Giving Thanks, Year 3

November 28, 2016

(I’m not going to lie.  These are quickly becoming my favorite annual posts.)

Year 1, we asked you to click.

Year 2, we asked you to share.

Year 3?  Well friends, it’s time to give back.  We’re asking you to do something to help someone in a situation you found yourself in this year.

Let me explain.

If you follow our blog, you know we had a rough year.  We fought and we celebrated and we reacted and we lost.  We still mourn.

When MJ first received her diagnosis, we struggled with doing what was right for her while balancing our home budget.  It’s gross to have to make decisions for your furbabies based on finances, but that was our truth.  We were willing to swipe-now/worry-later and put everything else on hold (trips, home renovations, fancy dinners) to chip away at the debt, however long it would take.  She was worth it.  We’d do it again.

Our friends encouraged us to establish a Go Fund Me page, and they generously contributed to her veterinary expenses.  Every little bit helped: there were times when those unexpected gifts allowed us to say “yes” to the next test, the next treatment, the next step.

This year, we are working with Southpaws to fund one radiation treatment for a family  whose dog is battling the same type of brain cancer as MJ did.  The family won’t know us, and we won’t know them.  What we will know is that we took away the burden of one day.

And so, friends: think back on this year.  In your time of need, what would have helped you most?  Can you make that help happen for someone else?

Leave us a comment and let us know how you give back!

Snugglin’

This is pretty much how they used to snuggle together.  He’s settle and she’d interlope. 

Tonight, he curled up in her place and shifted the pad around. And sighed. 


He hasn’t settled there since she left us. Maybe it’s ok now?  

Scrambling: Crozet, VA (Cville, Pt 1)

April 22, 2016

I’m a planner.  We’ve discussed this.  I’m happiest when I get to organize, when there’s a to-do list, and when I can track my accomplishments.  I get frustrated and disappointed when my hard work  is undone by things that are outside of my control.  But I’m also the person you want on your side in a crisis.  Change is good.  I’m flexible.  Two opposite people living in my little virgo body.  The struggle is real.

We like to take trips with the dogs.  The Outer Banks, Asheville, Woodstock (which I neglected to blog about but I’ll get back to)… this year is no different.  For our very first “just us three” trip, Zo, James and I set our sights on Charlottesville, VA.  We heard it was a great place to hang out: funky, historic, walkable, pet-friendly.  I rented a house.  I made reservations for dinners.  We made “excursion” plans.  And then we changed them on the fly.

See, on our way to Charlottesville, we planned to take a slight detour along Skyline Drive and take Zo for a hike.  Our travel plans coincided with the commencement of year-long activities celebrating the Centennial of the National Park Service.  We were excited to hike newly refurbished, blazed trails; to shake off the city and work and stress and enjoy the fresh, clean air.

In the days leading up to our trip, the news began reporting of a wildfire along Skyline.  We tracked the fire and changed our route. Every day in the week leading up to the trip, we tracked and changed and tracked and changed.  Thousands of acres of forest were destroyed.  Skyline closed.  Our big “WE’RE ON VACATION” moment came to a halt.

So I stressed and planned.  The morning of our departure, I nooked into the corner of the couch, laptop perched on my knees, looking for solid hikes do-able with a dog.  I hounded James with links and maps and “what abouts.”  He told me to calm down.  I scowled a lot. Zozo slept.  And then I found it: Humpback Rocks in Crozet, VA.  45 minutes from Charlottesville along the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We packed the car, strapped the pup in, and hit the road.  I felt better.

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And then the rain started.  It rained fairly steadily the entire drive.  When it wasn’t raining, it was misting.   But I was going to hike, dammit.  And so, we did.

Because of the rain, the trail was ours.  The site reads it’s a little over two miles and strenuous.  You climb 1,240 feet.  I don’t know what we expected.  No, that’s a lie, I do.  We expected strenuous to mean this:

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Ok, so here’s a preview of our Woodstock trip.  This is the Mount Overlook trail.  It was 3 miles up a sharp pitch.

And it was that.  And more… much more.

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Checking the map and trail warnings before we started out.  There was a warning that the trail is slippery when wet.  SO WHAT, I SAY!

