Category Archives: Dogs

Our 4th Annual Teddy Vacation

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It’s not easy being The Bear. Of the 24 hours that make a single day, he’s asleep for roughly 13 of them.  The only time he spends away from the house on a daily basis is a 30-40 minute workout at the Maplewood Dog Park — which consists of a tedious and monotonous throw, run, catch, return and repeat. And the highlights of his day happen once in the morning and again in the evening when downs his bowl of food… in less than 60 seconds.

The same-old hum-drum routine (oh, the cruelty) makes a Teddy vacation a required vacation for us Rileys, and this year was no exception.

In all seriousness, this annual trip to the Lake of the Ozarks started out as a quick getaway with Mikey, The Bear and my parents. But we soon realized that The Bear was the one who actually had the most fun during these lake visits. Scroll through the photos below, and you’ll see why. So we later dubbed it “Teddy’s Vacation”.

This year, we rented a lake cottage in Rocky Mount, near Mile Marker 6 of the Main Channel. The cottage was nestled along the shores of Possum Hollow Cove. Thankfully, we didn’t encounter any possums, although The Bear has taken one down in our backyard within the past year. (The Bear fears no possum.)

As always, our short three-night stay was relaxing as can be. We left the cottage only to pick up a few staples at the store and visit the outlet mall in Osage Beach. Other than that, it was nothing but swimming, sunning, grilling, reading, napping, movie-watching, laughing and chatting. For The Bear, it was a whole lot of dock diving and frolicking around in his little green life jacket.

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We always come stocked with a full arsenal of ales.

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One of my favorite Sangria recipes. Keep reading to get the recipe below.

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Always there to keep you company in the kitchen

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Captured on camera by Dad, the Papa Razzi

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Mom and The Bear ham it up for the camera

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Mikey invested in a Labrador hat he found at Dollar General. #onlyintheozarks

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Anticipating the throw

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That’s my Ma!

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Isn’t he elegant?

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A glimpse at our lake cottage

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Mikey’s shadow

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Teddy’s Vacation wouldn’t be complete without Dad and me conducting a photo shoot.

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Seconds from launch

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Weeee!

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Sideways crash landing

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Making waves

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There he goes again!

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His face says it all.

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Go long, Teddy!

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Floppy ears are the best.

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Riley selfie

One thing to note is that this Teddy Vacation goes down in history as the first trip that I have completely unplugged from the internet, social media, work e-mail, personal e-mail, everything. My goal was to leave no digital footprint behind, and much to my surprise, it was a success. Most days, I had no concept of what time it was. Without any commitments or yearning to pick up my phone, I was left to my own devices (no pun intended). I had all the downtime in the world to sit out on the three-tiered lake cottage deck with a glass of my Summer Cookout Sangria (recipe here) and let the clock tick away.

I’ve decided to do this whole “disconnect to reconnect” thing at least once a year. The fact that our lake cottage didn’t have WiFi was a huge help to keeping my phone at bay, but with 4G always at your fingertips and telecomm companies touting more bars in more places, sometimes internet access isn’t as remote as you’d like it to be.

There are many reasons why we choose the Lake of the Ozarks for Teddy’s Vacation. It’s no more than three hours away. There are a slew of vacation rentals available on sites like HomeAway.com, VacationRentals.com, VRBO.com, etc. And you can find a no-frills place to stay for pretty cheap. Despite all these pros, we’re actually thinking of switching up next year’s Teddy Vacation by renting a house on a real beach. Maybe Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head or the Outer Banks. I’m already dreaming up 100 different scenarios.

I’m sure we’ll be back to the Ozarks again. But for next year, I’ve got my sights set for much larger bodies of water.

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Filed under Dogs, Family, Travel, Vacation

Living with a 5-Year-Old

On July 30th, my forever puppy turned 5 years old. In keeping with tradition, we celebrated with a steak on the special red plate and a bone-shaped birthday cookie. He devoured both in 30 seconds. (Food doesn’t last when you have a Yellow Lab.)

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Look at that tail go!

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Completely in the zone

Pure happiness

Pure happiness

Every year when The Bear’s birthday comes around, I look back at all of his puppy pictures and coo to Mikey about how cute and cuddly he was. Yet not much has changed since the days when he could still bob and weave through the legs of our dining room table chairs. People at the dog park are always surprised to learn he’s nearing the senior stages of doghood. His addiction to chasing tennis balls and splashing in the dog park pool can fool anyone into thinking he’s only a year old.

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The day we brought him home

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With his proud papa

Five years later, this Bear of ours is still keeping us on our toes. Still demanding his dinner. Still king of the yard. Still making us laugh out loud.

