It was nearly 10 years ago that I first heard the rumor about the Bloomingdale Trail.
While buying a bench on Craigslist (from a loft at the old Schwinn Bicycle Factory!) the owner told me he bought his place because they would be building an amazing park on the old Bloomingdale rail line...in the next "few" years.
Flash forward to over a decade of several starts, stops, and a false-alarm opening last year, and the trail finally opened this past weekend. The Bloomingdale trail stretches 2.7 miles above the city creating a continuous walking path between Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Wicker Park, and Bucktown.
Since it's mere blocks from our home, we were excited to check it out this past weekend with the pooches:
They had several huge events for the opening weekend, and this is likely the most crowded the trail will ever be. Somehow it was able to accommodate the mix of walkers, bikers, dogs and strollers.
There are a lot of homes built right next to the trail, but it was interesting seeing all the rooftop decks, and a lot of the homes were having parties and waving to the people walking along the trail.
We ran into a lot of friends, neighbors, and a neighbor out on his rooftop deck.
Our favorite part was being able to walk continuously without needing to stop for traffic.
Of course, Mr. B brought his camera and he made this video showing the trail from the dog's view.
We know some people are hesitant to get dogs in the city because without backyards, there is always so much walking involved. While we really enjoy heading out for a family walk, I've also realized so many other times it has been helpful to have a dog at your side.
Finding a Mailbox
While so many things are better in the city, one thing that is more difficult is mail.
Without going into stolen packages or lack of delivery, it is just really difficult to mail stuff.
You can't just put the outgoing mail in your mailbox for the mail person to take, but you have to put it in a common blue mailbox. Which usually will be several blocks out of your way, and across at least 2 large streets. Or just hard to find. I would go days carrying my Netflix around hoping to stumble upon a mailbox that I never found.
The mailbox closest to our house is about 4 blocks away, which means I'm walking 8 blocks just to mail a letter. Which seems like a chore if I'm doing it on my own, but it becomes worthwhile with the pups. And if Mr. B can bring his stuffy.
Justifying Walk-by Donuts
Mr. B jauntily waits for donuts.
Chicago is really good at having walk-by food windows. Including several dessert options.
And since we're out walking around with the pups so much, we've made it a family tradition to stop by the Glazed & Infused window on our family walks.
Having a Late-Night Escort
While we walk most places in the city, I still know to take extra precautions after dark.
It seems like the people I'm most wary of, are most wary of the pups. E and I always refer back to the time when we were walking and a guy leaped out of our way, turns to Mr. B and told him "Much respect, Sir".
We're lucky that so many places in the city allow dogs in their outdoor seating areas so if I'm going out to meet friends I can bring one of the pups to escort me home.
One of our biggest concerns going from a single floor condominium to a single family home were the stairs. We were worried that our elderbulls would not fair so well on our stairs that lead up the bedroom and down to the basement. Miss M has long and gangly arms that are perfect for our stairs. She can ascend and descend our stairs with amazing grace. Mr. B on the other hand, has a harder time up the stairs. Though his stubby arms really makes it difficult for him to climb up our stairs, it is actually going down the stairs that has caused Mr. B the most problems. As written many times before, Mr. B loves his stuffies. He loves them so much that he has to take them everywhere, even if it means taking them up and down from the second floor.
We were wary, but we thought it was nothing to be concerned about. Until that fateful day when we heard a loud crash coming from the hallway. really early in the morning. A and I jumped out of bed to find a stuffy on our landing and Mr. B hobbling a bit on the main floor.
Luckily for us, the vet examined Mr. B and found that his injuries were minor, but we are really shaken by the whole event.
Now Mr. B is no longer allowed to carry any stuffy down or up the stairs. A has even separated his stuffys, where the ones that dangle and can cause Mr. B to trip are Mr. B's downstairs stuffys and the rest are his upstairs stuffys.
Unlucky for Mr. B, whenever he wants his stuffys to all be together, it is quickly yanked out of his mouth whenever he approaches the stairs. No longer will his stuffy collection be complete and in one place.
After so many years of maintaining our blog and sharing about the pups daily, it feels so strange to have stepped away from the blog for so long.
Since we launched The Laboratory, things have become beyond busy between The Laboratory and our regular teaching at school. We wrote before that The Laboratory has always been a dream of ours, that we never realized regular people (like us!) could start. It has been so great to have so much support from everyone, and to actually create the types of classes that I always wished I could take. And it has been so much fun! We've been using chemistry to recreate Cleopatra's beauty products, re-creating Hogwarts in Chicago, and working with students as young as 5 to design their own mechanical creatures (including an all-girls class!). We're already developing our summer camps where we'll be training dragons, dodging zombies and working as detectives.
