Thursday, September 13, 2018

Got Wheels?

A few years ago, my mom tore her meniscus in her knee while out on a walk with her dog Peanut. One minute everything was fine, the next minute she could barely walk. Luckily she was only a few blocks from home when it happened, but it took quite a long time before she could walk without assistance and during that time of limited mobility, she put on extra weight. Her knee has healed now and mobility has returned, however I think mentally she's afraid it'll happen again so she doesn't venture far from the house on walks anymore.

My mom's dog, Peanut, has her own issues with walking... limited mobility as her joints age along with poor genetics and old injuries keep her from going very far too. Mom used to walk Peanut around the block a few times a week but lately, Peanut can barely make it that far. At almost 12 years old, her little legs just can't do it anymore.

So last weekend, as Mom and I walked around downtown for Wausau's Artrageous Weekend, we did quite a bit of people-watching (our favorite!)... and some dog watching too. There were many well-behaved dogs walking through the crowds (yes, I was totally jealous) but we also saw a little pet stroller holding two tiny yorkies.

Mom said she wanted to get one for Peanut. I thought she was joking, but the more I thought about it, I realized it was a great idea!

Peanut gets so jealous and sad when I take the other two dogs out for walks or hikes. She follows us to the door, whimpering pathetically with her lower lip trembling (totally heartbreaking!). Mentally she wants to go on walks but physically she just can't.

So we did a little research and ended up selecting one off Amazon for about $45 and it was delivered today! Mom chose the purple one so it matched the purple streak in her hair. Now they are totally rocking the dog walk!

I don't remember the last time I saw my mom this happy. She was so excited to take Peanut for a walk and Peanut felt the same! Those two were so adorable.

Peanut can ride in comfort wherever Mom wants to take her and Mom has the stroller to lean on in case she needs extra support if her knee feels weak. Honestly I think it just helps her mentally to have something to hold onto. Plus she can bring along a bottle of water, books, and dog supplies in the little carrier tray without having to lug a heavy bag along.

This pet stroller is going to open up all kinds of new adventures for these two... proving that with the right gear, you can get outdoors at any age and almost any physical level. I have a feeling Mom is going to start losing weight now that she feels comfortable getting out walking and it gives her a purpose to allow Peanut to have some outdoor time in a way they can both enjoy.

Having freedom and mobility is so important to boost your mood - both for dogs and people. And being able to enjoy the outdoors... getting fresh air, sunshine and exercise is vitally important for health and well-being. For a small investment, these two "seniors" have a new outlook on life and I couldn't be happier!

*For those who don't already know, my mom and her dog Peanut live with me and my two dogs. We have a house that was converted into a duplex so we each have our own living space but we can visit each other anytime. Added bonus - Charlie and Jake get to hang out with their "grandma" during the day when I'm at work!

**We did not receive any free products in exchange for this semi-review. We purchased the pet stroller on Amazon with our own money and our opinions are all our own.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Labor Day Fail

Charlie watching squirrels while Jake lounges.

I have an unspoken rule about holiday weekends: stay home.

I hate crowds. I don't like taking Charlie places where there will be other dogs aggravating her reactivity issues. I don't like having to keep the dogs on-leash when they should be running free (only in safe places and only when I'm sure we won't be bothering anyone else).

That is why we seek wilderness trails or places during "off peak hours" so we can have our solitude and freedom. Holiday weekends prevent this because EVERYONE is out trying to enjoy a single weekend of outdoor time.

But we had such a lazy day yesterday... lounging on the porch, watching squirrels and reading books. And I felt like I owed it to the dogs to have an adventure today.

Unfortunately it totally backfired. We headed north about an hour drive to the Turtle Rock Segment of the Ice Age Trail where I have never run into another soul on the trail. It's pure wilderness and it's a challenging trail, and we love it.

That spot straight ahead is where we want to go. Dead end.

But after only about a mile of hiking, we ran into a dead-end. Beavers had re-routed the pond over the trail and flooded the surrounding woods. I've run into this in past years, but have almost always been able to find a way around it. Not today. I tried going across the beaver dam but it wasn't sturdy enough to hold me and the woods beyond the dam were completely flooded. I couldn't see a dry way to get through.

VIDEO (dead-end trail at Turtle Rock):

It was extremely disappointing. But the dogs had a good time swimming in the pond, chasing each other and chewing on beaver sticks. And another good thing, Jake got to see his first beaver dam. Silver linings.

VIDEO (dogs playing on beaver dam):

On the drive home, I detoured to see if we could visit the Prairie Dells area, but that was also very crowded with several dogs around. We drove on.

I stopped at another one of our old hiking spots, the Wisconsin River Forest Unit, between Wausau and Merrill. That seemed promising since there was only one truck in the parking lot. But as we headed into the trail, it was so overgrown with raspberry bushes that the dogs actually yelped when they got pricked. We turned back and I threw sticks for them at the primitive boat launch, but it was boring and lame, so we got back into the car.

I apologized to the dogs all the way home. I felt like such a failure that I couldn't give them a proper adventure this weekend. I guess I can find solace in the fact that we'll be going on a super-fun camping trip in a couple weeks - Jake's first! Alan and I are looking forward to that adventure and introducing Jake to his first trip camping in the woods.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Subtle Signs

Subtle signs of fall surrounded us on our hike today. Leaves beginning to change color, dropping from trees. While still warm and humid, fall is right around the corner here in north-central Wisconsin.

But we didn't let that get us down. It was a beautiful, slow and deliberate hike today. We didn't rush through the trail to get to the river. We walked with purpose, looking all around, taking time to sniff the scents along the trail and listen to the forest sounds.

