Friday, June 26, 2015

Multiple Pet Fitness

The theme for the final week of Multiple Pet Mania Month is fitness fun. Fitness is generally a solo-pet thing at our house. As I mentioned in our training post in week 1, Soth is Barley's coach when it comes to noseworks, agility practice, or any other training. If Barley's training, Soth's never far away. He stays fit with chasing jingle balls while I work on sit-stays with Barley. But a big part of keeping Barley fit is to go hiking or go to agility class--and those are not activities Soth is interested in. 

It's always fun, though, when we get to visit with my parents or siblings and can have more dogs join in on the fun. 

Since we don't have a real yard, we keep Barley's tunnel at her grandparents' house and that way her cousins get to play with it, too.

Sharing the tunnel is not only good fitness for all the dogs, but it's also a great training opportunity. Agility is a high energy activity, so it's a good opportunity for all of the dogs to get to practice their patience as they see the others romping through the tunnel.

It's also fun to have company our our walks and hikes. Walking is literally the only time Barley and her cousin Hank (my brother's dog) can be near each other. 

I honestly have no idea how those of you with more than one dog walk them at the same time without help, though! Sometimes, I'll walk Barley and my parents' dog, Maz, together--only on sections of streets where I know there are no other dogs and only for short periods, like if my mom stops to chat with a neighbor. Yesterday, I talked about how important it is for Barley and I to stay connected--and I have no idea how one person stays connected with two dogs at once without dying.

Maz does not enjoy walking with Barley and me because we make a Maz sandwich and insist she heel--and if she doesn't, I stop and wait.

If I'm going to keep both dogs focused on me, I have to reinforce the heeling with lots of treats and lots of eye contact--and making eye contact with two dogs severely limits my ability to pay attention to where I'm going and I'm klutzy enough even when I do pay attention. For me, walking two dogs at once is stressful and doesn't seem to be particularly fun for the dogs, either.

But Barley loves to adventure with the other dogs and people in our family. Her cousin Maddux (my sister's dog) is one of her favorite adventure buddies.

Although I'm not a huge fan of group fitness classes (with the exception of the old lady pilates class my sister and I took the summer after I graduated from college), fitness is a lot of fun when you have more than one dog. As long as you have one person per dog . . . 

Thanks to our hosts of Multiple Pet Mania Month, Wag 'n Woof Pets, My GBGV Life, and Cascadian Nomads, for hosting such a fun month of pet-related fun! (And as always, be sure to visit the FitDog Friday blog hop hosted by SlimDoggy, To Dog With Love, and My GBGV Life!)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Leash is NOT a Connection

In agility, one of the biggest things Barley and I have to work on is staying connected. Between turns, we're physically connected by her leash, but we stay busy keeping our mental/emotional connection to each other. We play touch games. We play variations on it's your choice. We work on the 1-hour down game. I rarely get to watch a classmate's full turn because if I disconnect with her to do so, she'll bark to make sure I reconnect with her (although sometimes she'll stay in a down and let me watch as long as I give her the occasional treat to reinforce the down).

The real challenge, though, is keeping our connection once her leash comes off. Barley notices everything: where every dog is, where any dropped treats are, if there's a new mark on a wall, if there's a chair in a new place, if there's a strange sound coming from the AC or the building next door. When we're physically connected, she knows she's in training mode, so she might observe, but she's pretty reliable at following commands. When the leash comes off, those distractions are much harder for her to avoid. We play heeling games on the way to the first jump. On our first few turns, I reward every few obstacles to keep her coming back to me. Any time we've done something difficult, especially if we've missed if a few times, I reward (I'm still waiting for someone to run out and give me a sip of a margarita as my reward when those things happen).

This will forever be one of my favorite pictures of us.

I've mentioned before that sometimes we have a substitute agility instructor if our trainer is visiting her grandbaby or if she's sick. The sub is our trainer's trainer and as I'm sure I've said before, I always feel like I'm walking into a pre-algebra class and am handed a calculus exam on those days. She's tough. She's good and we learn a lot, but she's tough--and not very effusive with her praise. She also has her dogs in a pen somewhere on the floor. New dogs and new people increase the odds of Barley being a bit nutty, so things she normally doesn't do become normal when we have a sub. Usually, those sessions go a bit like this: we walk up for our turn, Barley gets the zoomies, the trainer says, "I've seen you enough times now to know this dog shouldn't still be doing this." As with all teachers, our trainer and our sub both have different methods of dealing with issues, so it's a little reminiscent of me asking my engineer dad for algebra help and him suggesting a way of solving the problem that is completely different from how my teacher wanted us to show our work.

