Category Archives: travel

The Hermit

While the Hermit Tarot card does ring true when it comes to me, in this instance I mean the behaviour/archetype I slip into when my husband is away.

And yes, he is away once again. This time for quite a bit longer than the other times.

We’ll be fine, we’re just a little out of practice for these longer runs as it’s been almost 3 years since his last major deployment or mission.

But I know that in a few days I will slip into my Hermit skin and silence will settle. It’s a comfortable silence, and I am not someone who needs people, so it’s a welcome silence as well.

I really don’t mind being alone – I’m never lonely, as I have my beautiful dogs with me – and I even like my own company.

It’s time for me to work to make some money, do some odd jobs and potter around our little cottage and the yard – try and get the grass to grow – and even do some chores for my mother-in-law at the main house while she’s away as well. I also want to get into an exercise regime to get back into shape like I was in Germany. I know I’m not walking nearly as much with the dogs as I was, even in Georgia, so I know that’s why I’ve gained weight (it’s not a lot, but it’s way more than I am happy with) but there are other ways for me to get fit and the dogs don’t have to go with me every time I go out! I can run on my own – even if it’s early morning or late evening when it’s bearable outside.

We’re heading into New Mexico’s infamous summer, where roads melt and cars bake and everything dies in the scorching sun. Luckily, our little cottage is generally pretty cool, and we have a little air conditioner that seems to be handling the heat well so far. Early mornings are quite lovely here in the desert, and the dogs have the choice to be inside or outside and when it starts really getting hot around 11, they tend to prefer to be inside. They go back out in the evening when the temperature drops to a reasonable level for us all, and the air conditioner takes a break while the fans blow the cool air in from outside. Azzie likes to be outside, even when it’s very hot, so I have to watch her a bit. She is not used to this weather and doesn’t realise she’s cooking until I bring her inside and she feels how cool it is and she falls asleep in the kitchen on the cool tile or on her bed in the main room with the air conditioner.

She’s an odd duck, that one, but she’s mommy’s girl and she’s already shown me that she’s there for me – the moment my husband left I had a wave of heartache and sadness and I couldn’t fight the tears. It was just a moment and just a sob, and then I was done, but Azzie came barreling across the yard and shoved her head into my arms and wriggled and huffed until I stopped. Gina was too busy waiting at the gate and Odin was too busy barking at cats in the other yard.

PS: I updated The Vees Big Adventure page as well.

How Things Change

And guess where we are now?

Yup, back in New Mexico.

More big decisions being made and we’re trying to think big picture, rather than short-term living.

We loved Oregon – LOVED it – and while the rain got a bit much for the husband, I actually enjoyed it. Dogs loved the cooler weather; no snakes or nasty spiders; no humidity unless it was actually going to rain; a mist that was actually misty and cool, and just a little bit of SNOW; lots of places to walk; a huge dog park – didn’t make any new friends, per say, but they had fun – and having daddy home a lot more.

We loved Oregon but it was also getting a little expensive to stay at the RV place we liked so much – truly a gorgeous place with all the amenities and things we needed that were included in the monthly price. However, because of the season change to spring/summer, they no longer offered an affordable monthly rate so we switched over to a weekly one.

I had a job: A full-time, hands-on, hard-work kind of gig. I worked at a food repacking plant as a QA. It was busy work that kept me occupied for the 9 hours I was there every day – on my feet, exhausted, but also focused because you HAD to be to keep up. I was quite liked by my immediate supervisor and bosses, and I even made a few acquaintances. Of course, there were people who didn’t like me so much because I picked up the work very quickly and I was put into actual production work very quickly, and this pissed off some people, apparently. But that was fine – I wasn’t there to make friends, I was there to make money to support us. I was still looking at online work so we could head off on our adventures again.

The factory work was hard, tiring, and because of all the income taxes and union dues (which I wasn’t allowed to be part of until I hit 1600 hours of work… yeah… a YEAR until I was a member, but I had to pay the weekly dues which were about a third of my pay!) it became clear that while it was a relatively good amount of weekly pay, it felt a bit like I was working bloody hard for not too much gain every week. So I continued my search for online work.

