Monday, December 22, 2014


I grew up going to mass every Sunday. I continued that until about two years ago when I quit going to the church in my town. As I get older, I find myself understanding and connecting more and more with Dickinson's "Some keep the Sabbath going to Church"; I find more serenity walking in the woods with Barley than I do sitting in a church filled with screaming babies. But, I still go to church every Sunday with my mom when I visit her.

Last weekend--the third Sunday of Advent--the priest gave a homily about the struggle many people have to find joy, especially at this time of year. He challenged everyone to stop thinking about what they don't have and to be thankful for the things they do have.

Throughout the whole homily, I couldn't help but think of Barley. She embodies joy.

Whether she's exploring a new trail, playing with a toy, or frolicking in the snow, Barley is my smiling dog.

It's hard not to find joy in life when you're hanging out with Barley. Of course, she creates plenty of stress, too, but Barley has no trouble finding joy in the little things in life: squirrels, snacks, snuggles. She's helped me find joy in the world, too.

Soth doesn't have much trouble finding joy, either--despite his struggles with FLUTD. Give him a fuzzy blanket (or a dog bed), a catnip toy, or a bite to eat and he's happy.

Barley, Soth, and I hope that you're all feeling the joy of the holiday season this week, but if you're struggling to find that joy at this time of year, try taking a page out of our pets' books. Find joy in mischief, in nature, in family and friends, in snacks, in curling up under a well-loved blanket. Christmas really isn't about what we don't have. Love is Christmas and if you have a pet, you definitely have love.

Friday, December 12, 2014


As I mentioned last Friday, Barley and I were set to hit our goal on Friday afternoon. On our 483rd walk of the year, Barley and I hit 1,000 miles.

Of course, we had to stop and take a selfie.

When we uploaded our walk, we got the stats to show just how much time we'd spent walking to reach our goal: 297 hours, 12 minutes, and 13 seconds.

We came home and celebrated with a new Ruffhides for Barley and a New Belgium Hop the Pond double IPA for me.

It feels great to know that we met our goal! Back in February when we were lucky to get in half a mile a day with the terrible cold, I wasn't sure we'd get here, but we did and a big part of our success has been all of you! On December 31, Barley and I plan to announce a surprise as a way to thank all of your for our support.

Reaching our goal wasn't our only celebration this week. On Tuesday, Barley celebrated her 5th birthday!

Posing with her new presents.

Since we haven't had snow since before Thanksgiving, I got Barley the closest thing I could get to her favorite thing for her birthday. Petsmart had several different options for squeaky snowballs, so I got a six-pack. They are hysterical. They're small enough that I can fit three in each hand a squeak them all at once. When I throw all six up in the air, Barley runs in circles and can't decide which one to go after, so she just runs from one to the next until she gives up.

We also got in a short, but nice walk along the lake to celebrate. It was dreary and a little drizzly, but we had the whole park to ourselves. 

Our final celebration has been the fact that I got all of my final grading done in record time. My last sent of finals were due on Thursday by 11:00 a.m. and thanks to students turning things in early and having a couple smaller classes, I had final grades for all five classes submitted by 11:30. With the exception of going to graduation tomorrow night, I am officially on break until January.

The best little grading helper ever.
When they snuggle instead of play fight, it's much easier to get work done.
We ended the week of celebrations with 18.74 miles, which puts us at 1017.30 miles for the year.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Home Stretch

Barley and I had some special company to motivate us as we approached the end of our goal. My sister and my nephew, Maddux, came up for Thanksgiving.

According to the receipt, these things are roosters--but I bought them thinking they were turkeys, so we compromised and are calling them turduckens.

Maddux isn't sure he likes the way we do things at our house.

We got to take Maddux to several of our favorite places so he could get the real Ohio experience.

The shortest dog in the family with the shortest covered bridge in the country.

My nephew might have short legs, but he's a happy little trail dog. We got in a good 3+ mile walk at the arboretum where the dogs got to prance through the little bit of snow that was left and watch for black squirrels.

Barley was not enthusiastic about holding my headband while I zipped our pack back up.

Maddux is more interested in eating treats than posing for the camera.

We also took a nice walk at the State Park so Maddux could see Lake Erie--and put his toes on a beach for the first time ever.

Cousins walking in step.

My nephew thinks he could be a Baywatch babe.

We were sad to say goodbye to them, but we're looking forward to reuniting at Christmas. With their help, we ended the week with 18.08 miles putting us at 998.56 miles. By the time most of your read this, we will have reached our goal.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Miss Nelson is Missing! (and November Resolution Recap)

Barley and I got to agility class on Tuesday to find a substitute teacher in place of our regular trainer.

