Friday, February 26, 2016

Expect the Unexpected

Life has continued to be wacky the last week. The snow all melted and we had gorgeous almost 60 degree weather over the weekend. We got in a 6-mile day between our two walks on Saturday. It was windy, but the skies were blue and I didn't have to wear boots or gloves. It was beautiful.

Barley was actually tired out for the first time in months and she was all smiles the entire time we were out in the fresh air. Soth was equally happy to bask in the sunshine, too. 

Then as quickly as the sunshine came, the cold weather was back and we were back to short little walks between freezing rain showers and between cups of hot chocolate. Barley's back to her wild self again. She's been getting the zoomies the first time I toss a toy for her and racing around all of the stacks of boxes (we had an unfortunate incident with one of the remaining wine glasses that hadn't yet been packed last week . . .).

To top that off, we had a sub in agility this week--and it was our very first agility trainer, who saw Barley at her very worst. I was excited to show her how well Barley's been doing with agility and with keeping her classmates out of her mouth. We succeeded at showing her one of those two things.

Our trainer didn't know the other two dogs that were in class that night, and one of them is very new to agility still, so I think she just assumed that Barley doesn't know very much. For some reason, she was convinced Barley doesn't really know the weaves (before she'd even seen Barley try them) even though Barley's was the first dog in our class to get them down over a year ago.

We had kind of a wacky entrance to the weaves and I wasn't approaching them well, so Barley was trying her best to figure out what I wanted her to do and it wasn't pretty. Thinking Bar didn't know the weaves, our sub told me not to correct her and sent us back to the basics of helping Barley figure out the weaves. We've worked with enough agility trainers now that I've just kind of decided that when it's just for one week, I'll smile and nod and just go with it--and maybe we'll learn a new trick or two--but I won't get too worked up about approaches that don't work for us. So, our sub had me walk slowly next to the weaves without giving Barley any verbal or hand cues to help her out.

Of course, that confused Barley because that's not how we ever trained the weaves. The sub took my place and had me watch her while she let Barley figure out the weaves. But Barley was still confused--she'd go through two and then just stand there and wait for a treat. When she realized she wasn't get one, she'd try another one and then stop for a treat. When that didn't work, she finally just sat down beside the weaves and wagged her tail and stared at our trainer. I couldn't take it anymore and started laughing, which then gave my classmates permission to let out the laughter they'd been holding it, which led to our sub laughing--and as soon as Barley realized we were all laughing at something she'd done, she decided she needed to be as goofy as possible. She spent the rest of the night goofing around. She'd go over a jump or two and then play bow at me or try the weaves and sit down in the middle or approach a jump and then just stand there in front of it wagging her tail.

Our trainer probably thinks that we've regressed since "graduating" from her intro class, but the one time that Barley thought about going over to see what her classmates were doing during her turn, she came back to me as soon as I called her, so it wasn't a total failure. Plus, we all got a good laugh in, which was refreshing on a dreary, rainy day.

Someday, I'll learn that when it comes to the weather and to Barley I need to just embrace the unexpected because neither one of them seems to be totally predictable.

Happy FitDog Friday everyone!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Surprise Snow Day

Our weather has continued to be wacky for the last week. We had several very, very cold days at the beginning of the week. Work is getting more time consuming since papers have started to come in, so we haven't had as much time to get several short little walks in each day. Between fewer walks and packing up the apartment, Barley's been losing her mind. has been getting my hopes up for snow days all winter and then letting me down. I've tried putting a cotton ball under my pillow (a trick a local friend told me about) and contemplating sleeping with my pajamas on inside out (another trick from a different local friend--this southern girl is learning so much about snow!). But no matter how many inches of snow the winter weather warnings predict, I wake up and find next to nothing.

On Monday, Accuweather predicted 6-10 inches of snow, but by the time I went to bed, there was no snow falling from the sky and I was certain there was no hope of a snow day. To my surprise, at 5:50 a.m. my phone rang to announce that morning classes were canceled. I reset my alarm for a little later than usual since that meant my first class was canceled. By the time I'd finished rearranging the course schedule and getting ready to head to campus for the second class, I got the call that afternoon classes were canceled.

Despite the snow, it was still 30 degrees, so Barley and I took advantage of my surprise free time to take a nice walk and have some playtime at the ball park down the street.

