Friday, June 27, 2014

Livin' on the Ledge

Since our Niagara Falls adventure, Barley and I have been sticking pretty close to home. Partly, it's because now that noseworks class is over we aren't already out near the parks in the mornings, so it's just easier to toss on walking clothes and head out the door and get our first walk out of the way. Also, it's been kind of hot (if you can call low 80s hot--Barley does), so it seems silly to waste 30+ minutes of cool morning air in the car to go on an adventure. We haven't even ventured to the lake much because during this time of year there are lots of tourists camping and staying in the cottages down by the Geneva-on-the-Lake strip, so the trails have more bikers and joggers and sunbathers on them on the weekends, so with the exception of a few weekday trips, we've avoid it.

Even though we can easily get 3+ miles in our neighborhood no matter which direction we go, we've gotten bored with our normal streets. When I saw Thursday's high was 75, I thought it was a perfect day to get out for a little morning adventure and try our 19th hike out of Doggin' Cleveland.

We went to the Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park (#9). I'd been interested in this hike for awhile, but after the terrifying experience of South Chagrin Reservation where there were some parts of the trail that weren't wide enough for me and Barley to walk side by side, I was nervous that this might be the same kind of experience. Then I remembered that Chapin Forest Reservation, one of our favorite places, also has ledges and even though it would be possible to fall over them, the trails are wide and, in a lot of places, flat, so I decided to be brave. After all, if the path made me uncomfortable, we didnt' have to go down it, right?

Doug Gelbert's description in the book said that the trails weren't well marked and brochures weren't likely to be stocked, so on Wednesday night I looked up the trail map, studied it on the computer, printed it out, and then left it on the printer . . . Oops.

I was already almost to the park when I realized the map was on the printer still. We can blame Soth. My printer used to be out in plain sight, but then he peed in it--so I got a wireless printer that stays shut up in the closet in the spare bedroom. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

Gelbert has said a lot of trails were not well marked and we've never had much trouble following the trails. Even if there aren't clear markers, usually it's pretty obvious where the trail is and most parks we go to have big loops for all of the trails with maybe some connector trails in the middle. From the map I'd studied, it looked like there were big loops and also some that were just straight from one end of the park to the other--and the park was one big north-south rectangle, no weird shapes--so it didn't seem like it would be too hard to follow them. Plus, I could always pull the map up on my phone if necessary, so I really wasn't worried.

As soon as we pulled up to the park, I was glad we'd decided to visit. The ledges were visible as soon as we got on the trail and they were stunning. Barley was a little stubborn and wanted to look anywhere but at the camera, but we got several pictures in front of various ledges--of course, none of them are labeled and the map wasn't all that clear, so I don't know what many of the formations are called.

There are chipmunks living in the rocks, so she was not happy about having to sit still.

I'm not exactly sure what was happening here, but this seems to reflect her attitude about posing so much before getting in much of a walk.

In addition to the ledges, there were some tight squeezes on the path. Most of them, we were able to get through by going one at a time and sucking in my gut--a few almost required me to take off my backpack, but for the most part we fit without much trouble.

I do know that this one is called Dwarf's Pass. I would have had to crawl to get through there. I was not feeling that.

There was also a cave that we ended up in. It was nice a cool, but it was damp and dark and a little creepy. Barley was not interested in hanging out there long enough to sit and take a picture. I couldn't really hold that against her. I wasn't interested in sticking around there too long, either.

We also found several different waterfalls on the hike. The first one we came to was Cascade Falls. 

Underneath Cascade Falls is Gold Hunter's Cave. According to Gelbert, this cave "was the site of a brief and fruitless gold rush in the 1870s." From the boardwalk leading up to the cave, we got a nice mist, so I think on a really hot day that would be a great place to visit mid-walk.

Then we saw another waterfall. Possibly Minnehaha Falls. Again, the map wasn't all that clear and this didn't appear to be in the part of the park the map identified as Minnehaha Falls, but there were also only two falls listed on the map, so . . . 

At first, I was worried that we weren't going to log much mileage on this walk. We walked a lot, but my Garmin GPS watch sometimes struggles with downhill hikes because we don't move fast enough, so it pauses and then thinks we didn't actually go very far once it resumes, so it only really logs the change in elevation, but not the actual distance we moved down the trail.

