A Mukow Story

I thought it would be interesting to write a blog post about dog ownership since, honestly, it shocked the hell out of me. Mukow was, in a sense, an “accident”. At the time — July 2013 — we had plenty of dogs in the family and had no plans to get one of our own. We actually liked the freedom that was unique to us — my in-laws had a dog, my sister-in-law and her husband had 2, and my brother and his girlfriend had one. We figured we had plenty of dogs to enjoy vicariously whenever we all got together, and then we got to be the ones to go home to a house full of cats who, relatively, didn’t need much of anything from us except their food and water bowls filled, their litter box cleaned, and a good scratch or cuddle. Easy!

Earlier in July, my mom saw a friend of hers — who worked with a lab rescue — post on Facebook that they were looking for foster families. Mom, somewhat randomly, said she’d like to try it out… but they ended up getting enough fosters and didn’t need her. I figured that was the end of it. But later in the month she volunteered again.She didn’t really intend on adopting a dog herself — she went into the whole situation figuring that she’d just like to foster the dog for a few weeks before it found its forever home. Either way, we were kind of excited to have a dog around for a few weeks (my mom lives right across the street from us). When she asked if I wanted to come pick up the dog with her, I enthusiastically responded YES! I had mentioned to Nate how nice it might be to have a dog, but we were pretty firmly in the camp of “we don’t need that kind of commitment or work in our lives right now… or for a long time”. So Nate stayed at home and off we went!

The picking up process was odd, but after speaking with others who have adopted rescue dogs it seems to be pretty normal. We met up in a secluded corner of the Maine Mall parking lot with a few other families to get our mystery dog. We had NO idea what to expect, and I knew that the type of dog we were matched with would determine how well I could convince Nate to keep it — it was all left to fate. The first dog to come out was an itty bitty tan dog with a high-pitched “yip!”… I knew there was no way as I watched it be handed off to a family of 3. The second dog to come out was a maybe 3 or 4-year-old black lab… my heart fell again, since I knew Nate would only entertain the idea of a puppy, but that one was handed off to a couple in their 30’s. I was getting anxious at this point just hoping it would be a good match when they pulled out this 12-week-old pup with huge paws and floppy ears… and put her right in my arms. I melted on the spot. My mom filled out the paperwork while I sat in my front seat with her on my lap as she licked the entire steering wheel. We grabbed up the crate and dog food and headed home.

I knew that, while she fit our hypothetical criteria, the chances were still slim that Nate would budge. He can be pretty stubborn at times and I knew he REALLY didn’t like the idea of adopting a dog at that point in our lives. Though when we pulled into the driveway, he excitedly burst out the door to greet us and I could tell he was excited to see what kind of cargo we came home with. He opened up the back door to see her and his first word was “… fuck” — the reluctant resignation of a man who realized he’s about to adopt a puppy despite his best intentions. But how could he resist this face!?!?

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Mukow the day after we brought her home. Eeeee!

I knew he was already halfway there, but he needed some more convincing. I suggested that mom and I run to the pet store to get her some essentials — a harness, some toys, treats, etc — and he could stay with her and, oh hey, try to think up a name for her while you’re at it! The rescue had named her “Harbour” — that clearly couldn’t stand. So off we went and Nate was left home to bond with her. When we came back he told me he wanted to name her “Moo-Cow” because “she’s black and white, like a moo cow!”. I was actually very hesitant at first, but caved with the agreement that we could spell it a bit more fancy, so we settled on Mukow (which I now LOVE — everyone always laughs when we tell them her name!).

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We brought her to mom’s for her first bath — she shook like crazy the whole time, which she still does in the tub to this day, and then promptly pooped on mom’s bedroom carpet. Yay! The next day mom had to work so she asked if we could spend some time with her so she wasn’t alone in an empty house, and we were happy to oblige. We brought her to our house and played with her in the livingroom, and Nate’s parents came over to meet and snuggle her. She was definitely nervous and unsure of pretty much everything — I remember she would try to lay in weird corners of the room, between the couch and the coffee table, anywhere that didn’t make sense for a puppy to cuddle up for a nap. At some point — maybe an hour into us playing with her — Nate left and went to mom’s to get the crate. When I asked him “does this mean we’re keeping her!?” he stumbled over his words, saying “no, err, this will just be, uh, easier for her… yeah!”. Okay then.

