Saturday, February 16, 2008

It's Winter and My Dogs Hate the Cold

That is the reason I haven't blogged in months. I have had several people e-mail me about the blog. So I wanted to let them know that I haven't forgot or let it slide, we just haven't camped sinced October.

AND, the lift system on our 35-year-old camper gave out on us, so that has to be replaced before we can go out again. We love our little Apache. Any fellow Apache owners out there will agree that they are special. So we don't want to give up on him.... even though the cost to fix it would probably get us a working 30+-year-old Apache (if we could find one). With the addition of more kids and dogs we will need to eventualy upgrade to a travel trailer anyways, but we're holding out as long as we can.

We are looking at locations to camp this year. I want to go to the West side of the lower peninsula to do a presentation for some greyhound groups near Grand Rapids. I am also thinking of starting a Dog Scout Troop to encourage more greyhounds to get involved, and if I determine I have enough interest I will go to their leadership retreat... hopefully the camper will be fixed by then so we can camp on-site in lil' Apache!

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Monday, October 8, 2007

How to survive a long car ride

Well, although I have not finished my Mackinac Area tales, I have just been slow to blog because we haven't had a chance to camp in the last few months. We have traveled, most recently to the UP. There was no camping, however I thought talking about how to survive a long car trip was relevant to those that like to camp with their dogs.

Two weeks ago we loaded up the car with the two dogs, two kids, and the two slightly insane parents. I was convinced I would need Valium as the drive would take us 10-11 hours. See, the reason we never leave Michigan when we camp is that I am just not brave enough to last when the kids and the dogs all get whiney. Ask my daughter what rule #1 is, and she'll tell you, "No whining!" That rule actually trumps no hitting. But, our love of the the Keweenaw peninsula is so great that I was determined to take Valium and get over it.

However, since you need a prescription for that, I had to resort to plan B, which was get DVD players for the kids and just stop as often as possible to walk the dogs.

We started out around 9am. We got the kids up earlier than usual in hopes that they would nap on the road. The dogs got walked. My rule was that I kept walking them until I was dragging them.

On the way up we stopped every 2-3 hours, and everyone that was awake had to get out and run. Now, this rule doesn't work the same for all dogs. Since greyhounds are sprinters, it doesn't take them long to wear them out. We walk/run them for 15 minutes and they're good for a while. For higher energy dogs this might actually make things worse (just as their adrenaline is building you stop te exercise and the dog is more high strung than before). These are the dogs that I advise playing a high energy game like Frisbee, until they drop. Of course you can always give them Kongs and other chews too to help keep them busy. My dogs were forced to share a small space which could equate into some resource guarding, so I stayed away from the chews.

We also stopped for lunch, only because it was cool enough to leave the dogs in the car. We parked them right in front of the window so I could keep an eye on the car, to make sure that no one was approaching the car to agitate them... people usually do this with the best of intentions ("Oh, look at the doggy, HI DOGGY!") but again, the less agitation the more peace.

Then we got some french fries and I had my kids slowly feeding those to the dogs (dogs go into carb comas too!). This is only something I would suggest if you know how your dogs digest fries... the one thing worse than a 10 hour car ride is one with lots of dog gas.

Well, we made it up to the Keweenaw (the northern most peninsula of Michgan's Upper Peninsula, we were headed just south of Houghton/Hancock) in better shape than I thought. No one fussed much at all. I was impressed. Maybe it was because I was so well prepared, maybe it was the prayer! In any case I am ready to do it again come spring.

We are headed out for a Halloween Campout this weekend, so stay tuned!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Lessons Learned at a Waterfall/ Waterfals for everyone!

Well, I have had waterfalls on my mind, so I wanted to blog on it!

We visited the mother of Michigan Waterfalls, Tahquamenon Falls, in July when we camped in Mackinaw City. Truth be told, we were motivated by the fact that there is a micro brewery in the park, and and micro brewed beer is a bit of a hobby for my husband and me.

But I also had fond childhood memories of visiting the falls, so after dinner and a beer, we decided to walk to the upper falls. It was a beautiful evening to see the falls. It was peaceful and very zen-like. Until we hit the actual falls.

See, there were very odd looking steps that you had to climb down to get to the viewing platform. It is well-known that some retired racers have a hard time with stairs, because, quite simply they have never been exposed to them. In puppy classes we do environmental conditioning (have the dogs go through tunnels, or walk over platforms) so they learn to navigate unusual environments with confidence. But Kharma didn't have this type of exposure as a pup. She was on a training farm for race dogs, where the schedule and environment are typically pretty consistent.

I didn't think it would be an issue... she does the stairs in our house every day and night. But these stairs were grates. They sounded different, looked different and felt different. Her nails weren't getting an traction, and she felt completely insecure.

