Sunday, October 6, 2013

Snake Avoidance Training

We took Rhythm to a Snake Avoidance Clinic last Sunday in Alachua, FL, just 20 miles north of Gainesville. It was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Vizsla Club and Dr. Bud Calderwood DMD was the trainer.

Snake avoidance training teaches the dog to fear and avoid poisonous snakes. They used a real live rattlesnake and cotton mouth, the two most common poisonous snakes in our area. Different snakes have different smells so that's why they use the two kinds and not just one. They are de-fanged and their mouths are taped shut for extra safety.

Rattle Snake

Cotton Mouth

It is very common for hunting dogs to be "snake proofed" as they call it because they are out in the woods so much but it is a good idea for any dog that lives in an area like North Florida that has a lot of snakes. We've had four dogs get bitten by cotton mouths over the years at the farm, only one survived after $1000 in vet bills. So, it was very important that Rhythm do this.

Rhythm checking out the rattler

Rhythm learning to jump back, that thing means OUCH!

They use shock collars set very high, but Dr. Calderwood is in control and knows just how to do it so the dog only gets shocked twice.

Rhythm checking out the Cotton Mouth

OUCH again

The handler or owner puts the dog on a very long line and lets the dog roam on their own and discover the snake in the grass. The "snake handlers" stand by with brooms in case the snake tries to make an escape. Dr. Calderwood is standing a little ways off on the other side of the dog and handler and when the dog goes up to the snake to check it out they get hit with a hard shock. 

Some dogs just jump and run, usually back to their person where they get lots of praise and love. Some of the dogs were very dramatic though, flipping over and screaming. It was upsetting to watch but I know it could save their life. 

After the first shock the dog is encouraged to go back up to the snake to see if it made the connection. None of them would. After the rattle snake, they are taken over to the second snake, the cotton mouth. Many were wary already scared of the cottonmouth, some were still a little curious and they got shocked a second time.

Some of the people had done this before, some with new dogs and some with dogs being re-checked. There were a few first timers like us too.

A few folks said the dogs they had snake proofed before where afraid of anything that had a snake look, like the water hose or a stick. Rhythm has not been jumpy at all though and even pounced on a toy snake that my nephew was playing with the very next day, so I'm hoping she associated the smell more than the look.  We plan to have her re-checked in the spring.

Gainesville, FL

We drove down to Gainesville, FL last weekend, just over two hours from Tallahassee. I have been through or by many times on I-75 but never really stopped in. We were limited as to what we could do because we had Rhythm with us. There are several State Parks and Springs in the area, some were dog friendly, some not.

We decided to check out Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park because I had read that wild bison and horses live there. The Preserve encompasses over 22,000 acres of recreational opportunities to enjoy this time of year, such as cycling, walking, equestrian trails, camping, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and boat ramp access to Lake Wauberg. Here is the website if you want more info

 We walked to the 50 foot observation tower just past the visitors center that over looks the prairie, didn't see any bison or horses though.

View of the prairie

We then hiked the Jackson's Gap Trail, a little over 2 miles down and back. Saw some deer tracks and lots of mosquitoes. 

Got her water bottles in her back pack and she is ready to go

Found a stick she liked on the trail. Carried it with her for quite a ways.

Leading the way

End of the trail

Done with the humidity and bugs we went on a search for something else dog friendly to do in Gainesville. Thanks to my smart phone and Google I found Dogwood Dog Park not too far away

15 fenced in acres of pure doggie fun, two little ponds that they claim are "critter free" and a giant sand pile. We knew Rhythm liked water but she had never had a chance to run and swim off leash. I don't think I have ever seen her have so much fun.

And she's off

Look at that smile

There she goes again

She made some friends

She was one tired pup by the end of the day

We stayed at the La Quinta Inn which I just found out are all pet friendly. No size or breed restrictions and no pet deposit. They even provide baggies and trash cans in their outside potty area. It was a very comfortable and clean room for only $70 bucks. Good to know when traveling with your dog.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hurry Up Fall

Once again another summer is winding down, thank goodness. I have said it before but summer in Florida is not my favorite time of year. We have not done any travel or recreation due to the heat. 

