Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reminiscing The Trail

Sunday was the one-year anniversary of finding the Ice Age Trail for me and Charlie. We experienced Grandfather Falls Segment a day after a huge snowstorm and walked through freshly fallen, undisturbed snow on February 23, 2013. It was a magical and memorable day.

Unfortunately, the temperatures dropped this past week with wind chills in the negative digits so I resorted to reminiscing the trail instead of reliving it.

Click HERE to read my first post about the Ice Age Trail. Enjoy!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dog Mom Mug ~ An Indoor Project

With a huge blizzard/snowstorm in full swing, sometimes you have to give up finding outdoor activities (other than shoveling) and find something warm and fun to do indoors!

Last week some friends and I attended "Ladies Night" at Clay Corner Studio in Wausau. We brought a bottle of wine and sampled some snacks while browsing the selection of plain clay creations ready for painting.

Once our selections were made and paint colors chosen, we cracked open the bottle of wine and went to work creating art while chatting about everything from jobs to men.

I kept my project simple (and easy) since I'm not very artistic when it comes to "freehand." I considered using stencils and other tips/tricks to make my creation look more professional, but then I resorted to just letting it be "me."

And I love it. I picked up my "peasant style" mug almost a week later and am very happy with how it turned out. Even though I don't see much of an art career in my future, it was definitely a fun way to spend an evening with friends.

And now I have a mug on my desk that announces to the world how important my dog is to me.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Snow Fetch!

Another gorgeous day enticed us out onto the Eau Claire River Trail today. The warmer weather is causing the fluffy snow to melt and compact, getting heavy and dense. Where Charlie would normally leap through snow drifts, she is now finding herself stuck.

It took her a minute to realize she wasn't going to be able to run top-speed through the woods, but rather than getting grumpy about it, she made a game!

After she found the perfect stick and bribed me with her cute brown eyes to throw it, she would dive into the wet snow, find the stick, and promptly re-bury it to dig up all over again; basically a two-for-one throw!

Here are some VIDEOS of Charlie playing Snow Fetch!



While the past two days have been fun and games, we're expecting a huge winter storm to dump another 8-12" of snow on Thursday. I'm not looking forward to shoveling or driving to work in the mess, but at least I have these funny videos to help me make it through another one of Mother Nature's jokes.

Keep smiling.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Plover River Segment ~ All Seasons

"It is part of wisdom never to revisit a wilderness, for the more golden the lily, the more certain that someone has gilded it. To return not only spoils a trip, but tarnishes a memory. It is only in the mind that shining adventure remains forever bright."

~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

No offense to Aldo Leopold, but I have to disagree. While I completely understand where he is coming from, I'm also continually surprised by revisiting a familiar trail. Every season and each new day brings something different to the scenery and I'm always on the lookout for something that I may never have noticed before. Such was the case with today's hike at the Plover River Segment...




This trail is ever-changing but always beautiful. Each hike treats us to new scenery and surprises.

The alternating dangerously cold temperatures and unbelievable snowfall finally gave way to a gorgeous day today. As we drove east towards the Plover River, temperatures were above freezing (finally!) and the sun was peeking through hazy blue skies. The 5+ inches of snow that fell yesterday was melted from the roads but still clung to tree branches and blanketed the landscape in a layer of fluffy white.

Someone had already been on the trail today with snowshoes so it was nicely packed down between the Hwy 52 parking area south toward the river. It was a peaceful and quiet hike with soft <<puffs!>> as snow fell from the trees. Birds were chirping and the river was softly babbling.

We walked as far as the boulder crossing at the river and had to turn back since there was no safe way to cross and I also didn't want to disturb the fluffy snowcaps the rocks were wearing.

Even though it was a short hike, walking through the soft snow and occasionally sinking in to my knees in places, we were both out of breath and tired by the time we got back to the car.

I had thought Charlie might be interested in exploring the segment heading north from the parking area but she hopped into the car and was ready to take a nap!

As we drove home, I donned my sunglasses and opened the sunroof of the car... enjoying a mild breeze and a brief reprieve from winter's grip. A beautiful way to spend an afternoon!


Friday, February 7, 2014

Ruffwear Summit Trex Boots: First Impressions

I never thought in a million years that I'd put boots on my dog.

Like Real.Boots.

But with the unrelenting cold temperatures we've had this winter, I finally gave in and ordered Charlie a pair of Ruffwear Summit Trex boots. My hope is that these boots will allow me to give Charlie her much-needed outside time even when the temperatures are dangerously cold.

I had read all the reviews on Ruffwear's website and was convinced that the reason most people have difficulty keeping the boots on their dogs' feet was due to not fitting them properly. I was sure that I wouldn't have the same problem since I have experience using Ruffwear's gear.

First, the positive points:
1.  These boots are very well-made and sturdy. There is no concern that they will wear out.
2.  The boots are super cute and tough at the same time. I am not embarrassed by the look of them on Charlie's paws.
3.  They do a great job protecting her paws from the elements, which was the intended purpose.

Now, my concerns:
1.  I'm constantly paranoid that they will fall off. And admittedly, if you're not diligent about putting them on tightly, they WILL fall off. I experienced that during my first outing with Charlie in an empty field where I could observe how well they worked. During that initial trial, she lost three different boots at three separate times.  Even though she was racing around at full speed and plowing through deep snow, the pictures on Ruffwear's website depict the same exact thing, so I'm pretty sure they are supposed to stand up to that kind of use. Even with my diligence and experience, I have a feeling that the lost boots had something to do with me putting them on in the backseat of the car and not getting them on tightly enough.