While this was happening, my husband was doing his NG duty every month and finishing the qualification exams before heading to his training.

When he got a date for his training, and I got some online work (hopefully, long term) I quit the factory and we packed up (grabbing a few things from our storage) and headed off in Irma, with Ghost behind us, and we headed back down through Oregon, California, Arizona and then finally, back to New Mexico.

We’ve been here a few days now and the dogs are LOVING the yard again. The water is upsetting Gina’s tummy a tiny bit, but nothing major. The thorns are, as before, quite bad but we are solving that by buying some good Ruffwear boots for Odin and the girls. We’re going to see how much getting them rattlesnake vaccinations will cost, just in case.

We’re talking about staying, but it’s a decision we’ve got a few months to decide as April is the husband’s training month. After that, we head to Arizona for an experience in Overlanding that my husband is volunteering at; and after that, we’re heading back to Oregon in June, and we’ll make our final decisions after that. There are lots of variables and each one affects us in different ways, and in doing so, affects our final destination.

For now, the dogs are happy, we are settled in for a bit – so I can get some work done – and we can sort Irma out and the Jeep too. Azzie is doing very well now, thanks to her Posh Dog Knee Brace and she has actually been going on walks and playing without the brace for the last 2 weeks or so. We’re trying to rebuild the muscle on her left leg as it did diminish a bit – but not nearly as much as it would have atrophied if she’d had the surgery and been completely unable to walk. I can only sing the praises of the PDKB and I will continue to spread the word as much as I can.

 

The Vees Big Adventure continues, just not in the direction we thought.

On an aside: Amazon decided we could no longer keep our affiliate status as we’d not sold enough in 120 days to be “viable” so our link is no longer active.

 

We said Happy 9th Birthday to our Gina at the end of February, and Happy “5th or 6th” Birthday to Little Dude, Odin. Azzie turns 6 in mid-April and we will celebrate then too with Calichi Poochie Cones 🙂

 

Just wasn’t for us, I guess.

 

On the Road – Part One

Georgia

I’m finally settled in one place long enough to get an update in, with chores and errands and repairs done.

I’ll catch you up on the day we left Georgia, and the travel and driving and the places we’ve seen since then. I decided to break it up into sections as one post on the whole thing was not only making me feel very overwhelmed, I think it would have been too much writing in one go.

An unseasonably warm and humid October in Georgia had us parking Irma (as named after the Hurricane of epic proportions that we went to fetch her during, and the subsequent heartache and financial craziness she had us going through after that) outside our home on post during the day, and taking her back to the temporary storage at night. The first couple of days we ripped out, tore down, extracted, unscrewed, unbolted, removed and replaced a whole BUNCH of things from Irma’s interior and exterior.

We took stock of what remained, what we could upgrade, what we could live without and what we definitely needed to get.

 

The extra swivel chair by the door got removed; to be replaced with Odin and Gina’s favourite round, soft bed – Azzie sleeps just about anywhere, and we felt Odin would probably sleep on our bed most of the time anyway, but he does love that bed. (It has seen a lot of use since we started travelling, so we know it was a good decision to keep it)

The old microwave (“It totally works!” said the RV dealership… sure it does… but the door doesn’t open… so what’s the point, you conniving arsehats?) was removed, along with the various venting and stabilising bits. We would look for a replacement microwave at some point but could live without it at that point.

 

 

 

The built-in coffee maker was removed. RV dealer swore it worked, but by that stage, we believed nothing they had promised, and we didn’t need it anyway as the husband is a coffee purist and doesn’t drink “filter” coffee.

 

We also removed the hideous, frilly curtains and sidings, and the dangerous (for clumsy people such as myself) hooks and metal tie-backs. I created simple, black-out curtains from our old curtains from Germany, made ribbon tie-ups and velcro fastenings for easy cleaning and removal. It looked quite nice and pretty much matched the rest of the interior (pale blues, beige, and pinks – sounds worse than it is) and matched our aesthetic, so we were happy with them. Plus, they didn’t cost much to make; just some velcro, some hemming tape, and some ribbon. I only had time to replace the bedroom curtains at that stage – the long side windows came next, in New Mexico.