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When we started out, there was finally a break in the rain.  It was short-lived. (see, looks a little like the Woodstock photo)

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Like clockwork, Zozo took a pit stop 1/4 of a mile from a trash can.  Instead of carrying it the rest of the way, James humped back down to the trailhead to dispose of the bag.  He’s a hero.

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Just a dog and his boy.  Ahead, there be boulders.  The trail became all scramble.

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I figured you might not believe me.  See. Boulder.  Oh, and it’s raining again.

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I might have said something stupid like, “that wasn’t so terrible, and now there are stairs.”  Silly Kari.

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Picking our way to the top.

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Look at that smile.  He’s having the best day ever.

The three of us are stubborn.  James delightfully (for me) goes along with my terrible ideas.  Zozo is part goat, scampering and hopping along like a fearless puppy (he’s 9).  The rain wouldn’t stop us.  And the final view… totally, absolutely worth the stress.

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Covered in mud and more damp than dry, we made our way back down the mountain.  Someone fell on their tush (hint, it wasn’t me).  We piled back in and made the drive to Charlottesville.  More on that later.

Let’s talk about this guy

February 1, 2016

 

When we moved into our house so many years ago, we worried that Zozo was lonely.  That he needed company when we were out of the house.  We thought he could use a companion’s example to follow when his social anxiety acts up.  And so, we brought MJ home.

When we let MJ go in late December, we again worried that Zozo would be lonely.  That his behavioral challenges would become exacerbated in her absence.  We had no idea how we would manage his grief along with ours.

For the first few days, he would look around for her: at meal times, in the yard, when he hopped on the couch for some snuggles.  The house is quiet and still.  It’s cold without the constant pittie shadow-slash-lap-blanket.

Long story very short: Zozo is amazing.  Yes, he’s anxious on-leash without her example.  Yes, he still barks at noises outside tgat we cannot see. He’s also silly and chatty and affectionate.  He’s enjoying the one-on-one with the humans.  He hops on our bed for pre-lights out snoozing.  His goofy personality is on display.  We’re dressing him in his jaunty kerchiefs and bow ties (ok, I’m dressing him).  It’s as if he’s coming out of his shell again.

 

It’s helped our mourning to laugh at him… with him; to enjoy being just us three.  He asks about her.  He sleeps with her crate towel.  We’re finding a new routine, the three of us.

The bundle in the top left corner is her crate towel.

Asheville, NC- The Biltmore

November 2015

We were drawn to Asheville for a number of reasons: artsy community, excellent food, walkable, and dog-friendly.

Since we went the week leading up to Thanksgiving, James still had to check in with work.  To keep our dogs out of his hair while on a conference call, we leashed up and headed out to the Biltmore Estate.

Holy cow is that place incredible.  Under construction from 1889-1895, George Vanderbilt’s 3,000 acre estate boats of “four acres of floor space, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.”  So, your typical country cottage.

While dogs aren’t allowed inside the main house, they are permitted to roam the gardens, hike the trails, and get a coffee.

[Side note: If you want to walk the estate and then tour the mansion, the Biltmore does have first-come/first-serve kennels where dogs can curl up with fresh water and protection from the elements.  We didn’t opt for that feature during our tour– first came the adventure with the dogs, then I dropped the furries back and snagged James for our human’s-only tour in the house.]

Two dogs, one Kari and a pocketful of treats left our little mountain respite for this expansive tourist draw in Asheville.  We had a dusting of snow that morning, so MJ was wearing one of her (my) favorite hoodies to keep her warm.  We got more comments about the dog-in-outfit during our walk!

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To get to the estate, you park your car about 1/3 of a mile down a slope. Humans can get on a shuttle that delivers you to the front door. For those with pups, your walk starts right away, on pine needle trails through the woods.

A view of the train depot approach to the estate. That's the front lawn. (This really adorable older couple insisted on taking our picture. He knew how to use an iPhone, and proceeded to take 47 pictures that look exactly like this one. No lie.)

A view of the train depot approach to the estate. That’s the front lawn. (This really adorable older couple insisted on taking our picture. He knew how to use an iPhone, and proceeded to take 47 pictures that look exactly like this one. No lie.)

