HOT TOPIC: Pets in Cars

Over the past 10+ years pet owners have been spending more time traveling with their pets, especially those with dogs.  There are numerous explanations for this, with the primary reasons being that 1) pets are becoming more a part of the family and 2) communities are becoming more pet friendly (to accommodate for reason 1).  Many restaurants now allow leashed, well-behaved canines in their outdoor areas (as allowable by law).  More and more hotels are becoming pet friendly which makes it easier to travel long distances with pet companions.  Many neighborhoods have Dogipot Stations available to make clean up easy and convenient (though I personally do not find carrying around a small thing of doggie doo doo bags to be cumbersome).  It’s easier than ever to let Fido jump in the backseat of the car for a ride-along!

We must always remember to be mindful of our surroundings at all times when we have our pets with us.  Are there other animals in the area that might not be friendly, or that my pet might like to chase?  Is there something dangerous along our walking path (broken glass, chemicals, delicious trash)?  Is the temperature suitable for my pet?  There are several things to take into consideration, just as there are when you travel with your children.  For this post we are going to focus on the temperature factor.

It’s that time of year when the sun rises high in the sky and sets well into the late evening hours. With increased sunlight hours comes increased outdoor temperatures. We have all kinds of options for keeping cool such dressing loosely, turning on a fan, going for a swim, or relaxing in the air conditioning.  More daylight hours also tends to lead to increased activity outdoors.

I don’t know about all of you, but when the weather’s nice I enjoy outdoor activities with my dog.  We enjoy running, frisbee fetching, spending time at the beach or the neighbor’s pool, visiting with friends, boating, kayaking, or just hanging out and relaxing at the park.  Sometimes when we are traveling with our pets we need to make a pit-stop.  The gas tank might be getting low, you realized you forgot to pack water for the adventure that lies ahead, we need ice to fill up the coolers, or we just need to run into the grocery store and grab a bag of chips to go with the sandwiches that we packed for the picnic.

In the event that you need to leave your pet in the car for a short period of time, be aware that the temperature within your vehicle will increase over time.  The following is a chart that shows how the temperature of the interior of an enclosed vehicle in the sun changes over time.

How the interior temperature of an enclosed vehicle increases in the sun over time

Once again, this is the temperature increase of an enclosed vehicle in the sun.  If you must leave your pet in the car to run into the store, please keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Park in a well shaded area.
  • Keep the windows down at a level that is safe for your pet.  If you have a dog that is likely to jump out of an open window, don’t leave the window down all the way!  If you have a cat that can squeeze through a cracked window, just crack it to a point at which your cat can’t escape.
  • Keep your vehicle running with the air conditioning on.
  • If your pet is in a carrier, or if you have a pet that is well-behaved on a leash, you can likely get by with taking your pet with you into the store.
  • Keep your pit-stops brief.
  • If you have a tendency to get side-tracked, have diarrhea of the mouth when you meet people in the store that you know (or are just meeting), or if your quest for 2 or 3 items often turns into a cart-full, I recommend you never make a pit-stop while your pet is with you.

It is safe for you to travel with your pet, even in the summer months.  Just be mindful and keep any time away from your pet to an absolute minimum.  After all, you wanted to spend time with your pet, didn’t you?  Then do just that!

A message to everyone; pet owners, pet lovers, PETA, HSUS, Animal Welfare Institutions, Animal Rescue Organizations, Animal Control Officers, etc.  I understand that there is a concern for pets that are left alone in vehicles, especially in the extreme temperature months.  Should they be left in vehicles unattended?  Probably not.  Can they be left unattended in vehicles safely?  Absolutely.

If you happen upon an unattended animal in a vehicle, look at the time on your watch/smartphone/car clock.  If the animal appears to be in distress, contact the local animal authorities ASAP!  NEVER take it upon yourself to break a car window or break into a vehicle with an animal in it.  For one, you don’t know that the animal inside isn’t dangerous toward strangers!  Also, you may have just pulled up beside the vehicle as the owner was just entering the store.  A barking, whining or panting dog does NOT indicate distress (at least in terms of temperature).  Perhaps that dog suffers from separation anxiety and it acts out whenever the owner is out of sight (hence why the owner takes it with her regularly).

