The Animals

Weekend Hike – Lake Lagunitas (aka Fresca’s First Hike)

Around California, The Animals

One of the highlights of living in San Francisco is its proximity to “ALL THE THINGS.” Want to go on a short hike? You can hop right to it, and that’s exactly what we did several weekends ago. We went about an hour outside of San Francisco to Lake Lagunitas in Marin.

Lake Lagunitas

I’d read about Lake Lagunitas in a Weekend Sherpa email and made a mental note of it as being low-key and dog-friendly. Lake Lagunitas is the smallest lake in the Mt. Tamalpais watershed, and for $8, you gain access to the parking lot, the picnic area, and some easy hiking. We had Saturday morning free, so we packed up some water and dog treats and were on our way for Fresca’s first official hike.

Lake Lagunitas

With the drought, the water level was a bit low, and it looked like the lake had an algae problem. Still, it was good to get outside. The weather was nice (a little hot out of the shade), the sun was out (we brought sunscreen!), and we were moving our bodies.

Fresca seems to be pretty good on leash, which is why I jumped at the chance to take her on a hike. Sasha was never so great on leash, and that limited the number of places we could take her since she preferred being off-leash.

While the leash isn’t a problem for Fresca, she has a tendency to stick her snout to the floor looking for goodies to chew on. We call this “vacuum mode.” Unfortunately, her definition of “goodies” also includes dirt, bark and grass.

Lake Lagunitas

Lake Lagunitas

We tried distracting her by handpicking other items for her to hold onto, like giant sticks or even her water bowl. It worked for a little bit, at least until she started dropping her bowl off the edge of the path.

Lake LagunitasAfter the 1.5 mile loop around the lake, we stopped in at Iron Springs Pub and Brewery in Fairfax. Even though our hike wasn’t particularly strenuous, shrimp tacos, a pulled pork sandwich and beer definitely hit the spot afterward. They also have a front patio area where dogs are welcome, and they made sure Fresca stayed hydrated.

It’s hard to believe that it is already October. My weekends are pretty full this month, so I am hoping to fit in more hiking for the rest of the year and through 2015! If you live in California and enjoy the outdoors, I’d definitely recommend subscribing to Weekend Sherpa. It’s a great resource, and reading it always makes me want to go outside.


Walmart To Go : Spoil Fresca Edition

Partners, The Animals

Ordering online and having items delivered to your doorstep quickly is all the craze these days. When I was approached to try the Walmart To Go service, I decided to give it a whirl. We don’t get very many things delivered directly to our door because we’ve had a few instances of farm box thievery in the neighborhood. However, Walmart To Go has a solution for that problem – by having you choose a delivery time that works for you, you will always be home to accept your delivery.

I placed my order on Wednesday. Delivery times span from the early AM to the late PM the next day, which works out great for my inconsistent schedule. Since I would be out most of the following day, I picked the 8PM to 10PM time frame. At 9:45PM on Thursday, I received a call that the delivery was on its way, and everything reached the house before 10PM. Amazing!

Here’s the haul:

Spoil Fresca

Definitely the “Spoil Fresca” edition! The first toy she grabbed from the pile was the hedgehog, which turned out to be a substitute for another toy I had ordered. They give you the option to allow for substitutes when you order. If the item is not available and you end up with a substitute that costs more than the original item, they don’t charge you extra.

Spoil FrescaOne thing that I did notice was that if you weren’t exactly sure what you were looking for, you could spend a great deal of time scrolling through the expansive selection. There were some filters available, such as brand or type, but it was still a bit overwhelming. I searched and scrolled through Walmart’s dog toy and treats selection for quite some time. Since we don’t have a Walmart that we frequent, I wasn’t familiar with the selection. Unfortunately, the Walmart To Go website doesn’t pull in reviews that one would normally find on their regular site, which would have been helpful.

When I finally made all my choices, I was a bit surprised at the quality of the treats. Impressed, even. No weird ingredients. All natural. No artificial preservatives. Fresca seems to like them, but then again, she’s also the dog that will pick up old chewing gum off the streets… Ugh.

Overall, it was an easy process. If you know what you’re looking for or have a running grocery list, it can be incredibly convenient.

From what we can tell, Fresca loves her new stash of toys, or at least she enjoys gnawing them into smithereens!

As a participant in the Walmart to Go First program, I’ve received a personal invite and payment for my time and efforts in creating this post. The content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


August 2014 in Pictures : Introducing Fresca The Pup

Creativity Strikes!, Life in SF, The Animals

At the beginning of August, we said goodbye to Sasha. It was a Friday. Our last Friday with her. With the sadness, we distracted ourselves with a weekend of activities. We went on a sunset cruise in the bay, and we stuffed ourselves at Cochon 555‘s Heritage Fire event. It was a good weekend, and we really needed it after the month that we had been through.

August 2014 in Pictures

We didn’t really expect to move quickly in terms of getting another dog, but then we met the pup whom we’d immediately name “Fresca.”

