Friday, January 30, 2015

Am I a Cat?

Until I met my little man cat, Soth, I was never a cat person. I'd grown up with dogs and the few cats I'd interacted with were skittish and wouldn't hesitate to swat you if you tried to pet them.

Then I met this guy and I can't imagine my life without him.

I mentioned that I got a Jawbone Up fitness tracking band from my brother with the instructions that I have to beat my sister in weekly steps. I started using it regularly on January 8, so it's been about 3 weeks now and I'm starting to get concerned.

I set my goal at 15,000 steps a day--mostly because when I was hanging out with my mom and her FitBit, she was getting 10,000 steps by late afternoon and we weren't walking our regular 3 miles a day. 

Even though Barley and I have been doing better at getting out for longer walks in the snow lately, I've only met my goal twice. But that's not why I'm concerned--I realize my parents' house is much bigger than my apartment, so there are twice as many steps from the couch to the coffee pot or from the computer to the snack pantry, which means I don't get as many steps during my vegging out periods at home as I would visiting my parents. I haven't had much trouble getting to 12,000 steps, so as soon as the sun is out a little later in the day and we can add one more walk to our routine I think I'll be golden.

What concerns me is the information my Up band provides me with about my day. I get little emails about my week that contain things how my sleep and steps that week compare to the week before and which hour was my least active (7-8 p.m.--which makes sense because that's dinner time or when we're driving home from agility). I can also look at the app and see how much active time I've logged in any given day.

It's starting to make me wonder if I'm not just a cat person, but if I'm actually a person who is a cat. Only 2 hours and 17 minutes of active time for the entire day--on a day when I got over 15,000 steps?!

I know that even if I'm not physically on the go for hours on end, I'm not actually embracing my inner cat. I'm grading papers, planning lectures, responding to emails, and creating training materials for my Writing Center tutors. I'm writing the blog or reading yours. I'm researching new places to walk with Barley or new types of wet food that Soth might actually want to eat. So even if my body isn't active, my brain usually is.

Deep down, I know I'm not really just like Soth only moving from one bed to the next or from the bed to my food bowl, but when you see numbers like that down in writing, it's kind of a wake up call. I'm not entirely sure how to work in a lot more active time into the schedule during the school year because grading and lesson planning will never go away--in fact, they seem to require more and more time each semester--but it's definitely something Barley and I will be trying to figure out.

And I guess on the upside, I'm already doing more than other women my age who use the Up band. So I might be part cat, but I'm definitely not alone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesdays Tomes: My Dog Tulip

I don't know about y'all, but cold winter months give me a lot more motivation to curl up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate than to do just about anything else. Sometimes I get stuck in a rut, though. I find one series I love and when I finish all of the books that are out and then go into mourning that I'm done and don't read again for weeks. Or, I reading nothing but books with dogs in them for weeks and then find myself having a discussion about books with people who never pick up dog books and I look like the weirdo who doesn't read serious literature. Or, I read several Holocaust novels in a row--that always puts me in a weird place. I needed some help branching out.

I looked at a few 2015 reading challenges and most of them were 50+ books. As much as I love reading, I also have a dog who requires a lot of exercise and a job that requires a lot of reading, so trying to read almost a book a week was setting myself up for failure. My super awesome future sister-in-law brought the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge to my attention.

Read more about the challenge here.
The challenge is simple. You read 12 books. If you're like me, you probably have one on your shelf that fits into just about every category (and pretty much every book on your shelves could fit into number 1). Periodically, over the rest of the year, I'll be posting about my book challenge--because hey, I'm much more successful at achieving goals when I have other people holding me accountable. Since I don't usually post on Tuesdays and since Tuesday has nice alliteration with tomes, when I finish a book, I'll post about it on Tuesdays. If you'd like to join me in this challenge, I'd love to hear about what you're reading, too!

While most of the books I post about probably won't be dog-related, for a book you've been meaning to read I chose My Dog Tulip by J. R. Ackerley.

I'm not sure when I bought this book or how I even heard of it--maybe Amazon recommended it when I ordered other dog books or maybe I saw it on Netflix and decided to read the book first. It had been on my shelf waiting to be read for over a year, though, so I decided to start with this one. Plus, it was short and I was excited to read a book about a man with a dysfunctional dog, so I thought I'd fly through it in no time.

