An Advocate For The Misunderstood

camilliaMost of us are familiar with the good work of animal welfare organizations like the SPCA, but there are also many dedicated individuals who have taken it upon themselves to help homeless animals in their own unique way. Camellia Saunderson has differentiated herself from the pack by helping dogs of certain breeds who often fall into the wrong hands like American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Boxers, Bull Dogs and Rottweilers. Named after her own loveable Pit Bull, Buddy’s Bully Rescue is on a mission to find homes for misplaced and misunderstood dogs who, despite their origins of being farm herding and cart dogs (Rottweilers) and nanny dogs (Pit Bulls), have gotten a bad rap for being bullies.

“Unfortunately many people take advantage of these breeds’ size and strength and use them as, protection, status symbols or for illegal fighting,” says Camellia. One by one, Camellia trains and rehabilitates her rescues transforming them into the well socialized, loving, family dogs they were meant to be.

While Camellia is the driving force behind her rescue, she has had the help of her partner, Luke Therrien, and many other supporters who have been instrumental in providing temporary accommodations, grooming, training, adoption coordination and endless fundraising for Camellia’s cause. Dances, auctions and spa days are only a few of the initiatives that have raised enough funds to feed, house, train and provide veterinarian care for the 71 dogs Camellia has rescued since April 2013.

This September, Muddy Paws Adventures is going to do its part to help these pooches by hosting “Trails ’n Tails”, a 90 minute fundraising hike for humans and canines in support of Buddy’s Bully Rescue and Mental Health. More details on our ‘good for the mind, body and soul’ fundraiser coming soon!

Bully Breed Truths….

1.  In tests conducted in 2009 by the American Temperament Test Society, bullies scored better than several breeds that are rarely associated with aggression, including beagles and collies.

2.  Research conducted at the University of Georgia shows that bully breeds don’t show any mechanical or morphological differences in jaw structure when compared to other dogs — nor do their jaws come equipped with locking capabilities

3.  The Centre For Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year, but bully breeds are less often to blame than many other breeds. To date, there is no scientific proof that bullies are more commonly involved in fatal attacks than all other dogs.

4.  There is no actual evidence to suggest that bully breeds are a riskier adoption choice than any other types of breeds.

For more information on Buddy’s Bully Rescue and their adorable adoptables visit

Trail Time

treesHiking is pretty new to me.  I’ve always spent time on the trails but typically it was on the back of a horse or a four-wheeler with Charlie tagging behind.  On horseback, I could get two animals exercised at once, and the four-wheeler was always a quick option to give him a good run.  It wasn’t until I traded in my trail horse for a show horse and Sean swapped the four-wheeler for a tractor did I really discover hiking  and what I had been missing.

Living in the Rawdon Hills, we have the luxury of stepping out our  back door and into the woods where we can find endless trails.  I’ve used those trails well over the years, but going by foot has given me a whole new appreciation for nature and its gifts.  If  you are considering hiking, here’s just a few ideas to get the most out of your time on the trails.

Make it count.  If you find trails with some good size hills,  even the fittest of you will feel the burn. I was on runners’ high for over 20 years before I discovered hiking. I can work up a good sweat trekking through our hilly Nova Scotia terrain without the wear and tear to my body.  In fact, I have officially traded in my sneakers for hiking boots.

Enjoy the seasons.  There is no bad time to be in the woods, with the exception of  six weeks during deer hunting season. If you are a hiking newbie,  Fall is the perfect time to get started.  Temperatures are ideal and the colours are breathtaking.  When the colder weather approaches, keep on trekking.  As the  snow flies, you will see an incredible change in the landscape.   Once the trees and ground are covered in a white blanket, it’s time to break out the snow shoes or find some nicely groomed cross country ski trails.  At a time of year when we are deprived of vitamin D, it’s a great way to soak in some rays.

Be Safe.  Always tell someone where you are hiking and bring a cell phone.  You would be surprised where you can get good cell coverage.  Pack a napsack with water, a first aid kit and if it makes you feel better, a can of bear mace.  I have seen more wildlife in my back yard than I have out on the trails. They can hear and smell you long before you see them and will generally make themselves scarce.

Try going  it alone.  I always get  an instant sense of peace and gratitude being in the woods by myself.  When I look up and see the beauty of  big green pines against a blue sky,  I think there is no way our world was created by chance.  That there is some orchestration happening out there and everything is where it should be including me. It brings what I may perceive as problems into perspective.  For an instant spirit-lifter, even a short hike will do the trick.