What I did do was catch up on my Netflix watching, read some good books and finish two paintings.

My two new paintings.

Dragon - 24"x12" Oil on Canvas

Summer In The Woods - 9"x12" Oil on Wood

I am an avid reader and am never without my Kindle. Here are some of my favorites from this year. All of them were good and worth checking out if you like to read as well. There is a mix of fiction and non-fiction.

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball
The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love
"Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a new farm with him.The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of their first year on Essex Farm, from the cold North Country winter through the following harvest season—complete with their wedding in the loft of the barn.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
The Secret Keeper
During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy. 

A Land Remembered by Patrick Smith
A Land Remembered
In this best-selling novel, Patrick Smith tells the story of three generations of the MacIveys, a Florida family who battle the hardships of the frontier to rise from a dirt-poor Cracker life to the wealth and standing of real estate tycoons.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski
Objects of My Affection
Lucy Bloom is broke, freshly dumped by her boyfriend, and is forced to sell her house to send her nineteen-year-old son to drug rehab. Although she’s lost it all, she’s determined to start over. So when she’s offered a high-paying gig helping clear the clutter from the huge home of reclusive and eccentric painter Marva Meier Rios, Lucy grabs it. But she soon learns that the real challenge may be taking on Marva, who seems to love her objects too much to let go of any of them.

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman
The Light Between Oceans
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Dream State by Diane Roberts
Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife
Part family memoir, part political commentary, part apologia, Dream State tells the grand and sometimes crazy story of Florida through the eyes of one of its native daughters. With a storyteller’s talent for setting great scenes, Roberts lays out the sweeping history of eight generations of Browards and Bradfords, Tuckers and Robertses. From Florida’s first inhabitants to those involved in the recent past with the botched presidential election of 2000, Roberts renders them all with a deep, familial affection. 

The Art Forger by BA Shapiro
The Art Forger
On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

As far as what is in my Netflix queue I have become hooked on House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and reruns of Breaking Bad, but then who isn't hooked on these shows.

Finally though my favorite time of year and is just around the corner. The weather cools and there are lots of festivals,  events and family gatherings to look forward too. We are starting obedience training with Rhythm next week and taking her to a snake avoidance clinic in central Florida the end of September. I look forward to hiking, traveling some and getting inspiration for new art projects.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Shell Point Beach, FL

Shell Point Beach, Florida in Wakulla County. Actually calling it a beach is a little misleading. It is where the bay water meets land, a very small amount of sand and a lot of oyster shells. For the residents of Tallahassee and some surrounding areas it is a quick drive and can provide a relaxing place to get away. If you wanted to stay over night keep in mind there are no hotels at the beach, there is a Best Western about 10 miles away off 98 or there are some rental houses at Shell Point.

We have a multi-generation family beach shack on the canal. It doesn't look like much but you don't really need much when at the coast, just a place to shower and crash at night. I have many wonderful memories of summers spent there, fishing with my grandfather, windsurfing with my dad and terrorizing the neighborhood on the golf cart with my friends as a teenager. 

Me and my Dad windsurfing
As an adult it is a wonderful little weekend get away. We bring the dog and spend the day relaxing on the porch or getting a little sun on the beach or taking the dog on long nature walks. Just down from our place there is a long dirt road that cuts through the swamp. We always see lots of birds and animal tracks (alligator, turtle, crabs and snakes). Last weekend we saw a bald eagle and a baby gator. This weekend we saw a Cotton Mouth snake, I could have done without seeing that one.

Gator Tracks

There is a small island just a little ways off shore that has been nick named Bird Island because of the amazing quantity and variety of birds that are there. My mom and nephew are avid bird watchers and love to take the boat out and sit just off shore with their binoculars. I prefer to take a boat ride to the shoals, a shallow area about 10 miles out that is a wonderful place to snorkel.

Bird Island

Bird Island

The beach area is managed by the county and you have to pay $2 to park. There is a large pavilion and several small ones with picnic tables and bathrooms as well.

