Friday, January 19, 2018

Split Opinions on Outward Hound Fun Feeder

While we were at my parents' over the holidays, we didn't have a gate separating the girls during meal time. Barley thinks that all food should be hers and Rye is so respectful of Barley's space that she'll back away from her food and let Barley have it all. Rye is also the slowest eater in the world, so I had to stand guard during every meal to make sure Rye could finish her food without Barley swooping in. 

When our friends at reached out to see if we wanted to test out the Outward Hound Fun Feeder, a slow-feeding bowl, it seemed like the perfect solution to get Barley to slow down long enough to let Rye finish her food.

We chose a regular-sized feeder that came in a fun flower design, but Outward Hound also has other colors and designs, including a teal circular design and an orange spiral design. 

The first thing I noticed about the feeder was just how large the feeder is. The diameter is about 12 inches and the highest of the edges is about 1.5 inches. The bowl also has a nice rubber ring around the bottom to keep it from sliding, so it's easy to use on our kitchen floors. The packaging says it can hold 4 cups of food, but I didn't test it out to see if that much actually fits since the girls would go into a tizzy if I poured food into a bowl and then took it away. The first picture shows what it looks like with Rye's 3/4 of a cup in it and there's definitely room for plenty more!

The packaging also says it's dishwasher safe for the top rack on low heat, but this is way too big to fit in the top rack of my dishwasher, so I had to hand wash it before letting Barley test it out. It fit in the sink easily, but it was hard to dry it out with all of the look nooks and crannies.

Barley was very excited to dive into her first meal served in the Fun Feeder.

Unfortunately, I don't think she actually enjoyed the Fun Feeder. It seemed like it was difficult for her to get the food out. I don't know if that's related to her past dental issues--her one canine tooth isn't exactly smooth, so it might have scraped a little when she tried to squish her nose into some of the smaller crannies--some of them are only half an inch wide or so. Either way, I could tell she was uncomfortable using the feeder and after she finished her one meal out of the Fun Feeder, I didn't want to make her use it again. I think she would enjoy it more if it were a softer, rubbery kind of material instead of really hard plastic.

Rye, on the other hand, was interested in the Fun Feeder from the moment I opened the Chewy box, so she was more than happy to give it a chance.

According to the packaging, the Fun Feeder gets dogs to eat "up to 10x slower to help prevent bloat and regurgitation." Rye doesn't really need help slowing down, but it absolutely did make her dinner last even longer (which I didn't think was possible). It took her over 5 minutes to finish her 3/4 of a cup of food! (For comparison, Barley finished her dinner in about 45 seconds in her normal bowl while Rye was eating.)

Her nose did crinkle a bit as she tried to get into some of the tighter spots, but she didn't seem to mind that at all. 

This isn't my very favorite interactive feeder. We have several others that I think make the dogs think a little bit more, but as far as slowing dogs down, this definitely works! I also like that this one doesn't move around. A lot of our other feeders require the dogs to move around the house and roll things around--which they love, but it's not always convenient if I'm trying to cook dinner while they eat and someone's rolling their dinner between my feet and the stove or they get their dinner stuck under the couch and need rescuing. The Fun Feeder keeps the dogs busy without needing wide open spaces!

Since it's not the easiest bowl to wash with all of the skinny little spots and Barley didn't love it, this probably won't be my first choice when I want to give the girls a meal in an interactive feeder. We like variety, though, so it's nice to have this one in our arsenal to switch things up a bit and if Barley had been comfortable with this, it would have been exactly what I wanted for meal times at her grandparents' house!

Disclaimer: We were provided with one Outward Hound Fun Feeder from as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program in exchange for our honest review.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mother Nature's Gift

After trapping us in the house for days, Mother Nature gave us nice enough weather that we could get out for a short walk in the nearby state park. That was lovely, but what was even more lovely was when we got a day that was almost 60 degrees on Thursday. 

We woke up at the snow in our yard was melted--which we were fine with since the girls had trampled it all down and it wasn't much fun anymore. The roads were completely clear. With the exception of a few spots where the plows had really piled up the snow, the sidewalks were clear. It was the perfect day for walking. We loaded up into the car and went off for our first Arboretum walk of 2018.

Some of the trails still had a bit of snow on the trails, but mostly they were slush. It wasn't even unpleasant to walk in because it was so warm out that having wet feet wasn't awful. All of the streams and ponds were full of water because so much snow had melted. 

The girls were so happy to be out of the house--especially Rye. I was just happy I didn't have to wear gloves!

