Tag Archives: dogs

Help Your Pet Beat The Summer Heat

Summer is a great time to bond with your pet. Long summer drives, time spent in the park, hiking, gardening, and even taking a few pet-friendly road trips. But the summer months can also be dangerous for pets (and people). Here are a few tips to help your pet beat the heat this summer.

Keep An Eye On the Thermometer And Watch The Heat Indexresting2

Extreme humidity can be as dangerous heat to pets. Since animals pant to cool themselves (instead of sweating,) high humidity can prevent them from cooling down. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, get them into a cool area immediately, apply cold towels or ice packs to their head, neck and chest, give them small amounts of cool water to drink, and take them to a veterinarian. Pets with short muzzles are particularly prone to heat stroke.

Practice Summer Style

Pets are just as susceptible to sunburn as you are – especially light breed dogs. Fur is one of the ways that pets protect themselves from winter’s cold and the dangers of extreme sunlight. So if you do shave your pet in the summer, please be sure to leave enough fur to protect them from the summer sun. There are some pet-safe sunscreens on the market if you and your dog plan to hit the beach this summer. My favorite is Petkin’s Doggy Sunstick, but there are many other good all-natural products available.

Spent Some Time In The Shade

If you plan to spend the day outdoors, be sure to take time in the shade. Whether you’re running, playing, or just hanging out at the beach, your dog (and you) could benefit from some time out of the sun, as well as some fresh, cold water. Be sure to pack plenty of water (and ice) for you and your furry friend along with your sunblock. If you’re packing a picnic or lunch to go, consider a frozen treat for your pet like Frosty Paws or DIY peanut butter popsicles for dogs.

Be aware that many products that are safe for dogs and even for horses are not safe for other pets, like cats. So be sure to read carefully. This goes for sunscreens as well as products like flea and tick repellent.

Don’t Let Summer Storms Get You Down

Be ready for summer weather. Summer storms can put a real damper on summer fun – especially if your A/C goes down during a heat index warning or if you live in areas prone to flooding. Have a pet emergency plan in place just in case.

Pets And Parked Cars Don’t Mix

Never leave your pet in a parked car under any circumstances – even with the air conditioning running for a few minutes. On an 85-degree day the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees.

If you see a pet trapped in a locked car, get help immediately. Call your local police department’s non-emergency number and/or animal control, and wait by the car until they arrive. If you have bottled water, you may be able to help the pet if the window is cracked and they are in distress. Some states do now allow police, animal control officers, and good Samaritans to break car windows to save pets.

Remember that even though the summer can be a fun time, it can also be very stressful for pets. Your pet may have a tendency to “overdo” summer fun so it’s up to you to make sure they stay safe. Have a great summer and please be sure to check out the resources below for more information.


Humane Society of the US: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_safe_heat_wave.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

ASPCA: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/hot-weather-tips

Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/pet-safety/protecting-pets-from-heat


Ten Ways You Can Make the World Brighter For Animals

sleepysweetiesWhen it comes to making the world a better place for animals (and humans) the task can seem overwhelming. Everywhere you look, there’s a sad story. Although it might not seem like it, many of those stories are a chance for a happy ending.

Thanks for Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram and Tumblr and so many other sites,) stories that once would’ve only reached a few people locally are now being read by animal-lovers around the world. And because of it, lost dogs and cats (and even teddy bears) are finding their way home, programs like Pup My Ride are able to organize volunteers nationwide to transport  homeless pets to their forever homes, and people around the world are able to reach out to support the animals and people affected by global disasters.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Whether that kindness is volunteering locally in a very hands-on way, donating to a charity that can help animals nationally or even globally, or simply spreading the word in your community about animals in need, your act of kindness is literally only a click, call, or perhaps a short drive away. The most important thing is that we all get out there and do something. Every act of kindness counts, no matter the size, and, together, the amount of good we can do for animals (and for each other) is limitless.