After we went to Cascade Falls in the north end of the park, we found that the trail was pretty wide and flat once we got to the top of the ledges (which didn't even seem that difficult of an incline, but somehow we ended up above Cascade Falls). After that, the Garmin had no trouble keeping up with us.

The whole park was nice and shady and the rocks were all damp and cool, so when we'd take a little break, I'd have Bar lie on the rocks to cool her down even more.

Unfortunately, the poorly marked trails didn't work in our favor this time. We actually did get lost. Really lost. There were a few trail blazes on a few trees, but not many and some of the ones that were there were so faded it wasn't clear if they were white blazes or light blue blazes. 

We had done a few loops on various trails to see different angles of ledges, but I still had a pretty good idea of which direction the car was. After we got back to the part where I thought we should be heading down to the car (which I could see far down below), we only found teeny tiny passages, which we hadn't taken to get up to the trail. I found a trail past the waterfall we were near (which I now know was the top of Cascade Falls), so we took it. Then we were on a much wider trail than we'd been on before. I knew we were parked at the north end of the park, so I decided we'd go that way. Somehow, we encountered a bog--which we were not wading through--so we turned around, but couldn't find the path we'd taken to get onto this trail. We kept walking. Then all of the sudden there was a fence with barbed wire on our left--which was the direction we had come from--and I knew that couldn't be good. We walked a little farther. Then I saw a lot of barrels that looked like trash cans--the park clearly stated that there weren't trash receptacles outside of the parking lot, so I knew we weren't in the park anymore. 

I knew we needed to get back to the park, so we went back past the barbed wire and just kind of traipsed through the woods until we heard people and followed the voices back to a trail. For a while, I was afraid I was going to have to call the cops or a park ranger or someone to come rescue me. How embarrassing. 

Once we were back in the park, we pulled over onto a big rock and drank some water and tried to regroup. Then a group of people came up from under the rock we were sitting on and stopped to chat. It didn't really look like a trail, but I figured we couldn't get more lost than we had been, so we gave it a try. Sure enough, it took us right down to the level where the car was. We'd been a few feet from the  trail back to the car until we went the wrong way.  Oops.

Even though it wasn't hot and there weren't dangerous cliffs on the trail we ended up on and the trail was actually really peaceful and nice, it was still one of the scariest moments Barley and I have had hiking. I really wasn't sure how we were going to get back to the car without calling for help. It kind of ruined the really nice hike we had had up until that point. I was scared and I felt stupid for not paying better attention to the blazes--but once we got back to the trail, I realized there wasn't a single blaze anywhere between where we'd made the wrong turn and where we were parked, so then I was just annoyed with the State Park system for not making it clearer. 

We ended up walking 4.27 miles on our adventure (and about 1.25 of that was outside of the park!). We did a little happy dance when we got back to the car and then headed straight home. After getting all of the mud and spider webs off, we both snuggled up in the living room and were just happy to be home.

She's too tired to even get all the way on her bed.

What about you? Have you gotten lost on a hike? How did you handle things?

We're linking up with SlimDoggy, Peggy's Pet Place, and To Dog With Love for FitDog Friday. As of Thursday evening, our mileage is 481.20 miles--we are so so very close to 500 by the end of the month, but we've still got a few big walking days ahead of us. Wish us luck and check back next Friday to see if we made it!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Is it Hard to Train a Dog?

People in my neighborhood have just been full of questions lately: is that a husky? why do you have a dog? are you a trainer or just a person walking her dog? And most recently, is it hard to train them?

Barley must be behaving exceptionally well on our walks lately. Earlier this week, we were out walking and did our usual intersection routine of sitting and then looking both ways before crossing. There was a man doing some yard work and his dog--without any sort of restraint--was relaxing nearby. When I noticed it, I was a little worried. The dog has approached Barley before when the man wasn't out with him, so I got Barley's attention quickly and we practiced watch--with lots of snacks--while we crossed the street.

The man had moved closer to his dog and was crouched down beside the dog when he said, "I wish my dog would behave like that. Is it hard to train them?"

Barley says, "You can't train this kind of awesomeness."
I stopped. Barley sat. I never know how to answer questions like that.

