Traveling is always a great idea. It gives us a whole new perspective that can never be found within the four corners of the office, or even at home. It allows us to start new friendships and renew bonds among old friends. Most importantly, it helps us reconnect with nature and transform our lives for the better. However, for some fur parents who can never leave their beloved dogs alone, traveling seems to be a far-fetched dream.  But hey, news flash: Traveling is not just for humans anymore! We at Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours offer you fun things to do in Charlotte NC and a chance to spend time with your four-legged buddies in nature, rather than having to leave them at home. Not only are we dog-friendly; we are dog-focused. We want them to get as much out of the experience as you are!

Demetria Mosley of the Gaston Gazette writes about fun things to do in Charlotte, NC, and in her article about our Howl At The Moon Tour, writes about our humble beginnings and the common love for dogs and adventures that made Happy Tails Tours what it is. It’s an honor to share how our three cherished canine family members transformed our lives and helped us reconnect with nature. We want you to experience the same too, and for that we are organizing a Howl At The Moon tour by North Carolina’s Catawba River. This event will be on September 21 & 22, 2018.


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How a special dog’s life helped inspire an entrepreneur to launch an adventure tour company that includes man’s best friend.

By Lisa Cedrone

Sometimes a story grabs hold of your heart, and that’s exactly what happened to me three years ago when I read about David Blank and his dog Max in Wendy Cooper’s animal communication e-newsletter ( When I later reached out to David to share his story in Transformation Coaching Magazine, he wanted to wait until launching an adventure tour company that was inspired by his world travels with Max. Time rolled along, David and I touched base occasionally, and the original email held a steadfast place at the bottom of my inbox, never forgotten.

Good stories, like successful business plans, take time to come together—and this one did when David and his wife Claudia Fabrega, along with their dogs Dozer and Margie, opened Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours in April 2018 ( The Charlotte, NC-based business offers a wide range of canine-friendly outings and trips from a four-hour “Howl At The Moon” full moon kayak and paddleboard tour to an eight-day adventure throughout the U.S. Southwest.

“Max was and is the inspiration for a lot of things in my life. He was a true part of me.” – David Blank

A professional tour guide and canine trainer, David has been to all but one of the 50 U.S. states and 45 countries since starting his travel guide career in 1993. He has lived and worked in countries including Panama, Ecuador, China and France, and he even once hitchhiked from the United States to Guatemala to learn Spanish. While in Panama in 2007 he met Claudia, a native of the country and an attorney with a master’s degree in Maritime Law. At the time, both Max and Dozer were part of David’s family, and Claudia fell in love with them all.

Claudia and David married in 2009, but this story actually begins in 2000, when David was laid off from his job in marketing at Rosenbluth International, a large Philadelphia-based travel management company, not long after completing his MBA at Thunderbird School of Global Management. David was looking for a new job when Max entered the picture, and he helped David to change the direction of his career, fuel his lifelong passion for travel and adventure, and plant the seeds for Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours.

“I had known for years that I wanted an Australian Cattle Dog,” says David. “The rescue organization wouldn’t give me one because I lived in an apartment, but they knew I had done my research. Then one Friday, a woman from the rescue called me about Max. He had been in the shelter for three months as a stray, and no one knew his background. He was about 18 months old and 48 hours from being euthanized, and from the minute we left there together, Max never willingly left my side or let me out of his sight.” 

A few days after bringing Max home, David was offered a job with a new company. It was an excellent opportunity with a stake in the business, but it would require up to 80-hours per week at a desk. David accepted.

Later, when he returned home, David found that Max had destroyed some of his favorite things. David was upset but, after almost two years in a corporate job, he realized that Max was trying to tell him something important: He didn’t want to spend all of his time inside working in an office. And the dog was right. David called the company back and said he had reconsidered and…

instead of becoming chained to a desk, he took off on a one-year motorcycle journey through the United States, Canada, and Mexico with Max in a large crate on the back of his bike.

…They traveled over 20,000 miles on that trip, and it was the beginning of a heartfelt relationship that lasted until Max crossed the “Rainbow Bridge” at 14 and a half years old.

