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Dog's Life: Travel
Dog Friendly Travel: Palm Coast Florida

Florida attracts visitors year round, but the winter and spring seasons are especially inviting. On the northeastern shoreline—known as the “quiet side”—Palm Coast and Flagler County deserve special mention for their dog-friendliness. This stretch of oceanfront has a laid-back, smalltown flavor; unlike other coastal areas, the beaches are uncluttered by cars or buildings—no high-rise hotels here! Hiking opportunities abound, with more than 100 miles of trails. Plus, the longest designated scenic highway on the East Coast—the A1A Scenic Coastal Highway—passes through, so there’s always a reason to take a ride and see the sights. The tourism folks offer other tips on planning your “dog-cation,” with a list of activities that includes paddle boarding; hikes along the eight-mile-long Lehigh Trail (part of an abandoned 195-acre railroad corridor); and visits to the popular Wadsworth Park, where you can meet up with the locals at its fenced dog park, which has separate areas for large and small dogs. A must-stop for nature enthusiasts is the 1,500-acre Princess Place Preserve in the northern part of the county. Its many scenic viewpoints provide lots of places to catch a sunset. (Wild hogs and alligators also call it home, so best to keep your pup on leash.) Among the affordable accommodations with dog-welcoming policies are Whale Watch Motel and Fairfield Inn and Suites. Or, if you’re interested in private rentals, try vacationrental pros.com; for camping recommendations, check floridastateparks.org. For good eats, there’s Johnny D’s Beach Bar & Grill, Flagler Fish Company or the High Tides at Snack Jacks. Finally, make it a point to stop by the Bark Spot, the local dog boutique. Palmcoastandtheflaglerbeaches.com

Dog's Life: Travel
Postcard From Germany: Rottweil Revels
A magical late-winter carnival in Rottweil, Germany.

Cradling mugs of ale and sporting goofy grins, the citizenry of Rottweil in southwestern Germany weave through the streets, planting kisses on one another’s cold cheeks and hooting in a cartoon falsetto, like crazed owls: “Hu-hu-hu! Hu-hu-hu!” I clutch a cup of steamy, sweet glüwein (mulled wine) and join the tradition, hu-hu-ing until I’m hoarse, relieved that, for the moment, my lousy German doesn’t matter.

I’m here for Narrensprung, or Fools’ Jump. In this storybook town at the edge of the Black Forest, Swabian rituals of Carnival have changed little over the centuries—handily holding their own against the commercial spectacles of big cities.

Founded by the Romans in 73 A.D. as a military outpost and trading center, Rottweil’s heritage shows in its tidy prosperity; ruins of temples and baths; and famous export and namesake, the Rottweiler, a sturdy canine descended from herding dogs bred by Roman cattle farmers. As the settlement evolved, so too did the role of Rottweilers, who became draft animals and butchers’ shop companions.

“Ich bin ein Rottweiler” is the bumpersticker of choice. Garlands of yellow and black, the official town colors, are draped across storefronts and lamposts. Lifesize plastic Rottweilers guard doors, plush toy Rotties stare from windows.

Narrensprung’s pagan roots are augmented by Catholic pre-Lenten fervor. Winter and its cold spirits must be expelled, and so after a formal declaration, the icy cobbled streets fill with celebrants eager to witness a grand procession of narren, or “fools,” in kaleidoscopically colored costumes and hand-carved masks, most of which have been handed down through generations of families.

Each narren does his part: the Benner Rössle prance astride hobbyhorses; the Gschell toss candy and clank their bocce-ball-sized metal bells in a thumping rhythm. The Guller, a lone strutting rooster, represents fertility.

I’m temporarily blinded by a mass of stinky-sweet horsehair dangled across my face. Grunting lecherously, a Federahannes dusts my winter away with a long tufted pole. Just as suddenly, he balances on the pole and vaults above us all, feathered cape flying: a jumping fool.