Did it take a lot of work to get Barley to walk beautifully on a leash? Not really. She's never been much of a puller, so getting her to heel beside me has only been an issue when other dogs are around. Once I learned how to get her attention with commands like "watch" and "what's that?," getting her to heel beside me and ignore other dogs wasn't all that hard.

Was it hard to train her to stop and sit at intersections? Nope. Every time we go out for a walk, I stop at an intersection. At first, I told her to sit. Then we'd walk across and she'd get a treat. Eventually, she caught on and now I don't have to say anything. I start slowing down until we get to the intersection. I stop. She stops and sits. Easy as pie.

I can sit nicely in the yard, too.
Has it been hard to train her in agility? Again, not really. She's never once shown any fear of the teeter, the dog walk, or the A-frame. She's always bouncy, so jumps have never bothered her. The weaves have been a little difficult, but once she figured out what I was asking her to do, she's tackled them with enthusiasm (and she's finally got it with our set of 6 poles!). It's been much harder to train me. I've had to learn how to be more exciting than distractions. I've had to learn to pay attention to where my hips, shoulders, feet, and eyes are pointing. I've had to learn the crosses and pay attention to what obstacle comes next. I'm the one that's harder to train in agility (I blame my parents for never enrolling me in dance classes).

Honestly, Barley's kind of a trainer's dream once you get past the reactivity. She loves to learn. Going to school is one of her favorite things, whether it's for agility, noseworks, obedience, tricks and games, or whatever else she gets signed up for. When we first started private lessons for her reactivity, our trainer gave us homework, told us it would probably take us 2 weeks to get through it all, and scheduled our next lesson for that time frame. After four days of 3 ten-minute training sessions per day, I was calling her to see what else we could work on because Barley had it down pat--even outside with distractions like construction, squirrels, and bees. I'm not sure our trainer believed me, but she moved our next session up and was amazed by how far Barley had come. Even though Barley's a stubborn little cuss, she's smart and once she knows what I'm asking of her, she'll do it (as long as she's in the mood).

Really, one of the hardest things we've encountered in training is getting her to go into the cave bed I splurged and bought for her! She still won't go in it unless I hold it wide open and tell her to go in. (But sometimes she does get out of my bed in the middle of the night and lay on the tiny part in front of the opening.)

How long do I have to stay in here?
I can't help it that I don't want to be in my cave bed. It's nicer up here.
After thinking for a second, I said no. Then I felt like a liar. Or like I was only telling part of the truth. So, I added it just takes time and consistency.

He nodded, said thanks, and Barley and I went on our way.

What about you? Do you think it's hard to train a dog?

We're linking up with Heart Like a Dog and 2 Brown Dawgs for Thursday's Barks and Bytes. Stayed tuned tomorrow for our FitDog Friday post on our adventures on the ledge!

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Nose Knows

I love getting mail. Not the bills and junk mail, of course, but little notes or care packages or my weekly New Yorker. It's just exciting to see something fun in my mailbox. It makes it worth sticking my hand through the spiderwebs that appear on the mailbox no matter how often I sweep them off.

This mailbox is probably older than me. It's creepy. I wouldn't be surprised if it was haunted.
This week, though, all the mail has been for Barley!

On Monday, she got her BarkBox. I had heard the mail man out on our front porch before we went for a walk, but I figured there was probably nothing exciting, so I didn't even think to look at the mail before we went off for our walk.

But Barley did.

She put the breaks on and wouldn't budge off the porch. That's when I noticed her BarkBox tucked in the corner. I stuck it inside and she reluctantly went on our walk.

After grabbing a quick sip of water when we got home, Barley was pawing at her box. She knew the mail was for her, so I cut the tape and let her figure out how to get in.

Once she'd wiggled her nose into the box, she let me get a look inside, too. There were the usual yummy treats--my guess is the banana and beef liver treats were the ones that let her know this box was hers. The real surprise, though, was this:

A monkey butt?!?! 
She's not entirely sure this is a toy a lady should play with.
I guess part of the reason I got Barley a BarkBox subscription was so that she would get treats and toys I couldn't find in our stores and could have a little variety--and this is certainly not something I ever would have brought home for her! (Although, I might have sent one to my brother had I come across them in the store.)