If you’d like a few ideas on how you can make the world a little brighter for animals, here’s a short list:

  1. Volunteer at a local rescue or sanctuary: Your community shelters and sanctuaries need you! Sign up to walk the dogs, pet the cats, or get really hands-on and clean animal living areas monthly, weekly, or daily. Most non-profits rely on volunteers so that they can use the money that would be spent on employee labor to help the animals. If you’d like to help out but you don’t feel like you work well with animals, you can always offer to work in the front office or at animal fairs. There are probably more opportunities than you realize. Just give your favorite shelter a call or shoot them an email or message on Facebook to see how you can help.
  1. Volunteer your talents: Even if you can’t volunteer your time or money to a local shelter, you can still support them by offering to donate your skills. Photography, marketing, writing, accounting, and even office skills like filing are needed. Groups like VolunteerMatch connect charities with the volunteers who need them. Volunteer a few hours a week, a month, or a day. You can also find volunteer wish lists posted on some larger organization’s websites that allow you to volunteer from home or from your neighborhood.
  1. Donate: Don’t knock monetary donations. Sometimes your time is at a premium. Donating a few dollars when you are able can make a big difference. You may even want to set up a monthly donation, and be sure to check with your employer to see if they match charitable contributions. You may be able to double the amount of your donation. 

trioMany animal groups also have wish lists that range from pet food and toys to cleaning supplies to gently-used towels and carriers. These items are huge help to animal aid organizations.

  1. Spread the word: It might seem like a small thing, but a like or a share can save an animal’s life. Consider devoting a few posts or tweets each week to messages of hope. Share that pic of a cute pup looking for a home on Facebook. Retweet your favorite animal charities’ fundraising messages. And ask your friends to do the same!
  1. Volun-cation: Consider using your vacation time as a way to help animals. Many larger sanctuaries like Best Friends Animal Society welcome visitors who are willing to volunteer. You can stay on site and offer to help out for a few days, a week, or more. Or you can stay closer to home and simply volunteer a day or a week during your time off to your local shelter. Kitten season and winter are always a busy time at shelters and sanctuaries.
  1. Start your own shelter/sanctuary: Look for opportunities to help the feral and community critters near you. Stray animals are everywhere once you take the time to look – including unsupported feral cat colonies. Providing food and water and shelter (especially in winter,) can be the difference between life and death for some animals. And access to neutering and health care can change a struggling colony into a safe space for animals. You may even be able to find homes for some feral kitties as barn cats – or as pets. Your local pet community center will be able to provide you with more information on how you can help – and let you know about local laws. And there are national organizations that also offer help like Alley Cat Allies.
  1. Make caring a community project: If you do find a feral colony in need, consider enlisting likeminded co-workers or neighbors to help. Taking care of a colony is very hard work and it helps to have support – even if that’s just others donating food, transportation for animals that need neutering or health care, or repairing shelters seasonally. You can bond over your love of animals and your commitment to caring for others. Community projects that embrace kindness are a great way for children to learn to respect animals and work with others.
  1. Wild critters need love too: Most people think first of domestic animals like dogs and cats when they think about helping animals. But your local “critters,” including birds and bees, could use a helping hand too. There are simple ways you can support local wildlife like planting for bees and birds (and raccoons and ‘possums,) offering water with a bird bath or water basin, and choosing native plants that support local creatures.

happy_mouse_flowers1You can turn your yard and garden into a sanctuary by providing nesting places for birds, partially burying terracotta pots for toads who need a little shade, and planting berry and seed-bearing plants. You’ll be helping yourself, as well as the critters. Birds and ‘possums decrease dangerous pest populations like ticks.  Creating a thriving eco-system in your yard and garden, is helpful to everyone involved, as well as being a beautiful addition to your community.

  1. Shop kind: Even if you aren’t ready to become a vegan or even a vegetarian, consider skipping meat for a single meal or for one day a week. By doing so you’ll be reducing the number of animals who suffer as part of the meat and dairy industry. You can also support local farms that you know allow their animals a free-range lifestyle and companies who promote ethical treatment of animals and their employees. Steer away from companies who aren’t upfront about how they treat animals or people. Companies with a commitment to ethics usually include it on their website and are more than willing to tell consumers about their practices.
  1. Know that even small acts of kindness do change the world. It may seem, sometimes, that small acts of kindness don’t make much of a dent, but they really, really do. Every act of kindness counts – no matter the size. As Margaret Mead wrote many years ago, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Have An Emergency Plan For Your Pet

pet emergencySpring is a stormy season. Here in Tennessee, flash floods, thunderstorms, and tornados are all too common. So having an emergency plan for your family, including your pets, is important. Just like Daylight Saving Time is a good reminder to change the batteries in your fire alarms, the start of spring is a great time to update your emergency plans.