The Wind Ceremony under the pavilion

The Shell Point Sailboard Club rents an area at the very end of the beach. It is a windsurfing club and my parents were some of the founders about 30 years ago. They don't windsurf anymore but are still very active in the club and all of their best friends are members as well. It is like a big extended family. They have regattas there several times a year and many more impromptu beach gatherings.

Steven C Smith Regatta 2012

Steven C Smith Regatta 2012

Many years ago there was a small marina and store and a restaurant but that is all gone. There is no boat ramp, gas or food at this time. The closets gas station is at the corner of 98 6 miles away and as far as food there is a Walmart in Crawfordville and a few restaurants within driving distance. St. Marks has three restaurants and the Spring Creek Restaurant is not far either.

So, if you decide to head down remember to fill up your gas tank, pack a cooler and don't forget your sunscreen and bug spray.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We Needed A Little Rhythm

We have added some Rhythm to our lives.

Rhythm at 12 Week

We decided about a year ago to get a puppy and started looking around at the local shelters. We definitely wanted to adopt but we also definitely wanted a boxer or boxer mix young male puppy. I thought it would be easy, puppies are everywhere, right? Wrong. We looked everywhere but could not find the right one for us. Twice we found what we thought was the right puppy at the shelter and tried to adopt them but twice the adoption fell through and I was very upset and sad for days. I scoured Petfinder and CraigsList and the other shelter websites. We went to all the adoption fairs and told our friends to "keep an eye out" for us. It turns out our puppy wasn't even born yet. In February I got a notice from Petfinder that a male boxer mix had come available at the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society in Port St. Joe, FL. Excited I open up the info and pictures only to see that the three puppies we all brindle, not a pretty color in my opinion so I closed my email and went on with my day. The next morning I reopen my email and looked at the puppies again, hmmm, just didn't know that I wanted a brindle. I noticed in small type at the bottom of the page that there were also three females available. I didn't get a notice about them because my alert was set up for only males. I really didn't want a female either (don't know why) other than I had always had male dogs in the past. Just out of curiosity I opened the link to the female puppies and OMG there she was, my puppy! There were three beautiful fawn boxer mix females but one stood out. I called the shelter and they still had her but people were interested and she would go fast. I showed Ken her picture and told him that she was the one and we had to go get her. The problem was the next day was a Friday and I had a funeral to go to. My awesome husband called in sick to work and took my nephew with him and drove to Port St. Joe (about two hours) and got her. Her name was Rhythm and she was perfect! The irony is that Ken grew up in Port St. Joe and is a rhythm guitar player, it was meant to be.

Yummy bone

We are pretty sure she has some hound dog in her. Look at those ears. She has a hound dog howl too.

Preparing for take off

Sweet girl

She was eight weeks old and 15 pounds of love when we got her. She is 5 1/2 months old and 46 pounds of love now. She keeps me up at night, chews, digs, chases the cat and is all puppy but we love her. She keeps me active (lost 5 pounds) and keeps me laughing (just look at these pictures). 

Snuggles on the couch
Sleeping in my shoes (9 weeks)

Is that really comfortable?

My favorite reading chair is her favorite chair too

The only time there is peace

She can sleep anywhere

Her famous Super Dog pose (5 months)

She is spoiled rotten but I wouldn't have it any other way. She sleeps in the bed or on the couch or where ever else she wants to as you can see. She comes to work with me everyday. We take her everywhere we can and plan our weekends around doing stuff with her. We know most of the dog friendly restaurants in town now and I just don't understand why I can't take her grocery shopping with me. 

She loves my niece and nephew

She has lots of nick names, Crazy Paws (she whacks us in the face with her paws while squirming around in the bed), Doodle Bug (cuz she so cute), and BLT -Big Lots of Trouble (self explanatory). 

Well, at least it was junk mail

Mud puppy
We look forward to planning and sharing our dog friendly travels in the future.

She loves splashing in the water

Sunset at Shell Point Beach