On Wednesday, Barley got more mail. Usually, she's not super interested when I open packages (probably because they're usually boxes of books--and she does not like books). This time, she was intrigued.

What's in there, Mom? Is it for me?
Can't you open it any faster?
I'm not sure what it is, but it has to be for me!
Once I got Barley out of my lap, I pulled open our scent kit! After weeks of waiting, it is finally here and we can do some official practice to start getting ready for an Odor Recognition Test (ORT). We don't have a date on the books yet, but we're excited that we can start practicing with odors now (instead of our makeshift cotton ball with ground cloves on it!). 

We've done a little practice since it came in. We started a little bit easy and paired the odor with a treat since she's only used the real odors in class. Since we were excited to get started, we didn't waste time getting boxes out of the spare room and I just hid the scent around the living room: on the coffee table, on stacks of books, on the DVD shelf. Barley did great, so after a few searches I quit pairing the scent with a treat and she had no problems.

Today, we broke out the boxes and she did great! I'm the one that has a harder time, though, because her alert is so subtle. I think I've mentioned that before. Basically, she bulldozes into the boxes--if the scent isn't there, she usually shoves the box away and then looks up; if the scent is there, she shoves the box around, but keeps her nose and eyes down. Since it's just me and Bar, sometimes it's hard to know if she's actually alerting me or if I am just jumping in and rewarding her as soon as her nose touches the box since I know where it is. I try to give her a few seconds and watch to see if she'll lift her head, but it's not easy!

We're looking forward to my sister visiting next month so that she can hide the odor for us and we can get a better idea of whether I'm actually reading Bar's alert or not. (If we're going to help her meet her goal of running in 5 states other than her own, she can help us with noseworks--that's what sister's are for, right?) We'll also get a little help from Barley's grandma when we visit my parents again later this summer. Hopefully I've been reading her alert right and not just jumping to conclusions!

Soth has been doing a little noseworks of his own this week.

After spending several seconds sniffing Barley's toes, he took a swat at them and rolled away. His nose might be telling me it's time for his sister to get a bath. 

In addition to keeping Barley's nose and brain working, we're making progress on our walking goal for the year. The website for Garmin is down right now, so I can't upload the data from our morning walk or let you know how we're doing on our journey towards 500 miles by the end of the month--but we have met or surpassed our daily goal every day since last Friday's post and I know we've passed the 450 mark, so it's looking good for us!

We're linking up with SlimDoggy, Peggy's Pet Place, and To Dog With Love for FitDog Friday and can't wait to read about how everyone else has been staying fit this week!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I wasn't going to link up with 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog today because I woke up cranky.  First, I stayed up way too late reading a book that is too poorly written (although still enjoyable) to let it encroach on my sleep like that. Then Soth spent most of the night after I finally went to bed fussing--he'd start knocking things off the kitchen counters or my dresser and then I'd get up to scold him and he'd trot into the living room, plop down with his pepper toy, and try to get me to play. I was not amused.

Why is he only peaceful when I'm wide awake?
Seriously, where is this behavior at 3 a.m.?
My day started with having to shop for a baby shower present for a co-worker. I accidentally ended up at Barnes and Noble at the same time story time started. I'd post-poned getting coffee until after I'd finished errands because I had a free drink on my Starbucks app, so I figured I'd let someone else make my coffee for me this morning. That meant I was even less tolerant of the squealing and weird questions than usual. My crankiness grew.

The morning had started out rainy, so Barley and I didn't get a walk in before I left for the morning, but it was still in the 60s when I got home, so off we headed for our walk.

I planned on going for a short walk and taking a longer one this evening--after I have a very long nap. The sky was grey and dreary and I just wanted to go curl up with my stupid book until I fell asleep.

Then after we'd only gone .4 miles, something changed. A car pulled up beside us and a woman said, "Excuse me." I stopped. Then she asked, "Are you a trainer or just a person out walking her dog?" When I told her I was just out walking my dog, she said that she just had to stop and ask because my dog was so beautiful and so well behaved.

Clearly, she wasn't seeing this pancake vulture side of Barley.
Or the crazy Kong face side.
Even though I'm still insanely tired, my mood's lifted a bit. So often, I get caught up with Barley's naughtiness, reactiveness, or just our challenges in general that I forget how far we've come. It was a nice reminder that I have a good dog and that I've worked really hard with my dog and other people can recognize how well trained she is.

