Tag Archives: PAWS Chicago

To Finn, with love

I’ve tried my best to fill this blog space with happy moments, decent recipes and bad jokes over the years, often leaving out some of the more serious sides of life for in-person updates in an effort to keep this space upbeat and positive.

But last week we lost a part of our family and key content contributor so I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend a little time sharing the update with you as he played such a big (and often loud) role in our lives.

Last Thursday we said goodbye to our sweet Finn. For those of you who didn’t know or who hadn’t visited our home to see the Grandpa-sized (no offense Grandpa) day-of-the-week pill sorter that we used, Finn was diagnosed with canine epilepsy (seizures) when he was just over one year old. And while he lived a seemingly normal life (see posts about all the things he ingested-namely the cashmere scarf) in the four years since he was diagnosed, we knew this was a progressive disease that would likely end his life earlier than any of us had planned.

greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary

I could spend hours updating you on the specialists, medications and treatment of epilepsy in dogs, but if it’s ok with you, I’d rather just focus on the love and laughter he brought to everyone who spent time with him over his 5 years and all the adventures we had together.

swiss mountain dog puppy, west loop, chicago, mary bartelme park

The truth is, I probably don’t need to spend a lot of time telling you about Finn. He was my number one blog content contributor, by far the most photographed and overgrammed member of our family and the topic of many conversations with both strangers and friends.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd, puppy

He started out as ‘my dog’ just a few years after Matt and I started dating, but he quickly became ours as he won the heart of a former ‘not so sure about big dogs’ guy in Matt.

He spent his puppy years in Chicago learning to pee on command on a 3-foot-by-3 foot wood chip pile outside my one-bedroom condo and frolicking in the snow through polar vortexes. His teenage years were spent trading snow for sand and air conditioning during our time in sunny Sarasota. He was just as uninterested in squirrels as he was armadillos but give him a doorbell (on tv or in real life) and he pretended to be the toughest dog on the block.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

He shared my love for loving people, almond butter and brushing off clumsy encounters with sidewalks, door frames and tables as if no one saw them. And he shared Matt’s strength, stubbornness and ability to look photogenic no matter the situation.

greater swiss mountain dog puppy simply social blog

He was a stage-five clinger, an expert napper and the most narcoleptic car rider I’ve ever seen.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

He helped Matt and I announce just about every life change we’ve experienced over the past few years, which looking back now is quite a few.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

And while he wasn’t quite sure the extent to which our family was beginning to grow, he made sure to stay as close as possible lest we’d leave him out of this important milestone.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd, maternity, puppy

For now, the house is deafeningly quiet but it will soon be filled with welcome noise again when the baby comes in just a few weeks. And while we had visions of the two of them together over the next few months or maybe even years, we find peace in knowing Finn decided it was time for him to go ahead of this big life change we are about to encounter.

If you’re looking for a way to give back this holiday season, I encourage you to consider donating to your local shelter or to one that’s close to our heart, PAWS Chicago. Finn was a huge fan of sharing (mostly in the form of anything we were eating or drinking) so we’re honoring him this year by helping out those dogs and cats who weren’t as spoiled as he was.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd, puppy

 

Recaps and Resolutions

It seems only fitting to take a few moments and reflect on 2013 before we head full-swing into the new year. I’m not a huge fan of resolutions, primarily because I’m just as guilty of letting them go as the next person, but I do feel that they serve a purpose. After all, it was nearly one year ago that I resolved to bring my blog back from hiatus and I’m proud to say it is one resolution I have kept up with for the entire year.