We've had the sub the last two weeks in a row and while last week was better than usual, I still got several corrections. This week, I tried really hard incorporate her ideas into our turns--and it paid off. The sub told us that we had a great night. And we did. Barley stayed with me all night, we did some complicated sequences, and I didn't forget where I was going on the course once. When we left class, we were feeling really good.

Then we got to the park for our post-agility walk. Barley was still great and we were still very in sync, but we encountered so many dog walkers who weren't connected to their dogs at all--and that makes me batty. 

First, about .25 miles down the trail, we encountered a woman standing in the middle of the trail, texting, while her dog on a retractable leash stared at us. I'll give the little dog credit. It didn't bark or lunge, but it very clearly saw us long before she did. I tried to make our presence known by saying more loudly than usual, "What's that, Pup?" and moving the leash to make her tags jangle a little more, but the woman was oblivious. Finally, we stopped and sat and waited. Several minutes passed before we were noticed and the woman moved off the trail to finish her conversation. 

Then about .75 miles in we passed a woman with a small dog that we see almost every week. Every week, I put Barley on my right side and move all the way off the trail so it's clear I don't want the dogs to interact. Every week, I avoid making eye contact with the woman while I continue to say, "What's that? Good girl. What's that?" while dishing out the treats. Every week, the woman lets the dog strain at the end of its retractable leash.

At the end of our walk, there was a man with another small dog on another retractable leash. To get back to the car, we had to cross a bridge--there is no other way back to the car from that part of the trail.  Of course, the man was watching the river (which was insanely high after our recent rains) and the dog was watching the river on the opposite side of the bridge, so we couldn't get by. Eventually, he pulled the dog over to his side of the bridge and Barley and I hurried by.

Passing time until the bridge is cleared.

This week, all of the disconnected dogs happened to be small dogs on retractable leashes, but we see it just as often with large dogs and dogs on regular leashes. I understand that sometimes you have to take a phone call, sometimes you find something cool to look at, sometimes your dog just needs  a break because it's mentally draining to not get to sniff around and be a dog. But in a crowded park with lots of people walking dogs on relatively narrow trails, it's not the time or place to disconnect from your dog. And being physically connected with your leash does not mean that you are connected to your dog. So please, dear dog owners in my area, help keep your dog, my dog, and all of the humans in the park safe by being aware of your dog and your surroundings; let's keep walking fun for everyone. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Whole New World

Those of you who follow us on Instagram know that Barley, Soth, and I were down in Alabama last week. I spent a few days in Georgia visiting college friends while Barley and Soth spent time with their grandparents and then I joined them. I grew up in the Deep South, so I'm no stranger to the oppressive mugginess, but Barley is still new to southern life, which can lead to some challenges.

Other Dogs
The attitude towards dogs in my parents' area is so very different than anything I'm used to. Even though I grew up in the South, we always lived in neighborhoods where dogs were kept in their yards--either with a fence, an electric fence, or some sort of tie out. In my parents' neighborhood, though, most of the dogs run free. Some of the dogs trot along with us on our walks and are very good about giving Barley her space. The "neighborhood greeter," a sweet little basset hound, gets along with Barley so well that I can put them both in a sit and give her a treat without Barley caring a bit.

My nephew tries to play hard to get to keep this pretty basset lady interested.

Then there are the other dogs. These are the obnoxious ones to deal with--and the reason I don't leave my parents' house with my sprayshield. There's a Westie that I call Mr. Peabody because one day I saw him hanging out in a yard that wasn't his and he lifted his leg and peed on the head of the dachshund that did live there. One day, my sister saw someone take Mr. Peabody back to his house and instead of thanking the woman for bringing the dog home, the owner acted like it was no big deal that the dog was roaming the neighborhood. They also have a hound mix who has been sprayed with sprayshield so many time that I'm pretty sure you could sit next to him and not have to worry about mosquitos coming anywhere near you. I often wonder what their owners think when their dogs come home smelling like citronella.

Porch Sittin'
Houses in the South have porches like nowhere else in the world. My parents' house has a nice little front porch and a magical back deck with a covered area that has a ceiling fan and outdoor tv, so there's a lot of time spent outside.

One afternoon, there was a lovely rain storm--no thunder and lightning, just a nice soothing rain. I tried to show Barley the joy of sitting on the porch watching the rain--she was not impressed.

She was also not impressed with the evenings we spent out on the back deck watching the Pirates (and the Cavs). 

