30 Good Things Before 30: #10 – Fredericton Trail System

Hold up.

Before I write another word, can we just take a minute to recognize that I am now in the double-digits of my 30 Good Things Before 30?!?

That means this is the 10th consecutive day I’ve written here. If you’ve been hanging out around these parts for any time at all, you’ll understand that is 100% unprecedented for this blogger.

High fives, all around!

30-good-things-before-30There. Now that that’s taken care of, we can get down to the business at hand.

And the business at hand today is focusing on good things we take for granted. In fact, #10 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30 is 80+ km of taken for granted:


Fredericton Trail System

I moved to Fredericton for university at 18. With the exception of a quick two-year stint on the other side of the country, I’ve been here ever since.

There’s a lot to love about Fredericton:

  • It’s big, but not too big (I can do all my Christmas shopping here, but don’t need a traffic report to negotiate rush hour).
  • There’s always lots to do, even on the cheap (free outdoor concerts all summer, free ice skating in the winter, lots of parks to explore all year-round).
  • It’s hella scenic, known for its towering oaks and the beautiful Saint John River cutting through it.

I love Fredericton for all of these reasons, but perhaps most of all because of its trail system.

Fredericton boasts more than 80 km of multi-use trails. As a runner and a dogmom, I’m on them almost every day. So much so, it’s pretty easy to take them for granted.

When my husband and I took Kenzy for a walk on the Valley Trail today, we made an effort to really take in our surroundings.

Words don’t suffice. So we took lots of pictures.

Just keep walking


Sunshine dog walk
A river runs through it

What I love most about the trails is that they’re always is use. No matter the time of day, the weather, or the season, you’ll always meet a fellow resident out there.

There’s something wonderful about that.

Kenzy-approved

My name is Kenzy and I approve this message.

5 Ways My Dog Makes Me a Better Human

I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately.

I’m blaming it partly on post-race blues, partly on the onslaught of summer (which I love) and all the yard/house work it entails (which I don’t), not to mention my late-in-life development of seasonal allergies (thanks a million, Mother Nature). Hell, I’m even willing to blame it on the full Sagittarius moon being in Mercury Retrograde (although I’m not convinced that’s an actual thing and, if it is, admit to having no idea what it means).

Whatever the reason, I’ve been dragging my butt, feeling rudderless and schlepping my poor rudderless butt from task to task throughout the day.

Not fun.

So I’ve tried to step back, give my malaise some distance, and focus on the good. And this week, one good thing I focused on was all the ways my dog has made me a better person.

The Kenzy

Lady Kenzington, First of Her Name

It struck me this week as Kenzy and I were out on an evening walk.

Dusk was swooping in and my husband and I had just returned from our 147th trip to the hardware store in three days, as one does when they are facing down an ever-growing list of yard projects. As my husband set off to work on project #3,674, I headed down the driveway with Kenzy, feeling tired, hungry and downright cranky about clipping on her leash and setting out around the neighbourhood.

I’d barely made it to the neighbour’s house before I started feeling better. Why? Because of the panting, tail-wagging furball on the end of my leash. She was doggedly (pun intended) bounding along the street, seeing, smelling and peeing on the same things she’d seen, smelled and peed on a thousand times before with unbridled enthusiasm.

She didn’t care that it was getting dark, that she hadn’t had her supper yet, that her mom seemed crabby. She was just in the moment. Which made me not care that it was getting dark, that I hadn’t had my supper yet, and helped me let go of the crabby.

In a matter of minutes, Kenzy had made me a better human. Which got me thinking about all the other ways my dog has made me a better human:

  1. She keeps me active – Even when I’m in a rudderless, butt-dragging slump, I’m getting at least one or, more often than not, two 30-minute walks a day. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing or raining, if I’m tired or sore, if all I want to do is hide out in bed watching Ugly Betty re-runs, I’m out there because Kenzy needs it.

    A rainy day walk

    A rainy day walk

  2. She teaches me patience – My parents always said having kids taught them patience. They might’ve tried a dog first. Kenzy is a perpetual four-year-old and, like all four-year-olds, has the occasional meltdown, tantrum and case of amnesia when it comes to house rules. Pre-dog-ownership me would have lost her cool at a dog who insisted on barking non-stop at every human who passed outside and, let’s face it, dog-owner Alison sometimes does too. Overall, however, calmness and patience prevail because Kenzy isn’t going to respond to an out-of-control human anyway.

