Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hikes with Dogs are Good for the Body and Soul

Sammi romping through the woods,
with Franki close behind.
The arrival of Fall brings cooler weather and beautiful Autumn colors.  If the heat of summer kept you inside in the air conditioning, it's time to get outside, get moving, and enjoy the season!  Having larger dogs, I tend to stay active all year round, for their benefit as well as mine. We're lucky, I suppose, because the woods are just outside the back gate and the dogs are always ready, willing, and able to go roaming and romping through the trees.

Hiking with dogs is the perfect way to spend time together, as well as getting the exercise that we all need to stay healthy. And, as I've experienced, hikes with dogs are good for the body AND the soul. Nothing makes me happier than watching them enjoying the freedom to run, sniff and dig. It doesn't matter how many times we hike the same trails, they are always excited and eager. It's always new and wonderful.

Cookie trots down the middle of this 
small stream in the woods.
Late last winter, we ended up wandering in a different direction than usual and came across a lovely, quiet spot with a small stream rippling through the trees. The dogs immediately began splashing around, drinking the cold, clear water, and cooling their warm bellies. 

Having a new place to explore, they were noticeably excited, even more than usual, and began running through the trees, their noses to the ground.  I sat down on a large rock next to the stream to watch them, knowing they wouldn't go far and would come back to check on me every couple of minutes.  Except for Shasta, the old, white hound, they don't need to be leashed in our woods.  They are the epitome of pack animals and never wander too far away from me.

Franki takes a drink while cooling her 
belly in the cold mountain stream.
Being the youngest, Franki tends to wander farther and faster than the others, but sooner or later, I hear the jingle bells attached to her collar and know she's on her way back to rejoin us and cool off for a bit in the water, before taking off again to explore some more.

Despite being nearly 11-years-old, Cookie is usually right behind Franki, not wanting to miss anything exciting. Sometimes I hear them barking frantically, as they tree a squirrel or some other wild critter.  On rare occasions, they catch a deer or rabbit unaware and I can hear them chasing the poor creature through the forest; except for Franki, however, the dogs are too old to be interested in long chases, and Franki's arthritic knee and strong attachment to me prevent her from running for too long.  I call for her two or three times and within a few minutes, I hear the leaves crunching, her bells jingling, and soon she comes running up, her tongue lolling and chest heaving from the excitement and effort of her race.

Cookie and Franki, facing off. 
More often than not, her excitement spreads to Cookie, who promptly engages her in a bit of wrestling and play biting until they're both ready for a short rest and a cool drink.

Andie and Sammi (and poor Shasta, who is limited by her leash) tend to stick closer by me during our hikes, although they, too, take advantage of the freedom to run, roam and sniff.  But Shasta and I are rarely left alone.  Even when Cookie and Franki are out wandering and exploring, Sammi and Andie are never far away and usually within sight, or are sitting or standing nearby, enjoying the quiet, eating shoots of green sprouting from the rotting leaves, listening for Cookie and Franki, or just sniffing the air.

Even in late winter, Andie enjoys the 
cold water as she waits for 
Cookie and Franki's return.
The dogs and I are very fortunate to have access to woods and trails where it's safe for them to roam and wander, and where we can all enjoy the fresh air while we exercise. But even if you don't have walking or hiking trails as close as we do, more and more dog parks and dog-friendly trails are opening up or are already available across the country.

Even if you have to travel a bit to get there, the benefits of exercising with your dogs are many:  stress-reduction, weight loss, disease prevention, and just plain ol' fun and enjoyment are all good reasons to bond with your dog while you walk, run, hike, swim, or play fetch.  There are many resources available to help you find dog-friendly trails and parks.  Use your favorite search engine or contact your local chamber of commerce for ideas.

Happy Sammi
(and Shasta, up in the right corner)

Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash? 
~Robert Brault

Monday, June 23, 2014

Black Dogs with Blue Eyes are Amazing

Franki ... a black dog with amazing blue eyes.
I get so many comments about my beautiful Franki.  Black dogs with blue eyes are amazing to look at, and she is also such a beautiful spirit. She loves people and has a very sweet personality.  She's also a bit of a goof and likes to clown around.

There are several breeds of dogs that often have blue eyes:  Alaskan and Siberian Huskies, Australian Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, Border Collies, Catahoula Leopard Dogs, and Dalmatians are the most likely to have blue eyes. Since I started this blog and also from the videos I've posted of Franki on YouTube, I've heard from several people who have black lab mixes with blue eyes.  So Franki isn't absolutely unique, but she is rare.  Most blue-eyed dogs are white or are multi-colored or merle.
On the Move!

I never tire of taking photos of Franki, although with the stark contrast between her black fur and light blue eyes, sometimes it's difficult to capture good shots of her. Plus, if she's outside, she's usually on the move.

Soon after adopting Franki, I noticed she had a limp.  It's only noticeable when she's walking, and if you saw her running around the front yard or out in the woods, you'd never know she has a bum leg. X-rays revealed that she has rather significant arthritis in her back right knee. Our vet believes it's most likely due to getting hit by a car when she was a puppy and not getting proper veterinary care for the injury. Franki was rescued when she was barely a year old and was often seen limping around a rural community, alone and hungry.

Since she was injured so young, she has obviously adapted well to the somewhat limited use of her leg.  I give her a joint supplement, and the occasional anti-inflammatory when she seems especially stiff, but she is otherwise very happy, very active and very healthy.

