Summer's here!

Ok, well summer may not be here for another 3 1/2 weeks, but with record breaking temperatures here in southwest Florida, it feels like summer made a grand entrance - and an early one at that! I’m still in the mindset of life in PA - looking forward to the temperatures finally warming up - going for a swim in a lake, hiking a mountain, BBQ dinners and relaxing evenings on the backyard deck. I’ve got a feeling I’ll be riding my bike less, spending more time indoors in the air conditioning and cooling off in the evenings swimming in the pool instead!


With average temps between 90 - 92, figuring in the humidity, the real feel in the sunshine state can be around 100! Yikes! I’m certainly used to this. However, we might only experience temps that high in PA for 2 weeks out of the entire summer. Which got me to thinking about my dogs and the heat. Here are a few things I’ve already discovered:

  • Take longer walks in the mornings and evenings

  • Avoid walking on the hot pavement if possible. Even better if you can walk on the grass

  • Take water with you - it’s so easy to get dehydrated

  • Cool off with a swim in the pool or playing in the water from a hose

  • If I’m hot, my dogs who have a fur coat are even hotter!

Here’s to a fun and safe summer!

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

dogs at Phillippi Estate Park




Whose home is it really?

I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, it’s usually on HGTV. I love seeing the transformation of old homes from designers like Joanna Gaines, The Property Brothers and others. I never tire of looking at home decorating magazines, or browsing Home Goods for home decor. Sometimes I think I could be happy as an interior designer.

While I love the home I own in PA, it’s not my dream home. One of the features I love most about this house is the fenced in yard. I’m partial in part because my husband rebuilt the fence a couple of years ago and it turned out fabulous. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this project. But it was well worth it.

The rental home we’re living in now does not have much of a yard, let alone a fenced in area. Which means we have to walk the dogs every time they need to go out. It’s good exercise for all of us, but it’s not exactly enjoyable when it’s raining out. Really, what we miss most is allowing the dogs to run freely, playing, chasing balls and each other. There really is truth to the saying a tired dog is a well behaved dog. I can tell they have more pent up energy because walking isn’t the same. And I feel bad that they don’t get to spend more time outdoors.

In addition to watching HGTV, I also enjoy looking at homes during open houses. It’s fun to think about what would make a home perfect for my family and I. My husband and I have been spending part of our weekends touring homes in the Venice and Sarasota area. It’s a great way for us to get to know the area better. We’ve discovered parks, shopping centers and parts of the town we never knew existed before. While we are touring the home, we always chat about what we like, what we don’t like and what we would do to make it the right home for us. This process has really made it clear that one of the most important features for us is having a fenced in yard. Because some neighborhoods have deed restrictions that don’t allow fences, we are also learning where we would not want to live.

I haven’t found my dream home yet, but I am getting closer to knowing what it must have. And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the number one requirement is being led by my dogs!

Are you living in your perfect home? How much do your pets play a role in determining what makes your home the right one for you? Leave me a comment and tell me about your home!

Thanks for reading!
xoxo

 
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Australian Shepherd on southwest FL beach


To titer or not to titer

I’m always cautious when it comes to ingesting harmful foods or chemicals in my body. I try to eat as healthy as I can, one of many reasons why I am a vegetarian, and keep any and all unnecessary chemicals out of my home and body. It’s not that I won’t take a pain killer if I’m experiencing pain. It’s just that I only take as little as I need to help me cope with it. I believe our bodies are fantastic healers, if we let it do it’s job.

As a dog mom, I also apply the same care toward my dogs and their well being. I feed them a high quality dog food and healthy treats. When I share people food, I only give them healthy snacks like carrots and blueberries, if I share anything at all. I am a true believer that our health reflects our diets. Thus, a poor diet, leads to poor health.

So what about vaccinations? My terrier mix, Kita, is due for her rabies shot this month. According to her veterinarian, she is also due for her other vaccinations - canine distemper and Parvovirus. Because I never board my dogs, I don’t give them bordatella.

Years ago, it was recommended that we vaccinate our dogs every year. Then Colorado State University did a study and concluded that we were over vaccinating out pets. So they changed the recommendations to vaccinating every three years. It took a while to catch on, but eventually vets all over the country changed their protocols. But there was always that lingering question, was this still too much?

When I had my first golden retriever, I vaccinated her as a puppy and got a booster shot a year later. After that I titered her. What are titers? They are blood tests that measure the level of antibodies your pet has against a certain disease, like distemper and Parvo. Mika’s levels were high every year I had the test done. Which theoretically indicated she had immunity from these diseases. Thus, I never re-vaccinated her (except for rabies which all pets are required to have by law).

I had my golden retriever, Izzy titered when she was 6. Both her tests came back low, so I chose to re-vaccinate her. Again, I have always kept my pets rabies vaccination up to date in accordance with local laws, so she gets the rabies shot when she is due. My hope is by vaccinating her, she will have immunity from distemper and Parvo for the rest of her life.

Now that my terrier mix, Kita, is due for her rabies vaccination. I am revisiting this question - should I or should I not titer? In an age when research in health care issues is advancing rapidly, we are constantly learning something new all the time. Lyme disease comes to mind for example. What was recommended just a mere 10 years ago, is no longer the protocol for treatment of a positive diagnosis in a dog that is asymptomatic. But, I digress. One concern about titering is the question of whether the results are a good measure of immunity. Thus, while more and more pet owners are getting titers done, it still remains controversial.