Resolutions may not work for everyone, but I’ve found that in order to succeed, I not only need to set goals, but to hold myself accountable for them. You can read more about that here. Let’s see how I did in 2013:

1) Blog Weekly

I’ll take your weekly and throw in another post. Believe it or not, I managed to post bi-weekly for the majority of 2013. At times it wasn’t easy, but it is nice to be able to look back and to reflect on the new beginnings, celebrations, laughs and trials of the past year. You seem to be liking the posts too.  According to my stats you guys enjoy cookie decorating, marathons gone wrong and super bowl recipes. You can thank Pinterest for that last one. This spicy chex mix went what the kids call ‘viral’ and single-handedly referred more visitors to the blog than anything else. I can’t say i’m mad, but I do hope 2014 brings folks to a few of my more sophisticated recipes. You know, the ones that involve a little more than adding spices and mixing in a large bowl?

2) Volunteer once a month

Unless you count volunteering your body for imminent danger by overtraining for the Chicago Marathon, I didn’t follow through with this resolution as I had intended. I did however, manage to raise over $1,200 in the process for PAWS Chicago, helping save the lives of over 5,850 cats and dogs this year. I look forward to continuing this effort throughout 2014. It’s truly a cause worth supporting.

3) Read more (must quantify goals, Sarah) Correction: Read 13 books in 2013

I’m starting to realize that running a marathon is my excuse for nearly every other failed resolution in the past year. I don’t even think I read one book in 2013, let alone 13. Do editing blog posts count? Do I get a personal pan pizza if I give it another go this year? 

4) Capture more life in photos (not just with iPhone)

My Instagram total is nearing 700 photos. And guess what? They were nearly all taken with my iPhone. Sue me. Well don’t actually. I think I do have some portion of copyright on the photos. Probably not. I did manage to follow through on this resolution and capture a lot more of my life (and food) with my DSLR. Here are just a few of my favorites:

IMG_3221 greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary photography, children, nephews, springfield illinois, simply social bloggreater swiss mountain dog, swissy, puppyphotography, children, nephews, springfield illinois, simply social blog IMG_2534[1]photography, children, nephews, springfield illinois, simply social bloggreater swiss mountain dog red white and blue trifle simply social blog baby girl homemade oreos sweet potato rosemary biscuits, savory scones, holiday recipes owen turns 7 IMG_3096 IMG_1204

5) Complete a Triathlon

See #1 and #2. No I did not complete a triathlon this year. I’ll admit, I was too scared to put ‘run a marathon’ when I wrote this last year so I felt a triathlon was a safe bet because I’ve always wanted to do one. It was shortly after I published this post that I decided to sign up for Chicago. And while I didn’t exactly have the best experience and still have a hard time calling myself a marathoner (pretty sure you need to do more than just one), I am very proud of myself for pushing through the pain and finishing. I’m also proud to report that I can once again run without pain for the first time since October 13th. So bring it on 2014! Let’s do a whole bunch of races that don’t include a distance of over 26 miles. 

As we enter into the New Year, I want to thank you for reading this blog and following me on this journey. Writing is a passion of mine and I look forward to continuing to share and overshare my experiences with you in 2014.

Now it’s your turn! Believe it or not I do get a little tired of talking to myself all the time. I’d love to hear from you. Don’t leave me hanging so early in the year!

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? 

Do you set monthly goals?

Did you follow through with any resolutions from last year? 

What is your biggest complaint about resolutions? 

What are you most looking forward to in 2014? 

Running on my nerves

I’ll keep this post short and sweet. I know I say that at the beginning of most of my posts and then ramble on and on and on but I’m going to really try to give it my all.

Speaking of giving my all, my first full marathon is rapidly approaching. If you need me to be more specific it’s knocking on my door in just over one week.

bank of america chicago marathon countdown clock

The time continues to tick down as I write this. Even more as you read it. Can you tell I’m a little nervous?

Well I am. For a number of reasons.

1) My body hates me. My IT Band continues to resist any and all treatment, getting angrier by the day. I picture it to look like one of those mucous men when the medicine is administered on the mucinex commercial. Real Happy. 

what’s the big idea?

2) I haven’t run any sort of distance in weeks. I feel like I am losing months of training as each day passes. I visualized this point several months ago. If I’m being honest part of me even wondered if I wouldn’t be able to race so I could attend the wedding of my friends when I found both were on the same weekend. But as the miles passed, I realized how much I wanted to complete this goal. And now I am scared I might not be able to.