Be aware of your pet’s comfort level.  If you have a bracheocephalic breed (bulldog, pug, boxer, shih tzu) or an obese pet that struggles to breathe in 70 degree temps at 60% humidity, don’t travel with it if you have to leave it alone in a car for even 5 minutes.  If you have a puppy under 4 months of age or a senior pet over 10 years of age, don’t travel with it if you have to leave it alone in a vehicle for more than 10 minutes.  If you have a dog with severe separation anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to manage the behavior.

Once again, this is a topic open for discussion.  Please leave your constructive criticism or comments below.  It’s impossible to hit upon every possible scenario when it comes to pets in vehicles, so lets discuss it!

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What the heck happened to Kool Dogz?

During the summer months, I enjoy to eat and drink things that are ice cold. I enjoy ice cream, iced tea, frozen daiquiris and cold salads to name a few. It seems to help keep my body temperature at a comfortable level.

Why would dogs be any different? Actually, I think they might even appreciate ice cold treats more than I do since they (or most of them) are covered in a fur coat. I have made frozen treats (I like to call them Pupcicles) for my dogs for as long as I can remember. I like to take plain yogurt and mix it with whatever my dogs like (bananas, peanut butter, ground liver, cantaloupe, watermelon, … the possibilities are endless), then I put the mixture into a mold and freeze it. On hot days I pop a Pupcicle out of the mold and give it as a treat. CJ loves them! His favorite flavors are peanut/almond-butter & banana, cantaloupe, watermelon, fig, and berry (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry or any combination). I think he has a bit of a sweet tooth.

About 15 (or more) years ago I heard about this ice treat maker called Kool Dogz, manufactured by Premier Pet Products. I thought it was a pretty “kool” product myself, but never bought one because I was making my own pupcicles anyway.

Fast Forward 5+ Years: We moved from the Mojave Desert to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in 2007. We went from super-hot and dry to hot and humid. Whether or not it was the weather or the age of my dogs after the move, they seemed to tolerate hot and dry much better than hot and humid. Pupcicles went into continuous rotation in the freezer! Then I remembered the Kool Dogz and decided to order one. Best decision ever!

The Kool Dogz ice treat maker looks like this:

The components of a Kool Dogz Ice Treat Maker

There is a bucket (the mold) that allows you to easily combine whatever you want to add to the treat.  That bone-shaped thing attached to a bar is the centerpiece of the mold.  Once you get your stuff mixed, you place the centerpiece in the bucket with the bone to the bottom of the bucket.  There is a little hole in the bucket’s lid that the other end of the centerpiece fits through to hold it in place during freezing.

The empty bucket with centerpiece

LId of bucket/mold in place with centerpiece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once frozen, you remove the lid and slide the ice block out of the bucket and place the end of the centerpiece opposite the bone into the center hole of the drip pan.  The fork screws into the bottom of the drip pan holder so that you can fix it into the earth.  Voila!  Long-lasting ice-treat for your dog!!!  You can freeze anything in this!  You can freeze food, treats and favorite toys that are small enough to fit in the bucket (Kong toys, ball toys, West Paw toys, etc.) in the mold.

Kool Dogz Ice Treat

Chompers and C.J. both loved the Kool Dogz!  However, they did not love it together.  If Chompers was working on the treat, C.J. would stay away.  Good boy, C.J.  If C.J. was at the treat, Chompers would come over to join in, but then C.J. would either move away from it (which was fine) or would lift his lip and warn Chompers not to come any closer (Jerk!).  To allow each dog equal time at the treat, I would let them out in shifts.  First Chompers (because he was older, wiser and not ever a jerk) for 5-10 minutes, then C.J. for 5-10 minutes.  This worked quite well for the first summer.

Chompers enjoying his Kool Dogz ice treat!

Chompers enjoying his ice treat while CJ lingers.

CJ during one of his Kool Dogz shifts!

The following summer I decided I should just have two of these things.  One for each dog and/or so that I could always have one in the freezer.  I first tried to order another through our direct account with Premier at the animal hospital.  They were out of stock.  So I went onto our other supplier’s website and they didn’t have them available either.  Next I went online to try to find one through Amazon, or Chewy or anywhere.  Nobody had them.  They were either listed as out of stock or unavailable.

Some time later we learned that Premier products had been taken over/bought out by another company called RadioPet.  The distributor explained at that time that, because of the change, some products were being discontinued.  Kool Dogz was one of those products.

Not long after Premier products became products of RadioPet, those products then became products of PetSafe.  When this change happened I thought I’d try to find the Kool Dogz (or anything remotely similar to it) again.  Nada.

