Sunday, March 30, 2014

Vaccine Controversy

Charlie had a visit to the vet last week for her annual check-up including a heartworm test, refills on her monthly heartworm preventive, Distemper/Lyme/Lepto vaccine and most importantly, a microchip.

I don't know why I didn't go ahead with the microchip when she had her spay surgery; it would have been less painful for her to have it at that time while she was under anesthetic. But it's been on my mind a lot lately and I'm glad I finally went ahead with it.

I'm scared to death that somebody will steal her, and while I know a microchip won't prevent this from happening, at least I know that she's connected to me somehow and could possibly be returned to me in the event that she was stolen.

I marvel at how Charlie's connection to me grows every day. She's attuned to my body language, the phrases I use and even my emotions. We're truly a team and I feel so much better knowing there is a microchip connecting us now.

It's strange that I questioned putting a microchip in my dog but never questioned the vaccines being put into my dog. I've always assumed that the vet knows what is best and was willing to do whatever they suggested.

I've been reading Dogs Naturally magazine over the past couple of months and am enjoying my subscription. I'm not a 100% believer in the holistic veterinary movement, but I'm starting to see the benefits of providing a biologically appropriate diet, including raw foods, and looking forward to trying other homeopathic remedies like essential oils and flower essences.

I'm also beginning to question vaccines.

Most of what they are vaccinating for can be easily treated with far fewer side effects than the vaccine itself. The likelihood that my dog will ever be exposed to the thing that I'm vaccinating for is pretty slim.

It's all about weighing the risk versus the reward when it comes to vaccines.

Charlie is exposed to ticks almost 9 months out of the year, but she's on a monthly flea/tick preventive (a pesticide application that worries me). I've also been vaccinating her against Lyme Disease for the past two years, but Lyme Disease in dogs is highly treatable, especially if you're aware of the symptoms (which I am). Therefore I don't see the need to continue with this vaccine.

Leptospirosis is typically contracted from drinking from water sources that have been contaminated with urine containing the Lepto virus. Because Charlie and I are frequently in the woods where deer could have contaminated a water source, I figured this was a good vaccine for her. Unfortunately, the vaccine is not very effective, especially when given with other vaccines in a "cocktail." The best way to prevent getting Lepto is limiting my dog's access to contaminated water, which shouldn't be that hard since she's on-leash while we're hiking and I always bring along water for both of us. We will no longer be getting this vaccine either.

Distemper vaccines have been shown to be effective for much longer than one year, so technically one vaccine should last the lifetime of my dog. This also will be eliminated from our vaccines.

Basically, Charlie will only be receiving the required Rabies vaccine and only the 3-year one; it has been shown that one Rabies vaccine could last the lifetime of a dog but we are required by law for our municipality to have a Rabies certificate for annual registration. Visit to learn more about the efficacy of the Rabies vaccine.

You might be asking yourself why I had Charlie vaccinated last week if I question the necessity of those vaccines. Well, this was a new vet for us. I had just transferred Charlie's records from our previous vet to a new one that I hoped would offer a more personal approach. Upon receiving Charlie's records from the previous vet, they prepared a "cocktail" of her previous annual vaccines. While we were in the examination room, they took a blood sample from Charlie's front let to test for heartworm and before I knew it, they were administering the "cocktail" vaccine to one of her back legs. I sat there dumbfounded, not sure what to do. They quickly moved onto the microchip which was inserted in her mid-back and then sent us into the waiting room. There was no follow-up sheet provided to watch for any side-effects of the vaccine and no care sheet for the wound in her back from the microchip. I paid the bill and left.
When we got out to the car, Charlie's back leg was too sore to hop in the car so I lifted her in. I immediately noticed blood on the front of my coat. That's when I saw how much blood was oozing out of the wound from her microchip. I blotted up as much as possible with napkins and cleaned her up a little better when we got home. Unfortunately, her back leg got progressively more sore as the night wore on and she had a noticeable limp. I had to carry her upstairs when it was time for bed because she couldn't take the stairs.
Her leg got better through the next day and she's fine now, but I wish the vet would have communicated with me more about what to expect; I have never seen a vaccine given in the leg before.