Soth was a big fan of porch sittin'.
Barley also had some additional porch time because my brother, his fiancé, and their dog (Barley's biggest nemesis) came for a weekend. We've gotten the dogs to the point where they can be in the same area as long as Barley's on leash because Hank's learned to stay out of her space, but when Barley's on leash, she's in work mode and knows that her job is to focus on me, so that gets exhausting for her and she can't stay on a leash 24 hours a day. We take turns having one dog on the porch and one inside, or if they're both inside, one is relaxing in a bedroom while the other one is free. It's taken some time, but we're starting to get a system worked out. Barley, however, does not believe in being an outside dog if she's not on a walk. She doesn't want to play in the yard, she doesn't want to lounge in the grass, she definitely doesn't want to be outside if I'm inside--so being the smart little border collie mix she is, she figured out how to open my parents' backdoor (which has a handle instead of a knob) to let herself in. I guess we're back to the drawing board on our dog separation system.

As any of our regular readers know, one of our favorite things about our area is the variety of different places we have to walk. There are over 50 parks within one hour of our front door--we can be at Lake Erie in less than 10 minutes--and we've got a great neighborhood for piecing together walks of many different lengths. If you walk my parents' entire neighborhood, you've walked 2.01 miles and the road outside of their neighborhood is kind of narrow and winding, so it's not the safest place to walk. It's a very pretty neighborhood, but when you need three miles a day to meet your goal, it gets old fast.

Barley with a teeny tiny sliver of a mountain in the background.

There's a nice lake with a walking trail around it near by, but you have to walk 3 laps to get 2 miles, so it's a nice change of scenery from the neighborhood, but not a place to get a lot of good mileage.

There were too many geese for Pup to look at the camera.

Awkward teenage geese.

There are a couple other parks and trails that are dog friendly, but they're all over a 30-minute drive and we were already having to walk around 7 a.m. just to beat the heat (and I am not a morning person), so they weren't as appealing to visit at this time of year.

One plus of walking in the South at this time of year, though, is that everything was in bloom. My favorites were these Dr. Seussian mimosa trees that were blooming all along the interstate (and in my parents' neighborhood) and made for nice scenery on the road trip.

The Dog Run
My parents' yard has a nice fenced in dog run, which is something Barley rarely gets to experience. She has no interest in it, though, unless there's a squirrel on the porch--then she'll tear down the stairs after it, but once it's up a tree, she's ready to come back inside. If I took a ball down into the run, she'd chase it and then run back upstairs with it so I had to go back up the stairs to get it. If I threw it from the top of the stairs, she'd get to the bottom but by that point she'd lost track of where it went and didn't care enough to search for it.

Soth, on the other hand, thinks the dog run is the best thing ever. I normally don't let him down there because he just wants to eat grass, which he comes in and immediately barfs up, but he wore me down with his insistence this time. Barley wasn't really sure if Soth was supposed to be down there, so she tried herding him back up the stairs a couple times.

We had a lovely visit with my family, but we were all happy to be back home this week (except maybe Soth who is missing all of the bird feeders and the dog run). Barley and I were ecstatic on Wednesday when we woke up and it was only 60 degrees, so we got to eat a leisurely breakfast before taking a late morning walk at the lake.

We logged 30.92 miles this week and didn't fall behind where we're supposed to be at this point even though I was separated from my Barley girl for several days. Even though I didn't comment much while we were traveling, I did read as many of your posts as possible and we're very happy to be back linking up for FitDog Friday today!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Multiple Pet Mania--Feeding

Week 3's theme for Multiple Pet Mania is about feeding. My mama has spent my entire life trying to convince me that we should "eat to live, not live to eat" and that "we don't fight over food" (clearly she doesn't understand the heartbreak of polishing off your portion of Pirate's Booty only to find that your brother hasn't even touched his and won't share with you).

Luckily for me, Barley and Soth don't fight over food, but they absolutely share my love of living to eat. As much as they love other activities (hiking for Barley, sunbathing for Soth), their days revolve around when they'll get their next bite to eat. If I go out after Barley's had dinner, when I get home she will spend the rest of the night running from me to her bowl because she knows that once we've had dinner we're settled in for the night. If Soth's dish ends up tragically empty before I'm awake, he'll knock anything he can get his paws on--travel coffee mugs, jars of peanut butter, the paper towel holder--off the counters in a fit of hungry rage until I get up. These two do not play around when it comes to meal time.

Even though it's blurry, this is one of my favorite pictures because they are both licking their lips.

