Monday, August 31, 2015


My students are never sure what to think when I compare them to Barley and I have to remind them that Barley is one of my two very favorite things in the entire world.

Someone wouldn't want to be compared to me?

Barley patterns very well. Barley's a quick learner and once she's done something once, she's can usually do it again. This is nice if we are running the same course a couple times in class, but not as nice when our trainer has us practice a trap--like discrimination between a tunnel and the dog walk--and then has us do the other obstacle on our next turn. That means I have to work that much harder to make sure she does it right the second time--and even if I give the right cues, she's so certain that she's right and I'm wrong, she often will take the obstacle we're supposed to be avoiding.

The new semester started today and I learned that my students also pattern very well. For the last several years, I've been in the same class (my favorite on campus) for every single class. Even though I have an office and office hours, my students know that I usually teach my classes back to back and if they have a quick question between classes, there's a good chance I'll be in that room setting up for the next class. This semester, 3 of my 4 face-to-face classes are in that room. The one that is not is full of students that I have had in previous semesters--in my regular room.

When I got to class this morning, the room was almost empty. Knowing these students well, I knew it was unlike them to miss class, especially the first class. A few minutes after I started handing out the syllabus, a large group of them came in together. They'd all gone up to "my" room and weren't sure what to do when they realized it wasn't me in the classroom.

After class finished, one of my most reliable students walked in as I was packing up my books. She said, "I went upstairs and sat down. I knew I wasn't in the right place because I know what you look like and I knew that wasn't you, but I just didn't know where to go, so I sat there."

I had to laugh. All of their schedules had the correct room number printed on the schedule, but they were so sure they knew where to find me, they had to check the other room first. We went on to have a great first class and I think we're all going to adjust just fine to the new room.

Barley, on the other hand, had a tougher time with the adjustments to our schedule. When I got home, she just followed me around and when I stopped, she'd sit and stare at me. By the time I put on my workout clothes, I thought she was going to just have a meltdown. So we snuggled up in bed and took a nap instead. Send my girl so good vibes as she adjusts to our new routine this week!

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Slow Week

I had every intention of having some sort of fun post all ready for today. This was my last week of summer vacation, so I planned on making the most of it with my Barley girl. Unfortunately, the universe had other plans for me.

We'd planned on sticking close to home over the weekend, and we did accomplish that. With all of the local elementary, middle, and high schools starting back this week, we figured the parks would be overrun with kids and cyclists, so we avoided them.

On Monday, I had a full day of meetings about the state of the campus, things to keep in mind this year, and discussions that probably could have been at least shortened with the help of a quick email survey. Of course, the fact that I had to be inside all day meant that the weather was perfect: sunny, a light breeze, and about 70 degrees. I spent most of the meetings dreaming about the end of the day when I could whisk Barley away to the park.

After that walk, all of our plans for the week were thwarted. It rained all day Tuesday--and while we got in a short, rainy walk, it was about 58 degrees and neither of us were thrilled about the arrangement.

On Wednesday, I'd planned a nice day of walking after my hair cut, but while leaving my apartment complex to go to my hair cut, someone backed her car into my car (everyone is fine--my car is not) and I ended up having to push the appointment back while I dealt with insurance fun. We did manage a short, but nice neighborhood walk later in the afternoon and then finished out our mileage with a friend later in the evening, but it wasn't the day of adventure we'd originally planned on.

Thursday was going to be an arboretum adventure day because we'd recently discovered a trail we'd never been on and I wanted to check it out more.

Instead, I had to deal with getting a rental car. (This trade off was ok because my front driver's door no longer opens and the only way in and out is to crawl over the passenger seat. I was beginning to worry that I was going to have to buy those dress yoga pants so that I could get out of the car on the first day of classes without splitting my pants.)

It wasn't quite the fit week that I'd had planned, but we still managed to exceed our goals by a little bit and logged 25.37 miles. This may become the new normal for us as I go back to teaching in just a matter of days and the walking routine we've had all summer is coming to an end.