Nevertheless, I'm going to be looking for a new vet again as this one didn't meet my expectations. I'm hoping I can find a vet who is trained in traditional medicine but also open to some holistic options as well as being interested in getting to know us and our history before just shooting Charlie up with stuff. I am also going to stand up for Charlie in the future and prevent unnecessary vaccines or treatments, while continuing to educate myself on best practices.

If you're interested in a holistic approach to your dog's health, I recommend checking out Dogs Naturally magazine.

Your dog can't speak for themselves, it's up to you to learn what's best and seek out the best care possible for them. Be your dog's voice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ice Safety

Last weekend I was astounded to see a vehicle driving across a lake in Hancock, WI while I was en route to the Bohn Lake Segment of the Ice Age Trail. It was a very small lake and I kept watching it to see if it would fall through. I couldn't believe someone would take such a chance!

Then yesterday I heard about a dog owner whose two golden retrievers fell through the ice along the shore of the Wisconsin River last week and were swept under the ice and drowned. The news story indicated that the dogs were walking along Fern Island Park near downtown Wausau - a place where Charlie and I walk frequently.

It's a sad reminder of just how important it is to keep your dog on a leash. I take caution when Charlie is off-leash, but it scares me to think how easily this could have happened to us.

The grief of losing a pet is tremendous and my heart goes out to the dogs' owner.

I cringe when I think of how many times Charlie has been out walking on ice. And while most of the time, I am fairly sure the ice is thick enough, there really is no way of knowing for sure.

You can bet that Charlie won't be allowed on ice from now on. She is too precious to me.

Charlie walking on ice along the shore of Eau Claire River ~ March 23, 2013.

Monday, March 24, 2014

IAT: Bohn Lake Segment

On our way home from a road trip weekend full of family visiting in Platteville, I was inspired to stop at the Bohn Lake Segment for a quick hike to stretch our legs. The last time I attempted to hike this segment was earlier in the winter and the parking areas were completely snowed in, leaving us nowhere to park. This time, based on the amount of snow melt I was seeing across the state, I knew we would have better access!

We parked at the County B designated parking area but ended up taking the wrong trail from the parking lot. Someone else was just leaving the path with his two very large Rottweiler dogs and I mistakenly took the path he was using as the Ice Age Trail rather than paying attention to the obvious signage. Oh well. We meandered along a scenic spur trail with a beautiful overlook of Bohn Lake and a rustic bench made of logs for admiring the view.

The trail came out at the other parking area on 9th Ave. which is a very large and well-maintained parking area. This spur trail was built to allow handicap access to the overlook area with a wide packed-gravel path.

The Ice Age Trail Companion Guide describes this segment as, "destined to become a gem of the Ice Age Trail." It features a wild lake as part of the 14-mile-long glacial tunnel channel that was created by a meltwater river flowing beneath glacial ice whose outlet was where the village of Hancock stands today. There is signage along the trail explaining how this process happened, so it's a great opportunity to learn something new about Wisconsin's ice age.

This area is also a popular spot for migrating geese and sandhill cranes to stop. We were lucky enough to hear a crane as it flew over the trail with its unique call echoing through the woods.

The lake is still frozen but the bare branches offer a great view of the landscape and I can't wait to come back once the weather warms up and the lake is teeming with birds and wildlife again!

The snow on the trail is mostly melted right now, but there are still quite a few icy spots. Upon arriving back at the car 30 minutes later, I was ready to continue hiking the actual Ice Age Trail portion, but the trail through the woods was so shaded and the trail was still too icy.

We managed to explore a little ways in but didn't make it all the way. Having a 40-lb. dog pulling me over the icy path was becoming too dangerous and not very fun, so we headed back to the car.

Because this segment is just a short 5-mile drive east through the village of Hancock off I-39, we'll be back often to stretch our legs after long road trips. This is the perfect spot for a scenic excursion if you're in the area or need a break while traveling through the middle of our state.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dog Fancy Magazine - Great Hikes For Dog Lovers

Thank you Dog Fancy magazine for this awesome article encouraging dog lovers to get out and hike! Charlie and I were representatives for the Midwest Region, bringing awareness to the Ice Age Trail.