Just this week the topic came up at work about Kool Dogz, likely because summer is approaching and we have had some lovely warm days in May.  In an effort to locate the product itself or something similar, we did a Google search of Kool Dogz.  Some of our newer peers didn’t know what it was we were seeking, so I clicked on the images tab in the Google search bar.  I didn’t have to scroll very far until I did a double take (which was really a quick scroll back on the mouse).  Something caught my eye.  When I scrolled back up, there it was.  My heart kind of melted a bit.

Chompers enjoying his Kool Dogz Ice Treat

That’s my late Chompers enjoying his Kool Dogz treat, circa 2013!  I’m not entirely sure on my timeline, but judging by his grizzle it has to be somewhere between 2012 and 2014.  His photo has been exploited on an Italian website promoting Ice Treats for dogs!  I’m totally fine with this.  I was quite … taken with emotion that he was chosen to represent this article.

But, now, I want to know WHY ON EARTH has PetSafe, or one of their competitors, NOT tried to recreate this product?!  It is so great!  I have tried to figure a way to rig something else up to duplicate it to no avail.  I have to admit that my  attempts have been lackluster since I do own a Kool Dogz (and I will be hanging on to it!).

I petition that PetSafe bring back Kool Dogz.  Who’s with me?

Seriously…I Mean it…Retractable Leashes should be BANNED

WARNING:  This is a RANT post!  Proceed with caution!  But do not hesitate to comment for constructive conversation/debate.

I cannot stress just how much I abhor the retractable leash. To recap, here’s my original post.

All too often I see countless dog owners walking with their dog or showing up to the vet office with their dog on a retractable leash.  The dog is 99.99999% of the time tugging at the leash (because a retractable leash teaches them to do so).  This is not a habit you want your dog to think is OK.  Especially if you have a very large, muscular breed dog.  All dogs should be taught proper leash manners.

Not only do these leashes teach a dog poor leash manners, the mechanisms in these types of leashes are NOT foolproof!  They fail more often than not.  Of all of the clients I deal with that come in to the animal hospital with a dog on a retractable leash, more than 50% of the time the locking mechanism of the leash is not working.  That potentially puts 1) the dog on that leash, 2) the other animals in the area, 3) the pet owners in the area and 4) the staff of the animal hospital at risk of injury.  It doesn’t matter how friendly or social your dog is, retractable leashes that are failing or unmonitored are tripping hazards!  Also, your dog might love cats, but that cat waiting in the lobby isn’t necessarily fond of your dog.

If you think that you are exempt because you never let your dog wander, your dog is well-behaved on the retractable leash, and you always make sure your leash is in good working order…my recommendation is…then why not just get a real, reliable, SAFE-for-everyone leash?!!

Dealing With Thunderstorm Anxiety in Dogs

Over the past few years my dog, CJ, has gradually developed thunderstorm anxiety. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it all started, but one day I happened to notice him slinking off into the bathroom.  He just went in there and calmly laid on the floor.  I figured maybe he was hot and the cool, tile floor in the bathroom felt good.  Then, about 10 minutes later it started to storm. Once the storm was over, CJ came out of the bathroom and acted completely normal. Since I first noticed this behavior, I started to pay very close attention to him when I knew thunderstorms were approaching.  Sure enough, about 10 minutes before the storm was overhead, CJ would make his way into the bathroom.

His behavior continued to change as time progressed.  CJ would still slink off into the bathroom, but occasionally would start to pant and quiver.  One night he made his way into the bathtub and was frantically digging at the bottom of the basin.

There was no doubt about it, CJ was suffering from thunderstorm anxiety.

When I finally realized CJ’s anxiety, I made it apparent to the other human member of the household to not make a big deal about a thunderstorm.  Just carry on like it’s a normal, run-of-the-mill day.  This other human member of the household is a weather professional and inadvertently gets excited about weather phenomena.  Since learning about CJ’s behavior changes he has kept his excitement about weather happenings to himself as best he can.

I have made many attempts to distract CJ when I knew a thunderstorm was approaching.  I’d try to get him to do some Nose Work, or play “clean up” or some other game we enjoy regularly.  Playing seemed to work a little bit, but nothing could distract him once the storm was sitting right on top of us.  Not even food or treats.

