Exploring Portage Valley, AK

One of our favorite spots to explore and play it out in Portage Valley. Located just 45 minutes outside of Anchorage, it winds back into heavy woods to offer secluded campsites, access to Portage Glacier, Portage River, and one the of the longest tunnels (2.5 miles of enclosed highway) in North America to open up to the small seaside city of Whittier and surrounding Prince William Sound.

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In addition to the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center, there are numerous trails to hike as well with guided boat and hiking tours. Whether a full-fledged adventurer or a newbie, there is something for everyone and that is what we love the most!

The dogs always have a great time running themselves silly, and we get in a nice hike and fresh air ourselves 🙂

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Exploring Portage Valley, AK

Golden North Klaus: Between a rock and a hard place

When I stop and look at Klaus now, I can’t believe he and I ever had a rough spot. I was watching Marley and Me the other day and you know the scene where Jennifer Aniston has had enough and tells Owen Wilson that she can’t take it anymore and get rid of the dog? It makes me cringe every time because that was me. No, I would never actually get rid of an animal that I pledged to care for, but that defeatist feeling was there. The exhaustion was high and the patience was low and that my friends, is on me.

The first year with Klaus was rough, to say the least. I’m a control freak and he was, well a puppy. Mentally a baby and I felt like every time we took two steps forward, he bounded three steps back. It was a game and not one I wanted to play.

Klaus was rambunctious, he had separation anxiety. He ate two original Harry Potter books. He then ate Cesar Milan and Marley and Me books. A point made there pooch. He chewed D’s college homework and then his W2. He also succeeded in making D’s iPhone his teething toy. He swiped a full plate of sushi. He shredded two of his dog beds, tore our window treatments, chewed our coffee table as well as our bookcase, and destroyed two pairs of Toms, countless hockey shoelaces, holiday decor, and the kitchen drain plug.

That wasn’t enough, he ripped up a significant portion of our carpet that couldn’t be repaired, it had to be replaced. That was bad. The worst, though, was going home sick only to walk in on a demolished couch. Might I add that this was our rookie mistake in purchasing a brand new couch? How naive of us, “Look, we’re grown ups! Look how hard we’re adulting!” Klaus sure showed us, the cushion stuffing was fluffed around the room like a faux-Christmas morning and I can only imagine that he created a game in which he needed to remove the springs from the couch cushion. It was premeditated. It was surgical. There are not enough words to describe how frustrated, discouraged, and helpless I felt some days.

This dog and I were not on loving, understanding, or patient terms back then. Or at least I wasn’t. What I can say is that he was loving, understanding, forgiving, and patient with me and that says a whole lot more about our characters than words ever could. It took a bit of reflection and with consistency, training, love, and a lot of exercise for both of us, Klaus and I spent a year and a half growing up together. They say that dogs have a way of finding the people who need them. I have always thought that Klaus chose D, but now I know that he chose me too. He knew that I needed to unwind, laugh more, live more, and let go of my depression once and for all. Not a day does not go by that I don’t look at him and feel thankful for his mischievous eyes and goofy grin.

It is interesting to me how the soul of a dog saved my own. It is powerful and humbling to say the least. I am happy, D and I are happy, and that directly corresponds to the light Klaus has shined on our lives. He brought responsibility, maturity, and patience to our home and I am grateful for his heart and sweet demeanor every day. As I write this he is sitting beside me surgically removing the fluff from his stuffed animal. I suppose some things don’t change.

xoxo,
H

Golden North Klaus: Between a rock and a hard place

Golden North Klaus: Heart & paws in the last frontier

We are coming up on a very special anniversary, and I have found myself reflecting a lot on this wild ride we have been on.

In March 2014, I hung up the phone feeling excited with an edge of determination. I had just seen an ad on Craigslist about a litter of Golden Retriever puppies that were three weeks old and as they would be needing forever homes, the breeders were accepting applications and deposits. After an affirmative from D, my significant other, we talked with the breeders and after careful consideration decided to place a deposit for a pup of our own. It was a mad dash to the bank (because I’m a competitive nutcase) where we placed a hold for our future golden-baby and with relief, were informed by the breeders that we had the pick of the litter.

The day was clear, the sky was blue, and our hopes were high, so dutifully, we shelved any nagging concerns about what puppy ownership would be like and bathed in the excitement. Let’s cut to the chase; I’m an organizer, a planner, and I love everything being in order. The Kon Mari method is my bible. How hilarious it must have been to everyone we told that we were going to be puppy parents: two full-time working adults living on the top floor of an apartment complex in Alaska would be committing to a life with a puppy. The paws, the teeth, the chewing, the messes, and the mischief. I don’t like to half-ass anything.

When the litter reached their six-week milestone there we were, getting lost twice and winding down a forested neighborhood, before pulling up to a fresh looking home overlooking a large green yard with three happy Golden Retrievers wiggling with delight and eager to greet us. We met the breeders and they showed us to a comfortable, clean and well-housed outdoor kennel where the puppies ran to investigate the newcomers. Gulp.

We had decided we wanted a male, so the fluffballs were separated by gender and we were swarmed by exuberant and curious golden bodies and cool wet noses. It was easier to pick our boy than we thought. Though all of the puppies were overwhelmingly sweet, we were each drawn to one of the boisterous brothers. With mom and dad playing fetch athletically in the yard behind us, it was impossible not to be impressed by their color, coordination, and flair. The breeders talked of the dogs like they were family, and it was obvious they were well treated, well mannered, and thoroughly cared for.

