Category Archives: Travel

City Bulls: Our Chicago Trip

As you saw from our Wordless Wednesday post last week, we were out of town for a few days with chicagotrip-july2013-7437the crew to the beautiful city of Chicago.  Now, we’re not big city folk and prefer the outdoors, soft dirt and forests with the crew but this was a pleasant change and a welcome event for the pups as well – even with the beastly heat we endured for a portion of our trip.

The initial purpose of our trip was Paco Collars hosting a collar making class at Unleashed, a wonderful doggie daycare and boarding facility in downtown Chicago.  We, of course, couldn’t just stay one day and drive home so we opted to come down a bit early and enjoy our time in the city being tourists.   We made sure that before we left, we had plenty of dog-friendly activities to do so that the pups wouldn’t have to sit and be bored in our hotel room (we highly recommend Red Roof Inn for all of your doggie travels – dogs-friendly, beautifully laid out and their Redicard program means free rooms for dogs on the go!) and thanks to a fellow blogger who lives in Chicago (thank you, Two Pitties in the City!) we were able to have a LOT of options and ideas on how to keep the monsters entertained while we enjoyed our little mini vacation – which I wish had been longer!

We hit up Navy Pier on our day of arrival and met up with a fellow pit bull owner (actually, she haschicagotrip-july2013-7423 AmStaffs. Hehe.) and were able to take in the sights and sounds there.  Ryker and Mika tagged along with us for this round and enjoyed getting to mooch pieces of the elephant ear sundae my husband ordered and my funnel cake and all the stranger affection they could weasel out of those who happened to pass by that they could give some attention too.

While we were there, we all opted to take a 30-minute boat ride aboard the Shoreline Cruises’ Cap Streeter.  Dogs rode free and it cost us people a measly $17 to enjoy the tour that talked about Chicago’s heritage, growth and birth of the coastline.  The dogs enjoyed a cool bottle of water that a one of the employees provided and their own glasses.  They didn’t quite know what to make of it at first but once the boat got moving, they all relaxed and attempted to mooch affection from the other passengers on the boat.

At the end of the day we said goodbye to Cassie and her two wonderful pups, Ace and Sugar, and headed back to the hotel for the evening where we all passed out after giving the whole pack (all five of them!) some romp time and dinner in our spacious hotel room.  We, after all, needed our rest for the adventures to follow, right?

We woke up bright and early the following morning and had hoped to hit Grant Park, which was listed as a phenomenal place to go with dogs, but unfortunately we weren’t able to indulge ourselves there chicagotrip-july2013-7601due to the Taste of Chicago Festival that was closed to dogs.  Instead, we took the opportunity to walk along the shoreline with Luna and Ryker.  They got lots and lots of compliments and we met some bully-loving people along the way (even if a one or two asked if we had puppies for sale.  Ha!).

Afterward, we headed out and about into the city.  We checked out various places and just relaxed with the pups until early afternoon where we had a quick lunch at Chicago Joe’s Restaurant.  The pups enjoyed cool bowls of water provided by our phenomenal waitress while we dined (and shared!) on delicious hamburgers with all of the goodies before heading back to the hotel to drop the kiddos off and head to our Paco Collar class (which was amazing and we highly recommend taking one in your area!).

We headed home the following day but we couldn’t end our adventures there.  After we crossed the border into Michigan, we made a point of stopping at Weko Beach in Bridgman, Michigan.  This beach is dog friendly for dogs who accompany their owners on leash and gives them a chance to experience Lake Michigan and the wonderful feeling of sand between the toes.  We walked all five (yes, at one time – we were a bit crazy, we know!) down to the beach line to let them romp a bit in thechicagotrip-july2013-7920 water before retreating to a small tidal pool for calmer play (and to allow our rescue boy, Duo, some fun in the water since the waves didn’t sit too well with him!) and more family photos of our adventures.

We didn’t get home until late that evening and the dogs and humans were exhausted from our travels but we had a good time and can definitely see visiting the beautiful city of Chicago in the near future – preferably when the hot weather relaxes its hold!  Until then, you can see our complete set of photos from the Chicago adventure here.