I was wrong.

The blurb on the back intrigued me as it talked about Ackerley connecting with his dog Tulip in a profound way and mentioned Tulip's erratic behavior. There's nothing I love more than a good story about a dog that's a little bit psycho. The cover even had a quote from The New Yorker calling it "One of the bona-fide dog-lit classics." Since I love all things New Yorker, how could I go wrong with this book?

I continued to be excited as I read the introduction by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. She writes, ". . . it's as if he were saying, 'I love her even if she's bad, and you can't.' Nor does he ask us to understand her." Another check in the excitement column. I've loved Barley since the moment I took her into the meet-and-greet room at the shelter, but I understand she's not a dog that everyone can love--or even like. And that's ok. So I felt like I would relate to this book.

Then I started the actual story. It was the slowest dog book I've ever read. The best thing about it was the dog's name. I'm rather fond of the name Tulip now.

The first chapter wasn't bad--in fact, it's probably one most people can relate to. Ackerley writes about the challenges of finding a vet when Tulip writhes and growls and snaps during exams and he goes through several vets until he finds the one that tries a new approach that settles Tulip down. Then he spends 30 pages on a chapter entitled "Liquids and Solids"--you can guess what that one is about. 

The rest of the book--112 more pages--is all about Ackerley trying to find a "husband" for Tulip. He doesn't want puppies. But he wants his dog to experience a full life and is convinced she can never be happy if she doesn't have sex. So he searches for other owners who will let their male dogs impregnate her--Tulip wants nothing to do with the other dogs, though. But he continues to search and talks at length about trying to stimulate her with vaseline to prepare her for these adventures. Then when she's finally impregnated by a local street dog, he considers drowning the female puppies. Spoiler: He doesn't. But he also doesn't find good homes for the puppies. Then he spends writes of never wanting to go through any of that again--but he doesn't want to spay her because that will deprive her of something--so he talks about how difficult it is to watch her be sexually frustrated for weeks.

Dog breeding isn't something that I really know much about. My aunt has purebred dalmatians, so I know a little about the process of how she got her dogs and what makes her breeder a responsible one. My best friend as a purebred English bulldog, so I got a little more insight from his experience. But I felt like I was reading a kind of tame dog version of 50 Shades of Grey. I know the book was originally published in 1965 (although the intro was published in 1999--so Thomas' praise of the story really baffles me), so there were different ideas about breeding. But this book was not for me.

What about you? Have any of you read this book? (Or seen the movie--should I give that version of the story a try?) What books have been sitting on your shelves that you've been meaning to get to?

Next, I'll be tacking a book you chose because of the cover, which this time is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan--I have no estimate of when that post will happen since I just got three sets of essays to grade this week, but I'm a few chapters in and it's already more my style than Tulip!

And don't forget to share what you're reading! Fun new book ideas might be the only thing that gets me through this winter!

Monday, January 26, 2015

This Is Why We Have a Crate

This weekend, I turned my back on Barley for just a minute to step out onto my front porch. Before I went outside, I thought, "I should put Soth's food on top of the fridge before I go outside." It's a good thing I did because when I walked back inside, I saw this.

Then, I decided I should order Barley some Pawz before the next super cold spell arrives because so many people had said they were the only boot-type things their dogs would tolerate (and she let me put a sock on her paws, so maybe she'll be receptive?). Since I wasn't sure what size to order, I got out my trusty DARE ruler from my 5th grade anti-drug classes many moons ago. 

Barley stole the ruler right out of my hand. When I took it away, she was not pleased. Look at that lip curl!

Does anyone have recommendations for psychiatrists who specialize in joint therapy sessions for cats and their owners? Soth and I are afraid the crazy is rubbing off on us.

His sister's antics have made us feel defeated.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Last week, Barley and I were both in a funk. We were bored with our limited walking route. With the bitter cold, we could only be out for a few minutes at a time (maybe someday I'll convince her to wear boots), so we could make it about .3-miles from our front door before we had to turn around for several days. We could only go in three different directions because we had to walk in the road and since we were literally the only ones out walking, there were no new sights, new sounds, new smells, and no distractions to keep us on our toes.