Happy FitDog Friday everyone!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tour Guide Barley

This week, my aunt and cousin came up to do a little adventuring in our area. Barley was more than happy to put on her tour guide had and show them around.

Earlier this summer, we'd gone to Cuyahoga Valley National Park to scope out different parts of the park to take them to on their visit, so that was adventure spot #1. We opted for the trails Brandywine Falls where Barley was happy to splash in the creek on a muggy day.

The last time we were at CVNP, I opted not to go down the stairs to the lower observation deck because there were so many people there. We got there in between the ranger-led tours and there were only a few other people braving the humidity, so we embraced the stairs--and the view of the falls was well worth it. I only wish I'd gone before when there had been more rain and the falls had been more impressive.

There were some nice cool, damp rocks along the trail down to the lower observation deck that Barley enjoyed taking a break at.

We had a nice picnic lunch, but Barley was totally uninterested in staying all the way on her mat because she wanted to be close enough to my aunt that she could easily get some potato chips should some accidentally find their way onto the ground.

With the warm temperatures, we weren't up for much more of a hike at the park after lunch, so we moved on to adventure spot #2: Lake View Cemetery. The cemetery houses the graves of many famous Clevelanders, from business tycoons to major league baseball players, and many of those graves have impressive monuments and sculptures. Dogs aren't allowed to wander within the sections, but they are allowed on the paved roads between the sections and other grassy areas where they won't be on a grave.

There are a couple big attractions within the cemetery, including the Wade Chapel where there's a stained glass window and tile mosaic from the Tiffany studios. President Garfield is also buried here inside a massive monument. Barley wasn't allowed inside the buildings, but I'd already seen inside of them and we were happy to do a little bit of a stroll while my aunt and cousin checked them out.

My aunt is a quilter and has been doing the Row by Row Experience this summer where you pick up different rows from quilt shops across the country and put them together to create a quilt, so I was instructed to find as many participating quilt shops in my area as I could. Quilt Shop #3 was conveniently at the same exit as Squire's Castle in North Chagrin Reservation--one of my favorite places to visit with Barley--so we made that adventure spot #3. We didn't get much of a walk in as it was getting later in the day and my aunt's arthritis makes it harder for her to walk on the trails, but we spent a lot of time wandering around inside the shell of the castle.

As we'd driven around the day before doing non-dog-friendly adventures, we'd passed the Harpersfield Covered Bridge and my aunt wanted a picture of it. Since it's only a few miles from home, we made that our final adventure spot of the day. We don't come to the bridge park often because the trail isn't very long and often there's glass along the trail, but it's a pretty place for pictures, so we visit whenever we have company and Barley likes to stick her toes in the river.

While we had fun at all of the different stops on our whirlwind tour, my favorite part of the visit was taking them to our agility class. We've never had anyone go to class with us before because it's during the week and most of our visitors come on the weekends. My cousin was happy to be part of the jump crew, which meant we got even more turns than usual because we had an extra person without a dog to worry about helping out, and she took some pictures and videos of us during class. 

I was worried that Barley would be distracted with two extra people in class, but she did such a good job staying focused on me. My cousin was sitting right on the edge of the course and Barley had to go over jumps just a few feet away from her several times, but she never once tried to go over to say hi during her turns and she never ran around like a crazy dog. 

It was fun to have someone to take some pictures for us since I only get to see what Barley looks like from one angle during class. Unfortunately, our current set of classmates is still learning to weave, so our trainer only put 6 weave poles on the course, so there's not footage of Barley doing 12, but she was less confused this week by going back down to 6 than she was the week before.

We crammed so much into just a few days that Barley and I didn't exceed our mileage requirements by too much this week, especially since we had a couple days where we didn't meet our 3-mile minimum, but we did manage to make up for that on other days and got in 25.67 miles this week. I can't believe how quickly this week has gone by--only one more week of summer and then Barley and I will be singing the back to work blues!

