Sunday, July 8, 2018

Another Day in Summer Paradise

We started off early this morning on a scenic drive around our area, exploring little-known county parks along the way.

Road trip snacks, full cooler, sunscreen, bug spray, hats, sunglasses, water shoes, dog harnesses, leashes, towels and dog treats. Everything we could need on this gorgeous summer day.

I got to spend the entire day with my loves, my family. Enjoying all the things that we love doing together... exploring our state and being outdoors.

The weather was gorgeous - blue skies, warm wind, green fields and sunshine. Corn fields are growing tall, wildflowers are in bloom, windows were down and the car was full of fun and smiles.

The fresh air, exercise, and sunshine took their toll and we were all ready for a nap when we got home. Jake was so tired that I had to carry him inside... he didn't even have the energy to get out of the car!

VIDEO #1 (dogs swimming & fetching at Rib Falls):

VIDEO #2 (dogs swimming & fetching at Rib Falls):

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Hiking With Two Dogs

The cicadas have begun their summer song and it always takes me back to my childhood... I love this sound. It seems to come at the peak of summer; arriving in time to remind us to enjoy what little time is left before the next season comes around. I feel an urgency to get out and do more when I hear their high keening song.

With the thought of a dwindling summer in mind, I decided to take the dogs hiking along the Plover River Segment of the Ice Age Trail today and get the most out of this fleeting time of year.

But going by myself (with both dogs) was a little daunting to think about.

You see, Jake is now the same weight as Charlie - 47 lbs... and still growing. Having two dogs attached to me on a hike through uneven terrain and only out-weighing them by 40 lbs can be a little intimidating. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to handle both at the same time by myself.

VIDEO (Dogs hiking side-by-side):

But, miraculously, we did just fine! Charlie has a lot of experience in the woods and on the trails, so she walks with a purpose... she's all about the destination and she's in a hurry to get there. She plows forward like a sled-pulling machine.

Jake is young and experiencing everything for the first time. He seems patient with Charlie's pace, but he is busy taking in his surroundings, looking left and right and smelling everything. If he smells something that absolutely must be sniffed longer, he just stops. And so, I am ever-vigilant while we are walking, watching his every move in case he stops and I run right over him! I've learned to be ready to put on the brakes when Jake stops.

Because of this, my hikes with the dogs are not as enjoyable in the normal sense because I spend all my time watching them instead of taking in the scenery around me. But I don't mind. I love seeing Jake enjoying his time in nature and learning how to hike alongside Charlie. And I think Charlie enjoys being a teacher of sorts. Jake reminds us to stop and smell the roses, which is good for both myself and Charlie.

The dogs were on-leash until we arrived at the Plover River, where I let them off-leash to swim and cool off. We explored the banks along the small river and settled in to enjoy nature. The sound of the babbling water, the wind in the leaves, birds chirping the most beautiful songs and of course, the cicadas.

It was so cute watching Jake explore the river, carefully stepping over submerged rocks and feeling his way around. He joined Charlie in chewing on sticks and jumping from island to island. They raced each other along the path, chasing the one stick that both of them wanted.

And then we headed back, refreshed from our time along this magical river, swatting at the swarm of deer flies all the way back to the parking area, where Jake found some poop and decided to eat it before getting in the car.

Ah well... as perfect as a day with dogs can be! I love these little munchkins and am so glad we enjoyed a beautiful summer day together. It was worth the bugs and poop-eating. But Jake is NOT getting any kisses tonight.

VIDEO #1 (Playing in the river):

VIDEO #2 (Playing in the river):

VIDEO #3 (Playing in the river):

VIDEO #4 (Playing in the river):

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Lazy Backyard Afternoon

This last heatwave of 90-degree days with 100% humidity had our energy completely wiped out. So rather than spending today doing strenuous outdoor activities, we chilled out at home and rested up.

Luckily, today, was only in the mid-80's. The skies were a crystal clear blue and a delicious strong wind from the Northwest pushed away the remaining humidity. We spent our day off relaxing, reading in the backyard, lots of naps, pool-time and sprinkler fun along with frozen yogurt treats.

Where's Charlie?

It was the quintessential perfect summer day. Now that we're rested, we'll be doing some exploring with the remaining few days of this holiday break!

VIDEO (Jake checks out the sprinkler):

VIDEO (these guys LOVE chasing each other):

Sunday, July 1, 2018

An Anniversary

A year ago, on June 30th, Alan asked me out on a date. Finding each other again, 10 years after our first meeting (and in completely different places in our lives), was a total surprise to both of us. Reconnecting and becoming a couple has been the best experience ever. I love this man so much. And I feel his love for me so completely that there is no question of its existence. Somehow we both knew we were meant to be together.

And here we are, a year later, and it flew by so quickly but at the same time it feels as though we've been together forever.