Pirates pitchers and catchers have reported--we're ready for baseball season!

We took our 50-foot line down with us, so that we could toss a ball around. Barley was so excited to have a chance to just run and play in the snow. We can't do that in our little yard space anymore because our neighbors got a small dog and since he's still being potty trained, they take him out all the time and I can't have Barley on such a long line when there's a chance of him coming out, so there's been very little snow play in our yard this winter.

The snow was deep as our last snowfall hadn't melted before this one came, so we had a challenge keeping up with the ball at times (luckily, I'd brought a bright green one). Barley decided that it was fun to drop the ball in the deepest snow she could find, then run around kicking snow up over it, and then looking at me to uncover the ball. I spent a lot of our time at the park kicking snow around trying to find the ball and Barley just smiled and wagged until she could start the process all over again.

Yesterday, I woke up and my phone said it was 3 degrees, so it was back to another day of short walks. We didn't get a much walking as I'd hoped in this week, but we did have a great snowy play day. We're holding out hope that the predictions for 40+ degree days next week come true!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What's Going On?

I've mentioned before that Barley is a dog that notices everything. When they added a new trail marker alongside one of our favorite trails at the Arboretum, Barley crouched and stared at it before slowly approaching it. When a car that isn't normally in a driveway we walk by regularly is in the driveway, her heckles raise and she starts to grumble. Change is not her favorite thing.

I knew there would be challenges with the moving process because of this. I'd created a plan for after the keys become mine. I won't be moving in immediately so that my mom, my aunt, and I can do a little wallpaper removal and painting before the pets and the furniture move in. For those few days, I plan to take Barley over for a couple hours a day and do some noseworks in the house and yard and play with some toys. We'll take a few walks in the new neighborhood and then she'll go home with her stuff for the rest of the day.

I figured she'd be a little stressed and probably pace a bit, but once she saw her crate and her 10,000 2 dog beds and 2 human beds were there, she'd settled down a bit. 

I didn't think she'd start spazzing out a month before the move. I've been trying to pack a few boxes a day, starting with books (English majors really shouldn't make a habit of moving often--I've already packed over 10 boxes of books!). Very little has changed in the apartment so far, except the shelves are almost empty and there are a few more boxes stacked around the apartment. None of the furniture has moved and none of her stuff has been touched. But Barley is not happy.

She moves from room to room with me and curls up on the love seat or a bed and stares at me. Or she puts her head between her front paws and just looks forlorn. 

I've tried curling up beside her and reassuring her. I've said, "Puppy, it's ok. You're coming with me." And she'll give one short wag of her tail. I've tried, "Puppy, you're getting a yard." Another short wag. "You're going to like this, I promise." Two short wags.

A few days ago, I was at Target and found a quilt with all of the colors that I want for my bedroom and it was 50% off, and there was a sheet set that matched that was also on clearance, and I still had some Christmas gift cards, so they came home with me--even though I'd decided that there would be no shopping until after the move. Barley is pretty sure she's not a fan of the new color scheme.

I prefer old flannel that's been patched because I dug holes in it.

Soth is the pet I was most worried about with his stress-related bladder issues and he's handling things like a champ. He loves that there are empty shelves he can crawl on and boxes that he can perch on. I've had to limit the number of boxes I stack on top of each other to make sure he doesn't accidentally knock them over and crush himself.

A new jungle gym--how fun! 

Soth's also happy that there are so many empty boxes that he can claim as his own. It's hindering the packing process a little bit since every time I take out a box that I've been storing in the closet or put together one of my moving boxes, he climbs in it, but if it makes him happy, it makes me happy.

It's officially less than a month until I close on the house, so hopefully as the piles of boxes grow, Barley will embrace them and quit moping around because right now all I can think of is that Barley is acting like "helper dog" from Hyperbole and a Half and I don't know if either of us can take another month of that.

Heart Like a Dog

Be sure to check out all of the great Barks and Bytes posts hosted by Heart Like a Dog and 2 Brown Dawgs.

Friday, February 12, 2016

WinterFest Fun

Last weekend, I'd gotten my coffee brewed, gotten my stack of grading, and settled in on the couch when I remembered it was WinterFest weekend in our town. Most of the activities are more family/kid-oriented, but on Friday nights, they have ice sculpting downtown. I knew the temperature was going to raise above freezing on Saturday, so I chugged my coffee, put on walking clothes, and rushed Barley out the door.