Monday, August 17, 2015

8 Photos of Happiness

Since I've been home and catching up on the last couple weeks of everyone's blogs, I've been seeing a lot of happiness thanks to the 8 photos of happiness tag. Jan from Wag 'n Woof Pets tagged me to participate--and y'all, this was really one of the hardest things I've had to do.

On the surface, the rules are simple. The idea originated with Ariel's Little Corner of the Internet and the goal is to spread happiness. You choose 8 photos of anything that makes you happy: moments, objects, people, pets, places. If you want to give a brief description of the photo, you can or you can let the photos do the talking. Then you tag up to 10 other bloggers.

I tried to find photos that I hadn't shared already. In fact, I didn't even look at any photos taken in 2015 so that even if I did repeat some, they would be older ones. But that didn't make things any easier. I mean, so many things make me happy: my family, my friends, alpacas, books, beer, flowers, butterflies, travel, and every single picture I have ever taken of my pets. As I browsed my photo library, I narrowed it down to 23--as I'm typing this, I'm still not even the tiniest bit sure of which 8 are going to make the cut, but I hope the photos spread a little of the happiness they bring me every time I look at them.

Photo #1: In life before Barley, I hated snow. But Barley loves snow. She's really taught me to embrace snow. There are so many fun pictures of her, but I think this one of her "dashing through the snow" really captures her snow spirit. 

Photo #2: I know this one--or one from this day at least--has been posted before. This is Barley with her Canine Good Citizen certificate and the ribbon from our training center. In most cases, Barley is such a normal dog now. We can walk in our neighborhood and she doesn't pay attention to dogs barking in their yards, but there was a time when she couldn't do this and our CGC test marked the first year and a half of really hard work on both of our parts and it makes me so happy to think back on how far we've come.

Photo #3: This is one of my favorite photos. I've been cheering the Pirates on with my dad my entire life and I love PNC Park, so this photo captures so many of my favorite things.

Photo #4: Soth is not a snuggler. Despite being told by the shelter volunteers that he'd be happy on my lap all day, Soth rarely sits on my lap. But this afghan that my dad's grandma made is magic. If I'm covered up with this blanket, Soth comes out from wherever he's lurking and sits on my lap and purrs away. Also, on this particular day, we were watching the Dancing with the Stars finale where Maks and Meryl won the mirror ball trophy (#MaksAndMerylForLife). You probably don't know this, but I'm a huge DWTS fan and every season my college friends and I have in-depth Facebook discussions of the episodes, and during this particular season, we had just reunited for the first time in years and watched night one of the finale together in person--only to find out that the finale was actually 2 nights, so we were texting at this moment, so there's lots of happiness behind the scenes of this photo, too.

Photo #5: Last summer, my grandparents came out to my parents' house from Colorado and the pets and I happened to be in Alabama then, too. They'd met Soth before when I lived in New Mexico, but they'd never met my Barley girl.

Photo #6: The only thing missing from this photo is my brother (who is missing from every photo--clearly we need to take more photos). Last summer, my parents, my sister, and I went to the space center in Huntsville, AL and then went to taste beer at Straight to Ale as my dad's birthday celebration. No birthday is complete without ice cream--and I hadn't had it since I went on a space center field trip in 5th grade, so I insisted we have some together. We also ate this on the bench near Miss Baker the monkeynaut's grave.

Photo #7: There are so many things I love about this photo. One, I never get tired of seeing sibling kisses between Barley and Soth. For the longest time, I never thought they'd get this close to each other and now Soth regularly rubs against Barley's legs. Also, I love Soth in bags. If you look closely, you might notice that the handle is dangling down from the top of the bag--I have to cut the handles on bags because Soth always gets his head stuck in them and can't get himself back out, which also makes me laugh.