3) I’m bringing in the big guns and throwing a complete wrench in my routine. Ice treatments. Rest. Stretching. More rest. Stim machines and something I try to generally avoid, medicine. All of these changes so close to race day are really contributing to my nerves. I’m not exactly a good “rester.” I feel like I should be picturing the course and all I can think about is whether my leg will hold up for mile 1.

But as much as I’m filled with doubt and nerves as to whether my body will hold up for the longest run I’ll likely ever do, I am determined.

1) Determined to do anything and everything needed to make sure I am ready when that gun goes off. For the last several weeks, I’ve been receiving emails nearly everyday with information about the race, packet pickup, pasta feeds, security updates and well-wishes. I must admit I’ve been avoiding them for the most part, but starting today I’m focusing on making the best of a bad situation and trying to enjoy each moment. Kind of like this guy.

2) Determined to do this for those who can’t. My knee hurts when I run. That sucks, but it’s nothing compared to the struggles and pain that others are going through on a daily basis. And it’s likely nothing compared to what thousands of other runners are going to push through next Sunday. I am blessed and I am trying to focus on that over the next week.

3) Determined to do this for TEAM PAWS. A very worthy cause that is even closer to my heart after going through a recent health scare with my pup, Finn. Pets become family. They tug at your heartstrings like watching Homeward Bound on a rainy Sunday. They deserve a chance at life. A chance for a family who loves them.

So as the countdown clock ticks away, I ask that you consider donating to PAWS Chicago and supporting me next weekend. Donations for the marathon close this Sunday, October 6th. And regardless of my finish in the race, your contribution will support the lives of pets who need it most.

DONATE HERE

Thank you for your consideration!

Running for their lives

If you haven’t guessed by now I have a bit of a soft spot for animals. Ok a huge spot. Like a gigantic coffee stain all over your carpet spot. And in case you are wondering I pulled that analogy not only from the immensity of my animal love, but my knowing just how big of a splash a 32-ouncer of iced coffee can make (ahem, Murf).

For as long as I can remember I’ve felt an incredible urge to take care of animals. It started innocently enough. Injured or stray cats, birds, and a baby rabbit here or there. I’m sure my mother was just thrilled the day I offered to take home the corn snakes from Montessori over spring break. And I can still see the look on my sister’s face when I thought my smallest anole got loose near her bedroom one summer afternoon. George, the leopard gecko. Countless lizards. Gus, Gus the emaciated kitten who “jumped” into our trunk after a county tournament at UIS. If there was an animal out there looking anywhere near needy, you better believe I was going to find some way to convince my family that we were the only ones in the entire city who could give this animal what they so obviously needed. Right then.

But it wasn’t until an early 90’s Christmas morning that I fell in love for the first time. Her name was Maggie and she was the most beautiful mutt I had ever seen. She sat whimpering in our kitchen, a big red bow perfectly contrasting her jet black fur. We had just finished opening presents and as soon as I spotted her I instantly forgot about the Fugees mixed tape I had just received and started bawling. I never thought I could love something so much so quickly. Her litter had been dumped off a truck on the side of the road. Someone no longer wanted her, but I couldn’t have imagined middle school without her.

And then there was Max. I still remember the man telling me that there were only two available puppies left when we got to the farm. One boy. One girl. As I picked up the little yellow lab and he wiggled in my arms, the man mentioned he was the runt of the litter. The thought that this guy would be left at the farm known as the runt no one wanted sealed the deal for me. I fell in love all over again. He was as perfect running  alongside me in high school and as was when he patiently waited for me to throughout college, keeping my parents company in between visits.

I considered going into veterinary medicine for a period of time. I even had the privilege of job shadowing at the zoo in high school where I not only got to witness a female gibbon being implanted with birth control, but the wrath of the male gibbon as he decided to take out his frustration on a fellow student standing a bit too close to his cage.  I eventually went a different route, but my love for animals hasn’t changed.