There was severe weather forecast for later in the afternoon, so we arrived at the trail head just after noon to have time to enjoy the calm before the storm. I love being in the woods at this time when the atmosphere is churning and changing. There's a charge, an electricity in the air. It's so invigorating.



The strong breeze would alternate with eerie calm. Light was muted and dim. Everything glowed green around us. In the brief openings of sky in the canopy above, clouds swirled and danced.

We spent a good deal of time along the riverbank, the dogs looking for sticks to chew while I absorbed the sound of the water trickling over rocks and through mossy islands. It was divine.

Instead of being sad about the changing seasons, I'm actually excited for fall. There is still so much exploring to do before the snow arrives and I can't wait to get out as much as possible!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Swamp Dogs

Last weekend we headed to one of our local favorite hiking/swimming parks. I knew at this time of year that the water would likely be filled with blue-green algae, but the last time we were here wasn't too bad and I was hopeful.

Unfortunately the water was terrible. Total pea soup. Worse. More like toxic green sludge.

But having two water dogs, there was no way I could keep them out of it. We tried staying on the hiking trails, but there were areas where the trail got close to the water's edge, so they took a dip.

At least I kept them from full-on swimming in it. But they did romp around and surely got some in their mouths. Luckily neither of them developed any tummy troubles from our outing.

Deer and raccoon tracks with dewy spiderwebs.

It was worth it though to see them running together, sharing sticks and exploring. I absolutely love watching these two play together!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Notes on Jake ~ 10 months old

It's hard to believe that we've only had Jake for a little over four months. This summer has flown by and Jake has become such a part of the family that it feels like he's been here forever. I guess that's when you know it's a good fit.

Jake is a typical "teenager puppy" with a high energy level but he's also great at keeping himself occupied. He doesn't need someone to play with him constantly. He'll lay on the floor chewing on a toy, tossing it up in the air and running around with it... all by himself. When he wants someone to play with him, he usually chooses Charlie and will sit and bark at her until she gives in. Otherwise he seeks out Sally the cat and will start a wrestle session with her.

He's picked up some of Charlie's bad habits, like barking at cars from the upstairs window and barking at dogs as we drive around in the car. I filled little plastic containers with dog food and when they start barking, I shake the container and say "No Bark!" Then I toss them a few pieces of food in a game of "go find it" and it distracts them long enough to redirect their attention and stop the barking. Hopefully we can cure them both of this bad habit soon!

I've also decided that I'm tired of tip-toeing around dogs in the kitchen while I'm cooking or eating, so we've started to keep the dogs out of the kitchen during food times. One dog was bad enough, but two dogs is too much and my tiny kitchen isn't big enough for all of us during meal prep. They sit in the hallway at the threshold and watch, but no entry while food is out! After the food is put away and dishes are done, they get a treat in their bowls as a reward for good behavior. This has been so wonderful for me and I'm enjoying being in the kitchen without the dog obstacles.

Jake loves walks, especially when Charlie joins us. He seems more focused and brave when Charlie is along. Otherwise he kind of dawdles and doesn't seem to know what to do. Also, he doesn't have the endurance like Charlie to walk for a lot of miles, so we go for shorter walks together and then I go for a long one by myself. The three of us typically walk down by the Wisconsin River trail for our morning 5am walk when it's quiet and no one else is out since Charlie doesn't do well with her noise reactivity. In the evenings, I take Jake for a walk with just the two of us around the neighborhood for about 30 minutes and then drop him off before I head out by myself.

While he loves his walks, Jake's favorite activity is swimming! He's a water dog for sure. Anytime we get near water, he goes right in. Charlie enjoys swimming if it involves fetching, but she prefers to just play along the shore most of the time. Jake, however, will go swimming just for the fun of it. He'll paddle in circles and go check out leaves or bubbles floating on the surface. I'd like to get him out on the kayaks again, but it's just so hard with both dogs. Maybe we'll have to try a canoe or other boat where we can all be on the same vessel. Or maybe leave Charlie home and see how Jake does by himself. Summer is slipping by fast so we'll have to do something soon!

Jake continues to grow and I'm afraid I'm going to lose the little side-bet that Alan and I have going on his adult weight. He is now at 50 lbs and is heavier and taller than Charlie although he looks leaner (probably because her hair is longer). He doesn't seem aware of his size, though, which causes him to sometimes inadvertently hurt people. He accidentally head-butts us all the time, he paws at us with his enormous feet and long nails which sometimes draw blood. He also runs full speed into Charlie at times and I can hear him knock the wind out of her. I'm sure under all her fur she's covered in bruises from him! I suppose he'll grow into his size mentally one of these days, but I'm afraid he might always be a clumsy goofball (although his clumsiness is adorable and makes us laugh all the time).

Speaking of long nails... Jake HATES to get his nails trimmed. The first time I had my groomer friend over to help me trim his nails, he squealed like we were killing him, peed all over us and even released his anal glands in fear... and we hadn't even cut a nail yet, we were just getting ready. I've slowly started getting him used to the nail clippers by giving him spray cheese while touching the clippers to his feet, but not actually clipping anything. I've also had him watch Charlie getting hers done so he can see it's not something to be scared of. I'm almost ready to start clipping one nail a day while giving him spray cheese to see how he does. Baby steps.

Jake had a vet appointment today to assess his last baby tooth that refuses to come out. It's tight against his top canine and I'm afraid it's preventing the adult tooth from coming through fully and it is also trapping all kinds of stick debris and food in between. So he'll have surgery this Friday to have it removed... and a free pedicure included! Yay!

We continue to be amused by Jake and his cute little antics while also completely adoring him. He's my little snuggle bug. He gives me full-on mouth kisses (gross to some, but it's his thing), he stares at me lovingly with those beautiful amber eyes and follows me wherever I go. I know this little boy is all mine at heart and I couldn't be a luckier dog-mom.