Our initial courtship began during the week of the 4th of July and so our anniversary of finding each other will always be accompanied by fireworks and long starry nights. 

I couldn't ask for anything more perfect.

Sunday morning snuggles with Charlie.

Charlie getting snuggles with her daddy.

. . .

We hiked today for a short while with the dogs. The weather has been ungodly hot this past month and today we have a one-day reprieve from the 90-degree heat and humidity we've had recently. Even though it's only in the 70's today, the humidity is sticking around so it feels much warmer. And the bugs have been unreal.

Boat launch below the dam.

Dam off in the distance.

We opted for a short treasure-hunting hike below one of the dams on the Wisconsin River near Wausau. I've begun collecting small smooth stones to paint and hide around our area. I recently discovered a movement of people painting rocks and hiding them... finders post up pictures on Facebook and can either keep the rocks, re-hide the rocks or replace them with their own painted rocks.

I happened to find one of these hidden rocks about a month ago and since then have bought art supplies and began collecting rocks of my own to paint. I like the idea of sending a positive and beautiful message back out into the world.

We found several turtle egg nests that had been raided, most likely by raccoons. Sad.

Charlie and Jake continue to grow their bond together. I worry that Jake is not learning his training commands, but only following Charlie around and doing what she does. Maybe this is good... Charlie helping with the training, but I think we'll be spending some one-on-one time together over the next few weeks so Jake gets his own individualized training. I want him to understand the training words by himself for those situations when Charlie may not be near him.

Jake is almost the same weight as Charlie now... he's up to 45 lbs. and Charlie is at 47 lbs. He still has one baby canine to lose, but otherwise is growing up beautifully. He's lost that gangly clumsy puppy walk and is getting more coordinated all the time. He and Charlie wrestle, play tug-of-war and even eat out of the same dish on occasion. It's miraculous how well these two have bonded.

Found a random beach ball on the trail. Neither dog wanted to play with it!

In any case, they enjoy each other's company immensely and our little family couldn't be happier. Life is really really good.

Found this heart along the trail. The cherry on top of our perfect day.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Jake Goes Kayaking!

We've had a busy week this week! Jake went swimming for the first time on Tuesday night and then we went kayaking on Thursday!

Alan and I took a weekday off work to enjoy some perfect weather out on the water. We decided Jake was ready to try kayaking since he's doing so great with hiking and swimming so far.

We already know that Charlie is a challenge on kayaks. Her herding tendencies kick in and she doesn't like that "her family" is split up on two different boats; she can never decide which kayak she wants to be on and only calms down when we push the kayaks together or take a break on a shoreline so we can hang out together.

I knew adding Jake to the mix was going to be interesting; we had no idea how it would affect Charlie or how Jake would do on a boat.

Turns out Jake was great. Charlie was her same old neurotic self.

So basically, Jake is sitting in my kayak chilling and relaxing but looking over at Alan's kayak and trying to figure out why Charlie is freaking out. It's a struggle to continue paddling in a straight line while keeping Charlie in the boat.

Within a few minutes Jake decided that if Charlie is panicking, he should probably panic too. So then there's both me and Alan trying to paddle in a straight line while keeping both of our dogs in the boats.

We quickly decided to head over to a shallow area by an island to let the dogs out and play for a bit, hopefully release some of their pent-up energy, and then resume kayaking.

As we got near the islands, Charlie jumped out and then Jake jumped out. But Jake isn't as graceful at it as Charlie and ended up going in head first, fully submerged, only to pop up and start paddling toward me to get back in the boat!

By the time we got to a shallow spot to let the dogs out, we were all completely soaked.

And then the real fun began.

Jake scooping up water in his mouth and spitting it out. Goofball.

Jake learning to romp through the shallows.

Charlie and Jake began running around in the shallow water, finding sunken tree roots and logs around the islands to bring to us for playing fetch.

They jumped in our boats, over our boats and all over us. Charlie ran toward me with a log and nearly whacked my camera-phone out of my hand. Our boats were covered in mud and debris from the rotting wood.

And Alan and I were laughing so hard that we could barely breathe. We both had tears in our eyes from laughing so hard. It was the best time!



The look on Alan's face in the following sequence of photos is priceless... from enjoying the moment to realizing that his kayak has just been doused with mud-water as Charlie jumps over it and then the final photo where it almost looks like Jake knows what Charlie just did!

We didn't get a lot of kayaking done with the dogs, but they had a great time and Jake had his first taste of being on a boat. He did well and overall we'll probably give it another try some time.

Luckily, we had two VERY sleepy dogs by the time we drove home, so we dropped them off to take a nap and headed back out (just the two of us) to have some quiet kayaking time WITHOUT dogs. It was a perfect day.

Sleepy dog #1 (left)

Sleepy dog #2 (right)