Barley has a lot of issues, but thankfully food aggression is not one of them--she will try to hide from me if I need to take a chew away from her, but once I catch her, she gives it up without a fuss; she shows the same gentleness with her brother at meal time. 

If we touch noses, we might get a snack for being cute.

One of our biggest challenges with feeding is patience--or lack thereof--(and I'm sure they've both inherited this trait from me). Barley's favorite phrase is "Are you hungry?" and the second that question comes out of my mouth, she's dancing in circles all over the house. While we have some training games we play together to work on this, having a multi-pet family actually seems to be a lot of help with building Barley's patience.

We have a very clear breakfast routine each morning. I wash Soth's wet food bowl, get the coffee started, and then dish up some wet food for Soth. Barley is giddy with anticipation, but she knows that her breakfast comes last and that the less dancing she does, the easier it will be for me to get through the rest of the routine quickly. Of course, there are the mornings when she's just sure she hasn't eaten for days and she steps in the water bowl, which prolongs her waiting as I mop things up, but overall she's become a very patient pup when it comes to waiting for food.

Barley was the second dog in this generation of family dogs. She met my parents' dog before I realized that she had issues with other dogs--and other than a few minor scuffles, they get along swimmingly--but I was worried about how feeding them would go over when they are together because Barley does get so excited about dinner time.

Maz patiently lies in wait for her treat, Maddux sits for his, and Barley does something somewhere in between.

We've got feeding them down to an art, though. We put their bowls on opposite sides of the kitchen and I give my mom's dog a 3-second head start before I tell Barley she can eat and then they usually finish at the same time. When they're both done, they switch and lick out each other's bowls--just in case a crumb was missed. If my sister's dog is there, too, she stands guard by him because he eats a little more slowly than the other dogs do, but they're usually too busy cleaning each other's bowls to worry about what's left in Maddux's dish.

If the girls get a longer-lasting snack, like a Frosty Paws or a dental chew, it's not uncommon for Barley to settle down with her so that some part of her is touching part of Maz and if I have them do a synchronized down, they often end up "holding paws" and Barley has no issues with Maz being in her space. Honestly, the only problem that comes up is that Barley's excitement over food is contagious and my parents' dog usually picks up on the happy dinner dance, which is not my dad's favorite behavior, but I can't fault them for it since I'm usually doing a happy dinner dance myself.

You don't mind that my tail is on your leg, do you, Maz?

The only challenge we haven't been able to work through is the fact that Barley thinks cat food is more delicious than dog food. Soth's dishes stay on the kitchen counter (which makes me crazy) because that's the only place in our apartment that's harder for Barley to get his food, but Barley will jump onto the counter (all four feet) to get to it. 

Luckily, I'd temporarily put the cat food on top of the fridge before I stepped outside for a minute.

When we were training for the TDI test, we used cat food to practice walking with food in her path--cat food wins out over the shredded chicken they used in our test, so I knew that if she could walk over cat food with no problems, that item on the test would be a breeze (and it was--it was just the down in wet grass that she wanted nothing to do with). This dog can walk over an entire container of spilled nachos with gooey cheese sauce in the middle of the sidewalk without batting an eye. I can leave an open bag of popcorn (her next favorite food) next to her on the bed while I leave the room and she won't touch it. If I put a bowl of cat food on the floor between us and call her to heel, she will run right past it (although she does look longingly at the bowl on the way). But if she's snoring away on the couch with cat food on the counter and I get up to go to the bathroom, she's immediately awake and trying to scramble onto the counter. It's a losing battle.

With Soth's FLUTD, he needs regular meals of wet food throughout the day to supplement his regular water intake, so there's usually food out for him at all times, especially since he prefers to pick at his food throughout the day rather than eat a full can all at once. That's not really something I can change to prevent the Barley Beast from stealing his food, so I try divide his cans up into several tiny meals throughout the day so she gets less of it if she does succeed in getting to it and then if we're going out for a hike or to agility class, I can give him a bigger portion since there won't be anyone to bother his food. If anyone has ideas on how to keep a crazy, food-obsessed dog off of counters, please send them my way.

Basically, though, at our house we all just appreciate a good meal and we enjoy each other's company while we eat--even if we're all too focused on shoveling food in our mouths to have quality dinner conversation.

Even when I'm cooking for me, Barley is excited. Lesson to everyone: "If you give a pig a pancake,  she'll want some syrup to go with it."