Our agility trainer (who isn't actually named Miss Nelson) wasn't actually missing--she was visiting her new grandson--and we and our classmates hadn't been naughty or disrespectful and our substitute wasn't as bad as Miss Viola Swamp, but I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite childhood books Miss Nelson is Missing while we did our drills.

What do you mean Ms. Susan won't be in class?
We've had this sub a few times before and she's tough. She's our trainer's trainer, so it was a little like walking into an English class your freshman year of college and being handed a copy of The Canterbury Tales in Middle English--except this time I couldn't just ignore it and hope there wouldn't be too many questions about it on the test. Our turn at the drills was going to come up whether I liked it or not.

It was hard. We were working on counter rotations--which Barley does very well--but it was a difficult exercise for me to keep straight in my mind. There were four jumps and two tunnels set up in a circle, so it started out easy. Jump one jump, go through the tunnel, counter rotation over the second jump and back in the tunnel. Then things got complicated--we came out of the tunnel, did another counter rotation back into the tunnel, then went over the next two jumps before adding in another one. We kept going in one side of the tunnel and then the next adding things on until we did the whole circle. For some people, it might have sounded easy. But I'm the girl who still has to hold up her thumb and pointer finger to make an L to figure out left from right.

Even though it was hard, I love when we get to mix things up a little bit. Each trainer has a different style it keeps us from getting too comfortable (and believe me, comfortable is my favorite thing--I have 3 different live versions of John Mayer's "Comfortable" in my iTunes library). Our regular trainer is wonderful and has a solution to every crazy pants thing Barley does, but it's always nice to get a new perspective and to have someone that pushes us. Our sub had a vague idea of what we've been working on, but it's been several months since she's seen anyone's performance, so she pushes us out of our comfort zones and challenges us and that's good.

Do you mean crazy pants things like dragging you onto a snowy playground for a good romp?

We only had two other classmates this week, so we had plenty of turns to try to get the drills right. Our substitute is also the kind of trainer who shouts commands out as your running the drills to help you out while our usual trainer waits until we've finished our turn and then says, "Let me show you what you were doing; here's how to fix it." So, we had a little extra pressure on each turn--which is also good for pushing us to be better.

The biggest challenge was having someone who doesn't know my Barley girl very well. The last time we had this trainer substitute for us, Barley hadn't started nipping at me yet (but, of course, she had plenty of other issues). We haven't had that problem in the last three weeks and a lot of that is because of our extra practice on the football field, but also because our trainer has given us other tools for squashing that behavior in class. Of course, tonight, Barley was a little high strung because we had a new trainer and she also had her dogs in the training center--and even though they were in a pen, they were still visible and Bar was interested. Since her normal routine was thrown off a bit, Barley was wound up on her first few turns and started nipping. When I started to put her in an immediate down, our sub said, "Oh no. That won't work. Do this," which of course was the opposite of what our regular trainer has been telling us (and the immediate down has been working!). I tried it anyway because the more tools I have for helping Crazy, the better, but it's always a little confusing for me--and I'm sure for Barley--to be told conflicting things, so I've found it's really just trial and error with some of our issues. The new techniques worked and by our third turn Barley was back to normal, but it wasn't as natural for either of us, so we probably won't continue with them.

I did feel like we had a small victory when our sub said, "I've seen you two a few times and every time you've done better than the time before. You did a great job getting her back to you when she just wanted to run." So, it was a really challenging class on a lot of levels, but I'm really proud of us and now I know we're capable of doing some challenging drills (as long as I can remember which direction I'm supposed to go next!). 

Are you sure this isn't the same as the teeter in class?
We didn't have the best week of walking, but it wasn't our worst either at 16.58 miles this week, which puts us at 982.79 miles with a month to go in our goal. We met our new goal of walking every day, whether that was a quick trip to the end of the street or a nice extended neighborhood stroll.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, and food!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Setting New Goals

Before I talk about our weather affecting our goals, I just want to say that if you or your loved ones live in the Buffalo area I hope that you (they) are warm and safe. After seeing pictures of the storm earlier in the week, I will never complain about snow again! I can't imagine how scary that situation must be. Barley and I are sending everyone affected by the snow love and warm wishes.

We've been dealing with our own unpleasant winter weather, so it's time to reevaluate our goals. I knew that there would come a day when we wouldn't be able to continue walking 3 miles every day--after all, we started off not being able to walk more than half a mile at a time in January and February--but I didn't expect that day to come before Thanksgiving.