    Practising the ol' sit, stay and look routine during doggy classes

    Kenzy practises the ol’ sit, stay and look routine. I practise patience.

  3. She’s preparing me for parenting – Speaking of dealing with four-year-olds, Kenzy has been a perfect primer in parenting for my husband and I. Because of her behavioural issues, parenting as a team is crucial and, if I do say so myself, we rock at it. We both make an effort to attend all her vet appointments and puppy classes. We have conversations about how she’s doing and how to address any new behaviours that arise so we’re always on the same page. No matter what, our priorities are that she’s fed, groomed, exercised, safe and happy. And while I’m not implying dog-parenting and people-parenting are the same, let’s just say that if and when we have human kids, we’ll be ready to leash-train them and ensure their water bowls are always full.

    I will also always provide birthday cake and presents

    We will also always provide birthday cake and presents

  4. She reminds me to laugh – I’m sure every dog owner says this about their dogs (and if so, they’re wrong!), but I have never met a pup with as much personality as Kenzy. Every week, she does some goofy new thing I’ve never seen before and it’s always hilarious. The girl is just a big ball of funny and no matter how bad your day is going, she’ll pull off just the right quirk to make you laugh. Case in point: last week, we were out for a walk as the sun was setting and came around the corner to find one of those lawn care signs staked into a neighbour’s yard. Without hesitation, Kenzy pounces onto it and gives it a nip! Logically, we know it’s because her cataracts have impaired her night vision and she was probably just startled by something out of the ordinary along her typical route. More fun to imagine though, is that she holds some kind of longstanding grudge against lawn care professionals.

    "I do my own yardwork, see?"

    “I do my own yard work, see?”

  5. She reminds me to live in the now – Speaking of cataracts, the one major downside to having a dog is that their lifespans just aren’t as long as ours. This weighs especially heavy on us since Kenzy was already a senior when we adopted her. While she’s still very active and healthy, we get sad when we notice her fur becoming more salt and less pepper. Kenzy, though? Kenzy doesn’t care. She lives in the now and all that matters in the now is that all squeaky toys must be destroyed, all sticks must be fetched, and all plates eyed very carefully in case a stray crumb might drop. No point in worrying about the future when so many things demand attention today.

So while I work my way out of my slump, I’m just going to focus on being more dog. Because, quite often, my dog is a better human than me.

For the sake of my dog and yours…

I know you don’t mean any harm.

I know you don’t think it’s a big deal that when you let your dog outside, she doesn’t always stay in your yard. You live on a quiet street. And besides, your girl is friendly. Wouldn’t hurt a fly.

I get it.

What you don’t get is my girl Kenzy.

Meet Kenzy

Kenzy in a rare still moment

Kenzy is a 12-year-old Kerry Blue Terrier who came into our lives two-and-a-half years ago in a stroke of fate.

We were a couple of dog-lovers, whose newfound homeownership had finally given us the stability to attain our dream of having a dog. She was living a few neighbourhoods over with an owner who was preparing for a move across the country that wouldn’t include her.

My husband spotted Kenzy in the passenger seat of her owner’s car at a gas station between our two neighbourhoods. My husband struck up a conversation with her owner and, after a few trial visitations, he was ready to hand over her leash and we were ready to welcome Kenzy to her new home.

Kenzy is a sweet, well-behaved girl. She bounds after sticks like a pup, but the grey in her beard and, more recently, over her eye give away her advanced age. Cataracts means she’s a little slower at fetch, having to sniff out her toys instead of spotting them, but she’s still just as enthusiastic as ever about her favourite things: barking, removing squeakers from dog toys with surgical precision, and, come bedtime, curling up in the spot of the person who is slowest coming to bed .

