Sunday, April 19, 2015

A New Hike in Pawtuxent State Park

This weekend was our first blast of nice warm weather, and we managed to spend most of it outside. 

Saturday was Zimbabwean Independence Day, and we brought dad to a celebratory picnic.

There was a lot of meaty food, which dad loved, and a lot of really nice people. We had a nice, social time, made some new Zimbabwean music friends and played some mbira music ourselves. 

After such a social day, Sunday was the perfect day to just get away somewhere with the dogs. Florian's favorite part of Pawtuxent State Park was closed all winter, so he was excited to find it open.

The park is huge and goes along the Pawtuxent River, which at this point is wide and calm, like a lake. 

Lots of really cool rocks to climb and explore, or just sit on in the sun. 

This is a popular area for fisher people, so we passed a few of them enjoying their idyllic, harmless, peaceful pastime of sticking a hook through an innocent creature's lip and yanking it into a medium in which it cannot breathe, all for sport. I also picked up long tangled masses of fishing line just waiting for wildlife to die in, along with broken beer bottles and charming plastic containers that once held bait. 

Once we passed the fisher people on our way along the river, the trail got more wild and we saw no one. Time for the pups to go off leash and get nice and wet. 

Though we've been to the Pawtuxent many times and there's nothing particularly exciting about it, this hike had a particular joy to it. The warmth, the sun, and especially the remoteness of the trail as we got away from the parking lot, and the knowledge that the dogs cold run and get wet as much as they pleased, unmolested. 

Fozzie loves to chase sticks into the water, and Dahlia usually follows him. 

There was plenty of evidence of wildlife. 

We saw a bunch of trees that had been chewed through by beavers. My spirit does a little dance of triumph whenever I see evidence of beavers, those little keystone species whose labors create habitat for other species as they build natural dams that flood the banks in some areas and create variability and diversity in the riparian ecosystem. 

Another little triumph--we saw an enormous sneeks! 

Not a triumph for Florian, who is so terrified even of the harmless black water snakes--which he refers to, in the singular, as "a sneeks"--that he screamed like a girl and then stood behind me, clutching my shoulders and jumping up and down. 

But I enjoyed watching our coiled, hissing friend scoot into the water, as I contemplated the enormous number of mosquitoes he or she is no doubt responsible for eliminating. 

Far back along the trail, the river narrowed and became rocky and even more beautiful, 

and we had to watch out even more for sneeks because according to our resident expert, they love to hide in rocky areas near the water and just wait for him, ready to spring. 

No more sneeks though, just lots of mud so we had to throw some more sticks to get the dogs to rinse off. Fozzie was happy to oblige, but Dahlia had to be coaxed in, and then scrubbed.

Why is mud so much more appealing than clean water? We'll just never know.

But eventually, both dogs were rinsed and we returned to the car and returned home, everyone contented and sleepy.

This felt like a perfect way to spend Earth Day weekend, peacefully enjoying nature, getting muddy, and celebrating beavers. And running away from a sneeks! How did YOU celebrate Earth Day? 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dogswell Happy Hips Salmon Jerky from

Our latest score from was some Dogswell Happy Hips Salmon Jerky

I used to try often to get treats with glucosamine for Lamar to help his arthritis. Fozzie and Dahlia have no hip problems as of yet, but I thought that with salmon jerky you really can't go wrong tastewise so why not give them a try. 

To test out these treats, first of course we did the usual. 

The dogs were eager to do their Swiss ball exercises, their rapt attention on the treats.

Then we decided to really put these treats to the test by bringing them on a walk. 

Our springtime walks have been a real adventure lately. We have the good fortune of living right near a little woods that connect two school yards, and lately the woods have been full of bunny rabbits and deer. The other day, there was a fox on the trip who followed us a little way, and this nature momma ran the other direction in terror as I tried to keep Fozzie and Dahlia distracted.

Because when Fozzie sees a squirrel or a cat, all 85 pounds of pure muscle rears up on the leash and barks and yodels and lunges, while a compact bullet of Dahlia attacks Fozzie's neck with gusto. 

On this walk, we got to the edge of the woods without mishap and then Fozzie got that look in his eye and I peered into the woods to see two big white tails fleeing through the trees. 

