Dewey Dude the Chick Sitter ;) (or How to Harden Off Your Chicks)

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Recently I started taking the chicks out to the greenhouse during the day.  I set up Dewey Dude’s puppy crate with some branches for perching and wrapped chicken wire around the crate so they couldn’t slip out.

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My scruffy little chicks checking out their new daytime digs

 

They’ve got their food and water and can even nibble on some Swiss Chard that’s growing close to the cage.  They’re still protected from any serious wind, and the top of the crate is covered so there’s shade as well.  This allows them to slowly get used to outdoor conditions, as they get some sun and a bit of a breeze, but nothing too intense.  Plus they can eat all the bugs they can catch within the crate- yum! LOL  Just like hardening off plants, young chickens need to slowly get used to outdoor conditions.

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“Hey, not bad!  Food, water, perches, fresh air, greens- yeah this is nice!”

 

I started them off with a few hours and gradually increased the time in the greenhouse to most of the day, bringing them back inside in the evening.  They really seem to enjoy having room to run around and spread their wings, and they love the perches.

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“Thanks Mom- we like this set up!”

They’re still kind of skittish, but when I just hold my hand in the crate for a few minutes the bravest ones will come over and check me out.  Then I pet them and scratch their little chests, which they really like.

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Dewey Dude, the official Chick Sitter

And Dewey Dude has become my official Chick Sitter😉  He leads the way when I take the chicks (in a box) from the house to the greenhouse.  Then he keeps an eye on them once they’re in the cage.  During the day he frequently checks on them just to be sure they’re OK.  They seem to like him too- they’ll come over the side of the cage where Dewey’s at and nibble on his nose or toes:)  He doesn’t even mind when they do that!  He is such a good dog!

dewey and chicks in greenhouse

“Don’t worry Mom, I’ll keep an eye on the girls”

There’s that guarding instinct in action😉  I still have to watch him when the chicks get excited and start fluttering around, because he wants to paw or mouth them, and it wouldn’t take much for him to accidentally kill them.  As he gets older (he’s 11 months old now) he does get calmer and better able to control himself.  I’m sure the day will come when I’ll be able to allow him to be among the chickens unsupervised.

The next move for the chicks will be out to a separate enclosure within the big chicken’s pen.  When the little ones are about the same size as the big girls I’ll allow them to fully integrate, but when they’re so much smaller the big girls could hurt them.  Chickens can be surprisingly mean.  This is the first time I’ve tried the dog crate in the greenhouse for the chicks (I forgot we even had it until we got Dewey Dude- LOL).  Last year I let the chicks “free range” in the greenhouse, but that had it’s drawbacks.  They ate too many greens and damaged what little lettuce I had growing in there, and they were very difficult to catch when it came time to go back to the house in the evening.  Each year I learn more and figure out better ways of doing things.

So that’s what’s going on with my little feathered friends right now:)  Before you know it they’ll be all grown up and laying eggs for us!  And my sweet puppy is so happy to have such an important job- he’s the best chick sitter I could ask for❤

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

It’s Time For Spring Chicks!

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Yep, it’s that time of year again- time to start raising the next batch of chickens.  In the past Sal has gotten 6 or 7 day old chicks from our local feed store every other year or so.  This time we’re doing it differently and have decided to get new chicks every year so there won’t be any reduction in overall egg production as the youngsters grow to maturity and the older hens stop producing.  Our 7 Rhode Island Red chickens from last year (now 1 year old) are still producing reliably and haven’t started to molt yet, so we should have plenty of eggs until the little ones are ready to start laying.  This year instead of our usual Rhode Island Reds we got 6 White Leghorns.  The Reds lay brown eggs and the Leghorns lay white eggs, so we’ll be able to know who’s producing and how much.

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One of my Rhode Island Red chickens

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Our 6 new White Leghorn chicks

So far we’ve had good luck getting our day old chicks from Olsen’s feed store.  A few days before we’re ready to pick them up I wash the chick cage with soap and water and scrub it thoroughly (I do the same thing before we put it into storage too), then spray it with vinegar to sanitize it.  Their feeder and water container get the same treatment and everything is allowed to dry in the sun.  Sal made this cage years ago, when he first started raising chickens and it has served us well.  By the time the chicks get too big for this cage they’re usually ready to go out to the coop.  There’s a removable tray under the bottom of the cage that we line with paper so it’s easy to clean.  Of course the bigger these critters get, the more often I need to change their paper (they can be messy little buggers!).