Wordless Wednesday: Pit Bull On A Boat (Chicago Edition)


Hello from Chicago!  We know it’s Wordless Wednesday and the dogs, husband and I are on vacation in the beautiful city of Chicago (check back for updates when we get back into town!) and Ryker wanted to check in with a photo from his fun trip on the Shoreline River Cruise boat, the Cap Streeter.  Hope you are all enjoying your summer time – we sure are!

Road Trip!


It’s hard to believe I’ve not take a dog event road trip in a little over a year.  I’ve stayed local for the most part because of work and personal obligations but finally had a chance to take some much deserve time off and go to a faraway place known as Waynesville, North Carolina for the Palmetto State APBT Club show with my buddy, Ryker.  It was three days of fun with one of my best buddies doing what we do best – working together and having a good time.

We went down hoping to try and get those last 18 points we need to finish Ryker’s ADBA conformation Championship.  (Because the last points are a PAIN to chase down – especially if one has a brindle dog.  They do NOT show conditioning well at ALL!)  We managed to eek out three with a third place under honorable judge Frank Rocca out of a class of ELEVEN(!!!!!!) 5 and Over Males.  It was insane.  I was constantly trying to move Ryker so he had the best vantage since he was more preoccupied on being a brat.  It was insane.

Quite honestly, I almost died and went to heaven when the judge came over with the 3rd place ribbon.  To be picked among so many nice older boys still vying for the same thing we were.  It truly was an honor and I’m pleased to have placed in the top three and believe many of those dogs deserved the honors of being in the top three as well.


Photo Credit: Laurie Jane

We also puttered around in weight pull that weekend for Saturday and squeaked another 3rd place there before pulling him out to go show in the first show.  He pulled 1,300# that weekend on a very hard track with the top pulling dog (who weighed 82#) pulling just about 3,400# and six dogs in his class (45-55# males).  I was pleased with what we did.  Should I have kept him in longer and forfeited my conformation entries?  Maybe but I didn’t really feel like pushing for much more beyond that.  We’ll get our Ace in due time.  He’s still a young man after all.  It’s not like he’s turning seven years in July.  (Which he actually is, but try telling him that!)

Overall, I had a good time.  It was nice to return to the ADBA circuit.  It gave me a chance to see old friends and meet some new ones.  I got to spend time with my Ryker-man and work that bond that we’ve been so blessed to have for all of these years.  The break did us good.  It gave me a new perspective and reminded that at the end of the day, I still have my wonderful boy and win or lose, he’s still #1 with me and we will just have to put the work in to show everyone else how awesome I already know he is.  Now…to get those last darn points!

The Leash is In Your Hand

The bond created between dog and handler is something that is unique to that dog and that handler.  In this post, our friend Jen of Vom Haus Huro has shared with us some of her inner wisdom and thoughts in regard to the teamwork, training and goals set forth for her dogs and herself as a trainer, handler and owner and what that means in terms of approach.  Enjoy!


There will come at least one time in life in which you will be faced with a decision in training. A moment or series of moments that can and will shape the future of your training plans and, in most cases, form either a base to build upon for the future or a derailment of training that can take you months to fix, if you are lucky enough to be able to recover from it at all. Everyone will have an opinion on your issue(s) and advice will flow at you from all directions. Which, if any, you choose to follow will ultimately decide your fate and that of your dog.

I believe that the most important thing is to consider who you are as a trainer, who your dog is as a dog and what your ultimate goals in training are going to be. There is always a lot of talk about drives and thresholds. “Oh, my dog has unbelievable pain thresholds”, followed closely by drive. “My dog has true fight drive”. Everyone is quick to brag about what their dog has and what it is. What is of even greater importance, however, is what the dog is NOT.

There is no such thing as a perfect dog. Each and every dog could have a little less of one drive and a little more of another. Each dog could be more balanced in a particular area and each dog will respond differently to different types of training. Focus first on what your dog is NOT, improve it to the best of your abilities in that area and then consider your next step at that point. When you put your dog on a pedestal of perfection, you forget to work on those small cracks that, in time, become large craters to your progress.

Another very important aspect is who you are as a handler. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and your commitment levels. Remember that your most important job as a handler is to protect your dog. You set the rules, the boundaries and the limitations on what is acceptable both from your dog and from those involved in the training with you.