There are Boxers, Beagles, Labs and Bernese Mountain Dogs among the spectators, but curiously, no Rottweilers. Outside the Konditorei (pastry shop), a clutch of revelers disguised as rabbits and frogs chat with a woman swathed in fox who’s tethered to a giant Standard Poodle.

“Where are the Rottweilers?” I chance asking this stranger.

We discover that we share the name Erika, and are immediately comfortable. Her English makes my German unnecessary, allowing us—encircled by a frenzy of hu-hu-ing—to talk. “Shouldn’t Rottweilers be part of Narrensprung? Can I meet one not made of plastic?” I ask.

Erika pauses, then leans toward me and whispers, “There are puppies.” Soon, I’m a passenger in her car, circling Rottweil’s outer reaches on a quest.

We find the house, festooned in yellow and black and with an etched profile of a Rottweiler on the door. Eminent breeder and trainer Bernhard Schwabe’s place is chockablock with Rottie statues and Carnival regalia, not to mention dogs. Two stately canines snooze by the fireplace; their eight fuzzy offspring, squirming under heat lamps, are already promised to families. One of the Rotties approaches and rests his blocky head in my lap.

Over coffee, Erika translates as Bernhard expounds about the history of Narrensprung, and his beloved dogs. He shows us his Federahannes mask, but seems most proud of a faded photo that captures him parading in a butcher’s costume, flanked by a Rottweiler pulling an antique cart of yellow flowers.

For this moment, issues of breed discrimination, overpopulation and rescue societies are a world away.

Back in town, Benner Rössle prance and crack their whips into the night as the ritual winds down. Masks are lowered and folks retreat to the warmth of the gasthaus (inn). The old magic must have worked, because spring arrived in the Black Forest soon afterward. 

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Are The Best On A Snowy Day

I don’t know about you, but this is the time of year when the short days and dreary weather begin get a little old, so this video couldn’t have hit my e-mail inbox at a better time—it is the perfect wintertime attitude adjustment. Leave it to the dogs to remind us that life is always fun, even with a bite in the air and snow on the ground!

Dog's Life: Travel
The Arctic Circle, with Dogs
Volunteering at Hetta Huskies in Finnish Lapland

It’s hard to believe that this time a year ago, I was fumbling in the pre-dawn darkness, pulling on multiple thermal layers to face the Arctic weather and more than 100 spirited, vocal sled dogs. I never knew what each day would hold–breaking up fearsome fights, marking trails, checking stock, giving medication or butchering fresh meat for evening meals. I’ve held demanding jobs in my life, including time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central Africa, but tackling a three-month volunteer stint at Hetta Huskies high in Finnish Lapland pushed me to my limits. However, despite the daily mélange of euphoria, anxiety, pride and anger, I emerged victorious. And I brought home a Husky to prove it!

My time with Hetta Huskies was part of what turned out to be an almost two-year-long backpacking trip around the world with my husband, Steve Aguirre. Our bold decision to undertake a shared epic journey was precipitated by a year of loss. In 2011, my best friend was viciously murdered, and our beloved dog was hit and killed by a car. Every two months, it seemed, there was a new trauma. We finally realized that life really is too short; if we didn’t leave soon, we may not have the chance later.

Before we knew it, we had walked away from our jobs and said goodbye to friends, family and favorite San Diegan locales. We started in Guatemala and wove our way overland through Central and South America, flew to New Zealand, then up to Thailand, Dubai, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and the Ukraine before zigzagging through Eastern Europe, up to Finland and over to the Netherlands. We rounded out our trip by wending through the UK. In total, over the course of 20 months, we visited 27 countries and five continents. We also relied heavily on Workaway opportunities, in which hosts provide full room and board in exchange for daily volunteer work. As the Workaway site describes it, the swap was simple: “a few hours honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community, with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings.”

All 19 of our Workaway experiences were transformational in their own ways, but the one that had the most impact also happened to be the most grueling and beautiful. While still in San Diego, I clicked through possible Workaway experiences and happened upon a sled dog farm in remote Finnish Lapland. One of the pictures accompanying the lengthy list of volunteer expectations and requirements was a close up of a blue-eyed puffball of a Husky puppy, which I promptly emailed to Steve with the subject line “This is what you could be looking at instead of spreadsheets…” We’re both wild about dogs, and we knew that a stint with Hetta Huskies was definitely in the cards.

