Yesterday something really strange happened. MaMa willingly woke up before the sunrise and wanted to take an early walk! She likes sleeping in even more than I do! Levi and Pop are almost always out the door before the sun is up, and I tag along about half the time. MaMa will come with when we’re heading somewhere special like Lake Michigan or Midewen National Tallgrass Prairie, but yesterday was just a normal day, so we were all a little surprised to hear her coming down the stairs before 6AM. We didn’t have anything planned, but then Pop suggested we check out the sunrise at the local prairie path just north of town.
The Crystal Creek prairie path is right in the center of a subdivision, and close enough to I-80 that you can hear the cars buzzing along at all hours of the day and night. But when you’re on the path, surrounded by tall grasses, you almost feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, as long as you ignore the new condo construction going on a couple hundred yards away. That’s just what the world needs, more condos, huh?
Despite the construction and the congestion on I-80, we had so much fun exploring the path and waiting for the sun to come up. I hope you enjoy our photos as much as we enjoyed taking them!
On our way back to the car, after witnessing another gorgeous sunrise, I met a new friend at the park. Mr Dragonfly said he could take me for a ride, but that I need someone else for the other side. I think Levi Pitboxer is probably too big! Who can I find to ride this great big dragonfly with me?
Sadly I had to leave the park without taking a ride on a giant dragonfly. I wasn’t down for long though when I saw this peaceful pond to lie next too. I really do love taking breaks. Sometimes it’s the best part of exploring, when you just take time to sit and ponder everything you’ve just seen!
After getting back in the car, we all thought it was time to head home, but Pop had another idea. He said it was going to be a hot day, so we might as well make the most of the morning before returning home. He suggested we head to the woods at the Hickory Creek Forest Preserve on the other side of town. We all agreed with a resounding, “YES!”
We made it a short way into the woods before the mosquitoes found us, and unfortunately we had to cut that part of our adventure short. The mosquitoes never land on me because of my curly hair they can’t find a place to bite me, but MaMa, Pop and Levi were all getting attacked. Lucky for me I had already found a few prime places to have my picture taken before our exploration ended!
When I woke up this morning I didn’t even know what day it was! MaMa has been out of work for over a week and I’ve gotten used to her being home and waking up without an alarm. But when MaMa and Pop started talking about where to take Levi and I today, and MaMa got on her phone to look up forest and nature preserves, I figured out it must be the weekend! Which meant we were going somewhere special!!
We chose the Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve in Beecher, Ill. We had never been there and it was just a little over 30 minutes from home, so we could get there before it got too hot. It’s been a hot June, and it’s not even officially Summer yet. We need to plan our outings so we can be home well before the hottest time of the day, because I don’t care much for the heat and MaMa doesn’t care much for carrying me!
So Levi and I hopped in the car, and proceeded to wait for MaMa and Pop to get their act together. They are always scurrying around, packing snacks and extra waters, making sure we are prepared for anything. MaMa grabbed a roll of paper towels as she headed out the door…”just in case” and we were finally on our way!
On the way down there we were tooling along, making good time, when we realized we had missed our turn! Luckily this only set us back a few minutes and took us through Monee, Ill. Since Levi was whining and crying like a baby, Pop decided to pull over at a park to see if he had to do some business. While walking around the park we were stopped by a Policeman who told us that dogs weren’t allowed! He said we could be charged $100 per dog, but since he was a dog owner himself, he was going to let us go! I started barking and giving him a piece of my mind, but he just laughed and said, “It’s always the little ones!” I seem to hear that a lot! Levi decided to be the peace maker and licked the officer’s hand. He let us go with a reminder to look out for signs in parks saying NO DOGS ALLOWED. I can’t figure out why we wouldn’t be allowed somewhere like a park, but I guess some towns just be that way!
We finally arrived at the Nature Preserve and boy was it a nice one! It had a nature center where I met a giant salamander! Then I took a break in some giant honey combs before checking for rabbits in a bunny tunnel!
By 9AM it was already starting to warm up, so we decided to take a short walk through the woods on the Snapper Pond Trail, also known as the Trail of Thoughts. Along the way, were quotes about nature that MaMa read aloud to us. My favorite was the one by Dr. Seuss:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will get better. It’s not.”
