Monday, November 23, 2015

The Nutella Incident

Usually, Barley's "dark days" arrive in February. The days are short, the temperatures are frigid, and the sidewalks are nonexistent, so our walks are shorter. February is also the beginning of a new semester, so Barley gets neglected a bit more as I get into the grove of the new classes and getting to know my new students. Naturally, my smart, energetic pup finds ways to entertain herself if I don't keep a close eye on her, and they're very rarely healthy decisions. 

I'm starting to worry about whether we'll even make it to February because Barley's kicked the mischief into full gear this weekend. The weather's cooled off quite a bit, so we have most of the neighborhood to ourselves. I've tried to get Barley out for more exercise and fun than usual (more on that on Friday), but she's still losing her mind.

Romping at the ball park should wear a pup out, right?

Not by a long shot.

On Friday, after two walks totaling almost 5 miles for the day plus a nice 15-minute fetch session at the ball park, I was sure that Barley would be worn out, so I could get some things done for classes and some cleaning before my sister visits this week.

I decided to cook burgers for dinner and tossed them on the grill. Barley was keeping a close eye on me to make sure nothing dropped on the floor. Then she went into the living room. I couldn't see her over the room divider between the kitchen and the living room, but I'd seen a flash of her tail while she walked near the coffee table, so I figured she'd given up on scavenging and hopped up on the couch and I went to slice a few slices of cheese to toss on the burgers. Barley didn't come running--and Barley loves cheese. 

So I knew that she was into something. I called her a few times. Nothing. I rustled the cheese wrapper a little louder. Nothing. 

I went into the spare room and she had something between her paws and her tail was doing a slow wag.

She stole the nutella I'd left on the coffee table after my snack earlier in the day--and she'd gotten the lid off. For a brief moment, I thought about inducing vomiting, but I decided she'd probably be just fine. Since she'd only had access to the jar for less than 5 minutes and she's never been successful at getting a screw top off before, I'm pretty sure she'd gotten very little of the actual nutella. It was already half gone from my pretzel dipping snack sessions and the sides hadn't been licked clean yet. After a phone call to Barley's grandma, we decided on the list of "Things Barley's Eaten that She Really Shouldn't Have," nutella is down near the bottom (this list contains sugar-free game, aleve, a stick of butter + wrapper, a pan of turtle brownies, a muffin wrapper + paper towel).

Barley is not a dog that feels guilt. Our trainer has tried to help us work on getting Barley to show contrition, but she thinks everything is a game--no matter how stern I am or how quick I am to put her in a down and end the game, she just smiles and wags and wiggles. There is no ears down, tail between her legs acknowledgement of "I shouldn't have done that." She's just rarin' to go again as soon as I release her (which is especially problematic when the "game" is nipping at me during agility).
"Maybe she won't notice if I try to take this jar back while she takes a picture."

This dog is proud of every bit of mischief she's ever encountered and the nutella incident is no different. This might be a long winter if she's already started in on the mischief before there's even snow and ice on the ground. Send us good vibes or we might not both survive to see what the "dark days" of February bring!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Running Woes

As you might remember, a few months ago, Barley and I started the Couch to 5k app in an attempt to give running a shot. It was hard. I hated it. Barley hated it. I thought the jump from week 2 to week 3 was going to kill me.

And then all of the sudden I had a revelation. When I'm training Barley, if something's too difficult, we break it down a little more until she won't get frustrated and we don't move on until she's really got it. Why wouldn't I give myself the same treatment? After all, I literally had not run more than the 60 seconds at a time we run in agility class since I was in 6th grade. So, I repeated week 2 for a couple more days before attempting week 3 again. Week 3 was still hard, but we survived. When I tried week 4 (which makes a super unrealistic jump that almost doubles the amount of running time you did in week 3) and couldn't do it, I decided to stick to week 3 for a little while.

It wasn't hard any more. It was manageable and for a minute I started thinking I could do this. I wouldn't say I was enjoying running, but I wasn't dreading it or trying to talk myself into putting on running clothes to get out the door. We even ran in a light drizzle a couple times when it started raining on our way to the park. I started adding on a minute or two each day we repeated week 3, so we were getting closer to the amount of time week 4 required us to run. I was just about ready to try week 4 again.

And then things changed. The temperature dropped and suddenly I couldn't breathe during runs anymore. Breathing is the one part of exercising I feel really confident in. I played the flute for years, so I spent a lot of time learning how to breathe deeply and for the first few weeks, I never felt like I couldn't catch my breath. But when the temperature dropped below 60, I felt like I couldn't even take a full breath.  I would breath in and it felt like the air would get stuck before it would even make it into my lungs--my diaphragm was getting no work at all. 

