DIY Washable Snuffle Mat

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Zora sitting waiting for me to fill her blue & orange Snuffle Mat with food

Snuffle mats seem to be all the rage lately in the dog world.  If the term ‘snuffle mat’ hasn’t yet made it to your various social media or news feed, let me fill you in.  A snuffle mat is essentially a mat with flaps of fleece that a dog owner (or cat owner) puts the dog’s food hidden within and the dog sniffs around (snuffles) finding all of the bits of food and crumbs hidden in the nooks and crannies of the mat.  Snuffle mats are used to enable people yet another way to ditch the food bowl and feed their pets in an enriched environment.  Meaning feeding time is more mindfully engaged for the animal using various senses than the mindless feeding straight out of a food dish.  These are also great for dogs that gulp or inhale their food, helping them to slow down and find their food bit by bit.

The most common instructions for a snuffle mat involve using a plastic or rubber mat base that has holes throughout.  Then knotting in strips of fleece to make something like in this photo:

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Image of a rubber mat with holes and piece of fleece beginning to be knotted throughout.  photo credit:  https://allicareaboutismygermanshepherd.files.wordpress.com

The downside to using a rubber mat base is the things are a. challenging to clean (so you really can only feed dry dog food or other non messy treats in it), b. heavy (might not be a downside depending on your dog and lifestyle) and c. pretty set in their size meaning they won’t change shape much when you want to store them or travel with them (I like things that fold up smaller and are easy to transport).

So I’ve been thinking and thinking about how to make on that is lighter weight, easier to store and transport, and washable.  And came up with the following plans.

The end size of the snuffle mat I’m making is approx 24.5″ x 17.5″ which seems to be a suitable size for both Tom and Zora to easily enjoy.  If you had a dog that was larger or smaller, adjust your measurements and size accordingly.   If I was just making it for Zora I could probably go down to about a foot square in size, but I have Tom and other larger dogs in and out of my life so I think for me the size I gave is most versatile.

Because this mat is light weight and made completely of fleece, it is intended to be used by your dog supervised by an adult human.  After you’re done using it for that meal or snuffle period, please pick it up and store it out of your dog’s reach until you’re ready to supervise them using it once more.

DIY Washable Snuffle Mat for Enriched Dog Meal Times:

Materials:

  • 1 18″x50″ piece of fleece for the base
  • 2 pieces of at least 18″x 25″ fleece (can use the same color or a different color or pattern) for the snuffle flaps (if you want a denser mat of flaps, you will need more fleece)
  • sewing machine and thread
  • scissors

Step 1:  Take the 18″x50″ piece of the fleece and fold it in half with top side facing in.  So you now have a double layer fleece measuring 25″ x 18″  (you could do a single layer base if you wanted meaning you’d skip steps 1-3, but I found a double layer base to be a bit more sturdy and hold up better)

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Fleece folded in half ready to sew into a double layer base for the snuffle mat.

Step 2:  Using your sewing machine, sew a 5/8″ seam around the 3 open sides, stopping about 5″ short on the 3rd side so you have an opening.

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Orange fleece base with 3 sides sewn and opening

Step 3:  Invert it, so the top side is now facing out and the seams are inside the bag you have now created.  Tuck in the open seam and sew it shut.  You should now have a piece of double layer fleece approx 17.5″x24.5″  Set this aside for now.

Step 4:  Take your other 2 pieces of fleece and cut strips ranging from 6-10″ wide.   You should now have a bunch of strips 6-10″ wide x 18″ long.

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Blue and orange fleece strips cut with the fleece base also shown

Step 5:  Fold each of these strips in half the long way (so you have them 3″ w x 18″ lor 4″ w x 18″ l or 5″ w x 18″ l) and if you’d like mark the half point with a bit of chalk.