August 2014 in Pictures

She was spunky and cute. Super friendly and energetic. We pretty much fell for her immediately, but because we had two weeks to decide, we really took the time to “make sure” even though it was pretty obvious.

I did a lot of volunteering one weekend and was rewarded by someone smashing a window of my car. Thankfully Ryan was around to help me take it to the shop, and it was fixed the next day. City living!

August 2014 in Pictures

Since Fresca is only 9 months old, everything is new to her. House training is coming along, but the most fun comes when we introduce her to everything. All the parks. Swimming. Dog-friendly bars. The beach.

August 2014 in Pictures

I wrapped up summer with the beginning of the new Spinsters of San Francisco year and the first official event of the year – New Member Tea. I’m no longer on the Board of Directors, so I’m not in the know of most things, but it’s good to relax as well. In a week or so, I’ll be presenting a check to our charity partner from last year.

Also got a sneak peek at the new See’s Candies store that opened up nearby and spent Labor Day weekend on my first Trail Mavens trip!

August 2014 in Pictures


Currently – v.04 {2014}

Currently, Life in SF, The Animals

I’m overdue for a “Currently” update. So here goes!

Loving the new pup in our life. About a week after we said our goodbyes to Sasha, our doggie daycare posted about a pup that they were fostering. She’s a bit on the young side (guessing 8 or 9 months) and did not come house-trained. So far, it has been quite a different experience compared to when we first brought Sasha home. We definitely took for granted the “being house-trained” part. In the first few days, I cleaned up a handful of accidents. We are down to almost none, but I won’t get too excited until we leave her outside of the crate while we’re at work.

The rescue group has our check and is waiting for the “yay” or “nay” before depositing it. We have until Friday, but it is pretty obvious which way we are leaning. We have been calling her “Fresca” for the time being, so there may be more Fresca updates to come.

Loathing the jerks who broke my car window at the beginning of last weekend. After volunteering for four hours, I got back to my car to find the nasty surprise. They had smashed windows of cars all along the block, so it wasn’t targeted. Nothing was taken, thankfully, though I make it a habit not to keep anything in the car.

But to make matters worse, while I was sitting in my car filing a police report on my phone, a guy on a bike rides by. He stops at my car and proceeds to show me something on his phone. Porn. Yay. Great.

Watching my spending. A broken window and a new pup = $$.

Feeling lethargic these days. I bought a Dailey Method deal, so hopefully adding a little exercise will help. I went to my first class over the weekend.

Planning to post more, I promise!

Working on one online class this semester. I haven’t decided if I will try retaking the CPA exam at this point, but I thought I’d knock out some of the education requirements anyway.

Wishing for a whole lot of patience. Fresca has and hasn’t been the easiest to train. She is smart, so sometimes her brains get the best of her, and she’s got a little rambunctious streak.

Looking forward to Labor Day weekend trip to Yosemite with Trail Mavens. I heard about the group from Abby who went on a kayaking/camping trip with the group earlier in the month. I am excited, but also anxious. There’s a long hike on Sunday that my body is dreading just a little bit. I know that I will be sore afterwards. We’ll see how it goes!

What are you currently up to?


Goodbye, Sasha [Repost]

The Animals

This post was written by Ryan about our dear companion, Sasha.

Not a Dog Person

I can’t remember any point in my life where I felt like a dog person. To be honest, most made me nervous to be around. Dogs were something to be kept in the yard and brought out to play sometimes.

Perhaps it was because I valued my independence and living flexibility that the thought of having a dog never even crossed my mind. The few times the idea was entertained, it was dismissed because I didn’t want to commit to one.

I didn’t know it at the time, but those circumstances began to change when I met my girlfriend, and when we moved into our current house. She started entertaining the idea of getting a dog in her best way: sending me links of dogs for adoption.

At first I passed off the idea as whimsy, but then I figured out that she was serious, but didn’t want to push it too hard – after all, I wasn’t a dog person. Fast-forward several months and now I’ve set up a criteria:

  • Must be able to walk itself
  • Must be intelligent/loyal
  • Not too small

“Senior” Dog

So when she sent me a picture of Sasha for the first time, I could tell from one look that I wanted this dog. She was older – 7 years – but only had one previous owner and her history was well-known already. Let’s see how our criteria looks:

  • Must be able to walk itself Yep
  • Must be intelligent/loyal German Shepherd mix, probably with an Australian Kelpie. Check.
  • Not too small 60 pounds will do

Great, we’ll take her.

Bonus: Being older, she didn’t have as much energy as her younger years and was well-adjusted to life with an owner… so they said.

The Humans Learned

That first month or two really caught us off guard. She. Was. A. Nut. While she behaved herself at home alone, this only came after two walks a day. On top of that, these weren’t simple walks around the block – they had to be places where she could run her heart out.

The separation anxiety was another issue entirely. From the first night she would scratch at the door to get in while we were sleeping. We did what you were “supposed” to and ignored her until she went to sleep. But there was no proper manual for Sasha, because she would just stand up scratching the door for hours until you came out. Talk about a jarring way to wake up!