There are so many wonderful dog-friendly trails and parks available wherever you may live and I couldn't be happier to have the Ice Age Trail - one of the nation's eleven National Scenic Trails - in my own backyard.

If you live in Wisconsin and haven't heard of the Ice Age Trail yet, head over to their website,, to learn more about it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Charlie is a Dog In Need Of Space (DINOS). If you've never heard this terminology before, click HERE to read more about it.

Because of previous dog-attacks while walking on-leash, Charlie is now fearful of most other dogs -- especially if she is on-leash. Being on-leash means that she can't escape if another dog comes toward her and causes her to become fearful and reactive.

She's learned that other dogs can hurt her so she's taken the stance that she'd rather be the first to bite in order to prevent being injured.

Sometimes she's perfectly happy to meet other dogs, but sometimes she growls and snaps at them. Because I can't perfectly predict what she will do, we typically avoid other dogs while walking.


Yesterday we were walking at a secluded park when I noticed a couple with a Great Pyrenees (on-leash) approaching us. I moved over to allow for plenty of space as we passed each other, but when they were within 20 feet of us, they unclipped their dog from its leash!

All of a sudden there's a 130-lb. dog running full speed in our direction while the couple yelled, "Don't worry, she's friendly!"

I grabbed Charlie and stepped in front of her while yelling back, "Mine's NOT!"

I could see their mouths form a big O as they shouted back, "Yours isn't friendly???"


I really hate when this happens because Charlie and I didn't do anything wrong, but suddenly I feel blamed for having a reactive dog. I've even had some people comment that I shouldn't be out walking her around other dogs if she's not friendly.

Well, what am I supposed to do? We're following leash laws and doing everything possible to keep our distance and yet uninformed people feel the need to blame ME when the whole reason Charlie behaves this way is because other off-leash dogs have attacked HER!

I know it's hard to have your dog on a leash at all times. I let Charlie off-leash as much as possible - but only when I know we're in a safe place and only because she has a pretty decent recall. When she's off-leash I'm on constant vigil looking in every direction to make sure no one is approaching us and that there is no foreseeable danger.

And even if Charlie was completely happy and social around other dogs, there is no way I would take a chance on letting her just run up to a strange dog without proper introductions... including asking permission for the dogs to meet.

Remember that not every dog likes to be approached and that some dogs need their space... maybe not because they're fearful or reactive like Charlie, but maybe they've just had surgery or are protective of their owner. There are so many circumstances that could affect a dogs' behavior.

Please pass this on to other dog owners and help spread the word! Information is power.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Take A Walk, Not A Pill

I've had a few days off work this past week which has allowed Charlie and me to catch up on some much needed hiking. We've visited favorite Ice Age Trail segments, county parks trails and some urban trails and I'm happy to report that Charlie is pleasantly sleeping next to my chair rather than trying to engage me in some type of play while I'm typing.

A tired pup = a happy pup.

And I'm happy too.

All the sunshine and fresh air has rejuvenated my spirit and charged my imagination with new ideas again. Without even realizing it, the weather-imposed hibernation we've been in has taken a toll on me. I hadn't noticed the decrease in energy, the cycle of negative thoughts and worse-case scenario's running through my head lately.

A "marshmallow" river.

But after just a couple days hiking at least an hour a day, I feel 100% better! I feel like "me" again.

Now, I realize that the upcoming change of seasons could definitely have something to do with my newly optimistic attitude, but I know from the past year of hiking that I never feel more alive and healthy than when I'm walking.

If you've been feeling "down" or haven't emerged from winter hibernation yet, I highly recommend getting outside for at least 15 minutes a day to breathe some fresh air, move your legs and let the sun brighten your mood. I think you'll be surprised at the health benefits you'll receive from this tiny investment!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Afternoon in the Woods

Charlie and I spent an entire afternoon hiking the trails at Dells of the Eau Claire Park yesterday. Miraculously we had the place all to ourselves!

This winter has definitely impeded our ability to get out and hike so we took full advantage of the warmer temps and stayed in the woods for most of the afternoon. The picnic tables near the parking area were topped with comically-large domes of snow. Picnic anyone?

