Despite my great intentions, I haven’t started doing any training.  I found myself feeling very low energy both days this weekend and was just not yet up to it.  This is not surprising because I had worked very hard in preparation of this conference presentation on Friday, running short on sleep and also pushing myself more than I should.  I have to be very careful with myself – still – and whenever I push myself hard for a bit, I end up having to take it easy for a while to recover.

I did have the energy to take the dogs out for some good exercise today, however.  I started with Ross and decided to take him for a nice long hike in the woods.  It was quite cold (-12) but sunny and there was no wind, so a lovely day.  I have some dog boots and I decided to put them on him to keep his feet warm.  Ross has enough coat to keep him warm in -12 weather, but his feet develop ice balls and that causes him discomfort.  He is also bothered a lot by salt on the road or sidewalks.  So I figured the boots would help him enjoy the walk.

The boots I have are Muttluks.  I actually have three sets of them.  Here’s why – they tend to fall off and then you have an incomplete set and you have to buy a whole new set to get the extra boot.  The company doesn’t sell single boots, much to my dismay and their profit.  These boots are very good for walking your dog on a leash on hardpacked surfaces.  But let them off-leash or walk them in deep snow, and boots go a-flyin’.  I thought with only one dog I would be able to carefully watch him and find any lost boots.  This happened the first couple of times, but as they get filled with snow and the velcro covered in ice, they tend to fall off more easily.  So while I was searching for one boot (which I found) Ross came back missing a second.  We searched for nearly 30 minutes and never found it.

I was NOT impressed.  These boots are around $50 a set.

As I was searching I remembered how I had sworn to myself that I would not let my dogs run off-leash with these boots on anymore.  It’s really a shame because they do work well when they stay on.  Within seconds of losing his boot, Ross was holding his foot up from cold.  Clearly the other feet were warm and toasty.  The other problem with these boots is that they are a bit slippery, and it is easy for a dog to slide and pull a muscle or something if they run free with the boots.

As I have another set in his size (also missing 1 boot) I at least can still put four boots together and walk him on sidewalks.  But no more running in the deep snow.  I guess he’s just going to have to deal with ice balls.

After returning home, I took Hannah and Mira out to the school yard nearby to play soccer.  Once there, I ran into a friend and her dog.  We decided to go for a longer walk, and before I knew it, we had walked for nearly 1.5 hours.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve walked the dogs with anyone else and the time passed very quickly as we talked.  We went through the woods and along the river and it was really lovely.  We both kicked the soccer ball along to keep the dogs close and generally enjoyed our walk.

When I got home, I saw Hannah licking her feet.  Only at that point did I realize that we had been out for as long as we had.  (I actually ended up being late for work!)  I felt bad and checked Hannah’s feet – turns out she ran her nails down to the quick, and her pads were bleeding a bit too.

What is up with this dog’s feet?  I have never had a dog with such soft feet before.  Mira ran just as hard, for just as long, right beside Hannah, chasing the ball through crusty snow, and her feet are fine.  Her nails aren’t even worn down.  It must have something to do with how Hannah runs that causes her to hurt her feet so often.

Neither dog showed any sign of being cold while we were out, but I noticed Hannah’s nipples seemed awfully red.  I hope she hasn’t frost bitten them.  She has so little coat that her tummy is almost bare.  I keep forgetting this.  I am a bad mom.  I was warm, and since no one was shivering, I assumed they were warm.  I will have to keep an eye on that.  I don’t think I ever want a dog with as smooth a coat as Hannah again.  It is a constant problem.  In the winter she is often cold when the others are fine, and clearly risks frost bite.  In the summer she is succeptible to bugs.  On several occasions I had to abort hikes because of all the biting flies snacking away on her tummy and driving her to distraction, while the other two dogs were not bothered at all.

I have a fleece and nylon coat for Hannah, but she has outgrown it.  I guess I should buy her another one.  I would have put the coat on Mira, but she doesn’t need it.  She has a  nice thick coat, even if it is smooth.  Mira has the perfect amount of coat in my opinion: thick but short.  She is warm in winter but doesn’t collect snow or ice balls like Ross, and she is cool in summer, yet protected from bugs.  And she stays wonderfully clean.

Between the two walks, I spent over 3 hours outside today.  Even though it was cold, it really felt wonderful.  I don’t do nearly enough exercise and don’t spend nearly enough time outside.  My dogs don’t either.  Lately Ross has been wanting to go out in the back and just sit in the snow.  He loves doing that.  I really need a yard so my dogs can be outside more.  Actually I need a farm so I am out more too!  This will help them (and me) acclimatize to the cold better as well.  I am still undecided about where I am going to move to, but I am concluding that I really must move.