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His parents wanted to know, too — what’s the deal? Are you guys keeping her? What’s going on? Nate finally said he just wanted to know what the process would be like to adopt her… ya know, just out of curiosity. I gave the woman at the rescue a call and found out all the important details. She also let me know that we should decide quickly — she hadn’t posted photos of “Harbour” on Facebook yet and when she did, she’d get snatched up quickly. It only took Nate maybe 5 minutes to say “fine, call her back, tell her we want her!”. It had been less than 18 hours since she came home before we decided that hell yes, she is ours FOREVER.

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Her first official portrait!

It was, in all honesty, a tough adjustment period. While Nate had grown up with dogs, neither of us had ever had our OWN dog that we were solely responsible for. I had only ever had cats growing up, and we had 3 cats together at that point… but, again, cats are so much easier to care for than a dog that it’s completely laughable. I think I knew, logically, that they wouldn’t be the same… but I just WANTED them to be. I wanted her to be a big cat that would just do her own thing and be fairly independent. Holy CRAP was I wrong.

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Those of you who have dogs, or who have had dogs before, are probably thinking “umm, yeah, duh” but I HAD NO IDEA. We spent probably a week taking her outside every 30 minutes or so to pee so we could get her used to the whole process. She peed in the house a few times (not nearly as much as I expected) and pooped in Nate’s room a couple times. She had worms during her first week or two (which is apparently fairly common for puppies) so not only did she have diarrhea (fun!) but we had to get her some medication. We spent a TON of money — it’s like start-up costs for your dog. She hadn’t settled into any kind of routine yet, naturally, so she was high energy and restless ALL THE TIME. We were both working from home then which made it a bit easier, in a way, but oh man… I truly thought I would NEVER have time to myself again. We were EXHAUSTED.

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About two weeks in we had a sobering moment of wondering if we’d done the right thing. It’s hard when you’re in the midst of a tough time to really see anything outside of it. All we knew was that we’d gone from being relaxed and having lots of freedom to suddenly being locked in this seemingly neverending cycle of training and playing and being on the complete wrong page. Our routine still hadn’t solidified and Mukow seemed to be at her most active points at all the wrong times of the day, specifically right after dinnertime (when we normally finally get a chance to sit and rest and watch TV or movies), which is when she would want to run around and play and wouldn’t settle down unless you were actively paying attention to her. We wondered how awful it would be if we brought her back — maybe we just weren’t cut out to be dog parents?

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It was as if the moment we decided “no, there’s no way in hell we’re bringing this sweet puppy back to the rescue, we’re making this work”… everything clicked. We got her routine in place, we started focusing more on training her, and ultimately just having FUN with her. Things settled down and we all got to know each other better. Things started to work, slowly but surely. Having a dog really is establishing a relationship — you don’t know all of their quirks and fears and personality traits yet, but you figure it out. You get to know them. You trust them, and they trust you. They listen to you, they respect you. We realized that, while the adjustment period was hard, we REALLY lucked out with her. She’s very laid-back, she’s quiet (she only barks when she’s outside, unless the mailman decides to walk across our front lawn…), she’s not too clingy, she listens to us (most of the time), and she really behaves, especially when she’s home alone — we’ve NEVER had an issue with her destroying anything, knocking over the trash can, chewing up the couch or our shoes, nothing! She was very easy to potty train and even easier to sleep train — we got rid of her crate just a few months after we took her home and she only whined when she was alone in her crate ONCE (when she had diarrhea and NEEDED to go outside). She’s the best pup in the world.

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And now? It’s been just over a year and a half and we can’t imagine life without her. She brings us more joy than I ever thought possible. She makes me smile countless times during the day — even when I’m away from home and just thinking about her — and gives me at least a few belly laughs every day, too. She’s lively and fun and so smart. She makes me — forces me, sometimes — to get out into nature, even if it’s just my own backyard. She’s made me appreciate the snow and the winter much more, and gotten me adjusted to the cold (even if I don’t love it). She keeps me active, since I am usually throwing her toys for her, chasing her around, or taking her on walks. She keeps us company during the day and she cuddles with us at night. She’s a loyal companion and a trusted friend. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us! So if you’re ever considering getting a dog, or if you’re in the early stages and it’s hard… it will get better. It will get so much better that it will blow your mind.