Creating (Or Updating) Your Emergency Travel Kit

Having an emergency travel kit is important for everyone – whether you’re on your own with a single cat or dog or a family of four with pets in tow. The kit should be kept up-to-date and in a place that you can easily access it – whether that’s in a hall closet or in your go-to vehicle. What it contains is really up to you since everyone’s needs are a little different, but here are a few ideas:

  • A sturdy carrier that can double as a bed – one for each pet
  • Blanket and/or Evacsak
  • A week’s worth of canned or dry food (Be sure to check the expiration dates yearly for canned food and monthly for dry food.)
  • Bottled water for you and your pet (Replace every month.)
  • Food and water dishes (Some carriers and crates have built-in spaces for these.)
  • Your pet’s vaccination records and contact information for your veterinarian in a waterproof container
  • A pet first-aid kit (You can buy these at any pet store or make your own.)
  • A pet first-aid book (Even if you are a vet tech or have experience with pet emergency care, they’re always good to have in a pinch.)
  • Collar with contact information and leash
  • Toys
  • Disposable litter trays (like Nature’s Miracle and Kitty’s Wonderbox)
  • Baby wipes and pet-friendly cleaner
  • Flashlights – at least two – and batteries
  • Emergency radio
  • Mobile Hotspot
  • Extra cash
  • First Aid kit (Some of the items in your pet’s kit can do double duty like gauze, hydro-peroxide, and rubbing alcohol.)
  • Multi-tool or small tool kit
  • Duct-tape (in a fluorescent color if possible)
  • Waterproof boots, raincoat, and/or poncho
  • Tarp (just in case) with rope
  • Medical and insurance information
  • Spare glasses, contacts (if you wear them)
  • Medications (if you need them)


Have a Plan

Think about where you and your pets would go in case of emergency. Many shelters do not accept pets. So be sure to do a little pre-emergency research. Make a list of hotels that allow pets in your area and that are likely to remain open in an emergency situation. If you have multiple pets, this is especially important since some establishments only allow a single pet or pets up to a certain weight limit.

Some animal shelters also provide emergency shelter for pets, but they tend to fill up very quickly. Likewise, kennels that may shelter pets may not have emergency staff on hand – so plan on keeping your pets with you. If you are evacuating to a friend or neighbors’ home, be sure to let them know that you’ll have your pets in tow.

MicrochipYour Pets

If you haven’t already, please microchip your pets. Collars with ID and up-to-date contact information are important, but it’s easy for a pet and its collar to become separated in an emergency situation. GPS collars for pets are great – but only as long as they are on your pet.

Most microchip companies include a pet profile that will allow you to list your pet’s medical conditions, and, since all microchips now use the same frequency, any veterinarian will be able to identify your pet’s chip and contact you. If you do microchip, have the chip tested yearly during your pet’s annual check-up to make sure it is working correctly.

Have a Safe Haven In Your Home

Even if you aren’t evacuating, you may need to take shelter in your home during extreme storms. Be sure to move your pets into the “safety zone” well ahead of time – preferably during a storm watch instead of a storm warning. You’ll need to move your emergency kit, including food and water into that area, just in case you need it. Make sure you have at least seven days’ worth of water stored for you and your pets.

Basements, utility rooms, and bathrooms are good choices as safe havens. You want to choose a window-less room, below ground if possible in case of a tornado or other storm. In the case of flooding, choose the highest point in your home.

Since fresh water may be an issue, consider filling sinks and bathtubs with water before you move into your safety zone.

If your pets are frightened, you may want to keep them in their carriers/crates for the duration of the storm.

Stay Calm

During an emergency, your pet will be taking his or her cues from you. Having a plan and sticking to it will help you master the situation or at least roll with the punches. Hopefully, you’ll never need your emergency plan. But having one will give you and your pet peace of mind as we roll into the stormy season. Stay safe and have a great spring!

Open Your Heart To A Pet

OldfashionheartkittyValentine’s Day is right around the corner and many people are thinking about love or the ones they love. As a pet lover, I’m sure you include Fluffy or Fido on that list. Having a pet or pets in your life is not only fulfilling, but it’s actually good for you in so many ways. So if you were thinking about adding another pet to your family or adopting your first pet, here are a few incentives:

Pet-Owners Live Longer, Healthier Lives. There’s actual scientific evidence that having pets lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol and leads to a longer and happier life. In addition, cat owners specifically have a lower chance of strokes than non-cat owners. Having a pet in your home also increases an infant’s immunity and makes them less likely to develop asthma.