This quote, from the original story posted by Wendy Cooper (, puts it into perspective:

“Max traveled with me through 10 countries in North, Central and South America. He has been rafting, kayaking, tubing on the Rio Grande, and he flew to South America. He protected me at night when we camped out. He attacked the police that tried to rob us in Mexico. And he was my friend. Max saved my life, and he changed my life.”

“Pets often come into our lives as our spiritual guides, best friends and constant companions.”

They can inspire us—and they also can serve as life coaches or even business partners, as in David and Claudia’s case. I had the chance to ask David some questions about his love of the outdoors and animals, what our pets can teach us, and how he turned his soul’s calling into an entrepreneurial business venture. Here’s what he has to share:


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Transformation: Tell me about your passion for exploring/traveling and the outdoors?

David: I have always loved to travel. When I was in college in Boulder, Colorado, I did a lot of road trips around the Southwest to climb, ski and camp. When I was 20, I went to Europe for four months by myself and backpacked. Then the travel bug really hit me when I was backpacking through East and South Africa in 1992 with my friend Celine. We met a 7-foot tall New Zealander named Rob who was an overland tour guide, and once I learned that I could get paid to travel I was hooked. I began working for a company called Trek America in the United States in April of 1993.

A friend once asked me why I do all the crazy things I do. After some serious consideration, I responded:

“I do the things that others are afraid to do because I’m afraid to do the things that others do!”

I’m not made to sit at a desk. I grew up on a farm and I guess that my love of animals, and being outdoors is part of me.

I remember my first week of graduate school. They put us in cohort groups, and the first day we had to tell the person next to us who we were in two minutes, and then that person did the same, and then we introduced each other to the rest of the group. My partner Aaron stood up and said: “This is David, and I don’t know what else to say about him other than he’s been doing what we all wish we had been doing with our lives for the past three years!”

At that moment I felt the weight of the world come off of my shoulders. While living the life of my dreams, traveling all over North America, I had been hearing my father’s voice in the back of my mind saying, “That’s great! I’m glad you are having a good time. But when are you going to get a real job?”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the confidence or self-awareness at that time to realize that what he should have said and—more importantly—what I should have said to myself was,

“You seem to be really good at this, and you obviously love it! Why don’t you see if you can figure out how to make this gift your life’s work?”

It would be another six years before I would go back to guiding, working as a raft guide and ski instructor in Taos, New Mexico in 2003.


Transformation: Tell me about your relationship with Max and dogs in general?


David: Animals are incredibly powerful beings that help us to connect with nature and with our true and often better Self. People often say of rescue animals, “Who saved who?” There is no question that Max transformed my life. Taking off on a motorcycle with him one month after the adoption was an amazing adventure. I don’t think anything can be a better bonding experience for a dog and a human than traveling together.

Dogs in beach adventure tours
Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours founders David Blank and Claudia Fabrega, along with their dogs Dozer and Margie (in front)

Dogs, like humans, are pack animals. They are always testing us to make sure that as the leader we can be in charge and take care of things. It’s in their nature. They do it in their own packs in the wild. In the Mask of Masculinity, Lewis Howe writes: “If you don’t [project an image of strength or confidence that other people can lean on], the people around you feel anxious, scared or unprotected.”

A weak leader is a danger to the pack, just like a weak mind is a danger. Over the years I’ve often heard that negative voice in my head, which I see as a self-protective construct that develops in childhood. It’s always testing to see if it needs to protect; if I am not in charge, it can and will take over—and nothing good seems to come from it. So it is with dogs. Many times dogs’ behavioral issues develop because we don’t know how to communicate clearly to the dog: “I have this. It’s no big deal. Everything is cool.” That’s why Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours is so transformational. It’s all about building that strong relationship through clear communication with our dogs and our true Self—and really connecting.


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Transformation: How was Max the inspiration for starting Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours, and what other factors played into starting the company?


David: Max was and is the inspiration for a lot of things in my life. He was a true part of me. But the company is bigger than even Max because it’s about our relationship and about helping others to have that same type of experience, that type of relationship. It’s about my amazing wife Claudia and how we are creating our vision of spending our life traveling with our dogs and sharing our passion with others, transforming their thinking and their lives. It’s about me finally coming out of hiding, letting go of trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be and do, and instead embracing who I am as an adventure travel guide and a person.