Then miraculously on Saturday we got a break and the temperatures came up to the high 30s (I seriously never thought I'd be excited about 30+ degrees). The sidewalks still had a thin layer of snow, but the layer of ice was gone. Since it was above freezing, I didn't mind letting Barley walk in the snow for an extended period of time. We got to add 4 more streets to our route and took our first 2+-mile walk of the year! After two walks, we logged 5 whole miles for the day!

This is the best walk ever!
Sunday didn't disappoint us, either. Since Mother Nature had had 24 hours to thaw out the world, we ventured out to the state park to check out the lake. Parts of the trails were still pretty slushy and some parts had pretty deep snow, but there were large clear grassy areas and long stretches of clear trails.

We got to enjoy pretty views of the ice on the lake and walk in an area we hadn't seen since before we traveled for the holidays. 

We got muddy and wet and gross. There was a wintry mix that made little ice pellets sting my face occasionally. But it was good for the soul.

We ended the week at 20.52 miles for the week which puts us at 50.52 miles this month--so despite the frustration we were feeling last week, we're already a little farther ahead of where we were at the end of last January with over a week left in the month. I'm feeling better!

Also, we have some winners! We used to pick out two of the shelters/rescues nominated for the "thank you" donations. We're happy to say that The Pixie Project (nominated by Tenacious Little Terrier) and Mostly Mutts (nominated by To Dog With Love) are the winners of the two $50 donations. But we also felt a little sad that only 3 rescues were getting left out, so we're also going to make a $10 donation to Boxer Butts and Other Mutts, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, and Peace and Paws. We thank all of you for your support at reaching our goals this year and hope this helps a few other FitDogs find their forever fitness friends!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Welcome to Stars Hollow, Ohio

I've mentioned before that my town closely resembles Stars Hollow from my beloved Gilmore Girls. The town decorates for everything and celebrates anything.

In September, it's grapes with the Grape Jamboree (and two separate 1.5-hour parades). The windows in all the shops are decorated for a contest. They hang up baskets of flowers that look like bunches of grapes. I love it.

What does the fox eat? Grapes!

Then in October, they get ready for Ghoulfest. They hang up scarecrows on all of the light posts. Different groups put the scarecrows together for another contest. They're fun, but they also get a little gross since most of them are wearing clothing and it rains a lot in October, so they don't hold up very well for very long.

In December, the Christmas decorations go up. For some reason, they put up fewer than usual this year and I was a little bummed.

But this past weekend, I noticed that preparations for the next celebration were well underway. In January or early February, the town has their Winterfest celebration. I've never actually gone to the celebration (I can only take my celebration of the cold so far), but apparently they have ice sculpting and other winter activities as well as a parade. Once upon a time, Barley and I crossed paths with Lake Effect Louie who was on his way to line up for the parade. The Winterfest decorations are my favorite.

Just like with the scarecrows, various groups and businesses decorate wooden snowmen each year and their hung up on the light posts. Mother Nature was kind enough to give us a warm enough day with clear sidewalks to head downtown to visit the snowmen. 

I apologize for some of the pictures--some of the light posts are further in on the sidewalks, so you can get a decent picture. Others are right at the edge, so you have to balance and try to get a picture without getting run over--of course, those are the ones I loved best!

I love this cow. We're going to try to walk by again and get a better angle.

This one says "Will Melt for Wine." I must get a better shot.

I adore this one--his body is made out of wine corks!

Barley wants to build a snowman.

These snowmen help add a little cheer to these cold, grey days. We hope that everyone else has found a little bit of silly to help them through winter, too!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Barley, RN

As a child, one of my favorite Disney characters was always Nana, the dog from Peter Pan. (Maybe I've mentioned this before?) She was loyal and patient. She could give her kids their cough syrup and clean up their toys. She was perfect. Although my own childhood dog couldn't dole out medicine and certainly didn't help with cleaning, I always saw her as Nana, patient, kind, loving, protective.

Then came Barley. My family seems to chuckle every time I call Barley Nana. Barley has no patience. She's always ready to go. Even when she's practicing a stay, her tail is waving wildly and you can see that every single muscle is twitching and ready to go on the command.