Pets make you more active. There’s nothing that gets you on your feet and moving (regardless of the weather) quicker than a dog begging to be taken on a walk. If you need an exercise partner, there’s none better than one with four paws whether that’s a dog or an adventurous kitty. So grab a lease and hit the jogging lane or opt for a hike. 

Pets make you happy. Literally. Being around your pet causes your body to release seratonin which, well, makes you happy. It’s the same hormone released when you’re in love (or when you eat chocolate). Spending time with your pet also reduces your levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. 

Pets make you more responsible. Knowing that another being is relying on you for its care gives you purpose and a sense of responsibility. Pets are also proven to help their owners cope with depression. Helping others, whether that’s another person or animal, just makes you happy. And, as an added bonus, living with and caring for a pet can help children become more responsible and self-sufficient.

We could all stand to be a little more like our pets. Animals are amazing creatures. They don’t hold grudges, they find joy in the smallest things, and they let us know the wonder of truly unconditional love. As John Grogan said: “Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.”

If you have a pet or pets already, then this is old news. But if you don’t, then this is a perfect opportunity for you to adopt one. Just drop by your local shelter or Humane Association, fill out some paperwork, and, for a small fee, you could be enjoying the friendship of a cat or dog. Many shelters even have Valentine’s Day specials. So instead of buying a heart-shaped box of chocolates this holiday, why not open your heart to a pet? You’ll be glad you did.

A Few Ways To Celebrate Your Pets This Holiday Season

winter catThe holiday season is about celebrating those you love including your furry, feathered, and even fishy friends. So why not do something kind for animals this December?

There are lots of ways you can show your pet today (and every day) just how much he or she means to you. After all, our pets fill our days with unconditional love, reduce stress and lead to longer and happier lifespans, and generally just make every day a little brighter. Here are just a few ways to make the season a little more festive and fun for you and your pets.

  1. Take time to make them a meal or treat: Even if you only crack out the cookie sheets or baking pans a few times each year, it doesn’t take a lot of kitchen mojo to create a delicious treat (or an entire meal) for your cat or dog (or bird for that matter). There are many great pet cookbooks available – just search pet cookbooks on com or any other online bookstore. And if you do choose to order from Amazon, check out AmazonSmile. A percentage of every purchase goes to a charity of your choice – including groups like Best Friends Animal Society and the Humane Association.
  2. Safety first: Many holiday decorations and treats are dangerous for animals. Be sure that everything is pet safe when you ‘deck the halls’ and remind visitors and guests to keep alcohol, chocolate, and other dangerous treats away from your furry friends. For a longer list of holiday hazards, check out: http://www.barkleyandpaws.com/featured/beverly-forehand/making-sure-your-pet-has-a-happy-holiday.
  3. Consider them when you celebrate: Often the holidays include visits to or from family and friends. This could be a great time for your pet to socialize – if they happen to enjoy meeting new (or old) friends. But many pets are upset by strangers, bright lights, and loud noises. So you might want to consider making sure that Fluffy or Fido has a ‘safe space’ when you’re planning your party. Create a safe room and make sure that guests know (by adding a sign and reminding them gently) that the party doesn’t extend into that area. Your pets (and your guests) will be thankful.
  4. Love is the best gift of all: The holidays can be a hectic time. Juggling work, social obligations, and holiday fun can leave you with little time to spend with your pet. Be sure to schedule an hour or two each day or even work a day or two into your December that can be spent showing your pet that they are a big part of what you’re thankful for this year.
  5. One size fits all and no need to gift wrap: Consider asking friends and family to forgo a traditional gift this year and instead donate to your favorite animal charity in your name. Local shelters are always glad for donations and many national charities offer gifting options during the holidays (and year-round) which include the option of sending a gift card to the recipient. For children, it’s a great opportunity to learn that it’s not what’s under the tree that matters, but who’s around it.

Warm for the Holidays: Winterizing Your Pet


Those cold winter months are right around the corner. Antifreeze and snow chains are being added to cars. Gutters and roofs are receiving inspections and heating systems are being checked for the long months ahead. But, your house and car aren’t the only things that need special attention—outside pets need cold weather consideration as well. And, though the optimal course would be to bring your furry friend inside for the winter months, if that’s not possible, you should make sure that he has a weatherproof, dry, heat-retaining place to weather the cold months.