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Blue strips folded in half, ready to sew on

Step 6:  Unfold each strip, and place them on your double sided fleece base that you completed in the earlier steps.  Place them evenly spaced on 1 side of the fleece.  If you are using different colored or patterned strips arrange them in which ever order side by side you’d like.  Depending on how thick or spares you’d like this fleece hunting area for your dog to be, space the strips so they will have fabric overlapping tightly or loosely.   If you want a really thick mat, you are likely going to need more fleece to cut a greater number of fabric strips.

Step 7:  Sew down the middle of each strip, long wise, attaching each strip to the double sided fleece.  In the end you should have long flaps of fleece sewn to the base.

Step 8:  Now that you’ve finished all of the sewing parts, go around the mat and cut off any hanging threads.  We don’t want a dog to get those!

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Mat with blue and orange strips sewn on

Step 9:  Cut into each long sewn on flap cutting toward the sewn line to make flaps from 1.5-3″ wide.  You want to create many smaller flaps to hide the kibble and treats in.

Step 10:  Lay the completed mat on the floor and bury some treats or kibble in it!  Call your dog over and have a great time enjoying them snuffle around in their brand new Snuffle Mat!

Step 11:  When your dog is done, pick up the mat, shake out any crumbs they may have missed and put it away until the next meal.  Or if you’ve put any messy, gooey or raw food in it for your dog to find, toss it in the laundry to clean.

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Zora standing on a line of 3 completed snuffle mats, one pink and blue, one blue and multicolored and one blue and orange.

Just a Dog

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Every once in a while someone, like a taxi driver, or waitress or random person on the T will ask me, “Does he ever get to be just a dog?”  Does Tom ever get to be just a dog?

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A sandy and wet Tom having just come out of a swim in the lake.  He sitting and smiling, happy dog.

That answer is both yes and no.  And I guess depends on what you mean by “just a dog.”

Does he get to have play time?  And social time?  And family time?  And lots of love and attention with his harness off?  Yes.  Quite often actually.  Being a guide dog in public can be stressful, so I feel it’s not only important but critical to my guide dog’s overall well being to have time when he’s ‘not on the clock’ so to speak and can do doggie things like sniff and run and swim and get petted by my family.  Tom has learned when his harness is on he needs to keep is focus on his guide work and ignore others except me, and when it’s off and I cue “ok go play” or “ok go visit” he is free to be social and do his own thing.  To a degree.

The to a degree is the no portion of the answer because even when he’s off the clock there are some rules Tom is asked to follow that maybe other people don’t have for their dogs.  Like he’s not permitted to take food from other people unless I specifically cue him that it’s ok to do so, if they tell him it’s ok to take it but I haven’t he isn’t allowed to take it.  And he’s not permitted to take food off the floor if someone drops it, or if someone calls him over to ‘help clean up the floor’ he isn’t to listen to them.  And if I’ve asked him not to cross a boundary, like at my aunt’s lake house when we arrive before I take his leash off I remind him he’s not allowed to go up the stairs that lead off the deck, he’s not to go there even if another person tells him it’s ok.  Basically the ‘no’ portion of Tom having time to be just a dog involves him ignoring other people telling him to do things and remembering what I asked him to do or not do even if someone else is telling him something contrary.  And it involves his behavior around food.

The other part of that is even when he’s off the clock, Tom prefers to keep an eye on me himself.  For example last night we were at a family gathering at the lake house.  Tom and Zora came too, and were off leash roaming around the deck area with us all.  Being social, swimming, getting petted, visiting with people and the like.  But anytime I moved, Tom checked where I was and where I was going.  When I was in the lake, he wanted to know where I was.  When I came out, he wanted to know where I was.  If I changed seats he wanted to know where I was.  He checks in with me, gets a bit of a pet, and then goes wandering off to socialize with others once more.  And when he’s done with socializing, he comes and finds me.

So yes, Tom gets to be just a dog.  A civilized dog with healthy boundaries, but time to be just a dog all the same.

 

Happy 3 to Me!

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Zora here and today it’s my birthday!!  MY Birthday!  Me me me Corgi dog ALL DAY!  It’s My Day!  Mum said so!  So as it’s my birthday I have many requests.

