BY PAMELA STACE, FREELANCER

When we think about 4-H, what usually comes to mind are images of kids raising and showing farm animals. Yes, that is part of it, but 4-H is so much more! Today’s 4-H is a comprehensive, hands-on, educational program for rural, suburban and urban youth in every state. According to their website, the purpose of 4-H is to empower young people with lifelong leadership skills. 4-H members pledge:

“My head to clearer thinking.
My heart to greater loyalty.
My hands to larger service.
My health to better living.

For my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

A Brief History of 4-H

4-H was started in 1902 with the intent of providing young boys in rural areas with learning experiences that would connect their public school studies with country life. In the 1950s, 4-H welcomed urban and suburban youth as well, and in the 1960s both boys and girls of all races were participating in 4-H.

4-H Project Areas

There are 119 project areas within 11 categories in 4-H. Categories include: Plant Science, Health, Environment, Earth Science, Physical Science, Leadership and Personal Development, Civic Engagement, Communications and Expressive Arts and Animal Science. With guidance from well-trained adult 4-H mentors, members from third to twelfth grade participate in community and afterschool events and camps. Within the Animal Science category, the Dog Project was established to “help youth explore what kind of dog fits into the family lifestyle, and how to be excellent trainers and caretakers of their dogs.”

The Dog Project

The 4-H Dog Project curriculum has three components: Wiggles and Wags (grades 3-5), Canine Connection (grades 6-8) and Leading the Pack (grades 9-12). Members earn certificates of completion for each of these segments on the way to their final Dog Project completion. The curriculum starts with the basics and layers on more detailed information as members proceed. For example, third graders start with learning about breeds, anatomy, basic care, dogs in society and dog-related careers. Grades 6-8 learn more about health and nutrition, genetic problems, training and population control. Finally, Leading the Pack participants delve into caring for the geriatric dog, training service dogs, first aid and learning about animal cruelty and neglect.

Affordable curriculum materials for the Dog Project, and dozens of downloads relating to every area of Dog Project study, are available on the 4-H website.

Conformation & The Dog Project

Dog Project members are encouraged to share what they are learning with others via public presentations, community activities and conformation events at county and state fairs. My friend Marylou Mader has been judging Wisconsin 4-H shows for 20 years, and she recently spoke with me about some of her experiences.

Mader enjoys seeing kids and their dogs return to the county fair shows year after year, but she told me it is bittersweet when they eventually complete and age out of the project. Dogs do not have to be purebreds, but a handler must choose a breed identity and speak knowledgeably about that. 4-H judges can also question handlers about other aspects of dog ownership, including grooming and care. Additionally, while in the ring, dogs must demonstrate obedience skills.

4-H uses the Danish judging system. This means that a dog is not judged against another dog in the ring but instead against a standard. This gives all participating dogs and their handlers a chance to be recognized for their hard work and practice. As a result, there can be more than one blue ribbon!

A Great Opportunity

4-H provides a fantastic opportunity for kids aged 8-18 to take their love of dogs to another level by learning about all things dog. It is not expensive to become a member, and 4-H can be found all over Southeastern Wisconsin!

To get started, visit: www.4-h.org

BY EMILY HESSE, FREELANCER

Year after year, animals of all kinds are being transported to veterinary clinics to deal with nightmare situations that leave pet owners scratching their heads.

Sometimes, nothing is more troublesome or frustrating than when our canine friends get a little mischievous and curious and end up getting themselves into unhealthy situations. These unfortunate circumstances cause us to wonder how these instances can be treated and how they can be prevented from happening again.

The following list will break down some of the most common hazards dogs, and even humans, have to look out for in the water.

Be sure to check your dog after each swim, make sure he or she is properly vaccinated, and know where the nearest animal hospital is in case something goes wrong during what was supposed to be a fun day out with your dog.

Bacteria, Viruses & Fungi

Water-born bacterial and fungal infections are the biggest problem to look out for when letting your dog play in different bodies of water. Although standing water tends to pose a higher risk for curating bacteria, river edges are known to store some of those creepy-crawlies as well. One serious fungal disease of animals that could potentially be transmitted to humans by way of open wounds is called blastomycosis. Three forms of illness that can derive from blastomycosis can affect the lungs, skin and total body.

Illness can develop 5 to 12 weeks after infection. One way to prevent this disease is by rinsing all the algae off your pet. Blasto spores kick up, and that’s how contamination happens. Systemic fungal disease and leptospirosis are also spread from the outdoors, especially environments with water.

Distemper vaccines can be given to prevent against leptospirosis, which is the standing water disease. Such exposure to infected bodies of water can give dogs seasonal allergies, ear infections and skin issues.