Thus, in September 2013, we found ourselves in the tiny reindeer herding village of Hetta, 130 miles above the Arctic Circle, after 17 hours of travel via train and bus. Hetta Huskies is owned by two former professional athletes and explorers, Finn Pasi Ikonen and Brit Anna McCormack. Our bosses expected a consistently high level of professionalism and perfection.

At 32, Steve and I were among the oldest in the group, which consisted of as many as 16 volunteers living dorm style, sleeping in bunk beds and sharing a toilet, shower, living area and kitchen. Cooking and cleaning duties were unofficially rotated, and every night, four to five dogs from the farm would spend the night with us for either medical or socialization purposes.

We were in charge of 116 howling, furry, excitable powerhouse work dogs (and 86 at Valimaa, a second farm) who needed daily care. Our work days were at least 12 hours with a half-hour lunch, and we worked between six and nine days in a row before we had a day off. Daily tasks included administering medication, prepping, delivering and cleaning up the dogs’ food, groundwork maintenance (refilling holes, raking running circles near the kennels, making sure there were no tree roots to tangle the chains), heat checks for the females, cage repair, taking sled teams on practice runs, giving tours to tourists, data entry and a litany of other tasks that seemed to spring up daily. Because this work is so serious, Hetta Huskies has systems and trainings that rival those in any corporate setting.

As mentioned, we also spent time at Valimaa, which Hetta Huskies had been contracted to oversee for another company. The setup there was a bit more primitive and remote, and the dogs themselves needed a little extra love and attention, since they were a bit wilder and more likely to be afraid of humans than the Hetta dogs.

At Valimaa on one memorable evening in February, I spotted a pulsating green aura and my heart jumped into my throat—it was the aurora borealis, the northern lights, live and in otherworldly greens! As Steve and I lay on the frozen ground, inhaling the frigid night air and looking up at the amazing sight, a sonorous canine chorus rose up and enveloped us in the moment. It was pure magic. For more than a half hour, we were transfixed by the celestial show.

The night before we left Hetta, Steve and I took out the first sleds of the season. We flew across the frozen tundra under a fiery sorbet sunset behind exuberant teams of canine dynamos—dogs who love nothing more than the feel of snow under their feet. That single moment made the aching bones, stress, lack of sleep and paltry food all worth it. In fact, our time in Hetta so defined our world trip that we decided to go for the ultimate keepsake in the form of a three-year-old female named Theta. Her Dalmatian-spotted ears and black mask had charmed me at first sight. When we learned she was available for adoption, we did the research and discovered that it would be neither expensive nor complicated to bring her home.

After departing Hetta Huskies and making our way through the UK for a few more months, we finished our adventures back in Helsinki, where we collected Theta and boarded the first of three planes that would take all three of us back to Colorado. Theta adapted quickly to her new situation, which included everything from a name change (after seeing her run and pounce in the snow, we re-christened her Naali, which means “Arctic fox” in Finnish) to playing with toys for the first time. And during a road trip to San Diego, she took her first dip in the Pacific Ocean—a big step for a dog who had never seen open water in her life.

Nowadays, our little family indulges in a group howl before work in honor of the pack mentality, and we delight in taking Naali to the dog park (where she gravitates toward other Huskies) and giving her lots of belly rubs after long runs on a skijoring line to simulate her sled-pulling days. Though Naali has decided that laughter and the television aren’t threats, the jury’s still out on parked cars and the sound of compressed air. She’s also learned that cute behavior leads to more cuddles and treats. As we work on our own re-acclimatization to post-trip life, she’s proven to be a welcome distraction.

We’ve never had a moment’s regret about our decision to throw caution to the wind and embark upon the most epic adventure we’ve shared to date. I’m also reminded of our adventures by the best trip memento we could have asked for: Naali, our very own living slice of Arctic Scandinavia. 