First more breakfast!  What?  You say no!?  But it’s my birthday!  “sorry, Zora, no.  You can have a special bite of hot dog in your breakfast but not more breakfast.”  What kind of crap birthday is this going to be human?!  No extra breakfast?!  But it’s my day!  Well we shall see lady, you better step up and make it a really great day if you want me to forgive this one!

Second a walk and swim.  That one mum said ok to!  It was awesome!!  And the cheese stick she gave me wasn’t half bad either.  Ok this day is improving a lot!

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Damp corgi wrapped in a towel after her swim!

Third ball time!  A LOT of ball time!  Every time we go outside.  Until I want to stop!

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Zora with her green soccer ball in her mouth running to me

Fourth you human sit still and let me sleep on you.  “Sorry Zora I can’t make promises on that one.  Sitting without shifting is really hard.  How about I pet you instead while you lay beside me?”  Hmm, ok I guess.

Fifth all the cookies I want!  “ALL? the cookies you want?  Maybe, we’ll see.  There might just be some ice cream tonight for you special little munchkin…..”

Love,

Zora the corgi who is now threeee!!  Happy Birthday to MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

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Zora lying in the green grass making her birthday requests.

Laughter in a Can

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We were in the grocery store a while back and my husband always likes to check the clearance rack.  Where a can of spray squeeze cheese was sitting on discount.  Shockingly he had yet to experience the hysterics of dogs eating spray cheese from a can.  An event I told him he had not yet lived if he hadn’t yet experienced.

So much fun.  So silly.  The faces, oh the faces.

I know it’s disgusting nasty to put cheese in a can.  All manner of gross.  Blah blah blah.  And it’s not something I’d give the dogs regularly.  But a once in a while afternoon filled with laughter is worth it to us.

So. Much. Fun.  Hysterical.

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Swimming Swimming Swimming

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It fills me with joy knowing how comfortable Zora is now in and around water.  She now really truly swims.  Retrieving the ball.  Problem solving around different banks and inclines.  Using her tail as a rudder.  Makes me so happy!!

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It’s taken nearly 3 full summers to get her this comfortable with water. Lots of patience, time, and opportunities for her to associate water with positive fun.

When we started this process she was the young dog who would avoid water whenever possible.  Leaping over or around puddles on rainy days.  Watching Tom and I wade through a stream to cross it, then figure out how to get across from rock to rock or branch to branch so her little paws never had to touch the offending wet stuff.

Now she swims.  Happily swims!  It makes my heart sing.  The other day we were on a woods walk and came to a watering hole.  She confidently, with no prompting, hopped off a rock into the water to cool off.  No second guessing.  No seeming to worry about how deep it might be.  Just hop into the water trusting it would be alright.  Trusting herself and her body and the water.  It was grand.

How we got from point A water avoidance to point W with happily swimming.  Well, all the letters step by step in between.  Giving her chances to observe other dogs calmly confidently enjoying the water.  Giving her chances to observe me wading in water.  Giving her chances to explore water with no chance of failure (ie no chance of her going over her head and feeling like she might drown).  Giving her ample reinforcement when she interacted with any water.  Giving her chances to pair the cool water with internal rewards (ie it makes me feel cooler and better!) Never pressuring her to do more than she was comfortable with.  And bit by bit her confidence grew.

Makes me so so so so sooooo Happy!  Did I mention how happy it makes me?!  😉

NADAC Agility Trial Recap

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After a  lull of no trialing for about a month, we competed at the Addicted to Agility NADAC trial both days this weekend.  I was super super pleased!!  We have been practicing a number of skills off and on over this past month.  I took a 2 week Agility-U course on Start Lines and have been taking a Data Driven Agility online weave pole class.

One of the skills we’ve been focusing on is building our connection and excitement when out there together.  Driving off the start line with intention, confidence and speed.

While we still had some bobbles with our commitment off the start, I was pleased with the overall improvement.  Even my husband noticed the difference in Zora and my team work for the positive.  She’s always been happy to play, but this weekend she was more consistently ‘up’ each run.  You could feel her excitement to go to the line each run with me.

