Inverhuron Provincial Park: Beach and Hiking Trails

Milo the AwesomeDog and I enjoyed some pleasant hiking at Inverhuron Provincial Park last week.

Chain Trail:

We stayed at the Holmes Bay Campground and it took us about 25 minutes to walk along Chain Trail to the Dog Exercise Area. Once there, Milo enjoyed a swim in Lake Huron, and we turned around and walked home.a map showing campsites on three campgrounds, as well as walking trails

The trail is flat, well-maintained, and dry, all of which makes for an easy stroll. Our walk snaked between the lake shore and the campgrounds, offering both shade and lake views. green forest, blue sky, and a white space age looking towerThose views tempted Milo the AwesomeDog to give a few mighty yanks on his leash. I tried explaining to him that we were in fact on our way to a spot where he could swim, but delaying gratification has never been his strong suit.

Encountering an emergency alert siren for the Bruce Nuclear Power Station, which is less than three miles away, freaked me out. I’m glad there is an alert system, but the juxtaposition of the siren tower with the sound of the waves and the wind in the cedars was disconcerting.

 

River Trail:

River Trail is a sort of bait and switch. The pamphlet describes it as moderate to difficult with large hills and rough surfaces. But, it starts out as a wide gravel path leading over an arched bridge of worn wood that would be right at home in The Shire. German shepherd dog sitting on a wooden bridgeUp until that point, a person could manage in flip flops. But, believe the pamphlet and wear good shoes. Some of the hills were very steep and ran alongside the eroding riverbank—not a great place for kids or strollers. It was useful to have Milo on a harness for part of that hike. He knows that “hup, hup” means lean into the harness, and I appreciated the help on some of those uphill scrambles. Also, this poops him out, which is good for both of us when we get home for our afternoon nap.

Pay attention during your hike because some of the trail markers are faded and difficult to spot.

River Trail skirts along the riverbank and winds through groves of cedar trees. Milo and I finished this pretty loop in about an hour.

Beach

Boardwalks arc across the ecologically delicate sand dunes that separate the sandy beach from the parking lot, protecting the dunes from foot traffic erosion. Milo and I only got as far as those boardwalks because dogs aren’t allowed on people beaches in Ontario – I suspect this has something to do with not wanting kids making castles with urine-soaked sand. Whatever the reason, Milo and I didn’t actually go to the beach. I only mention it here to let you know that even though the water level in Lake Huron is high this year, there is still a good-sized strip of soft-looking sand along the water’s edge.

If you would like to know about Holmes Bay campground at Inverhuron click here.

Inverhuron Provincial Park Site 247

Milo the AwesomeDog and I spent last week at Inverhuron Provincial Park in our 18-foot travel trailer. I give the place two thumbs up.

Campsite 247 is excellent—level, covered in gravel with good drainage, ringed with sweet smelling and privacy providing cedar trees. It is a pull-through site with long driveways at each end, which provided a buffer to the road and other campers. The lakeshore is a two-minute walk away, as is Chain Trail, a well-maintained path that skirts along the Lake Huron shore and provides a scenic a 25-minute walk to the dog exercise area.Map indicating locations of campsites and trails

The park website noted that campers might need an extension cord to reach the electrical outlets. I always bring one and so was a bit smug about what I thought was advice for newbies. But, I had to sign out a third cord from the park office. Be warned, they require a $150 deposit. The deposit makes sense because I could easily imagine driving off with that cord without thinking about it and $150 was enough to remind me to give the darn thing back.The image is filled with a smiling German Shepherd face.

All of this wonderfulness is somewhat tempered by the intermit low-level hum of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station. A few years ago, the sound would have bugged me. But, the park was so pretty that it put me right in my happy place and I just thought, “Oh well, it’s making electricity. I’m using electricity. Fair enough.”

Be warned, if you camp here, be sure to check out the pictures and the privacy ratings of your site on the Ontario Parks Online Reservation System when you book your trip. A woman staying at an interior, non-reservable site told me that her place was surrounded by unsightly felled trees. Ick.

Red and orange clouds fill the sky and their light is reflected on waterMilo and my trip to Inverhuron benefited from some good luck: the wood was dry, the other campers were quiet and friendly, and the sunsets were stunning. We’ll be back.

Note to self: next time try to get site 261. Even though it is a back-in site, because of the layout backing up will not be complicated and it is gorgeous.