For the first few weeks (or longer, depending on the weather) we keep the cage on the island in the kitchen, with the heat lamp positioned over the top.  Figuring out the right position of the heat lamp is a bit of trial and error, but the basic rule is if the chicks are all clustered together under the lamp they’re cold and you need to move the light closer.  If they’re avoiding the lamp and are scattered around the cage, as far from the light as possible they’re hot and the light is too close.  They should wander around the cage comfortably and sleep in small groups all around the cage floor.  It took me a while, but I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out how to keep them comfortable.

The really fun part is always introducing the other animals to the chicks.  I do like having the chicks get used to the cats and dogs so they’re not afraid of them, and having the dogs especially realize that these chicks are not prey, but family members they’re supposed to protect.

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“This thing is fascinating!”

This is Dewey Dude’s first experience with chicks, and I’m making a special effort to get him familiar with them.  He’s getting better with the older chickens, but still wants to jump on them sometimes.  He’s a very skilled hunter (he caught his first mouse when he was just 3 months old, and since then has caught a variety of birds, rodents, and rabbits) so I want to be sure he understands that this is not the same as the critters he hunts.  He’s very intelligent and watches me talking to the chicks and holding and petting them, so that also reinforces the idea that these little things are part of the family and are to be protected.  Ziggi’s been through all this before and really has very little interest in the chicks (or the adult chickens, for that matter).

Then of course there’s the cats.

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Ginko is utterly fascinated with the chicks.  He’s always been a housecat and has never caught anything bigger than a spider, but he’s got some pretty strong hunting insticts.  He’s not quite sure what to do with these things, but they sure do smell interesting!  BTW, I’m very careful that no animals get hurt or stressed out during these little meetings.  I’m actually surprised at how calm the chicks are when I take them out and let them interact with the cats and dogs.  Of course if the chicks were running around the house unsupervised I’m sure it wouldn’t take Ginko too long to figure out what a cat does with a critter like this.  Calcifer, on the other hand, is a complete love.

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I could probably let all 6 chicks cuddle with him in the chair and he wouldn’t mind at all.  He’s actually a little afraid of them when they start cheeping loudly and fluttering around in their cage (they really get excited if a gnat or something flies into their cage!).

And so this is just another sign of spring around here- the peeping of fluffy little chicks on the counter😉  When the weather warms a bit more we’ll put the cage out in the garage with the heat lamp and I’ll start taking them outside for brief “field trips” to get them used to the outdoors, the sun, the wind, the feel of grass under their feet, etc.  Sal’s going to build them a separate little coop in the main chicken enclosure so when they’re big enough to go out full time they can safely be with the big chickens.  When they’re the same size as the Reds I’ll allow the flocks to intermingle.  If I put them together when the chicks are too small they could get hurt- chickens can be pretty vicious.  And when the Reds stop producing we’ll give them away to someone who wants them for bug patrol like we did with the last batch.

This will be the fourth year that I’ve raised chickens, and each year I learn a bit more.  I’ve already learned that Leghorns spook easier than Rhode Island Reds.  Loud noises have the chicks peeping and fluttering all over the cage, and any time I change the water or feed them they all spaz out- LOL.  They are getting used to me though, and I hope spending  a good bit of time with them will help them calm down and realize I’m not going to hurt them.  They do seem to enjoy it when I hold them and pet their little heads- they close their eyes and get this blissful expression:)

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Just hanging out with my peeps😉

So that’s life down on the farm:)  I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to post now that it’s getting to be planting season, but I’ll try to keep you all up to date on the latest happenings.  On that note, the seedlings are all doing well.  I’ve got them under lights in the guest bathroom like I did last year (you can check out this post to see just what I did last year https://gettingcreativewithcreativecritters.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/starting-seeds-indoors-the-beginning-of-the-2015-gardening-season/).  I’ve been putting them out in the greenhouse during the day for extra sunlight and that seems to really be getting them off to a good start.  Then I bring them back in before it gets too cool in the evening.

Hopefully this season will be at least as productive as last!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Vacation in Mexico

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Just got back from an awesome vacation down in Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) Mexico.  This is the third time I’ve been down there with Sal, and as always, it was just gorgeous.  His friend has a house right on the beach and has been kind enough to let us use it each year.  February seems to be the perfect time to go too.  The weather was perfect: highs around 80, lows around 60, and a nice light breeze during the day.  Plus we were there for the full moon, which was just beyond amazing!

It takes me about a week to prep all the food and everything, but it’s worth the effort.  We hit town on the way in and then never have to leave the beach house the rest of the time we’re there.  We pick up a few things (mainly fresh seafood), then head to the house and settle in.