Happy birthday, Teddy Bear. Your effervescence and lust for life is so good for our souls.

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My Boys & Our New Toys

Now that we’re a couple weeks into the new year, we’ve been able to put some of our Christmas gifts to good use.

The Bear has found a new BFF in a toy we refer to as “Hedgehog”. I found Hedgehog at a pet boutique in the Ladue neighborhood of St. Louis called “Treats Unleashed”. It caught my eye because it’s covered in a soft, plush outer shell, and beneath the outer shell is an egg-shaped rubber squeaky toy that when squeezed sounds like a cross between a duck and a pig. Here, let The Bear demonstrate.

I don’t know if this toy is new to the market, but it’s by far the best toy I’ve ever come across. Teddy, like most large dogs, is considered a super chewer. Therefore, stuffed plush toys have a lifespan of under 24 hours in this house (sometimes under one hour, depending on how much The Bear gets “into it”). But because Hedgehog has the durability of a rubber toy and the soft fabric of a plush toy, it’s really the best of both worlds. We just have to make sure Hedgehog goes into hibernation whenever we’re watching TV. To say that the half pig, half duck call is a little distracting would be an understatement.

Mikey, on the other hand, is a proud new owner of a bottle capper and 48 new bottles for homebrewing. A few days after Christmas, he began making a small batch of Smoked Wheat Ale. (Learn all about it in the video below.) Yesterday, he bottled 10 of those suckers and is now waiting another two weeks to enjoy them. Even though this isn’t his first home brewing experiment, it is his first time brewing with a more complex process of mashing, sparging, sanitizing, boiling, pitching, etc. (all stuff that I don’t really know how to describe but sounds cool). We’re excited to have our first taste in a couple weeks. Fingers crossed that it turns out great.

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Lastly, I am finally the proud owner of a cast-iron dutch oven! (Mind out of the gutter to anyone who defines “dutch oven” as the inescapable flatulence that happens from beneath the sheets.) I’ve been wanting one for ages, but have never had the guts to drop $300 for a real deal Le Creuset (the creme de la creme of cast-iron cookware). Mikey gave me a shiny red one from Giada de Laurentis ($80 vs. $300 — that’s a steal). And it sure looks pretty when it’s steaming on the stove.

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So far, we have only made a French Onion Soup in it. But one taste was all it took to realize the difference between cooking in a stainless steel pot and this dutch oven. The flavor was so much richer.

A hearty black bean soup is slated for the dutch oven this week. Can’t wait to see how that one turns out. But more than just eating good stews and soups, owning one of these babies means I have solidified my place among the Betty Crockers and Suzy Homemakers of the world… until Monday morning rolls around and “wifey” switches to “working woman” mode. Watch out, world.

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Seeing Snow

It snowed a few days ago here in the Lou, which was a surprise in itself, considering we had temps in the 50s for most of December. On top of that, the snow has actually stuck around for a while. In fact, there are a still a few white patches in our front yard.

There are two things I like about snow. 1) It’s pretty, and 2) it’s fun to watch The Bear get rascally in it. While over at my parents’ house last weekend, Dad and I played paparazzi and shot Mikey and The Bear rough-housing in the snow. Not an easy task when the sun has set and The Bear won’t sit still long enough for our lenses to focus. Such is life when your 4-year-old adult dog still acts like an 8-month old puppy. Nevertheless, seeing The Bear in snow is always entertaining.

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Thrill of the chase

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Mikey tells The Bear to “touch” his nose to the ball before he launches it across the yard.

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Play bow

Goof ball

Goof ball

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Happy as a clam

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“I beg your paw-don, kind sir?”

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Quite the high jumper

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Powder on his nose

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Play is hard work. Time to rest.

And oh, and whaddya know. The forecast is predicting temps in the mid to upper 50s this week. So long, snow. Come again soon.

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So yeah, about those New Year’s resolutions…

This morning, Mikey and I woke up around 9am (glorious!) and then laid in bed for even longer. I started thinking about our 2012 New Year’s resolutions and that got us talking.

Me: Do you have any resolutions for 2013?

Mikey: Hmm, I haven’t really thought about it.

Me: Well, we failed miserably at our 2012 resolutions.

Mikey: Really? What were they again?

Me: I resolved to start waking up on time for work every day and stop hitting the snooze button so much, which obviously did not work at all. And you said you were going to cut back on how much beer you drink.

Mikey: Oh well, I think I did pretty good then.

Me: No, you didn’t! You failed miserably!

Mikey: Blaspheme!

