Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hiking Girl

Me in my bug shirt, Charlie after a mud bath.

I still think it's too soon to say for sure, but it feels like my hiking buddy is back! Charlie and I went for hikes on Saturday and Sunday this weekend and she did great at both trails.

Our last few hiking excursions included my new boyfriend, so I couldn't be sure if Charlie's ability to handle the hiking trails with newfound bravery was due to feeling better or just having someone new (and alpha-worthy) along. I was worried that her bravery was due in part to having a strong (male) leader in her new pack.

This weekend we were going to be on our own so I figured it would be a good chance to test whether she truly was feeling braver because of all I've done in the past couple of months to help her get past some of her fearful behavior and noise reactivity.

And even though this was a successful weekend and she had absolutely no issues, I realize that any loud noise or fear-inducing event could set her back again.

But in the meantime, I'm enjoying having my hiking buddy back and hoping that we can continue to build her confidence.

Saturday morning we hiked a familiar trail and one that Charlie has always loved. Because we were there so early, it was very quiet and we had the trails to ourselves. Bonus: the wildlife was out in full force... birds were singing, fish were jumping in the lake and deer of all sizes were present in the woods.

After I put Charlie's hiking vest on and let her out of the car, she took off like a bolt of lightning after a deer that was grazing along the edge of the woods nearby. I laughed as she sauntered back a few minutes later realizing she was never going to catch up with it.

Charlie sitting on a submerged log. Silly girl.

We explored along the newly exposed shoreline and played some fetch before finishing our hike at a quick pace along the groomed trail. Charlie seemed content to stay with my pace and didn't pull to go faster. I guess it's been a while since she's had very much exercise and she's a bit out of shape.

Sunday was a day to explore one of our new trails along the Plover River. Last time we were here we had just a short introductory hike to get familiar with the new trail and make sure Charlie would be comfortable. Today was going to be a longer hike to go deeper into the woods and explore.

Charlie exploring on top of a root & moss berm in the river.

We took the left fork in the trail this time and wound our way along the river's edge, away from the beaten path. I wore my bug shirt today since the deer flies were horrible last time I was here. Having that shirt on made me braver to bush-wack through pretty dense foliage... unafraid of the bugs and spiders that I was surely walking through.


Charlie had a great time weaving through fallen trees and jumping over logs as she explored this new terrain. She took breaks in the river to swim and play with sticks and didn't seem afraid to go ahead of me to explore on her own. I was so proud of her for being brave that I wasn't even upset when she wouldn't listen when I called for her to come back to me.

In the video below, Charlie swam over to the other side of the river and didn't want to come back when I called. Typically when she won't come to me, I use the phrase "Okay, I'll see you later." This always gets her attention because she knows it means I'll leave her there and go without her, so she usually comes when I say this.... which was exactly what she did.


I continued to go off-trail on our return hike back to the parking area. I got a little lost and was pretty deep in some difficult terrain at one point, but finally made it back to the trail. I was getting pretty exhausted in the hot, humid heat and from navigating some fairly difficult obstacles by the time we got back to the car and I know Charlie was pretty tired out too. After two days in a row of hiking, she'll be ready to take a few days off and rest.

But she'll be having good doggy-dreams of all the adventures she had!

Charlie photo-bomb.

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.