Running Through Obstacles

2005-09-05 2078 (640x427)I’ve just finished writing a magazine article, destined for a publication which shall remain anonymous about a topic which shall also remain anonymous. (Proprietary information. It’s the epitome of rude to disclose upcoming content.) But I’ll give this much away: it’s about a little-known frontier hero. I know, way outside my usual pet topics. But I like history, too, and I’m particularly fascinated by this historical figure. The big surprise, however, was that one aspect of this man’s life spoke to me and intertwined with recent developments in my own life adventure.

Like many Westerners, this frontiersman had wanderlust. He also had a drive to challenge himself. He did not shy from obstacles—he pursued them. His willingness to challenge himself to the limits won him a 500-page biography and an honorable mention in countless other histories of the west. But more importantly, it sharpened both his character and his skill and made him supremely useful to his fellow man.

I really admire people who push themselves. I’m fascinated by people who cross oceans in replica Viking ships and unicycle across South America. To date, my adventures have been tame by comparison. But this year, a notion implanted itself in my mind, and refused to go away.

It all started on a jaw-rattling spring night of 42°. Molly and I were camping in our tent and trying hard to stay warm. (It’s a little crowded sharing your sleeping bag with a 90-pound dog.) Too cold to sleep, so I daydreamed (in the dead of the night) about living out of my tent and touring America. Because despite lack of creature comforts (and presence of large creature occupying half my sleeping bag), I was having the adventure of a lifetime. If 42° won’t build character, what will?

When we climbed out of the tent the next morning, the daydream was still there. Only it wasn’t practical. How do I provide ten pounds of meat a week for my dog without a fridge or freezer? Would I really feel secure in a tent? What would I do with Molly when I went to the grocery store for said ten pounds of meat?

Teddy Roosevelt (no, not the subject of my article—nice guess, though) used to entertain dignitaries to the White House by playing a game in which they raced each other across a field. If they encountered an obstacle, they had to go over it, under it, or through it, but never around it. In other words—embrace the obstacle. Let it build both your mind and your body. Instead of racing to the river, jump in and keep going. I’m sure Roosevelt’s guests thanked him.

So I wasn’t whipped. There may yet be a way to challenge myself while providing for the practicality of pet parenthood.

The upshot is that I now have an RV parked in front of my house. A glorified tent, if you will. Itinerary is still in developmental stages, but like Teddy Roosevelt and the subject of my article, I’m ready to grow my mind, my skills, and my character. To live off less. To live closer to God’s creation. To push beyond my comfort zones. Molly and I will be chronicling our journeys here at Embark on Adventure, so stay tuned!

The best way to fail is never to try.

Dog Traveling Theory – A Post by Molly

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On our Minnesota camping trip, Molly was so excited to arrive … at the rest stop.

I didn’t know we were going anywhere today.

I have no concept I need to bring stuff with me–like food and a car ride harness and my favorite blankie. I don’t know we aren’t going to be home for supper.

I don’t know how far we’re going or how long it’ll take us to get there or how long we’ll be gone–it could be a quick trip to the pet supply store for all I know, or a week-long vacation someplace I’ve never been.

I didn’t realize the rest stop wasn’t the final destination.

In short, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m loving every minute, and I’m so happy to be with my girl! Wherever we go, we’re going there together.

Natural Tick Repellents: A Study in Garlic

Test grounds for natural tick repellent

Test grounds for natural tick repellent

Are you sick of using pesticides on your dog to repel ticks and fleas? I am. So this summer, I began investigating natural pest repellents.

The top recommendation was garlic. I know, garlic is controversial. It’s related to onion, which is known to be toxic to dogs. But many pet owners swear by it, not only as a natural insect repellent, but for a host of other health benefits, as well.

Being adventurers, Molly and I decided to give it a try. (Okay, I made the decision. She just licked the food dish.)

Instead of buying one of the many garlic pills available for dogs, I bought garlic flakes from the bulk foods section at my grocery store. That way if there was any adverse reaction, I would know it was caused by the garlic, not any of the filler ingredients in the tablet or capsule. Besides, I tend to believe that foods in their most natural state are best. Along those lines, fresh chopped garlic would have been best … but dried garlic flakes were just easier. (Slap my wrist.)