Bring a pen and note pad. Going into the woods immediately clears the clutter in my mind.  I’ve had some good light-bulb moments out on the trails, but I also have a short memory, so when I get those moments of inspiration, I like to write them down.

I’ve often said that I should be leaving $25 on my clients’ kitchen counters instead of taking it  because I get so many mind/body benefits from our Muddy Paws hikes.  The sense of gratitude, accomplishment, fresh-air and work-out are all ingredients for a well-balanced day filled with peace of mind.  No wonder our four-legged family members like to get out in the woods for a good sniff, run and roll.  Let’s take a cue from them and hit the trails.

For more trail stories, check out the Fall issue of Paws For Balance. paws for balance Fall 2013

Beach Bum

DSCF1842Every August we head to  Iles de la Madeleine (The Mags) for a week of uninterrupted windsurfing.  The road trip has become a family tradition as Sean, Charlie and I squeeze into the Matrix amongst the windsurfing gear, bikes, coolers and clothes for a full day of travel to these Quebec islands located 134 kilometres off the coast of PEI.  We’ve taken to referring to this trip as Charlie’s vacation because of the enjoyment he gets from experiencing the island’s miles of secluded beaches, and trails that weave through mountain-sized dunes.  In fact, Charlie’s pretty near bilingual now thanks to our annual Mags vacation. When he’s not exploring the island’s coastline, he’s bumming lunch from the Quebec windsurfers, dutifully obeying their French commands for  barbecued wieners.

Charlie’s vacation adventure starts with a road trip to PEI where he spends the night at the luxurious three-star Cornwall Super 8. This hotel,  like many, are more than happy to accommodate your four-legged family member for an extra cleaning fee of $10. While his humans enjoy a night out at their favourite Charlottetown pub, Charlie spends the evening lounging on his own double bed with a new knuckle bone that provides hours of enjoyment and takes his mind off of any unfamiliar noises.

The next morning, we head to Souris, PEI to catch the five-hour ferry ride to The Mags.  Before we take our spot in the ferry line-up, we make a detour to a small secluded beach where Charlie stretches his legs. His Beagleness overrides his Labness when it comes to swimming, so he only puts his toes in the water.

The ferry ride to The Mags is an adventure in itself. Filled with mostly  laid-back Quebecers and their chiens, Charlie makes some new buddies while we enjoy some live Acadian music.

On the island, Charlie checks into his one bedroom, dog-friendly cottage that overlooks the sound and backs onto “Sur Beach”.  After making friends with the neighbours, Charlie is off on his first hike through the dunes and onto the 30 mile beach.   He chases rocks,  rolls in dead-stuff, and digs holes in the sand.  His next six days are filled with the same beach adventures and his evenings with beach bon fires, walks in the nearby historical town of La Grave and watching sunsets from the cottage’s small deck.

On day seven, we re-pack the Matrix, head to the ferry and bid a sad farewell to our favourite dog-friendly island.  We’ve contemplated changing up our summer vacation, but for us the  “anything goes” nature of the French islanders,  the vast beaches and the strong winds that make Charlie’s Beagle ears stand at attention  cannot be found anywhere else but on  the Iles de la Madeleine.

Click on the summer 2013 edition of “Paws For Balance”  and see why you should pack your pooch on your next road trip. – paws for balance Summer 2013

To Beagles

Picture1Before launching Muddy Paws Adventures, I had the most faithful hiking companion in my dog, Charlie.  However, daily hikes in the woods has nurtured Charlie’s inner-Beagle. Charlie  is now forever testing me with his new found love of tracking every animal scent in Hants County. But thanks to his solo-tours in search of bunnies, I now have technology on my side.

After the first time Charlie went MIA on the trails, I was offered, on loan, electronic tracking collars and GPS collars from an equine/canine club I belong to.  I took full advantage of this generous offer and now every Muddy Paws dog is equipped with a tracking or GPS collar while on the trails adding another level of peace of mind for my clients’ humans.

So, while my own dog may be the worst behaved on Muddy Paws hikes, Charlie’s indiscretions have served a greater purpose. You know what dog spelled backwards is!

