Doggy Day Hikes: 4 Things to Pack

For the last few weeks, the weather here on Long Island has fluctuated from being comfortable to extremely humid. On very humid days, Emma refuses to walk anywhere, and I don’t blame her. I’m not a fan of the humidity or higher temps either, unless of course I’m doing hot yoga. So, whenever the weather is more agreeable, Emma and I will be out and about early to enjoy the outdoors.

There are plenty of places to hike/walk with your dog on Long Island. (I’ve mentioned a few in previous posts.) But sometimes, Emma and I just like taking a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood or into town, which is a good one-mile walk each way.

When venturing out with Emma, especially in this weather, I make sure to pack the essentials to help keep her comfortable and hydrated:

  • Water. And plenty of it! In summer (and winter, too), I carry a bottle of water with a small collapsible bowl. Dogs can get dehydrated quicker than humans, especially in warmer weather, so they need constant access to water. If we drive to a hiking trail, I leave a small cooler in the car with extra bottles in case we need more. (No matter where you take your dog, always remember to provide fresh, cool water to prevent dehydration.)
  • Treats. Long walks/hikes require “special” treats. Emma likes boiled chicken, apples and pears. I store them fresh in a small Ziploc bag. But she’s not the only one who gets goodies on our day trips. I’ll always bring along a snack (fruit/veggies/peanut butter) for myself, usually something I can share with Emma, so it’s less to carry.
  • Sunscreen and flea spray. Westies have very sensitive skin, and I keep this in mind when we are outdoors for any length of time. Before we hit the trails, I’ll spray a special sunscreen on Emma that can be easily washed out. And if we are walking in wooded areas, I will definitely spray bug/flea spray on her to keep the flea and ticks at bay. Then, once we get home, it’s bath time!
  • Paper towels, paw wipes and misc. At some point on the walk, I know I’ll have to clean up after Emma or use paw wipes, as trails can get dusty or muddy, depending on the weather. No matter where I go, I always bring hand wipes and sanitizer (yes, I’m a germaphobe). I also carry a few small Ziploc bags in case I have to throw out paw wipes or a poop bag and there’s no trash can in sight. The Ziploc bags help keep the odor at bay.

Planning a hike? What do you pack for your dog? Tell me about it in the comments section and enjoy the walk!

5 Tips to Keep Your Dog Calm and Safe During Fireworks

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I was going to wait until closer to July 4th to write about this, since most pets run away around that time of year more than any other. But with Memorial Day weekend upon us—not to mention my crazy neighbors that look for any excuse to set off fireworks—I figured there was no better time than the present.

Over the years, Emma has gone from ignoring fireworks as a puppy to being absolutely terrified as an adult dog. In the last few years, though, she’s gotten much better in dealing with the loud sounds. However, she’s far from ignoring them, as she once did.

Unlike hunting dogs, most dogs have not been desensitized to loud noises. Most likely, your canine companion will not be a fan of the fireworks and will need some extra comforting, as well.

img_8152When dogs hear fireworks, they experience internally something similar to what we do when we are surprised by a sudden loud noise—a rush of adrenaline and increase in heart rate. Now, as humans, we are quick to realize the sudden noise is nothing to worry about. But dogs don’t grasp that same concept.

Whether this is the first time or the hundredth time your dog will be exposed to fireworks, here are a few things that will help keep her calm and safe during the celebrations:

  1. Exercise your dog earlier in the day. Go for long walks and give her extra play time. That way, she will be tired and in a calmer state when the fireworks begin.
  2. This is a no-brainer but keep your dog inside during the fireworks. And make sure you or another human is there to offer comfort. Dogs should not be alone during fireworks. If it’s hot out, crank up the AC.
  3. Create a safe space. Sometimes, dogs will want to hide under the bed or curl up in their crate when they are afraid. Give them access to small, cozy places and put a blanket or shirt that you wore earlier in the day next to them, so they have your scent close. A chew toy is also a good way to keep them busy and distracted.
  4. Stay calm. If your dog is anything like mine during fireworks, she will probably pant, pace and whine. I know that if I hold Emma in my arms, it helps her calm down quicker. During this time, I’ll play white noise on the Sonos with the volume up to drown out the fireworks. This combo works best for Emma.
  5. Be sure your dog is wearing current ID tags and is microchipped in case she gets spooked and runs off unexpectedly. That way, if anyone finds her, you’ll be sure to get a call as to her location.