It is true. As much as the both of us would like to deny it, our New Year’s Revolutions (as I referred to them earlier this year) were an epic fail. If anything, my obsession with the snooze button and his love for beer doubled this year. It doesn’t help that home brewing has become a hobby of his — one that I have encouraged as of late with the purchase of a few new beer-making materials for his 30th birthday. He also just received a sweet stash of new bottles from his mom and stepdad for Christmas. And we’re brewing a Smoked Wheat Beer tomorrow afternoon. So um, this whole cut down on the beer intake thing just isn’t really working out the way we planned it.

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48 beer bottles and a happy, bow-clad Mikey

The one member of the family who kicked his New Year’s Revolution’s butt this year is The Bear. He resolved to go to the dog park more often. I’m patting myself and especially Mikey on the back for this one. We have taken him to the dog park almost every day — even now in chilly winter temps. We’ve even taken him in the rain. That’s some serious dog parent dedication!

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Rain can’t keep The Bear down.

Now that we’re thinking about resolutions for 2013, I’m not even going to attempt to redo my anti-snooze campaign. This may just be something I have to come to terms with about myself. But frankly, I’m just up for a different challenge. And that challenge is blogging more often. I’ve been blogging here for almost two years and can remember the first year when I was so on top of it — pretty much blogging every other day. Its been a great outlet for me to find my own voice, recap life’s happenings and savor those fleeting moments that I ordinarily would forget or not even notice.

But lately, my time spent blogging has dwindled down to a once a week sort of thing, if that. I know exactly where to place the blame — the gym. Mikey and I joined the YMCA and were getting our money’s worth by working out anywhere from four to six times a week. On weeknights, that whole process takes about two hours if you factor in the time you spend cooling off and then showering. Then your body is so exhausted from both the workout and the eight hours (sometimes more) of work you put in at the office that the thought of sitting in front of the computer to blog is laughable.

In the past two months, Mikey and I have both fallen off the workout bandwagon, so now I really have no excuse not to be blogging. But I hope that in 2013, I’ll find some way to balance both. Although you know I would much rather be blogging that sweating it out at the gym.

As for Mikey, his resolution, like many others, will be to lose 15 pounds this year. His stretch goal is 20 pounds. I’m pretty confident he’ll do it. More confident than him cutting back on beer — although he may have to do both if he wants to shed 15.

The Bear is not resolving to do anything this year. And why should he? If you ask me, his life is pretty darn perfect, and there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t wish I could trade places with him. His only concern is how many squirrels he’s going to have to fend off in the yard and in his dreams on a daily basis. With the amount of time he spends barking in the yard and the 13 hours of sleep he gets a day, I’m sure there are a plethora.

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See, The Bear could pass for a person some day, don’t you think?

So how about you? What are you resolving to do or not do in 2013?

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Christmas Four Years Ago

Every year when Christmas rolls around, I’m reminded of the very first Christmas we celebrated in our new house four years ago.

That first year of Christmas decorating was interesting, since we didn’t have anything — no tree, stockings, ornaments. But we eventually lucked out on a tree. One of Mikey’s coworkers was giving one away that year, and so we ended up with a decent-sized tree for free. (And by decent-sized, I mean quite the hefty fake evergreen. Till this day we still leave the bottom fourth of the back of the tree off because it’s a wee bit big for our small living room. If that doesn’t say classy, I don’t know what does.)

Back then, The Bear was still a little tyke, who thought ornaments were animate objects — as one of my all-time favorite Teddy videos demonstrates below.

The Bear was also still small enough to carry in pictures.

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Well, just barely for me.

These days, our collection of Christmas decor has filled out. The Bear no longer picks fights with ornaments. And he’s also large enough to give rides to small children if he ever feels the need to channel his inner pony.

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But he does have a tendency to poke around the gifts under the tree, sniffing for bones, tennis balls and doggie Christmas cookies, which he did today for about half an hour before giving up and resuming his spot on the couch.

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Eyes are locked in on a target — three fresh tennis balls wrapped in tissue paper.

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His version of a Christmas vigil

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Starting to give me “the look”.

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“No, actually I don’t understand the meaning of waiting until Christmas to open your presents.”

It made me realize how funny it is to actually wrap a gift for a dog. It doesn’t matter that the item is covered in tissue or wrapping paper. The nose tells all, so the gifts might as well be left unwrapped altogether. I wrapped them anyway though. Because there’s always the fun of watching him tear through the paper to get to his toy. Kind of like this…

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The Bear’s first Christmas. He ripped through the wrapping paper while the family opened gifts at my parents’ house. He was thoroughly entertained. Obviously.