Taunting Ripley into a Chase

With her boundless energy, Franki is one of those dogs who enjoys sprinting around the yard at top speed, hoping one of the other dogs will chase her.  She often taunts the other dogs by grabbing a toy and dangling it just out of their reach.  When they try to take it from her, off she goes!

If we're on a hike in the woods, it's almost impossible to get a good picture of her.  Franki has a bit of a wild streak and runs through the woods like a deer. She's graceful, sleek, and very fast.  And, as you can see in this photo, she usually looks a bit crazy as her ears are caught in the wind as she runs, her eyes wide with the excitement of being out in the wild.


Did you know that black dogs are the least likely to be adopted from rescues and shelters?  It's referred to as "Black Dog Syndrome" or "Black Dog Bias" by animal rescue workers.  For whatever reasons, some people have an unreasonable fear of black dogs (and other black animals).  But anyone who has ever lived with a black dog can attest to the fact that they are just as wonderful and loving as a dog of any other color. 

Photographer Fred Levy recently launched the Black Dogs Project, a photo series of black dogs against a dark background. Levy's photos are beautiful and truly capture the sweet nature of his subjects.  His project was recently the topic of a widely read article in the The Huffington Post, which you can read HERE

Franki Blue
His series doesn't feature any black dogs with blue eyes, but you can always come back here, where I'll be posting more photos of my blue-eyed wonder dog, Franki, in the near future.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Gift Ideas for Dad

My dad with my little brother and our
dog, Mugger, in 1971.
Whether you're looking for ideas for Father's Day, dad's birthday, or "just because," it seems that men are often much harder to shop for than women.  And if your dad is one of those guys who already "has everything" ... well, it's just that much harder to think of some unique gift ideas for dad.

Today, I'll try to help with a few ideas, whether your father is a dog-lover or not.

If your dad or someone else in the family is a camera bug, you may have a lot of old home movies, photographs, or slides sitting around.  If they're in VHS, film reel, prints, or slide form, you may be concerned that, over time, those memories will degrade or you may no longer have the equipment to even watch or view them anymore.  

In that case, you have a few options. You can buy a DVD recorder that will allow you to transfer VHS to DVD; you can take your photos, slides, video tapes or film reels to Walgreens, Walmart, or other photo service business and have them transferred to DVD; or you can use a service like and have your old movies and photos available both online and on DVD, if you choose.
My older brother, a puppy, and I in 1967.

When you place an order with YesVideo, you get:
  • A private, online account with unlimited video storage
  • Editing & trimming tools that make it easy to create custom DVDs
  • Free iPhone & iPad apps so you can access your movies anywhere
  • Online sharing via email & Facebook
Your videos will be online & your originals will be shipped back to you, usually within 14 business days, depending on the size of your order and the quality of the original medium.

124x124 YesVideo 20% Off Coupon Special
You can also order copies of the new digital video on DVD.  Until the end of 2014, Get 20% Off your entire first order by using Coupon Code: 20TR at

Another unique gift, perfect for Father's Day, or dad's birthday is the Jacob Bromwell Original Popcorn Popper.  Made in the U.S.A. for 195 years, this American classic pops corn over an open fire or kitchen stove top.  With just a bit of oil and some salt, you can create new family memories together, whether it's movie night or during summer camping trips.

The Bromwell high-quality popcorn popper's 3.5 quart capacity lets you evenly pop popcorn over an open fire, as well as a stove top (gas, wood, or electric).
  • Unlike microwave popcorn with low popping ratio, their popcorn popper features automatic steam venting and promises super fast and consistent popcorn every time.
  • Durable, non-electric, and fun for the entire family.
  • A wood handle keeps your hands cool.
  • Free instruction & recipe pamphlet included.
  • Built out of quality stainless steel and guaranteed not to rust.
  • Backed by Jacob Bromwell's 100% Lifetime Guarantee, so you can buy with confidence.
  • Still Made in the USA, even after all these years. Buy American and save jobs.

Original Popcorn Popper Original Popcorn Popper
Works over a campfire or the kitchen stove. You're not still making popcorn in the microwave, are you? Ahh, the sweet smell of freshly popped popcorn over the open fire. With the kiddos crunching and laughing away, there's no better way to bring family and friends together than the good ol' fashioned way. Our Original Popcorn Popper is a durable customer favorite, especially with families. Kids love watching the kernels magically transform into fluffy popcorn, whether it's used over an open fire or kitchen stovetop. You'll love knowing that it's still 100% made in America and now in its 195th year of production, having maintained its original design since it was given the gift of life in the early 1800s. So for movie night at home, or ghost stories around the campfire, make your popcorn the original way, with a bit of oil, a pinch of salt, and a dash of nostalgia.

Another great source for gifts for dad is Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Don't let the name mislead you.  They offer much more than just knives ... 
Winchester Camper's Kit
Winchester Camper's Kit

Smoky Mountain Knife Works carries Sporting Goods; Martial Arts and Self-Defense products; Movie Memorabilia; Collectibles; Kitchen items, including over 100 types of sauces, jams, honey, and relishes; Tactical gear; Hunting, Fishing, Camping, and Outdoor gear; Pocket Knives; Apparel and Accessories; Books and Video; Lighters; Flashlights; Fantasy items, and more.  

Their prices range from under $24.00 to $300 and up, so you're apt to find the perfect gift for the special man in your life.

*Disclaimer:  I may earn a small commission from any purchase you make through any of the links within this article or anywhere else on this blog.  Be assured, however, that my commission does not affect (increase) the prices you pay.*