“It’s going to be a long night,” I said to my husband, as the dog whined at his bedside for what seemed like the thousandth time. She had a ball in her mouth and a crazed look in her eye. She wanted to play. She was not sleepy. It was 2 a.m.
As any high-energy pet parent knows, this is a typical situation if the dog isn’t able to expend his or her pent up energy. She’s been sleeping all day and wants some physical and mental stimulation. Listen, my husband and I don’t have children. We’ve never gotten acclimated to the whole not-sleeping thing. Something had to give.
Maintaining a balance between business, personal life, and two ornery dogs can be elusive. If only every day consisted of a productive, energizing day at work, followed by a workout and home-cooked gourmet dinner each night. But life gets busy. Then throw two energetic dogs into the mix. They demand their walks, and if they don’t get one you’ll be awoken ten times that night with a slobbery tennis ball pressed into your face.
My husband Mitch and I have two dogs: Digory, a 75-pound German Shorthair Pointer mix and Rue, a 45-pound Vizsla. Both are affectionate, gentle, and energetic, always ready for some exercise followed by some serious cuddling and a game or two of fetch. They have seemingly boundless energy, and if we don’t manage to burn some of that off during the day they like to keep us up at night and chew a few couch pillows while they’re at it. But in today’s busy world, how to find time to give our dogs the attention and activity they deserve?
Well, I may not have mastered the work/life balance thing quite yet. Sometimes dinner is a box of mac & cheese and sometimes a workout means putting the dishes away to some music. But I’m pretty good at being a dog parent.
As small business owners of Pink Elephant Coffee Roasters in Park City, Utah, Mitch and I have the luxury of being somewhat flexible with our schedules. But that also means that when something needs doing, it’s Mitch and I who need to do it. We’re the ones packaging bags of coffee beans until 1 a.m. or covering barista shifts at our coffee shops when an employee calls in sick. We’ve set a few rules to live by to keep both us and our dogs happy and healthy:
- Prioritize Walk Time – What at first seems like a chore is transformed into so much more. For me, it’s my hour of the day when I disconnect from email, social media, etc and get out in nature. If I’m taking them on my own, it’s “me” time to think and have some alone time. If Mitch can join, that’s time we get to spend together where we’re not working or busy doing other things — just walking, on a trail, with our dogs. Studies show that being outside has numerous health benefits, everything from improving blood pressure to boosting short-term memory and mood. Add some smiling, sprinting, goofy dogs to that and it makes for something to look forward to!
- Invest In A Good Headlamp (and a good coat and boots! )- It’s easy to get out with the dogs in the summer when it’s warm and there’s lots of daylight. Not so easy in the middle of winter, when it always seems to be dark and cold. Yet, the dogs still need their walk. This is when we bundle up in our warmest clothes and boots, strap on a headlamp, wrestle the dogs into their coats, and out we go. The hardest part is getting out the door and having the right gear makes it that much easier.
- Weekend = Adventure – While we make it a priority to get out for at least one walk a day during the week, weekends are for adventuring. We call these excursions “epics” in our household. We’ll do something that goes above and beyond the usual local trails and short walks around the block. This means snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the nearby Uinta Mountains, long hikes or a camping trip, a long mountain bike ride with the dogs chasing along. We’re all tired, we’re all happy.
- Have a Backup Plan – Sometimes life gets busy. You’re stuck at work, you’re having a sick day, etc etc. That’s when a backup plan is mandatory. We have a dog sitter in town, known as The Critter Sitter, who has come to the rescue time and time again. She takes them on hikes with the other 10-20 dogs in her care, feeds them, and gives them play time in her huge fenced back field. Sometimes we think they like going to Critter Sitter more than they like hanging out with us!