Barley is also a bull in a china shop. Her tail clears the coffee table in one swoop. No matter how often I clean and vacuum, there are always dog toys on the floor. She is certainly not a big helper when it comes to cleaning (although we're considering training putting her toys in her bucket next).

When it comes to doling out medicine, Barley is the dog that poisoned herself with a bottle of Aleve the second year we were together. Probably not the best job for her.

While it seems like she's lacking most of the skills that made Nana my idea dog, Barley becomes a new pup when I'm less than 100%.

I spent most of the last week between semesters in bed with a cold. (Which honestly wasn't that bad because it gave me a good excuse to spend several days doing nothing but reading.) Even though I was at my parents' and my mom was taking care of me, Barley took her nursing duties very seriously. She stayed stretched out beside me in bed or on a blanket on the floor beside the bed. She only left my side when she heard snacks rustling in the kitchen and then she was back as soon as she'd had a bite to eat.

I might have stolen this blanket from your bed, but I'm not leaving your side.
Now, three weeks later, the cold has returned. Barley has resumed her nursing duties. Since I have the day off today, I took NyQuil last night--even though it was after midnight by the time I got around to going to bed. When I woke up this morning, Barley was stretched out beside me and didn't pounce on me like she normally does. With the grey skies outside, it looked relatively dark in my room, so I was certain it was pretty early. When I looked at my phone, it was 10:00! Nurse Barley hadn't woke me up with a rumbling tummy or barking at squirrels. I guess she knew I needed my sleep.

Last night, I was doing some work and heard rustling coming from behind the couch. As I mentioned Friday, Barley's been into everything lately. But we'd had a couple good walking days and on Saturday she actually napped instead of getting into trouble.

When I got up to see what she'd stolen this time, I found her with a box of passion tea--my drink of choice when I've got a stuff nose and a scratchy throat.

I think it's time for you to have a cuppa! 
What might look like mischief to the untrained eye sure looks like my girl taking care of her mama to me! (Apparently the binge watching of Grey's Anatomy that I've been doing on Netflix lately is paying off . . . who says dogs should be watching Lassie?)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Winter Blues

I'm trying to embrace my inner Elsa and convince myself the cold never bothered me anyway, but, y'all, I'm struggling.

It's been stupid cold lately and that's just getting me a little discouraged. We'd been on such a roll for the last six months and hitting every single goal we set. Now, we're back to square one and it just makes me a little bummed.

After seeing this, for 25 days . . .

. . . it's difficult to go back to seeing this.

I know that I should feel good about the fact that we've gotten out there and walked every single day despite the cold. Despite the fact that most of our walks have been less than a mile long, we're at 30 miles so far this year, which means we're averaging 2 miles a day. I know that's great considering Mother Nature's crankiness this month.

The crazy has entered our house, though. Barley has been getting into mischief like you wouldn't believe. The majority of the steps I've been getting with my Jawbone Up have been to go chase her away from the cat food (which she has to climb on the counter to eat) or away from the litter box or to see what non-existent snow monster she's barking at out the window.

One day, Barley went into her agility bag--which I usually leave near the front door since she never goes in it--and took out one bag of treats and started trotting towards her crate with it. I went and took it away. As soon as I sat down again, she went and got a second bag. I took it away. After she got a third bag, I decided she was clearly tell me she wanted to work.

I got down on the floor and we started a rousing game of It's Your Choice. We hadn't played for a while, so we kept it simple and didn't put more than a few treats on her paws at a time, but she was excited to be doing something and she stayed out of trouble for a few minutes after we finished. We've been working in as many indoor games, like nose works, as possible, but it's just not enough to wear her out and keep us both from getting bored.

The crazy has even taken over sleeping Barley.

Our walks have been very limited, too, which is contributing to the crazy. Nobody in our neighborhood--and I mean nobody--shovels their sidewalks, so we have to walk in the street if I don't want Barley's toes to be in the snow. Our apartment complex is in the middle of two busy roads, so that means we're limited to three different streets. It's getting old pretty quickly.

We're trying to find joy in these short little walks, but I can tell Barley's not looking forward to them as much as usual. We alternate sides of the road, so she gets to sniff different smells, but we're holding out hope that the weather reports that are calling for almost 40 degrees on Saturday are true so that we can get out of our neighborhood for a change!