It really gave me something to think about as we walked along that short trail through the trees. About half way on the trail we came upon Snapper Pond, and stopped to take a look at some big toads! They were making all sorts of noise! I appreciated the opportunity to sit and take a break. I sit and chill any chance I get!
At the end of the trail we saw three horses being ridden along the Plum Creek Greenway Trail, which is the longest of 5 trails at this preserve, and intersects with the short trail we were on. Levi and I don’t really like horses, so we got out of their way quickly (thanks to MaMa and Pop pulling us away).
Since it was starting to get too hot for me to walk around, and the flies were bothering Levi, we decided it was time to take off, but not before MaMa made us run up a giant hill to get a good look around. I promptly made my way to a shade tree, of course. It really is a nice preserve and we decided we will definitely go back on a cooler day.
Since we were already out that way, we stopped at the Crete European Market, where we found a treat man who gave us samples of his yummy dog biscuits. He also made human cookies, which Pop can never resist. MaMa also found a vendor there who sells her favorite local honey. Everyone we passed told us how cute we were. It was a fun stop!
After that Mama decided we should also make a stop at the Park Forest farmer’s market, where she bought some homemade, organic bread and Amish chocolate crinkle cookies, while Pop stayed in the car with Levi and I. Dogs are only allowed in a small section of that market, so staying cool in the car seemed like the best option.
Since it was getting close to lunchtime, we made a quick stop at an A & W drive-thru to pick up some chow. Levi and I didn’t beg for any though. We napped instead!
Once we were almost home, Pop made one last stop at our favorite store in Mokena, I’ll Be Doggone! I love going there and ran like a bullet to get inside! I sniffed every bag of food on the lower shelves and barked at the two dogs behind the counter. Pop bought us a couple of treats before it was finally time to head back. We were almost home when Pop picked up his root beer and the lid came off, splashing both him and I with sugary soda. All MaMa said was, “Good thing I grabbed those paper towels” and for once she was right!
Unlike today, the weather on Mother’s Day was clear and sunny with ZERO chance of rain. It was a perfect day to pack up the car and head to the Indiana Dunes for a little exploring and some much needed water therapy. I don’t know about you, but every time I’m near a body of water, be it a pond, river, lake or ocean, I feel more relaxed, peaceful and happy. Also, I hadn’t been to the Indiana Dunes since I was a puppy, just barely a year old. Seeing as I was about to turn three, it really seemed like it was past time to go back to the beach!
MaMa and Pops loaded us into the car with all of our gear, which is mostly their gear. Ever notice how many “things” humans need to bring with them everywhere? Phones, sacks, water, snacks, sunscreen, selfie stick, toys (okay, some of it was for us), and on and on. Finally we were ready to go! I slept for most of the ride. There is nothing like a car ride to make me sleepy, and I wanted to rest up for what was sure to be an eventful day! When we arrived, Levi and I immediately checked out the beach and got a good look at Lake Michigan. I love that beautiful view!
After taking in that amazing view, it was time to get moving. We are adventurers, after all, and don’t visit the beach just to sit around! GiGi is my name, and Adventure is my game!
It was time to get our climb on, dune climbing that is. The first dune we tackled is near the parking lot, and a good starter dune, especially if you want to have an amazing view of the beach and lake.
It took a while for me to get up the top, because I have short legs, and I also had to wait for MaMa. She kept saying she was taking it slow for me because she didn’t want to wear me out, but in my opinion, that was just an excuse for her to take breaks! Levi and Pops made it to the top long before we did, but I’m proud to say that we did make it!
After climbing all the way to the top, we decided to take a short rest in the shade. MaMa always makes sure I’m not getting too tired and gives me plenty of time to sit and chill. And of course, every explorer knows you need to stay hydrated, so Pops always packs a travel bowl and brings plenty of water for us to drink.
After that long climb, Levi still had a ton of energy and decided it was time to make like a sand monster and go wild! He was crawling and spinning and kicking up sand everywhere. His enthusiasm was contagious and I couldn’t help but laugh along with MaMa and Pops at him, especially when he got a face full of sand!