It took me a long time to decide I was ready for another dog after moving to Chicago. Well, I was ready, but I knew it just wasn’t fair to the animal if I wasn’t in a place both career and housing-wise where I could give him or her the life he or she deserved. I considered adoption. After all, there are thousands of homeless pets in the city and many of them need families more than those that are bred for it. Plus, they are free. But if you’ve read any of the preceding paragraphs you’ll know that the likelihood of me stopping at just one is slim to none. I volunteered and the guilt I felt was overwhelming. I considered fostering but I felt myself closer and closer to “dog lady” each day. I can’t stop at just one. What about the others? At the end of the day I decided I wanted to raise a pup from the start and after a lot of research and thought, I opted to get Finn.

And although sometimes (ok most of the time) I still feel guilty when I think about all of the other pets out there that are waiting to be loved, I decided to turn my guilt into action and sign up to run the Chicago Marathon as part of Team PAWS. I know I’m crazy, but it’s for a good cause, right? Please tell me I’m right.

paws chicago

This Sunday was the 13th Annual Zoetis Run for Their Lives 8K Run & 4K Dog-Friendly walk benefitting PAWS Chicago. My cousin’s girlfriend just so happens to be one of the folks in charge of the event, so it was a great way to raise money for a very worthy cause, spot some really cute pups and see just how much my running has rubbed off on Finn for his very first race. Ok, walk. Dogs weren’t allowed to run in the 8K and Finn is more of a walk a few miles and then take a nap kind of guy anyway. The timing was great as we had to run 8 miles on Saturday and I was feeling guilty leaving him at home on such a beautiful day. NOTE: there should be a dog-sitting service for those of us who run the lake path. Just two hours to complete your mileage and then you can pick up your dog and take him to the park, beach, wherever. Anyone interested? I know I’d pay for it. 

I spent the majority of the time making mental notes at the adaptations for dog-friendly races vs. human races. Here’s what I learned:

    1. Even though your dog has no clue that he’s signed up for a 4K race at an unfamiliar location with nearly 2,000 other dogs that morning, he will undoubtedly bark and spin in excitement when you mention the phrase “ride in car” to him early in the morning. He will then settle into his spot between the seats as if the previous 5 minutes of barking and spinning never happened.

      greater swiss mountain dog

      I’m so excited I can hardly stand it guys. Seriously.

    2. Dogs are not nearly as interested in pre-race photos as their humans are. Especially not with strangers taking said photos.

      paws chicago run for their lives swiss mountain dog

      got one, oh there’s another dog, got one

    3. Always check out the free swag. If you do, you might discover that your local daycare facility will outfit you if you stop by their booth before the race. Thanks Tucker Pups!
      tucker pups paws chicago race greater swiss mountain dog
    4. Just like human races, dogs dress up in all sorts of costumes to entertain the crowds. No they don’t. Their humans do and those poor pups are left to just sit there and get their photos taken the whole damn day by people like me.
      dogs in costume
      And if you think that middle photo looks familiar, so did I. Just like those toys we used to have when we were little. But what was the name…

      that’s right go go my walkin’ pup

    5. Ever experienced ridiculous lines for the bathroom right before a race? Not here folks. You can pee wherever you want. Slowing down through a water station? Not a chance. Just help yourself to a tub of water right along the course route. Race photos? No need to worry about losing pace. There’s no timing in this race.
      greater swiss mountain dog race running for their lives chicago
    6. Not all dogs are water dogs. Case in point.

Finn visits the lake from Sarah Murphy on Vimeo.

  • All races should end in a well-deserved nap.
    tired greater swiss mountain dog

I’m excited to be a part of TEAM PAWS this race season as I truly believe in what they do: Save Lives. If you are an animal lover like me or just want to support a great cause, I would ask that you consider donating to my page today, tomorrow or sometime before the Chicago Marathon on October 13, 2013. You can make a donation here.

Thank you for your consideration and have a wonderful week.