 

 

We went through all our clothes, our gear, the dogs’ gear, our kitchen, and bathroom stuff, and downsized dramatically. The rest got taken away by the military movers and put into storage for 3 months until we could get a storage place at our “end point’ of Oregon; donated what wasn’t going into storage. We tried to sell some larger items (the dining room table, mountain bike, etc) but I was a bit late putting up the adverts, unfortunately, so those items got packed up with the storage stuff.

 

We only got Irma back from the RV repair place in Augusta, in mid-October; because everything that the RV dealership said was working, wasn’t; plus there were so many OTHER issues that we had to get it all fixed to make her livable and up for long distance travel with us.

While Irma was being restored and repaired (which cost a hell of a lot of money) we got a small stash of “South African goodies” from the South African Store in Atlanta; we had a few final hikes in the forests as best we could with Azzie recovering from her ACL tear and getting used to her brace; we spent a lovely weekend early morning at a beautiful pond with our friend and her dogs. We had coffee with friends and a small farewell dinner with only a select chosen few of people that TJ knew from work. The few friends that I had made had left Georgia already, so it was just a gathering for him, really.

We basically spent the last few weeks of being in Georgia, trying to enjoy Georgia. It was warm, humid, and there were still loads of bugs and mozzies – very odd for that time of year – but we made the best of it.

The items we ordered from Amazon, to make our travels in the RV easier, started arriving so we had the fun of unpacking those and waiting for Irma to arrive to pack those away. We also tried out a few meals in the Instant Pot and we LOVED it! So quick and easy and the meat was tender and falling apart, no matter the type or whether it had been frozen or not.

Our housing final inspection day arrived and we were all sorted – house was spotless and Irma was packed in a flat parking lot just down the road so we could start the fridge up (we got so many warnings about operating the fridge on a flat surface that we took it very seriously) and get it cold enough to put our few items from the fridge and freezer in it. The fridge was one of the things fixed by the Augusta RV place, so we at least knew THAT worked.

The generator ran well, kept the AC nice and cool.

The dogs and I walked from the house to the RV; a final walk on the post and in Georgia.

It was bittersweet – I will miss the forests and trails and lakes and ponds, but I won’t miss the bugs and mozzies and humidity.

I let the dogs sniff and piddle wherever they wanted on the way to Irma and we climbed in and waited for husband to get done with the inspector at the house.

Around 13:30 he came back with the Jeep and we had a small, simple lunch and then we hitched up the Jeep for the first time (it was a learning experience, but we’d watched many videos so we had a good idea what to do) checked each other’s work and then got On The Road for real.

Odin was terrified of the movement and the generator noise, but he found his “safe place” in the passenger side footwell with me. He slept there for that first trip and has done so for all trips after that one.

 

The girls got up onto the folded down beds – we put both of them down for extra space and Gina liked the couch and Azzie liked the dinette bed. So we were all comfy and happy.

We waved a sad goodbye to Fort Gordon.

As Augusta, and Georgia, slowly slipped by, we remembered our time there; but we also looked ahead with nervous anticipation to the next chapter in our journey!

The Vees Big Adventure began on October 20th, 2017!

 

Difficult decisions, difficult times

The Vees Big Adventure is up in the air, free-falling, and we are devastated.

Due to circumstances beyond our control and unscrupulous RV dealers, the costs to repair the RV properly (despite us being told by the salesman AND the technician that it had a FULL check out and some “brand new” bits and pieces) are piling up at an alarming rate. The repairs could cost almost as much as the RV. The RV dealership basically told us to take a hike and read the documentation. Husband is reeling. We’re both reeling. Our savings is pretty much gone at this stage and we’re faced with some very difficult decisions.