Dog's Life: DIY
Crocheted Dog Bed
Use up your yarn scraps or color coordinate with your dog

The interior is stuffed to about 1 1/2" thick, while the trim is about 2 1/2" thick. Made with a tight single crochet (sc) stitch, it’s built to last, and—depending on the yarn you use—is machine wash- and dryable (gentle cycle).

Materials
• About 20 ounces of worsted-weight yarn*
• About 32 ounces of polyester fiberfill
• Size I or 9 mm crochet hook
• Yarn needle

*Adjust amount of yarn to size desired

Beginning
For the interior tube, using any color and size I crochet hook, chain (ch) 2
Rnd 1: 5 sc in 2nd chain from hook
Rnd 2: 2 sc in each sc (10 sc)
Rnd 3: *sc in 1st sc, 2 sc in next sc,* repeat around (15 sc)
Rnd 4: *sc in 1st sc, sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc* repeat around (20 sc)
All rounds should be done in continuous loop. Do not join rounds with slip stitch and ch 1.

Continue crocheting in a continuous 20 stitches around until the tube measures about 80" inches long. Stuff it with the polyester fiberfill
as you go (for about every 6" of tube, pause and stuff). Don’t overstuff, as the tube needs to be flexible enough to coil and stitch together. To seal off the end, decrease the tube, or just stop, finish off and stitch the end together by hand. Coil the tube starting at the center, stitching it
together with yarn and yarn needle from the inside, working outward.

Middle
For the outer tube: ch 35, join together with slip stitch to make a loop. Continue working even sc in each stitch until the tube measures
about 55" long, stuffing it along the way. Lay the thicker tube around the coiled interior tube to make sure it’s long enough. When complete,
stitch the two ends together, making it into a circle.

End
Place the outer tube around the coil and stitch the two together with yarn and yarn needle.

Finished size: 18" x 20"
 

Wellness: Healthy Living
Sleeps with Dogs

A snoring spouse, sirens and glowing electronic screens can all make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Research from the Mayo Clinic finds that pets can be part of the problem, too.

Patients at the Mayo Center for Sleep Medicine were asked about causes of interrupted sleep in 2002, and only 1 percent mentioned their pets as an issue, though 22 percent had pets sharing their beds. When patients were asked similar questions in 2013, 10 percent reported that their pets disturbed their sleep.

Dr. Lois Krahn, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, says, “Dogs disturbed sleep by wanting to sleep in a particular place on the bed (where the sleeper would prefer to place their feet, under the covers, on the pillow), needing attention and creating sounds [such as] whimpering during dreaming.”

One benefit of having a dog is having a warm body to snuggle up with at the end of a long day. But sometimes, what you love gets in the way of what you need. In a 2009 survey done by Kansas State University, Dr. Kate Stenske found that more than half of dog owners allow their dogs to sleep in their beds.

How can you reconcile your need for solid sleep with the comfort of your canine companion?

First, take an honest look at how well you sleep. Do you fall asleep quickly, or do you spend a long time tossing and turning? Are you up in the night, for your own needs or to take care of something else? In the morning, are you energized or do you rely on coffee to get going?

If your dog is getting in the way of your falling or staying asleep, it’s time to make some changes. Try moving her from your bed to her own bed in the same room; create a comfortable space near you but on the floor. This is a hard habit to break, so plan to work on it. You’ll have to keep moving her back to her bed when she climbs up with you, but be patient and offer lots of praise.

What about doggie sleep sounds? If you don’t want to use earplugs, try white noise from a fan or other appliance with a constant humming sound.

Once you take back your sleeping space, you may realize that the dog wasn’t the problem. Dr. J. Todd Arnedt of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Michigan has tips for what he calls good “sleep hygiene.”

• Avoid evening exercise.
• Keep the bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable: reduce external light sources, turn off the TV and find your best sleeping temperature.
• No caffeine after mid-afternoon, and no alcohol in the evening.
• Make the bedroom a place for intimacy and sleep only; leave work outside.
• Establish an evening wind-down time. Lower the lights, do quiet activities, have a light carbohydrate snack.