I have been blessed in my career as a guide to frequently have clients tell me things like, “You were the best guide we’ve ever had.” For me, being a good guide is easy because I love it so much. However, I never really took those compliments and my gift into my heart. I guess I always felt I was doing something inferior because I wasn’t in an office making big money, living up to my “potential.”

“I never realized until now that doing what I love and utilizing my gift is actually important and is a service of great value to people.”


Transformation:  What advice can you give to other people looking to merge their passion with purpose into a business?


David: Never give up on your dream and never quit. I’ve tried a lot of things in my life. I gave up a lot. Recently, I realized that the only way we could fail with Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours is if I give up. I keep reminding myself that successful people move from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. And they write—a lot. Write about why you want to do it. I’m not talking about a business plan. Just write and eventually your true passion and dreams will come out.

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Call us at (262) 622-6463 to set up a private group tour, find out about one of our corporate incentive/ team building adventures, or just to get some great free tips on how to travel with your dogs. Like our Facebook Page and Follow our adventures on Instagram.


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Lisa Cedrone is the editor of Transformation Coaching Magazine and a freelance editor, writer and graphic designer based in Sarasota, FL. She also currently serves as the executive director of the C. G. Jung Society of Sarasota and was an editor in chief for two of the “Top 10” business-to-business publisher in the United States. Contact her at Lisa@

View this article in Transformation Coaching digital magazine July 2018 issue.

We are incredibly excited and grateful to announce that Saturday was the official launch of our new company, Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours and we kicked it off with a sold-out inaugural tour to northern North Carolina.

We started the day with a great hike at Pilot Mountain State Park, followed by lunch and wine tasting at two great and very dog-friendly wineries in the Yadkin Valley – Ragapple Lassie Winery and Misty Creek Vineyards.

Hike with dogs to Pilot Mountain Tour

When asked by Ellie Porter what was the best part of the day for me, my first reaction was “Leaving my house in the morning, knowing that our vision had become a reality!” But, the whole day was amazing! Seeing everyone have such a fantastic time with their dogs and each other, hearing everyone’s enthusiasm and positive thoughts about the tours and the concept, hearing the conversation in the bus as everyone laughed and shared their experiences and their love for their animals, were all great.

Tours with their dogs at Pilot Mountain


Claudia and I are blessed to be creating our vision. Besides the most important thing, which is that our guests had an amazing experience traveling with their dogs, the icing on the cake that confirmed 100% for me that Claudia and I are indeed on the right track, was that Chris McPeck, who was playing live at Misty Creek, closed his set with Wonderful Tonight by Clapton. That was the song of our first dance at our wedding and when I heard it I grabbed Claudia and we danced and we both felt such an overwhelming sense of gratitude, joy, and contentment. I am just so, so grateful to have this amazing person by my side as my partner in life.

Yadkin Valley Tour with dogs

Thank you so much to the great people who attended, including Tamara Lyn Rivera, Eric Rivera, Nicole Carpenter Adams, Jamie Adams, and from KeenDog owner Katrina Kensington and trainer Ellie Porter, as well Austin Chaney.

Claudia and I have been slowly working on this idea for several years and have dedicated ourselves full time since January to creating this amazing company that will give others the opportunity to have amazing, life-transforming adventure experiences with their dogs. It has been a lot of work, a labor of love, the culmination of which was realized Saturday, April 21st, 2018.

Thank you everyone who has been supportive of our vision in so many ways. If you are so inspired, follow and like our Facebook page @happyTailsTours and follow us on Instagram @happyTailsTours to see what amazing adventures are developing. Thank you!!


It happened in an instant. One minute the old man was down standing in the water of the Panama Canal. He couldn’t see well and he was almost deaf. I had been calling him, yelling for him to come for five minutes. But he didn’t hear me. Maybe it was selective. He was probably just enjoying himself and at 14 and a half years old didn’t have to listen to anyone. I’m glad he did. Ten minutes later he was gone.