Photo #8: Soth is my handsome boy and I just love everything about this picture. (Sidenote: I know poinsettias are poisonous--he was monitored very closely back when I actually still had living plants in my house.) Soth just looks so good in red and seeing him beside a pretty red plant makes me so happy. In fact, it makes me so happy that I painted this picture. Also, this photo was taken in my living room window in my old apartment--my very first apartment, which I adored and wish I could have moved across the country with me--and Soth and I used to stand in this window and watch parades go by, which just made me very happy.

Apologies to my brother Ben, John Mayer, my first Pound Puppies, Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House, the Dickinson Homestead, my sister's kindergarteners, Thirsty Dog Brewing Co., and Rosie and Mick--the ducks who lived in my parents old neighborhood, who were all very close to making the cut and bring me lots of joy on a regular basis.

I know this is the point where I'm supposed to tag other bloggers to share their pictures, but I think literally every single blog I read, except for my sister over at Lindsey Likes to Run has done this already (Linds, if you do this, make sure there's a picture of our brother!). If anyone else has been unplugged for the last couple weeks like I have been and you haven't done this yet, consider yourself tagged!

Friday, August 14, 2015

His Notice Sudden Is

I apologize for being MIA the last couple weeks. Barley, Soth, and I took off for Alabama to celebrate my dad's birthday and have one last getaway before the new school year starts. I had every intention of joining in on at least the FitDog Friday fun, but I was hot and lazy and it just didn't happen.

Most of our Alabama visit was uneventful with very little to report. Almost every day, we got up to be out the door for a walk by 7:00 because even then it was hot and steamy. This was not an easy feat because I am not a morning person and Barley will sleep in as long as I will as long as she can snuggle up beside me.

I've mentioned that our walks there aren't very exciting. My parents' neighborhood is 3 streets and full of loose dogs, so they are stressful but also a little boring after you do the same walk twice a day for almost two weeks. There are few dog-friendly places to walk and the few close by trails have very little shade. 

To spice things up a bit, I did a little research about some trails near Birmingham, which is about an hour drive. (One of my searches for best dog trails in Birmingham came back with these great looking parks--I was very sad when I realized they were for trails in a Birmingham in the UK!) We found a park called Moss Rock Preserve and convinced my mom to wake up early and load our dogs in the car for a little morning adventure.

Ready for adventure!

The park was nice. There were clear trails and lots of shade, so even though it warmed up quickly we were able to get in a decent hike with lots of water breaks.

Barley insisted on crashing my mom and her dog's picture.

There were a lot fun rock formations. Apparently a lot of people come to this park to rock climb and Barley did a little bit of that herself.

On the way back to the car, we decided to take a different trail back to the parking lot to see the other side of the park. Shortly after we crossed the bridge over the stream, I saw something slither by Barley's foot. I froze. I looked down. I screamed. Barley was a few feet ahead of me and on a rock between us was a copperhead. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to step over it and I didn't want Barley to have to step over it, either. 

I noticed there was about a foot off to the side of it where one of us could potentially sneak around it. Since my mom and her dog were behind us, it seemed more logical to get Barley back on our side of the snake than trying to get all three of us on her side.

I angled myself hoping that I could call Barley through that little space. I took a deep breath and called her. To my horror, she stepped on the snake! Luckily, the rock was slanted and it rolled off the rock, so we sprinted back towards the bridge. When I stopped and turned around, the snake was coiled up at the bottom of the rock. Emily Dickinson said it best when she described the feeling of seeing a snake as making you go "zero at the bone." This was without a doubt the scariest moment of my life with Barley.

Why are you so nervous? This is a great adventure!

We decided to just retrace our steps on the original trail and forget about adventure. I had officially had more than enough than enough nature, so we stopped by Starbucks on the way home and I was content with the boring neighborhood walks the rest of our visit.