Although all my cats are cushion-sitters whose pampered paws have never touched grass, I do keep a small dog-house outside for the benefit of my neighbor’s roaming duo of felines, George and Fionna.  I also like to put out a bit of extra food in the ‘stray’ bowl during the winter months.  Although most of it is pilfered by the ravaging squirrel hordes in my backyard, Fionna does usually stop by for a nibble in the winter months.  Extra calories are a requirement for outside animals and Fionna has never been one to turn down a spare bowl of Purina.

If you have a pet that spends all or part of his time outdoors, you’ll want to make sure he has fresh food and water.  Keeping food and especially water unthawed during the colder months can be tricky.  But most pet stores now carry several varieties of heated dishes that keep Fluffy or Fido’s food and water ice-free in all but the most extreme temperatures.  I tend to find that food disappears quickly during the winter months.  So I refill the outside dish a few times a day.  Last winter, Mr. Cat, my current house-cat-in-training, had just made his appearance and I was desperate to keep him in kibble and water through the dark months.  This year, with Mr. Cat safely indoors and no feral cats in the area, there’s no real reason to keep out kibble.  But old habits die hard and I find myself still filling the stray bowl.  I seldom find it full at day’s end.

As for dog houses and other outdoor pet shelters, one problem that I have noted is that they tend to sweat if you’re in an area that has much temperature fluctuation.  Here in Tennessee, we can wake up to a balmy 30 degrees and see temperatures around zero by nightfall.  This can lead to wet bedding and, even worse, wet cedar chips.  Plastic lining under bedding does tend to help and heated bedding dries quickly. So your pet’s house and bedding need to be checked daily for moisture during the winter months.  And look for a shelter that is slightly raised off the ground—they stay a bit warmer.

If your dog is short-haired, you’ll want to invest in a pet-sweater and/or boots for those long walks during the winter months. You may even want to knit a sweater yourself. There are patterns available to make both pet clothing and sweaters which can be purchased at your local fabric supply shop. If you do decide to knit Fido some winter-wear, make sure you weather-proof the fabric. You’ll also need to make sure that your dog isn’t allergic to the fabric used or the weather-proofing spray.

Staying warm and dry while on his winter walks is just important to your dog as it is to you! If you don’t use footwear for your dog, make sure to inspect his paws daily for chapping, frostbite, or ice crystal formation between the paws. There was a reason Puss wore boots in the fairytale. No dog or cat wants a frostbitten paw! As a personal note, I wouldn’t attempt to actually try adding boots and a cap to your cat’s winter ensemble.  The cute little Santa hats that my Grandmother knitted for Tig and Lo ended up as chew toys—although I was able to snap one cute picture before the yarn-unraveling frenzy began.

In addition to the cold itself, winter months provide other related dangers for outdoor pets such as anti-freeze poisoning, shocks and burns from exterior holiday lights, as well as vehicle hazards. Anti-freeze, de-icer, and other winter chemicals should be stored safely and out of any pet’s reach.   And remember, just because your pet isn’t outside, doesn’t mean you don’t have neighbors’ pets who are. Make sure holiday lights are high and out of the reach of all pets–whether they are yours or not. And, be certain that no dangerous substances are left lying about to be sniffed or licked. Actual salt can be used to thaw frozen walks instead of chemical melting solution and pet-friendly ice-melt is also available.   Cats are also attracted to cars in the cold months.  You may want to rap your hood (or honk your horn) before starting your car on frosty mornings just to make sure that no one small and furry has taken residence during the night.

Even the most festive of times can be a hazard for pets.  Each year pets and rushed to the vet after ingesting tinsel, toxic holiday foods, and decorative plants is also a problem. Holly, poinsettias, Xmas cactus, and peace lilies, as well as onions and onion powder, potatoes, and chocolate should be kept well out of your pet’s reach. Keep pets away from live trees and their water.  And keep a close eye on your pet for signs of poisoning. Fatigue, nausea, weakness, drooling, leg-dragging and muscular tremors, coma, and convulsions are all signs of poisoning. Encourage friends and holiday guests not to give pets table scraps – no matter how sweetly or insistently they ask for them.  You might want to even consider keeping a jar of pet treats around just in case some kindhearted soul can’t resist throwing poor ole Fluffy something to eat during your celebrations.

Winter can be a time of great fun and wonder with its holidays, snowy days, and nights spent in front of roaring fires (whether real or artificial). Just make sure that you take time to consider your best friend’s needs when those winter days roll around so that your furry family can enjoy a Winter Wonderland as well.  And, please find two of my personal recipes for holiday treats below. I hope your pets enjoy them and that you all have a safe holiday season!

