinking dirty water and getting a bacteria infection or something.”
04 of 10
Savannah Prefers Snow Over the Heat
"If there’s snow, she loves snow. That is by far her favorite. She loves the cold, loves the snow. If we’re walking in a snowy area, she’ll spend the whole day rubbing her face in the snow, rolling around in the snow.
She definitely struggles in the heat. She’s got this big thick coat and anything about 70 degrees or higher, she’s not having the greatest time. I have a jacket for her to wear that I can soak and keep on her to keep her a little cooler, and I also get her hair trimmed when summer comes. That helps her a lot.”Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Savannah Had a Health Scare in Peru
“She had this tick infection down in Peru, which is apparently pretty common there, but it basically dropped her platelets down to zero when we were in the desert. She had this nosebleed, and I was able to wave down a car to take us to town, and eventually take a 5-hour cab to a city where we could get her to the vet. But it was the kind of thing where there were no signs of anything until she started bleeding. She sneezed and the blood was coming out. That was resolved with a vet visit, and she was okay.
When something is that serious and you’re in the middle of a desert and the only thing close by is a little desert town–there’s a reason people aren’t walking across the desert every day: because they’re not near a veterinarian or they’re not near doctors in extreme conditions. I unfortunately can’t carry medicine for every contingency. I have a basic first aid kit, but otherwise, it’s just waving down a car and getting to town as quickly as possible.”
06 of 10
The Long Break Affected Savannah, Too
“I actually got laid up with a bacterial infection after South America for about seven months, so we took a while off and I was incapable of doing any exercise. When we got back to walking in Denmark, Savannah was a little out of shape like I was. There was one day where she started limping and I was like, ‘What’s going on? Does she have something in her paw?’ And it was so strange and I couldn’t figure out what it was, and it took me a while to realize, ‘Oh, she’s just tired.’ And so that’s the only time I’ve ever seen her tired, and very quickly she got back into shape. Now, she out-paces me with ease. We’ll do a 30-mile day and she still wants to play at the end of it.”
07 of 10
Other Dogs Were Sometimes a Threat
“We’ve had a couple encounters with some very aggressive dogs, and I’d say that would be the main overarching threat, especially in Central and South America. There’s a lot of dogs that aren’t treated with love and compassion, and they become really territorial. [We had to have] this constant kind of vigilance, and Savannah is incredibly good at de-escalating now. She’s good at just letting the other dog smell her and being a non-threat.”
08 of 10
But She Had to Look Out for Other Predators, Too
"In America, there’s skunks and porcupines, and in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve gotta worry about bears and moose. She got sprayed by a skunk in Kansas, and in Colorado, she charged a porcupine and she got porcupined in the snout, so since then in America, I’ve been very mindful. I’m like, ‘Alright Sav, you can’t go roaming off like normal.’ Usually when we set up camp, she goes out and explores the area and she’ll charge at things to scare them away from camp, but now it’s like, I don’t want you getting sprayed by a skunk again.”Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Savannah Has Become a Walking Pro
“She’s typically unleashed. If we’re walking on a big road, she’ll be leashed, but on smaller roads or paths, she just kind of stays in this position right beside me. She’ll stay there for hours, and I’ll feel her ear brush up against my calf. Even on smaller roads where there’s not that many cars, I'll probably keep her unleashed because she knows when there’s cars, she knows not to go off. She will just stay right by my leg on the side away from traffic, and then as soon as we turn onto a dirt road or a country road, she’ll dart ahead and go sniffing around.
She’s been doing this a long time, too. She’s a professional, too. She’s a professional walker so we’re very synched up that way, and I definitely have a lot of trust in her not to run off or anything. We’ve just spent a lot of time walking together.”
10 of 10
Tom and Savannah Have an Incredibly Strong Bond
“Savannah’s been for me, in a certain way, this great teacher on stoicism. I don’t know how she’s feeling day to day, and I remember thinking this when we were walking through the deserts of Peru, there were these days when I was really struggling and I was like, ‘I don’t know if Savannah’s aching,’ but her tail was up. She will walk the 24 miles per day without complaining, guaranteed, and so doing that beside her every day taught me to do the same thing. Do what you can in a day and keep your tail high throughout it, no matter what’s going on internally.”
Turcich’s walk came to an end on May 21 back where he started in New Jersey, after which he planned to take some much needed downtime. He hopes to publish a memoir about his travels. Until then, you can check out his journey on his Instagram and website.
As for Savannah, she’ll certainly have some adjusting to do when she’s no longer walking 20 to 30 miles a day. She will, however, get to enjoy some well-deserved rest.
“I’ll walk her as much as I can, for sure, but it’s not going to be eight hours a day,” Turcich said. “She’s getting a little older; she’s 7, so I think it’ll be the perfect time to slow down.”