Our first run of the weekend Elite Touch N Go:

I was less thrilled with her weaves than I was a month ago.  At this point, I’m tabling the issue.  I think a large part of it has to do with her footing, the turf is just slick enough that when she moves the way she does at home through the weaves there she slips a bit, then slows, or pops out and catch 22.  I’d rather she feel safe and so if she feels she needs to slow on that surface in order to do so, then I’m good with it.

Next weekend we’re heading to a training day which will be outside on grass, I’m planning to work her weaves as I do at home and I’m anticipating I’ll get the same performance I get at home.  Grass is just better footing for her than turf.  Unfortunately all of our local trials are on turf, and we have to travel much further to trial on grass. In the summer between the sunlight and heat it’s harder for me to trial outside successfully, indoors the light stays the same throughout the day and I can adjust to compensate.  That said if all things were equal I do much prefer to be outside on grass.

All in all we had a lot of fun (and a lot of qualifiers, 100% Q rate!  16 Qs!).  This was also the first trial of the double run format where every single one of our round 2s was faster than our round 1 (except 2 of the regular rounds which were the same YPS, and we ran them identically same bobbles and all LOL).  Since the local trials shifted to the double run format on January, most if not all of our round 2 runs have been slower than round 1.  I was very pleased with this shift as I feel it shows I’m not slacking on round 2s but working them with the same intention and commitment that I do the round 1s.

Tom was a good boy as well all weekend.  At one point I fell asleep in my chair while petting him (he was on leash out of his x-pen) and he just lay at my feet among the hub-bub of the trial people and dogs walking past patiently waiting for me to wake up.  He’s such a good fella.  My sister and the kids came by on Sunday to watch for a bit which is always fun. And a friend I haven’t seen in a while also stopped by to visit and watch.  A great way to spend the weekend with the dogs.

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Zora standing looking up at me getting ready to head into the ring to run

Thermal Blackout Roman Shades DIY

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Lately our curtains and shades have been driving me nuts.  Ok really I’m having major sensory hell issues caused by bright light and I’m taking it out on the sunlight ergo the projection onto the curtains and shades.  So I’m making us some roman shades.  So far I have 1 and a ½ done, I plan to make 4 to start with for the windows in the bedrooms and office.  Then I broke the sewing machine, the timing is now off and so Tom and I get to go on an adventure to get repaired.

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Thermal Roman Shade installed, window shade open

But the cool thing is I finally FINALLY found the material I’ve been searching for for years and Joann Fabric actually had it on sale!!!!  It’s this cool fabric stuff apparently called Warm Windows Insulated to make curtains that not only completely block light but increase heat and cooling efficiency.  I first learned about the idea of thermal curtains years ago at a relatives’ house up north but she had special ordered them and paid a fortune.  At the time I thought “Hmm I think I could make these if I can find the materials”  today I did.  The completed one is in the office and I love it already!!  Were so easy to make and basically cost me about $30 a window for all of the materials (instead of $200).  I can’t wait until the sewing machine is fixed and I can make more of them.

Thermal Roman Window Shades:

Materials-

  • Warm Windows Insulated Window Shade Material cut the the exact size of the window area you want the shade to cover.  If you want the shade on the outside of the window frame measure to there, if you’d rather as I did they hang inside the window casement measure there.
  • Front Material (I am using neutral colored canvas fabric but you could use any pretty pattern or solid you’d like) cut to 2 1/4-3″ wider than the warm windows material and 8″ longer.  For my first window I did only 2 1/4″ wider, but I think for future I’ll do closer to 3″ as I really want to block any light coming in around the edges of the window.
  • 1″x2″ board cut to 1/4″ shorter than the width of your window measurement
  • 3-5 eye bolts
  • roman shade rope
  • staple gun and staples
  • thick thread (I used upholstery thread)
  • 5/8″ dowel cut to 1/2″ shorter than the width of your window measurement
  • small plastic or metal roman window shade rings
  • window shade cord cleat
  • Hammer
  • Screws and screw driver/drill