What causes thunderstorm anxiety?  Could it be the loud thunderclaps that scare the dogs?  Perhaps.  (C.J. does not react to other loud noises, such as fireworks or gunshots.)  Could it be the lightning flashes?  Perhaps the electromagnetic charge of the lightning is stimulating his skin or hair in a way that is uncomfortable.  Maybe it has something to do with the change in pressure of the atmosphere, or the changes in air flow.  Could that be affecting his ears or sinus cavities?  Perhaps the sound of debris rustling with the changes in wind speed and direction is making him nervous.

There are so many variables to consider when it come to thunderstorms that it is nearly impossible to detect the exact trigger for your pet.  Chances are that it is not one single variable, but a combination of any or all of those mentioned, and more.  And one fact about thunderstorm anxiety is that it tends to worsen with age.  So, what to do?

First and foremost, discuss your pet’s behavior with your veterinarian.  Let your vet know when your pet seems to show signs of anxiety (is it well before a storm, in the midst of the storm, only when there is loud thunder, etc.) and how long it persists (does your pet return to normal after the lightning ceases, the next day, etc.).  You and your veterinarian can then come up with a plan for your dog, which may include counterconditioning techniques with or without the aid of anti-anxiety medications or sedatives.

What seems to be working for C.J. is the combination of a Thundershirt, distraction with games, and a mild sedative called Sileo.  The Thundershirt applies constant, comfortable pressure to your dog’s body which seems to have a calming effect (think about swaddling an infant).  I have had good results with the Thundershirt alone only during very mild storms of short duration.  Sileo is an oromucousal gel that contains a minute amount of a sedative medication that helps calm your dog.  It has never made C.J. drowsy or sedate in any way.  It just seems to reduce his reactivity to storms.  I have used it with and without the Thundershirt with excellent results!

This is what has worked for C.J.  It does not mean it will work for your dog.  Talk to your veterinarian to find the right product or combination of products to help curb your dog’s thunderstorm phobia.  Your dog with thank you for it!

JUST SAY NO! to the Retractable Leash

Having worked in the animal care field for over 20 years now, I have learned a great much about animals and their health and well-being.  I am fairly well acquainted with most pet toys and gadgets too.  Some are great, while others make me think “what in the heck were they thinking when they developed this thing?”  Retractable leashes are one of those gadgets that make me cringe.  I truly hope they, along with chain leashes, go the way of the dinosaur.

Retractable leashes are leads with plastic handles that contain a reel system.  As a pet advances, the leash unreels and the pet is able to move farther from the handler.  If the handler wishes to stop the pet from being able to advance, the handler typically has to push a button that “locks” the leash to prevent it from unreeling.  The only way that the leash can shorten is if there is some slack between the leash handle and the pet.  The first 12 to 24 inches of most retractable leashes is a flat nylon-type material.  The rest of the length of these leashes is typically a thin cord.  In some cases the entire length is a thin cord.

I can understand only one benefit of the retractable leash.  Oh.  Wait.  I lied.

Why am I so down on these ever-so-popular gadgets?  Let me tell you!

  1.  They teach your dog to pull.  If you have a tiny little teacup chihuahua at the end of a leash, the pulling isn’t usually a big deal.  However, if you have a 75 pound lab or a 120 pound mastiff pulling at the other end of a leash, you’re going to have some pretty serious control issues there!  Teaching your dog leash manners is crucial in any case, but especially when it comes to muscular breeds or large and giant breed dogs.
  2. The locking mechanisms are not trustworthy.  As your pet pulls at the retractable leash to check out the flattened squirrel in the street while a car is approaching, are you going to trust that little plastic latch to save your dog from being struck by that oncoming vehicle?  I sure wouldn’t.  And for good reason.  I’ve seen what happens in such a case far too often.
  3. The thin rope cord is dangerous to you and your dog.  Imagine, if you would, the following scenario:  A woman is taking her 60 pound pointer for a walk in the park when a squirrel crosses the dog’s path.  The dog begins to chase the squirrel so the woman attempts to press the “lock” button, but the momentum created by the dog is able to overcome the lock!  In a panic the owner reaches and grabs for the leash.  BIG MISTAKE!  There are cases of dog owners losing fingers in cases similar to this.
  4. At the vet clinic:  All too often I see pet owners come into our office with a dog on a retractable leash and that dog begins to explore the entire waiting area!  We see both healthy and sick patients at the office.  I don’t want your healthy dog fraternizing with another waiting sick dog, or otherwise.  Also, your dog’s roaming creates a snag-line to other patrons or staff members!