After some play time, we got to run down the dune, which in my opinion is the best part. A lot more fun than climbing up it, that’s for sure! We had so much more to explore, starting with the lakeshore! But I’ll save the rest of our story for another rainy day…
It had been a delightful day filled with a plethora of Route 66 adventures, and we only had time for one last stop before winding down for the night. MaMa’s map had many interesting and fun sounding stops on it, and it was difficult to choose where to go, since we’d have to leave so many places unseen (for now).
Since we’d already had a lot of excitement that day, we decided we were ready for a quiet walk in nature, and thought the Sugar Creek covered bridge, just about a mile off the Mother Road in Glenarm, Ill. showed some promise.
The bridge is one of only five remaining covered bridges in Illinois and the oldest of them all. There is some discrepancy as to whether it was originally constructed in 1827 or 1880, but either way, it is REALLY old, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978. The Illinois Department of Transportation rehabilitated the structure in 1965, and it has been closed to vehicular traffic since 1984. It is now part of a local park and open to foot traffic only. There are some trails adjacent to the bridge, so it was a perfect place for us to stop.
Once we arrived at the park and began walking towards the bridge, we knew we had made the right choice for our final stop of the day. There was nobody else there, the sun was beginning its rapid descent and giving off a gorgeous glow behind the trees, and the park had a quiet peacefulness that we were all yearning for, after such a hectic (but super fun) day.
Walking up to and through the covered bridge, you could feel the history of it palpitating from the walls, the roof and the ground beneath, as if it were a living & breathing thing. I felt as if I could smell the past and all of the people and pooches who had been through there before me. If only those walls could talk! I wouldn’t be able to understand them, but it would still be pretty cool!
Sugar Creek which is traversed by the bridge, is a tributary of the Sangamon River and eventually discharges into Lake Springfield. The area surrounding it was settled shortly after the War of 1812 because of its fertile prairie ground and for being one of the southernmost habitats for Sugar Maple trees in Illinois.
The fertility of the area is evident today, as the park and nearby trails were full of trees and offered us a beautiful place to walk around and explore. It was a perfect final stop to a near perfect day (sorry Funks Grove) on historic Route 66.
Saturday morning started out cool and stormy, and it looked like we might be stuck inside all day, but by afternoon the sun was starting to peak through the clouds, and the threat of rain was over. We were supposed to go to Kentucky over the weekend but MaMa cancelled the trip because of a few different reasons. I didn’t really understand why, but I’m a dog, I’m not supposed to understand. I’m always along for the adventure anyway, no matter where it is! If we weren’t going to Kentucky, I was sure we’d find somewhere else exciting to explore. And I was right!
Levi and I were lazing on the couch when we heard MaMa and Pops start talking about where we should go that afternoon now that the weather had cleared. MaMa suggested to Pop that we visit a state park she had just read about it Sha-na-na-na-hon. It had all of the cool things that parks have, like grass, trees and squirrels, but she said it also had a scenic trail along a river and canal! A river means water, and I LOVE the water. I don’t like to go in it, mind you, but I love to smell it and be near it. I find it incredibly fascinating!!
In no time flat, we all hopped into the car and were on our way! It’s always exciting going somewhere for the first time, because you have no idea what you’ll see, hear, and most importantly, smell!
On the short drive there, MaMa told us that she spent her baby and toddler years living in Channahon, but hadn’t really been back there since. She said she was too young then to remember if she had ever visited this park before, and couldn’t tell us anything about it other than what she read on the inter-webz.
We learned that Channahon is an Indian word meaning, “Meeting of the Waters”, which makes complete sense because the DuPage, Des Plaines and Kankakee Rivers converge there. We also learned that the Civilian Conservation Corp. (created by FDR to provide jobs to young men during the Great Depression as part of his New Deal program) had cleaned, restored and repaired much of the canal and park area in 1933, and paved the way for the awesome place it is today. The I & M Canal trail, which can be accessed from this park is a designated National Heritage Corridor as well. There are so many interesting things about this park and the canal, I could probably write a book about it! But enough about the historical aspects of this unique place, it’s time to tell you about our adventures there that day!