I’m still struggling to find work, despite my certifications and practical experience. I’ve applied to more than 50 jobs and written at least 12 different entrance tests and been told: “we’ll get back to you.” The movers come to pack up our household goods tomorrow morning and remove it all the next day. We have to vacate the house within the week after that. Dogs still have to go to the vet for their annual checkups and vaccinations (always an expensive visit for all three). We still have to buy some things we really NEED for the RV in order for us to live in it and WORK in it, and these are NOT cheap.

We have nowhere to stay, no income, and no means of transporting the dogs and us across the country. The Jeep was going to be towed behind the RV because it still needs some work and we were going to do that in New Mexico, before heading to Oregon – we don’t know if it would make the trip being driven.

Husband has crunched numbers and no matter how he slices it we come out of it incredibly badly. Our hearts are broken.

This was going to be our big adventure – everything seemed so bright, so inviting, so promising. Husband could finally work on himself, instead of being at the whim of the military; I was going to finally be the breadwinner for a while and take some weight off his shoulders – I was looking FORWARD to it!

Everything just feels so soiled and broken thanks to these dishonest asshats at the dealership. Our dreams are crushed. There’s no more excitement, only a vague desperation to everything we now decide.

I take people at face value, and I’m the one who dealt with them right up until the day we drove the 4.5 hours to go fetch our Brave. We were SO excited. I give people the benefit of the doubt, always, and that’s my downfall, apparently. I treat people honestly, and I’m clearly under the misguided assumption that people would do the same for me. I am so wrong. I will never again trust anyone who has any kind of sway in my life when it comes to these kinds of things. My heart is crushed. I am so disappointed it makes my throat ache. I feel so responsible for the whole mess, which makes me feel quite sick.

I’m also angry. Seething, fuming, red-eyed, silent raging angry. (Unfortunately, when I get really angry I also tend to cry, which makes people take me less seriously and think I’m weak and pathetic. It’s infuriating.)

We have to get the RV repaired either way – whether we decide to try living in it and traveling up to Oregon and even if we want to sell it. So we’re screwed either way.

I’ve never been in such a hole of despair before. I’ve had moments close to it, but nothing like this where there’s just NO decision that leads to some sort of head-above-water for us both.

 

UNIVERSE, I NEED TO GET SOME WORK!

I don’t have to earn much for us to get by, but I have to get SOMETHING!

*Shakes fist*

 

*deep breath*

 

So, that’s our unfortunate tale – not even on the road yet and our adventure has hit major bumps and our lust for adventure is severely tarnished.

 

 

Irma versus The Vees

Alright! Just a quick update on our RV situation:

The RV centre finally got in touch on Friday and said our little Brave was ready for pickup – Monday afternoon! Hooray!

And then we put the phone down and looked at each other and realised Monday was also the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Georgia. What to do? We had a good think and a hearty discussion.

The RV centre is way up north and west and won’t be “touched” by Irma until late Tuesday, and Irma will no longer be a full-on hurricane by then (in theory) “only” a heavy depression. However, due to the timeline of our pickup and the storm, we’ve made the decision to head out that way (we will leave a good few hours before Irma hits the Georgia state line down below us) grab our RV, drop our rental car off (we didn’t think Daisy would be up for that kind of long drive, plus we wanted to BOTH be in the RV with the dogs – not have one of us driving behind) and head up further north to Tennessee to visit our good friend from Germany who is now living in the USA. He has space for us, the dogs, our RV, and lots to show us on his farm there. We can ride out the rest of the storm and get our first taste for RV living – probably a little bit safer than in Augusta too.

Just hope our home, and Daisy, hold up while we’re gone. We’ll batten everything down outside; unplug everything inside; take everything upstairs that can be moved and hope for the best.

I’ll take lots of photos and maybe some video too (to add to our YouTube channel, of course!) of this first big step in our Big Adventure!

You certainly can’t say The Vees do anything in half measures!

Photo courtesy of racingnews.co
Hurricane Irma – Sept 2017

Gathering the Goods

Things are getting “real” here in the Vee household!