The hubs and I are gearing up for a marathon of Christmas celebrations on all sides of the family again this year. It’s always exhausting, but the good company and endless array of eats make it all so worth it. Here’s to wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Summer’s End

By the looks of the five-day forecast, summer is coming to a close. And I’m happy about it. This drought that’s plagued the midwest over the past few months hasn’t been much fun, although I wouldn’t have expected anything less in this region of the country. Summers are scorching and winters can be bitter cold. So it’s time to buck up and squeeze out every fleeting moment of fall weather before Old Man Winter moves its white a** up in here.

But before we do that, a quick visual recap of one of the hottest St. Louis summers to date.

I’m always amazed at how a snow cone can cool you down to the core. We’re lucky enough to have a snow cone stand right around the corner from our house.

I was able to get my gardening in during early summer before the horrendous heat wave came through. My gardening apprentice and I enjoyed our quality time outdoors.

Hitting up the pool. Pretty much the only thing you can possibly do outdoors when the temps hit triple-digits.

What’s summer without a food truck? Burger Ink is one of the newest mobile eateries to hit the St. Louis area. We had our first taste in June at Truckin’ Tuesdays, a monthly event held at Tilles Park.

Of course, we did a lot of beer tasting this summer. We hit up Civil Life microbrewery for the first time to try a few brews.

Blue skies and The Bear pictured from the front of our house. He’s such a sweetheart. Sometimes.

Lunch and even dinner on an outdoor patio was a little too hot to handle. So we opted for brunch at Half & Half in Clayton one morning. Fab brunch cocktails, btw.

Summer is most certainly The Bear’s favorite time of year for the sole reason that he gets to go swimming. A lot.

And for those days when we weren’t at a lake or the dog park pool, there were the occasional walks in Forest Park.

I did lose those a couple plants to the heat this year, but these babies not only survived, they thrived in the heat.

Can’t forget our annual mini-vacay to the Lake of the Ozarks.

 

A few months ago, Mikey scored a bunch of great steaks at the Omaha Steaks close-out sale in Richmond Heights. This chateaubriand was by far the best of the bunch. And also the most expensive.

This summer also marks the time of year when Mikey discovered his favorite St. Louis microbrewery, Urban Chestnut. To celebrate, he invested in a growler.

Could arguably be my showiest flowers in the garden. These lillies bloomed beautifully. Unfortunately, a late spring storm ripped the heads off of the ones on the far right.

Driving through the city at dusk. The Bear pictured alongside the Arch.

I’m very much looking forward to fall. I’ve found that it’s a lot of people’s favorite season. It hasn’t ever been mine until this year. I wouldn’t say that summer was officially my favorite season, but I think I liked it more than others — purely because it meant school was out and there was more time to do what you wanted to do. Well apparently, its taken me six years of being out of school to realize that summer really isn’t all that fun if you can’t take three straight months off of work.

What I do love about fall is pumpkin spice lattes, slow cooker recipes, boots and dressing in layers (translation: more fashionable things to wear, accessorize, embellish).

Although fall hasn’t officially started, I can already say its gotten off to a good start. Fact that Mikey has surprised me with a pumpkin spice latte two Sundays in a row and that I scored a sweet pair of boots for under $40 is enough to get these end of summer days going — and leave any girl smiling.

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Weekend at the Lake

Mikey, my parents, The Bear and I just returned from our annual mini-vacation at the Lake of the Ozarks — better known as Teddy’s vacation. Because we all know that his daily duties of guarding the front window from neighborhood cats and sleeping for 13 hours a day can be really stressful sometimes. So a change of scenery every year to a place where all his dock-diving dreams come true is not only necessary. It’s mandatory.

For the past two years, we’ve stayed at a lakefront house in Gravois Mills, Missouri. While we’ve all been happy there, we thought we’d take a look at some other rental options to see what else was out there. We ended up choosing a lake cottage in Rocky Mount, located in Lick Branch Cove. The perks were that the waters were calm and more shallow, allowing us to swim without worrying about waves rolling in from boats and jet skis. The downside was that being located in a cove meant more population and less privacy. I really didn’t care to hear the conversation that the homeowner across the cove was having about the solar system. Also, being in a cove means you don’t get those expansive lake views and clear shots of the sun setting.  But these are all minor details. It’s Teddy’s vacation anyway, so who are we to complain?

I don’t want to jinx the midwest by saying the weather was too cool for the lake, but the 70-degree temps actually had me wrapped in a towel for most of our outdoor lounging. On another cool and somewhat rainy day, we skipped the outdoorsy stuff and stimulated the economy with our annual pilgrimage to the Osage Beach Outlet Mall, where I scored $100 off my purchase at J. Crew. The hubs splurged on some much-needed work shoes at a buy three, get one free sale in addition to major mark-downs at Gap and Banana Republic.