We arrived at the park right as two German Shepherds were leaving with their humans. MaMa was relieved to see them leave, because she said I can be a real “A’hole” around dogs I don’t know! Somebody needs to bark and growl at those dogs and keep our crew safe, and that someone is me! I’ve heard some people say I have little dog syndrome. Whatever that is, it sounds awesome!
Since the park was clear from the likes of other dogs, we were able to wander and explore at our leisure. The first area we checked out was next to a big flowing dam. It was so loud and cool to look at!
Despite the exciting dam flowing nearby by, the most interesting thing I saw was a log floating in the water that I couldn’t stop barking at! Every time that log made a move, I backed away and then barked at it to tell it to watch itself because I meant business. After a few minutes of that, and lots of sniffing of rocks, leaves, water and tree roots, it was time to move on and see what else we could find.
While making our way towards the trail that runs alongside the river and canal, two young boys ran past us, and one came so close that he almost tripped right over me! He yelled out to his companion, “Hey, that dog just tried to trip me!” but from my perspective he was trying to kick me! As luck would have it, he just missed me and we were both no worse for wear.
Once we made it to the trail (in one piece!) we saw a bunch of interesting things. There were really old rock steps that I climbed to get to the trail. At the top of the steps was an old house (built in 1848 and restored in 1941) that used to be the residence of the locktender. I wish I could have taken a look inside!
We also saw a number of different birds, including herons and egrets (we saw one flying and another one up in a tree) , and two different sets of Canadian goslings with their parents.
At one point, we had to cross a bridge, which Levi hates to do, but he was brave and kept going, so we could explore a little further! On the other side of the bridge, we saw a farm with a big group of goats and a few horses too! MaMa also pointed out two tiny butterflies and one giant dragonfly, which she said is her favorite bug!
After walking south on the trail for a little ways, we decided to change course and walk north for a bit. It’s not like we were going to be able to cover much of the trail, as the entire length of it is over 60 miles! From what we saw of it, it’s beautiful in either direction, filled with lots of trees and of course the river and canal. We saw lots of people fishing, a man in a kayak, and when we went to cross the bridge for a second time, we saw a woman walking a Great Dane! That guy was even bigger than Levi and he looked like he was just a puppy. When he saw me, he knew I had the syndrome, and decided it was best not to bother us!
Eventually we turned around again and decided it was time to head home, but not before agreeing that we’d have to go back again on a sunnier day, and next time we’d bring the camera to get even better pictures! All in all, it was a great day and a successful expedition!
If you love the Earth as much as I do, you’ll want to check out my list of eight great ways you can celebrate Earth Day today and every day!
Scoop up the poop
Whether your pooch poops at the park, on a path, under a palm tree, in private or during a parade; picking up after your pet is your responsibility. Not only does proper poop removal help prevent the spread of disease, it makes the earth a nicer place for all the people who share those places with you and your pet!
2. Make Your Own Pet Toys
If your washing machine and dryer are anything like ours, you likely have spare socks lying around without a match. Rather than throwing them away, why not re-purpose them as your dog’s new, favorite toy. Old T-shirts can also make a great toy. Check out this no-sew, easy to make T-shirt toy!
3. Donate to Make a Difference
Do you have old sheets and blankets taking up space in your closet? Free up some of that precious space by donating them to your local pet shelter. Your worn out blankets can provide a warm and cozy bed for an animal without a home. Click here to find a local animal shelter near you!
4. Spay or Neuter Your Pet
Do as Bob Barker always said, “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.” It is eco-friendly and helps keep unwanted pets out of shelters. Sound advice, Mr. Barker!
5. Bake or Buy Organic Pet Treats
If you like to bake or just want to treat your dog to a special treat without all of the nasty by-products that are hiding in the store bought brands, consider making a homemade goodie for your best friend. There are dozens of recipes available online. If you aren’t one for DIY, consider searching out your local dog bakery or farmer’s market, so you can find out exactly what goes into the treats you give your pooch pal!
6. Walk (or Bike) to the Park
When you walk your dog to the park, you lessen your environmental footprint by cutting down on auto emissions that pollute the air and water. Plus, there is the added bonus of more exercise for you and your pooch. If your furbaby is like me, and doesn’t always enjoy long walks on warm days, consider a bike basket for a fun transportation alternative.