Hopefully, your neighbors aren’t like mine and won’t set off too many fireworks this weekend! With all the dogs living in my neighborhood, you would think they would be more considerate to those little canine ears, right?!

Do you do anything special to help your pet get through the fireworks? I’d love to hear about it.

Hope everyone has a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend!

Doggy Day Trips—Old Westbury Gardens

img_7860Old Westbury Gardens has always been my absolute favorite escape on Long Island. It is the perfect place to unwind, relax and enjoy nature. As a child, I would go off exploring all that the Gardens has to offer—the thatched cottage, East Lake, the Walled Garden, nature paths and everything else in between—pretending that I lived in Westbury House and the gardens were all mine! It almost felt like I stepped back time, especially when walking through the house.

As the years passed, my love for Old Westbury Gardens grew. Every weekend, my mom and I would take a couple of lawn chairs, pack a picnic and our favorite books and spend an entire day under the shade of one of the massive breezy beech trees or find the perfect spot somewhere near the lake.

No matter the season, there’s always plenty to enjoy—from chamber music in the Red Ballroom and the summer Picnic Pops concerts to yoga on the lawn and members-only events and more. Some of my favorite memories have been from Old Westbury Gardens.

When Emma arrived on the scene, my mom and I felt guilty we couldn’t bring her to enjoy our favorite getaway. Then, shortly thereafter, we were excited to discover the Gardens began a new tradition—Dog Days! Twice a year, visitors are allowed to bring their canine companions to walk the gardens, do some canine shopping, participate in fun activities, meet animal rescue groups, and more.

Last month, when I took Emma to the first Dog Days weekend of 2018, it was a bit more crowded than usual, as they were undergoing landscaping renovations. Portions of the Gardens were closed; but it didn’t deter us from having a fun time. We had perfect weather, which always helps to add to the joy of the day. (Dog Day Festival Weekends are usually slated for spring (April) and fall (Sept/Oct), so be sure to check their calendar of events.)

Regardless of whether you have a dog or not, spending a day at the Gardens is certainly worth the trip. There are year-round activities; and if you become a member, you’ll receive extra perks, discounts and members-only events. Old Westbury Gardens is easily accessible by both Northern State Parkway and the LIE (I-495).

Let me know if you visit—or attend the next Dog Days! Emma and I will be on the lookout for you.

Man’s Best Friend is Good for the Soul—and the Body!

The day that I brought Emma home from the breeder changed my life. She was a tiny little ball of white fluff that loved to nuzzle my neck and get lots of cuddles, which she still loves to do—along with getting plenty of belly rubs.

At that time, I was going through a very bad period of depression, and once she joined the household, life became a bit more gratifying with her at my side. After all, I had a puppy to walk (and boy, does she love to walk!), to feed and to tend to. There was hardly time to succumb to depression. For those of you who have/had puppies, you know that for the first 6-8 months, you’re on the go. Nonstop.

Emma has been by my side for many years, and has helped me navigate through depression, anxiety and grief, while keeping me active and motivated.

Not surprising, there are a majority of studies that show the physical, emotional and social benefits of having a canine companion. Here are just a few:

Reduce heart disease. A recent study shows that having a canine companion is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease (lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels).

Lower stress. Having a fur baby can help lower anxiety and blood pressure, reducing the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Think about it. You’re sitting on the couch, giving belly rubs to a cute little fur ball who wants nothing more to snuggle and be pet. It turns us to mush, right?

Weight loss. If you have a dog, you better love to walk—and walk a lot. Ever since I brought Emma home, she’s been a walker. I know we were meant for each other because, I too, love to walk and hike and be outdoors. Our daily routine consists of at least 3 miles—sometimes more in cooler weather, and less in the summer. But we make up for it with her agility classes, which usually give me a run for my money, too!

Social life. Before I brought Emma home, I didn’t know all of my neighbors that well. But once Emma was on the scene, all that changed. Neighbors with dogs would come around and we would share stories about our fur babies’ latest antics. Not only that, but whenever I’m out and about with Emma, I’m guaranteed to be stopped by someone who loves dogs. It’s easy to strike up a conversation when you’re accompanied by a great conversation starter. (Read: single peeps, having a dog is great for getting dates!)

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, stop thinking about it and do it! You won’t regret it. And if you are already a pet-parent like me, then you know what a bundle of joy these four-legged fur babies can be.