Milo the AwesomeDog on the Lake Huron shore

Milo and I concur: MacGregor Point Provincial Park remains a fabulous place for camping with dogs. We started our camping season with a week-long trip to Ontario’s West Coast, the Lake Huron shore. MacGregor’s Algonquin campground has quiet, private sites nestled in a lush cedar forest. In addition to ample hiking, the park includes an expansive natural shoreline with lots of room for your canine companion to enjoy a swim. I suspect this is Milo’s favorite place to visit!

FYI, we stayed in campsite #67–a level, pull-through site with electricity, a firepit, and a picnic table.

smiling German shepherd looking right into the camera.

“I love you, Mom. Can we swim now?”

German shepherd resting his nose on a piece of driftwood

This is a good stick. Someone needs to throw it in the lake…”

silhouette of German shepherd head against a blue lake with a red orange and blue sky This sunset would be prettier if I were wet.

wet German shepherd laying on a beach with a blue lake in the background

Finally! Swimming!

The trouble with goals: From dissertations to dogs

Big goals freak me out. They give me stress. They seem impossible. They are paralyzing.

However, I want to make progress with Milo in the sport of Schutzhund and to do this I need some big goals. Eek.

I’ve encountered this dilemma before.

I spent six years in graduate school. Much of year five involved staring at my computer screen and freaking out because I was sure that I didn’t know enough and wasn’t good enough to jump over the last hurdle between me and my doctorate: writing my dissertation. A dissertation is a 200 or 300-page original research paper. Staring at the first paragraph I typed on what would be page one, made the last paragraph on page 200 seem impossibly far away.

I was a scholarship student, and I was broke. When my funding ran out, I would not be able to pay rent, I would lose my student visa, and I’d have to leave the country. So, you know, no pressure.

My dissertation supervisor gave me a gift. He said that the last word on page 200 was the last word he would read and so ‘it would behoove me to finish before then.’ This gave my task a concrete endpoint.

With nothing to do but think and write, and facing the looming specter of homelessness, I did some math. I knew I could write three pages in a day and I knew I was ‘only allowed’ to write 200 pages.

200 pages divided by 3 pages/ day meant that I could write my dissertation in 67 days. If I worked five days/ week, I could finish my dissertation in 14 weeks. My deadline was 16 weeks away. That was tight but doable. My plan included weekends off, which meant that if I got sick or hit a dead end, I had a bit of leeway.

Once I had a plan that I was confident was doable, my writing problems melted away. I just followed my plan.

On every weekday I drank coffee, went to the office, edited yesterday’s three pages and wrote that day’s three pages. Some days I was done by noon and some days it took me until midnight, but when my three pages were written, I could go home and relax, knowing that I was on target with my plan. Writing became fun because it no longer seemed like I was working on an impossible task.

From dissertations to dogs

Spring is here, and it is time to set summer training goals. This year I would like to earn tracking and obedience titles in Schutzhund. Here’s the trouble, those titles feel like my dissertation—so freakishly big and intimidating as to be paralyzing.

I need the equivalent of my three pages a day but for dog training. In short, I need a plan.

Here’s how the plan-making will work:

  1. Make a list what Milo and I need to do to have a good shot at these titles.
  2. See if that list is manageable as part of a happy life for both of us. My work is more demanding now than it has ever been before, and if all goes well, a puppy will be joining our pack in the late summer so I might need to back off a bit.
  3. If the list is not manageable then I’ll revise our desired outcomes.
  4. If the list is manageable, turn it into a plan.
  5. Execute the plan.

In addition to relieving performance pressure, there is another benefit arising from having a plan: Success means carrying out the plan, not getting the title. What if the day of the trial Milo gets up and eats a bee, or I get sick? Or we have a bad day? If the goal is following the plan rather than achieving the outcome, then success is something that I have more control over.

I always roll my eyes when I hear someone say, ‘it’s all about the journey.’ But, with Milo it is. He’s not interested in getting titles; he’s interested in what we do together every day. Focusing on the plan lets me concentrate on his happiness and well-being, and it makes the journey less stressful and more fun for us both.

Stay tuned for a draft plan.

Hope

Milo exemplifies the message of the first Sunday of Advent. He’s the most hopeful creature I’ve ever had the luck to meet.

I often wake up from a nap, face-to-face with his big nose and bright eyes, to find a ball, a tug, and a stuffy toy lined up beside me.