Our RV is in the “queue” for the full check out “check-out”; we pick up our gorgeous old Jeep in a couple of weeks time; we’ve sold Erika. We were heartbroken; both of us near tears, but it had to be done. We will miss this little firecracker of a car. She was a pleasure to drive, and so fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve got a buyer for Daisy (also heartbreaking, but we know the people who are buying her and we know they will take good care of her like we did, so it’s not as bad as saying goodbye to the little Smart) who is letting us hold on to her until we go get our Jeep and get it into perfect running order (just a couple of things need doing – she’s otherwise running fine); husband is counting down the days until his ETS leave begins… and then we’re going to go fetch our Winnie (not sure what we’re going to name her yet; we have to get to know her first) and start sifting through our belongings to decide what comes with, what gets stored and what gets sold or donated. So close now we can taste it! I will post photos of the Jeep and the RV as we get them, of course.

 

Azzie’s brace was adjusted and it came back today (This company is SUPER fast with shipping and help! Send me a message if you want to know more, but I’ll be writing a post on the whole process very soon, with photos and maybe a video or two as well) and I’m going to put it back on Azzie for her evening walk… *paws crossed* With all the new adjustments, it should be perfect this time and we can get stuck into her recovery! My bionic dog will be on the mend, finally!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re making lists (and checking them WAY more than twice!) and researching solar; gathering the goods and bits and bobs that will make our RV life easier and more comfortable.

I’m researching places to boondock, and places to stay with hookups; we’re deciding on what state we will now be “residents” of; researching all the documents required to register vehicles, RVs, and us in this new state; finding a storage space in Oregon; sorting out prescriptions for the dogs, and check-ups before we head out on the road. It’s busy, busy, busy, but oh so exciting!

I’m trying to sort out work that I can do online, on the road, with the reasonably limited (but not as limited as it was a few years back – we’ve really picked a good time to be setting off, as there are many more options available and information at hand for full-time RVers) internet access that we will have.

I have a few things lined up, but who knows what will pan out. If we can get our YouTube channel up and running and out there in the world, we can perhaps earn a little something extra that way – but that takes time, of course. We’re also going to be joining the Amazon Affiliates program, and starting a Patreon account – so if anyone wants to chip in a dollar or two, we’d be most appreciative!

 

What have we been up to the last couple of months? We’ve said goodbye to some long-time friends, like little Kink.  We’ve caught up with an old friend, Max, and Ellie and Shane. We’ve made a new friend or two as well – little Georgie! Odin gets very excited when he sees her at the dog park – his first girlfriend.  We’ve also gotten to know Alistaire and Tater a little better, with a lovely forest walk and a chill session on a posh hotel’s balcony.

 

 

 

We’ve had some early morning dog park sessions, before it got too hot (thanks, Georgia), and we’ve watched an eclipse!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve gone shooting and I’ve done well – better than I was expecting with such a long break between range days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve had good days and bad days, but through it all we’ve hung on to this new adventure ahead of us.

 

Endings and New Beginnings

Finally, I can relax.

Over the last couple of days, I wrote my final exams for my medical course… it is finally at an end. It was a long, difficult, brain intensive course and I thoroughly enjoyed MOST of it. It had a few moments of boredom (if I had to type out another report about someone’s diarrhea….) and a few moments where I had no idea what I was doing… but the ending was clear, and I studied hard, and I now await the grading process completion.

I am trying not to think about it, trying not to obsess and fret about it – there is nothing I can do to change things now – and I am trying to enjoy the new (or back to the) freedom of my days! Only been one day, but man oh man I’ve accomplished a lot! All these little things I couldn’t get done because I had no time during the day to do anything but coursework and module tests and listen to reports and edit, edit, edit.

I’m not going to complain about it though – it was an experience and another part of the story of my life. I learned loads, and I have brand new shiny skills that I am quite keen to use.

I just hope the exams went as well as I FEEL they did! Hah!