Rye had a playdate scheduled for the afternoon, but it was so pretty outside that we weren't in any hurry to get home. 

We got in 4 miles, which was our longest walk of 2018!

By the end of our walk, a slight breeze was picking up, so we got a couple good ear pictures, too. 

It didn't take long for the below freezing temperatures and the snow to come back, but for one short morning, we got in the most perfect walk. We love snowy walks, too, but it's so much easier to walk without all of the layers and gloves and without having to wade through a couple feet of snow on the trails. We won't complain if Mother Nature gives us a few more days like this before spring comes for good.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ostrich Dogs

After days of being trapped at home, we finally got out of the neighborhood early last week. Our neighborhood was still covered with ice and the plowed snow piled up on the curbs made it difficult to share the roads with traffic, so we headed out to the state park. 

At first, I wasn't sure we'd be able to get a walk in because there was snow blocking the entrance to our normal parking lot, but we drove farther into the park and were able to find another spot to start our adventure.

No boats in the marina right now.

Parts of the trail were covered in deep snow and I sank down over the tops of my boots. Parts of the trail were covered in just an inch or two of snow. Other parts had tracks made by other people and dogs who had gotten out before us. It was quite the work out for all three of us!

We had plans to go out on the beach to get more pictures of the lake, but when we got to the best entrance to the beach, I sunk in up to my knees (although the girls were able to stand on top of the snow with no issues!), so I decided it was best for us to turn around.

The girls didn't mind, though. On the trek back to the car, there were plenty of good smells in the tall grasses along the trail. Rye wasn't going to let a little snow keep her from enjoying those smells.

And what one dog does, the other dog has to do, too.

My cheeks were freezing and I was ready to get home to have some of the soup I'd made in the crockpot the day before, but the girls didn't think twice about plunging their faces deep into the snow.

Days like this make me wonder if there might be a little bit of ostrich in their DNA.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Doggin' Atlanta: Civil War Battlefields

Long time readers know that I'm obsessed with the book Doggin' Cleveland, which has helped us find some of our favorite trails in the area. We've also used other books in the series for the Pittsburgh area and our trip to the Berkshires. When my brother and sister-in-law moved to Atlanta, I sent them the Doggin' Atlanta book--and when they moved away from the Atlanta area they left the book at my parents' house since most of the trails are within two hours of their house.

Over the holidays, I was determined to explore at least one of the trails in the book. My parents' area has a nice rail trail that we visit, a new park with a great trail around a lake, and the Cheaha State Park nearby, but we definitely miss the variety of different trails that we have near our own house when we migrate south.

My mom agreed to hop in the car with us and check out Allatoona Pass Battlefield, a Civil War battlefield and #23 in the Doggin' Atlanta book, a few days after Christmas. The sun was shining and the temperatures were near 50, so it was the perfect day for an adventure.

The parking lot wasn't well marked at Allatoona, but once we figured out where we were going, it looked like a great place to walk. The parking lot was on the other side of a hill from a large lake, so our first views of the battlefield were very pretty.

Just a few feet down the trail was a small bowl were monuments were erected for each state involved in the Battle of Allatoona pass. Interestingly, no Georgians were involved in the fighting in this north Georgia battle.

There was also a rocky beach along the lake that we could have explored more, but there were so many good smells there that the girls weren't really interested in moving very far, so we hit the wooded trails instead.

The Western & Atlantic Railroad passed through this area and was one of the biggest supply lines to Atlanta during the Civil War. Sherman fortified the Allatoona Pass and despite Confederate attacks on the Union supply lines, the Union kept control of the area. 

There's a trail that goes through the Deep Cut that was a nice, easy trail through the woods and along the lake. 

There were also some side trails that added a little more intensity to our hike. The dogs weren't fazed by the inclines, but I was panting a bit! 

We took a staircase up to a location where there was a fort during the battle. This was Rye's first real time on stairs on a trail and she did so well listening to me and controlling her crazy. Barley was her usual perfect self and took care of her grandma on the stairs and slopes. There were some dirt mounds around the perimeter of the fort and a few signs that talked about the experience. I think one of them said there were about 700 soldiers in the fort, which was about the size of my living room, and they had to lay on top of each other just to fit. Reading the informative signs and imagining having to fight on such steep slopes really brought to light just how horrible the Civil War was. We didn't study the Civil War much in history classes in Georgia--I do know we were told that it was about states' rights rather than slavery--so most of what I've learned about the war comes from some Civil War novels and poetry and other historical sites my mom's taken me to. Seeing the battlefield first hand was really eye opening, especially after rereading Whitman's Drum Taps with my students this semester.