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Mukow last week — all grown up!

Coffee with Gray

If you don’t already know, Gray is my (super awesome) brother. This was weeks ago at this point but we went out for coffee and breakfast at the West End location of Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland. The building itself was built in the 60s and was a gas station and a laundromat before being reincarnated as an amazing bakery with delicious beverage options. I got a cheddar jalapeño scone (which I am still drooling over) and some delicious herbal tea, and Gray, of course, opted for coffee. The ambiance is perfect — very Portland — and the space is just so cool, with delicious drinks and bakery items to boot. I’ve been looking for some new spots to add to my roster of coffee shops and cafes to frequent with clients and Tandem made it on the list for sure.

The view from the outside… aka me spying on my brother from afar. A-ha!

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Gray’s coffee (with lots of cream)…

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My amazing scone.

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Can you tell we enjoyed it?

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Gray’s a good photographic subject. He’s been in front of my camera for YEARS so it doesn’t phase him much anymore.

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I just love the progression of these photos. Talking, talking, and then realizing that I’m laughing behind the camera and glaring at me. 😀

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Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is here again and it’s hard not to get caught up in the whirlwind of it. I’m guilty of feeling pressure on ALL holidays, really — whatever the expected emotion or action is, I tend to think of it a little too much, and feel bad or less than if I don’t fully embody it all day long. New Year’s Eve is such a huge party holiday that I feel like a bit of a loser if I’m at home sipping champagne with my dog (err, next to my dog). I feel pressured to have a huge, blowout BBQ on Memorial Day (which I know shouldn’t be the focus AT ALL). And today, on Valentine’s Day, I wonder why I’m not in the kitchen busting out some adorable, heart-shaped cookies, wearing head-to-toe pink and red, and surrounded by flowers and candy. We’re molded by society and media no matter how hard we try.

A big downside of this holiday that is also, of course, deeply ingrained in peoples’ minds is this insane pressure to be romantically involved with someone. SO much of this day is tied up in getting expensive gifts, indulging in dinner and champagne, and just generally having someone in your life to shower you with THINGS and cards and chocolates. It should come as no surprise that I think this is crap. If we can get past the overwhelmingly materialistic aspect, we’re reminded that it’s JUST ONE DAY, and making people feel like shit because they don’t have a romantic partner to shower with money and useless shit is… well, pretty terrible.

Instead of focusing solely on a romantic partner today, why not simply show your affection to ALL of the people you love? Extend kindness and happiness into the world. Compliment someone you see at the store. Give some candy to your mom. Make a homemade card for your neighbor. Send your grandfather a sweet e-mail. Post a funny photo on your friend’s Facebook wall. Make everyone around you feel loved, and realize that YOU are loved as well, by a whole myriad of different people, and hopefully by yourself as well. Treat yourself in some way. Sit down and read a book. Make yourself some hot cocoa (with marshmallows). Listen to your favorite music, or watch your favorite TV show while you’re cuddled on the couch. Sip some wine. Love yourself, ignore the stupid commercials, and remind yourself that not only will it be over tomorrow, but there will be deeply discounted candy, too. 😉

Mackworth Island

Last week my Mom and I took Mukow to Mackworth Island in Falmouth. It was a super cold day but I needed to get out of the house and thought it would be fun to take Mukow somewhere new! The island is pretty awesome — it’s attached to the mainland by a causeway and has a little parking lot so you can leave your car and wander around. It’s the former home of James Phinney Baxter and of his son, Governor Percival Baxter, and was deeded to the state of Maine in 1943. It’s also the home of the Baxter School for the Deaf. The trail around the perimeter of the island is about 1.25 miles and we walked basically the whole thing, going into the woods on occasion to check things out. It was great — super peaceful.

Mukow got to wear a scarf on the ride there — so classy.

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We walked down some stairs so we could get right next to the water. Mukow was NOT sure what to think…

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“Mom are you okay over there?!?”

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Watching her Gramma come up the stairs…

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Sometimes there’s tape up because part of the cliff caves in and there’s a sheer drop. Oops!

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Mom was pretty sufficiently bundled…

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Oh ocean, how I’ve missed you. ❤

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Just some seaweed in a bush. Not even that close to the water.

