Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wisconsin River Paddle

After having a great day hiking with Charlie last Saturday, I didn't want to jinx it by pushing my luck on Sunday. I was planning on going on a long-ish kayak paddle down the Wisconsin River and didn't want to get stuck on the trip with a panicked dog and no where to get out. So I made the decision to leave her home where she was happy to rest for the day and recover from her hiking excursion and go on an adventure without dog again.

It was the right decision. After taking the trip, it would have been too long for Charlie to sit still in the kayak and there were a number if noise "triggers" along the way that would have likely scared her. Additionally, there was a very small rapids along part of the river that would have made it difficult to paddle while holding her in the boat so she wouldn't jump out. It's probably best to "scout" these types of trips before taking your dog along if you're not sure how they'll handle certain situations.

Anyway, I had a great time! The paddle trip took 3 hours and we ended up going a total distance of about 6 miles. Most of that time was spent just floating along with the current, doing a little fishing and pretty much enjoying the scenery.

A couple days later now, and I'm still feeling the physical effects of the longest kayak trip I've taken to date... sore muscles in my shoulders and wrists. But otherwise I feel great! There weren't a lot of spots to stop and take breaks along the route, so my legs were pretty wobbly when we got out of the boats. It took a few minutes of standing and stretching before I felt sure that I wasn't going to stumble and fall.

This was a really fun adventure because I hadn't been on a long river trip like this in a while and it was all new terrain to explore. Plus I had a pretty great companion join me along the way. Life is good.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Back in the Saddle

It may be too soon to get excited, but Charlie went hiking this weekend! This is progress. The combination of patience, giving her a break to just chill at home, getting reiki treatments and slowly building up her courage by taking very early morning walks when the neighborhood is quiet have finally gotten us to the point where she actually wanted to go hiking again.

All of the above, combined with the presence of my new boyfriend (whom Charlie adores), made it possible for her to feel safe and to enjoy a day in the woods.

At first, we were going to go hiking without her, but then I decided to ask her if she wanted to go and see how she would respond. Previously, she would go in the other room and lay down if I asked her to go hiking, but yesterday she stood up tall, wagged her tail and barked enthusiastically!

So we brought her along and went to a new trail in hopes that she wouldn't associate any negative memories like she's been doing on other trails we're familiar with. At first, she didn't want to get out of the car, but after giving her a few treats and encouraging her, she jumped out and led the way down the trail.

Once she got going, it was like the old Charlie came back to life! She took off down the trail bravely and when we got to the river, she jumped in and started exploring for sticks to play with. I was so happy to see her so happy. It was just like the old days.

The day was warm and humid and the forest was alive with earthy smells and the soothing sound of the small river flowing. Charlie ran the trail, played in the water and had a great day. I was so proud of her.

When we got home, she completely crashed into a tranquil snooze and looked so peaceful. I basked in the glory of her joy and couldn't help but smile while watching her sleep. It was a good day.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Charlie Gets Reiki

Charlie waiting for her final Reiki session.

I have been at the end of my rope with Charlie's reactivity issues lately and decided to try something "out of the box"... Reiki. Charlie had her first treatment at the end of June, just a few days before the big 4th of July weekend and fireworks extravaganza, which seemed like good timing based on her fear of loud noises.

Her first session at Amy's Animal Massage & Reiki, went extremely well. When we arrived, Amy gave Charlie time to go potty and explore the treatment room until she was ready to start "working." Amy began by doing distance Reiki and eventually Charlie came over to her voluntarily to do the hands-on treatment.

It was amazing watching the process of energy transfer. Charlie's face visibly softened as she stared off into space. A sense of calm seemed to wash over her. She treated Amy as if she'd known her forever and instead of trying to instigate playtime, like she usually does with new people, she seemed to understand what we were there for and she soaked up the energy, aligning and venting her chakras.

After the session, Charlie "zoned out" on the way home and pretty much fell asleep as soon as we got home (Amy referred to this as a Reiki nap). She was exhausted, but in a good way. The following day she was so zen! She meandered around the house with this "hey, everything is cool" attitude. Nothing seemed to bother her, or if it did, it was only temporary and then she went back into her mellow zone.