Then on Tuesday, I woke up to a snow day phone call. There wasn't much snow on the ground at our place, but apparently campus was basically in a not-so-magical snow globe where there was very little visibility. I wasn't going to complain--it was bitter cold, so being able to stay home was fine with me!

Feels like 3 degrees!

It was too cold for a long walk. We tried to start a walk, knowing we wouldn't get far, but I thought we could make it to the end of the street and back. We made it .21 miles and my face was freezing, so I knew Barley's feet must be chilly and we turned back around.

Barley's not the type of dog to tolerate booties. We've never tried Musher's Secret because she tolerates me messing with her paws, but not long enough to apply it effectively to each one. So, we just have to keep our walks short and sweet and most importantly safe.

Yesterday, our streets were finally clear and relatively dry long enough to get in over a mile. It was still ridiculously cold, but since we had options that would at last keep Barley's feet out of the snow, we were still able to get in a good walk.

Barley thought we should really be playing on the playground.

We didn't come anywhere close to meeting the 21-mile weekly goal this week, only logging 14.31 miles. Keep my pup safe is far more important than any other goal, so it's time to reevaluate our goals. We are at 963.95 miles for the year, which means we only have 36.05 miles left or .9 miles a day. While I'm still going to shoot for 3 miles a day as often as possible, we'll consider our weeks a success as long as we hit the .9-mile mark each day. (And don't worry--we'll be heading south for the holidays, so even the cold weather there is still tolerable walking weather for us--I'm not anticipating any problems!)

So very close to 1000!

We've also been taking advantage of the extra indoor time to play with Barley's new BarkBox items and even do a little bit of noseworks practice inside.

Despite this weird face, Barley really loved her little chef hedgehog from BarkBox.

Soth has also convinced us to spend a little more time snuggling, so he's happy, too!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Twilight Zone: The Weather Episode

While I was gushing over my love of fall a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I hadn't really experienced seasons growing up. It was hot or it was not hot (but not cold, either).

On Tuesday, we had the most beautiful, sunny, warmish day. I also had the day off of work for Veteran's Day (a big thank you to all of our service men and women, including both of my grandpas!), so we got to thoroughly enjoy two nice warm walks before our agility class and logged a total of 5 miles for the day.

Our Garmin watch said this was our weather during our 4-mile walk.

By Thursday, it was like we lived on a totally different planet. Snow was forecasted throughout Wednesday night into Thursday morning, so I got my hopes up for a snow day. But there was hardly even a dusting on the yard when we got up.

Barley thinks this amount of snow is worthless.
I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to leave my nice cozy apartment and I left for work.

Thursdays are my short days, so I headed up 3 hours later and by the time I got home Barley was a happy dog--there was lots of snow to romp in.

The snow kept falling for hours. After our first play session, I ate some lunch and braced myself for a walk. We haven't missed a day since August 26, so we couldn't start now! The snow had really piled up by the time we headed out the door, but Barley didn't mind one bit. She kept sticking her head into snow drifts and prancing alongside me.

There were a few brief moments of color as a couple trees had colorful leaves still hanging on and one had beautiful red berries. 

Our Garmin weather report looked significantly different after our final walk of the week. It should be illegal for the temperature to be less than half the temperature from earlier in the week!

Despite the fact that I had to bundle up and that my recently cleaned floors have now had snow slush tracked on them, it was fun seeing my girl have so much fun.

She's spent most of the day looking out the window watching the snow.

We had one small tragedy during our evening snow romp when one of Barley's favorite toys disappeared in the snow. I had my phone out so I could make a video of her joy to share with my southern friends and she tossed it up, kept running, and then the toy was gone. At the end of the video, you can see her running into a snow drift where she'd previously thrown her toy and she's absolutely sure her toy is going to be there again--and then it's not. It just breaks my heart. Luckily, as I was retracing her tracks and kicking snow around trying to find it, she found it on her own; I was almost certain we'd be missing that toy until spring.

We got in two separate short walks and two good play sessions in the backyard. Of course, Barley thinks we should have done more and kepts trying to lure me outside--but I've gotta ease into this snow thing again, so 2.2 miles of walking is all I had in me. Thanks to the beautiful weather at the beginning of the week, we logged 23.02 miles this week, so the short week last week has almost been made up for.

Barley and I hope that everyone else is having a warm FitDog Friday or at least getting to enjoy the same sort of glee Barley's been experiencing!