 

Another ending that has occurred is that my stint as a Chloe&Isabel merchandiser has come to an end. Unfortunately, due to lack of sales for over 6 months, the company “lets you go” as a merchandiser. I tried my best, but I am not a networker and my efforts at selling online (Despite my best efforts and more money spent) did not pan out as well as I had hoped. I got support from only a small number of people, and I am grateful to them for it. Perhaps, when I am more stuck in to my work as a transcriptionist/editor, I can spend the money on marketing and give it another shot. Right now though, it’s just one more thing off my list. Sad, but it happens. Another thing I failed at. Yay, me.

 

The countdown is beginning for the “We’re getting out!” thing. It’s a bit surreal still. I am sure it will become more real when we start sorting out the movers and cleaning the house for the inspection, and clearing his unit and things like that. What will make it serious will be when we decide on when we will be going, where we will be living, and what we will be doing when we get there.

We have options, we have ideas. We just have to narrow it down and make a good decision or two. It’s scary. We both feel a bit overwhelmed, but we will get through it together as we always do. The dogs are with us too! They are our anchors and one of the main factors in our decision-making process!

 

As I knew I would, I am trying to remain detached from people. I don’t want to make more friends-with-dogs and then have to leave them again in a few months time. My heart is still sore from saying goodbye to our little foxy friend and his mom.

I have met a few cool people, but I am keeping it to “doggy friends” and that’s it.

We met a proper Greyhound a few mornings ago! He (his name was Third!) and Odin actually got on STRAIGHT AWAY! It was awesome! He has all these mannerisms that Odin has too – I thought they were “Stray dog” things, but apparently they are Greyhound things! His mom, Sara, and I had a nice chat about their funny characters. She said she could see the Greyhound in Odin, and then she saw him poop in a bush and she said, “Yup, that’s a Greyhound thing!” We laughed.

We have also met up with a lovely young Husky called Apollo a few times now, in the cooler evenings, and he and Odin (and even Azzie and Gina) get along really well, surprisingly!

Georgia is rolling out her summer carpets and it’s been hot, humid, rainy, hot, humid, cool, rainy, VERY hot, VERY humid, and back to just plain hot again.

We had a nice cool evening a few nights ago, and a cool morning followed – this was after a massive storm. Azzie did so well, despite the thunder and lightning. No tornado watches for that one, thankfully.

 

The Cape (back home) has been in the grips of a terrible drought – the worst they’ve had in 100 years, they say – and then over the last few days (Tuesday to Thursday) there was a HECTIC storm with high seas and LOTS of rain, and now they are expecting snow as well. Hoping that will fill the dams a bit, as they were so low they were in the single digit percentages.

Unfortunately, there’s also been a terrible wild fire in one of the most beautiful places: Knysna. Homes destroyed, huges swaths of forest decimated. Utterly terrible.

Someone probably set it, as there have been a rash of fires in the area and further down in Cape Town and surrounds as well.

I don’t understand the mentality of someone who could do that – they must be deranged.

 

Chaos. Endings. Beginnings.

The world turns on.

 

To paraphrase Jane Goodall, “Mother Nature can save herself, she just needs us to give her a chance.”

 

I think She is angry and I cannot blame her.

 

 

Time to say goodbye

Living the military life can be both incredibly awesome, and totally miserable.

You get to live in places all over the world, on the military’s dime, and you get to experience things you’d never normally experience thanks to this.

The flip side of this travel collage is that you make friends, and you then get to say goodbye. Either you are leaving, or they are leaving, and if you happen to meet them at the end of your run in a place, or at the end of theirs, your time is even shorter. For most this is not an issue, but for people like me (and like the friends I have made – mostly foreigners like me, let me add – but not all) who find it hard to open up to people in the first place, having to speed up the “making friends” process can be horribly uncomfortable. Because of this, I don’t make friends. I actually try and make a point of not interacting too much with people because it takes me so long to trust and to find common ground.

However, I also try very hard to make “doggy friends” so that my dogs don’t feel alienated and “left out” when we move to a new place. Most of these “doggy friends” stay just that: people we meet at the dog park, or occasionally see out walking and join on a loop of the neighbourhood, but then one or two come along where our dogs just click, and we just click, and that’s it for my hermit mentality.