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What we loved most about the estate is variety of paving/ground the dogs got to walk on. Brick, grass, pebbles, concrete, sodden earth… they took them all like champs. Although we liked the pebbles the least (the princess disliked sitting on them).

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We followed this trail into a bamboo forest. I stopped to pick up a pup-deposit, got twisted in the leads and turned around. Then, basically, we got lost in a bamboo forest for 20 minutes. It’s cool, though. We broke several rules and walked off the path to find our way out.

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This should have been our Christmas card. I couldn’t get organized fast enough.

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Good flare.

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one of each

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This is MJ’s “I”m over it” face. Doodle is obviously having the time of his life.

We got to the estate as they opened for the day, so the trails were rather un-peopled and we could take our time with sniffs and changing directions.  If I read the map correctly, we wandered over 5 miles of the estate, which wore everyone out and drained the pocket of treats.

And when you find yourself in Asheville

Thanksgiving 2014

James and I have started planning our out-of-town escapes around things we can do with the dogs; rather, places we can go with the dogs.

Criteria:

  • must be an easy car ride (less that 8 hours without traffic)
  • must have well-lit, green-area’d rest stops along the way
  • must not be in a state with BSL about pit bull breed
  • must have dog-friendly activities
  • must not require kenneling

We’ve taken them to the Outer Banks.  We take them on overnights to relatives’ houses.  And now, they’ve been to Asheville.

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Through homeaway.com, We rented a wonderful converted barn just a few miles outside of downtown Asheville, NC, for a Thanksgiving escape.    Pet-friendly with wooded trails, lots of sniffs and radiant flooring.

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The barn is behind us.   Cameo appearance by Zozo's tongue.

The barn is behind us.
Cameo appearance by Zozo’s tongue.

We woke up our second morning to find a dusting of mountain snow!

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not interested in snow. going back to sleep on the warm spot on the warm floor.

We ate, we napped, we went on adventures (you’ll have to wait for those), and we broke out of our travel crate.

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Oh, and there were bears.  We saw them.  Well, one.  Our renters book was full of helpful information, like “Will a bear attack my dog?”

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Asheville is a great, walkable town.  And we have the pictures to prove it.  Next time, on Serial.

Hairs Did

December 2014

Right before the holidays, it was time to get my roots done.  I’m not shy about my greys.  They happen.  I color them.  We have an understanding.

And the woman who does my hair, Katie, is a rockstar.  We’ve been through a lot of styles and colors together, and I really look forward to my time in her chair.

She’s also been a big fan of our dogs, whom she’s never actually met in-person.  She asks after their well-being, mourned MJ’s stump with me, and cheered for Zozo’s paw-horn.  She’s good people.

Sunday before Christmas, I had an appointment scheduled for first thing in the morning.  Having seen small-ish dogs in the salon before, I texted Katie to see what her thoughts were on my bringing MJ along.  (Zozo has a fear of my hair dryer, and I didn’t want to set him up for catastrophe.)  The last thing I want is for a social, wiggly girl to be underfoot or in the way of clients and stylists on a busy weekend.  But Katie was game.

MJ and I got dressed and coffee’d.  I packed a bag with a small toy, some treats and her crate towel, and we headed over to the salon.

That’s right folks: we girls got our hairs did.

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sitting pretty, before we sit pretty

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we got in some down-stay training while waiting for the salon to open.

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scoping it out– this is what it looks like before a bustling salon bustles… it’s a little eerie. and perfect for pittie investigations

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gowned.

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MJ made fast friends with Katie and her assistant, and followed them around the salon “helping”.

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mama is processing…nbd

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Best. Day. Ever.

Best. Day. Ever.

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MJ is in charge now.

Katie took her on tour for a bit while I was being shampooed.   

Guys, it could have gone either way.  But it was awesome.  MJ was stellar and wiggled her tush off.  She got lots of love from stylists and clients alike.  By the time we left, the place was hopping– scissors snipping, dryers humming and water gushing, and it didn’t faze the little girl one bit.

Special thanks to Katie and the staff at PR at Partners in Shirlington for being wonderful.  Maybe we’ll do it again.