One of my favorite memories from that time was going out there to sleep near her on the couch. I started having a dream that I was in a place with a lot of gravity. Everything was weighing down on me, and I didn’t know why. Then I woke up to find her sleeping on top of me.

You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Eventually we figured things out.

You know those walks at the park? They were boring, apparently. Increasing the walk time and frequency had no effect on her midnight behavior, either. She was lacking mental stimulation.

So we decided to get creative with teaching her new tricks. Lucky for us, she was eager to learn new things and get rewarded for it.

“Earthquake” Go find the nearest cover and wait there (A San Francisco favorite!)


Sasha became far more obedient over our time with her, but I think she just found ways to satisfy us while still getting her way.

When we first got her, she would not drop her ball for any reason. In fact she’d fight you over it and run away. This made for some challenging times at the dog park when she would chase down someone else’s ball you needed to return. Eventually she started listening with some work from us. We had won.

But then I noticed something else happening. Whenever I’d throw the ball for her at the park, she stopped returning so quickly. For some reason, she always had to pee after retrieving the ball, even though we just walked for half an hour? She would also steer clear of me by a good 30 yards.

Then it clicked for me: She knew if she came close, I’d tell her to drop it and she had to obey. She also knew that I stopped calling her if she was going to the bathroom. She didn’t have to go to the bathroom, she was avoiding giving the ball up!

Gentle Monster

She was always an affectionate dog to people in her pack. She would love to put her head under your hand and fling it up so you would pet her. She did it so often it even got annoying at times. So I started hiding my hand. Her response? Put her paw on you and drag your hand over to pet her.

Even though she wasn’t good with cats at first, once she learned she even got affectionate with him. She would lick his head, and he would like it and rub himself all over her.

Sergio is another amazing animal story for another day, but let’s say he came a long way with Sasha, the dog he was initially convinced wanted to eat him.

She also reacted well to other dogs. Sure, she got grumpy if they wanted to play physically, but she never once retaliated or showed any aggression towards a dog. Not even the little Chihuahua who charged her and attacked one random morning. She just ran away even though she probably could have made quick work of it.


I had finally found her favorite park – McLaren Park. It’s seriously a great place with various areas, hiking trails, lakes and most importantly – squirrels. At first she would rambunctiously chase them on sight, and they’d have no problem getting away up a tree. So I decided to teach her to be stealthy. In no time she learned to approach quietly, from cover, and don’t start sprinting until you’re close enough to have a chance.

Only problem is, while I didn’t think she had the prey drive, you would never really know until she had a shot. She was put to the test one day when two fighting squirrels fell 30 feet from a tree. I remember thinking it was amazing they were still fighting after such a long fall, but before I could even complete the thought, Sasha was already running down the field for them! I thought, “OK, that’s it. I’ll find squirrel recipes.”

When she got there, she stopped – the squirrels hadn’t noticed. She stood over them a second, staring, trying to figure out why they weren’t running away. They figured it out when she let out a loud bark, which sent both of them back up the tree again, together, to quarrel another day.

Our Final Days

Sasha always behaved a certain way when she was afraid of something, and it usually meant crawling under my desk to shelter herself. So one day, and the beginning of July, she crawled under my desk, feeling sick. Having seen two dead, non-roadkill skunks in McLaren park that week, we first suspected poisinous meatballs that some idiot had been leaving around the city.

A trip to the pet hospital didn’t find any such evidence, and over the weekend we eventually found out it was far worse – she had Lymphoma, and that couldn’t be fixed. We did what was reasonable and put her on medication to slow down the cancer so she could feel better temporarily.

We spent our last month with her cherishing every moment, and trying to only worry when we had to. Despite our best efforts to stay cheery, handling the gravity of what was about to happen was difficult and grew harder as our last days closed in.

One random Thursday evening, I decided to take her back to her favorite park one last time (we hadn’t gone in a couple of weeks). I had forgotten her collar, but it didn’t matter anymore. Despite her degraded condition she had a blast, running around like it was her last time. Unfortunately, she may have known it was.

The next morning she went under my desk one last time, not eating anything she had ravenously consumed the day before. It was time, and we had Dr. Van Horn scheduled to come out later that day.

Looking back, no matter how tired or interested she was in something else, she never voluntarily left our sight. Not even when I was doing something mundane like taking out the garbage, doing laundry, or even going to the bathroom. So the least we could do was be there in her sight until she departed. I think she appreciated it because her final moments were peaceful as she lay on the couch, without a single protest or sign of discomfort.

When it was over I carried her lifeless body out of our house as gently as I could, cherishing her physical self last time, and said goodbye with a kiss she couldn’t feel anymore. It was the only dignity I could show an animal who had given me joy every day I was with her, made me miss her when we were away, and ultimately made me a dog person.

Rest in Peace, Sasha. We’ll always miss you.