Sunday, May 3, 2015


Over the last year Aspen and I have gotten into tracking.  We started last spring then I got lymes disease and that put me out of commission, but this year I'm back at it with deet in hand to battle those pesky ticks!!! 

I'm still new in tracking, but let me give those of you that don't have any idea a description of what it is. Here is a link from the AKC with more specific information- 

Basically dogs have great sense of smell and they were all born with it.  Big to little and old to young dogs can all use their nose to track.   

What do you need: a dog ;-), harness, a 20-40ft long line, and a few flags to mark your track, some sent articles and a place to track.  I use the various state parks in MN . 

Extras you should have is vest or some sort of thing to carry articles, bug spray, sun screen, water for the dog.  You will also want to have gear for all types of weather and terrain.  

Here is the dog(Aspen) and the harness. 

 The AKC offers a test to demonstrate your team's abilities. 

1. Tracking Dog (TD) - This test can be entered after getting certified by an instructor.   There are limited spaces open in a test and they want to make sure the dog is able to complete a track.  It also only takes one successful track passed to get the title. TD track is from 440-to-500 yards long with 3-to-5 turns (or change in direc- tion) and aged from a half-hour to two hours.A dog must indicate a glove or wal- let placed at the end of the track.Tracks are plotted in an open field with uniform cover.There are no obstacles such as roads, ditches or woods.The start of the track will be marked with a flag.A second flag is placed 30 yards from the start flag to indicate the direction of the first leg of the track.There are no other flags in the field. This info and be found on the site I gave above. 
2. Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)-  Requires a pass in the TD test. The TDX track is 800-to-1000 yards long, with 5-to-7 turns and aged from 3-to-5 hours.The track also has two sets of cross (diversionary) tracks and has some of the aforementioned obstacles.The start is marked with a single flag and the dog must determine the direction of the first leg.There are four dissimilar articles for each track, one at the start and three more on the track. This info and be found on the site I gave above. 

3. Variable Surface Tracker (VST)-A VST track is from 600-to-800 yards long, with 4-to-8 turns, and aged from 3-to-5 hours.The articles must be one each of leather, cloth, plastic and metal. The VST track must also contain three different sur- faces with one turn on a non-vegetated surface such as concrete.This test demon- strates the utility of the tracking dog to work in an urban environment. This info and be found on the site I gave above. 

If you earn all of these titles you get the title of Champion Tracker (difficult task!!). 

There is also a TDU(optional title)-which is a track more based in urban tracking.  It's comparable to the TD I believe.  More info can be found here

Aspen and I are working on preparing for a TD test.  We took a class last fall and then we are currently taking a class now in hopes to be more prepared for our test hopefully this fall. There are only limited number of tracks and when there are more entries then tracks they draw so fingers crossed we get to run one and we pass :-)  

Here is Aspen and I out tracking 

I love it because I get to participate in an activity that my dog loves, I like exploring new area in nature, and I'm building a level of trust and team work with my dog that I couldn't any other way. It's truly amazing and pretty fun despite getting sun burned from time to time, finding some ticks, and we won't talk about snakes haha!! I just pretend they aren't there ;-)  

I just volunteered to be a track layer for a TDX test this weekend.  I will post about that experience this week, but until then take care readers!!! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

It's been a long time

I haven't written anything on this blog in over two years.   A few things have happened since that time. 

1. I brought home a  beautiful berner puppy December of 2012.  Her name was Mysti.  I had planned to blog all about her, but she came to us with parvo.  I didn't have time nor the energy to do any posting.  She recovered, but died Nov 2013 due to a kidney failure.  All I can say about her is that she was really something.  She was a beautiful  and I had so many plans for us that never came to be.  She stole my heart and a part of it left when we lost her.  It's tough to lose a dog so young, but she really made every moment count and stole our hearts. She was Aspen's partner in crime.  For months after she passed he would look for her... some of the most heartbreaking moments of my life.  This is for sure she will be forever in my heart.  Life is really not fair, but I'm thankful she came into my life.  As I start posting again I will likely talk about her and what she taught me and what she meant to me. She is gone, but never forgotten.  Aspen is on the left.  She is the big goofy girl in the right <3

2. During 2012-2013 I got a new job, we bought a new house and moved to Red Wing, MN.

3. We got married in 2014.

Photo Credit C2 Photography

4. The end of 2014 we found out that Aspen had a grade two mast cell tumor on his neck.  We found it early and it was removed before 2015 and he continues to do well.  Aspen has also been working on he RN (Rally Novice) title.  We started training in February and he has two legs towards the title.  One more and he will be Northstar's King of the Woods RN.  Hopefully this fall we will go on to eat a TD (tracking dog) title.  I'll post about these to events in some separate blogs :-)

5. A little over a year after we lost Mysti we decided to bring this little pumpkin home :-)  Her name is Sophie!! She comes from a long line of lovely conformation dogs.   She has a lovely temperament and has been a joy to add to the family :-)  Interesting fact she and Aspen are exactly five years apart and share the 12/11 birthday.

My plan is to get back into blogging because I  have some things to share on my journey with my dogs and who doesn't love reading about Bernese Mountain Dogs :-)

Thanks for reading and until next time like Ellen says "be kind to one another" ~ Erika, Aspen, Sophie

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I wanted to share that we have had some really wonderful emails from people who have tried the probios and digestive enzymes.  We have several dogs who started this a year out, six months and our own Aspen has been free of symptoms for almost two years!!  If your dog has IBD you owe it to them to at least try it!!

I think it's amazing how far Aspen has come.  I remember the hours spent analyzing his every bite.  Was it this or that.  The tons of blood draws.  The fecal tests. Bloody stools.  The hours researching prescription dog food.  Aspen was on Tylan, metronidazole, and fiber.  At one point they wanted to cut him open and biopsy his intestines. It was then I started looking into alternatives and ran across Dr. Becker who changed Aspen's life who in turn has impacted many others with this blog.

Thanks to all the readers and I'm so thankful for every dog that is helped by this blog :-) It's Aspen's mission!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nose Work

Aspen doing his nose work.  He is three classes in.  Does anyone see him signal when he catches the sent?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Summer Hiatus

Ok so apparently I don't post much in the summers :/ I'm like a teacher except I have to work...sigh.  Maybe it was all my years of school or something, but regardless it is what it is.  I thank all of my faithful readers for being so patient and I promise to do a recap of our summer.  I have a few topics I'd like to bring up and we may have some exciting news to share towards the end of this year so stay tuned..............

This is Mr. Aspen getting ready for my famous picnic table bath.  Isn't he just a handsome litte  BIG guy!!

Check out my agility dog... Aspen is rather athletic wouldn't you say?

Monday, April 9, 2012

The day we brought Aspen home :-)

That was the first time I knew I loved him.
"Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, Filling an emptiness we didn't even know we had."~Thom Jones