no bucket lists here

Well where to start….it’s been a LONG eleven months since I posted anything here. To say I didn’t have time would be a lie. With Covid-19 shutdowns and my business cut in half I have had plenty of time to write a post, I just didn’t have the idea or inspiration. I was worried about my business and the state of the world and didn’t want to write anything negative sounding but negative was what I was feeling. Roughly a year ago the whole entire world looked like a totally different place. Covid-19 changed the world in so many ways but I’m going to talk about what changed for me and the industry I’m in.

Firstly many animal based industries like dog walking were completely shut down early in 2020 for eight weeks, being deemed as non-essential. Although many of my clients were working from home and still wanted me to walk their dogs I was not allowed to; some clients had kids home from school or were home themselves and were able to walk the dog so no longer required my services. Most of the world transitioned to online work, zoom meetings and terms like social distancing and wearing masks became normal. When I was able to go back to work I had to ask clients to ensure their dogs were used to seeing a person in a mask as that was how I would be arriving to their home to take their dog out. As most of the world did, I had to make some changes to my services and the way I operated. Namely, I no longer use the dogs’ own leashes but purchased biothane leashes that I could use and sanitize between walks, wearing a mask became normal when entering a home, I carry and use hand sanitizer like it’s going out of style, there is no longer any stopping to chat with my clients that were home but rather a quick pick up/drop off to ensure proper social distancing. There was nothing I could do with my business to move it online as the rest of the world had. How do you walk a dog online?

While I was shut down I took an online course in iphone photography to improve the photos I took for my clients as well as for my website and social media outlets. I also took part in some dog training challenges and videos for friends and other groups I am a part of. I found a part time job at a dog training school as I have always loved training dogs but just didn’t have the time to offer it to my clients. If clients ever asked I was always willing to share tips, tricks or ideas but just didn’t offer it as a service. So here was a new world opening up to me in terms of employment. I tried to make the most of the diminished schedule by spending a LOT of time outdoors this summer hiking, running and paddleboarding with my dogs. Luckily I was still able to participate in some new forms of classes for my dogs where masks and hand sanitizer joined the regular items in my agility training bag.

Just prior to Covid-19 I participated in a fun event last winter called Iron Paws which encourages outdoor activity with your dogs. I loved it and had so much fun. It inspired me to track each and every bit of activity I did with my dogs using a tracking app on my phone. I joined another challenge and received a stunning medal when it was completed. The challenge was to complete 1000 kms of activity in the calendar year. I only tracked activity I did with my dogs and finished in September. By the end of 2020 we logged 1200 kms (yes, I still kept track after the challenge was completed since it became a habit) I’m not a super competitive person but I do like to track accomplishments. I much prefer to document and count “up”, so to speak, the things I have done rather than check them off in a countdown to what?? The day I can no longer do those things? Bucket lists are not for me thanks. I had a great idea to start tracking how much walking/hiking I did with YOUR dogs until the first Covid shutdown. I say the first shutdown because as I type this Ontario is in the midst of another shutdown where dog walking has been deemed non-essential again. At this point I may just hold off on the idea until 2022.

I do have some ideas of new things to introduce to my business and I still await the surge of people needing my services as it seems EVERYONE got dogs during the pandemic!!! Yay!! I do worry, as most in the pet animal industries, that with people being home so much with their new pets they will not have been appropriately trained or properly socialized and may suffer from separation anxiety when their owners do return to work. I am currently working on putting together an at-home training program for pet dogs that you can access online and work at your own pace with your pup! How exciting! Stay tuned!! If this sounds like something you’re interested in contact me for more info

Get involved with your dog!

If you can imagine I’m out all day walking dogs in all weather so often when I get home if I don’t hurry up and get myself right back out to walk and exercise my own dogs there are some days it just doesn’t happen, especially in the winter.  Once I’m indoors, the layers are off and I start the ‘thaw out’ it is SO hard to go back out into the elements!  Don’t worry, my dogs are certainly not neglected in any sense!  I will do indoor activities and training with them, however, this past winter I decided to try to embrace the fun of winter with my dogs.

