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.

Time for another update

Time for another update

I thought it was well passed time for another update, as things have happened, and changed and other things are still ticking along.

Dogs are doing well – I’ve now taken all of them to St Francis Animal Hospital at one point or another in the last few weeks and I have to say I have been very happy with the service and the people there. Odin had an ongoing issue with his tummy, and I finally gave up on trying to fix it myself (it was a losing battle!) and the vet found he had multiple types of worms (not eradicated by their usual monthly dose of heartworm tablets, which does kill some types, but not these, clearly!) and she said that after moving from lovely cold Washington, she’d found from experience that Georgia is a “cesspool of bugs, parasites and protozoa of all kinds” – her words, not mine. She says that you have to be vigilant and most DEFINITELY keep up the heartworm medication, as they are rife here.

Gina got her Previcox, finally, and she is doing SUPER well on it. She’s full of bounce and energy again and comes with on 99% of the walks. She sometimes decides to stay home if it’s late evening, she’s already been to the loo on the previous walk and most importantly, daddy is home.

Azzie’s hotspot cleared up very nicely and I’m keeping an eye on her for any others that might appear.

With this hot, humid weather (Georgia is rolling out the spring/summer carpet already) there are ticks and fleas, but I’m finding the BravEcto is working very well. I’m the only one who gets bitten, now!

We also clipped down Azzie and Gina a few weeks ago – it was just starting to get SO hot that we couldn’t leave it any longer. All the groomers we tried were booked up, so we just got some good clippers and we did it ourselves. We made a few mess-ups (especially with Azzie, as she WRIGGLES like mad and it’s hard to keep her still enough to work on certain parts of her body!) but it came out looking pretty good and the girls were feeling much lighter and cooler. We didn’t shave them down, just clipped their very long fur down to about an inch or so. Probably more, as we didn’t want to go too close, just yet. We’ll try again in a few weeks, armed with this experience!

 

An update on my school work: I wrote my theory exam 2 weeks ago and I did VERY well. Much better than I thought I would! That was also with minimal “working off page” and I felt pretty proud of myself! Now the theory is done, I’m starting into actual practical work – actual transcription! It’s very exciting, to me. Sometimes the accents and the Americanising…. ZING… of the words gets on my nerves a bit, but it just makes it more of a challenge, and will help me when I step out into the REAL world to begin working.  I’d really like to work with psychology reports and things, but I don’t think you get much choice. I just want to get working, so I can start earning and contributing.

I also want to get my school work done so I can start responding to all the people who have asked for my help with their dogs! A few evening ago, while walking the chickens, a lady came up to me and starting talking to me about the dogs, her dogs, my dogs, etc, and asked what my website was for my training. I explained that i only do it for myself and I’ve done it that way – I don’t have any professional accreditation. I do have a partial degree in animal behaviour, but it’s more aimed toward horses! I didn’t mention that though. But she was determined, this lady, and said that she’s seen me walking my dogs and how wonderfully well behaved (I laughed, but let her carry on) they were and all that, and wanted my help with her dogs. My first question was how much exercise they got and she gave me the usual American answer “Well, they have a back yard to play in, so I don’t walk them.” So me, being the polite person I am, simply said “Well, that’s a start.” And she took my name said she would look me up on Facebook. I won’t hold my breath, but I will certainly go walking that way again when I am done with school, and see if she still wants my help. I will have time then, and her dogs don’t suffer in the heat like mine do, so I will have during the day to work on them, after walking mine.

Our Bird Bar, as we call it, is in full swing. We’re getting all sorts of new kinds of birds every day, including a hummingbird!! We bought a feeder for them, and I made some “nectar” syrup from scratch. No colourants etc. We had a couple of them coming by quite often for a few days, but then the HUGE ants found the feeder and I keep having to clean it out because they keep DROWNING in it! And I’m sure the hummingbirds don’t want to drink dead ants. Very annoying! I’ve tried moving the feeder further along the branch, but they keep finding it!

There’s also a family of SIX squirrels who come down to the yard from the tree in the front. I call one of them Blinky, as she initially had a very closed up, swollen eye and I thought she might lose it. But she’s bounced back and it’s just a little bit odd looking now and her little ear is a bit wonky, but that’s it. She’s still recognisable though.

I’ve seen loads more fauna around here (foxes, deer, and even a RABBIT the other morning!) and I am slowly starting to recognise local plants and trees. I still have to work out what kind of tree we have in the back yard here, and clarify what the huge one in the front is too. When I finish my school, I will start with the proper Herbology and crafting of salves and lotions and potions and tinctures. I just don’t have the time right now to focus too heavily on that side of my life. I am looking forward to it though!

My good friend from South Africa – an amazing photographer – has launched a project called Running With Dogs and even though I am far away, he wanted to include me in it! I was thrilled, and honoured, and SO flattered! I’m the only guest photographer, as far as I know. I sent him quite a few photos, after a lovely shoot with my husband and our pooches in the forest. He selected his favourites and he will include one of them in the calendar! I’m so excited!