Lady Dog’s Peanutbutter Biscuits:

  • 4 cups of whole wheat or self-rising flour
  • ½ tbsp. Baking powder
  • ½ c. shortening (veggie)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. Peanut butter (creamy)
  • ¼ c. carob chips

Preheat your oven to 375.  Sift flour and baking soda with carob chips in a mixing bowl.  Add milk, shortening, egg, and peanutbutter mixing thoroughly.  Knead dough and roll on a cutting board.  Cut into shapes using cookie cutters or a biscuit cutter.  Bake on a cookie sheet (ungreased) 15-20 minutes at 375.  Cool and store.  These can be stored 2 weeks in an airtight container or frozen.  This recipe will make 2 dozen biscuit sized bones.

**This recipe is for dogs only.  Cats and carob do not mix.

Granny Whiskers’ Rice and Nip Pudding:

  • ½ c. rice (white or brown)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • ½ cup cream (or half and half)
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tbsp. Catnip
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube or ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. oil

In a deep pan, add rice, oil, and water and bring to a boil for 15-20 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, heat milk, cream, and butter over medium heat until all butter is melted.  Add bouillon cube and dissolve.  Add rice and simmer over medium low one hour.  Combine egg and catnip.  Simmer 15 minutes more until mixture is thick and serve warm.

snow cat3

The Call of the Wild – Lady’s Great Summer Adventure

Your dog is one step from the wild.  Sure, it may be hard for you to believe that your bouncing, pampered pooch—the one that eats dog bones like there’s no tomorrow and sleeps on a checkered cushion—is close kin to the fox and the wolf.  The very essence of the wilderness runs in your dog’s veins.  You may’ve forgotten it—he may’ve even forgotten it lying there watching his “Dogsitter” video–but it’s still there.  All it takes is one squirrel, one scent of the woods, and the feel of pine needles under his furry feet to awaken his primal nature. 

I know.  My dog, Lady, is as much a house-dog as any.  She likes treats, her bed with the built-in orthopedic cushion and chasing my greedy cats away from her food dish.  She does like to bounce madly at the neighbor’s fat cat, Ryder—he never seems to mind or notice.  And, she’s been known to chase (but not catch) the odd rabbit that wanders into my herb garden searching for a little lemon balm to nibble.  But, she’s a city dog through and through.  Looking at her now lying on her cushion and quietly gnawing a greenie, you’d never imagine that she could be anything else than a fluffy cockerspaniel waiting for her next walk.  This is a dog that wears doggie-boots on cold days and has two matching winter jackets.  I find this hard to reconcile with the wild-eyed menace that accompanied me on my camping trip last week.

            For several years now, my sister and I have taken a summer vacation together.  We usually go somewhere warm and well-inhabited, which Lady likes just fine.  Lady is a social dog and there’s nothing she likes better than strolling down a beach and meeting other dogs and people.  She even likes cats and children with sticky ice-cream fingers—which seems to be the main occupants of most summer beaches.  But, this year, we all decided to go camping.  Now, I have to say that even though I grew up in the country, camping is not something that I am used to doing.  My camping experiences have been limited mainly to my excursions as a Girl Scout twenty-something years ago, and Lady has never seen a camp-site, unless the blanket tents that my niece Sarah sets up in my living room count.

            So, here we were, two women, a small girl, and two small-to-medium sized dogs, out in the great outdoors.  Okay, maybe not too, great outdoors—we did rent a cabin so we weren’t exactly “roughing it” in the traditional sense.  But, the cabin did have an assortment of bugs, including very large spiders, and some really, pushy squirrels that didn’t want to give up their roost in the chimney.  Even after we had swept the place out and presumably chased the squirrels away for good, Lady and Francie (my sister’s Lasu-Apsu) continued to sit on the stone hearth and stare up into the chimney.  Francie periodically would emit a loud, shrill yip—the kind only the smallest of dogs seem to be able to produce.  Lady, despite her size, has a big-dog bark.  The squirrels that skittered up and down the defunct chimney and chittered from the roof didn’t seem impressed with either of the canine interlopers.  Clearly, the squirrels were not used to tourists.

