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!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Product Review: Ruff Roots

There's no doubt that Charlie is a stick-chewer. She seeks out sticks, stumps and logs whenever possible. Sometimes she gets herself into digestive trouble over her addiction to sticks... I remember back to last summer when she dug up a submerged stump during a camping trip and ended up getting diarrhea for 3 days, most likely she acquired some weird bacteria growing on that mucky stump. We took care of that digestive problem with a little Slippery Elm powder, but I've been in search of safe alternatives to sticks every since.

So I was extremely excited when I came across Himalayan Dog Chew's newest "toy" called Ruff Roots!

Ruff Roots are 100% natural (awesome!), they're eco-friendly (the tuber roots are harvested and then sprout again!), they don't splinter and they actually serve as a natural toothbrush to help decrease plaque on teeth!

What more could you ask for?!

They come in four sizes (seedling, sprout, stump and stalk) with corresponding weight recommendations for each size. We started with the "sprout" size which is recommended for dogs under 40 lbs. since Charlie is 43 lbs and I thought this would be a good size for her.

At first I was worried it was too small and that she'd quickly chew through it. But actually it turned out to be the perfect size for her.

The wood is really hard so it's not too easy to bite off chunks. When she's gnawing on it, small pieces come off occasionally, but nothing too big. In fact, Peanut (a 15-lb. Chihuahua-mix), was picking up some of the smaller pieces and enjoyed chewing on them. I'll probably get a "seedling" size for Peanut soon.

I took a couple videos of Charlie chewing away on her new "toy" so you can see (and hear) how much she's enjoying it! I was going to wait a few weeks before posting this review to see how long it would last, but it is definitely going to take a while for her to chew this up!

VIDEOS (best viewed in Chrome, not Internet Explorer):

Overall, I think this is a great toy for dogs who like to chew on wood or for really aggressive chewers and would probably be great for puppies! It's extremely durable and I love that it's sustainable and all-natural. Plus it's actually *helping* Charlie's teeth by acting as a natural toothbrush rather than ruining her teeth like harder bones or antlers can.

Kudos to Himalayan Dog Chew for creating this awesome toy! We give it two big paws up!

Disclaimer:  We were not paid to write this review; this product was purchased with Charlie's allowance and our views are all our own!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Chasing Waterfalls

Photo of Pewit's Nest, courtesy of Rachel Roberts

Many people begin planning their gardens this time of year. All the gardening magazines feature design plans and advertisements to "buy your heirloom tomato seeds now!"... these are the things that help us "northerners" keep our sanity. 

By focusing on the future (summer) we can escape our current reality (winter). And surprisingly this works! Last year I measured out our garden space (in the snow) and determined what materials I would need to create a raised garden bed. I drew out a "map" of which vegetables would go where and by early spring I was ready to go! We had the best garden ever and it distracted me from a very harsh winter.

Today is the midpoint of winter and I'm starting to get a bit stir crazy. I miss hiking long distances with Charlie and hearing the rustle of leaves on the trees. Trails with packed snow have turned icy and the snow is too deep on untraveled trails to go very far. 

Charlie and I have become resigned to neighborhood walks and very short hikes lately. Nothing too inspiring.

But because we're halfway through with winter, there's light at the end of the tunnel. Days are getting noticeably longer - I get to enjoy a few minutes of sunset on my way home from work now. It's a good time to start making plans for our hiking/camping/road trip excursions this year. 

And last night, inspiration struck! 

This year, we're going to visit Wisconsin's beautiful waterfalls. Wisconsin has over 62 waterfalls and most of them are not too far from where I live. 

It's been amazing to discover so much beauty so close to home over the past 2 years, but there's so much more to see! At times I've been embarrassed that it's taken me so long to get out and explore and the fact that I have not had the chance to visit any of our state's waterfalls is just shameful!

Now the fun part begins... researching websites and blogs, consulting maps and penciling in dates on my calendar. I know I won't have time to see everything on my list this year, but I'll have plenty of adventures to choose from.

What adventures are you planning for this year?

Photo of Pewit's Nest, courtesy of Rachel Roberts