Be sure to check out the other blogs linking up with My GBGV Life, Wag 'n Woof Pets, and Cascadian Nomads to see about other adventures in multi-pet living!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tuesdays Tomes: Quick Lit: Dog Books

Now that sweet summer vacation is here, I've been reading a lot--some for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge and some not--so for this month's Quick Lit hop, I'm focusing on the dog books I've been reading lately.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. I'll admit--I didn't know this was a dog book when I bought it and it's much more than just a dog book. Yes, there's a dog on the cover, but I bought the book not really having any idea what it was about. It's one that regularly showed up in my recommendations from Amazon, so when it was on a clearance shelf for under $7, I had to buy it. Salvage the Bones is the story of 15-year-old Esch and her family living in Mississippi in the 12 days leading up to and following Hurricane Katrina. This book is beautifully written. Esch's voice is incredible; I felt her pain, her confusion, her hope as she struggled with the knowledge that she was pregnant (which is information from the book jacket--no spoilers here!). But this book broke my heart. Esch's brother Skeetah's best friend is his pure white pit bull China, who's just had puppies when the novel opens. Skeetah intends to sell the puppies as fighters, just like their mom. Every single page where China was fighting made me cringe. I wanted to hate Skeetah. But I couldn't--he was a 16-year-old kid whose mother was dead and whose father was an alcoholic, whose family had one communal wardrobe, mostly large men's shirts--and he wanted to sell the puppies so he could pay for his older brother to go to basketball camp where he'd be seen by scouts who could give him scholarships, which in Skeetah's eyes was the only way Randall would get to college. And Skeetah did love China--he mowed lawns so that he could have money to buy her the most expensive food he could buy, even though he and his siblings mostly ate eggs and Ramen noodles; he told his dad that if he wouldn't let China stay in the house during the storm, he'd stay in the shed with her. Ward's descriptions of the relationship been Skeetah and China are breathtaking. I'm so very glad I read this book and it might find it's way onto a syllabus for one of my future classes, but it's not a fun read (although I think it does end on a hopeful note) and anyone who picks it up should expect to have their heart broken into many, many pieces.

The Trouble with Tuck by Theodore Taylor. This was my selection for a book from your childhood for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge. I discovered this book in 3rd grade during a class library visit. I picked it out for two reasons: there were dogs on the cover and the girl on the cover reminded me of my mom's high school pictures. I fell in love with the book and reread it every year until probably 11th grade. I never owned it because I knew exactly where I could find it at the library. Eventually, I bought a copy as an adult, but I never reread it because I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my memories, but it was the most obvious choice for my selection for this category. The Trouble with Tuck tells the story of Helen, whose parents get her a yellow lab puppy to help build her confidence. In their first few years together, Tuck saves Helen several times--once from a sexual predator in the park (although I'm not sure I picked up on what was happening when I read that as a child--it was just stranger danger), once from drowning. Then one day, Tuck runs through the screen door when he hears cats fighting in their yard and Helen's mother realizes there's a problem with Tuck's eyes. Helen's family tries to do what's right for Tuck, who has always hopped their fence and taken himself for walks that included crossing busy streets, but his spirit is broken when he's chained in the yard all day. Helen decides that the only option is to get Tuck a seeing eye dog. The book presents a very, very simplified version of dog training as Helen tries to get Tuck to accept retired guide dog Lady Daisy, but it shows how the best training comes from a place of love and requires patience and time. I was afraid that I would hate this book now that I have a dog as an adult and one of my biggest pet peeves is roaming neighborhood dogs, but none of that mattered (maybe because it was set in the 1950s?). I still loved everything about this book and highly recommend it, especially if you have dog-loving children in your life.

Paw Enforcement by Diane Kelly. I stumbled upon this one in Barnes and Noble one day while I was looking for a cat mystery (Soth sometimes seems offended when I read too many dog books, so I try to occasionally throw one in the mix), but I found this one and the sequel Paw and Order instead. These are silly books for when you just need a mental break. The series focuses on Megan, a cop in Fort Worth, who tasers her sexist partner in his man parts when she gets fed up with his rude remarks. As punishment, she's assigned to Brigit, a K9 partner whose old partner has left the force. In each book, they work together to solve a crime. You'll be horrified by the the amount of junk food Megan feeds Brigit and the mischief Brigit gets into when she discovers Megan's shoe collection; there are also things Brigit does that I can't believe any highly trained K9 would actually do while working (ex. stealing a pretzel from a toddler in a stroller while on patrol at the rodeo)--but if you can suspend your disbelief, these are fun books when you don't want to think. According to the bio at the end of the book, Kelly was a romance writer before this series--and there are definitely parts where that shows through. There are some pick up lines the characters use that are hysterical and some descriptions of their dates that I kept having to remind myself this was a crime book, not a trashy romance, but overall it kind of reminded me of the dysfunctional, but delightful partnership in ABC's show Castle--but with a dog instead of a writer.

