Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January Hikes and Beaches

A loose goal I set for this year is to go more places, hike new trails, and just generally get out more. I started out thinking I would make a list of trails and beaches I wanted to go to this year, and tick them off as I did it. Then that started to seem like a chore to make the list. Instead, I'm keeping track of the trails I hike and beaches I visit each month, and will share them here on the blog.

Early on this year we got hit with some snow. During that cold snap, I visited a few parks. Willamette Mission State Park is located near Keizer, OR and requires a state park pass to use. The park was flooded and the gates were closed, but we managed to spend about an hour hiking around some non-flooded trails in the crispy snow.

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Snow on the ground in the Salem area despite the sun

In this same cold snap, I visited Keizer Rapids Park, also in Keizer, OR along the Willamette River. It was near dark and I didn't have my camera, so I missed getting a good picture with the sign.

Our first beach trip of the year was a quick sunset trip to Gleneden Beach. Gleneden is between Lincoln City, OR and Newport, OR. Despite the cold weather further inland, the beach was warm, with very little wind. The waves were huge with an incoming storm front, which actually spelled the end of the cold snap in the valley.

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The sun was already down, and tall trees blocked the remaining light, so super bad photo

We are lucky in Oregon to have a ton of awesome beaches. I am most familiar with the ones near and around Newport, since that is what has always been easiest to get to. A friend of mine invited me along for an overnight trip to Yachats, OR, which is further south than I normally go, though I certainly have been that far before. The tide was super high, however, and the tide wasn't headed out until we had to be headed back to the valley. So instead of hitting the beach, we did some hiking on Cape Perpetua.

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Sign at the actual Visitor's Center

Somewhat confusingly, Cape Perpetua has a visitor's center, but also a different day use area, and an info center, all of which are in different places along the highway. We were supposed to meet some friends at the visitor's center, but parked at the Devil's Churn Info Center instead. Luckily, there are trails that connect the two, so even though we were in the wrong place, we just headed down the trail and met our friends part way. Once we met up, we headed further south along the trail system to Thor's Well (which was almost completely under water due to the absurdly high tide) and the Spouting Horn, which was super impressive due to the high tide. Much conversation on this part of the hike covered how stupid people were to be climbing around on the rocks with super high surf and the tide coming in.

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The trail head at the Devil's Churn Info Center. The Devil's Churn is behind Ptera, and off to the right in the photo.

The hotel we stayed in was great, except that it didn't actually access a beach, just some nasty rocky shoreline. A great little trail did run along the shore for a little ways, though that didn't fix the beach craving we were having. Of course, we still made good use of the trail a few times during our stay.

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Oregon Coast Trail marker on the trail outside the hotel

Bald Hill Park Trail Complex is one of the places I hike the most often. It is a short drive away, and has a ton of really great trails. In many areas, dogs are allowed to be off leash as long as they are under voice control. I've hiked to the top of Bald Hill twice this month with different friends, and have hiked at the park I don't know how many times without going to the top as well.

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Huge info sign about the three different trail systems that make up the Bald Hill Park Trail Complex

For those of you who have been reading this blog for years, you may remember that Koira was bitten by a coyote. That bite happened on one of the trails at Bald Hill in the spring, likely because the coyote had pups in the woods nearby. While I still hike this area, and still let Ptera off leash here, I do pay attention to any warning signs posted and hike with caution in April/May when there are likely to be coyotes with young. Around here if you never hiked anywhere with coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, lynx, etc, you would never get to hike.

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Part of the trail system is maintained by the Greenbelt Land Trust

I also tried out a trail I haven't done before, Fitton Green Natural Area. I can't really say why I haven't hiked this part of the trail before, except that it is unknown. This portion of the trail system was closed for a while this fall to build a new section connecting two existing trails, and it has been in the back of my mind ever since that I really should check out some different areas.

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Trail marker on the new trail

So those are the beaches and trails we hit this month. What have you been doing outdoors this January?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

BW Sunday: Hotel Fun

The best thing about a hotel room for dogs is jumping back and forth between the beds, and wrestling like maniacs.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday Selfie

A few weeks ago we had a good bit of snow on the ground here and a bit of a break in the weather between it snowing and the freezing rain coming down. So me and Ptera had to get out of the house for a walk in the snow at the park.