Here’s a shot of Calcifer trying to make me feel guilty about leaving him and Ginko.  Once he sees the bags packed and ready to go at the door he knows we’ll be leaving for at least a few days.  I DO feel guilty about leaving the cats, and I miss them terribly, but they do just fine on their own for a few days.  I always make sure to leave more than enough food and water.  And within a few hours of us returning home the cats are back to their normal routine, as if we’d never left (although Calcifer especially remains extra cuddly for at least a few days).

Mexico 2-16 packing Calcifer Ziggi’s been to Mexico several times, but this was Dewey Dude’s first time down there.

 

I think he was impressed with the beach and the ocean😉  I love having the dogs down there- it’s like they multiply our own joy.  They raced around on the beach and Dewey Dude made friends with every dog and person he saw.

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Since he hadn’t had a lot of interaction with other dogs (besides Ziggi) I was a little concerned about his social skills, but I shouldn’t have worried.  The Kid is such a sweet and affection creature that every dog he met was happy to play with him, and nearly every person loved him too.  He met an old arthritic dog named Poncho and somehow knew that he wasn’t feeling good.  So The Dude lay next to old Poncho and gently kissed his face❤  How sweet is that?!  The young Doberman a few houses down was a great playmate though, and I think Dewey fell in love with her❤

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And after a long day of playing The Kid is completely tuckered out😉  Oh, and another thing that Dewey did that really showed his caring nature- he buried several dead sea birds that had washed up on the beach.  He didn’t try to carry them off or chew on them (we had to yell at Ziggi for that a few times), but every time Dewey came across a freshly dead bird he used his nose to cover it with sand, and he wouldn’t leave until it was properly covered.  After the first few I started helping him bury them so he would feel better and wouldn’t have to spend all day burying birds.  I’m still not sure why there were so many dead birds washing up on the shore😦

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Ziggi likes being on vacation because that’s one time when he’s actually allowed on the furniture😉

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And of course The Kid had to take advantage of the suspended “no dogs on the furniture” rule too!

Naturally I got plenty of sun, sand, and surf myself😉

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Just walking through that sand every day, all day was an excellent leg toner!

And then there are those gorgeous sunsets!

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I just couldn’t have asked for a more perfect vacation!  And the timing for us was excellent: Sal had a lull in work, I hadn’t started planting the garden yet (although I’ll be starting seeds now that I’m home again), and the temps here at home were warm enough for me to leave the greenhouse open at night, but not so hot during the day that everything in there dried out.  It was a refreshing little pause before the busy garden season starts again.  And of course Sal’s got plenty of yard work waiting for him too😉  I think we’ve got the timing figured out pretty well now, so hopefully we’ll be able to do this again at the same time next year.  Last year we went in mid-June, and although it happened to be cooler than usual down there it was still pretty hot and VERY humid.  The neighbors said that October through April (at the latest) was really the best time to be down there.  They also said to avoid Spring Break, because that’s when things got rowdy😉  I prefer a nice quiet, relaxing vacation myself!

Stay tuned to see what I get into next!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Fantastic Fantasy Creations from CreativeCritters

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If you’re at all familiar with my work you’ll know that I really enjoy creating fun fantasy characters.  The world of fantasy fits my creative style perfectly- I can make up the rules as I go😉  I can create cool characters like Warrior Brega here, who was inspired in part by Terry Brooks’ Shannara series.

Warrior Brega Wielding a Warhammer Fantasy Polymer Clay OOAK sculpture

I can get lost in all those fun little details, like the embossing on his armor and War Hammer, and imagine the story that goes with him.  Brega is a brave warrior, honest and fearless in battle, always willing to right the wrongs of evil-doers.

And then there are the multitude of fantasy creatures just waiting to be sculpted!  This is the only griffin I’ve sculpted (so far), done in Dinko Tilov’s whimsical style. There really are no limits when it comes to fantasy!

Handmade Polymer Clay Mythological Fantasy Griffin Sculpture

This cute yet fearsome (in his mind at least) griffin even has glow in the dark eyes and claws.  Glow in the dark clay is an awesome addition to most fantasy creations.

OOAK Polymer Clay Glow in the Dark Lion Fish Mermaid sculpture

My LionFish Mermaid sculpture makes good use of glow in the dark clay, and she looks so cool at night!

Fantasy finds it’s way into the jewelry I make as well.  This is probably one of my favorite dragon necklaces.  I call it Mei’s Flowers and I created it for the May Flowers polymer clay challenge several years ago.

OOAK Purple Dragon and Iris Flower Necklace with Swarovski Crystals

Fantasy has also found it’s way into my knitting as well.  I’ve made several knit unicorns, all different, of course.  This purple unicorn is the only one I have left in my shop at the moment.  Another of my favorites, since not only is she a unicorn, but she’s purple!