If you make these changes and insomnia is still stalking you, it’s time to talk to a professional for more in-depth study.

Most dog owners can continue to enjoy the comfort and companionship of their furriest family member through the night. But if sleep is evasive, you may want to take a closer look at what’s keeping you up at night.

News: Editors
Tom Brady’s Best Friend Is a Pit-Mix Named Lua
Today’s inbox brings us a special bit of eye-candy (also known as publicity pitches) that we think is worth sharing. It’s a video featuring NFL quarterback Tom Brady playing fetch with his dog Lua. This short contemplation on hard work, success and man’s best friend is a promotion for UGG, the Australian shoemaker who employs Brady as their official pitchman. We don’t know if it will make people run out and buy their shoes, but maybe a few will be inspired to adopt a Pit or Pit-mix ... like Tom.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Autumn To Do List

As late summer’s dog days drift into fall, it’s time to try something new.

Learn | Sign up for obedience, agility or another canine-centric activity, and crack open the Internet to expand your dog-cog information base. (Patricia McConnell is an excellent guide; visit patriciamcconnell.com for leads.)

Refresh | Toss the flattened stuffies and stock up on new chewables, DIY a toy storage box, or take the washable pooch bed to a commercial laundry and fluff it up.

Volunteer | Stop by your local shelter and offer yourself as a dog walker, or a dog talker; dogs benefit from having someone sit nearby and talk (or read) to them.

Foster | Partial to a particular breed? See if its local rescue group needs foster homes for dogs-in-waiting. Better yet, make the same offer to your shelter.

Unwind | Give doga a try; get out the yoga mat and do a few downwardfacing dogs with your in-house dogini.

Leaf Peep | Fall-color hot spots abound; google “fall foliage” for your region, then hit the road, co-pilot in the car and camera at hand.

Have Fun | Rake leaves into billowy piles for your dog to jump into … then rake them up again.

Light Up | Days are getting shorter; make sure you’re visible on late-afternoon or early-evening walks. Put new batteries in your flashlight and invest in reflective vests: one for you, one for the pup.

Look Up | Sirius, the Dog Star, is the night sky’s brightest, and easy to spot (plus, stargazing is a good way to pass the moments while your furry friend checks her p-mail).

Dress Up | Make your dog a costume and take part in a Halloween dog parade. NYC’s Tompkins Square Park hosts one of the most venerable, and other cities and groups also sponsor them. Or, try your hand at carving a dog-o-lantern.

Freeze Up | Fall is prime time for pumpkins, one of canine nutrition’s high-antioxidant, high-soluble-fiber wonder foods. Puree fresh cooked pumpkin and freeze it in silicone ice cube trays or muffin tins for future meals. (Organic produce seems to provide more good-guy antioxidants, so go organic when possible.) For recipes: thebark.com/pumpkin

Plan Ahead | Popular dog-friendly resorts and vacation venues fill up fast; make your holiday reservations now. Or, if you know you’ll be traveling sans dog, reserve time in your favorite pet sitter’s schedule.

Get Started | Winter and its seasonal celebrations are coming, so put on your DIY hat and make something special. Knit a sweater, felt a woolen ball, crochet a colorful dog bed, assemble a keepsake book.

PS | Stay safe. Along with summer heat’s last hurrah come potentially dangerous blue-green algae blooms, particularly in freshwater lakes and streams. Read up on their hazards at petpoisonhelpline.com.

Dog's Life: Travel
Fall Viewing with Dogs
Leaf-Peeping with Pups

Fall is go time. Sunny, crisp days and aromatic leaf piles inspire dogs to leap into the season. Why not follow their lead on a leaf-peeping adventure built for two?