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We stumbled upon this on part of the island. Percival Baxter had a lifelong love of Irish Setters, and one of the provisions he made when gifting the island to the state was that the pet cemetery he established would be maintained by the state in perpetuity. He has both dogs and a horse buried here. So cool.

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Some suuuuper straight trees.

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And one curly tree.

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A rock in a hole…

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Mukow desperately wanting to bark at some innocent children.

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The Best Way Out is Always Through

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It might seem crazy since, ya know, I live in Maine, but I’ve never enjoyed winter. Yes, people travel to Maine specifically for various winter sports and activities — skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, dog sledding, snowmobiling — but I’ve never gotten into any of them. Yes, the average high temperature in the winter months ranges from 28 to 40 degrees, with low temperatures getting down to -10 at times (it’s forecast to get down to -8 in a couple days…), but I’ve always been a much bigger fan of 75 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze. Once I got out of school and “snow days” weren’t really a thing anymore, it just didn’t do anything for me (and even then I didn’t love winter, it was just tolerable when it meant I could stay home and watch movies all day). But that’s starting to change.

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I have to say that a big motivator for me is Mukow, of course. As much as I might like to stay inside with the heat on all day, she would be miserable. She needs to head outside for the occasional quick trip to pee, but she also needs time to play, run, and adventure — and I realized that I need that adventure, too (but not the peeing — I can do that inside). It wasn’t an immediate change, though. Last winter — our first winter with a dog — I was pretty miserable. I took her outside but as quickly as I could get away with, and walks were rare — when they did happen, it was a simple trip around the block. No fun for her or for me, either. Not only was it depressing to be in the midst of it, it was terrible to dread the change of the season — to dread the final leaves falling from the trees, to dread the first 30 degree day, to dread the first snow fall. It’s really no way to live, especially when you live in a place where winter easily spans from late November to late March. I can’t pout and stomp my feet for 4+ months out of the year and expect to live a fulfilled life.

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This winter I decided to be proactive instead. As New Year’s Day approached I decided to commit myself to Project 365 which encourages people to take a photo every single day for the whole year. It seemed like a perfect project since I was wanting to take more personal photos — photos that I’m not being paid to take — and document more of my life. It means that I am rediscovering my love for and interest in cemeteries — I have a huge list of Maine and New England cemeteries to visit now. It means that I am bringing my camera outside when I play with Mukow in the yard — taking more photos of her, of our surroundings, of her playing with Molly, and occasionally of me and/or Nate. It means that I am more inspired and motivated to go outside of our yard and our street — walking further, driving to parks and woods, and finding new places to explore. It’s keeping my mind and creativity active while keeping Mukow physically and emotionally stimulated. It’s helping with my anxiety, giving me something positive and constructive to focus on. It’s making me happy every day, knowing that I am capturing otherwise overlooked parts of my life and my interactions.

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Winter has its own uniqueness. There’s a sense of renewal, of fresh starts, of purity. Colors are more vibrant in contrast. Even the sky is different this time of year — either a moody grey or a brilliant blue. There’s so much to explore and photograph and it’s making me really enjoy this season like I never have before. Even the cold temperatures are easier to deal with — in a way I am training myself to tolerate, accept, and eventually love this part of the year. I’m (finally) becoming more adult and responsible with dressing myself — a first for me! — by investing in good quality clothing and boots to stay warm. But just exposing myself to the elements on a daily basis means they aren’t something to be avoided or run through — they’re something to embrace and enjoy. So to all of you who hate the cold and/or the snow as much as I used to, just know there’s hope. 😉

Juno!

As everyone in the entire US heard, New England was braced for a blizzard of mass proportions Monday night and all day yesterday. It actually wasn’t forecast to be THAT terrible — for all of us who have lived in New England most or all of our lives, a foot or two of snow is no big deal. And from what I can tell, in many areas it fell short of predictions. But it was still pretty fun. 🙂 Every nearby business I know of — aside from a few gas stations and convenience stores — were closed. Everyone was home from work, including my husband. It was a fun snow day and we had a good time outside in it!

Mukow was SO PSYCHED…

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Our icy door…

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Nate was psyched…

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Then Jack came out to play!

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Happy dogs!

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Nate decided to run around a little bit, too.