So the dog I always describe as the "confident one" froze. Sparky, my freak job, didn't even bat an eye lash at the scary death trap. But then of course, he had been through lots of environmental conditioning as a pup. And boy did it show. So he went ahead with dad, while my daughter and I stayed with Kharma

So I tried to coax her down. I knew it was bad when she wouldn't take Spam. She was shaking. And then I was in a dilemma. My 3-year-old had run ahead, and I couldn't see her. My dog was frozen. So I had to make a choice... be a good mom, or be a good dog trainer.

As a trainer I would NEVER pull and yank any dog in a fearful position. This is known as flooding. And to put it in perspective, if you were afraid heights, and I pushed and yanked at you until you were on the edge of the Empire State Buidling, your fear wouldn't be cured... and you wouldn't be loving me much at all.

But Mom trumps dog trainer, and as I was yelling for Lily to stop (which REALLY didn't help Kharma's mental state!). I had no idea how far ahead her father was. I was yanking at Kharma to move, which was doing nothing but creating tension at her neck. So she was REALLY stressed, but I just wanted her to physically move.
Just then a group of ladies were coming up the stairs. One must have had training experience because she told me I needed to stop forcing my dog down the stairs immediately. Of course she was right, but again, I am back to the big choice of being a good dog trainer and a good mom. If I hadn't been panicked, I would have been embarrassed (and would have never told them in a million years that I train dogs for a living).
Luckily, my friend Kathy came up from the falls to let me know that Lily made it to her dad and offered to hold Kharma so I could go down and take a look.

Khara wouldn't budge until I got back to her, and then she ran up the stairs like a pup. Sidenote: these picture were taken after I determined the kid was safe.

So here is a picture of my scared pup, and the big scary stairs. And a tip to anyone that plan to take their dogs to Tahquamenon Falls to find steps to practice on first... make sure they can see through them... perhaps on bleachers. Kharma does our carpeted stairs every day of her life, but the grated stairs were a whole different ball game as far as she was concerned.

However, in just two weeks we will be heading up to our beloved Keweenaw Peninsula. The house my grandfather built and my mom was raised in is just about our favorite place in the world, and we haven't had a chance to go in almost 3 years! And the best part is we will be doing some great waterfall hunting. My mom recently sent me a link to a site that describes waterfalls throughout the Great Lakes Region.
We can't wait. It has been two month since we have camped (although we won't camp here, we will stay at the family home), and we are itching to get on the road!

Great Link for Dogs Visiting Mackinac

I wanted to post this commet on the front page, because this link is great:

"Hi ya,

There is a great site for everything dog related on Mackinac Island, Mackinac Island Dog & Pony Club. Most shops are fine with canine visitors and there are three pet friendly hotels on the Island too.

Mary & Sally the Mackinac Island Coonhound"

Thanks Mary & Sally!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Q&A on Mackinac Island

I am so sorry that I am really behind on my blog! We have been so busy that we haven't been camping in almost a month!! And I haven't even caught up from our July trips. But I wanted to address a Questions posted on one of my entries.

We are considering going camping with our two older dogs. We went only once before iwth them to a state forest campground. But how do you use ferry and go into shopping district with the dogs. I mean you can't go into the stores with a dog, or the restaurants. "

Great question! Here is my answer:

The ferries allow dogs on, so that isn't a problem.

We went hiking and letterboxing on the island, we weren't much into the shopping or dining. I went into two shops while my DH held the dogs. And we had a picnic lunch.

However, a friend of ours has brought his dog the island several times and just eats at restaurants with outdoor seating. He said they even bring the dog water and treats. Here are the ones listed on as being dog friendly:
  • Cannonball Drive In
  • Euro Garden Cafe
  • Feedbag
  • JL Beanery Coffeehouse
  • Lakeside Marketplace/Freighters Deli

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cool Canine Campground!

No, I didn't fall off the face of the earth. Things have been extra busy! I have also been trying to organize my pictures from Mackinaw City so I can post more stories. If I put all the info in one post, it would be too long and no one would read it.

SOOO.... I promise more will come later. But, I wanted to share a link to a place that I found online and I am in LOVE with this idea. It is a campground that caters to those who camp with their dogs. Four Paws Kingdom is in North Carolina, so I may not ever make it there myself, but what a fabulous idea!! I think I need to own a franchise in the Upper Peninsula! Not only do they have several fenced dog parks and agility courses, you can sign up for a dog walking service if you want to go sightseeing, and plenty of other amenities for our four legged friends.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

More on Vita and water dangers

Since we just returned from a trip where my dogs were in water a lot, this story stuck a chord. This last weekend, my dogs were in the Great Lakes, which is safe from blue-green algae, but I will be studying what danger signs to look out for.

Click here for a story that was published in the Flint Journal about Vita.