The message is clear, “I’ve got it all set up in case you want to play. Whatever toy you like, I have them all ready for you.”

German shepherd dog with intense and happy facial expression.

He’ll often give guests a ball and step back expectantly. If they have even a tiny smidgen of desire to play, he’s ready.

I love December—Christmas and Yule and the solstice. It is a cozy month to take stock and get ready to start again, get ready for the light.

For me, the First Sunday of Advent is about being ready for and open to good things in the coming year. It is about maintaining hope in the face of despair, which is a challenge when democracy is crumbling, and the planet’s on fire.

So, this season, in particular, I’m grateful that Milo expects, anticipates good things. He is always ready. He reminds me how to hope.

Obedience titles, trust, and the good life for dogs and their people

One of the fabulous side effects of passing an obedience test that includes stringent temperament and traffic elements is that I feel much calmer and more confident taking Milo out and about in the world. st jacobs

Milo and my market booth would sell advice on how to be Very Good.

The mantra among many of my dog friends (that is the people who train and handle dogs) is “trust your dog.” This rule applies most concretely during tracking and scent work because we are counting on our dogs to smell things that we can’t smell. There is little choice but to trust your dog. However, the rule also applies more generally to how we interact with our working canine companions.

At first, the “trust your dog” rule seemed to conflict with my own rule of thumb for dogs and humans, and even tools and institutions: “Trust is earned.”

But, these two rules go hand in hand. The rule is not “trust someone else’s dog.” It’s “trust your dog.”  A dog who is your partner. A corollary of  “trust your dog” is “trust the training you and your dog did together.” When you’re prepared for a dog trial, you focus on doing your part of the exercises and count on your dog to do what he’s practiced in training.

When Milo earned his BH this month, I learned about another aspect of this rule. The judge put Milo through a traffic test that I thought was pretty strenuous.  At one point we had to walk through a crowd that was denser than Times Square on New Year’s Eve. In the midst of this crowd the judge reached over Milo and gave me a push, and then, in that situation, I put Milo through a set of obedience exercises. That is some serious pressure. Milo did great. I was elated and, tellingly, surprised.

Milo exceeded my expectations, and this test taught me that I can trust him, and expect him, to keep an even keel in a wide range of situations. This has improved the quality of life that we share.

This weekend we went with friends to the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. It’s a huge market—lots of people, vendors yelling above the crowd, food stalls and the attendant smells all over the place. Not only did Milo handle it like a pro—happily curious and pleased with all the people telling him that he was handsome—I had a good time too. Life is better when you know you can trust your dog.

Milo earned his BH :)

His email signature line now looks like this:

Milo Fehr BH, RN, CGN, SPOT

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I’m grinning here because the judge just encouraged Milo and me to continue in the sport.

He has titles from the German Shepherd Schutzhund Club of Canada, the Canadian Kennel Club, and the United Kennel Club.

I’m grateful to all the people and dogs who helped Milo and me along the way. Milo and I extend huge thanks to Cheryl Bishop, Heidi Grasswick, Jess Parent, and Liz Parent all of whom generously shared their skill, time, support, and expertise with Milo and me.

Thanks also to the London Schutzhund Club for running a well-organized trial, and for providing a kind, supportive, and sportsman-like environment.

Finally, it was an honor for Milo to earn this title under Judge Raino Fluegge, who was compassionate enough to remind me to breathe.

I was most proud of Milo’s performance in the Down out of Motion with Recall and the Test in Traffic.

In the Down out of Motion with Recall, he and I both performed at a level that reflected our best practice sessions. By this time in the routine I had worked through some of my nerves, and so Milo settled into his normal self. His heeling was attentive, and his recall was fast and sure.

It might seem weird to be proud of the Test in Traffic. But, three years ago I would never have dreamt of even trying such a thing, and yesterday Milo pulled it off with style. He kept his cool and attended to me while walking past a car, bike, jogger, other dogs, and a crowd of whistling, waving, clapping people. He performed basic obedience in a dense, jostling crowd, even after someone pushed me. Finally, he maintained a sharp, alert sit when I tied him out and left him alone while other people walked their dogs past him.

Milo and I have lots of work on but for now, I’m focusing on what went well. That, and the fact that he earned the title.

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This trial left me enthused about the sport and fiercely proud of Milo.