For more dog stories and the lessons I’ve learned from them, check out the January/February issue of Paws For Balance. paws for balance Jan & Feb

Limos To Leashes

DSCF2410Every October our “faux” fox hunting club (disclaimer…no animals are harmed) heads over to Prince Edward Island, with horses and hounds, for a weekend of scenic riding.    In past years, when I had my city job, the weekend was always on the heels of a conference I would attend in Toronto.  In order to make it to the first hunt of the weekend, I would  fly directly into PEI from Toronto and have Sean, my husband, meet me on the island with my horse.  Friends would jokingly comment on how my “staff” would deliver my horse to PEI while I took an  airport limo to the farm where my horse was being stabled.   

This year would be a different scene.  With my new career as a dog hiker, there would be no trains, planes or limos in my near future,  just a passenger seat in in the Silverado with horses and Charlie Dog in tow.

About the same time this weekend was approaching, I began to question my decision to leave behind a comfortable pay cheque, and doubts about my new canine business venture started to surface.  I still only had my two original clients from when I launched Muddy Paws Adventures  three weeks prior and despite all the advertising, PR, and networking, I had not received a single call for a new client.   I started to feel  a constriction in my chest  as I continued to doubt my  decision to walk away from a successful career.  It was far from the peace of mind I had hoped to establish with this lifestyle change.

After two weeks of self-doubt rearing its ugly head on a daily basis, I called my friend and mentor, Stephanie Allen from Gateway Development.  Stephanie had been guiding me along my transition for some time and she was my voice of reason.

During our call a few light bulbs went off, like when she described a business being much like a garden.  That it takes time grow.  That in its infancy it is vulnerable and must be protected, but eventually it will become more hearty.    Patience not being part of my genetic make-up, my own summer garden started with almost full-sized plants purchased from the Superstore. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy Muddy Paws clients at the grocery store, so I was going to have to take a whole new approach.  I was going to have to be patient and focus on all I had to be grateful for.  I was going to do what I needed to do to protect Muddy Paws and then I was going to just let it grow. 

And what do you know….as soon as I stepped away from the self-doubt and focused on all the good stuff in my life, the phone started ringing.  In fact, I hit my goal of attaining five Muddy Paws clients six weeks ahead of schedule.  Pepper, an energetic and very happy Lab; Beau an athletic and kind-hearted Standard Poodle; and Darby, a gentle and caring German Shepherd have joined the golden girls, Nellie and Rylee, as Muddy Paws’ clients.  These five incredible dogs now share the heart and soul of Muddy Paws Adventures with Charlie Dog.

I would be lying  if I said self-doubt still didn’t surface occasionally.  But now I know it serves no value to me.   I can brush off thoughts of self-doubt and instead focus on what I have to be grateful for.   I remember to enjoy the extra time and energy created by eliminating daily commutes to the city and the grind of 9 to 5.  There may be no limos in my near future, but I think leashes have always been more my speed anyway.

For more dog stories and the lessons I’ve learned from them, check out the November-December issue of Paws For Balance. Paws For Balance – November, December

Arm Charms

I’ve had the pleasure of taking care of many dogs over the years, but when a friend asked me to take in their city dog, a toy poodle,  for two weeks while they went on vacation, It wasn’t without some hesitation.  I was used to dogs of a more “rugged” nature – ones that were independent and could find their way around a trail.  What was I going to do with an “arm charm” for two weeks?  Was she going to want to sit in my lap and be carried everywhere?  The answer was yes….until she discovered she was a dog. 

Bailey arrived for her two-week stay at our hobby farm fresh from the groomers fashioning a pink bow at the top of her head.   We welcomed Bailey with open arms and bid farewell to our friends as they headed out on their vacation.  It wasn’t soon after they left that I realized Bailey seemed most content when she was in our lap or being carried from place to place.  She wasn’t terribly motivated to do much on her own, so I thought I would try a little canine experiment. 

The first thing that went was her fashion accessories. I didn’t cut out her lap privileges (a selfish move on my part), but I did start making her use her own four legs to get from point A to point B.  I also started taking her on hikes with my own dog, Charlie.   We condensed them somewhat to compensate for her size, but during the hikes, she was left to walk on her own four paws.