Heart Like a Dog

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Arboretum Adventures

Even though it's only a few days away from the official start of summer, it's only in the 60s here today. Barley and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and visit our favorite spot, the Holden Arboretum.

The robins were singing and the sun was shining, so we decided to check out some of the non-shady sections of the arboretum that we usually don't get to see in the summer.

After we'd soaked up a little vitamin d, we took a little break at the overlook gazebo.

We also saw several birds in the rhododendron garden. This one was our favorite.

We were less excited to see this guy sunning himself along one of the ponds.

The narrow fellow in the grass wasn't the only one soaking up some sunshine by the pond.

These geese and their fuzzy babies didn't necessarily want to be in the pond, but it was better than being on land by Barley, I guess.

 Some of the ponds were covered in lily pads.

Barley was excited to do another loop through the shade after we enjoyed the flowers and ponds.

On the way back to the car, I stopped to take some pictures of flowers that made Barley smile.

We're linking up with Ruckus the Eskie for Sepia Saturday. Hope everyone else's day has been as beautiful as ours!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mid-June Resolution Update

Those of you who have been reading a while know that I set a New Year's Resolution goal of walking 1,000 with Barley this year. Since June is the 6th month, ideally we'd be halfway through our mileage and be at or over 500 miles for the year.

We all know this has been a struggle with the brutal winter that never wanted to end. At the end of March, we were only at 17% of our mileage instead of 25%. April was a better month, but we were at 26% instead of 33%.

That means that if we were going to meet the 50% mark by the end of June, we were going to have to cover 24% of our miles, or 240 miles, in a two month-time frame.  That's a lot of miles--definitely more miles than we covered in any two-month time span last year.

Since I'm not teaching this summer, we've had lots of time for walking. We've been pretty consistent with getting in a morning walk and an evening walk, and sometimes a walk in between, each day--especially since the temperatures haven't spent much time out of the 70s.

Unfortunately, since our trip to Niagara Falls last week, we've had thunderstorms in the forecast and rain showers off and on almost every day. With the exception of a brief evening stroll at the State Park one evening, we've been confined to our neighborhood.

That tiny spot  in the middle is a boat that was on it's way back into the marina.

We had to stop and salute the Jolly Roger before going back home and turning on the Pirates game.

Our neighborhood walks aren't very exciting, but it is easy to piece together longer walks without straying too far from the apartment in case it starts pouring. Another plus to neighborhood walks is that we don't have to drive anywhere, so I get plenty of extra time for snuggles with sweet Soth.

So far, in the first 13 days of June, we've walked 58.48 miles. So where does that put us percentage wise?

We are so close. Only 80 miles away from being at 50% of our goal. If we walk 4.7 miles a day for the remaining 17 days of the month, we'll be back on track for meeting our goal. I think the temperatures are eventually supposed to work their way into the 80s this week and I don't want to overwork my pup, either, so I'm not sure we can actually accomplish that, but won't it be fun if we do? 

"Me get worn out? Never." 
Clearly, wearing her out is possible.
Our struggles to get to the halfway point have me thinking about next year's resolution goal. Our 2013 goal was hard to accomplish because the gorgeous spring weather in the first half of the year set some really difficult to achieve mileages for the cold temperatures in December (and I'm not sure we would have met them without our escape to Alabama for Christmas). If next winter is anything like this one was, setting a goal like the one we have this year will be difficult, too. I've thought about setting goals for our pace, but that varies so much based on how many layers we have, how difficult the terrain is, how many critters we want to admire along the trail, and how many flowers we want to stop and smell. If anyone has suggestions on realistic walking goals for 2015, feel free to share them--we've only got a little over 6 months to figure this one out!

Side note: Yesterday, I mentioned the bizarre treat-and-run encounter we had while on our evening walk Wednesday. It happened again this morning! Same guy, same truck, same large milk bones! Except this time he actually said, "You like those treats, don't you?" Surely, this is just a friendly guy in the neighborhood who likes dogs, but I put the treat in my pocket and then threw it out as soon as we got home. How many of these treats am I going to have dispose of? Why do I always attract the weirdos?