These are my top 4 reasons for banning retractable leashes, but I could easily come up with 20 more reasons to ditch them.  Folks, if you have a dog, you need to properly leash train that dog.  If the dog pulls or is too “strong” for you, please talk with your veterinary staff about head halters or no-pull harnesses.

TIME: The only thing ALL of us don’t have enough of

Time needs to slow down. No, really. I’m serious. It’s going by WAY too fast.

A lot has happened since I last blogged, which is why I haven’t blogged in so long…no time! If I could just get another 8 hours added on to every day I just might have enough time in a day to get everything done that I both need AND want to. Unfortunately, that will never happen. So I’ll just have to keep on doing the best I can.

SOULBODY

In May of this year I stumbled upon another group fitness opportunity, thanks to some info provided to me by my Pound Master Pro. It is called Soul Body Body Barre. After hearing about it I immediately had to learn more. I went to their website and looked around, watched the videos and knew that I had to learn how to teach this! A mindfully intense, full-body workout that pulls from the practices of barre, yoga and pilates, and incorporates a lot of body weight training. This particular class uses a ball and a body bar in pre-choreographed routines that are suitable for any and all fitness levels.

As soon as I heard about a training opportunity that was within a reasonable distance for me, I didn’t hesitate to sign up.

About a week prior to training, the instructor emailed information about the class, along with an instructional video to teach us the structure and choreography. I immediately got to work. I printed out my notes and started the video. I made it through the warm-up with no problem! Then the first real track came on. I made it through, but had to modify my technique drastically, and honestly started to wonder if I could teach a class like this. Then the second track, and third, and so on…Wow! That was one intense workout! I had a lot of work to do.

Well, to make a long story short, I went all-in and busted my tail to complete my training because I couldn’t WAIT to bring this to my community! After taking the certification course I had to submit a video of me teaching a full-length class as my “practical exam.” I had a month to submit a video after the certifying course, but I jumped right on it and one week and one day later my video was recorded! It did take me 2 takes to get one, but I did finally get it.

I have to share this little side note with you. After I completed the “final cut” video, I packaged up my laptop and when I got home the file was GONE. No joke. I panicked and just about totally lost my cool. Are you kidding me? I had to get some volunteers to be my class “guinea pigs” two days in a row, had a nearly perfect take and it didn’t save? I was almost in tears. But I took 5 minutes. Did some breathing exercises. Then went back to my laptop. I was able to find a cached file with the full length video. IMMEDIATELY saved it to my desktop, to my external hard drive, and to drop box! Crisis averted.

So I submitted my video. Within a day I received an email that I had passed! Celebration time! I was now certified to teach the class and couldn’t wait to do so! Now, to find time to teach the class. It was, and still has been, very difficult to find times to make this class available due to my current full-time job that has irregular hours, and I was already trying to find more time to make Pound available. I was also teaching a SPIN class on days when I was available too. And there’s all the running.

sbbodybarrelogo

Now you see why I need more hours in my day? And I don’t even have (human) kids.

We have managed to fit my classes into the schedule, but they each only happen once (sometimes twice) a week. I hope to one day be able to free my schedule up to be able to offer more fitness classes at regular and at a variety of times. I’m working on it…

CHOMPERS

Our oldest dog, Chompers, had to be put to rest on July 15th of this year. He had just turned 14 a few days prior. Chompers has had orthopedic problems his entire life, starting with Osteochondritis Dissecans when he was a 6 month old puppy. He has spent his entire life on joint supplements! About 2-3 years ago he started to slow down some and was diagnosed with arthritis in one of his front legs. He’s been on pain medication and NSAIDs since then. Eventually his back legs started to show a lack of proprioception (neurologic issues). We managed him by keeping him comfortable with medications, light exercise and lots of love. In June he really started to decline and by the first of July his back end was giving out on him altogether at times.

We had to make the decision when we were home with him one day and had to witness him have an episode where his back end gave out on him. He struggled to get up and was panicking because he just couldn’t. I started to wonder how often that was happening when we weren’t home. It would be selfish and unfair of us to not allow him to have a dignified farewell. So, after much discussion, we planned his peaceful departure.