Now, through experience in this life, when it is time to say goodbye I tend to find myself feeling numb, aloof, and detached.

Saying goodbye to my friend Stephanie and her dog Frost, (and her husband Mike as well – though I was closer to Stephanie because of all the time we spent together daily with our dogs) today was difficult. I could feel the walls coming up already as she walked back to her car – “Don’t look back!” I said, because I knew if she did I would probably cry – and my heart turning in on itself, as per usual.  I will be very sad, believe me, but after a few days I will move on with my daily life, back to my hermit ways. Back to weeks of silence, except for enlightening conversations with my dogs.  I’ve done this enough times now to know that while it hurts right now, it will ease and it’s not like this time I’m going to another country – we can still be in touch!

But she and Frost were the reason we got going in the mornings: our walks were important. She also kept us on a routine in the evenings – we had to walk, or Frost would get up to mischief all night!

 

What will kick me in the soft bits later is when we go for our evening romp and stroll to and from the dog park, and the dogs wait impatiently at the fence for Frost and Stephanie to arrive… and they won’t be joining us ever again. That will hurt. My dogs are my children, and knowing they are confused and missing their buddy, that will hurt.

I know all the dogs knew there was something going on today (and for the last week, really, with the coming and going of Stephanie and Frost, and me as well) as Odin was very clingy with me, and Azzie wouldn’t leave Stephanie alone when she came to drop our vacuum cleaner off.

They will feel it when we go out, just the 4 of us, on our walks in the forest, or through the back streets of the other ‘hoods. And no more ‘hood walks, because we no longer have our body guards with us – Stephanie and Frost made us feel safer, even if it was just for the most part positive thinking, rather than practicality.

But, we got our day at the beach,

our walks in the sun, in the rain, in the wind, in the forest,

on the streets with our friends. These memories will stick with us always.

Safe travels, my friends.

 

Welcome, officially, to the military life.

Hello!

And now, time to say goodbye.

 

Find Your Trail

To Find Your Trail

I am a firm believer in getting your dogs out in the area they are “living” (or even just staying for a short while) and getting to know it well, and finding good trails to follow. When a dog is stuck inside their home (or even if they have access to a yard) and never gets to go anywhere in their neighbourhood, they don’t know where they _are_ and if they ever get loose (and the chances of a dog escaping the confines of their prison – and it is a prison to a dog, as nice as it might be – at every opportunity are very high when they don’t get out at all) they get lost all the more quickly. If a dog knows where his or her home is, what all the landmarks and smells are around it, where the dogs are, where the roads are, they tend to be less panicked and fearful (sometimes it might take a little longer for them to calm down) and can find their way home on their own.

So, now wherever we live, I always get my dogs out into the area as soon as I can. We start small: Just a walk around the block, or around 2 blocks, or in different directions up and down the road we are on until we know the area very well. We then venture a little further, going 20 minutes in one direction and then turning back. We then look for loops and roads that return to ours. Big blocks, medium blocks, lots of small blocks.

Don’t be afraid to  turn around and go back the way you came – dogs don’t care. If you cross the road, it means even MORE new things to sniff!

 

Once you have walked completely around your neighbourhood (as far as you can go safely, of course) and you know it very well, head to Google Maps

I have found MANY wonderful trails and greenbelts by doing this. I’ve discovered secret lakes and ponds, wide open fields in the middle of a city, forest trails that start at the end of my street! Even if you find one and walk there and then discover there’s a fence in the way that you couldn’t see on the map – it’s ok! Follow the fence, or check the map later for places you can see a path emerging from the trees.

You can also start looking further afield: I start in my ‘hood, but I always end up finding places and trails about 5 or 10 minutes drive away. I then look for places to park safely, and hopefully a shady spot if it’s spring/summer (especially here in Georgia) and the entrance to a trail. Also – find OTHER small neighbourhoods and go check those out. Park in a public area (a park, or a playground area) and head off around the ‘hood. Your dogs will LOVE the chance to sniff and piddle on these new hunting grounds. You can even take a drive around the new area first, with windows down, nice and slowly, so you can check it out before you start walking – check for loose dogs, bad fences, chained dogs, “no dogs” signs, glass on the sidewalk, thorny patches etc.

