This post is from Ellie, talking about Rara’s winter blues and how excited we are that spring is around the corner!

Hello, folks! This weekend, western New York had very spring-like weather. While walking the dog during this all-too-short warm-up, Jon and I realized that our dog, Audrey, has been experiencing the same winter doldrums that we’re facing. Beating them has been hard enough for Jon and me. Throw Rara into the mix, and it makes it especially difficult to ensure we’re all getting the necessary exercise. Those of you who also have dogs may be experiencing the same problem. Depending on your weather situation, you, like Jon and me, might have to tough it out and get creative until the weather is a little more cooperative.

It’s been annoyingly difficult to get Audrey’s exercise in lately because of the negative windchill factors over the past few weeks. Regular half-hour walks were a no-go not only because of the copious amounts of rock salt on the sidewalks and streets (which can dry out and damage her paws) but also because it takes longer to tire her out if we’re just wandering around, and she just was not up for longer walks in this cold. Our other option was to take her to the park nearby so she could run around at full speed in the snow, but this worked for only a few minutes before snow got jammed in her paws to the point where she was clearly uncomfortable and displeased. Though, pro tip, when we brought her inside on particularly cold and/or salty outings, we washed off her feet with a wet paper towel and then moisturized the pads of her feet with Bag Balm (or you can use Vaseline; thanks, Jade Zora, for the tip!).

Audrey and Jon

Audrey and Jon

But when the winter weather was just too much, I honestly felt awful about the lack of exercise Audrey got. She doesn’t have the option of going to a gym where she can safely expend tons of energy indoors. Add to that the fact that we’re in an apartment, so we have to be mindful of the noise level, which means she can’t necessarily run laps up and down the hall until she’s tired. So, in order to burn some doggie calories, we’ve been playing plenty of tug-o-war and fetch, teaching her new tricks (she now will jump over Jon when he’s lying on the floor), and arranging visits to the in-laws’ where she can bark, run, and play with abandon. These have all been great alternatives . . . but still, there is nothing like a long walk in spring, summer, or fall . . .

What a winter beauty.

Thankfully, this weekend’s taste of spring got us out and about. The foot or so of snow melted to reveal waterlogged grass, and the curbside snow that is left over is a nice shade of brown-black-gray. Oh, March; now I remember how muddy and slushy you are. With this brief warm-up (temperatures are supposed to dip back into the teens by Wednesday), we saw plenty of joggers running around the Delaware Parkway system and lots of pedestrians enjoying Elmwood Ave. So we decided to pounce on the opportunity and take the dog on a much-needed long walk. I think Audrey really appreciated it, and, though we were aiming for an hour walk, she was starting to slow down after about forty minutes. I think she’s put on a little winter chub (she and I have that in common) and might be a little out of shape! Jon and I are hoping to slowly get her back up to where she can jog with us for two miles in the summer, but that will take some time. And we’re not looking to push it over two miles. We learned last year that that is her max distance. Here’s another tip I read online a while back: if you’re jogging with your dog—though I follow this rule when walking Rara, too—and you notice she is really starting to drag her paws, don’t push it. If your pet is telling you he’s tired, you should head home. No sense pushing things too far and ending up in some kind of medical emergency! With that in mind, I definitely encourage those of you with dogs to (safely) include them whenever possible in your exercise routine or to develop a routine specifically for your pooch. Because even if you’re stuck in the winter doldrums, that doesn’t mean your pet wants to be stuck there, too! He’s probably itching for some exercise and, hey, maybe it’ll help motivate you!

I realize now how necessary it is to find ways to engage Audrey and keep her active. This was something I needed to work on in the fall because, while I was working out on a pretty regular basis, I wasn’t developing a routine for Audrey. In response to one of Adrienne’s posts about changing our habits, I promised to get Rara outside for three thirty-minute walks per week. While I unfortunately let that slide a bit this winter, I am very glad we could take advantage of the outdoors this weekend, mostly because Rara was definitely getting some Jack Nicolson–style cabin fever. And the end result was this loudly snoring pup!!

I call her the black bean when she sleeps like this.

I call her the black bean when she sleeps like this.