Sunday, March 29, 2015

How to Deal With Ticks

Charlie: "Do we have to talk about this? Ticks are yucky."

In our part of the world, they're inevitable. I've become nonchalant about picking them off both Charlie and myself. I'm scared to death of spiders, but I can pick ticks off us like it's nothing.

Most of the trails we hike are pretty "natural" and I know that ticks are just a part of the "nature" that we're out there enjoying.

And since this is a risk that I accept, I also take as many precautions as possible, because ticks sometimes carry diseases.

  • All the research I've done about vaccinating Charlie from these diseases leads me to believe that a relatively healthy dog whose dog-mom is keeping an eye on her health will be better off being treated for such disease if it ever presents itself rather than the risks involved with over-vaccination. So I've opted to NOT vaccinate her for Lyme's Disease.
  • I apply monthly tick-meds (basically pesticides) to Charlie only for the absolute necessary months during peak tick-season. While I loathe doing this to her, I feel it's worth the trade-off of keeping her mostly safe from tick bites.
  • After hikes, I brush Charlie thoroughly and give her a good rub-down, inspecting for ticks the whole time. Her light-colored fur is a blessing for this!

Even so, some ticks still end up biting and attaching to her.

Charlie says "YUCK!" to ticks!

I used to use regular tweezers to pull them off, but unfortunately this method sometimes left parts of the tick still embedded in her skin. I also read somewhere that squeezing a tick's body can actually push diseases into your dog!

So I looked into getting a tool made specifically to remove ticks. And I found one that works great for me! You'll likely find many styles and brands of these on the market, so it's important to find one that works well for you.

My top choice is the Tick Twister. It's small enough that it fits in our hiking first-aid kit and it's easy for my small hands to use. I also like the twist-off method and feel that it gets the tick off Charlie more quickly and easily than other tools, which means less pain for her.

On the first weekend of Spring this year, Charlie happened to pick up a tick that I didn't notice and it attached to her. A few days later while I was petting her, I felt the bloated tick on her neck and immediately went into action! It's important to remove the tick as soon as possible to prevent it from passing any infection or disease to your pet.

Here's a video of me using the Tick Twister on Charlie... you can see how quickly this works!

VIDEO (best viewed in Chrome or Firefox):

Remember to watch for ticks on yourself as well. I wear light-colored pants with my socks pulled up over the cuffs, I also check myself for ticks after a hike and all my clothes go into the hamper when we get home.

Tick season is definitely here, so if you happen to live in a part of the country where they are prevalent, take caution and be safe out there!

Charlie likes the Tick Twister.

Disclaimer: We were not paid for reviewing the Tick Twister; it was purchased with my own money for my own purposes. My opinion is all my own.

Monday, March 23, 2015

First Weekend of Spring

There is something so restorative about taking a walk on a familiar trail after a long winter. When I awoke Saturday morning, the fist weekend of Spring, there was no doubt in my mind where we were going to go hiking - the Plover River Segment of the Ice Age Trail.

Our spring melt happened quickly this year so I wasn't worried that this tiny river would be flooded and the weather was still cool enough so that not many people, if any, would be out hiking it.

The trail was still crunchy with frost when we began and the ground was a little firm in the shady spots. A cool wind chilled me on the open prairie areas, causing me to pull up my jacket's hood, but once inside the forest, it was very comfortable.

As we neared the river the air became noticeably chilly and damp, but a welcome feeling. The babble of water over rocks drew us in quickly.

Charlie and I hiked in perfect harmony. She barely pulled forward at all, we were like a single unit going the same speed on the same mission. No hurry, but just enjoying every minute. Her ears and tail were relaxed, she had a happy panting smile on her face and she was engaged with her environment. As opposed to our city walks where her ears are pinned back, her body language is stressed and she's pulling forward constantly trying to get back home.

I guess we're both just more comfortable in the quiet peacefulness of woods, lakes and streams. We're country folk.

Our urban walks along city sidewalks this past month have been killing my knees; I'd be done after a 30-minute walk because my knees were too sore. I kept thinking that I was just out of shape. Or getting old. Which is probably partly true.

But after almost 2 hours of hiking up strenuous hills, knee-jarring descents, leaping from boulder to boulder and keeping up a quick pace the whole time, my knees felt great! There's an amazing benefit to hiking on earth rather than pounding pavement - my body felt the difference.

Charlie and I absorbed the earth's energy on this gorgeous first Saturday of Spring, breathed in crisp fresh air, stretched our limbs, bathed in sunshine, played in crystal-clear spring-fed water, marveled at Mother Nature... and then went home and took a nap!

Yep. Charlie was absolutely exhausted after our excursion. All that fresh air, sunshine and physical activity took its toll and it was time to rest. A perfect day if you ask me.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Litterbug Faerie

There's an old man in our neighborhood that takes regular walks with his elderly doxie dog named Tinkerbell.

She's a bit overweight but the absolute sweetest and most loyal little dog. He doesn't use a leash with her, she just follows him closely, even while crossing the street.

He always carries a garbage bag and picks up trash out of people's yards and along the boulevards. I've even seen him pulling weeds out of the sidewalk cracks.

Tinkerbell just follows along; they've been doing this for years.

I always wave when I see them coming and tell him to feel free to use our garbage bin to empty his bags if he ever needs to. I tell him that I appreciate what he's doing too.

He and Tinkerbell have inspired me to pick up trash when I'm out walking with Charlie over the past few years - especially now when the snowbanks recede and unveil a season's worth of litter and trash.

So maybe next time you're out on a walk with your dog, you'll think of Tinkerbell and her owner who selflessly clean up their neighborhood during walks, making our little world just a little bit nicer, and you'll be inspired to do the same.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Springing Forward


I have to admit that this has been an extremely lazy winter for us. Charlie's exercise needs have slowly tapered off as she's gotten older and I think she understood that I needed to do a little heart-healing this winter and just hibernate.

But with recent temps FINALLY getting warmer, we've picked up our daily walking routine again and begun our weekend hiking excursions! I'm loving all the sunshine and fresh air, but I'm also painfully aware of how out of shape I've gotten. <<sigh>>

Tired puppy on way home from hiking.

Slowly but surely, we'll get back into peak performance. Immersing ourselves back into nature along with the moving meditation of walking has improved my mood so much! We're putting "hibernation season" behind us and springing forward full-speed into a new season.

VIDEO ~ That's a happy tail!