Nfld. & Labrador

10 million steps for mental health: Man and husky complete cross-Canada walk

It's been a long road for Bret Mavriik and his faithful dog Nymeria, who spent the last year and a half walking across Canada.

Bret Mavriik and pet dog Nymeria left Toronto in September 2015, arrived in St. John's May 22

Bret Mavriik and his pet dog Nymeria arrived in St. John's on May 22. Mavriik estimates their cross-Canada walk, which started in 2015, equals about 10 million steps. (CBC)

It's been a long road for Bret Mavriik and his faithful dog Nymeria, who spent the last year and a half walking across Canada.

But that time has given Mavriik a new perspective on the state of mental health in the country.

I've come to my ninth province and it's almost like I've come to my ninth country.- Bret Mavriik

Mavriik, 50, and his four-year-old Siberian husky left Toronto back in September 2015 to start what he calls an awareness walk for Children's mental health.

The goal was to hit as many Canadian cities, towns and villages as possible to listen to people's thoughts and opinions on the issue.

"We wanted to see exactly what was going on province to province. Health care systems, politics, thought processes right across," he told CBC News in St. John's Tuesday.

"We live in such a big country and we're so sparsely populated that there's not that much unity because we're so spread out. In all honesty, I've come to my ninth province and it's almost like I've come to my ninth country."

Faithful companion 

On Monday, Mavriik finished not only his walk across Newfoundland, but also completed his goal of walking from the Pacific to the Atlantic — which he says equals about 10 million total steps.

The pair didn't go coast to coast in a straight line, and sometimes veered off the Trans-Canada Highway by more than 500 kilometres.

Bret Mavriik and husky walk across Canada

5 years ago
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Bret Mavriik and husky walk across Canada 1:48

That trek would have been far more lonely without Nymeria, who was originally his son's dog but bonded with Mavriik and has been with him since the start of the walk.

When he goes from town to town, it's Nymeria that people are the most excited to see.

Mavriik's walking partner, a four-year-old Siberian husky named Nymeria, has been with him ever since he left Toronto. (CBC)

Mavriik often gets messages from people all over the world who want to know how she can be so well behaved and walk off-leash safely all day, near highways and roads.

"We've been together a lot. I mean we've been sleeping in a tent for a year and a half," he said.

"She's so close to me, and it's just that husky thing of bonding. I've given her a lot of freedom and everyone across this whole country has spoiled her rotten. It's not about me — I'm the baggage guy pushing the gear. It's all about the smiley face, and she's awesome."

Lessons learned

Throughout his conversations with people around mental health, Mavriik said his concerns are greater now than ever before.

He's noticed that pretty much all communities and families have been affected by mental health issues in one way or another, but that all to often people aren't addressing it themselves and just waiting for government to solve all their problems.

Mavriik and Nymeria in Whistler B.C. last January. Five months later, the pair would be walking the highways of Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

Mavriik hopes he can at least help to get the message out there that people should be doing more as a community to tackle the problem.

"People get confused and they scram to the government, 'Hey you need to help us right now.' But that's not their place," he said.

"You can't yell at the government to get out of you life and then the next thing say, 'Why weren't you here yesterday?'"

With files from Martin Jones

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