Many of the smaller sculptures had already started to melt and lose some of their definition. There was a lighthouse that had one of those small electric "candles" that you can switch on--I wish that I'd been able to see it at night! The biggest ice sculpture was still hanging in there, though, and I was glad because I love penguins! (Seriously, I elbowed my way through crowds of small children to be able to get inside the penguin viewing tube at the Georgia Aquarium--and usually I do my best to avoid interactions with children.)

We'd checked out some of the snowmen from the snowmen decorating contest a couple weeks ago, but a few more had gone up since then, so it was fun to get a chance to view a few more. 

We'll miss being in walking distance of things like this when we move, but luckily there's plenty of free parking downtown and we'll just be a short drive away.  

Even though WinterFest was plagued by some warm weather and the ice sculptures were gone before the weekend was over, Wednesday brought about a foot of snow in less than two hours. I wasn't so happy to see the snow since I was at work instead of snuggled up with the pets when it hit, but Barley was excited to get out for a good romp. 

Hope that everyone else has been enjoying some winter fun. I'm still holding out hope that the groundhog was right and we'll be seeing an early spring, though!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Realtor Thinks I'm Crazy

Anyone who knows me well knows that I've dreamed of having a house of my own since I was a young teenager. In my sophomore year of high school Trading Spaces, came out and quickly became my favorite show--and it wasn't just because of hunky carpenter Ty (although he was a big bonus). Mostly, it was because I loved seeing how a space could transform and a person could make it their own (with the exception of the rooms that had straw or fake flowers attached to the walls . . .). The possibilities were exciting.

Which colors compliment my fur the best?

Saving money is hard, though. Nobody goes into teaching for the money and I racked up some student loans to get there. Between rent, car payments, the pets' needs, and other bills, there's not a lot of money coming in and staying in. I had kind of resigned myself to renting for the rest of my life (or until I marry rich).

But Barley and I spend a lot of time walking in our neighborhood, and over the last several years, I've noticed signs that say things like "Buy this house, $0 down, $475/month." For a long time, I walked by them, thinking that they were too good to be true. All of the signs advertised monthly payments of significantly less than my rent payments and the thought of being able to own a house for less than I pay in rent just didn't seem real to me.

With my lease coming to an end this spring, I decided to contact the agency whose signs accompanied these signs and in early January I started the home search after my realtor told me about USDA home loans.

I'm pretty sure my realtor thinks I'm crazy because almost all of my decisions were based on the pets. Two of my three non-negotiables were dog related: it had to be in a walkable neighborhood and have a fenceable yard (#3 was have a place for a washer and dryer). Almost every house I've looked, I've commented on perfect features for pets (a spacious backyard for Barley, bay windows for Soth) or features that take the house off the list because of the pets (the smell of cat that would make Soth go on a marking frenzy, no room for a crate). None of the things my realtor was used to people looking for--updated kitchens and bathrooms, big closets, hardwood floors--mattered much to me.

Although the amount of time I've been searching has been relatively short, the process has felt long. I looked at a lot of houses that were just not me. They were perfectly nice houses, but they weren't my house. Then I fell in love with one--that had no appliances and no garage or shed and did need some updates, and the sellers weren't willing to budge on the price at all when we started the offer/counteroffer process. I was heartbroken because I could see all of our stuff fitting into that house and I could imagine our walks in the neighborhood and where Soth's little face would peek out of the windows while he waited for us to come home--and I was excited to shop for appliances even if I hated the idea of spending money on them.

There were a few other houses that I liked, but none that I was sure was "the one." I didn't want to buy a house just to buy a house--no matter how nice it would be for Barley to have a yard.

I was pretty sure it would be weeks, if not months, before I found something I loved as much. Then one day, I drove by a few houses we were scheduled to look at later in the week to check the commute to work and I saw a for sale sign in a yard of another house. I made a note to ask my realtor about it, and before I even got home to send her an email, she'd emailed me the listing and said, "check this one out!"

Before we'd even see the whole inside of the house, I knew it was "the one." It had the character I wanted, the space I wanted, the yard I wanted, and then some. (Plus--it has a dishwasher, which I've never had in my adult life!)

My offer was accepted relatively quickly and the home inspection happened this week. I'm requesting a few repairs based on that, but if all goes well, we should be moving in at the end of next month.