7. Plant a Garden
Can you believe I’ve tried (and liked) carrots, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus? They taste so good and they’re good for me too! If you have some extra space in your yard, consider adding a small garden and grow your own veggies. Homegrown produce is free from pesticide and eco-friendly too. Your belly and your best friend will thank you!
8. Clean up After Others
While out on a walk with your dog, bring a plastic bag with you and pick up any loose trash you see along the way. It might not seem like fun, but it sure is rewarding when you realize you are contributing to a cleaner community and a healthier environment. And let’s face it, dogs like to put their noses into everything, including trash. You’ll be helping other dogs and their owners out too!
What are your ideas for celebrating Earth Day with your dog?
When my MaMa brought me home from the tobacco shop, it was just the two of us. MaMa and GiGi taking walks. MaMa and GiGi visiting the park. MaMa and GiGi making dinner (MaMa makes, I supervise). You get the picture! It was just the two of us, with occasional party guests, a couple girls just bee-bopping along, enjoying summer and having fun!
Even when Levi started courting me, and MaMa and Levi’s Pop were getting to know each other, it was mostly just us girls. The only time we saw Levi and his Pop were out in the courtyard between their condos or at the park across the street. We had yet to enter each other’s doghouse, and all relationships were still very casual!
And then within two days, everything changed!
My MaMa was talking to her friend about a puppy that she needed to find a temporary home for. Even though my MaMa was still learning how to take care of one dog, she told her friend to bring him over and if we got along, she would take care of him!
Long story short…we got along great! And Macho moved in that night. Isn’t he cute? MaMa and I were both smitten with his pouty mug and Eddie Munster hairline.
And you’ll never believe what happened the VERY next day? MaMa and Levi’s Pop decided to have an official date! Needless to say, it worked out. And soon, the five of us were doing things together on a regular basis. Trips to local parks, the woods, prairie trails, Lake Michigan and nature preserves became group activities. Three dogs, two humans…a regular crew!
I was so thankful for all of the new people and pups in my life. I went from being a single girl, living all alone in a Tobacco shop, with nothing but hope to keep my happy; to a girl with a posse living the small town dream, going places and taking names! I was evolving into the furry girl you all know and love. I was becoming GiGi On The Scene (with my crew in tow!)
First of all, I have to apologize for going so long without posting a new blog! What can I say, other than the usual…
The holidays! Am I right? Busy!!
Now that things have just about returned to normal, I can get back to telling my amazing story of rescue and redemption.
And there is no way to tell that story without first introducing you to my best friend, my true love, the yin to my yang, the coffee to my cream, the black to my white. Without him, I would just be a whirling ball of crazy fluff floating along on my own. He calms me down when I go cuckoo…well, nobody can do that! But, he puts up with every single one of my shenanigans without complaint. He really is the very best friend that a little dog could have. And he’s handsome too! Check him out! A more handsome Pitboxer there never has been. He’s the Elvis of dogs!
I don’t remember the day we met, because I was still coming down from the anesthesia from my spay surgery, and I was pretty out of it. Also, I was wearing the most embarrassing head gear ever! My MaMa says it’s called the “CONE OF SHAME”. I’ll say! To think that’s what I was wearing the very first time we met. Uggh!
It turned out that Levi’s Dad lived in a condo across the parking lot from me and my MaMa. We would see them out at the park, and walking around the neighborhood, but the courtyard was the most popular place for MaMa to stop and talk to his Dad. I couldn’t have been happier about it, either. I mean, here was this tall, dark and handsome Pitbull/Boxer dog. He was older, wiser, and a worldly traveler!
While they talked, Levi and I got to know each other too. It was a real summer romance. Frolicking and romping in the grass, showing him my sassy, fun side. He played it cool, letting me bounce off his chest with my little, curly white paws, and he even let me bite at his awesome, droopy jowls!
