Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Taste of Spring!

With temperatures forecast to top the 50-degree mark on Saturday, Charlie and I made plans to go hiking with our friends, Sara and Ellie. 

We headed out to a segment of the Ice Age Trail that is fairly close to home and that we surprisingly haven't been to yet - the Ringle Segment.

Upon arrival, it became obvious that this trail had also shared use by snowmobiles over the winter. The path was wide, making it easy to hike side-by-side with our friends, but the snowmobile use had packed down the snow so much that it was pretty slippery in places. 

The dogs were extremely alert to all the new scents on this trail, including large bird prints in the snow. We even found prints of bird wings in the snow! A little further down the trail we startled a family of turkeys roosting in trees, owners of the tracks we had found.

Bird wing imprint in the snow - evidence of a turkey taking flight.

Charlie eating snow near the turkey tracks & bird wing print.
As we hiked up and down the hilly terrain, enjoying the sunshine and blue skies, I realized my winter jacket was too warm for the weather! It was unbelievable to be hiking at the end of February and being too warm for my coat... it truly felt like spring. The topography of this trail is like a rollercoaster, providing a great workout, although a little challenging in slushy snow.


Sunday brought different weather, although still mild temperatures in the mid-30s. The morning consisted of intermittent sunshine and gray skies followed by a bit of rain around noon. Within a short period of time, the rain turned to sleet and then snow. Big, wet snow clumps falling from grey skies.

Because I wasn't sure how the road conditions would be, we stayed close to home, opting for a nearby park. Charlie had a blast romping around off-leash and playing a game of fetch. Because of the melancholy weather, we had the park all to ourselves today.

Even though it was snowing, the temperatures were still mild and it was an enjoyable hike. Charlie was thoroughly tired out by the time we made it back to the car and was content to sleep on the front seat as we drove home. 

The weather brought a little bit of everything this weekend, but the days are getting longer and the snow is starting to recede. It's definitely feeling like spring... a time for renewal and endless possibilities.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Feeling Fit + Inspiring You!

It's about that time in the year when most people have forgotten their New Year's resolutions and let their shiny new gym memberships go unused. It's winter-slump time when everyone is tired of the cold and snow and ready for spring. I figured it was time for some inspiration! So here's a personal story about my own weight-loss journey over the past 6+ months...

Last May I went hiking in the Olympic National Forest in Washington State. It was an amazing trip full of new sights and experiences that I'll never forget. Unfortunately when I returned, I was kind of surprised to see what I actually looked like in the photos taken of me. I guess I hadn't realized how much weight I had gained while mourning the loss of my dad. Honestly, I had probably been slowly gaining for a while at that point, but the grieving process really took its toll on me.

And even though I've been a long-time hiker and very active overall, my diet was the problem. I was eating too much pizza and desserts. 

I'm not sure how the "diet change" took place, but when I returned from Seattle, I started eating salads for lunch every day. I found that I really liked red peppers and if I put half a red pepper in my salad, I enjoyed eating salads a lot more!

Once I started liking salads, I found myself eating a lot more veggies and no longer eating breads and pasta. It's weird when you start introducing healthy foods into your diet how the unhealthy foods become unappealing.

Within a month, I had lost 5 lbs. And then another 5 dropped off quickly. People began asking me if I was losing weight and my clothes became so loose I had to buy new pants - smaller pants! 

The weight loss invigorated me and I began to lift some small hand weights in my living room while watching t.v. At first it was just a few sets of bicep curls with 10 lb. weights, and then I progressed to a bunch of different exercises using 15 lb. weights. I alternated arm exercises with ab exercises every other day, while keeping up with my regular walking/hiking routine.

My body firmed up and continued to slim down. I felt toned, stronger and energized. It was amazing!

Why am I telling you this? Why am I sharing all these personal details?

It's not to brag. Believe me, I'm not the bragging type. 

It's because I want you to feel inspired. I want you to know that if you are struggling with weight loss and trying to get healthy, you can do it. It is possible.

I love hiking and being in nature. It's a part of my soul and something that I'll never give up. It makes me strong and free and independent.