Charlie's "Reiki Nap"

The 4th of July weekend was tough though. I had to close all the windows in the house and turn on the t.v. at a louder volume to drown out the scary noises exploding throughout the neighborhood. It was a long weekend.

But Charlie had two more weekly Reiki sessions with Amy after that and those helped get her energy back in line. She was so excited to see Amy at the second session that she was squealing and squirming to get out of the car and run over to her before I had even parked.

We just finished up the last session yesterday. Charlie had a hard time concentrating at this last appointment and although she was obviously comfortable being there, she seemed to want to play and be outside more than anything... which was actually a good thing! The first time we went to Amy's, Charlie was so fearful that she ran from the car to the house, trembling against the door waiting to get inside. Her fearfulness has abated enough by this third session that she felt comfortable exploring Amy's yard and trying to initiate playtime. This is success.

Charlie receiving Reiki from Amy, opening her hip chakras and getting "grounded."

I've begun taking 5am walks with Charlie, when our neighborhood is quiet, to avoid noise triggers. This will hopefully improve her confidence and eventually we'll work up to going on some hikes again. As long as I can keep unexpected noise triggers to a minimum, I think we'll be good to go!

Overall, I was on the fence as to whether I believed in this type of treatment, but now I'm a believer. I saw it happening before my own eyes. I know my dog and I saw a transformation. Charlie's behavior with Amy was unlike anything I have ever seen with her before. And although the results after the second and third sessions were less noticeable than the first one, I think this was a great experience for Charlie. I'm such a believer now, I'm thinking about signing myself up for a Reiki session soon!

*Note:  All opinions and viewpoints above are my own. I did not receive any free services in exchange for my testimonial. Always consult with your veterinarian regarding behavior issues with your pet to determine the best treatment options.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Adventures "Without" Dog

This is a tough time of year for Charlie... and a lot of dogs. Fireworks can bring out every fear in a dog. I'm fairly sensitive to loud noises myself, so I can relate. I truly can't wait for this month to be over and for the firework noise to die down. 

The unfortunate part about all the firework noise is this is the pinnacle of summer! It's finally warm out, everything is in full bloom and everyone wants to get out and enjoy it while it lasts.

So I put my guilt aside and left Charlie home while I went on some adventures without her this past holiday weekend. Understanding that she was way more comfortable staying home in a safe place made it a whole lot easier to actually enjoy my time without her.

And surprisingly, I had a great time! I was able to focus on my own fun without having to take care of Charlie's needs. I was able to leisurely explore areas, take frequent breaks and not have to worry about keeping Charlie out of situations that would set off her reactivity issues.

Saturday morning I did some kayaking with friends on the Wisconsin River in downtown Wausau. We had a great time paddling and floating around, talking and catching up on gossip, and just soaking up the sun and fresh air before the afternoon storms moved in.

That afternoon I decided to take a long hike by myself at the Plover River Segment of the Ice Age Trail. I was looking forward to hiking at my own pace and having some quiet time.

I followed fresh bear prints through most of the muddy trail. 

But was startled when I came upon a clear-cut along part of the path. The bare patch of earth looked so different. This is a trail that I know by heart... and suddenly I didn't recognize where I was. 

I almost cried. 

I know these things happen and are sometimes necessary, but seeing things like this makes me ashamed to be human. 

Luckily it was a small area and I was soon enveloped back into the green woods and the sounds of birds and the river pulled me forward. 

The recent rain left everything dripping and released aromas of green growth and wet earth. When I got to my "turning around point," I took a short break to do some forest bathing.

The timing was perfect. There was a calm in the air... distant thunder hinted that the next storm cloud was on its way, but the leaves were still and the mosquitoes and deer flies that had been following me the whole way disappeared. I was standing in the middle of an emerald paradise looking at the shapes of every type of plant, watching an ant crawl along a blade of grass, a butterfly floating by. I slowly turned in a circle taking in the entire forest from the top of a moraine and had as much time as I wanted to just look.