Good Dog by David DiBenedetto and the editors of Gun & Garden magazine. This is one I got for Christmas that I've been stretching out throughout the year. It's a collection of short essays about dogs, covering everything from hunting to training to companionship. Since it's from Gun & Garden, many of the dogs in the stories are hunting dogs, but the stories are all relatable even to someone who has never held a gun (but is more than happy to eat bacon-wrapped venison that other people have hunted for) and has a gun-shy dog. There are many, many stories about people who get dogs for a specific type of hunting, only to find out that the dog is not the dog they thought they wanted, but might actually be the dog they needed. I save this one for nights when I've just finished a book and I'm not quite ready to start something new or when I know I can only stay awake to read a few pages. This is truly a book for dog people and there's something everyone can relate to in this book. No matter what story the reader is being told, each essay is really about what it means to love and share a life with a dog.

I've got an entire book shelf filled with just dog books, so I'm sure this list could be much longer, but these the ones I've been reading this month. Stay tuned next month for my post on a book published this year because I'm impatiently waiting on the release of the next book in my very favorite dog series! Also be sure to check out the other great blogs linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for the Quick Lit hop!

What have you been reading this month? What are your favorite dog books?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Multiple Pet Mania--House Cleaning

This week's theme for Multiple Pet Mania Month is house cleaning and grooming. Luckily for me, both pets are pretty low maintenance as far as grooming goes, so besides the usual brushing, furminating, and nail care, they don't require anything too special, so this week I'm just going to focus on the joys of housework with more than one pet. (Of course, as soon as I typed that, I noticed Soth had unidentifiable brown smudges on the side of his face and had to tackle him with a washcloth--sigh.)

What do you mean we don't need special grooming? Barley has stinky feet!

House cleaning is my least favorite part of owning any pet, much less multiple pets. I hate cleaning--every last part of it: dishes, laundry, vacuuming, mopping, dusting. I guess I can't really blame the pets. Cleaning has always been something I've put off until the last minute (aka the night before I have plans for someone to come over). Multiple pets just exacerbate the problem.

What do you mean? I picked up this cat toy. I'm very helpful.

I wish I had good advice to offer about how to stay on top of house cleaning with multiple pets, but the pets generally do their best to make housework even more difficult. Here are a few examples:

Barley is not afraid of the vacuum. In fact, the vacuum tends to bring out her "hero mode." I spend several minutes picking up all of the dog toys from the floor before vacuuming and the second I turn on the vacuum she runs to get one out again. She'll drop it a good distance front of the vacuum, walk away, and then rush in at the last moment to save her toy.

Barley also hates the sight of a clean floor. When I finish vacuuming, she usually goes and grabs a mouthful of kitty litter and spits it out in the middle of the floor. Then there's all the fun stuff she tracks in from the yard--whether it's a snow covered toy or the little helicopter seed pod things.

Because Soth has bladder problems, we've become a 3-litterbox household. Since our apartment has limited non-carpeted spots, that means that we have litter boxes on the carpet and Soth likes to kick litter around. I spend a lot of time with the dustpan and a little brush trying to keep my carpets from being covered in litte (and we only use recycled paper litter in the boxes that are on carpet, which helps keep clay from being ground into the carpet).

With Soth's FLUTD, accidents are inevitable, so I bought a steam cleaner shortly after he was diagnosed. Usually, a few hours after I steam clean the carpets, he barfs on them. At first, I thought he might be reacting to the cleaning solution, but it also happens when I use water and vinegar or just straight water instead of cleaner. He peed on the steam cleaner that I had stored in a corner of the room for easy access, which leads me to the next point.

My apartment has a lot of closets. When Soth decided to pee on the steam cleaner, I had to make room in the closet for the steam cleaner. My bedroom closet also has really awesome shelves that I thought would be good for storing linens and sweaters.

What do you mean these shelves are for storage?

Soth was also determined to make it up to the top shelf in the closet. He'd stand on the back of the chair that's near my closet and leap. Sometimes, he would just barely make it on to the shelf and it's high enough that I was afraid he'd really get hurt. I tried just keeping the closet doors closed, but Soth figured out how to pull them open. So I had to come up with another solution--and now I have to rearrange things every time I need to get linens out of the closet or find a pair of shoes.