I heard of this seven stage virtual race called Iron Paws and having recently tried some ‘mushing’ sports with my dogs I thought I’d try it.  This stage race is virtual so you do it on your own or with a friend, if you have someone local, and log your miles online.  There are also extra ways to earn some bonus points.  You are put on a team based on your location.  I was lucky enough to be relatively close to some other team members so we could meet up and get our “social” points.  There are different classes you can enter:  sled dog (self explanatory), skijor (dog pulls you on skis), bikejor(dog pulls you on a bike), competitive or recreational canicross (dog pulls you on foot walking, running or snowshoeing).  I have always run canicross style with my dogs so decided to try the bikejor class to get me out more on my fat bike.  Yes, that’s right my dog(s) were pulling me on my bike through the snow.  And yes, you’re right, if you saw that crazy person in town being pulled on her bike by a dog or two….that was ME!!!

It’s cold but we’re both happy

Getting ready for a ride.  There is lots of help at the Regional meet ups



Happy dog after a bike ride

Enter a caption

A ride early in the race, not much snow…yet


The point of my post is that I had an incredibly fun winter being involved in this event.  It really encouraged me to get out in the winter when I would most likely just melt into the couch and binge something on Netflix.  It helped keep my dogs’ fitness level up and possibly even improved it over the winter!  I met new friends, tried new things and the seven weeks FLEW by!  They even have a class for the ODRs (Old Dogs Rule) for older, injured or physically limited dogs.  I had two entries in that class also and just had to log a minimum of one mile per week.  There is a bye week so if you’re on vacation or sick or injured you get a week off.  It’s very simple to enter online and even the canicross recreational class can be done by anyone with any size/breed of dog!  You don’t need to have skiis or bikes or a dog sled or huskies.  There was a lady in Quebec who did this with her 3 Chihuahuas!  I WILL be doing this again next year and I hope you and your dogs will join me!


The unthinkable can happen to anyone

Being active on social media I often see posts and flyers about pets that go missing.  I used to wonder how on earth can you lose your pet until a few years ago one of my dogs wandered out of my yard and went on a little walkabout.  Luckily I noticed right away and found him within minutes but let me tell you it scared the poop out of me!

I had been trying to repair something in my yard and was frustrated and lost my patience and cursed pretty loud.  My dog, being the sensitive soul that he is, just wanted to get away from mad, swearing me so he wandered to the back of the yard where my fence was not secured.  I know, not good, but that’s a whole other part to this story.  Generally my dogs never want to be away from me – they always want attention, bringing me toys to throw or wanting to do something, anything with me so the part of the fence that had fallen down was never a concern.  Until my dog wanted to get away from me.  He wandered out and I’m sure just followed his nose and kept going, past the back field and along the trail.  This is a route I take often with my dogs on walks so I just followed where he knew and sure enough there he was walking along the trail, head down sniffing.  I yelled to him and he heard me, looked and came running like as if we had just been out on a walk and I was recalling him.  I realized then that THIS was how pets can get lost.  They can spook easily, they can respond out of fear or out of sensitivity like mine did, they can get distracted and chase/follow something so far that they don’t know how to get back, they can spook at loud noises – think of how many dogs go missing after a big fireworks display.

In another instance recently I had some of my dogs on a mini hike with a friend and her dog, another friend was meeting us and when he came over a hill towards us ALL the dogs flipped out and reacted barking and running at this person.  My friend’s little dog was spooked not only by the person but by the dogs’ reaction to him and he bolted – in the opposite direction!  This could have been disastrous but I quickly recognized the barking dogs would soon realize who was approaching as they all knew him well and would settle down so I focused on getting our little friend back in our direction.  Thankfully he recalled although quite hesitantly and accepted treats so we could leash him up.  Knowing that he was still a bit spooked even after meeting the new person we kept him on leash for the remainder of the hike just to be safe.