If you’re tired of the street, go check Google Maps for green areas, forests, parks.  These are for daily walks, mostly.

If you have more time on a weekend, research places during the week and head off on a Saturday or Sunday morning, nice and early. We discovered a dam and a lake and a beautiful beach this way! You can also look up the local nature parks and hiking/biking trails – look at alltrails.com (you don’t have to get the pro version to find awesome places to walk, and they all come with comments and helpful information about water access, toilet access, and if dogs are allowed) or look for the State Parks website for your state.

Check out forums for local hikers/mountain bikers and you will find loads of information there too.

When I go walking anywhere new (street or forest or trail or farm) I carry a small backpack with the following necessities: Poop bags. A 2 liter water canteen and large collapsible water bowl for the dogs (winter or summer, they are thirsty fluffs). If it’s hot weather, I will bring a 500 ml bottle of water for myself. Wipes for paws/hands/etc. A small first aid kit. A toy – preferably squeaky, but that’s my dogs’ personal choice. A spare lead. Treats! Very important! I also carry my phone, a torch/headlamp, a tick twister, a whistle, and some para-cord. You never know. Might sound like a lot, but I like to be prepared, and you get used to the weight of it. We stop for a water break and a rest every 1 km when it’s hot, and maybe every 2 km when it’s nice and cold out – I go by the dogs and how they are feeling. Odin will ask for water if he wants it, and Azzie just flops down and won’t go any further if she is too tired or hot and wants water.

 

Do some research before you head out on a trail or forest walk: Know what snakes are in the area, and any predators you might encounter. Be aware and alert at all times, but try not to work yourself up into an anxious state, as this is a real downer to dogs because they spend the walk LOOKING for something to be scared of or react to. Simply be aware of your surroundings, learn what types of places to avoid (fallen trees – snakes love hiding under them) and never do anything too extreme if you are on your own (don’t climb down a ravine, unless you can see an appropriate exit path that you AND your dogs can get up without too much hassle). Be as quiet as you can – that way you can hear anything out of the ordinary, AND you get to enjoy the sounds of nature around you. Dogs also like silence, by the way – but the occasional recall for a treat and a “good dog” when they do, makes a world of difference to them as well. Be respectful – you are walking among living things: not just the trees, but animals call this their home. Don’t destroy things, or pick things that you shouldn’t. Leave tracks, not trash. If you can REACH the spot your dog pooped (especially on or next to the trail you are walking) please pick it up. I normally take my dogs to the dog park first, so they can poop etc, and I can pick up and throw it away and I don’t have to carry poop bags around for the entire walk. Sometimes, though, one or two of my dogs will go a second time if the walk is long enough to warrant it. If I can get to it easily, I will pick it up. If it’s in brambles, or thorn trees, or thick undergrowth (snakes!) then I tend to leave it. I do try, but I’m not getting my hand torn up by thorns, or bitten by a snake, or covered in poison ivy, just to pick up a poop that nobody is going to be going anywhere near anyway. Just being honest.

If you are someone like me who can sometimes get turned around if the trail has many offshoots or crossroads, then use your phone to take a photo at each junction, of the direction you came and the direction you are going. If you don’t want to use your phone, then find a few pieces of wood or sticks/branches, and make a double arrow – pointing the way you came, and the way you went. It’s saved me a few times when I thought I knew where I was, but ended up going in a circle… If there are no sticks around, find a pile of leaves and place those at the entrances to the path you are leaving and the path you are entering. That also works.

Main and final point: Get outside! Find adventure! Your dogs will love it – you bond so much more with your dogs if you walk together, and the longer the walk the better. Tired dogs are happy dogs. Dirty dogs are even happier 😀 Also – don’t be afraid to get dirty, wear good shoes that are appropriate to the ground you will be covering, and sunscreen if it’s hot, and lots of insect repellent. Pack a spare light jacket if you are walking in winter or if it’s undecided whether it will rain or not.