Black Hills, South Dakota
In the fall, the Black Hills are all about yellow — the shimmering gold of aspen, birch and oak. Avoid crowded and dog-restricted destinations such as Mount Rushmore in the south, and head north to Spearfish Canyon, a scenic byway with 1,000-foot limestone cliffs and waterfalls for you and miles of pine-scented trail for your buddy. The Old West–style Spearfish Canyon Lodge welcomes dogs and offers several excellent hikes just steps from your room, including a short walk to the lovely Roughlock Falls, setting for the final winter camp scene in Dances with Wolves. spfcanyon.com

Eastern Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Orange hillsides reflected in midnightblue water, picturesque lighthouses and moose are among the autumnal highlights of the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Make a loop to Sault Ste. Marie and Drummond Island from your base on Mackinac Island. At the confluence of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, this tiny isle harkens back to an era when leaves were the big show. There are no cars, just walking, cycling and carriage rides (dogs permitted). Treat your pup to a classic Great Lakes lodge experience at Mission Point Resort, where the huge front lawn provides a great runway for diving into Lake Huron. missionpoint.com

White Mountains, New Hampshire
Crimson? Check. Burnt orange? Check. Deep purple? Check. Brooks, falls, covered bridges? Check, check, check. Savor a quintessential New England autumn, plus craggy, mossy peaks and plenty of hiking trails for sniffing and stretching, on a loop through the White Mountains in north-central New Hampshire. Then kick back in Rollover Rose, Little Fala or another of the dog-inspired rooms at the Lazy Dog Inn. Housed in an 1845 farmhouse in Chocorua, this seriously dog-loving bed and breakfast (which offers dog daycare and a fenced, off-leash play area) welcomes all shapes, sizes and breeds. lazydoginn.com

Hocking Hills, Ohio
Crisp, short days set the lush deciduous forests of southeast Ohio ablaze. There’s plenty to admire from the car, but hit the trails to discover hollows, caves, cliffs, waterfalls and strange rock formations tucked here and there. Include a side trip to the nationally acclaimed scenic drive from Marietta to Woodsfield, which passes through the Monroe Lake Wildlife Area. Be sure your dog’s recall is sharp — wild turkeys, red foxes and beavers will be out enjoying the shoulder season too. Dog-friendly cabins and cottages are available through Old Man’s Cave Chalets. Or, check out Beagle Hill Lodge, a Beagle-themed five-bedroom rental with canine murals. Oldmanscavechalets.com 4seasonshideaways.com (Look for Beagle Hill in the Rentals drop-down menu)

Taos, New Mexico
Aspens and cottonwoods shimmer a little brighter at the crisp, high altitudes of Taos and the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Bag the best roadside vistas on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway or earn your views with hikes in the Rio Grande Gorge’s Wild Rivers Recreation Area, where dogs can snuffle absolutely ancient piñon and juniper trees. Many Taos inns, resorts, spas and B&Bs — including Taos Adobe and Stars — have at least a couple of rooms set aside for guests with furry friends. Plus, the city boasts more than its fair share of pet-friendly patio eateries. Be sure to stop by the Stray Arts Gallery, where sales of previously owned art benefit the nonprofit Stray Hearts Animal Shelter. Taosadobe.com

Cascade Mountains, Washington
Get a hawk’s-eye view and savor the full sweep of an alpine autumn aboard the dog-friendly Mount Rainier Gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort, about an hour and a half southeast of Seattle. This no-sweat, 2,500-foot ascent gives you a knockout view of the iconic, snow-covered dome of Mount Rainier. Hike down to take in the mountain’s meadows and lakes and marmots. Nearby, Alta Crystal Resort offers dog-friendly suites and easy access to National Forest trails. altacrystalresort.com

News: Guest Posts
Jedi Surfs
Surfers get furry

We were first introduced to Jedi through our Smiling Dog submissions, and we think Jedi Seja may be the next worldwide furry celebrity. Born on a puppy mill farm and surrendered to a rescue, Jedi had a rough start. Luckily he was then adopted by his parents Katie and Patrick Seja, and they’ve turned his life upside-down. His surfing career started in 2011, and has taken him across the nation for many surf competitions. Jedi’s interests include surfing, being an advocate for animals, working with charities, and smiling while having fun.

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