I could tell by the look in her big dark eyes that she felt out of her comfort zone on more than one occasion, but she always embraced whatever challenge I put in front of her. It wasn’t long before Bailey started realizing her own doggy potential.  She started putting her ears, eyes and nose to good use chasing bugs in the hay field.  She learned how to fetch pebbles on the beach by watching Charlie. And to my surprise, she discovered that not only were her  legs made for walking, but they worked just as well in water.  While wading in calf-deep water one day, I felt a bump on my leg and it was the arm charm paddling through the cove like she was born to swim. Bailey

Every day, I sent my friends daily updates and photos of Bailey’s adventures.  While they were a little disappointed Bailey didn’t take her first swim in their pool,  they were amazed to see  that she was capable of doing anything big dogs could.

Bailey comes and stays with us a couple times a year now, and while I haven’t completely convinced my friends that their arm charm is in fact a dog, they do appreciate the things Bailey has learned during her time with us.  They have accepted that the pink bow mysteriously disappears on the first day of each of her stays; that unless it is 10 below, she will not be wearing clothing;  and that her pristine white coat may be a little discoloured on their return.  They have willingly traded their urban arm charm for a happy, adventuress, confidence canine that is only too happy to get a little dirty.

For more dog stories and the lessons I’ve learned from them, check out the October issue of Paws For Balance. Paws For Balance – October 2012


Do Dogs Smile?

When we brought Charlie home from the Truro SPCA six years ago, he was an easy going nine-month old puppy.  He didn’t chew our favourite shoes, he wasn’t rambunctious and his favourite time of day seemed to be bed-time when he could stretch out at the bottom of our bed.   We always just thought that he was a low-energy dog who really didn’t need to be walked or exercised.  So, other than the odd stroll on the beach during vacations, we really didn’t take him for walks.  And since we live on a hobby farm, we thought we could just throw the door open and he could exercise himself.

It wasn’t until I started hiking for my own benefit and taking Charlie with me, did I realize the impact that a good hour-long romp through the woods had on my dog.  Along with the new sleek figure he was developing, I also noticed he was just acting more like a dog!

He got better at sniffing out squirrels, manoeuvring at high speeds through brush and fallen trees, and he even overcame his fear of water and started swimming in the river that winds through our trails.  His confidence level was also growing off the trail.  His nervous ‘accidents’ all but disappeared and he became less timid of other dogs.

My low-energy mopey mutt has turned into a confident, fit and much happier hound thanks to his new-found love for the trails.   So, even on summer days when I would rather avoid  those annoying deer flies  or  the ice that covers the ground in February, I persevere, and head for the woods.  It’s so worth it, to see the corners of Charlie’s mouth curl up into what I truly believe is a big smile.

Taking a Paws

After 20 years, I  feel like I’ve finally stopped chasing my own tail and am finally taking a “paws”.

Despite working for a great company and having all the opportunities in the world to exercise my creativity, my 20 year marketing career also came with long commutes from my rural home and the exhausting grind of 9 to 5 life.  I was tired of being tired and I wanted the type of lifestyle that energized me, not drained me.   With the support of friends, family, some great books and blogs, I put a plan in place that would support my decision to leave my career and follow my heart.   Along with the practical stuff like cracking down on debt, my plan included mind work to help overcome the attachments of a fancy title, a comfortable income and all the stuff I could buy with it.  It also meant accepting and facing the fears that go along with taking a major leap outside of your comfort zone.  

Through this process I spent many hours on the trails with my dog, Charlie, contemplating what my new life would look like if I wasn’t going to my office job every day.   When  fears and doubts about my decisions started creeping in, I would throw on my boots, call Charlie and head for the woods.    After an hour or so of connecting with nature and watching Charlie living his life to the fullest, I returned home reconnected and ready to forge on.  

So here I am, three months into my new life, following my heart and doing the things I love for reasons that I believe in.  All my life, I have had a passion for animals and the outdoors and I understand all too well the pet owner guilt of not having the energy or time to take your dog for a walk at the end of a long day.   So, I’ve taken my love and knowledge for dogs and the empathy I have for pet-owners and created Muddy Paws Adventures….A dog hiking business that feeds the souls of my canine clients and provides peace of mind for their humans. 

Future posts will share what my canine clients have taught me and some tips to make the best life for you and your dog. I’ve got some great stories about my own dog too, Charlie, a seven year-old “SPCA special” and my inspiration for Muddy Paws Adventures.  

For more dog stories and what they’ve taught me, check out the September issue of Paws For Balance. paws for balance – September 2012