We got to enjoy a nice sunset walk yesterday, so I'm hoping that glimmer of beauty amongst all the slushy street snow is a sign that we'll start finding joy on our walks again soon.

 What about you? How do you find enjoyment when your walking routine is limited?

(P.s. Don't forget to visit last week's post and let us know where you'd like to see the thank you donation's go!)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pet Blogger Challenge 2015

It's time for the Go Pet Friendly 5th annual Pet Blogger Challenge. I've never participated before, but after doing a recap of our 2014 events yesterday, it seemed like as good a time as any to reflect on the blog in general.

  • How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone stopping by for the first time, please give us a quick description of what your blog is about. I started blogging in July 2012, mostly as a way to track training goals as I worked with my border collie mix Barley. Since then, the blog has become not just about training but also about hiking and fitness goals with a little bit mixed in about my handsome cat, Soth.

  • Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud. Jodi over at Heart Like a Dog put together the Caring for Critters round robin and I participated with three posts: one on FLUTD, one on Lyme Disease, and one on Xylitol poisoning. I'm really proud of my participating in this because hopefully they helped warn people about the dangers of sugar-free gum and let people with pets struggling with things like FLUTD know they're not alone.
  • What lessons have you learned this year--from other blogs, or through your own experience--that could help us all with our own blogs? I like going to smaller concerts--people like Sara Bareilles or the Avett Brothers--partially because those artists always seem really connected to their audience; they share personal stories, that they probably share at every single concert, but in the moment it feels like they're sharing a secret with their closest friends. I've found that the blogs I most enjoy reading are the ones that form a personal connection with their readers, too, the blogs where the authors respond to comments and occasionally comment on my blogs. I know that if I comment on one of Emma's posts, she's going to respond. If I write about the challenges of living with a herding dog with nothing to herd, Sage and her mom are going to offer support just like Mr. N's mom will when I lament about the challenges of having an active dog when the weather won't cooperate. I think the most important lesson I've learned is that if you want readers to keep coming back, you need to let them know they matter to you.
  • What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content? I've found that finding a community of people with similar interests is the best way to bring traffic to my blog. The FitDog Friday community has been a great way to see the country through other bloggers' accounts of their hiking adventures and learn about different training techniques as well as a great opportunity to share my own experiences with adventuring with my dog.

  • What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular? "Doggin' the Berkshires, Part 2" was my most popular post written this year. I was a little surprised just because it had many more page views than any of my other posts and I didn't think it was necessarily more interesting or exciting than any of the others.

  • What was your favorite blog post to write this year? It's a toss up between "My Dog is My Wingman (Just Not a Very Good One)" and "Celebrations". The first one was just really fun to write and it was a break from our usual content of how many miles we've walked to recount some of the awkward situations that Barley and I find ourselves in. The second one was fun because we'd met our 1,000-mile goal and it felt great to share that accomplishment with everyone who had been cheering us on for the last 12 months.
  • Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year? If you don't do reviews, is this something you'd like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way? I don't really do reviews. Occasionally, if I find a product I really love (like our Cody's Creations treat pouch), I'll share information with my readers, but I haven't ever been asked to do an official review of a product. I'm not opposed to doing official reviews, but once I get into paper-grading mode at work, it's hard to find the time to write a blog post much less do the networking and make connections to get products to review. 
  • What's your best piece of advice for other bloggers? I think it's important to do what's best for you/your blog. What makes reading blogs fun is to get different voices and perspectives. If you try to make your blog more like someone else's, you tend to lose yourself and what makes your blog unique, so it's important to do what works for you, whether that's setting a schedule for blogging or posting when the mood strikes (or time permits) or whether it's being a little wordy (guilty) or using a lot of pictures.

  • What goals do you have for your blog in 2015? I'd like to come up with some new topics to write about. Some times it feels like every week is more of the same--an update on our mileage and not much more, especially this time of year when the weather keeps us out of the parks. I'm hoping to beat the writer's block and find some other topics to mix it up. I'm also considering mixing up the layout of the blog a little bit--it really hasn't changed since I started the blog, so it might be time for a little revamping.
  • If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you're having with your blog, what would it be? I'm not sure I'm having any specific challenges right now, but I'm always open to feedback for making the blog better.