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She is looking super pathetic, and desperately needs her nails done (they grow so fast! I dremel them every week!)

This is part of my effort to make sure I am getting in the picture with my dogs. I ask people to take pictures of me with them when I have the chance, but I realized I am missing out on having pictures of me with them whenever we are out and about by ourselves, so I wanted to make an effort to change that.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Happy 4th Gotcha Day

On this day, 4 years ago, I brought home a little, funny looking kitten. Theodore Trex is a munchkin, meaning his legs are shorter than they would be on a normal cat. I drove up to a petco where a friend worked after she shared pictures with me, because I thought I had to get him.

Here are some pictures from his first year here.





Tuesday, January 24, 2017

WW: Terrier Sunset

Here are a few more of my favorite pictures from last week at Gleneden Beach.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Puzzle Toy Review

We received this toy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are our own and we were not compensated in any other way.

One of the best ways to keep a dog occupied and out of trouble is to give them something else to do that they find fun. And one of the best ways to tire out a dog is to make them use their brain to figure things out. This month, I had the chance to review the Busy Buddy Jack toy from Chewy.com and I find it a great option to do both.

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The Jack comes with a few treat circles to put onto the toy. They are made of compressed rawhide bits, which isn't my favorite. But since they aren't bleached, aren't a solid chunk, and can only be taken apart in small bits with this toy, I am okay with using them occasionally.

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The Jack comes completely apart so you can put on new treat circles. It is adjustable in difficulty depending on how you put it together, and has a few different options, so even dogs who are quick to figure things out can get the game changed up on them.

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This assembly used all four of the discs that came with the Jack, which isn't really how it is supposed to go, but it works. You change the difficulty based on where the discs are in relation to those green rings on the toy. I figured I would put all the discs on and see how the dogs did with the various difficulty in placement all at once.

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As for how the dogs liked it, Ptera honestly had zero interest in it at first. Koira, on the other hand, loved it right off the bat. She worked for a good hour+ on this toy, and managed to get two of the rings completely, and parts of the others. The ends of the Jack did get a bit chewed up by her, but no chunks of plastic came off the toy in any place, so I would say it stands up to strong chewing pretty darn well- though of course you should supervise your dog with toys like these, especially when you first introduce them. Once Koira had chewed the toy up a bit, it also became much more appealing to Ptera. That tends to be the case with chew toys, she likes them better if Koira chews them up a bit first.

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So my overall impression is that this toy is super durable, has the ability to occupy a dog for an extended period of time, and is overall a great option on a rainy day. This is the size Medium, meant for dogs 20-50 lbs. If you have multiple dogs who will be sharing this toy, I recommend getting the toy sized for the largest of your dogs, as a large dog may be able to more easily destroy an undersized toy.

Refill discs are available for the toy in multiple rawhide flavors, and, if you don't want to give rawhide to your dog at all, there are both dental rings and joint supplement rings available as refills.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday Selfie

Last week, I posted a selfie of me with Koira while looking at Christmas trees back in December. Here is the one I got of me and Ptera that same day.

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It helps that she looks at the camera when she hears the lens focusing.

My smile is kind of strange I think, but it was the one where Ptera looked the cutest, so I had to share it.

This is part of my effort to make sure I am getting in the picture with my dogs. I ask people to take pictures of me with them when I have the chance, but I realized I am missing out on having pictures of me with them whenever we are out and about by ourselves, so I wanted to make an effort to change that.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Power Bites Training Treats

I received a free product in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Dog owners who do sports are always on the lookout for new, different training treats. The more options, the better it keeps the interest of our dogs. Sure, my dog will play flyball for just about anything from kibble on up. But when we are in a new and different environment and I want her full attention, having a good mix of treats of various values is essential.

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For me the hardest part is finding treats that are small enough, and that are soft. I prefer soft treats over hard because they are easier for the dog to take quickly in succession than a hard kibble or baked treat they need to chew. And with a tiny dog at only 10 lbs, finding small treats is even harder. When I had the opportunity this month to try out the Merrick Power Bites for Chewy.com, I was looking forward to seeing how these treats would work in our normal treat mix for training. (I am ultimately pretty lazy and forgetful, so treats that require refrigeration and/or being cut up in advance tend to be less appealing to me, though I do add some in occasionally for variety and for extra value.)