I have seen people whipping their dogs with wooden dowels for a cleaner heel and to me, that is a line I am not willing to cross. Will they be getting better scores than me? Perhaps. It is entirely possible and more than likely probable that they will beat me, but there are no points in the world that are worth enough for me to do that to my dog. That is a line I have drawn as a handler and one that my dogs and I can all live with. That is what training boils down to. A relationship with your dog or dogs, based on trust, forged over time and tempered with time spent, miles traveled and trials faced together. Stay true to who you are as a handler and as a team. Stay true to your dog and the relationship and bond that you have created. Stand firm in your convictions and your beliefs and do not let the popular (or unpopular) beliefs persuade you to do else-wise. The leash is in your own hand. Not that of your trainers and fellow competitors, but yours and yours alone. You hold the responsibility right there in your palm. At the end of the day, it will be you and your dog(s), and you alone have to sleep with the decision that you have made. I hope you make good ones, my friends, and that your dreams are sweet.

Yours in training and sport,


Jen and Icon (UCH VP1 SG (NASS) Icon Vom haus Huro CGC BH CD CI NAT Puppy CH OFA)

Home Away from Home: Fort Custer State Park

My husband and I try and take a mini vacation every once in a while to just get away from it all.  This kind of trip typically involves the outdoors and the dogs.  Since we’d planned to use up the rest of our vacation time from work for the week of Thanksgiving we figured this was ample opportunity to ‘just get away’ for a little while and what better way to do that than to hit the trails?

We planned for weeks on where we wanted to go.  We researched the various trails, distances and locations that we wanted to check out since we had already thoroughly abused the local parks and recreation areas close to home.  At the suggestion of our friend Cindy from The Nut House, we checked out the deal on Fort Custer State Park.  That was it.  We had found our spot and the wait began – which was mercifully short.

We headed toward Kalamazoo on Sunday evening after attending the NWDA weight pull that was being hosted that weekend (more on that later) and settled into our hotel room (after an awesome dinner at Mongolian BBQ!) for the evening since we were going to hit the trails first thing in the morning on Monday with the pack and the addition of Peanut and Cindy.

Left to Right: Peanut, Lyric, Ryker, Mika & Luna

We hit the trails around 11am the following morning after packing our backpacks with the supplies for the trip and harnessing up the dogs and got lost in the woods for four hours.  We made a few stops throughout since my knees aren’t always the greatest on hikes (and for a picnic lunch!).  We seemed to be alone to enjoy the wilderness with our pack of pit bulls other than a pair of mountain bikers who were stopped due to one of them wiping out and messing up his bike pretty badly (he was uninjured, thankfully!).

All in all, it was a wonderful set of trails despite the fact that they were pretty poorly marked.  I can’t wait to head back there in the spring when the weather is a touch better to do it all again.

Here are a few more shots from our trip.  The rest can be viewed here.

Home Sweet Home

The trip home was relatively uneventful.  We had a couple of challenges along the way home – namely the motor for the wipers finally died and we had to pull over during a sudden downpour right on the boarder of Pennsylvania and Ohio – but otherwise, the only annoying thing is that it was a long trip.  The dogs held up well and napped most of the way home.

We had such a wonderful trip in both Portsmouth and Washington D.C.  The dogs received lots of compliments on their behavior because they stayed when we set them up for photos in Washington or at various scenic stops along the way.  They loved every moment of the attention and lapped it up in typical pit bull fashion.

Work calls to start back up tomorrow.  While I’m not looking forward to it, it will be good to get back to being industrious.  Between work and planning our wedding reception (July 21st), we’ll be very busy these next few weeks and the vacation gave us a respite from the normal hustle and bustle of our day to day lives.

I’m hoping the weather cools off here soon as the temperatures in the high 90s and 100s are not conducive to training the dogs and they are sorely missing the structure and mental stimulation we get from training.  It’s been rather annoying dealing with four very high drive dogs and no actual direction for them to go because of the sheer heat and concern for their safety.  Ah, well…we’ll get back into the groove again.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.  You can enjoy the rest here.

Mika, Luna and Ryker at the Washington Monument

Lincoln Monument in Washington D.C.

The unbelievable temperatures in our travels.

Virginia Livin’

“Are we there yet?”, says Luna and Mika.