The day of, things couldn’t have been more obvious that the time was right. That morning, Chompers was not able to use his back legs at all. I spent the entire day with him, loved him, cried over him, and took in every last bit of him that I could. He was my heart dog and I was dreading this day for years!

Chris came home and, after he spent some time with Chompers, we headed to the animal hospital. Things couldn’t have gone more peacefully. It was sad, yes, but it was also a great relief knowing that he was no longer in any pain. He will always be my “heart dog!”

I cannot begin to say enough words about the company who took care of Chompers afterward.  I entrusted Agape Pet Services to have Chompers cremated with his ashes returned to me.  As I sought the perfect urn for Chompers on their website, I saw this glass crystal cube that you could have your pet’s image etched into it.  It looked really neat and I already knew which picture I wanted to have etched!  My all-time favorite picture of Chompers from back when he was 4 years old.  I had to have it.  And I found the perfect urn.  The company was great to deal with, ordering was easy and everything was absolutely perfect upon arrival.  Thanks for taking care of my boy Agape!

The etched crystal & Urn


RODAN + FIELDS

It’s now been a few months since I’ve been teaching both Pound and, recently renamed, Soul Body Barre Unhitched. All of my time is spent now working my full time job at the animal hospital, teaching group fitness classes, trying to squeeze in some miles whenever I can, keeping current on my class choreography, every day chores and the dealings of life, and occasionally I’m able to sneak in some entertainment with my love. No time to spare. I need more hours in my day!

Then a friend starts talking to me about her business as a skin care consultant with Rodan + Fields dermatologists. It sounded quite interesting, especially the part where she said she was able to free up some time from a job to do what she really enjoyed, which is teaching a Spin class to people with Parkinson’s disease (pretty cool, I know!). She asked me if I was familiar with R+F and I said of course, they’re the Doctors responsible for Proactiv. She started to tell me more about the business and asked me if I’d be interested. At first I was not. But then I thought about it some more. If I did this, I just might be able to free up some hours myself to be able to do what I really WANT to do. Even better, I could earn more money to help pay off bills, to be able to afford to visit my family in the midwest more often, and to fund my many hobbies (like running). And, what a great complement to group fitness this would be! Helping people feel their best on the inside AND outside! The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had nothing to lose to give it a try. I know R+F, and I know they’re product lines do what they claim.

RodanandFields LogoSo, yes, I am now trying to launch and grow my own business and I’m loving it!

I love my job, don’t get me wrong, but over the past several years my passions have changed. I am still very passionate about animals. But I have become more passionate about making others feel their best through group fitness and run coaching, nutrition advice and now premium skin care. My ultimate goal is to, over the next 5 years (give or take) flip-flop my job and my hobbies.

It seems to be working a little bit since I now have time to sit down and write a blog post!

By the way, if you’re interested in learning more about Rodan + Fields, feel free to contact me!

So that about sums it up.  That’s what I’ve been up to, and if all goes well, you’ll be hearing more from me soon!  Until then, hug your pets and live your best life.

The Run For the Animals 5th Anniversary

For those of you who have followed my blog, (first let me thank you for hanging with me and my paltry writing skills) you know a little bit about The Run for the Animals and how much it means to me.  If you’re a little behind you can check out this post.  Today was the 5th Anniversary of the race and I did partake yet again, and will every year for as long as I can help it.  I ran the half marathon today.  I PR’d by under a minute from last year’s half!  Hey, any improvement is still an improvement.  I’ll take it!  And I finished first in my age group.  But that is not what made today’s run extra special for me.IMG_9441

The inaugural Run for the Animals was my very first race after I decided to take up running to get healthy and fit.  So that makes today my 5 year “RACE”iversary!  I will toot my own horn and pat myself on my own back to congratulate me for sticking with it, even when things got tough.  I finally followed through with something and plan to keep up with it for as long as my body will allow.  This is not to say that there aren’t others responsible for where I am today, because all of those times when I wanted to throw in the towel they were there to keep me motivated and to remind me of why I started running in the first place.  They pushed me further than I ever thought I could go and stuck with me throughout the process.  You all know who you are and I am forever grateful for each and every one of you!IMG_9446

That is one thing that made today extra special.  But there is so much more.