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These treats are small. They are smaller than a Zuke's Mini but not quite as small as the Zuke's Tiny that I review a few months back (the Zuke's Tiny are awesome for small dogs, they are super small and not at all hard- but I have yet to see them in stores, just online). Ptera absolutely loves them. I've been filling up our to-go treat container with these and Zukes and she is loving the mix. So, they are certainly dog approved. They don't make me gag because of their smell (the smell is actually very mild) which is a big thing if it is a treat I am going to carry around with me.

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As for the other things- Merrick is an awesome company with a great reputation. These treats are made in the US (the rabbit in these comes from France, rather than the US). And the ingredient list has no suspicious items listed. I chose to review Rabbit because I know it is always a favorite in my house, but Power Bites also come in Beef, Turducken, Chicken, and Salem in addition to the rabbit. All of the flavors are on sale right now as well, and range from $2.99 to $5.11 per 6 oz bag, which I find to be not just reasonable, but a great deal.

Overall, I think these treats are a win, and will make a regular appearance in our treat mix.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

WW: A Gleneden Beach Sunset

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With a storm coming in, the waves were massive

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The sunset was vivid, and the dogs had a blast on the beach even as we were losing the light.

I have a ton more photos of this sunset, but these are two of my favorites. Both are of Ptera, one with her white standing out against the dark sand, and one with her silhouetted against the vibrant reflection of the sunset in the receding waves. I will be sharing some more photos over the next week or so as well. They are some of my favorite I have ever taken, and I am finding it hard to not just share all of them at once, but at the same time, want to share them in a way where they are most appreciated.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Selfie

This is from a few weeks ago, before Christmas. But I've been waiting for a good chance to share it. Getting in the picture with my dogs was a goal I set last year, and while I didn't get into a ton of pictures, I did end the year with some that I love.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

WW: Mugs

I have two awesome insulated mugs, and I so, so love them.

This is our flyball team logo for my new team

This decal is the logo for a tournament I went to in December, and I love it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trick Tuesday

Our weather has been pretty nasty lately, with lots of ice, a little snow, and absurdly cold temps for our area. As a consequence, we haven't been getting out for as many walks and outdoor adventures as normal. Something we have been doing to try to make up for it is doing tricks for dinner. I sit on the floor with a bowl of Ptera's kibble for the day, and we run through her tricks. Well, we've been doing this so much that she has most of her tricks down pat, at least here at home. So I decided to add a new trick.

I call this trick "tuck" and the point is for her to tuck her front leg in under her. She started offering it occasionally when we were working on her "chin" cue (to drop her chin to the ground or an object in front of her), so I mostly just waited for her to offer it and rewarded. I don't use a clicker, but I do use the marker word "yes" along with verbal encouragement such as talking to her when she is doing it right.

This video is from about 5 minutes after first starting to capture the behavior.

What have you been doing to save your sanity in crazy winter weather?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017 Pet Blogger Challenge

I wasn't originally planning on participating in the 2017 Pet Blogger Challenge, but when I was reading through a lot of my favorite blogs the past two days, I really enjoyed reading all of the answers. So I decided that, since the weather is horrible and I'm stuck inside, and I am totally sick of cleaning and organising for the moment, I would take some time and answer the questions myself.

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Just a cute picture of Ptera in the snow yesterday

When did you start your blog and, for anyone who is just seeing it for first time, please provide a description of your site. Would you say your blog focuses more on sharing stories with your readers, or providing a resource for your audience?

I started blogging on May 30th, 2010. That is over six and a half years ago. My blog is much the same now as it was then: a story of my life with my dogs. I like to focus on the active parts of our lives, including flyball training, hiking, and adventures. My other main passion is photography, so I love sharing photos of the various things we do and places we go.

What was your proudest blogging moment of 2016?

Honestly, I think the proudest blogging moment for me is just making it through the year with my blog still active. Regular readers may have noticed more photo posts and reviews and fewer word-heavy posts about our lives. I've been in something of a blogging slump, and something of a slump in the rest of my life in many ways (I injured my wrist in August and am still in a brace and going to physical therapy, and that has taken a lot out of me and caused a lot of stress). So just having made it through the year without abandoning the blog entirely, even when I could barely type for months, and holding my camera caused horrible pain and swelled up my entire hand and arm for hours, is a huge thing for me.

Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)

Honestly I think it is either Ptera's Flyball Debut or Another Tournament, Another Title and neither of them has much to do with the post itself, and everything to do with how proud I am of this tiny, crazy dog I welcomed into my life this year. We have come such a long way in such a short time, and I couldn't be happier or more proud of her and what we have done this year.

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Ptera running like a rockstar at her second ever flyball tournament

Year after year, one goal that we all seem to share is that we want to reach more people. What one tool did you use or action did you take this year that had the most impact on increasing traffic to your blog?

I honestly didn't focus much on increasing traffic this year. The two things that I have tried to do are pretty simple. I tried to post regularly, and I make sure to comment on other blogs when I visit them. Not only do the writers of those blogs often stop by mine as well, but other people reading their blog will read through the comments and click through to my blog. I notice that when I make a point of commenting on blogs I read that day, or that week, that I get a not insignificant increase in the views and comments on my own blog. I guess that is part of what makes it "social media" though, right?

Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? (Please include a link.) Have you noticed any themes across your most popular posts?

My all time most popular post, and most popular this year, is Metal Allergies in Dogs. I think this is because there are practically no resources on the topic, so my blog is one of the top results. I have written about the topic a few times, actually. A follow up post was Dealing With Metal Allergies in Dogs where I wrote about finding collars, bowls, and other dog equipment that doesn't contain metal. I learned just in the last two months that Koira has a second rather strange allergy for dogs, and am planning on writing a post about that in the near future. I know a lot of people have found so much help in my posts about metal allergies, and that makes me want to provide as much information and helpful advice as I can to people dealing with similar problems.

What blog do you find most inspirational and how has it influenced your blog? (Please include a link.)

Oh man, this one is hard. I think it is hard for everyone. Like many bloggers, I also read a ton of blogs myself. Some of them stick around for years, and some are shorter lived. I honestly can't pick and choose what one I am most inspired by. Never Say Never Greyhounds is a favorite, for her writing style, her bold choice of greyhounds as agility dogs, and for having a good mix of sharing her sport without making it so technical that those not involved can't follow along. Kol's Notes this year inspired me for maybe a strange reason- the realization that even if a blog doesn't have new posts for sometimes months at a time, loyal readers are out there who will be overjoyed when a new post arrives. A Collection of Madcap Escapades's tales of endurance riding and horse training reminds me that you can have friends you've never met, who are into totally different things from you, but greatly enjoy the stories of their adventures.

What is one thing your readers don’t know about you or your pets that would surprise them?

I share a lot of some things, and not much of others. I mentioned above that I have had a wrist injury since August, and I don't know that I've mentioned it on the blog before. I broke my neck a few years ago, and I'm not sure I mentioned that much either, though I know that it changed a lot of my habits and ways that I do things- I became much less active after that, first due to pain, and then because I had lost the habit. I share a lot of my dog related life, but try to keep things positive on the blog, keeping my personal issues and problems more to myself and less out in the world.

What is something you’ve learned this year that could help other bloggers?

Sometimes you have to do it before you feel it. That is actually a somewhat mangled quote from a book from my childhood (anyone else read a ton of Lurlene McDaniel while growing up?), but it is also true. Some posts, some weeks, this year have been happening out of a thought that if I do it, I will feel it.

What would you like to accomplish on your blog in 2017?

I would like to get back to some more adventure posts, more day to day life, that kind of thing, instead of more single photo posts. I always am disappointed when I click through to a blog and it is just one picture and that is it.

Now it’s your turn! You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there a question you’d like answered, or an aspect of your blog that you’d like input on?

I guess my question is- what kind of posts do you most enjoy? Do you like informational posts, like the ones about metal allergies? DIY posts? Just a cute picture being shared? Wordy posts about an adventure? Want more flyball training posts? What would you like to see more of here?

BW Sunday: Another Snow Day

In a strange twist, Oregon has been having a stupid amount of winter weather this year for what is normally such a temperate climate. We got about two inches of snow on the ground yesterday on top of about a 1/5" of ice, and right now, we have freezing rain depositing another 1/2"+ of ice on top of the snow.

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Another snow day. Good thing she has a warm coat!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017