This is taller than I am, but it puts Soth right up to the top shelf safely.

Of course, now that he has access to even more of the shelves, he wants to have all of the shelves to himself and pulls things off of them to make his own little cat caves.

This comforter was in my way, so I pushed it out.

Not only do the pets ensure that I need to do a lot of laundry, Soth also insists on helping to fold the laundry.

A freshly washed towel is too warm and snuggly to resist.

Barley's favorite part of doing laundry is when it's time to change the sheets on the bed. She loves to get tangled in the fitted sheet and hop up onto the bed between every step of putting new sheets on.

Like laundry, the pets also create a lot of extra dishes to do. Soth needs to drink a lot of water because of his FLUTD, so we have 3 water bowls in our 2 bedroom apartment so that he's never far from water. Those have to be washed and refilled regularly. Soth also has to eat a lot of wet food in his diet, so I get to wash his little food dishes several times a day, too. Soth also insists that I do all of my dishes regularly by knocking coffee thermoses off the counters when he gets hangry.

Soth gets a lot of hair balls, so he gets regular doses of Cat Lax--which is basically this molasses-y, vaseline-like stuff that I put on his paw so he licks it off and then it coats the hairball and helps it pass through. Soth acts like he's been mortally wounded when you put Cat Lax on him, so he flicks his paw around and limps around until he realizes that it's not going anywhere. Except it does go everywhere. Soth is short--but somehow he manages to get that stuff all the way up around the light switches! And leaves a trail on the floors. And on the bed.

Why did you put this stuff on my toes?!

Cat Lax several feet up on the door frame.

Luckily, Barley is a good little helper and she follows him around and licks up whatever she can find, but I still find it in random spots throughout the house.

Barley loves trash. She doesn't out in the real world--she'll leave a slice of pizza in the middle of the sidewalk without batting an eyelash, but put an empty can of cat food or some leftovers dug out of the back of the fridge in the trashcan in the house and the second I go to the bathroom, she finds a way to get it out--even if it's at the bottom of the can--without making a noise or tipping it over. I thought if I got a trashcan that had a lid that was flush with the rest of the can instead of with a lip like our old one had, she'd have a harder time getting into it.

For about a month, it worked. But now she's got it figured out. Unfortunately, none of the stores near us had locking lids in our price range, so we're back to the drawing board on this one.

Barley and Soth have made me rethink my standards of cleanliness. There was a time when I was horrified by the thought of a litter box on a carpeted floor, but then I realized that a few more litter boxes in Soth's problem areas was much better than constantly cleaning the carpet. No matter how much Barley is brushed, she sheds all the time and I could vacuum multiple times a day and fill up the vacuum, so I've learned to keep myself sane by accepting a certain amount of dog hair on the carpet and vacuuming a couple times a week. Ultimately, I'd rather spend time hanging out with my pets than cleaning up after them, so we've learned to compromise--and next winter's cabin fever project will teaching Barley to pick up her own toys.

How do you keep your house from turning into a disaster zone with multiple pets? Seriously, please tell me all your secrets because I have no idea. Be sure to check out the other blogs linking up with Cascadian Nomads, Wag 'N Woof Pets, and My GBGV Life to see how other multi-pet homes keep up with cleaning and grooming!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Rediscovering Girdled Road Reservation

On Monday morning, I was cleaning out my closet and putting together a bag of clothes to drop off at Goodwill this week. I had pulled out all of the shorts and skirts that I've collected over the years and decided it was time to try them on and get rid of things that didn't fit or were too young for me now. As soon as I pulled off a pair of shorts that were too short for any self-respecting 30-year-old to wear, there was a knock at the door.

Strangely, Barley didn't bark and I was sure it was my landlord who had said he was going to come fix my bathtub--I was afraid he'd think we were out for a walk and come in, so I quickly looked around for something to pull on that wouldn't make me look like I'd just put on the first thing I pulled out of the closet. Then I gave a quick glance to see what state the bathroom was in and noticed a puddle of cat pee in the tub, so I frantically tried to clean that before running to the door.

Sure enough, it was my landlord and he wanted to fix the tub. He checked a few things, left, and came back with another guy. Barley let them pet her while I held her collar, but as soon as they quit paying attention to her, she wanted to bark nonstop. I stuck her in her crate and she stayed quiet for a few minutes, then she'd lose her mind again. I mean, how dare someone come to our apartment for any reason other than to sit on the floor and give her belly rubs? My landlord had to get some supplies and asked if we'd be home all day--I know he prefers to work on things when Barley's out of the way, so I told him we'd go for an adventure.