I’m not sure if we’ll go back to this same lake cottage next year, but we’ll definitely keep it in mind. If we continue going to the lake year after year, I’ll be pretty determined to find that perfect house. Not for my sake, of course, but for The Bear. It is his vacation, you know.

Disclaimer: Prep your fingers for extensive scrolling. I took a lot of pics.

The Bear invades Lick Branch Cove.

Rocky Mount Lake Cottage. Mikey is checking out the fish swimming beneath the ramp.

Wubba hits the water.

The Bear comes to the Wubba’s resuce.

Wubba saved!

The Bear swims ashore. Check out those webbed paws!

There he goes again.

Overhead shot that Mikey took from the high dive off the dock

Like Jesus walking on water

Quite an elegant landing

Testing out the paddle boat. Bottoms up!

We’ve always wanted to take The Bear on a float trip but have hesitated because we didn’t know whether he’d stay in the float. He’s such a wiggle worm and a water lover that we suspected he might jump out and capsize the float or canoe. The paddle boat gave us a perfect opportunity to experiment.

And whaddya know, our hunch was right. He jumped off the boat as soon as I unleashed him. Then, after swimming around for five seconds, he wanted to get back in. Silly Bear.

The sun sets on our lake vacation. Somehow it’s never long enough. (BTW, the cloud looks like a dog, doesn’t it? Very Teddy vacation appropriate.)

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The Bear’s Birthday Tradition

Our rascally four-legged child turned four years old today. In human years, that’s 28 years old. And since I’m turning 28 in October, that means we’ll be the same age. As sophisticated as The Bear thinks he is, I don’t think he’ll ever catch up to me in maturity. Even when he’s old and gray, I’m willing to bet he’ll still get a kick out of taking out flies with that whack-a-mole tail of his.

Like any typical morning, The Bear woke up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for his usual breakfast before settling into the couch for a good 1o hours of sleep until we got home. But after work and my company softball game, it was down to birthday business with a steak for The Bear — and a bundt cake from Lola & Penelope’s, a pet boutique in Clayton. In true Teddy Bear fashion, he jumped for joy at the sight of the steak and wolfed it down in a few blinks of an eye. The bundt cake, on the other hand, took a little more experimentation. The Bear isn’t really accustomed to eating bundt cakes, so he wasn’t sure how it eat it — which by the way, who really buys a Bear a bundt cake? Us!

As fun as this birthday tradition is for The Bear, it’s pretty enjoyable for me too. It’s one of the few days out of the year that I take the time to click through his puppy photos and remember what it was like to lift all four of his legs off the ground. (It was only like a three-week period, but hey.) He may not realize that today is a super special day, but the thing is, he doesn’t have to. I believe Teddy, like many dogs, has that eternal optimism and ever-present zest for life that let him know every day is the absolute best.

Happy birthday to you, Teddy Bear!

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Carlyle Lake Gets Schooled by The Bear

Sweet Summertime seems to be a nonexistent thing here in St. Louis these days. I’ve had it up to here with this never-ending drought and triple-digit temps. (And when I say, “up to here”, I’m really reaching up way high, despite the fact that I only top out at 4 feet, 11 inches.)

Anyway, The Bear and his happy-go-lucky self always knows how to keep us entertained with his crazy antics, even though the heat is un-BEAR-able. (Ha!) Like this past weekend at the Liberation Day party at Carlyle Lake. We discovered a cove within walking distance from our party pavilion. Although we’ve been to this same site for the past three or so years, he was never able to swim with this much ease. The water level was so low, due to the lack of rain in the area this year. Much to The Bear’s benefit, it created a perfect private pool for him to splish splash around, go diving for rocks and doggie paddle in search of the biggest stick.  And of course, this water-loving Labrador Retriever of ours had the time of his life.

So if there is any good to this awful heat wave, it’s most definitely the enjoyment we get from watching The Bear take to the lake and show the water who’s boss.

Ready, set, go!

Strap on a red one-piece and one of those flotation devices, and he’s a Baywatch Bear for sure.

Splashing ashore

Sun on the face, wind in the ears and tongue out the jowls.

Caught him in a moment of calm

“Woohoohoo, Mom!”

If this isn’t the definition of pure happiness, I don’t know what is.

He’s got the cove all to himself. Here he is digging for something – a rock, maybe? Seconds later, he dove in – head first – under water to get a closer look.

See? We ought to call him Humpback Bear.

“Best stick everrrrr!”

Beware of his super soaker tail.

Shake, shake, shake

Teddy was here.

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