We love her to bits, spend far too much money on her and are thankful each day that she’s part of our lives. But, much like her owners, Kenzy is not perfect…

Unfortunately for Kenzy, she didn’t have the opportunity to socialize with other dogs when she was younger. As she grew up, that manifested in dog reactivity. She doesn’t know how to say hello to other dogs properly, doesn’t understand proper canine social etiquette. She’ll often cry when she sees dogs from a distance and, if they get too close too fast, she’ll progress to barking, growling, and rearing up on her leash.

We work hard to correct these behaviours. We walk her twice a day, every day, to make sure she has no excess energy to turn into aggression. When we take her out on crowded pathways, we use a gentle leader to help direct her attention and carry an arsenal of treats and squeakers to keep her focused and content. We practice commands with her daily, giving her rules, boundaries and structure.

And through these actions, we’ve seen Kenzy progress. She’s a calmer girl overall. She cries less, cuddles more and seems happier. After many private lessons with an amazing trainer, we were even able to enrol her in a weekly obedience class last fall, where she spent an hour sharing a classroom with three other dogs.

We’re trying.

But when your dog sprints across the street at us and chases us down the block as we’re out on our walk? Well, that’s dangerous: for my dog, for your dog, and for me.

I try to tell your dog to stay. I try to keep mine walking away. I try to position myself between the two of them, and when all else fails, I sometimes hoist my 30-pound girl into my arms to give her some physical distance from your dog.

Sure, your girl is friendly. Mine… well, mine is trying. She’s come a long way, but she’s got a long way to go. She can handle being in close proximity to other dogs when she’s calm, they’re calm and she’s not startled. As you can imagine, when your dog runs out at us, none of the above criteria are met.

I don’t mean to single you out. Your dog certainly isn’t the only one. We have an encounter like this every other month or so, sometimes in our neighbourhood, sometimes in a park, sometimes on those very busy walking trails we take Kenzy on with our aresenal of treats and squeaky toys.

And always, the owner gives a half-apology with the excuse: “She’s friendly.”

She’s friendly? Well, let’s keep her that way. Ensure her encounters with other dogs are uniformly positive by following three simple rules:

  1. If your dog won’t stay in her yard, keep her tied.
  2. If you’re on a walk with your dog, keep her on a leash.
  3. If you want to introduce your dog to another dog, ask the owner first.

Easy.

And for my part, I promise to keep working with Kenzy, to keep trying to teach her manners, to overcome 10 years of bad habits, and to assure her that she is safe and protected.

For the sake of my dog and yours.

Just a girl and her dog

Just a girl and her dog

On the topic of rest days (or the lack thereof)

When I’m not training for a race (which I’m not right now… still just percolating), I aim to run a few times a week. At least two, sometimes three, rarely very far, and always with a rest day in between.

When I am training for a race, those rest days become sacred. A tiny oasis in my grueling, sweaty regimen. Each week, it’s something to look forward to. Those two tiny words printed on my calendar: rest day.

Funny concept, that. The “rest day,” I mean. You’d think it would entail just sitting around and, whenever possible, laying around. Doing as little as possible. Vegetating. That kind of thing.

If that’s the case, “rest days” don’t exist at our place. Our furry little dictator doesn’t allow it.

We are proudly owned by a Kerry Blue Terrier named Kenzy. She’s 11, maybe 12 (she’s not telling), and she came into our lives about a year and a half ago.

image

The dictator and I take a break during a recent snowshoe through Mactaquac Provincial Park. It was a “rest day.”

She’s a character. Stick around, and you’ll hear all about it.

She’s also got her issues. A big part of the way we deal with those issues is by keeping her well-exercised. In practice, that consists of two walks daily, 20-30 minutes each, with some extra-long hikes thrown in on the weekends. Year-round.

Sometimes that sucks. When we’re in the midst of a New Brunswick deep-freeze, when the household is down with our annual holiday head-colds, when I’ve just finished a 20-mile training run or am still recovering from yesterday’s mileage, taking Kenzy for her walk doesn’t top my list of favourite ways to spend a half-hour.

But in the same way that I’m a better person after a run, Kenzy’s a better dog with some exercise. More balanced, more focused, and just plain happier.

Regardless of the training plan I’m following, no matter what the calendar says, a “rest day” is never really a rest day. Kenzy demands it.

And (grumble, grumble) we’re probably better off for it. Sitting around all day is over-rated anyway, right?