Handmade Knit Pastel Pink Purple and Blue Unicorn Fantasy Stuffed Toy

And this is just a small sample of the fantasy creations you can find at CreativeCritters!  I do custom orders as well, so if there’s a fantasy creature you’d like me to create just let me know:)

Each of these pictures is linked to the product’s listing in my shop, so you can click on the picture to learn more about any of these items.

Thanks for stopping by and taking a little trip through my fantasy world!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Dewey Dude’s New (recycled/ repurposed) Dog Bed

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My little boy is growing up! LOL.  The bed that fit Dewey Dude when he was just a  little two month old puppy just wasn’t working anymore.  Now he’s a great big 8 month old (and still growing) puppy and it was definitely time for an upgrade to his dog bed.

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Look at that cute little puppy! I could pick him up with one hand at this age!

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Now look at The Kid (one of his many nicknames)! I can barely pick him up with both arms- he’s at least 50 pounds!

I thought about buying a new dog bed, but c’mon, this is me we’re talking about here!  I don’t buy anything I can make myself, and I usually make it better than what you find in the stores😉

Last year we got a new mattress, but of course we still had the old one.  Sal’s like me- he doesn’t throw away anything that he might be able to recycle, reuse, or repurpose.  So we carefully took apart the mattress, which had a really nice pillow top, and the box spring and put everything in storage until we found a use for it.  The box spring will likely become a gate, and I already used some of the padding to re-stuff Ziggi’s dog bed.

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Ginko was helping me work on Ziggi’s bed- he’s a very paws on kind of supervisor😉

I decided to use the pillow topper from the mattress to create a new Big Boy dog bed for Dewey Dude.  Since he likes to sprawl when he sleeps I knew I’d have to make a pretty big bed.  I cut the well padded pillow topper in half then folded it and sewed the seams.

Of course I had help from Calcifer!  It was a real pain (quite literally!) to sew all this by hand, but it did turn out really nice.  If I were to buy a bed this big and soft it would cost well over $100.  This thing has four thick layers of padding and is very durable.  I covered it with his blankets so he would know it was his, and so I could easily wash the blankets and keep the bed clean.  Dewey Dude certainly approves!

 

Hopefully he won’t outgrow this bed anytime soon!  I’ll make one for Ziggi when my hands heal up from this one.  I managed to shed a little blood on this project😉  Hey, anything to make my critters happy!😀

Be sure to check back and see what else I’m working on!

Thanks for stopping by:)

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Making a Glow in the Dark Mushroom House with Gnomes and Bunny

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I wanted to share my latest creation with you all today.  This fun little project all started with the cork from our New Year’s Eve bottle of champagne😉  I looked at the cork and thought, “that looks like a mushroom- I should definitely do something with that!”.  At first I was just going to make a simple little ornament or something along those lines, but I seem to have a real hard time doing anything simple- LOL.  wip mushroom gnome house

When I started this I really had no idea where it was going or how it would develop.  I covered the cork with clay to create the mushroom, then decided that I wanted the stem to be longer so I added a foil extension, coated in Tacky glue so the clay would stick better.  There are two wires inserted through the cork and into the foil to create a secure stem.  At this point I had decided I wanted to make a house, because in my fun fantasy world mushrooms make excellent houses.

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I expanded the mushroom cap and added a door and several windows around the stem of the mushroom.  I used glow in the dark clay for the underside of the cap, the windows (so it looks like they’re lighted from within in the dark), the heart shaped doorknob, and the three hearts on top of the mushroom cap.

Then I needed a base for this creation (mushrooms have to grow somewhere, after all).

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Calcifer likes to supervise these projects, but seems to get the munchies, so I made sure he had a comfortable spot to eat while he watched me work😉  The way I usually make bases for my projects is to cut out a piece of stiff cardboard in the desired shape, coat it with a thin layer of Tacky glue (to help the clay adhere), let the glue dry, then cover the cardboard in clay.

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In this case I used shades of green, blue, yellow, and gold polymer clay for the grass.  Now the mushroom has been securely “planted”.  But who lives here?  Gnomes of course!  I like sculpting gnomes because they are fun, happy creatures (at least when I make them).  As I delved deeper into this little story that was developing in my mind I decided I wanted to add an animal to the scene (no surprise there!).  I thought it would be pretty cool to have Mr. and Mrs. Gnome feeding their friend bunny rabbit.