As I began walking again, the breeze picked up and a gentle rain started to fall. Thunder got closer and soon I was in the middle of a small thunderstorm. I knew these scattered storms were going to be moving through the area all day and had deliberately planned on hiking during the weather. It's so refreshing and exhilarating to be in the woods when it's raining.

I ran through part of the trail and walked at other points. As I crossed the boulders at the river crossing, I slipped off one of the rocks and ended up knee-deep in the river, laughing. It was an interesting and somewhat pleasant experience hiking the last half-mile with water squishing in my boots; made me feel like a kid again.


Saturday was my adventure day and the rest of the weekend was spent playing in the backyard with Charlie, grilling out (and sharing my food with her), sipping coffee on the front porch and watching birds landing on the bird feeder. We had a lot of good restful time hanging out at home and playing together in a space that Charlie considers safe and I still got my time away for adventure. It was a win-win for both of us.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The View

Photo from the day I bought my house, October 2016.

I've been focusing a lot lately on getting house projects done and haven't made much time to get out and explore in nature. But with Charlie's increasing anxiety lately, it's actually been good timing to take a break for a bit.

I purchased my house back in October last year after having rented it for 6 years. During those years of renting, you can imagine my "wish list" for fixing and repairing certain items had gotten pretty long. It's an old house and needs some work. Now that it's mine, I can do whatever I want.

My first priority was to get the windows replaced. That was my one and only goal this summer - new windows. But the City of Wausau had other plans and issued me a code violation this spring for the siding on the garage. I knew it needed to be replaced, but I had only owned the house for 6 months when I got the notice!

So instead of dragging out the repairs over the next few years as funds were available, I refinanced the mortgage and scheduled everything to be done at the same time by the same company. I figured it was worth the expense to just have my house "done."

They started last week on the garage and yesterday the upstairs windows were installed, where my main living space is. Today will be the downstairs windows.

Even though I knew how bad the old windows were... ripped screens, rotting frames, cracks in the glass repaired with white caulk and so dirty on the outside that you couldn't see through them anymore... I'm still in awe of the new windows.

The view is crystal clear. They open so easily; I no longer need to use sticks to prop them open. Windows that were painted shut and unable to open are now operable. At the expense of my privacy, I refused to put the blinds down because I can't believe how well I can see everything.

~Last night I opened all the windows for the first time. ~

The neighborhood sounded so different hearing it from all four sides of the house. The songs of early-rising birds drifted through the rooms in stereo this morning. The breeze flowed freely throughout the house and wrapped itself around me as it went by.
It was lovely.

I didn't realize what a luxury new windows would be, but I honestly just walk from room to room and admire the view. I think Charlie is enjoying it too... now she has better access to see what's happening in the neighborhood from every room. And even though the sounds of traffic and kids playing is louder as well, these are the sounds that make up our life and define our place in the world, and somehow I feel a little more connected to all of that now.

The little things make the biggest difference sometimes.

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Not Always Perfect

People get wrapped up in presenting a perfect life on social media... posting the best pictures of the happiest moments. Oftentimes, those looking in on that perfect life can become jealous thinking that their life should be that perfect too. But the truth is, life is not always perfect.

Yesterday was another bad day for Charlie. It was Father's Day, and I wanted to revisit one of the first hiking trails we had done, in essence recreating the Father's Day hike I had done four years ago in honor of my dad.

It was a rough weekend for me because I had an important job at a friend's wedding on Saturday and couldn't be with my family to help with the final auction to sell the last of my dad's equipment and tools at the homestead. It was a family reunion of sorts and I should probably have been there. But I had made plans already with my friend before the auction was scheduled and didn't feel right changing plans at the last minute. Plus, I felt a little sad seeing the last of my dad's things go and wasn't sure if I could handle being there. And even though I missed out on visiting with family, I know I did the right thing by helping with the wedding instead; it just felt like where I was supposed to be at that particular moment.

But Sunday was going to be a time for myself, to spend hiking with Charlie and remembering my dad.