We're still out and about with the pups, though the time where I'd normally spend photographing, creating, and writing for the blog has now been dedicated to continuing to create ideas for The Laboratory, emailing and returning phone calls.
One thing that has been lucky for us is that the pups can join us at The Laboratory when we need to go in to do things and we don't have classes.
They like to sit by the window and watch the people who watch them:
You usually don't see "shop dogs" this big, or in a pair, so a lot of people stop and interact with them through the windows. So we thought of some ways they can draw extra attention to our space:
The pups like the idea of "going to work". Mr. B has even decided that any store in our neighborhood that has its door open must be his store.
They get to help us out as we test our experiments.
Like checking out the Bath Bombs (Miss M approved!):
And some of Elsa's magically disappearing snowballs.
Miss M was not impressed.
Sometimes they become a bit bored, kind of like when I used to visit my Dad's laboratory. And Mr. B will just try to sleep:
Though Miss M needs to make sure it's a bit more like home:
As things are starting to settle a bit more, we're hoping to get back to writing more on Two Pitties, because we really have missed it!
We've been posting somewhat on our Facebook page.
We've still been running into a couple of people who know the pups from the blog (thanks for saying hi!). They've told us that this, this, and this were some of their favorite posts!
We've been overwhelmed with all of the well-wishing and support as we've started The Laboratory.
Though since we're doing this in addition to our full-time jobs, we're trying to figure out what our "new normal" is. While we've always had an annual tradition of taking the pups to the St. Patrick's Day parade, this year we were at The Laboratory working with students to create robots that draw, light up Elsa crowns, and make snow from powder.
So we missed the parade this year. Though in spirit of the holiday, these are some of our favorite photos from past celebrations:
For the past several months we've been a bit quiet as we've been working on a big project which we are excited to finally reveal.
We have just opened a unique community workshop space called The Laboratory.
It's part unique children's classes combing science+arts where you learn chemistry by making perfumes and bath bombs, and you design your own robots from scratch and imagination, and students learn science with a Frozen-theme.
We will also be having adult DIY workshops taught by local artisans and makers.
They already published a piece about us, that explains it much better than I can. You can read it by clicking here.
It gives some of that elusive background information we haven't really spoken about on the blog. (We also didn't realize we were about to have our photo taken!)
We are still teaching full-time and running The Laboratory on weekends, some nights, and school breaks.
Of course, we wanted to include some dog-related workshops and to launch our Adult DIY classes, we are working with a local chef to have a workshop on Making Artisan Dog Treats.
And Miss M and Mr. B will be hosting.
Miss M wonders if she will be paid for her time in treats.
Stay tuned to our Laboratory Facebook page which will have the complete details to sign up. It will likely be March 7, and we are just finalizing the time.It turns out our Chef had an unexpected event at his restaurant, so stay tuned for the new date/time.
We are really excited about teaching how we want to teach, and we would love any help sharing our space and Facebook page and just getting the word out.
And it seems like the pups have already made themselves at home.
Living through last year's Chi-beria, and experiencing the deja vu this year, we have been learning a lot about how to keep our pups warm and comfortable during extreme conditions.
Besides asking about dog-gear to fit bigger dogs, our second most-asked question is about the types of boots we recommend.
We know how tricky dog boots can be, and in the past we always referred people to PAWZ disposable dog boots. We liked how they generally stayed on, could last for awhile, and if we did lose a boot they were easy to replace. The one thing we didn't like is that if you did get a tear in the boot, the water collects inside the boot and your pup is stuck with a a cold, water-logged foot.
We had actually tried Muttluks in the past (we still have them, circa 2006!) and I always felt like they were falling off. Though when we were talking with Heather from Fit for a Pit, she thought that maybe we were using the wrong size, and that is why we were having fit issues.
So, she sent us a couple of new pairs of Muttluks to try out, which was perfect seeing that Chicago just had nearly 20 inches in snowfall.
These boots are fancy!
Muttluks is a Canadian company, so they know snow. Their boots come as a long sock; the inside is plush-lined, and they actually have leather soles. One of our favorite parts is they now come in colors: red, purple, or pink, which just so happen to match the pups' Canada Pooch coats perfectly:
I had always just thought that our pups' feet were on the larger size. Though Heather at Fit for a Pit told us how to measure the pups' foot more accurately: make sure they are standing with their full weight flat on a blank sheet of paper and mark from the longest toe nail straight back from the back of the paw.
We were surprised to see Mr. B wears a size Small and Miss M's monster paws are only size Medium. We compared our updated Muttluks with our circa 2006 Muttluks and found that even though the older pair were also a size Medium, the new style is actually a bit smaller and more streamlined to adjust to the foot better.