Five Tips for Traveling With Your Dog

I love to travel. Exploring new hiking trails or different cities can be exciting. But I have a small dog and I don’t like leaving her behind. Thankfully, after years of hating the car, she has grown to like traveling.

The first time I took Emma on a plane was last summer when we visited my dad in Florida. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck. Silly, I know. But I couldn’t help worrying about: What if she pooped on the plane? What if she had to pee? Would she howl or whine if the flight was delayed? What if something unexpected happened to me, what would happen to her? All that and a million other things crossed my mind.

Since then, though, we’ve been on a plane several times. Each time had its own minor worries (mainly because I’m a worrier), but it all went well in the end…even the one time when she pooped inside the terminal at JFK. Yeah, well, if she could’ve just held it two more minutes, we would have been at the pet relief area; but when you gotta go, you gotta go. And while it was one of the things I was initially worried about, poop happens. I grabbed one of the dozens of bags I keep in my jeans pockets when we travel, and quickly cleaned it up and tossed it.

Here are some of my travel tips for smooth sailing with your small pet:

1. Choose A Destination Wisely. Are you staying with family/friends, or will you have a dog-friendly hotel room? Either way, be sure to bring items from home that has your dog’s and your scent on them, so it will help her settle in when you arrive. Plush squeaky toys, balls, and a small blanket are always a good start.

2. The Right Carrier. If you’re flying with a small dog, then she can come on the plane with you. You’ll have to use a carrier that is acceptable to the airline, so be sure to check their website before you purchase one. Inside the carrier, keep a shirt or item of clothing that has your scent on it so your pooch will be calm during the flight.

3. Back Seat Driver. If you’re like me and you like toting your dog around with you no matter where you go, you’ll need to find the option that works for you. The best carriers and harnesses, though, have been crash tested, so do your homework before purchasing. The best ones are a bit pricey—but certainly worth the safety of your pet.

4. H2O. Whenever I take Emma out, I always carry a bottle of water (you can refill it anywhere) and a small collapsible dish. Just like humans, dogs need to stay hydrated, especially when traveling.

5. Travel Food. Just as you would pack snacks for yourself, be sure to bring some along for your pet. Keep in mind: feeding your pet right before a trip is not a good idea, especially if you’re flying. It will increase their urge to go potty in a contained environment. But once you’re on your way, a few bites of kibble here and there will keep her satisfied until you reach your destination.

Over the years, I’ve taken Emma on countless trips with me. And whether traveling by car or plane, these days, she’s a better travel than I am!

5 Winter Safety Tips for Dog Owners

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I’m sure I’m not the only pet parent whose dog loves the outdoors and the snow. It seems, the colder it gets, the longer Emma wants to stay out. And when it snows, it takes forever to get her back inside. If it were up to her, she’d dive through all the mounds of snow until it melts.

Thankfully, I’ve picked up some helpful tips over the years to keep her safe and warm during the coldest season of the year. Hope these will help you, too.

Protect the Paws

Ice melt and rock salt are irritants and can burn the paw pads, so the best thing to do is cover your dog’s paws with booties or a protective salve before heading out. Once back inside, be sure to have a towel handy to wipe off excess snow or salt. If you need to use an ice-melter on your own driveway or walkway, please be sure to choose one that is pet-friendly.

Limit Outdoor Time

To avoid frostbite, limit time spent outdoors. Instead of longer walks, go out several times a day in shorter spurts. It’ll give your fur baby something to look forward to. And, please, don’t leave your dog outside for extended periods of time. I’ve seen too many stories on the news where dogs are left outside in the cold—without food, water or shelter—and they end up with frostbite, or worse, dying. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog. Be smart.

IMG_0479Bundle Up

Depending on the temperature, I have several different outerwear options for Emma. From sweaters in the fall, to insulated coats in winter, I always make sure she is protected from the elements. I wouldn’t like to be outside without a coat in the extreme cold, so why would I let her?

Eat Up

Since dogs burn extra energy trying to stay warm, it might be a good idea to give her a little extra food at mealtime. Not too much, mind you. You don’t want your pup gaining a lot weight that she will have a hard time taking off when the weather gets warmer. Also, don’t forget to provide fresh water. This will help keep dogs hydrated and their skin less dry and flaky.

Join a Gym

Yes, they are such things as doggy gyms! Emma goes to one and it’s a great place to be when the weather outside is rotten. Indoors, she can run around, jump through hoops, zip through tunnels, and even swim! Does your neighborhood have a canine fitness center? If so, give it a try. Your dog will love it. Mine does!