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I love how nasty this photo makes Mukow look…

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Nate was excited. Really.

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You can’t quite tell but at this point (around 10:30/11am) the streets seemingly hadn’t been touched, so they were piled with snow.

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My boots!

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Oh yes. Snow doggies.

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Our side steps…

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Our cars getting snowed in…

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The guys.

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BLIZZARD SELFIE!

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The happiest snow doggy!

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Black dog in the snow!

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“Do I have to go inside?”

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We came back out a few hours later, and the cars were more buried…

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Mukow was just as excited to prance around!

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My Sorels, still keeping me warm!

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Sitting and looking at our neighbors’ house, where Molly lives. She does this at least once or twice every time we’re outside.

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Someone dared to walk down the street, and got the classic Mukow greeting (which mostly consists of barking and jumping).

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Wheeee!

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SO SNOWY.

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“Daddy where ya going?”

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After Nate shoveled a path to our door.

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The street!

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The front of our house.

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My boots and legs after I walked through one of the drifts. Thigh high snow!

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My eyebrows and eyelashes got all icy!

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Mukow found her whiskey bottle squeak toy and WENT CRAZY!

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This is what she does when I go inside without her, which only happens once in a while and only if I have to grab something super quick — she’s never alone for more than a minute or two. SO SAD.

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Headed over to Mom’s to check the scene out (and so Nate could snowblow).

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He was having fun, I swear…

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Mukow VERY happy upon my return.

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Showing how crazy she gets when she plays with pine needles…

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Nate snowblowing at our house!

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My First GIF

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This is crappy at best — I really need to use my tripod or have the camera stabilized when I attempt GIF photos — but I thought it came out pretty okay! I was outside with Mukow and she was sniffing in the snow for her toy and her tail was going crazy — she LOVES the snow and loves digging and hunting. So it’s a little shaky but here’s her wild tail. 😉 I know you can do GIFs with Photoshop but I used GIFMaker for this — super easy and I could just download the finished GIF when I was done. Wheee!

Mysterious Path

A couple weeks ago I went for a walk in our neighborhood with Mukow. It was SUPER cold and snowy, but a gorgeous day…

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We soon got to the end of the street and I remembered this odd little path, so I thought we’d explore where it leads…

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We got to an opening in the trees and bushes and Mukow absolutely refused to go any further.

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It was a little weird, actually. She is sometimes hesitant to continue if the snow is high, if there’s something in her way, another dog/person, etc… but there was nothing that I could see that would stop her. I tried pulling her a few times but she just dug into the snow with all of her weight and refused to budge. When I looked back at her after a few tries she was cowering behind me, shaking, with one of her front paws tucked against her body. I’m not one to ignore my dog’s instinct, so we turned back. I thought that maybe she was cold — I had recently read about dogs lifting their paws up when they’re too cold — but the second we turned around she was happy as a clam, tail up and wagging and back to sniffing everything around her. So weird…

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Bailey Cemetery in the Snow

Last week I took Mukow on a walk and we decided (yes, this was a collective decision) to explore a cemetery that is right around the corner from us. We cut through the parking lot of the nearby school and up the hill to the cemetery. I couldn’t find much information about it online outside of it supposedly having a Colonial history and many unmarked and neglected graves. One site I looked at said there were 189 interments there, but there is nowhere near 189 graves there now (and I can’t even imagine 189 burial plots fitting into this tiny space), so… I’m not sure what’s up with that.

It’a also supposedly haunted, which I guess shouldn’t come as a surprise. I hadn’t looked up any haunting info before we went, but we did have a somewhat odd experience. We went in the front gate and walked straight up the middle and into the back right corner. I took some photos and Mukow sniffed around and then I attempted to take her back down the center so we could see some more… but she downright refused. She would sit down with all of her weight and wouldn’t let me pull her. So I loosened up and let her lead us, and she would very quickly take us back to the far right corner. This went on 3 or 4 times before I gave up and lead her across the back fence and into the far left corner, and she was fine with that, but looked nervously at that middle path. She allowed us to walk down the left fence and out of the cemetery. After I got home and looked up some information, it seems like the grave with the most paranormal activity is Charles Howard’s, right around the middle of the cemetery. Eep. I can’t help but think that Mukow sensed something there and didn’t want to walk by it again.

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