What else? Oh, I made some peach crumble from scratch (Except for the peaches – they had no fresh ones at the commissary when we went, unfortunately) and bread too. I’ve made my chocolate cake a few times as well now. I’m trying to get out of my lazy rut and get my baking skills in gear, but my brain is usually so tired/burned out from school work that I can barely concentrate for more than 10 minutes sometimes! But I shall persevere! It’s getting easier now, with just the practicum modules, but still mind-intensive.

Our garden is doing WELL! We harvested our first batch of Arugula the other day! It’s so delicious! It just tastes so good, knowing we grew it ourselves! Now just waiting for the other herbs and plants to catch up and give me a harvest. Hopefully it will only be once I’m done with school! I’ve got Sage, Chives, Chamomile, Echinacea, and all sorts of wonderful things coming up! Our garlic is doing nicely too. The mint plants in the front are flourishing! We use them to make Mojitos 😀 I am trying to find things to make with the Chocolate Mint, as it is spreading all over the place! I might have to replant her into a pot by herself if she keeps this up!

 

Otherwise, we are doing well. Things are settling into a routine and we’re finding our way.

 

And there it is

So, people – there it is. Goal weight. Or should I say _initial_ goal weight (I still want to lose a little more, but this was my first goal to reach, to keep me motivated)

I wasn’t expecting it, as I’ve been feeling a bit meh the last few days (headache, etc) but still eating (nothing stops me eating – not even food poisoning – I’m African) and running with Odin (who is doing superbly, by the way) and of course all the walks with the pack. It was a nice surprise, I have to say! I was expecting maybe 1 pound less than yesterday ( I did acknowledge that I’d been pretty good about my portion control since the weekend, when I binged on pizza and beer with my husband) but instead I found 2.5 pounds dropped off. It’s a good feeling. Now I just need to maintain, and/or drop a little more and then I am going to start weights, and get some tone to my jiggly bits.

Yay me! Of course, waking up this morning my knees were incredibly sore :/ Just my body reminding me that I turn 40 in a few months – another reason I wanted to reach this goal weight before that day. Psychological barrier and all that.

40. Quite honestly I never thought I’d make it to forty, much less be married to an American and living in a foreign country. I couldn’t “see” my life passed around 25. That was my “I am a grown up now” age, when I was a young girl. 25 was OLD. 25 was a “real grown up with a job and stuff” but I never wanted kids or to be married – I was never one of “those” girls who planned my wedding and picked my dress out before I’d even turned 14. I played with dolls, but I made them do crazy stuff like bungee jump and ride motorbikes and do karate. I never gave it a thought, really. I was too busy playing “Thundercats” and climbing mountains and riding around on my bicycle (while I had one, anyway – it was called Lightning and I pretended she was a horse) until the street lights came on and I headed home to read books until much later than I was meant to be up, and eat peanut butter toast.

Life has been… interesting and a challenge at times. I’ve been through some hectic sh*t, but I’m stronger each time I come out the other side. A bit more worn and dirty and cynical and jaded, but much stronger for sure. I have many scars – both physical and emotional – and while I do try to be open-minded and easygoing, I DO have certain things that rile me up no matter how hard I try not to let them. But I’m not ashamed of that, or any of my scars. My life is my life. It’s made me who I am and what I am. If I was not who I was at the time, I would never have made the decision to break out of IT and get into photography, quit my job and start riding horses all over the place. I would never have met my husband, because I wouldn’t have been house/dog sitting so much.

So many paths taken that have led me here. Nearly 40 and living in Germany, on an American military post, with my gorgeous husband and 3 beautiful furry children.

Life, huh? It’s cray-cray.

 

 

Day Nine and more adventures

Day Nine of the Gina, Azzie and Odin adventure!

It was warm, but not too bad this morning (cooler than yesterday) so I decided to take the dogs for Odin’s first walk in the Wald 🙂 We headed out from the parking lot up near the Blick and headed off on one of the slightly shorter walks, just to take it easy for him initially. He had a blast. I did let him off lead when we stopped for water, but he kinda wandered off and got a bit nervous so I put him back on and he was fine. I think he feels secure on the lead when he is in new places.
Dogs were all awesome. All pooped – all good. Odin’s a little soft, but not awful. Maybe too much marrow bone 🙂

And since Odin appeared to be quite tuckered out by the walk (it was only 45 minutes, but a lot of walking and sniffing) I decided today was the day to start his separation training.

I breezed around the apartment, acting like it was all normal, and closed the bedroom door just in case. Then I got my stuff together, put my slip slops on and got the dogs their jumbones – this is a signal to the girls that I am going out for a little while so they clearly conveyed this message to Odin because I gave him his, he settled on Gina’s bed (shame, not sure where she ate hers, as Azzie was on her bed and there was nowhere else really to eat it) and I left! Made no big thing about it, just said “bye guys, I’ll be back later” and headed out.