Let's whip out those Salmon Jerky snacks! They apparently smell really good because I had Dahlia's attention almost immediately.  

Fozzie took a little longer, 

but once I had his attention he zeroed in on my hand and didn't look away.

That is the mark of a really high-value, good-smelling, super-tasty treat: a treat that can get Fozzie's attention even in the face of fast-moving prey species. 

The other nice thing I noticed is that having a really good treat after a high-stress encounter seems to cool everything down and let the dogs come to focus and calm.  

So as we continued on our walk and passed the house of our friend Oliver, the boxer whom Fozzie and Dahlia get a bit excited about every time we pass, all I had to do was reach toward the treat pocket and both dogs were sitting at attention. 

Oliver is the brown blob behind the fence in the background
I notice that overall, when I have a really high-value treat in my pocket, the whole tone of the walk is more calm and manageable and the dogs are more responsive and attentive. 

It's like they know when paying attention is really worth their while. 

Thanks again, you make some rockin' training aids. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Florian's birthday extravaganza

For Florian's birthday a couple of weekends ago, we decided to really live it up and go on an overnight trip. Let's go to Berkeley Springs, I thought, and we'll have a thoroughly romantic, relaxing hiking, soaking in the mineral baths, maybe getting a massage and staying at a nice B & B or a rental cabin.

When we got to Berkeley Springs, we continued through the town and stopped at Cacapon Resort State Park. It was chilly, so no one was around and we could let the dogs run like wackos. 

Something about Berkeley Springs just makes me so happy, maybe because every time I've been there I've had a really good time. 

The first time was in 2009, when my sister rented a house near the Cacapon and my whole family stayed there. 

The hikes and scenery are amazing, and the town has all these groovy little shops full of Tibetan clothing and fragrant soaps and nifty hippie stuff that is right up our alley.

With the dogs nice and tired, we felt pretty good leaving them in the car while we went to go check out the shops and buy some aromatherapy body spray. Then it was getting into evening, and we were thinking about finding a restaurant and a relaxing, pretty room with a jacuzzi in one of the many spas in town.

But that would have required staying in one place for a while. Silly me! This was a weekend with Florian, and that was out of the question. Back in the car, off to another town closer to where we wanted to hike the next day, and to a Motel 6 next to a strip mall and a really good Thai restaurant.

We love Motel 6. Always pet friendly, with no pet fee! And the rooms have wood floors, how cool is that?

The next day, we were close to Williamsport which is right next to the Potomac. Breakfast in a nifty little independent cafe and then a hike along the C & O Canal.

I love the C & O canal trail, with the water right next to it, but it was a bit tranquil for Florian. So off to our next hike, the Washington Monument State Park along the Appalachian Trail.
It was fun to see the through-hikers, with their scruffy faces and enormous packs, and neat to see the little shelters they stay in for the months they are on the trail.

A nice trail up to the monument, which was at the top of a hill.
It's the first completed monument dedicated to George Washington, built by the citizens of Boonesboro in 1827.

Great views from the top

and a good place to enjoy the sun and relax a minute.

before descending inside the nifty stone tower.

Another whirlwind trip with Florian and the pups! Maybe we'll get to that hot tub for his 80th birthday.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Heading out of winter

Finally on the East Coast we are getting to the point where it is not just not unbearably miserably cold, but its actually kind of pleasant and nice to be outside. A couple of weekend ago, Florian pulled out our book of hikes in the Baltimore area and found one that was supposed to have some cool ruins. 

The Patapsco River is one of those huge rivers with trails and recreation areas all along it. 

Finally, a warm enough day for the dogs to get in the water, get their paws a bit wet 

and get a drinkie

There was much rejoicing. 

It was a flat trail but still beautiful, 

with the water right next to the trail 

And eventually, a number of cool ruins. 

I know it was kind of disrespectful but it's hard to be too upset about a graffito of a large, good-natured banana. 

I have to admit, I'll be happy when there's a bit more green to enjoy on our outings. 

In the meantime, you have to appreciate the wacky things nature sometimes does.

That was fun, guys! Now its time to rest.