2. The whole time we were walking, I was watching for signs that they were on maybe too tightly. Again, I obsessively watched her feet during the entire walk. Halfway through our walk I ended up removing one of the boots because she appeared to be limping on that foot. I was afraid if I loosened the velcro strap too much, the boot would fall off, but I also couldn't be certain that she was actually limping or if she was just walking funny while getting used to wearing them for a prolonged period of time (30 minutes).

3. They are a big investment (starting around $55). For some people this will seem like a small price to pay for the comfort of their dog, for others (like me) it's a big investment. While these boots will surely last a long time and be worth the investment, the fear of losing a boot is always on my mind, which kind of detracts from the joy of walking with my dog; instead of enjoying the scenery, I'm too focused on her paws.


Overall, I think the boots are great and hopefully with a little time to get them "broken in" and figuring out how tight is tight enough when putting them on, they'll be a great addition to Charlie's walking/hiking gear.

However, I think you really have to consider how much effort and time you're willing to put in to the learning and adjustment period before making the investment. I have a feeling most people are looking for a "quick fix" and these definitely are not that. In my experience, it will take time and patience to make them work for you and your dog, especially since it is not natural for dogs to wear boots.

On our second trial, a neighborhood walk on flat sidewalks while leashed and with the boots fitted in the living room where I had ample space to see what I was doing, they stayed on perfectly and didn't seem to bother Charlie as much. She still stands like a statue once they are on, with one paw up in the air for dramatic effect, but once we get outside and start walking, she hardly notices them.

Drama Queen.

Foot raised for dramatic effect!

Bottom line: I'd recommend these boots to people who have a very active dog willing to put the time in to figure out how to use them properly and diligent enough to continue doing so. Otherwise, you might be better off with the previously reviewed Pawz Boots, which are great for leisurely, short-term use.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Scenes

While we haven't done any major hiking this past month, Charlie and I have managed to get outside to nearby trails and parks at least a couple of times a week. With the worst of winter (hopefully) behind us, we can almost see light at the end of this tunnel and begin to get excited about the adventures awaiting us when spring arrives.

In the meantime, here are a few photos of our January outdoor fun!

Frozen Wisconsin River with Rib Mountain off in the distance.

Buried bench along the River Edge Parkway.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sojos ~ A Dog Food Review!

This is the face of a dog waiting for her Sojos dinner:

Charlie and I have been experimenting with different foods lately to provide more variety to her diet. I've been curious to try Sojos for quite a while and was really happy with how easy it was to prepare and how very much Charlie LOVES it!

I could tell by the way she was monitoring the rehydration process that she was very interested in this food.

Sojos is a freeze-dried raw food for dogs. I know... raw. I was a little skeptical about this, but the more I learned about a dog's digestive system the more comfortable I was with giving her a raw dog food. I've even begun to give her a raw egg once a week!

So, first a little information about a dog's digestive system: 1) Dogs have a very short digestive tract which means they can digest food quickly and easily. 2) Dogs have acidic gastric pH which helps break down protein and kills bacteria. These two facts combined mean that a dog can digest pretty much anything in a quick and efficient manner. (Keep in mind, though, that a dog's health and age should be taken into consideration with diet changes and I recommend you consult a veterinarian or pet food specialist with concerns or questions.)

Since a dog's system was basically made for eating a raw diet, it is probably the healthiest choice for them. If you think about it, "kibble" was introduced as a cheap and convenient way to feed our pets; their ancestral diet was based on scavenging or hunting other animals. And there have been many studies showing that feeding a dog the same dry food diet with the same protein source can cause allergies and sensitivities to certain ingredients.

This is why Charlie is now on a "grain free" diet with multiple protein sources. I want her to be the healthiest she can possibly be and live a long and happy life.

So, back to Sojos. This is not Charlie's ONLY food source, but rather a fun way to change it up once in a while and give her something to salivate over. I still utilize dry food (high protein, grain free) with her treat dispensing toys, but a few times a week she gets some other wet food, including Sojos.

A 2 lb. bag of "dry" Sojos supposedly makes about 10 lbs. of fully rehydrated food. The directions instruct combining one cup of dry mix to 1-1/2 cups of water and letting it rehydrate for at least 15 minutes, but preferably overnight.

I followed the instructions for the first batch, which resulted in a "soupy" quality but I was looking for it to be more like an "oatmeal" consistency. Charlie liked it anyway!

Dry mix with water after 1 minute of stirring.

Rehydrated consistency after 15 minutes.
The second batch, I only used one cup of water (a 1:1 ratio) which resulted in the mushier consistency that I was looking for. Of course, Charlie was equally thrilled with these results!

I mix up a batch at night before bed and put it in a tupperware in the fridge overnight. By morning, it's ready to go! I split it between her next 3 meals and use it up within a couple days. Then we take a couple days off and start over again.

I really like that you can see the actual bits of food and they are easily recognizable - no mystery meats or vegetables here. Plus, it actually smells good... like beef stew. It definitely gets Charlie's attention and she'll do anything to get a serving.

Bon Appetit!