This adventure contributed to  26.28 miles last week and we've continued that trend--meeting our goals, but not getting too many extra miles--with 26.70 miles this week. We're looking forward to catching up on what everyone else has been doing while we've been away!!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Life in a Tourist Town

Many of you probably know that I'm a huge Gilmore Girls fan and love finding similarities between the fictional Stars Hollow and my real life town. We have a calendar full of festivals--the Grape Jamboree, the Covered Bridge Festival, Ghoulfest, Winterfest, and plenty more in between--and I love them all. Recently, my Gilmore fervor has been reignited by the discovery of the Gilmore Guys podcast--I may or may not have listened to 9 episodes on my drive from Alabama back home to Ohio earlier this week.

On the podcast, they regularly talk about how important the townies are in Stars Hollow. As Barley and I walked at the lake yesterday, I realized that is the one major difference between my town and Stars Hollow. Of course, we have our townies, but what makes our town unique is really the tourists. While Stars Hollow has Kirk with a new job every episode, Taylor with his cardigan, and Miss Patty's  flirtations, Barley and I have noticed several unique types of tourists that make our home special.

The New Friends
This is Barley's favorite category of tourist. We're in wine country, so lots of people come stay at the lodge on the lake and visit the wineries. They do a little daydrinking and by the time we show up for our evening walk, they're really missing their dogs back home. They say things like "Hi puppy! You're so happy! Are you enjoying your walk?" I ask Barley if she wants to say hi and she turns to putty in their hands. She gives kisses and wags her tail and makes her way from one member of the group to the next while they talk about which dogs they know at home she reminds them of.

Don't worry, I still love you more than my new friends.

The Know-it Alls
These are the people that make me grateful for my southern upbringing that reminds me to be polite and just think "bless their hearts" while I smile and nod. Sometimes these are people who insist on breaking down what Barley is. They analyze her face shape, her coloring, and especially her tail. I don't mind people making guesses about what she is, but after I say, "The shelter said border collie, but I'm not sure what else is in there," I don't have have much more to contribute to these conversations. They say, "Oh, that tail is definitely [insert obscure dog breed here]" and I don't know what else to say besides "it's possible." Eventually we just stand there awkwardly trying to find a way to continue on our walk. The more obnoxious know-it alls are the ones who make comments like the one we heard yesterday from an old lady who said, "Are you trying to tire that dog out?" I said yes and she responded, "That will take a long time. Bigger dogs take longer to get tired. You'll get tired before she does." I just wanted to be like duh and list off the number of miles we've walked this week, what activities we've done in the house between walks, and our agility schedule. Instead, I just said, "Yes, ma'am" and kept walking.

The Inquirers
These are some of my favorite tourists. They stop us with questions. Often about Barley's training or where I got her. It's a good chance to talk about training and pet adoption. They've also usually got some similarities to the new friends and give Barley a little bit of love while we chat. I always leave these interactions feeling really proud of my dog and our hard work in training.

You should be proud of me. Once upon a time, I couldn't even look at a deer without melting down.

The Observers
Just when I start bursting with pride, we usually encounter an observer. Sometimes these people are people who are sitting on a bench and make comments like "that's a nice dog" as we walk by, but more often than not, these are the people who catch us at our most embarrassing moments. These are the people who see me jump and squeal when we I realize I've almost stepped on frog on the trail. Or, they're like the old sailor who was sitting at a picnic table at the marina last night. It was a breezy night and part of the awning on the store had come untied and happened to flap right as we walked by it. Barley flattened herself on the ground. The man was nice and tried not to laugh, but once he saw I was chuckling at my goofy dog, he smiled and said, "Hi pup! Was that scary?"

Smiling girl moments before her big scare.

The Invisible (Wo)men
Barley finds these to be the most offensive of all. These are the people who walk by us on the trail without eye contact, without a hello, or without any acknowledgement of our existence. When we encounter these people, Barley watches them fade into the distance over her shoulder.

Although we love the months of the year when we have the park to ourselves, home wouldn't be home without our summer months with the tourists. We'll be glad to see them go in a few short works, but we'll be equally glad to see them again next summer.

We're linking up for the Barks and Bytes blog hop today, so be sure to stop by and see all of the other great blogs participating!