Myka lounging on the bed. Not too muddy, but she does have stickers in her ear from our Blue Mountain hike on Saturday.
Susan is a groomer who works with Renee at Quick Paws. She has an eight-year old dachshund named Rusty. I believe she has only had him for a year or two, so she adopted him as an adult dog.
Anyway, Rusty has a problem with damaging her apartment while she is gone to work, so he currently can’t be indoors alone while she is gone. With the weather turning colder, this was getting to be a big problem.
Renee came to the rescue by building Rusty a cozy, well-insulated doghouse last weekend. We have many of our own projects that need to get done, but this is one that really made a difference for one cute little dog. The project had the added benefit of using up numerous leftover building materials
Renee did most of the work on this one herself; I only helped out towards then end, when we wrapped things up with the roof. Unfortunately I didn’t get many pictures of this project in progress.
Renee used scrap wood to build a frame for the dog house. She designed it with a little peaked roof, sort of like Snoopy’s house. Since this is for a little dog, she ripped the scrap 2x4s (that is, cut them longways) for the frame.
She did nice little birdmouth cuts for the rafters.
Then she cut foam insulation to size and placed it in the frame. At this point, it would have looked like a little house with white foam walls. She then covered up the sides with the leftover OSB sheathing.
She cut a small opening in the front for the door with a jigsaw, keeping it small to keep as much heat inside as possible.
This house needs to be nice and watertight to keep Rusty warm and dry. We had leftover tarpaper from the Great Cat Room Remodel. So she cut pieces of that and used the staple gun to attach them to all sides of the house, as well as the roof.
But a good well-built house needs good, attractive siding. Fortunately we had a big stack of cedar planks that served well as siding. She attached these using long screws.
The wood siding was another recycled material. Renee started grooming at Quick Paws back in the spring of 2010. At the time, Quick Paws had just moved into their new location, which used to belong to Grizzly Fence. The room that was to become the groom shop had a large, old countertop covered with cedar fence pickets. We pulled all those old pickets off and removed the countertop to make room for grooming, but Renee anticipated that this wood might come in handy and saved it.
These cedar pickets were substantial, so adding them as siding quickly made the whole house very heavy.
So we ended up going back to Home Resource and buying some regular house shingles. We actually bought more than we needed, but it was only $5. They charge $1 per vertical inch of shingles, so I guess we had a 5-inch tall stack of shingles.
The advantage is, this would make the dog house look more like a real house.
I helped with the roof. I was a little surprised to find myself pounding roofing nails again…I had really thought that the cat room remodel was the end of my roofing career. At least for this one there was no danger of slipping and falling off. Although I did have to stand on my toes to reach the nails up near the top of the ridge.
Working with the shingles was pretty easy. They were already the perfect width for the little house, so I just laid them on one after another, starting from the bottom. After placing the first shingle, overlapping the next one covers up the nails, so the whole roof looks nice.
For the top, we used more shingles to create a ridge cap. The ridge cap is intended to cover the joint where the two sides of the roof meet. There are pre-made ridge caps you can use, but we decided to do the basic version. For this, I cut the shingles into 7-inch strips. Then I installed them along the top of the roof, similar to the way I installed the regular shingles. Again, adding and overlapping each new shingle over the previous one hid the previous nails. When I finished, I thought it looked a little funny because the shingles were still very stiff. However, once the house sits out in the sun and heat, the asphalt shingles should soften and “relax” a bit.
While I worked on the roof, Renee added trim pieces around the door and on all the corners to hide the seams. We were out of the old Grizzly Fence wood by now, so we used some pickets leftover from installing our own fence last summer.
At last, the house was done! The rough wood planks gave it a nice “rustic” barn look, and I happen to think that the shingles look great.
When we finally finished, the house was so heavy we had to back the truck right up to the workbench so we wouldn’t have to carry the house very far. We slid it up on the tailgate and carefully drove to Susan’s house; she lives just down the street so it wasn’t a very long drive.
I should have brought my camera but completely forgot. Susan and her roommate were completely blown away by the dog house. I think Susan was amazed that Renee had built something so cool over one weekend! They found a nice spot for it right by the back door.