The runs that had felt so easy just days before seemed impossible again. I thought maybe I was running faster, trying to stay warm, but my watch didn't log a change in my pace at all. I tried to slow down a bit, thinking that maybe I needed a slower pace to deal with the colder air. That didn't help. I tried concentrating on breathing even more. No change.

So now I have a dilemma. It's not going to get any warmer any time soon. In fact, it's going to get colder and colder for the next 3 months at least. I knew we'd probably take a break by January or February once there was a permanent layer of ice on the sidewalks (especially since they don't clear the trails at the state park at all), but I had hoped we'd be able to keep at it until at least Christmas.

Part of me feels like we should backtrack to week 1 and just start over to get used to running in the cold. The part of me that hates failure sees that as a failure even though I know it isn't--deep down, it feels like one. Another part of me thinks we should just stick to walking until the spring thaw and then try again when we'll have a good 6 months to get used to running before the cold comes back instead of the 2.5 months we had this time.

So runner friends, give us your recommendations! Especially if you have answers to how to breathe when it's so cold.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Reunited and it Feels So Good

I feel like I've been away from the blog world for years. This semester has been crazy busy with planning, grading, and teaching (and I thought this would be the semester everything just fell into place!), so I've been limited to Friday mornings for writing posts. Then this past weekend, I ran away to Williamsburg, Virginia for my little brother's wedding, so the pets and I were separated and my computer time was limited to grading.

First, I stopped and picked up my sister and her boyfriend and got some quality bonding time with my nephew, Mr. Danders the guinea pig. 

Who knew guinea pigs liked to have their chins scritched?

The weekend was so busy, I didn't have too much time to miss the pets--I was so proud of myself for not crying when I dropped them off at the boarding facility Barley's reactive dog trainer owns. My sister, her boyfriend, my parents, and I had an intense round of mini golf at the condo we stayed in before getting ready for the rehearsal dinner (I won't bother mentioning the score--one because I don't know it, but two I think our 2nd round ruined the lucky streak I had going).

We only had time for the front 9 before I had to get ready for my brother to pick me up for the rehearsal because I was reading a poem during the ceremony.  

The weekend was lovely. My new sister-in-law fits right in with the family and I could be happier for her and my baby brother! 

As happy as the weekend was, I was insanely happy to be reunited with my darlings on Monday afternoon. Barley's reactive dog trainer keeps the pets for me when we go out of town--she usually doesn't board cats, but since I've only left them for short trips and Soth is so high maintenance that he needs someone who can check in on him every few hours, she makes an exception for us. 

We got Soth loaded up and ready to go home, but she hadn't had a chance to pack up Barley's bowls and toys yet, so she told me to go wait in one of the dog runs and when I was inside the gate, she'd let Barley into the run and we could romp and play for a bit since it would be too dark for walking by the time we got home. 

Our reunion was the very happiest.

"I thought you were never coming back!"

Barley started kangaroo hopping at the gate until she was let in to get me. Then she ran big loops around me and occasionally came in to pounce on me before starting again. By the time we got home, she had decided I needed to be punished, though, so she decided to curl up on her bed (which she never, ever goes to without being told to go to her bed) instead of snuggling up with me while I graded papers.

Since there was no school because of Veteran's Day on Wednesday, I decided to earn her forgiveness with an adventure and we headed out  to the arboretum. 

Now that the leaves are mostly gone, you can see the new observation tower really well.

To make the day even more special, I took her to Pet Supplies Plus to pick up a copy of The Honest Kitchen's new Scratch and Sniff book Is That My Dinner?, which comes with a couple samples of their dehydrated food and coupons for food and treats (which is perfect timing since we're almost out of beams!). If you haven't gotten yours yet, you can look for copies near you here.

Barley snuggled up in her cave bed for a good reading session. She's happy to report that the story had a happy ending. She definitely knew exactly where to sniff, but she was offended by the pumpkin pie scent and had to give the peppermint page a lick. 

She's happy to report that the story had a happy ending. She knew exactly where to sniff on each page, but she was offended by the pumpkin pie scent and had to give the peppermint page a lick. We'll definitely be breaking this book out for a little fun now that the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting dreary, so we need more indoor activities to keep this little pup busy.

Happy Fit Dog Friday everyone! We've missed you and hope to be back to a more regular schedule soon!