I know that I am leaning toward titering Kita as I have my goldens. Having been a pet sitter for over 20 years, I’ve seen firsthand how vaccines can negatively affect the health of our pets, most often resulting in skin reactions. I am not, however a veterinarian, so I do encourage you to do your own research and make the choice that works best for you and your pet.

Thanks for reading!
xoxo

 
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terrier mix on Florida beach

The Moment it all Clicked

I’m standing on the beach, it’s the end of the day and Mother Nature has graced us with yet another beautiful sunset. It’s a bit chilly and windy, but I don’t mind. After all, this is probably one of my most favorite places in the whole wide world. Not only that, but I’m here with one of my 3 furry best friends. It doesn’t get any better than this. Or does it?

I just wrapped up photographing Kita, my rescue terrier mix. I’ve had this vision for a long time now of a dog on a beach at sunset. For one reason or another, in the short time I’ve been in Florida, this hasn't happened yet. It’s either been too hot, the red tide so bad you can’t breathe or simply just an unspectacular sunset. But finally one night, it all came together for me.

I knew I nailed the shot before I even looked at the back of my camera. It’s simply the greatest feeling when that happens. But it was much more than just that. I was overcome with emotions as I realized everything I had been through in the last year led me to this moment. I picked Kita up and started swinging her around in circles laughing with delight. She was ecstatic too, though I’m not sure she understood yet why. I hugged her over and over again, thanking her for being with me on this journey. As the sun dipped below the horizon, I watched the last of the daylight filled with joy and gratitude. There was no doubt in my mind, I was right where I was supposed to be. Doing exactly what I was meant to do.

How did it take me so long to figure this out? Three things I have always loved - dogs, beaches and sunsets - at the same time in front of my camera. It can’t possibly be any better than that! Now, it’s clear to me why I felt lost for so long. Why I struggled creatively for months wondering if I would ever want to pick up my camera and photograph again. I needed to feel sadness, confusion and emptiness in order to really hear what was in my heart. It was hard at times. Maddening even. I’ve shed a lot of tears, thrown plenty of temper tantrums and oh, so many times, swore I was going to simply. just. give. Up.

But dreams have a way of nagging you, don’t they? And here, on the gulf coast of Mexico, I realized I was making mine come true. Everything simply, well, just clicked for me.

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

 
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terrier mix on Florida beach

How my dogs helped me cope

“Change is the only constant in life.” ~ Heraclitus of Ephesus

Some people adapt to change well, while others are slow to adjust. I’d like to think I cope easily, but honestly, change is very hard for me. While the idea of moving to Florida was very exciting (what’s not to love about living just a mere 2 miles from the beach?), it was also very scary for me. After all, I’ve spent virtually all of my life in State College, a small town in the middle of cow country Pennsylvania. I left my family, my home and the business I built up behind. All to chase a dream of mine. 

There’s nothing wrong with rolling hills, farm lands and lush forests. But the beach resonates with me more. The soft lapping of the waves on the shore, the endless ocean and the oh so beautiful colors of the sunset is where I find myself most at home. So when the opportunity presented itself for my husband, our dogs and I to move to the sunshine state, it was hard to say no. 

The two day drive was exhausting. When we crossed the Florida state line, it suddenly hit me - I can’t just run back home anymore. Well, I can, but it’ll take me over 24 hours to get there. I truly am stuck here now. No problem, right? I have my husband and our dogs to lean on.

Unlike me, my husband copes well with change. Well, much better than I do anyways. His family has lived in Florida off and on for decades. For him, this wasn’t exactly new territory. Sure, he may not know all the street names and restaurants, but he had a general idea where everything is. He’s spent extended periods of time growing up and even living in Florida early in his career. I’d hop on the road and couldn’t figure out how to get to the grocery store which yesterday I swore I drove by a short mile down from our home. Unless I used a GPS, I’d get lost. My husband would tell me, just head to the wawa, stay left and then turn right. I’d go to wawa another way, stay left and end up in front of a pond with an alligator staring me down, not the grocery store I intended to shop at. 

At first it wasn’t so awful. It kind of felt like being on vacation - except with my furniture. As the days went by, I started to feel discombobulated. Nothing was familiar - my house, my routine, my meals, my work. My husband got impatient with me because he couldn’t relate. I found myself in tears more than once. Wondering if perhaps I had made the worst decision of my life. 

But I kept plugging away. At least I could watch the same shows on TV, wash my hair with the same shampoo and sleep in the same bed I had for years. But even sleep began to elude me. I started to experience mini panic attacks. Tears fell easily, Suddenly, I didn’t care about my dreams. All I wanted to do was to go back home. 

My dogs picked up on my sadness and anxiety. Izzy, who has always been able to read me like a book, especially noticed. They became my shadow, sat beside me, pawed me to pet them and in general just asked for more attention. I found comfort in their fur, their pleading eyes, their hugs. The more anxious I got, the more needy they became. They helped me feel better, reminding me it’s all going to be ok. And slowly, day by day, hour by hour, I felt like myself once again. I’m sure I would have gotten there in time anyways, but I have no doubt knowing they were there for me - waiting for me to come home from work, encouraging me to take them for walks, cuddling with me before I fell asleep helped me not feel so overwhelmed with all the changes in my life. 

I’m happy to report life is good here in Florida. As I write this, I’m listening to the waves, watching the sunset, enjoying my view. After the death of my friend, I’ve felt lost for much of this year. But my heart is happy again. I have much I want to do and explore, however long I’m in the sunshine state. I look forward to what each day brings, thankful for this experience. But I’m especially grateful for my furry kids who helped me get through one of the biggest transitions in my life. 

Florida summer sunset