To put them on, it's easier to fold the sock to the bottom, put on the boot part, and pull the sock up. Kind of like putting on a pair of tights. We also made sure to flex each paw before putting them on the ground so there is a defined crease when they are walking.
We've also heard the key to making them stay is pulling the velcro tight, even tighter than you would expect. It doesn't hurt their feet, but it will help their boots stay on.
And we were off:
What We Liked:
-These boots are high-quality and really well-made. I think they might even be nicer than some shoes I own.
-We like how the sock comes up higher for more coverage and to keep them drier in snowy weather.
-The hard sole creates a defined walking spot so the boots won't twist or move as they walk. It's also sturdier on some of the icy areas.
-And of course, we love how they match their coats!
What We Didn't Like:
-These boots are so nice that our entire walk I was fearful that the pups would lose a boot. During a normally leisurely walk, I spent a lot of time paranoid, checking and re-checking their feet.
-We didn't lose any boots on the sidewalks, but we did have some boots come off in the deep snow. Which to be fair, my boots were also being pulled down by the heavy snow.
Fit for a Pithas kindly offered to give away two pairs of Muttluk fleece-lined boots to two different pups. There are two ways to enter, and each person can enter two times. Let us know: What would your pup be able to do with a pair of Muttluk fleece-lined boots?
Congratulations: #1 is Mr. Socs who is having a tough time with the snow and ice and will use the pair of boots to get back into regular walks, and #2 Evie who wants some boots for the cold. Please message or email me so we can get you your boots! And thanks again for Heather from Fit for a Pit for generously donating the boots and offering all of her knowledge about how to find boots, coats, and dog gear for our often hard to fit pups!
1) Let us know by commenting on our blog post here. 2) You can also enter by posting a photo on our Facebook page of your pooch and letting us know what you would do with a new pair of boots. We will use a random number generator to randomly choose one winner from total blog and Facebook comments.
-You have two chances to win: commenting on the blog and posting a photo on our Facebook page
-We will use a random number generator to randomly choose the winners
-You have until Monday, February 23 at Midnight (EST) to post your comment or photo.
-Winners will be announced on Facebook and at the bottom of this post. Winners are responsible for contacting us to claim your prize.
-Winners must live within the contiguous United States.
Lately, we have been working on a really, really big project. That has been keeping us really, really busy. We are hoping to be able to reveal it at the end of the week!
Though we have been feeling a lot of guilt because we haven't been able to spend the same amount of time that we normally spend with the pups.
I know time can be a big issue for a lot of dog families. I know people have even decided not to adopt dogs because they don't feel they have enough time to spend with them.
We have always thought that it was more about the quality than the amount of time, and as we've been facing this ourselves, these are some thing we've been trying:
Making Our Walks Count
Since we lived so long without a backyard, our pups are used to going on walks several times a day. Every day.
Which means sometimes just going on a walk isn't good enough.
So, we've been adding in something extra.
We found the best use of time is going on our SociaBulls walks. This combines our daily walk with allowing the pups to socialize with other dogs, which is so stimulating they end up sleeping for the end of the day.
We've also been switching up our daily walking routine to allow them to experience new things and challenge them mentally. We especially like high-engagement areas where they meet a lot of people.
We've been working to make the time we do have with the pups count.
So we do a lot of interactive activities so when we're not home, they are tired and they don't miss us as much.
At home we have the pups practice their "Down-Stays", "Waits", and if we're needing to do a lot of things back and forth we even have them do this.
If we can't get to an engaging area for our walk, it also helps to have them practice tricks on our walk keep them mentally engaged.
Of course, this one is our favorite.
And sometimes it's just okay to get help.
One of our friends wrote this really great post about being a single dog-parent and the importance of creating a community.
We also love our dog walkers, and it has been so important for us to have other people interact with the pups when we're busy with work.
We had a blizzard on Sunday.
Which is funny, because we really didn't know it was going to happen until the day before.
Even then, they just told us it was going to snow.
But, that ended up being over 19 inches of snow. And ranking as one of the top 5 biggest snowstorms in Chicago's history.
And for those of you who reading this from your 70+ degree weather locales, this is what that looks like:
Thank goodness for snow tunnels!
They called off school, and we spent the day working with our neighbors to shovel out the cars that were parked on our street, push the cars that kept getting stuck, and shovel out the alley where many of the cars live.
Actually, it was E that did all of that shoveling and pushing.
I spent the day watching the plow tracker (I saw them come a record 3 times on our side street!). And trying to acclimate the pups to the snow. We even had some snow drifts in our yard and in the gangway that were over 4 feet tall.
It was nice seeing the neighbors come together. There is even someone outside right now (at 9:30 at night!) with a snowblower working to snowplow the remaining snow on our street so the cars can park.