Well, a whole heck-of-uh-lot happened this month, I’ll tell you that! The title says it all, really. So, let’s just dive into this month(s) blog.
If you would have asked me in March, after surviving a relatively cold and stationary winter in Southern Arizona, what our plans were come April—the LAST thing I would have told you is that Grizz and I would be moving to Boise…without Eric. But, as my favorite quote goes: “You’re only one decision away from a completely different life.” Apparently, no truer words have ever been spoken, because a decision was made and life is definitely different!
How does this happen exactly? Great question. Believe it or not, it has everything to do with this black and white furry punk that I love more than my freedom (apparently).
In March, we said our goodbyes to Southern Arizona with a varying degree of enthusiasm, and headed to Utah with big plans on spending Spring in the Utah/Northern Arizona Mountains. The weather is usually ideal and it’s the perfect training grounds (thanks to elevation and endless forest roads) for preparing for our upcoming Western Wildlands trip (Boise to Canada and back) in June. Unfortunately, Mother Earth had other plans this year and kept dumping winter weather everywhere we wanted to be. It happens!
After some unwanted adventure getting “almost stuck” in a long patch of wet, sloshy, thicker-than-it-looked snow, we made it to an acceptable spot and settled in to let the settled for a week in our favorite forest before heading back down into the dry, red-scorched earth below to visit Momma Sue.
Here are some photos from our time in Kaibab:
Thank goodness for Eric’s preparedness and a recent purchase of these Traction Tracks (or as I like to call them, the-get-unstuck-thingys).
Without these tools, two things would have happened:
- We would have spent way more than 45 minutes digging, clearing, and flinging snow
- We would have been spending the night in the middle of a nearly deserted forest service road with the van significantly leaning sideways in a small but mighty ditch.
Needless to say, I would highly recommend these amazing “thingys”.
Luckily, we spent the night in the quiet, serene forest surrounded by trees instead of the water-filled, tire consuming ditch with blood rushing to our heads. Yay.
Despite some patchy snow on the road, the forest itself was mostly dry allowing us to hike and bike several areas within a 2 mile radius. Here are a few shots from our hikes/bikes.
Grizz and I spent hours walking miles and miles of the Virgin River Trail for the next few weeks while we waited out the weather in higher elevations. It was a rather stressful time because Grizz is highly reactive towards other dogs meaning that when he sees another dog nearby (or walking towards us on the trail), his hackles raise, he salivates uncontrollably, and he barks/lunges with curled lips even at the smallest of dogs.
These are not new behaviors, we’ve been dealing with this from the beginning. Unfortunately, it is a lot more difficult to “pretend” these behaviors don’t exist when we’re out in the middle of nowhere somewhat untouchable from most of humanity (not to mention all of life’s most scariest noises). But, in St. George—land of a billion people and a trillion dogs—pretending is not an option. I’m happy to say that I’ve learned a lot since then (which I will be sharing later). But in this time and place, Grizz was stressed and he was putting a big stain on all of our lives.
Utah was getting hot and the mountains were getting snow and we were antsy to get out of St. George so we made the decision to start making our way to Boise about 2 weeks earlier than planned.
Here are some photos from our drive—Utah, Nevada, Idaho
The weather was still relatively cold (loving the 8 month long winter at this point!) and we ended up getting to Idaho much sooner than anticipated. Now what?
We spent the night at a quiet reservoir with a mountain view before making our way to the Twin Falls area.
Here are a few photos from our country (off-interstate) drive to Boise:
As luck would have it, we found an amazing little road park in the middle of nowhere off a country road. As luck would also have it, it was home of the “bird from hell” which is a a very specific bird with a chirp that generally sends Grizz over the edge in the fear category. It’s super weird, but in all fairness the bird’s chirp does resemble the beep of a shock collar which may have been used in Grizz’s past. Needless to say, despite having an entire path and quiet space to ourselves, he was NOT happy.
Since we arrived 2 weeks before our gracious Boise host Heather had planned, we decided to roam around the area and check off some to-do’s while we had the time (work on the van, work with the dog, work on our stress levels, work on trip planning and so on). Fortunately, we had some options and found some decent places to park that were close (enough) to Boise but still in nature.
Grizz still recovering from the city. He just wasn’t happy even in the quiet spots. Sometimes traveling with him is SO HARD!
After several days of patiently/impatiently waiting I finally had a chance to reconnect with friends (and make some new ones) on a hike in the foothills. A great way to lower the stress levels if you ask me!
I also went full-tourist and did some long walks/bike rides taking pictures along the way.