            Lady and I didn’t fare any better on our first day.  My sister, Sarah, and Francie opted to take a stroll down by the lake, but Lady and I decided that we would have an old-fashioned hiking adventure.  Lady and I are avid hikers, but we’re used to hiking across the bluffs and valleys of our own property.  It’s one thing to get a little side-tracked in your own Hundred Acre Woods where there are always recognizable trees, fences, and the odd shaped rock here and there, and another thing to wander aimlessly (off the trail) in a forest that you’ve never visited before.  Trees can exude their own particular brand of menace in that half-hour right before dark.  And, you certainly know you’ve made a mistake when your “guard dog” is huddled against your leg looking up at your with big, brown eyes that seem to say, “Hey!  YOU know the way back, right?”  I, of course, did not know the way back and the $10.00 compass that I had just bought because my old one was kind of ratty had a strange way of registering north—since its needle kept a constant northwest alignment no matter which direction you were facing.  I was beginning to think the needle was actually painted on when we ran into Them.

            Lady and I popped over a little rise in the woods and into a hollow and I guess that the lay of the land had hidden our noise (which was considerable) and our scent (which I have to say must’ve also been pretty considerable given the heat of the day) because right in front of us was a herd of deer.  I do mean a herd.  Lots and lots of deer—at least twenty—not that I had much of a chance to count.  Not petting zoo deer.  Big, threatening-looking deer with sharp antlers and tiny, vicious hooves.  They looked pretty vicious to me.  I think Lady agreed because instead of bouncing madly in their direction—her M.O. with cows, other dogs, and birds of any sort—stood completely still at a sort of high-alert, her little black nose pointed up in the air like she was scenting some new sort of dog-treat.  The deer looked just about as surprised as Lady and me.  But, a couple pawed and snorted at us.  And, I can tell you that is not a sweet and endearing gesture.  Then, quicker than a breath, they turned and ran.  At that moment, Lady decided that deer must be good to chase and bounded after them with all the barking fury a thirty-pound dog can muster.  I, for my part, ran after Lady yelling her name and whistling until me and my Timberlands tumbled over a fallen branch and sort of skid-slid down the other side of the hill.  Seeing me lying nose down in a pile of wet leaves, Lady stopped.  She gave me the same look she usually does when I exhibit any human lack-of-grace—a mixture of pity and increduality that seem to say, “And, you guys are in charge around here?  Go figure!” 

            It was full dark at this point and I did not have a flashlight.  If you’ve never been in the country at night then maybe you don’t have any idea just how dark, dark can be.  The stars were clearly outlined, and, thank goodness, there was a near-full moon.  But, the woods, the trail (whereever it was), and the rest of the landscape were a dark blur.  The woods are noisy at night—as noisy as a crowded street.  There were bugs (that were eating me alive), owls, other unidentified birds, yipping foxes, coyotes, and something that I hoped wasn’t a bear.  I particularly didn’t like the “sound of something large moving this way” that I heard several times.  I hoped it was a deer.  I really, really hoped it was a deer.

            Eventually, Lady and I found our way back to the cabin.  Susan and Sarah were eating S’mores and Francie was trying to catch some sort of flying thing unsuccessfully.  Lady and I staggered in dirty, damp, and ready for bed.  The woods are a nice place to visit, but I think both Lady and I have decided that we don’t want to live there. 

By the next day, Lady was ready for more adventure and kept pulling me toward the woods—but this time we didn’t leave the trail.  Her adventures with deer had emboldened her to chase turkey—who really don’t like to be chased by small, hopping dogs, as well as ducks, squirrels, and rabbits.  I’m not sure that the ducks actually realized Lady was trying to catch them since she was swimming after them and Lady is not a quick swimmer.  Plus, I’m sure that they’re not used to being chased by dogs wearing bright pink life-preserver vests.  If ducks could speak, I’m pretty sure that they would’ve just looked at each other and said, “Tourists!” 

            Summer is, of course, the perfect time for adventures for man and dog alike.  There’s nothing like the great outdoors and a bright day to spark your adventurous side.  But, it is always good to get back home and after four days, Lady and I were more than ready to pack our gear and ourselves back in the car for the long trip home.  As we left the lake, Lady stretched her doggy seat-belt to full capacity so that she watch the cabin recede as we drove away.  Ducks were flying over the lake and the squirrels were running amok in the trees (as always).  I promised to buy another squirrel feeder when we got home so that Lady would have plenty of furry things to chase.  And, there’s always next year—that’s more than enough time to recover before starting a new adventure.