Later in the week, Susan told Renee that Rusty loves the new house. He goes out in the back yard, does his business, and goes right into the the little house.
So I would say the Rusty’s Doghouse project was a big success!
Last spring, not long after we bought new mountain bikes, we started taking the dogs on bike rides for exercise. The four big dogs need a lot of exercise. Bicycling with them is a great way to give them really good exercise in a short amount of time.
But biking with dogs isn’t always all that easy. We would take them one at a time—I just rode along while Renee would take the dog on a long leash. I didn’t have the nerve to ride one-handed like that.
So I started looking into other options so that I could take a dog too. We decided to try the WalkyDog. This device has a bracket you attach to the seatpost of the bike. The leash itself is a metal bar with springs inside for shock absorption. It has a quick release so it is easy to attach and detach from the bracket.
Once all set up, you can ride along like normal (while paying extra attention to the dog of course) and the dog can run alongside the bike. He can’t get ahead or behind the tires, although he can get pretty close.
When the WalkyDog arrived, we of course had to get the dogs used to the idea. I was pretty confident that this wouldn’t be a problem since they had all gone on bike rides before. The web site where we ordered it recommended starting slow, hooking up the dog and walking before riding, and so on. Pretty logical stuff.
It turned out I was a bit wrong about this. I tried Abby first. As soon as we got near enough to the bike for me to attach the leash, she started backing away. She refused to get close enough for me to connect her to the bike.
So next I tried with Myka. She also freaked out at first, and managed to wriggle completely out of her harness when I connected her to the bike! At this point, Renee came outside to help out. We spent some more time coaxing her to accept the idea. We managed to get her to go on a very short ride, first with Renee and then with me.
My theory on why they freaked out is that they weren’t used to my bike (it is larger than Renee’s) and they weren’t used to the idea of riding with me, since Renee usually took them on her bike.
So after the rather unenthusiastic response from the first two poodles, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Darwin. He is, really, a scared-y-cat of a dog. Loud noises and strange things scare him easily. Clang a metal dog food bowl against the floor and he scrambles under the bed.
So with some concern I put the harness on him, took him outside and brought him up next to the bike. To my surprise, he stayed calm. Connected him to the bike and he just looked around as though saying “well? Are we going now?” Walked the bike around the yard once — barely — and then hit the street. He had no trouble at all, just started running alongside the bike like he had been doing it forever!
So although it was a mixed review from the poodles, Darwin gave the WalkyDog a full thumbs up. Since then, I’ve taken Darwin on many rides, sometimes with Renee and sometimes on our own. I’ve also taken Myka numerous times.
Obviously, there are some risks when bicycling with a dog. All the risks associated with bicycling (traffic, road hazards, and so on) are compounded when you have a living creature attached to your vehicle and running alongside you.
But you know, there are risks in everything. We could get hit by a bus while walking across the street. Our dogs could run off while hiking in the woods and get hurt. There are no end to the bad things that could happen. And the positive aspects of bicycling are just huge. The dogs love it. They get better exercise than on a walk, and they seem to love seeing us “run” at their same pace.
When I first started researching the WalkyDog before we ordered it, I saw a comment online (I can’t remember where) that said this was a terrible idea because it was essentially chaining your dog to a treadmill that could break his neck if he tried to stop. I sort of wonder about someone who says something like this. After all, the bicycle is not powered by some sort of inattentive robot. It should be powered by a human who actually, you know, cares about the dog running along and can pay attention to pretty obvious signals. The “treadmill” in this case can be extremely responsive to the actions of the dog.
When I ride with a dog, the ride is all about the dog. I go the dog’s pace, not my own. When he slows down, I slow down. When he speeds up, I monitor his speed and make sure he’s not overdoing it, although sometimes it is amusing to just relax and let him tow me down the road. The point is, I’m not going to be getting massive amounts of exercise since I am constrained by the needs of the dog.