As we finished our walk, my mom suggested grabbing lunch and checking out another battlefield that we'd passed on the way to Allatoona, Pickett's Mill Battlefield Historic Site, which is #35 in Doggin' Atlanta.

This battlefield was on Sherman's warpath after he left Allatoona on his way to Atlanta. According to Doggin' Atlanta, Sherman's forces lost "over 1,600 troops from a 14,000-man force" while Confederate forces lost 500, but the battle "only delayed Sherman's capture of Atlanta by about a week. In his memoirs Sherman did not even see fit to mention the engagement at Pickett's Mill in his description of the Atlanta Campaign." 

There was a short trail out to a cabin that had been build before the start of the war. The cabin was very rustic, but also pretty and peaceful.

There were several different longer trails to choose from and we might have explored them all if we hadn't already had one adventure for the day. Since it was getting later in the afternoon, we picked the trail that had the most historical markers along it. 

Most of the markers were pointing out trenches that the soldiers had used during the battle. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have noticed them as being any different from normal mounds and divots in the ground without the pamphlet from the Visitor's Center. The trail also took us along Pumpkinvine Creek where a grist mill had been located during the war. According to Doggin' Atlanta, this is one of the country's best preserved Civil War sites, so if you're into Civil War history, this one should definitely be on your travel itinerary. 

Between the two parks, we got in about 5.5 miles (although my Garmin watch only logged about 4.6 or so because it doesn't do so well on stairs or on inclines if I don't go fast enough!). The girls were worn out and slept almost all the way home.

This was the perfect adventure to get the last three miles we needed to meet our 1000 mile goal for 2017. It was also nice to share the adventure with my mom. I love adventuring with just my girls, but it's also fun to have someone along who will talk back when I say something.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2017 Resolution Recap

For the last several years, Barley and I have had a goal to walk a certain number of miles together throughout the year. The first year, we had a goal of 1,000 miles for the year. We'd cut back from 1,100 miles the two previous years because I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to walk Barley and Rye together, so I didn't want Rye to be neglected while Barley and I worked towards our goal.

We got off to a slow start. Partially, this was because I was able to walk Barley and Rye together, but we had to keep those walks short enough that Rye didn't get tired and start getting wild (she's just like a toddler sometimes). Then Rye also proved to have some reactivity issues to certain dogs in certain yards, so I wanted to make sure she got plenty of solo walks to work through those issues. We ended up  with 55.41 miles in January and only 29.1 in February thanks to some bitter cold.

The first walk we took just the three of us.

Despite our slow start, we got into more of a groove as spring came. We also got in our first big adventure at the end of March as we went to my cousin's wedding and rented an old farm house in rural Pennsylvania.

Thanks to warmer weather, lots of training, and a little travel, we got in 65.83 miles in March and 92.88 miles in April.

Our mileage always begins to pick up in mid-May after I finish the spring semester and get to spend the entire summer with my girls. We took another little road trip to support my sister while she ran in a race in Vermont over Memorial Day.

We found some great places to walk in New York on our way there.

And some gorgeous trails in Vermont (along with plenty of mud!). 

And, of course, plenty of visits to Vermont breweries with my favorite Brew Dogs.

All of our adventures helped us get to 100.87 miles in May.

June and July continued to be strong months with 113.87 miles in June and 104.29 miles in July. We got in plenty of arboretum walks with some of my favorites being evening walks with Barley after our agility classes.

Then things slowed down again in August when we only got 83.89 miles. Part of this was due to Barley's dental surgery when she was a little loopy on some pain meds and really just wanted to rest. The other part was the fact that school started again and any time there are big changes to our schedule, it takes a while to figure out where walking fits in.

By September, though, everyone was feeling better and we'd figured out our schedule and ended up with 94.23 miles in September. One of my favorite walks was taking the girls up to campus to see the 9/11 Field of Honor that the Student Veterans Association puts up each year with one flag for every life that was lost during the 9/11 attacks.

October always brings my favorite walk of the year--my birthday party walk (which somehow I didn't write about until November)! We started the month strong with our Arboretum visit for my birthday and continued to get our 3 miles a day for a total of 94.87 miles in October. 

Things slowed down a bit in November. The first two weeks, I didn't want to stray far from home while Soth was recovering for his surgery. I was busy dividing my time between Soth and the girls and trying to give everyone enough attention and also get ready for the end of semester chaos that begins right around Thanksgiving, so we spent less time walking. We did manage to get 83.27 miles in November, though, so it wasn't a bad month.