Since running the Shamrock Marathon three weeks ago, I have not seen my marathon training buddies.  All of them showed up today for the Run for the Animals.  It was a great reunion with an amazing group of ladies.  I’ve missed them so much!  I ran the half marathon with my training buddy Sarah.  The others did the 10K or the 5K.  Sarah’s husband and oldest son ran the non-competitive 5K (a first run for both of them) and did an awesome job!  If it was timed they would have gotten first and third overall.  Jennifer ran the 10K with her two sons, a first 10K for one of them and the other placed in his age group!  Awesome job Sage!  Lisa and her dog Chessie ran in the 5K and did great!  Becky and her dog Stark ran the 10K and placed in her age group.  Everyone did a fantastic job!IMG_9429

This was another extra special thing about today.  Still more though.

I have yet another running family.  I attend a local boutique gym called Attitudes Fitness as often as I possibly can, and I teach a class there once a week called Pound.  (You can learn more about how that happened here.)  I have met so many awesome ladies (and a few gents) during my time at Attitudes.  Just over one year ago, Sheila, the owner and trainer-extraordinaire, decided to give running a try during one of her stays at her second home in Florida.  She learned to enjoy it.  Even after she said she would never be a runner!  Sheila totally smoked her first 10K and earned first place in her age group!  Jen and Jean are two awesome ladies that took up running and actually took part in the Run for the Animals last year.  They both PR’d today!  Liz is another instructor at Attitudes, is 7 months pregnant, and finished the 5K in just over 30 minutes!  Then there’s another Liz,  Liz W.  Liz W. just started running with us about 6 months ago.  She has been doing awesome.  She signed up for the 10K a couple of months ago, but this morning had a bit of pre-race anxiety.  She told me she just wanted to finish at a respectable time.  She was hoping for a time of around 1:20:00.  She finished in 1:04:??!!!  Her first race, a 10K, and she smoked it!  Patty is another one of those OMG amazing women.  Patty is not new to running.  She’s been running for a few years at least. She has overcome so many obstacles over the last few years and she is still out there with us every chance she gets!  A cancer survivor, finished the Dirty Girl last year with 4 (or was it 5) broken ribs that happened during a collision on the first obstacle, then had a foot injury recently.  This woman is my idol.  She is one tough cookie and the most genuine spirit you could ever know.  She is always there for support when she can’t run, but she’s always finding a way to get it done-No Excuses!  I could go on for probably an entire blog post in and of itself about all of the amazing ladies (and few gents) from Attitudes, but I wanted to let these girls know just how proud I am of them and how much I love them.  They are all RockStars!IMG_9417

Today was extra special because I got to take part in all of these wonderful ladies’ victories!  And yet there is still more.

I have my running “families” which are those groups of friends that I run with on a somewhat regular basis, or those that I get crazy with and sign up for things that I wouldn’t normally do without their arm-twisting.  Then I have my running friends; those friends who I only see during races or special events, but not on a regular basis due to scheduling differences or location.  I was able to see several of my running friends today and that always makes me happy!  One of them, Laura, won the overall female for the 10K last year and again this year.  She improved on last year’s time by about 5 minutes!  How awesome is that?  I am so happy for her.  She is an awesome lady and a badass too.  She completed the Spartan Trifecta last year and placed for her age group.  She also leads a group fitness class and motivates and inspires people on a daily basis.  I saw several other of my running friends and regret that I couldn’t catch up with everyone as much as I would have liked to.

The Number One reason I enjoy running so much is all of the fantastic individuals I meet!  Every year my running-friends list grows and I hope it continues for decades.

Lastly, I am so thankful and grateful to the race director Andrea, all of the volunteers, sponsors and fundraisers.  Andrea created this awesome event and it has grown by leaps and bounds in its 5 year history.  The cause is something that I hold dear, and the venue is absolutely superb.  This year they added a 5K non-competitive run/walk and had almost double the number of participants from last year’s event.  That is amazing!  My only regret is that I did not do any fundraising this year.  I have every year in the past and have done rather well.  This year there was just so much going on that I didn’t have the time to get it done.  Thankfully everyone else stepped up to the plate and was able to raise a ton of money to help out our local needy animals!  ALL of you fundraisers ROCK and deserve huge recognition for your efforts.  And the volunteers.  You are the backbone to the event.  Without you it couldn’t go on.  Thank you for all of your support and your hard work.

If you ever find yourself on the Eastern Shore of Virginia during your travels, consider taking part in the Run for the Animals if your travels happen during the event.  It is always a wonderful time, supports a great cause, has awesome race bling and you will meet a lot of awesome people.