I’ve found that it works well to position the WalkyDog so that it is almost perpendicular to the bike, but pushed back just a bit. In this position, I can see Darwin (or Myka) in my peripherial vision at all times. If he slows down and drops back a bit, I see the change immediately and can adjust.
It is also necessary to be extra-alert when biking with a dog. For example, the other night we passed two skateboarders flying down the hill. Darwin doesn’t really like skateboarders very much — they move fast and they make funny noises. He wanted to chase the first one, and so I had to veer sharply the other way to get his attention and get him out of the way of the second skateboarder.
I usually talk to the dogs quite a bit as we ride, which helps keep them calm and helps teach them what to expect. When we make turns, I call out the direction we are going. Both Darwin and Myka now know what “left” and “right” mean. Darwin also knows that “Let’s Go” means he needs to stop looking around at whatever is distracting him and keep moving.
So far, in 2011 we’ve ridden about 120 miles with the dogs. A few of these rides were before the WalkyDog, but most were after. Sometimes we take two dogs at once, now that I can take a dog too. It is a little more chaotic with two, as they tend to compete with each other a bit. For example, Myka insists on being the lead dog. She does not do well if the other bike and dog are in the lead.
The dog who has benefited the most has probably been Darwin. He can be a difficult dog these days. He loves the poodles and Cricket but is iffy with other dogs, so he can’t go to the dog park for exercise. With bicycling, I can take a short lunch break during my workday and give Darwin a good workout. Then in the evening we can take the rest of the dogs to the dog park.
The best part of it all is, I usually come home from a dog bike ride in a good mood.
Myka trots alongside Renee’s bike, sometimes glancing up as if to say “am I doing this right?” She is, of course. She loves running alongside a bike.
It is an October evening. Cool, crisp, clear. It reminds me of why October is usually my favorite month. Not yet really cold, no longer the heat of summer. The scent of fallen leaves in the air. Renee and Myka are just a little ahead of me. We ride down Rollins to Beckwith.
My pants nearly catch in the bicycle chain, so I pull them up to my knee and expose my leg to the chilly air. It occurs to me that this is very different from the bicycling I used to do, years ago. I was never a particularly fast cyclist, but I used to at least dress the part. Now I can’t remember the last time I wore bicycling shorts. I haven’t pulled out my road bike in ages…it is always the sturdy mountain bike, able to hop across potholes and stop suddenly if the dogs demand it.
All my bicycling these days is always all about the dogs. We go at their speed — usually 6 to 12 miles per hour or so. We go just a few miles total. I love watching them trot along, so excited that we are finally going their speed, finally pulling our own weight and keeping up with the pack. Sometimes we each take a dog — Renee takes Abby or Sirus; I take Myka or Darwin. But tonight it is just Myka, out for some special one-on-one time.
I love the fact that there is no planning, no preparing. We just finish up whatever we are working on, grab the bikes from the garage, a dog on a leash, and head down the street. Even wearing pants that you have to pull up to your knee to keep the cuff out of the chain.
We leave the street at 1st street and turn onto the bike path. There is a bit of a hill here and Myka kicks it up to 15 mph. We cruise the rest of the way down to the river and head over to the Riverfront Trail Bridge. We stop at the middle to take in the river view. The area all around the bridge is littered with graffiti, but the view from the middle is great.
Myka shuffles about on her leash. I take phone pictures, but she blends in with Renee’s black pants. Maybe I can fix the exposure on the computer later. It doesn’t matter. We soak in the view, then head back, turn our ride into a little 3+ mile loop. Myka adjusts back to her “prancy trot.” She is too cute; I wish I had a handlebar-mounted video camera.
It is getting dark as we pull into the driveway at home. We have too much to do; cold weather is coming. We need to take the trailer in to be winterized. We should have packed it up today to get it ready, but we didn’t have time. We need to set up a tank in the greenhouse to save the pond plants before it gets too much colder. We spent the last month working on making a comfortable, warm home for the cats. It is overwhelming to think of it all. October is my favorite month, but it is brief and full of things that must be done before winter hits. It can be hard to stay in the moment and not panic.
But right now, it is a perfect October evening and the most perfect thing to do was take Myka on a bike ride.