Our time scavenging places to stay for the remainder of April was done and we finally found a more permanent home at my wonderful, generous friend (and ex-coworker) Heather’s house. A HUGE THANK YOU TO HEATHER FOR PUTTING UP WITH US (IN HER DRIVEWAY NO LESS) FOR THREE WEEKS!
Hiking and enjoying the Boise life got much easier (well, for me). Eric and Grizz weren’t nearly as happy to be surrounded by noise and people. So I did what any good wife/mom would do…I left them at home. I was here for a month and by golly, I was going to enjoy my time in my favorite place on Earth! And enjoy it I did (mostly).
Lower Hulls Gulch
Camels Back Park
When I wasn’t hiking, I was back to walking/running Grizz before 7am and after 11pm because he was scared of everything—E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! It was so bad, I think he’d even be scared of a mouse fart! Pffffft….SCARY! He was definitely on edge and I felt both helpless and hopeless. How were we going to take this dog on a 5,000 mile bikepacking trip again?
My life was quickly consumed by the desire to educate myself and figure out how to help Grizz conquer his fears (which apparently had been lying mostly dormant but manageable in the solitude of van life). Let me tell you, once we hit the city, they reared their ugly head in a big way and his special needs became a daily challenge that flipped our life upside down!
Patricia McConnell: The Cautious Canine, The Other End of the Leash, and Feisty Fido
Pat Miller: The Power of Positive Dog Training
Marty Becker, DVM: From Fearful to Fear Free
American College of Veterinary Behaviorists: Decoding your Dog
Zazie Todd: Wag
Immediately, we started working on some basic classical conditioning: Simultaneously Play Scary Noise and feed.
A Glimmer of Hope
It was in all of my research (and scouring the internet for a reputable dog trainer) that I also discovered the Boise Reactive Dog Group hosted by two amazing women, Chris and Taylor. All I can say is that this group changed our life! They filled my heart with hope and my brain with resources all while providing the tools that I needed to make a more profound change in Grizz’s life. It’s everything I was hoping the Rocky Mountain Collie and Sheltie Rescue (who was a HUGE disappointment by the way) would provide us with once we reached out about Grizz’s issues (which were WAY worse than we were led to believe!). Okay, I have a bit of a bitter taste from that experience but let’s focus on the positive here!
Armed with new skills and knowledge, I quickly started feeling more capable of helping Grizz manage his fears and stress and we hit the road running! Keep in mind this is not a quick fix but rather a potentially life-long battle—that said, we’re finally on a better, more productive path towards a happier life for Grizz. And as you well know, if the dog ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! True story.
Online training schools that changed our life:
Now, don’t get me wrong. Life didn’t suddenly become perfect. Trust me, there have been many roller- coaster-like UPS and DOWNS in the last 6 weeks! But, I am happy to say things are changing in slow, steady and mostly positive ways.
Oh…you thought I meant UPS and DOWNS for Grizz. Nope. That would be me on the emotional roller coaster. Hahaha. But in all fairness, the roller coaster is how capable I feel in dealing with (or not dealing with) Grizz’s special needs and how they have 100% impacted every aspect of our life to the point of separating our family unit for a brief time.
Which brings me to the decision that changed everything!
Calling Boise Home (Again)
It all happened so fast, but just like that I was able to get hired back on at St. Luke’s Hospital (YAY!) and I found Grizz a yard. Never mind that it’s almost a 16 mile (round trip) bicycle commute. Hey…this is Boise in 2022—Good luck finding a place under 2k/month in the most popular city in the West. Yeesh! I barely found a room at that price (even with 2 roommates)! It’s ridiculous, I know. But, thinking positively, at least I’ll be ready for that big bike trip (yes, the one that never seems to happen—oops not positive) after racking up 500 miles a month biking to work! Score. Ok, things could be worse. I could be living just about anywhere else. At least I LOVE BOISE…as you all well know!
For now, I absolutely have no idea. I suppose I will work for a minimum of 6 months, continue to train the dog (and my legs), and enjoy my time in Boise.
Eric will be traipsing around Idaho (and maybe beyond) like the free man that he is. Yes, I’m jealous. But, I’m also happy.
I’m happy to have the job I wanted, happy to hike with (and sometimes without) friends, happy to be in a city I love in state I adore, happy I have cool roommates (an ecologist and a veterinarian), happy to be biking again every single day, happy to have the rad(ist)—despite his reactivity and fears—dog best friend, and happy to have the awesome(ist)—despite his reclusiveness—man best friend that would be willing to be separated while I try to work with Grizz (not in a secluded area) so that he can join us on future trips and live his best life.
I might not know much, but I know this: Life is unpredictable and sometimes you just have to go with it!
Stay tuned to see how it all plays out. I’m curious to see where the road will lead us.
Until next time friends….