By December, we were finally back on track and only needed 2.73 miles/day to meet our goal, which is exactly what we started the year needing. We migrated south and spent time walking in Alabama and added in one last adventure with a trip to a couple Civil War battlefields in Georgia (more on that later).

Alatoona Pass Battlefied

We logged 88.09 miles in December, which pushed us just a little bit over our goal with 1006.6 miles total. 

There were several times I worried that we wouldn't meet our goal, but overall, this year was quite a success. We met our goal and walked in six different states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Alabama, and Georgia.

We've set a new goal for 2018. We're striving to walk 1050 miles, and Barley and I have to get at least 850 of those miles together. After the girls were fully integrated into each other's lives, Rye didn't get as many solo walks because those miles didn't count towards my mileage goal since the goal was for me and Barley to get those miles. Rye's training suffered because of that. She's gotten better walking on leash, but she's still mostly just controlled chaos when I clip a leash on. After a bad encounter with a neighbor's dog, Rye has become severely leash reactive to off-leash dogs, and that's not something I can work on effectively when I'm holding on to two different dogs. It's not fair to Rye to not give her more solo walks, too, so I'm hoping with this new goal I won't have to choose between meeting my goals and training my little dog.

What are your goals for 2018? Did you make any dog-related resolutions? 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Battle of the Boots

Over the holidays, the pets and I spent two weeks in Alabama. Most of the time, we had temperatures above freezing--with a couple days in the 60s!!--and we were thrilled with the walking weather we had. While we were gone, the snow at our house started on Christmas and just kept going. We didn't get quite as much snow as nearby Erie, but I think the totals were close to 30 inches in about 48 hours with a little more here and there throughout the rest of the week. Alabama helped us ease into our return to the tundra with temperatures in the teens for our last two days, but with no snow on the ground, we still bundled up and walked.

When we got home, snow was everywhere. Signs for businesses were hidden behind the piles created by plows. The sidewalks were completely inaccessible. The roads were skinnier than usual with nowhere else for the snow to go. Temperatures haven't gotten above 15 degrees since we got home, so that situation hasn't changed and it's almost impossible to get in a walk without having to walk on a pretty busy street. Rye isn't as good with traffic as Barley is, so basically we've been snowed in for days.

The first morning I sent the girls out into the yard and Barley was ready to come in as soon as she was finished with her business. As soon as she came in, she stopped on the doormat and held up her paws one at a time for me to warm them in my hands. Rye wanted to romp and play and zoomed around the yard until suddenly she sat down and couldn't move. I had to pick her up and carry her inside. It took less than 4 minutes for the cold to cripple my puppy.

That meant that it was boot weather. And boot weather means war.

Barley hates her boots. She has two different styles--her Pawz boots and some Ultra Paws boots--and she hates them both. The Pawz boots are easier to get on her because they don't need any adjustments. Of course, we'd used them a few times before our holiday travels and Barley had gotten spooked by them and refused to even walk by them, so I'd hidden them somewhere and couldn't find them, which meant we had to go with the more difficult Ultra Paws boots that have two Velcro straps on each boot.

My too smart for her own good Barley mastered Velcro this week. I'd wrestle her into her boots and after trying to stand on her tippy toes like a ballerina, I'd get her out the door.

What do you mean I don't have to stand on my toes?

She'd waddle around the yard a bit, and then she'd go stand in front of the door. It wasn't long before I noticed she was loosening the Velcro on her boots.

Then she'd take off after a squirrel and the boots would fly. I've spent a lot of time tracking down her boots in the deep snow along the fence this week.

After a few minutes without boots on, she'd be back by the door begging to go inside.

Rye is slightly less dramatic about her boots. She's not a fan of having her feet touched, but if I corral her in the kitchen so she can't get away, she'll hold still long enough that I can slip the Pawz boots on her. She will sometimes hold her feet up off the ground like she's forgotten how to stand, but as soon as she's outside, she's back to her usual busy self.

And thankfully she dives right into her snuggly coat.

Every year, I tell myself that we'll spend the summer working on learning to love the boots. Then winter goes away and we need a break from thinking about cold and I tell myself we'll start after we've thawed out. Then somehow there's snow on the ground and the battle of the boots starts all over.

Thankfully, after days of tearing apart the house looking for Barley's Pawz boots, I found them--just in time for the temperatures to warm up enough to put the boots away again!