This incident just reminded me how easily and innocently our pets can react and bolt and be lost.  If this happens to you there are a few good organizations out there that can help.  The power of social media in these instances can be incredible!  There was a story recently of a dog lost at Mono Cliffs for ten days I believe and was found safely.  Your best bet would be to contact one of these search and rescue organizations for help.  If you know your dog is spooky, not confident or know what triggers their fear reactions always take caution.  For example during fireworks I will wait to take my dogs out for a bathroom break but if I absolutely have to do this during fireworks I will still leash some of them who are scared of those loud booming noises even though my yard is now fully and securely fenced.  If you know you have a breach in your containment for your pet fix it as soon as possible or just take them out on a leash.  If you know your invisible fence wire has been broken or the battery in the collar is dead, take your dog out on a leash.  If you have a visiting pet or a newly adopted pet, be cautious and take them out on a leash.

For organizations look up lost and found pets of (your area) or google search and rescue for pets (in your area).  You can also try posting in local community groups in case your pet wanders into or across someone’s yard.  Your post may not be directly related to the page but many community members will see your pet and be aware to keep an eye out for them!  Important information to take note of would be time & location your pet was last seen, direction they were headed if you saw them bolt, a recent photo would help along with any identifying details like a collar or harness colour, tags or other id.



October 1 is National Black Dog Day

The timing of National Black Dog Day and my recent trip to Peru could not have come at a better moment as the perfect subject for a new blog entry 🙂 huh you say?

Today is National Black Dog Day where in North America it is a day not only to celebrate our black-coloured (or mostly black-coloured) canines but a day to help promote their adoption in rescues and shelters.  It is well-known that black dogs (and cats) are usually overlooked at shelters by potential adopters.  Do people think black dogs are mean? Or they are just more drawn to lighter-coloured dogs? or multi-coloured dogs that might show more expression in their faces?

I don’t know the real reason but I found it very interesting in Peru, where I was just on vacation, that black dogs are the most respected and loved.  They are believed to play an important role in helping usher the spirits of those who have died to the afterlife.  There is no doubt Peru is a dog-loving country.  Dogs were EVERYWHERE!  Of course, I was in my glory trying to take photos of ALL the dogs!  I quickly noticed these were not street dogs, not starving dogs, not skittish and scared.  These dogs were smart and street-savvy.  They got out of the way of passing cars without panicking or waltzed through an open door to a restaurant or store.  Of course we tried to feed them and that’s when we realized they were not starving for food, they just wanted to be with people.  They have families and many are wearing collars, harnesses or even sweaters/t-shirts.  They wander the streets in the day and I began to notice them later in the day hanging out with their families in front of their homes or as darkness fell scratching and barking at the doors of their homes, asking to be let in for the night.  There were no fights, some played with each other, some just slept in the shade.  It was fascinating to see dogs exist so freely, without rules imposed by humans, and do so calmly and in harmony.  I witnessed amazing exchanges of play and body language between them, I really wish I had captured it on video.

Close to our last day we lined up to use a bank machine and a black dog wandered in, looked at everyone and lay down on the floor.  A local lady was singing to him “negra, negra, negra” which in Spanish means “black”.  He looked at her and wagged his tail.  He was wearing a green collar.  When the lady was done her banking she left and called him “Tino” and he jumped up and followed her along the busy street- no leash attached to that collar.  It was awesome!

Here are some of the dogs I photographed in Peru – all friendly, most in need of a grooming, at least by our standards, but lovely, happy dogs who are not starving, not street dogs and do not need to be saved.  They have loving families and homes 🙂

Professional pet sitter versus an online app-driven pet sitter

The world has changed in soooo many ways since the introduction of the internet, smart phones and apps.  You can do pretty much anything at the touch of your fingers on a smart phone with an app – book a restaurant, book a taxi/uber, book a vacation, book a pet sitter and so on.  How do you know what you’re booking though?  Well the food you eat, the taxi you ride in and the vacation you enjoy (hopefully) but how do you know who is caring for your pets?  well if they mess things up you may not know until it’s too late, if ever.  There is a growing trend of online apps such as Rover, Care and others that offer online booking of a pet sitter, offering insurance and online payments – what could be easier!?  Unfortunately many of these sites require only the most basic of background checks if any, no experience and no training or first aid/medical training requirements.  That may work out for your pet if there are no issues but even with a young, healthy pet there can be accidents or unforeseen circumstances that you cannot predict and how do you know that person with the limited background check and NO medical/first aid training will even recognize there is an issue or be equipped to deal with the problem.  Do they care enough to spend some extra time or try to get a hold of you or transport the pet to a vet if it’s something beyond their capabilities.  There may be legitimate ‘diamonds in the rough’ who are looking for their start in the pet care business who actually love and care for your pets but the majority are looking to make some extra cash or think the idea of “getting paid to play with dogs” {this is a quote from Rover’s website link ‘become a pet sitter’} is fantastic or are looking for something to do in their ‘spare time’.  What happens when their ‘spare time’ is over and they’ve gone back to work or school and you need someone?