But a healthy lifestyle isn't just exercise or diet. It's both. Combining them is the secret. It's the magic diet miracle everyone is always looking for. It's possible. You don't need an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment. You need to invest in healthy foods - and yes, it'll cost more, but you'll be eating less so actually it's about the same. Plus, when your health improves you're saving money in the long-run that you might end up spending on medical expenses for living an unhealthy lifestyle.

I had been feeding Charlie a homemade, healthy diet that cost more than what I was feeding myself. When I realized this, I figured it was time to invest in myself as well. Now we're both healthy and fit. And I can't wait until all the ice and snow melts away from the trails so we can get back out there and have some fun!

May 5, 2015 at 168 lbs:

February 18, 2016 at 135 lbs:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hiking With Friends

Last weekend Charlie and I met up with two of our friends and their dogs. All six of us *girls* enjoyed a super-nice mild day walking in the woods of the Dells of the Eau Claire County Park.

Charlie led the group for most of the hike, but Missy and Ellie got to be in front for a little bit too.

 A big thanks to my friends Sara (her dog Ellie is a coon-hound mix) and Jamie (her dog Missy is a lab-husky mix) for taking time on the weekend to socialize with me and Charlie! We had a great time and looking forward to more of these doggie-dates. Next time we need to get a group picture of all of us!

In other news, Charlie and I have a guest for the next week and a half... BB arrived today and is staying with us while his mom goes on vacation. With the weather turning a bit colder lately, it'll be nice to have a playmate in the house to keep Charlie occupied since outdoor activities are somewhat limited right now!

Charlie and BB are good friends and they're already having a great time playing fetch and keep-away. This is going to be so much fun.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dog-Mom Guilt

I received the following email from a Facebook fan this week asking how I balance my work-life with Charlie's needs:

"Hi Heather, I know that you have a job outside the home as well and I'm wondering how you balance that with Charlie. I take my dog out in the morning and go home for lunch but still feel awful leaving her and worry she is depressed during the day. I check in with her on camera we set up and it seems she mostly just sleeps but I still worry her life isn't the best it could be."


I have to sigh about this kind of question because I think any good pet-parent deals with ongoing guilt over whether we're doing enough for our pet. Are we feeding the right food? Are we giving them enough exercise? Do they get enough enrichment activities? socialization? love?

Some dogs, like Charlie, have an ideal situation. My retired mom lives with me and watches Charlie during the day while I'm at work. Charlie has a fenced-in backyard where she can play safely anytime she wants. I take her on neighborhood walks (up to an hour) on weeknights and hiking in pristine wilderness for miles on the weekends. She goes on roadtrips and gets to meet new people all the time. I've learned to make balanced homemade raw food to use in conjunction with her high-end kibble. Charlie gets homemade dog treats and lives with another dog and a cat so she has social opportunities. Basically she's never alone and has everything she could possibly need. She is The.Most.Spoiled dog I know.

And yet... I feel guilty at times that I'm not providing enough or spending enough time with her.

I've spent the last 5 years living my life around Charlie's needs, and enjoying every minute of it! She's a wonderful dog that has enriched my life in so many ways, but I have someone new in my life now and my time (and love) is sometimes pulled away from her.

I'm slowly coming to terms with my guilt and understanding that in order to live my life to the fullest, I have to stop living my life for Charlie. She'll always be my baby girl and I'll do anything for her, but sometimes "good enough" has to be "good enough."

You need to take care of yourself too. You have to go to work and make money (so you can spend it on your dog!). You have to take time to refresh your own spirit and enjoy everything life has to offer... including having a wonderful pet that you care so much about. Don't let your guilt ruin your perfect relationship with your pet.

Honestly, if you suffer from Dog-Mom Guilt it means that your pet is one of the lucky dogs.

Some dogs are not so lucky. Some owners couldn't care less if their pet sits outside in cold wet snow shivering all night. Some dogs don't get to eat every day. Some dogs are treated like property instead of part of a family. And worse... some dogs are horrifically abused.

Our dogs are so lucky that we feel guilt over not giving them enough. In reality they have everything they could possibly need:  a loving pet-parent.

As I begin to consider a future with D. and fall more and more in love with him as time goes on, I'm becoming comfortable knowing that Charlie has a full life and is surrounded by love even though my love is being shared with another. As I make room for another person in my life, she gets to share his love too.