I knew we needed to go somewhere farther away than the state park to make sure we gave him plenty of time. In an effort to switch things up and not always go to the Arboretum, I decided to try another park we hadn't visited in ages, Girdled Road Reservation (another of the lovely Lake Metroparks). To get to this park, we take the same exit we take to get to the Arboretum, but to get to the Arboretum we turn right and to get to Girdled Road we turn left. Barley did not hesitate to tell me we'd taken a wrong turn and barked from the moment we turned left until we turned into the parking lot.

When we pulled into the parking lot, there was a young guy with an energetic (but delightfully well behaved) dog, so instead of taking the longer trail, we did a quick warm up lap on the short 1.2-mile loop to give them a head start and I'm so very glad we did.

Lots of balance work as we did the loop. Keeping that core strong.

We had a ton of rain over the weekend, so there were a lot of leaves along the trail and a bunch of interesting petals--I was so happy to find a full flower in the middle of the trail.

We also saw this sweet snail on the trail. Unfortunately, when Barley tried to figure out why I'd stopped and squatted down in the middle of the trail, she kicked some gravel up and scared him back into his shell.

My very favorite part, though, was seeing an owl sitting in one of the trees. I love owls. I'm always drawn to owl home decor, jewelry, and clothes (if there's not a border collie or white cat option, of course), but I rarely get to see them on the trail because I try to stick to more open areas during the hours owls tend to be out since Barley and I don't want to have any weirdos sneaking up on us on the trail. Monday, though, it was cool and grey, so I guess the owl decided to look for an afternoon snack.

After our quick warm up loop, we headed to the big trail. At Girdled Road, there's a big 4-mile loop with a few other short trails that branch off of the loop. This loop is labeled as difficult and they definitely are not lying. This park is full of inclines, which is why we usually avoid it. Last week, I lamented the 81-foot in .25 miles elevation gain at Chapin Forest, but that's nothing compared to the inclines at Girdled Road.

The first big incline is 77-feet in .09 miles and every single time I'm pretty sure going up that hill is going to be the last thing I do.

Why does it look like your heart is going to pop out of your chest, Mom?
As soon as I recover from that, we have a 156-foot incline over .55 miles. That one doesn't seem as bad as the first, but I am always grateful when there's something interesting to stop and have a photo op with, so I can catch my breath.

She might look happy, but I know that at the end of this bridge there's a huge staircase.

We've never finished the full 4-mile loop because I think the trail signs are really confusing--it feels like in the Wizard of Oz when the Scarecrow points left with this right arm and right with his left and it doesn't make any sense that going in one direction would take us farther from the parking lot we started at when it seems to be looping back in the direction of our parking lot, so we've always gone the same way just because we're comfortable with it.  Some day, we'll try the other direction.

Since we had so much rain, there were a few places where there were branches down across the trail, so we did a little trail agility, too.

The weather was ridiculous for the first of may--cloudy and hovering around 50 degrees. With the shade, I was chilly even with a long sleeve shirt and a light jacket. But it was amazing what a difference the cooler weather made with Barley. I mentioned that she had been tripping and had me a little worried a couple weeks ago--we'd cut back on our mileage a bit and divided the miles we did get into several shorter walks a day. Even with that, she was still kind of tripping every now and then last week. Today, there was no tripping and she was begging to keep walking.

5.37 miles and I'm ready for a s'mores frappuccino--Barley's ready to keep walking.

When we started nearing the car, Barley still had a lot of energy and even though we could see the car, she wasn't interested in going back there, so we added a partial loop on the easy trail we'd started on before heading back to the car.

We ended up getting in 6.2 miles and logging our fastest 10k (note: we have probably only done 3 10ks all in one go ever in our lives; even though we've had many 6+ mile days, we usually split them up into 2 walks--so this record is probably not that impressive, but it's always fun to see the Garmin flash the new record screen).

There was no running involved in this adventure, but my Garmin thinks there was.

Despite the pain--and the fact that I didn't think I would ever be able to get off the couch again once we got home--we had a great adventure. I can't say I was completely surprised to see that my bathtub had not actually been fixed despite the fact that we were out of the house for 5 hours, so there will probably be more adventures in our near future. Hope everyone else has had adventure-filled weeks. Happy FitDog Friday! We're linking up with SlimDoggy, My GBGV Life, and To Dog With Love, so be sure to stop by all of the other blogs participating this week, too!