We got in yesterday at around nine o’clock in the evening and checked into our hotel in Chesapeake, VA.  The dogs were relieved to finally be some place that didn’t require being loaded back up in the car for a few more hours on the road.  They were able to lounge and relax for the rest of the night while we went and visited family for dinner and catching up since it had been a few years since I had been down to visit and it was a first for my wonderful husband.  We didn’t get back to the hotel room until a little after midnight and let the dogs potty one more time before retiring for bed from a long and uneventful day of travel down here.

Today, the dogs got to chill in the hotel while we ran around with family to an sushi buffet and other errands that were planned.  We’re now back in the hotel and they’re all relaxing while I blog.  Tomorrow, we’re planning on going back over with the crew and taking a nice walk after the weather cools down a bit in the evening so that our pack can be introduced to Logan and do a little bit of training and prep work to see if Logan is ready to do his CGC test along with some other activities with my darling little sister.

We’ll be leaving here on Thursday morning and heading up to Washington D.C.  We’ll be staying there until Saturday before heading back home to Michigan.  We’d like to do the tourist thing while we’re in D.C. and hit some of the dog-friendly locations while up there and get some good photos of the pups while having a little bit of fun for the two of us.

It truly has been a wonderful vacation so far and makes me not want to return to the reality of our life, but sadly that will eventually have to happen.  It’s a shame that it’s so darn soon.


The Real Meaning of Roadwork

No, this entry isn’t really about walking and conditioning your dog.  It’s about our trip into the great unknown.  Our first vacation that doesn’t involve some dog event as the main course of action and I’m so freaking excited!

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we are heading down to Virginia.  More specifically, we’re heading down toward Virginia Beach/Chesapeake/Portsmouth for four days before swinging up toward Washington D.C./Arlington.  It’s that time of the year that we get a week off of work and this year we intend to take advantage of it.  Getting to see friends and be ‘tourists’ for the first time in a long time is definitely a worthy reason to take a road trip.

We’ll be loading up the dog mobile with our gear and the gear of four of the five dogs.  We would be taking five, but unfortunately, Duo doesn’t travel well.  The stress of a long road trip does his system no good so he gets to stay behind and enjoy a week’s vacation as the only dog with Grandpa.  Luna, Lyric, Ryker and Mika, however, think that traveling is very awesome and they can’t wait to be going.

The one unfortunate thing is that BSL has limited our choice in areas to stay in up in the Washington D.C. area since a few of the less expensive hotels are in areas where there are restrictions.  We won’t put our dogs in that risk and so are avoiding those areas and spending a bit more money for a canine family-friendly vacation.  It sucks, but it is what it is when it comes to the response to owning an APBT because of the irresponsibility and management of others who have ruined it for the whole.

So, right now, it’s t-minus less than 24 hours before we hit the road.  So excited!

Our Mini Vacation

Well, we’ve got the entire week off from work and decided that it was time for a mini vacation away from home.  After some thought and discussion between Bruce and I, we decided on a destination that wasn’t too far from home in case someone in the family needed us for some dire emergency – Monroe, MI.

We’ve been down here, it seems, every single New Years weekend for some dog event or another.  This will be the first time that we come here and there is absolutely nothing dog related in the works.  We’re staying at our favorite hotel, Red Roof Inn.  They’re dog friendly and have loads of room for the pups to romp around the room without being a pain in the rear to the neighbors.  We opted this time, thanks to coupons, for the suite.  Let me tell you this…it’s huge.  Two rooms, king-sized bed (perfect for the pit bulls, let me tell you..they’ve already tested it out!), kitchenette, and a ‘living room’.  The dogs (and Bruce and I!) are in seventh heaven.

We’re going to be here until at least Thursday, although we’ve been whispering back and forth about staying into the New Year just to ‘ be away’ for the rolling in of 2012, but we’ll see how that goes in the next 24 hours.  Tomorrow, if the weather isn’t absolutely horrid, we’re planning on taking a drive down to Luna Pier and taking some photos and letting the dogs romp on the beach for a bit.  They don’t seem to care if it’s cold, but we’re going to bring their Fido Fleece jackets just in case they get too chilly.

All in all, we’ve got a nice little mini vacation planned – even if the weather continues to stay gross and we stay grounded to the hotel.  Plenty of local flavors we can enjoy and places to go that aren’t too far from ‘home.’  I’ll post more updates later on since I get to go be the fun police to two brats that keep ramming themselves into the back of my computer chair like sumo wrestlers!