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To make:

  • Line up the edges front fabric (pattern side in) with the edges of the Warm Windows fabric (smooth side in).  Because your front fabric has been cut wider than the Warm Windows fabric, the front fabric should be a bit loose and billowy with the edges of each fabric lined up.
  • Sew a 1/2″ straight stitch down the 2 long sides
  • Flip the fabric inside out so the top sides are now facing out
  • Flatten it so the front fabric and Warm Windows fabrics are now smooth.  Iron along the seam to help lay flat.
  • Now take the long 8″ of top fabric that extends past the Warm Windows fabric, and fold it to the bottom edge of the Warm Windows Fabric, then fold again to make a 4″ hem.  Depending on where you want the curtain to hang to determines where you fold that 2nd fold up to and hem along.
  • Sew along that long hem edge (but not yet down the sides)
  • Insert the 5/8″ dowel into that hem pocket and sew up the sides to ensure the dowel can’t fall out.  This dowel helps add weight to the bottom of the curtain so it hangs and stays in place
  • Hand sew the plastic roman shade rings along each long side parallel to each other.  Sew these on the Warm Windows Fabric side, being careful not to punch the needle through to the front fabric as you do it.  Starting from the bottom, place these rings every other line on the warm windows fabric.  These are what you thread your Roman Shade hanging rope through.

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Set the curtain aside for a moment at this point

  • Take your 1×2″ cut board and look at your window, decide where you’re going to place it either above or inside the window casement.  Then figure out which way your board will be installed and place the eye hooks on the side that would be hanging down once installed.  Place an eye hook on either far edge, and then depending on the width of your window, 1-3 more eye bolts evenly spaced.

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  • Bring your curtain back into the picture and line up the top edge (the only edge at this point not sewn) along the top plane of your 1×2″ board.  The plane of the board that when installed on your window would be facing the ceiling (so not visible if you were looking at the window as you walked into the room).  Positioned so the front fabric is facing out and the Warm Windows Fabric is against the board.
  • Using your staple gun, staple the fabric to the 1×2″ board along that top edge, hammering the staples in additionally as you go since this fabric is rather thick.  I used 1/2″ staples and that seemed to work well.

Now you are ready to install on the window!  This task is easiest I found with 2 people.

Carefully place the window shade where you want it, and using your drill drill at least 3 holes (1 on each end and 1 in middle) in your board with it pressed against the wall or window casement where you want it installed.  If installing on drywall, use anchors if you can’t match up with the studs.

Once the holes are drilled, screw the board in place.  I used 1 5/8″ screws which worked well.

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Now you should have the curtain installed on the window and hanging in place.  On to the final few steps!

Decide which side of the window you would like your shade pull to be on.  Then take 1 length of your Roman Shade rope and thread it through the top eye bolts and down the long side farthest from the side you want your shade pull to be on.  Tie the rope on the farthest bottom ring on the shade.

Take your 2nd piece of rope and thread it first through the eye bolt closest to the side you want your shade pull on then down the rings on that closest long side of the curtain.  Again tying it off on the lowest ring of that side of the shade.

You want these 2 lengths of rope to be long enough that once threaded through their respective eye bolts and rings, there is enough extra length to reach the window sill.  Take these 2 lengths of hanging rope and tie the end together.  I found to help further prevent any tangling or one side of the shade pulling differently than the other, tying off slightly below the top eye bolt was helpful as well.

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Diagram drawing of installing the shade pull cord.  Red dots are where the eye bolts and plastic rings are.  This is all done on the backside of the window shade, the warm windows fabric side.

Now figure out where you’d like your shade cord cleat to be positioned.  This will be for keeping the shade open when you’d like it to stay open.  Screw the cord cleat in place.

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Cord cleat installed with cord wound on it

And that’s it!  You now had a nice thermal light blocking roman shade on your window.  Congrats!