I often see many posts on social media of people offering “pet care” in their spare time or to make some extra cash – PLEASE steer clear of these!  These people are usually not insured and have no training (owning a couple of dogs in their family does NOT qualify as behaviour training or dog knowledge!) and are ill-equipped to deal with emergencies. Please avoid searching for “cheap pet care” they are cheap for a reason!  I live by the motto you get what you pay for.  I cringe when I see an all out post on social media like “looking for someone to care for my pup this weekend – just needs to be let out in yard, fed twice a day and given a little love” WHO does that?! Polls random strangers to see who is available and wants to care for their dog?  I have high standards of who is going to be trusted with my dogs and high standards for my dogs and how they should behave for that care giver.

A professional pet sitter will provide you with references, a contract, a plan for your pet’s care, will have insurance for their business and have some medical/first aid training.  A professional pet sitter will renew and update their training and fill you in on that.  They will do a meet & greet prior to your departure and show a genuine love/interest in your pet and a respect for your expectations for their care as well as your home.  There are horrible stories about Rover pet sitters that I won’t even share with you…just do your homework – talk to your vet for recommendations, ask for references and trust your gut when you meet with someone.

All the poop-y things

There is a phenomenon that happens every winter that I don’t understand.  It never fails as the days get shorter and colder, darkness comes earlier and the snow flies for some reason people get out of the habit of picking up after their dogs.


I don’t get it but year after year you see more dog poop on the trails and sidewalks in the colder months than you do at other times of the year.  Is it because people don’t want to take their hands out of their gloves or mittens?  They can’t see the poop because it’s dark before 7:30am and after 4:30 pm?  Or think they can’t be seen NOT picking up because it’s dark and fewer people are out and about in the winter?  Do they think magically when the snow melts the poop will melt too?  I have answers for all of these…..take your mitts off – it only takes a minute! or even leave them on…a gloved hand will still go in a pick up bag.  Carry a flashlight or use the one on your cell phone-pretty simple.  Poop does not melt with the snow so just pick it up.  Some of it will break down but it takes a long time and no one wants to have to look at it or worse, step in it!  As someone who spends a LOT of time around dogs and is diligent about picking up after them there is nothing worse than stepping in it!

Speaking of poop-y things how do you carry your pick up bags?  I find it interesting how others carry their bags.  Personally I will just stick a couple of bags or a roll of bags in my pocket.  Yes, that means you’ll likely find a pick up bag in the pocket of pretty much every coat I own and yes, I have washed many unused bags that have been left in pockets.  Some people have those cute little dispensers attached to their leashes, some people will just tie a bag or two (or five!) to the leash handle.  I don’t know why but both of those two methods drive me crazy!  I want nothing attached to my leash except the dog of course.



More poop talk… do you pick up in your own yard?  Do you use individual bags like you would use on a walk?  One larger bag with a smaller one over your hand or do you use a shovel or trowel?  Do you have a scooper?  Do you use a scooper service?  Do you pick up all winter long or leave it for that dreaded spring clean up?  Personally I have a bucket lined with a bag and use a scooper and I pick up all winter long because I can’t stand that big spring clean up when there is just so much poop!  I also use my yard for play and training with dogs so I certainly don’t want them or me stepping in it.


What exactly do you do with a kong toy?

I recall with my first dog I did lots of research, was given lots of information from the breeder and felt prepared to do all the right things for my dog.  Many things did not go as planned….one of them being I assumed because his mom loved toys and balls my dog would too.   Well he didn’t really, could have cared less actually.  There was this fantastic toy called a kong that everyone raved about to help with his separation anxiety and crate training.  Ok I got one of these bee hive shaped things but he didn’t seem to care.  Put treats in it.   Ok well they just fell out in two seconds and that was it, zero interest again.