After adding the garlic flakes to her food dish every day for a month, we tried the ultimate test: I took her to a park with tall, untamed prairie grasses and we both trotted through the tick zone. The results? I picked up six ticks. She had three. (I might add, I wasn’t eating significant amounts of garlic myself.)

Subsequent tests carried the same results: I typically had more ticks than she did. (Lame.)

That’s both good news and bad news. It would appear the garlic was repelling ticks to an extent … but not completely.

However, the whole time Molly was on her garlic supplement, I noticed she was shedding a lot more than usual. One of the benefits of her homemade diet is low shedding, which is her norm. So I took her off garlic, and guess what? No shedding.

Just for kicks, we went back to the park and the tall prairie grass. I picked up three ticks. She had one. La-a-a-ame.

My conclusion? Garlic had no effect on her ability to repel ticks. However, her body wasn’t accepting the new substance, as evidenced by her heavy shedding while eating the garlic. Also, I begin to believe my mother’s adage that a healthy diet will make your blood unappealing to biting insects. After all, my dog, who has four legs and is lower to the ground, consistently picked up fewer ticks than I did. And I’ll confess, my dog eats better than I do.

I’m not going to say that garlic universally fails as a bug repellent. All I can say is that it wasn’t working for my dog. Every living creature is different, so if it works for your dog, great! As for Molly and me … the search continues.

Minnesota: Campfire Cooking for the Canine

Feed the Dog - Campfire Style

Feed the Dog – Campfire Style

So, you love preparing your dog’s food yourself.


And you love camping with your dog.


So how can you make sure your dog eats well in camp, hundreds of miles from home? This was the dilemma I faced during our recent trip to Minnesota, and plan to face lots of times down the trail. Our four-day trip provided ample opportunity to try things, take notes, and plan for the future. What did I find out? Everything that can go wrong did go wrong!

I started on the right foot by thinking everything through ahead of time (or so I thought). I wrote Molly’s meal plan on a sheet of paper (which I brought with me), everything from her meat to her veggies to her supplements. This was also a handy grocery and packing list.

I pre-packaged her regular supplements in zip-top bags and froze her meat ahead of time so it would stay chilled longer in the cooler.

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Molly’s usual supplements – zip-top baggies in front for travel

I also had the opportunity to try the dehydrator a friend loaned me. Five pounds of chicken … twelve hours … presto! The ultimate travel food for dogs. This, too, was frozen ahead of time and packed into the cooler. 

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Once in camp, it didn’t take long for things to go wrong. First, the campfire …

It looks so simple ...

It looks so simple …

While I’m an old pro with the wood-burning stove at home, turns out a campfire is a whole ‘nother can of beans. One night, it took me an hour to build the fire, and only ten minutes to warm up Molly’s meal. I could have invested in a portable propane grill, but why do that when the fire ring and the wood are right there at the park? Right?

My three take-away values:

  1. Lots of fire starters
  2. Lots of air circulating around the logs
  3. Maybe break down and get the propane grill 

While fighting the campfire was my biggest problem, a host of other annoyances popped up.

  • The melting ice in my cooler flooded the plastic baggie holding the dehydrated chicken. Keeping the chicken in the cooler was now a necessity to keep it fresh, and it ate up a lot of space. 
  • The baggie with the powdered supplements tore. Thankfully I’d foreseen such a possibility and stored it inside the bag with the pill supplements. 
  • The supplements in softgel form turned squishy in the heat and attracted the spilled powdered supplements. I could have stored all the supplements in my cooler, but I’m glad I didn’t, or they would have been swimming in melted ice water, just like the dehydrated chicken. 
  • I let a pan handle get too hot and accidentally melted a nylon hot pot holder and burned my hand. (Grrr.) At least I didn’t spill Molly’s dinner when I dropped it on the ground.

Solutions for the future: 

  • Improve campfire skills OR invest in a propane grill OR look into commercial dehydrated pet foods
  • Package foods and supplements in tear-proof, water-proof containers
  • Don’t store dehydrated meat in the cooler
  • Remember not to let pan handles sit right over the fire!

My goal for the next camping trip is to spend less time fussing over the fire and more time enjoying the outdoors with my dog.

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