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I made the rabbit realistic and on a much larger scale than the gnomes so it was obvious that the gnomes were of the tiny variety.  I also sculpted a bunch of minuscule carrots for the bunny- not an easy task BTW!  The gnome is only about 1 1/2 inches tall, so this is pretty detailed for being so tiny.

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I put a carrot in each of the gnome’s hands and carefully propped him in an espresso cup for baking.  Behind him you can see the tiny red basket filled with carrots that I baked at the same time.  Mrs. Gnome was the next to be sculpted, but I had to bake the basket first so that I could wrap her hand around the handle.  Once all the characters were baked I positioned them on the unbaked base and added lots of pretty flowers.

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It’s so much fun “writing” a story in sculpture!  Mrs. Gnome is an avid gardener (much like myself) and loves tending the pretty flowers throughout her yard.  Mr. Gnome enjoys his vegetable garden and both love animals and are more than happy to share their bounty with the local critters.  Mr. Bunny Rabbit stops by every day for a snack of fresh carrots.

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I love how much detail I managed to achieve on such a small scale!  It takes a great deal of patience, but I find it so rewarding.  I admit, I did have to wear reading glasses this time around to see what I was doing.  I wear contacts to see far away, but lately I’ve noticed it’s getting harder to clearly see the tiny details when I’m sculpting on this scale.  The reading glasses really helped though and allowed me to get super detailed:)

And then there’s the glow in the dark effect!

 

 

In the first picture you can see the windows, the underside of the mushroom cap, and some of the flowers glowing.  The second picture is the top of the mushroom, to which I also added random sprinkles of glow in the dark powder- pretty trippy!😉

Here’s a few pictures with measurements so you can see exactly how big the entire sculpture is.

 

 

I have this piece listed for sale on CreativeCritters, so if anyone is interested in purchasing it (or just seeing more pictures) you can click on any of the pictures to be taken to the full listing.  This was a lot of fun to make, and I’m glad I took the time to just create something fun and fanciful.  This sort of thing just makes me happy:)  Hopefully it will make you happy as well!

Stay tuned to see what else I’m creating!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

 

Fun with the Dogs at Beaver Creek

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The other day Sal decided that we ought to take a spontaneous trip with the dogs to Beaver Creek, one of our favorite little getaways.  We always go during the week when no one else is there, so we have our choice of spots to hang out at along the creek.  Of course Ziggi, being the water dog that he is, absolutely loves the creek.  We’ve been taking him there for the last few years, and the minute we get near the water he’s in it!

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Dewey Dude isn’t as much of a natural when it comes to water.  This is only his second trip to the creek- the first time he only just got his paws wet😉  He’s gaining some confidence though, and he really wants to be where Ziggi’s at.

beaver creek ziggi and dewey

The dogs had a blast running and jumping over the red rocks (this is in Sedona BTW), and racing through the trees.  This place is like doggy Heaven!  And I think when the fish are around Dewey Dude may just turn out to be a pretty good fishing dog.  He knows how to put his whole face in the water and can even fish things out (like rocks and sticks).

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He’s working on getting a rock out of this puddle😉  Ziggi tries to go fishing, but doesn’t comprehend how to stick his face in the water.  It’s really pretty funny to watch him try to go fishing.  The fish will be swimming around in front of him and he just sort of snaps at the surface of the water.  It does keep him busy though, and he seems to enjoy himself, so it’s all good.  Maybe Dewey Dude can teach him how its done.

beaver creek dewey dude and ziggi dog

This is a shot of the boys patiently waiting for their treat.  Dewey’s as big as Ziggi now!  Whenever we go on these little day trips we pack some snacks for ourselves and treats for the dogs.  It’s such a pleasure being out in nature with Sal and the boys.  We all feel revitalized when we get back:)  And it’s good to be able to let the dogs run and play and just be dogs.  I take them for walks daily, but it’s not the same as being able to climb mountains, swim, and race and leap through open fields.

I love watching Dewey Dude gain confidence and try new things too.  He was testing his balance and getting a feel for the water here.

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While part of me was a bit worried about him going over the falls, I knew he’d be fine.  We picked a fairly safe spot and there was a calm, shallow pool just past the falls.

It was a really gorgeous day- about 70 degrees and sunny.  Gotta love these Arizona winters!  It’s nice to have this time with Sal too, something different from our everyday routine.  It helps us stay connected with Mother Nature and with each other❤

beaver creek me and sal kissing

So, in conclusion, take some time out in nature.  Be happy, enjoy your dog’s enthusiasm for the great outdoors, and kiss your sweetie in the sunshine❤

Life is good!:)

~Michelle of CreativeCritters