I don’t recall where or how I found out what to do with kongs but wishing I had known earlier than I did I share this with all new puppy owners and first time dog owners.

Firstly get at least two kongs so you can always have one prepared in the freezer.  Clean after each use, they can go in the top rack of a dishwasher but since I don’t have one I just wash them by hand in the sink.  Then fill them with a handful of kibble.  The size of the kong will obviously depend how much kibble will fit in each.  Be sure to deduct this amount of kibble from your dog’s meals so they are not getting extra calories!  Run water over/in the kongs and set them in the sink or a container to let the excess water drain out.  Then I put them in the freezer – you can put them in a container, ziploc bag or I use the bottom of an egg carton to situate them in the door of the freezer.  Lastly I put a small amount (about the size of a fingernail) of something tasty to get their interest….peanut butter, cheese whiz or cream cheese.

If your dog is crated I just put the kong in the crate and they can figure out how to get the food out!  If not crated I usually put the kong down on a dog bed or mat or blanket for them to enjoy.   They all have different methods – it’s fun to see how they get the food out.  I’ve had dogs pick them up and bounce them and the food bounces out (this is better contained in a crate), some will lie down and lick them, others will bite them and get the food out.   The point of freezing them is so the kibble sticks together and doesn’t all fall out in two seconds so it is something for the dog to work on and enjoy!

Do I offer Doggy Daycare?

No, I don’t and here are a few reasons why.  Well firstly, I don’t have a facility to take the dogs to be able to offer doggy daycare.  It would be fabulous to have a place where I could have people drop off their dogs to be in my care for the day.  What would I do differently if I had a doggy daycare facility?  Well instead of having dogs stand around in a yard or hall I would take them on scheduled hikes so my facility would also need property with trails.  I know, I know, I buy lottery tickets every week.

My concern with doggy daycares and people who send their dogs to them is the mentality that dogs need to be exercised/entertained/stimulated for 8-10 hours.  I think that is too much.  I have high energy breeds myself and firmly believe that dogs need to learn to settle, chill out, and turn “off”.  Yes, of course, your dog comes home tired after playing for 8 hours!  But does he understand on a day he’s not going to daycare and you have a terrible headache that he just needs to chill out and settle down because you can’t entertain him today??  I think a 30-60 minute break to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, do their business and chase a ball or frisbee, wrestle with a friend or simply run back and forth on a trail is sufficient enough for them to go back home and chill out until you get home.  I don’t even walk my dogs everyday…some days I’m just too busy or if the weather is crappy we do some brain games/training and then they are told “all done” which gives them permission to find a bed and lie down, chew a bone or toy.  Even my own dogs in my home are not on top of each other – they all have their favourite spots to lie down, sleep or rest and they are not even near one another.  I used to have a home security camera so I could watch my dogs while they were at home to see what they were doing, watch them play and interact and know what they do when I’m not there.  Well, that novelty wore off really quick.  The alerts I got were for a dog getting up to get some water then lying down again, a dog shifting in their sleeping position, a dog’s head pops up out of sleep if they heard something out on the road, and so on.  So basically pretty dull and boring – they didn’t wrestle, they didn’t chew the couch (thankfully), they didn’t raid the fridge, they are not sitting staring at the door waiting for me to get home or pacing waiting for something to do.  They know when it’s time to work or play and when it’s time to chill and honestly, I think they enjoy their chill time!

If you throw a ball for a ball-loving dog for an hour they will chase it and bring it back, over and over.  Even if they are tired or sore or bored.  That is what I think happens at doggy daycares – there are so many dogs at different energy levels that one will always invoke play but dogs don’t think like us – I’m tired and maybe a bit sore and little bit cranky after Max chased me and I crashed into the fence because I didn’t really want to wrestle but I couldn’t get away from him, now I’m sore and I want to lie down but now Charlie wants to play with me.  The dogs don’t have an option to get away, go to a quiet spot to sleep or rest.  Not all personalities mesh.  Dogs are not so different from people in that sense although we don’t sniff each others’ butts ha ha!