I just finished bathing and drying him, his body. It was clear that’s what it was. I didn’t feel anything else there. And I felt very alone. Less than alone. I feel as if part of me is missing.

On a Friday afternoon in May of 2000 I received a phone call from a woman at the Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association. I had been speaking with her a few weeks earlier trying to adopt a dog, but their policy was to not give dogs to anyone without a home with a yard. She called me because she felt I knew the breed and what he would need, and had been told of a dog in the animal shelter an hour away in Delaware.

“They are open tomorrow, Saturday, from 8 to 12 and closed Sunday. This dog I have just found out has been there for 3 months minus a few weeks with a family that didn’t work out. Monday morning at 6 am he is scheduled to be euthanized.”

When we got there Saturday morning, they had to drag him out of his cage. He was not friendly and not to trusting. They had me go into a small room about 15 feet square and then put him in with me and shut the door. I took a chair and put it against the center of a wall away from the door. He went and sat in the corner closest to the door. For five minutes neither of us moved. We just stared at each other. Finally he stood up. He walked over to me slowly and sniffed my leg. Then he lifted his leg and urinated on my legs. Then he jumped up into my lap and licked my face. He has never willingly let me out of his sight since.

I filled out the paperwork and we left. We took him to a beach and played with him in the waves. In the pound they had called him Blue. He had been a stray and they didn’t know his name. So we sat at the beach and whenever he turned away from me I started calling out names. I started with the A’s and worked my way through the alphabet. When I said Max, he immediately turned and looked at me and then came over and rubbed against me. Max it is!! That was almost 13 years ago.

A few days later I went in for a job interview. I had recently been downsized. It was the second interview and I was offered the job. It would be hard work, 80 hour weeks, but great money and a stake in a new company. I accepted. When I got home an hour later, Max had destroyed some of my favorite things. I was furious. I wanted to kill him. So I sat down and breathed and thought. And I came to the conclusion that he was right. After almost two years in a corporate job after graduate school, I realized I didn’t want to spend all my time inside any more either. I picked up the phone and called the employer and told them I was going to have to pass on their offer. That was the first time Max saved me from myself.

A week later I purchased a small plastic airline kennel and strapped it onto the back of my motorcycle for our first test run. I shoved Max in and we went to the park a few blocks away. When we got off the bike and went into the park to play, I put my helmet on the ground and went to pick up a stick to throw for him. He walked over and urinated on my helmet. He might as well have spoken to me. It was clear he wasn’t happy with things. So I put on my smelly helmet after a quick rinse in the fountain, shoved him back into the crate and went home. I dropped Max off and went out and traded in the kennel for a larger one. I took it home, strapped it onto the bike. Max took one look at it, jumped up on the seat and into the crate and sat down, ready to go.

Three weeks later we took off on a 1 year journey through the US, Canada and Mexico. We traveled over 20,000 miles camping and exploring and he was the best friend and companion I could have asked for. Only twice did he refuse to jump up onto the bike. The first time was when the crate fell off going over a mountain pass in Colorado at 5 miles an hour. He was not happy. Not injured, but not happy. The second time was when we did an 18 hour day from Los Angeles to New Mexico. I didn’t want to get back on either.

Max traveled with me through ten countries in North, Central and South America. He protected me at night when we camped out. He attacked the police that tried to rob us in Mexico. And he was my friend. He saved my life and he changed my life. He has been rafting, kayaking, tubing on the Rio Grande and flying to South America.

Today I was helpless to save him when he was caught in an Africanized bee’s nest. I tried to grab him and was covered myself and couldn’t get close. We both ran, he the best he could. I raced to a restaurant up the street and stole their fire extinguisher. I raced back and blasted the bees off of him. He was already out of it, covered with bees and unable to move, probably in a coma. We raced to the vet but when we got there, it was too late. I’m so, so very sad. He was my friend.

So now I just keep remembering him standing in the water before it happened, looking happy and free in his old age. Every day of his life was a blessing, since that first day at the pound. And I am so very grateful to have been part of that.

Thank you to everyone over the years that have loved him and been his friend.

Tomorrow we will find a place in the jungle and bury him.