Unfortunately Charlie had another panic attack. As soon as we arrived in the parking lot of the hiking trail, she began to tremble and shake so badly that there was no way I was going to force her to hike. I could tell she was scared. So, I figured we'd go to another hiking trail on the way home that we've been visiting frequently and that she enjoys. But again, once we arrived to the parking area she was so scared that she dove under my legs and hid down by the gas pedal of the car; she wouldn't leave the car.

I assured her that she was a good girl and we didn't have to hike today but I drove away with tears streaming down my face because I really did want to hike that day. But it wouldn't have felt right hiking without her. Somehow being in the woods by myself doesn't feel right and I miss her when she's not with me.


I've been walking by myself a lot lately and can't even take Charlie kayaking with me anymore. She's scared of every noise and just wants to hide in her safe place at home.

I'm not sure what's wrong with her or why she's getting worse with her noise-reactivity and fear, but I decided to seek out some professional help by either getting her some Reiki or acupuncture treatments, or possibly both.

It's hard to believe that I've only been hiking with Charlie a little over 4 years. It seems like we've been hiking together forever. And even though I love being in the woods, I need to have my dog with me to fully enjoy it.

You've probably noticed that I'm not posting up as many adventures as I used to... and that's because we're not having any. I'm sad and worried about this but hoping things will work out and Charlie will come around again.

Life is still good. We're healthy and have everything we need. But it's not perfect. You just have to enjoy the simple things and the magic moments because those are the things that get you through everything else.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Kayaking @ Hartman Creek S.P.

It was National Trails Day on Saturday, but we had a lot of severe weather that day so we opted to stay close to home instead. With the high heat and humidity, it was probably a good choice anyway!

To make up for not getting out on the trails yesterday, we took a road trip to Hartman Creek State Park today and spent the early afternoon paddling around Lake Allen.

I just got a new kayak on Friday for my birthday present to myself (along with the roof rack to haul it with) and couldn't wait to get out on the water!

First, I had to practice getting the kayak on and off my car... by myself. It's one thing to have a sales associate load the kayak onto your car and tie it down for you. It's a whole other thing to do it by yourself. Especially for someone small, like me. At 5'4" and 130 lbs., I wasn't sure if I was actually going to be able to do this myself.

But with a little practice and the help of a bath mat and towel to protect my car in case I dropped it, and a step stool to gain some height for lifting the kayak up onto the bars, I was successful!

Actually, I felt like freaking Wonder Woman. Seriously. I think I was even kind of strutting around all puffed up with attitude for a bit. It felt awesome! A few more weeks of putting the kayak on and off my car, and I'm going to have a lot of new muscles. And since I only live a few blocks from the Wisconsin River, I plan to do a lot of weeknight paddling.

Today, I had my mom and her dog, Peanut, along with us, which was great because I had someone to take photos from the shore of me and Charlie on the boat.

The only problem with this scenario is that Charlie is part Border Collie and it's her instinct to "herd" and keep her pack together. As soon as I got her loaded in the boat and started paddling away from shore (and away from half of her pack), she kind of freaked out. She insisted on keeping eye contact with their location even if that meant getting in the way of my paddle.

And when the boat got turned around she was practically looking over my shoulder to keep tabs on their whereabouts. But when Mom and Peanut disappeared... presumably to the dog picnic area, Charlie kind of panicked and jumped into the water, determined to paddle to shore (because apparently I was taking too long to get the pack reunited).

Typically when she "falls" out of the boat or jumps in after a stick or leaf, she quickly decides to get back in the boat. I hoist her in using the handle on her life jacket, she shakes off water and *cools* me off. But today, she was going to swim herself back to shore with no help from me.

All in all, it was a good first outing in our new boat and since it's been a couple years since we've been kayaking, I'm sure it'll take a little practice to get used to it again. Maybe next time we'll go by ourselves and she'll relax a little bit.

Even though it was National Trails Day this weekend, we opted to head out onto the open water instead to avoid the height of tick season right now. The really cool part was that our State Parks were open free to the public this weekend to encourage people to get out and enjoy these natural resources.

I hope you all got a chance to get outside and enjoy some nature yourself this weekend! And "Thanks Mom!" for taking some really great pictures of us!