Klaus honestly picked D; he made sure he was king of that dog pile and made it clear that D was his person. He was playful, alert, yet sweet and snuggly – our perfect blend. He was given a special collar and the #1 to distinguish him from his brothers and we were told we could pick him up in two weeks, on his eight-week birthday.

When the pick-up day finally came, I was a bundle of nerves. At the time I didn’t handle stress very well and I was suddenly hyper-aware of what we were about to do. Everyone was giving me advice, I assume on a level only comparable to what to do (or for the love of God NOT to do) when you’re pregnant and whether or not to vaccinate your children. I wish I had the laissez-faire attitude that D possesses but then there wouldn’t be any humor to our life.

From that first day, I can say that I have a sliver of an idea of how parents feel. Emotions and reactions ranged from clapping because he pottied outside and not on the rug! Breathing a sigh of relief when we managed to successfully bathe him! Celebrating with glee when he only woke up once during the night!

Our first night with Klaus was an exciting and comfortable success, but then D left for two weeks of training and it was just me versus a 5-pound golden baby. Terror, dear friends. Terror.

Klaus and I had a rough go of things at first. Potty training was more difficult being on the top floor of an apartment complex, but we muddled through. He and I didn’t connect emotionally at first and I was searching for ways to understand his puppy-brain without stressing too much. At that point, I was meeting his basic needs and implementing training, but I wasn’t enjoying him which made me feel like a monster. Which as it turns out isn’t an uncommon feeling.

Slowly but surely, we figured each other out, though, but that’s a story for a later date. In the meantime, check in on Klaus’ adventures on Instagram at @goldennorthklaus

xoxo,
H

+ We have since adopted two cats and one retriever. I have volunteered in our local animal shelter and we are pro-adoption! 

Golden North Klaus: Heart & paws in the last frontier

Life with a loving, yet reactive dog

Phoebe is a reactive dog. Mainly when on-leash and she can be reactive to people that she’s unsure about, other dogs, or something that surprises her. A blowing trash bag scared her out of her mind once, maybe that’s because she lived in someone’s garage as a puppy and didn’t see much of the world other than the animal shelter walls that surrounded her next. She will be 3 in December.

*Phoebe’s reactivity is what “sounds scary,” she has a deep bark and has learned to use that bark to keep what scares her away. She may jump or lunge when she feels threatened and because of her size, this can be off-putting to those who do not know her. However, she is always leashed in public and we will muzzle if we plan to be out for an extended period of time around stimuli for her safety and comfort and that for others.*

 

When Phoebe is on a leash, tight spaces are the worst scenario for her. It’s a space issue, I imagine it’s an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia. The more we see her react (less and less these days) the more we learn and the better we can prepare for and handle situations when they present themselves.

I’m not going to sit here and say that our life doesn’t require more organization because of Phoebe’s needs. Some days are wonderful and others are not, it depends on other people too: I have had anxiety attacks because of Phoebe reacting to an aggressive human on a trail, I have cried in anger and anguish when she has scared innocent bystanders or been scared herself, I have had to remove myself from social situations with her because my anxiety fuels her reactions.  She wants to protect me and because I am a dog-mom it is my job to protect her. I just want her to be happy and social and carefree and a lot of days are like that –so those are the ones we will celebrate.

 

I am not blind. Phoebe is a large, muscular, vocal girl and I don’t mean to throw breed or color into this, but her being a black mixed breed does not work in her favor. That’s just an ugly fact because society can be ugly. I am highly sensitive to the fact that the wrong interaction with the wrong person means a phone call to the shelter. Her life is literally in our hands.

Let me be clear. Phoebe is not an aggressive dog, she is a reactive dog.

When we introduce her to new people who respect her initial boundaries, she adores them. Same with dogs; she is learning to trust and play. Just last weekend I was nervous when friends brought over their female dog to play, but after their initial greeting, the girls were tearing around our yard in a game of chase, leaving her brother Klaus in the dust. Seeing Phoebe PLAY is an incredible feeling, a year ago she would stand to the side and watch, and now she’s leading the chase, playfully.

 
I would not change a thing with this girl, with each step backward we learn and move forward. She is not the same insecure dog that we rescued two years ago. What’s working for us and for her? Exposure, even when every fiber of myself is screaming not to let her near a new person or dog. That doesn’t help her understand appropriate behavior. That doesn’t make her a confident or comfortable animal. Our job is to keep her safe and make the people around us feel safe; it’s a relief when people understand and support us even from afar and it is equally as frustrating when people tell me to “train my dog,” or “that dog is scary.”

 

 I am training my dog. Every. Single. Day. And “that dog” has made tremendous progress because of it.  So the next time you are out and about and encounter someone working with a dog, or managing a reactive dog, just keep some respectful distance. Don’t be scared, give them space. Don’t condemn them, simply take a moment to let them breathe. Perhaps, that person is just like me, having adopted a rescue who needs patience and guidance in figuring out their place in the world. Maybe we should do that for one another more often.

 

Phoebe loves girls nights and is a total foodie. She will do anything for a treat or ear rub. Popcorn is her favorite. Snuggling is her game and she is as graceful as a gazelle when she runs – she’s got speed. She loves snow and chewing a good bone. She is forever bonded to Klaus and adores playing with and grooming her cats. When I’m sad, she comes and sits with me to lick away my tears. She wakes us bright and early every morning for breakfast because mealtimes are for celebrating. She is filled with love and light and she completes our family.

We are not perfect and we are constantly learning. More than that we are committed. Phoebe will never feel another cold floor of an animal shelter or live in someone’s garage. She will never again have her life threatened with euthanization. She will not be given reason to fear another human being as long as we are in her life.  Adoption isn’t temporary. Her home is where we are.

Life with a loving, yet reactive dog