My flirting must have worked! Before you knew it, MaMa and I were seeing Levi and his Dad on a more regular basis. We seemed to run into them every time we went to the park. Levi and I quickly became the new power-pooch couple on the scene. All of the other neighborhood dogs would look at us walk by together, whining their jealousy. Not every pooch can have such a cool best friend, who is also their complete opposite! Big and Little. Black and White. Cool and Crazy.
After our first weekend together, I knew my MaMa and I were a perfect fit! She liked going on long walks, sitting in the sun, feeding me treats like kale and carrots and snuggling on the couch for hours. Pretty good qualities for a best friend to have! Our first fun weekend turned into the Spring and Summer of Fun!
There was one boring weekend on house arrest in early-May, when MaMa forced me to rest after having my dreaded spay surgery (wearing that cone was the worst part). But after making a full recovery, the rest of our Spring and Summer was filled with fun! It turned out that my MaMa was only working part time at the Catering company, which meant lots of time for ME!
During those warm Spring and Summer months, we would sleep in, then MaMa would make smoothies in the morning, giving me bits of apple and kale to snack on. Before work we would sit on the deck, MaMa reading while I snoozed at her feet or on her lap. The sun on my fur felt amazing after months of very little sunshine, I felt I could sit out there forever. After work, our afternoons were filled with walks to the park and throughout the neighborhood. I even met some new doggie friends. I met a yorkie, a shih tzu, and lots of big dogs too! I loved playing with every dog I met even if sometimes I acted like a jerk at first. Sometimes little dogs can’t help it…or at least that’s the story I’m sticking with!
MaMa threw parties for her birthday, the Summer Solstice, and just because. She loved having people over and preparing food for them. I enjoyed meeting the people but really LOVED the handouts I’d get at those parties. I would bark and act crazy at first, but would settle down once the fun got started. I’m a pretty good party dog, it turns out! My favorite party was when MaMa and her friends played Twister on an outdoor Twister board we found on one of our walks. They played outside in the rain, and they laughed and laughed, and I jumped up and barked and played right along with them.
Come back soon, I promise the fun never ends with GiGi On The Scene!
The first weekend at my new home was filled with fun. It was Easter weekend and I hope it’s not sacrilegious to say that Jesus wasn’t the only one who was risen. I was being given a second chance at love with my forever mommy and I definitely felt as if I’d been resurrected! I had a brand new life, and I was ready for it!
My new grandmutt and grandpup, I mean grandma and grandpa came by to visit me and they brought me presents! They bought me a fox toy and a bag of peanut butter bones. They were so excited to meet me, but were quite surprised at how loud and goofy I was. Apparently this family hadn’t been around too many small dogs before. Aren’t all little dogs a bit cuckoo?! They asked my Mommy if I was always like that, and she shook her head and said, “No, she’s been pretty calm since I brought her home, for the most part. She has had her moments though! I’m not sure why she won’t stop barking at Dad?”
Didn’t they know that I was just trying to tell him to play with me! I wasn’t even a year old yet, and my energy levels were through the roof. I was used to snuggling with and getting love from the ladies and rough housing with the men. All of the men I’d known at the tobacco shop had played with me roughly, throwing me in the air and knocking me around. I guess I just expected every man I met to be that way with me. Apparently my barking wasn’t getting that point across though.
Frustrated, I stopped barking and laid down next to my Mommy while they talked about me and how cute I was! Now that’s a conversation I could listen to all day.
The next day was even more exciting because I went on a trip in the car to visit my Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Easter Sunday. I met my Mommy’s sister, her husband and their son, which means I have a cousin! I also met some of my Mommy’s other relatives and they ooh’ed and ahh’ed over me and were kind of surprised at how well behaved I was. I didn’t even try to kill my Grandma’s crazy cat, Callie. I did stalk her and sniff under the couch until she swiped at me. After that I decided it was best to go back to where the humans were, to beg for food and get lots of head pats and belly rubs.
After a long day filled with ham (HINT: Grandpa’s like to give hand outs to their little grandpuppy!) and fun, it was time to head back home with my Mommy. We went out for a nice long walk that night, but when we got back Mommy realized that she forgot her keys! She called Grandpa who came by with an extra set to let us in. While waiting for him to get there, we sat out on the front stoop, and while I don’t know what she was thinking, I know that I was thinking one very small but important thing.