As a general rule, adventure-sports athletes and dogs get along famously. That wasn’t the case last Friday evening at the Antlers hotel in Vail, Colorado. Nicky de Leeuw of the Dutch National Climbing Team was one of the 2,500 athletes from more than 30 countries who had traveled to compete in the tenth annual Teva Mountain Games. His event: the Bouldering World Cup, and on Friday he'd qualified for the semifinals for only the second time in his career. The event started Saturday at 10 a.m.
I met de Leeuw late Friday night in the Antlers elevator as I was returning, slightly wobbly, from what seems to be another great TMG pastime: schmoozing and drinking with a few hundred other folks at an “exclusive” party. De Leeuw was not in a chatty mood. Turned out that in the two hours I'd been away, my dog, Lucy -- one of the thousands of pooches that the 40,000 TMG attendees brought with them this year -- had started in with her howling routine, and we were staying in the room adjacent to de Leeuw's. (What can I say? She doesn’t like unfamiliar places.) De Leeuw looked unsure about whether to accept my apologies or spit. After a curt exchange, he tore out of the elevator to “get some sleep.”
Feeling guilty, I resolved to watch him climb the next morning. I showed up at the wall and sat with some 300 other spectators, techno music thumping beneath 14,000-foot peaks, and watched de Leeuw fall off all four of his climbs. "Lucy," I implored my stout companion, who was splayed out contentedly in the grass, "what have we done?"
When the competition was over, I caught up with de Leeuw near the wall to apologize. He'd placed 13th—out of 20. “I couldn’t be happier,” he said. "It was the best I've ever done at the World Cup." He crouched to pet Lucy: “So this is the beast, huh? I’ve got a dog at home.” No wonder 40,000 people and 10,000 dogs can survive three days with hardly any drama--everybody's so laid back. Which is why next year, de Leeuw can rest assured. I'm bringing Lucy to the party.