I asked my neighbour to keep an ear out, just to see if Odin carried on a bit (he does make a strange whine/howl noise for a few seconds when I take the other dogs down in the mornings and evenings, and when I go feed the stray cats – but it only lasts a short time) after I left, but she said she didn’t hear a peep the whole time I was gone. I was SO proud, and such a huge weight is off my shoulders now too. I didn’t push my luck of course – I was only gone about 30 minutes, max, including driving time – but it’s a good start and promising for the future. 🙂 I know my girls had a good deal to do with Odin’s relaxed attitude to the separation, and that makes me really proud of them too.

I took loads of photos on our forest walk this morning, so I will go through those today and post some later.

I have a house to clean too as my husband comes home soon – of course not sure of when, but it will hopefully be “soon” 🙂

I lost some more weight as well, so I’m feeling pretty awesome today.

All my pants are now falling down on me – which, while annoying, is pretty DAMN COOL! 😀

And all this weight loss just from my regular walking exercise with the dogs, and cutting my portions down. That’s it. Hard work, but so worth it. I have energy, my knee doesn’t hurt anymore (I mean I wasn’t OVERWEIGHT or anything – I was still in my BMI region, but at the top of it – but even just the weight I’ve lost has made a difference to that, so I cannot even imagine what a difference it makes to someone who is heavily overweight) and I sleep better at night. My hip doesn’t hurt as much either – but that could be the warmer weather, more than any weight loss. I can’t wait to start running again and see how THAT affects my weight too.

I had a “wow” moment last night: I realised I turn 40 this year. I really don’t feel like it, and I know that I don’t look it (generally) so I won’t act like it 😀 40 is the new 20!! Right?!

 

I also just moved my laptop back to my desk, so I am no longer sitting on the couch in front of the tv. This forces me to sit up straight so I can see the screen properly and use the keyboard without hurting my wrists, and it will help me focus on my tech courses as well. I’ve had plenty of time to veg out watching my tv series etc. When my husband gets home he will be in my place there on the couch, I’m sure! And rightly deserved after his time away.

I’m also working on a menu for the week, so I can shop for exactly what I need, and nothing will go to waste anymore. I’m tired of wasting food and buying things and not using them for what I bought them for! I’ll get some suggestions from his lordship as well. One of my ideas is a “something new night” where I take a recipe from one of my many awesome cookbooks and make that – something completely new. If it works and we like it, it can be added to the menu rotation. I’ve got enough meals for 2 weeks, including the “something new” night.

 

Step Away

So. I did it.

2 Days ago I finally pressed the “delete account” button for Facebook.

Day 3 of Life Without Facebook and I have to say, I still have the habit of sitting down in front of my laptop in the morning and think of clicking the link to check my FB, but it’s waning very quickly. This morning I didn’t even open up my “daily” folder.

I opened email, checked Ello, and then had a chat with some friends on slack (new school IRC, basically – same good old friends and channel though) and continued with my day.

Sunday means dog park play date, and I also made breakfast for my husband who is on 24/7 duty for a week. Fun stuff.

We headed off, breakfast warm and cup of fresh coffee in hand for him too. Dogs said hi, we hung around for a little bit and then met our buddies at the dog park for an hour and a half of running around in the mud and rain. It was great. Dogs were great.

So I am _slowly_ getting used to Life Without Facebook, and I am starting to slip into a _new_ life routine. It’s pretty cool actually. I have moments though, I will admit, where I think about it… but it passes and I move on.

I was on Facebook for 10 years… seems both shorter and longer. I was a beta tester, so I got to iron out the bugs and see it change. Not all changes were for the better. The recent influx of complete idiots (this new generation is just unbelievably stupid… seriously) has also soured it for me. And the privacy issues and copyright issues and the whole limiting access to your network unless you pay them… just nicked my “mafioso” nerve and I’ve just had enough I think.

I had a lot of excuses/reasons for staying on, but I was brutally honest with myself and realised that the people on Facebook would do fine without me – my rescue organisations would be taken care of by my good friend Nicole (Even more so, as she’s a volunteer at many of them too) and my Berner groups are so large now they would barely notice the absence. Besides, my husband is still on it and he’s still in the groups, so he will let me know if I miss anything.

I haven’t posted photos in a long time, and I removed all my information a long time ago.  So it was no big jump. Just a few moments of heart fuzz and then it was all over.

I still have about 11 days left to “change my mind” until they actually delete all the information etc… but quite honestly – I don’t miss it.

I’m getting back in touch with the “old school” – even writing letters by hand (just to my mom for now, but I’m happy to write to anyone who wants me to) and living my life for ME.

Hoping my inspiration will blossom again – for my photography, my sewing, my running, my yoga.

It does feel like a weight off my shoulders. I don’t know why, as I was not really very involved anymore (only checked it once a day for 5 minutes) but it does feel like I’ve let go of something that I didn’t need. Which is a nice feeling. If a little scary for me (if you ever have time to listen, I can try and explain my “unable to sever” dreams/daydreams/thoughts) generally.

Life goes on, and so do we.

 

Stay frosty.