 

 

 

 

The front meadow

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For years every summer a portion of our front yard turned to brown crud. Once upon a time there was an ever green of sorts there. After it was removed, brown crud. Where the tree used to be nothing wanted to grow, in front of that the sun beats to grass to brown fried, and to the right is an uphill making it near impossible to mow. So brown crud.

Until this year!

Now it looks like this:


Photo of a flower meadow with mostly greens and dots of colored flowers

Amazing, right?!

I love our new flower meadow. So low maintenance. Looks lovely, I've lost count the number of compliments we've gotten on it. Even hubby who usually doesn't care for such things is enjoying how new flowers and changing colors happen almost daily. He will exclaim About the new purple one, or that blue one or hey now there is mostly yellow. It does seem to change from week to week.

Last fall I did a lot of research on what could be done to that area of the yard and came across information on making a wild flower meadow. I ordered some seed mixes from American Meadows and stored them in a cabinet in our cellar all winter. Early this spring we rented a rototiller for a couple of hours and cleared out the grass and weeds. Waited two weeks, weeding as things grew. Then spread the seed and watered until the plants were about four inches tall. We had great luck with the rainy spring as meant I didn't have to hand water every day.

The seed mixes we got contained plants that attract pollinators such as bees and butterfly's, native to New England plants and a mix of both annuals and perennials. I love it. And can't recommend it enough to others wanting to try it in their yard.

Exploring

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When I was a kid my mother was the director of a nature camp.  I was too old for the day camp program when she started the job, but for 2 weeks each summer for the older kids like me, they offered an Adventure Camp program led by the Audubon sanctuary director.  (the rest of the summer, was really really boring.  Like Really Boring.  My sisters who were young enough to be part of the day camp, had fun, lucky them.)

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No worries says Tom you can never really be lost with me!  Tom sitting in harness, soaking wet and smiling after a quick swim

Part of the 2 week camp included orienteering.  aka here’s a map, here’s a compass, here are some coordinates, go get lost (ok more the challenge was ‘here are some coordinates, go find the place they lead to, and from there you’ll find more coordinates, etc it was a scavenger hunt of sorts.  Early day geocaching before GPS essentially).  It was super fun.  And I was very good at it.  I was very good at in a way that no one could understand, because the instructors would try to tell me, “No Katrin, you’re holding the map and compass wrong, it’s easier if you do…” which wasn’t easier for me.  Eventually they realized my method for whatever reason really worked for me, and they let it be.  I just wasn’t allowed to instruct the other kids on my method.  LOL  It was about the only part of my camp experience I really liked actually.

Those experiences I think began to tune my internal compass.  And then when I became a permanent pedestrian over a decade ago my internal set of maps and ability to get unlost continued to improve.

So when I’m in the woods with friends, especially certain friends who enjoy or at least don’t get upset with the idea of ‘lost’, and we have extra time, we take random trails.  Ok, really, we take what trails Tom says he’d really like to explore.  Because you know, Tom.  And I have a hard time saying no to Tom since he asks for so little in life and gives so much.  And it makes him so happy!  He gets all waggy and is clearly enjoying the thrill of novelty and exploring new places. Making Tom happy makes me happy.  So we take more random trails that we otherwise probably would.  Because Tom likes it.

It’s great fun.  Ok full disclosure sometimes it involves swearing.  But mostly usually it’s super fun.  We take some trail, and my internal compass from there kicks in and we somehow rarely get really lost.  I mean most of the time I have no real idea of where we are, and sometimes we walk an extra hour than we thought we were going to, but that’s not being lost, that’s just enjoying the great outdoors.  Right?  For some reason, my walking friends all trust my internal compass as well, and have learned if they don’t want to think about how much I have no idea where we really are, don’t ask, just trust.  And sure enough we make it back to some place familiar every time  (so far at least LOL).

Today was such a day.  2 hours, 3 people, 5 dogs.  We had a great time.  Fantastic way to start a Monday!

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Tom & Beau near me, Zora, Rock-It and Lena up ahead on the wooded trail.