I honestly prefer dogs to be moving, walking, running, sniffing and exploring as a way of stimulating their senses and exercising their bodies.  If I won the lottery would I buy a doggy daycare facility?? It’s not likely and if I did I would use it for training and still operate the way I do – walking and hiking dogs to stimulate their brains and exercise their bodies.  Yes, even in the unfavourable weather.


Take me with you

I have always taken my dogs for fun adventures to the pet store to do their shopping and when they were young puppies or rescues that were new to me, to do some training.  It is one place that usually welcome leashed and well-behaved dogs.

As the world evolves and changes I have found there are many more places that are accepting of leashed, well-behaved dogs.  While I don’t believe our dogs need to be with us 24/7 I do think it’s great that I can find a hotel that will allow me to travel with my dogs, patios where I can enjoy a meal and drink with my dog and other establishments that are welcoming of our dogs.  The GO train system has recently launched a pilot project where they are allowing dogs on the trains with certain restrictions.  My dogs are a huge part of my life, they are family members and I often have them with me whether for work, taking them to training/classes/shows/the vet, whatever the case may be.  Many businesses have joined the trend of allowing dogs in their businesses so owners don’t have to leave them in a hot vehicle in the summer.  Again, I don’t think our dogs need to be with us all the time, however, if I’m out with them and need to stop off to run a quick errand or pick something up it’s good to know I can bring them into the store.


Utah, Party, Spy and Traffic pose in the sunflower field at Davis Family Farm.  We were warmly welcomed by the folks at the farm to visit and take pictures.


Jake and Scout on the patio at the Villa Caledon Inn where they were served their own beverage….water, of course!

Post edited to clarify BEFORE taking your dogs with you anywhere you should call ahead and confirm they are allowed and what, if any, the restrictions are.  For example, some hotels only allow dogs under a certain weight, the GO train only allows dogs on the trains between certain times.  If you CANNOT take your dog with you please make the appropriate arrangements so you are not leaving them in a hot vehicle or get upset when you are turned away from the establishment.  If your dogs do accompany you be sure they are well-behaved and not disturbing other guests or patrons of the establishment and not being a nuisance.  And whatever you do please DO NOT follow the unfortunate but recent growing trend of putting a fake service dog vest on your dog just so you can take your dog with you.  Service dogs perform extremely important tasks for their owners/handlers and if their right is ruined by others putting fake vests on badly-behaved, non-trained dogs it would be a big detriment to their safety and lifestyle.


Sharing and caring

As a dog walker or pet sitter I often get to learn a lot about my clients based on our exchanges in our everyday lives.  Most times I may only meet you once at the beginning when you sign up for my service and from there out I only see your pets and maybe the occasional time I run into you somewhere.  I have seen some of my clients at the bank, the grocery store, their local work places, on the trails walking their own dogs and so on.  I have been lucky to share many things with you besides your pets…..some of you have had babies, had children grow up, graduate school, move out, get married and so on.  I have been in your circle when you get new pets, say goodbye to family members or pets, recover from illnesses or surgeries, renovate your homes, go on fabulous vacations and so on.  Through all the craziness that is life I am happy to share your pets with you and feel like a small part of your lives.

Some of you may know a bit about me.  I have a passion for animals and love training and working with dogs specifically.  I enjoy watching them learn new things and then apply those things to help them be well-behaved pets.  I have dogs that I’ve purchased from breeders as well as dogs that I’ve adopted or rescued and support both sides of that argument.  Some of you may know that I am a runner.  I have been running for about 20 years and it’s one of the things that I enjoy doing with my dogs.  Recently I ran a half marathon (my fourth) and a 32-hour relay marathon that I was asked to be on the team by, yes, one of my clients who I now consider to be a friend 🙂

This Sunday I’ll be running in the Furry Friends 5 km run with my dog Traffic to raise money for the Caledon Animal Shelter.  I set a goal of raising $250 and am currently at 70% of that goal.  If you wish to join me and Traffic you can still register until Friday June 8th (you can run or walk) or you can pledge me to help me reach my goal of $250.

Thank you for your support to those who have already pledged me 🙂  This is my little share since I feel I know so much about most of you.