Most of the trail was packed down from snowshoe traffic but the recent 1" of new snow on the trail was marred only by deer tracks. Layers of snow and ice still blanket the river, but if I held real still and listened hard I could hear the faint babbling of water here and there. Animal tracks criss-crossed the frozen river everywhere making the place seem almost alive with wildlife even in the absence of their physical presence.

We veered off onto lesser used trails away from the river where the path narrowed from lack of human use but the quantity of deer tracks increased to the point where I had to wonder if we were actually on a deer trail! But since I know this area well, I recognized several landmarks and knew we were on the right path. Charlie was insistent on exploring the multitude of deer paths that intersected the foot trail and quickly tired herself out from plowing through deep snow, sometimes covering her completely in its depths!

Away from the river, the only sound to be heard was the wind blowing through the pines, tree limbs rubbing against each other eerily and the occasional tweet of a bird. We stopped and took a break at the "Enchanted Forest Shelter" where I rehydrated and filled Charlie's travel bowl with water. I could tell by the amount of snow she was eating that it was time to get a drink. We had a light snack and warmed up in the sunlight before continuing on.

I've become so tired of bundling up in bulky layers this winter so I took a chance and wore jeans instead of my usual insulated hiking pants. The wind made my legs cold, but the sun warmed me up and kept me comfortable enough. Having a thinner layer on made me feel lighter and more energetic, encouraging me to hike longer than usual. I was so grateful to have more range of motion with the reduced layers! Optimism toward the change of season lit me up and I caught myself smiling more than once. Charlie's enthusiasm for being outside combined with the fresh air and sunshine made me pick up my pace and run up and down the hills at times.

I had the sunroof open on the car ride home while Charlie slept in the backseat, peacefully kicking her feet while presumably dreaming of all the deer trails she explored today. It's been a long winter with record snowfall and sub-zero temperatures but amazingly we made it through and the end is near; we survived!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spring is in the air!

I had a chance to play with Charlie in the backyard during lunch yesterday and REALLY enjoyed the sunshine, blue skies and warmer weather so much I hesitated to return to work!

In all honesty, the sky was SO BLUE and the sun was SO BRIGHT that it almost hurt to be outside. Even with sunglasses on I felt like I was sun-blind.

The snow on rooftops looked like marshmallow fluff and each layer from every previous snowstorm was visible. The sunlight made playful shadows and revealed the shades of blue in the snow while setting off a rainbow of sparkles from the snow crystals. Stunning.

It was also a sweet relief to hear the drip-drip-drip of snow melting off the roof; spring is definitely in the air. A cool dampness swirled in the breeze but the sun kept me warm. I wish I could have found a dry spot to lay on my back and just stare at all the shades of blue above me until the sun finally set. I think Charlie would have been okay with that plan as well.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chuckit! Fetch

With wind chill warnings again this weekend, I decided to finally purchase the Chuckit! Fetch Ball I've had my eye on for awhile so Charlie and I would have a new game to play in the backyard.

I'd been hesitant to buy this toy because the grooved part of the ball looked like it was made of "nerf-type" material and I was afraid it would get shredded quickly. But I've been happy with other Chuckit! brand toys, so figured it was worth a shot!

I chose the "small" size ball since Charlie is a petite 40 lbs. and this would allow her to pick it up and carry it in her mouth easily.

The ball itself is easy to throw, drop-kick and soccer-kick around the yard. The grooved pattern lets Charlie easily pick it up and carry it, plus it is very well-made and doesn't appear that it will shred or disintegrate any time soon.

I love that it is cold-weather friendly too! The bright fluorescent color combined with its size makes sure it will never be lost in the snow.

Charlie has become a bit obsessed with the ball over the weekend and has been trying to coax me into the backyard a lot! I don't even have to throw or kick the ball too much, as she seems to be able to have fun all by herself.

The ball has taken quite a beating over the past two days - Charlie likes to "dig" at it in the snow and I even caught her trying to chew on it a few times - but it's still in great shape.

I understand that this ball also floats, which makes it a great all-season toy! I can't wait to try it out on a field of new grass and at the beach too!