Barley's getting a yard! (And I'm getting a washer, dryer, and dishwasher!) I also finally commented on the awesome closets in the bedrooms and my realtor might see me as something other than a crazy pet lady now.

Heart Like a Dog

Be sure to check out all of the great Barks and Bytes posts hosted by Heart Like a Dog and 2 Brown Dawgs.

Friday, February 5, 2016

January Resolution Recap & Soth Update

January has was a busy yet lazy, freezing yet warm month of walking. The first half of the month, we spent lounging and walking while I waited for the start of the new semester. The second half was diving back into teaching and all of the planning and grading that comes along with it. We had days when it was in the teens and too snowy/icy to go much farther than a mile at a time. We had days when I didn't need a coat or gloves. It made for some weird, but wonderful adventures this month.

The WinterFest snowmen decorations have been put up downtown and we had a thaw just in time to be able to get in some nice walks down there to admire them. Some of the snowmen have been transformed into penguins or other winter creatures. One is even something from the new Star Wars--which I haven't gotten around to seeing yet. It's always fun to see how the different groups and businesses in town put their creativity to the test with these guys!

Last weekend, we had a day in the mid-40s, so we took off to the state park for a stroll. There was still a lot of snow and ice on the beach, but the trails were all completely clear, so it was easy walking with a few more challenging spots thrown in to get some photos.

Who says late January isn't a good time for a Lake Erie beach trip?

These ice "curtains" have been up all month. I love them.

The following day it got up to the 50s, so we we took off on another adventure to the Holden Arboretum. We usually don't make it out to the arboretum until at least March since there's usually a lot of snow and the trails are groomed for crosscountry skiers and you aren't supposed to walk in those trails, which leaves us with the spots along the trails that come up to my knees sometimes--and I'm just not ambitious enough to want to drive half an hour for that kind of workout!

Even though most of our snow further north was melted, there was still a good bit on the ground (and on the trails) at the arboretum. Combined with the 50+ degree weather, the ground was a slushy, muddy mess. I quickly regretted wearing the tennis shoes that I'd worn to the state park and was very happy I still had a pair of flipflops in the car so I could peel off the cold wet socks I ended up with. It was a great day for a walk, though, and Barley got to practice more reaction to distraction work since there were lots of people out with dogs and kids. It's so nice to know that when spring rolls around it won't have been over 3 months since we saw another living creature on one of our walks. Last year, it was a challenge to remind Barley that we do sometimes have to share our space with other creatures.

This wacky January gave us lots of opportunities to reach our goals and even get a little bit ahead in case February isn't as kind to us. In January, we got in 97.25 miles towards our goal of 1100 miles this year. So far, so good!

Facebook reminded me this morning that it's been 3 years since Soth had his bladder-flushing procedure, so it seemed like as good a time as any for an update on him. If you're squeamish about reading about cat pee, just stop reading after these two cute pictures of his post-procedure waking up faces.

Aren't his sleepy post-anesthesia faces cute?

I'm almost afraid to type this because it seems like every time I give a positive update, I jinx things, but for the last 7 months or so, Soth has show minimal signs of feeling pain when he urinates. He's using his litterbox consistently (partially due to a switch to Cat Attract litter, I think--big shout out to my cousin who recommended we try it!). On the few times he has had an episode, they have been short and there has been little blood in his urine, so that suggests there are fewer crystals forming and irritating the lining of his bladder.

I still can't say that we have any answers for why he's doing better. Maybe being on a prescription diet and lots and lots of wet food have helped. Maybe losing a little weight has helped. Maybe now that he's older, he's outgrown it (which I've read can happen). Maybe he's just adjusted to whatever stressors triggered the first episodes. I try not to question it too much and I'm just thankful that he seems happier and more comfortable than he's seemed in a long time.

As moving to our very own house is becoming more of a reality every day, I am worried about how he'll react to a big change. He's been quite the trooper this past year with two visits to the boarder while I traveled and three trips south to my parents' house in Alabama, plus he handled the move from New Mexico to Ohio like a champ in the pre-Barley days, so I'm hopefully that a change in environment won't cause a setback, but keep your fingers crossed (and send out some prayers, good vibes, or whatever you believe in) for my boy as his world gets a little shakeup in the next couple months. 

Happy FitDog Friday everyone!