Pollution

Another reason why dogs and humans alike need to be careful in water environments is pollution. It’s sad to admit, but especially in city environments, pollution can really bring down natural habitats and all its inhabitants.

Broken glass, garbage, plastic or metal shards can be hiding at the bottom of our local rivers and lakes, and you’ll never know it or see it until stepping on it. Stepping on trash not only causes serious pain, but it can cause different infections that are life threatening. A way to prevent this from happening is by using trash bins provided all around cities and parks instead of tossing trash on the ground. And if you see trash on the ground or in the water from someone else, go the extra mile to pick it up and protect yourself and those around you.

Nature’s Elements

Sometimes there are nasty, sharp and dirty objects scattered around that can’t be prevented. These are natural elements such as sharp rocks and sticks under the water. Also, fast-moving rapids in rivers and strong waves in big bodies of water can threaten the safety of your dog as it goes out to fetch a stick you threw. Be as knowledgeable as you can about the kind of water you are dealing with and how to go about a situation in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately, some injuries are near impossible to prevent, but many others are just one wise decision away from saving the day.

Leeches

Ah yes, the creepy-crawlies that always seemed to be lurking within every lake you swam in as a kid growing up in Wisconsin. Leeches are known to cling onto any part of skin that is exposed in their underwater environment. It’s common to find them latched onto your feet and inbetween your toes, but leeches also enjoy sucking the blood of your canine pal. Leeches that swell up from being left unnoticed can cause infections.

Zebra Mussels

Zebra mussels are invasive species that can cause issues for our animal friends. Sometimes, due to the exposure of infected waters, dogs will get them on their feet. One way to prevent zebra mussels is to properly maintain beaches by raking. People also need to be conscious and clean off their boats.

BY EMILY HESSE, FREELANCER

It’s finally summertime in Wisconsin. Homeowners are busy cranking up the A/C and fulfilling plans to work in their gardens. Parents are running around trying to get their kids to summer camps, and families are loading up the old caravan to embark on their family vacations. But let’s not forget about our furry friends who are pawing at our doors, just begging to break free and go for their fifth walk of the day. That’s right, fifth. Well, so it seems. A great way to combat such anxiety and anticipation our dogs tend to exhibit in these moments is to let them sweat it out by exploring the great outdoors. We are all familiar with the phrase, “Want to go for a walk?” And certainly, we all know the spunky, head-tilting, perky-eared reaction that is sure to follow. But this summer, why not try saying something a little different? Here’s a new phrase: “Want to go for a… swim?” That one is sure to throw Fido for a loop. Nevertheless, your dog may be just as eager to splash through the water, as he or she is to walk down the neighborhood streets or run through the forest.

If the water life seems to float your dog’s boat, then you might want to take some time to check out a few of the beautiful lakes and rivers that Wisconsin has to offer. There are many parks in Southeastern Wisconsin alone that cater to the dog community. Some of these parks provide ample space for your pooch to roam the waterfront and dive into the cool, summer waters.

In order to research and experience the beauty of some of these doggy water parks, I took the opportunity to hop into my car and drive along with a friend and a four-legged companion to scope out potential hot spots. Though all it really took was a simple search on a map app to find some places, I went ahead and did the experiential research to find out for myself and report back. Among the many dog parks that are strewn throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, here are a few water-sourced ones to help your dog beat the heat this summer.

Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve in Port Washington is a popular destination for humans and dogs alike. This place is not solely a dog park; however, dogs are very welcome and, in fact, encouraged to come and explore here alongside their human companions. Lion’s Den offers hiking, birdwatching, and fishing to the public, and it provides areas for folks to take a nice lunch break. Coursing throughout the 73-acre preserve are winding trails. These trails are kept nicely maintained for the public and are composed of mulch and gravel, which help absorb some of spring’s heavy rainfalls. There are several bridges along the way, which can make for fun photo opportunities. Not only do the trails take you twisting and turning among the trees, but they also lead to something even more spectacular. If you and your dog happen upon the right paths, you will be taken to either the bluff where you can overlook Lake Michigan or walk down to the lakefront.

The bluff is great for getting a grand, bird’s-eye view of the vast body of water and a strong breeze blowing through your hair. It provides the perfect backdrop to snap the selfie of your dreams of you and your pup. If you choose to go down to the lakefront, you will come across a wooden stairway that runs up and down the bluff to the refreshing water below. Although the stairway is steep, don’t worry; there are plenty of level spots along the way to rest. Upon reaching the bottom, you will be greeted by a long, sandy beach where the waves lap ashore. Sections of the beach have small rocks along the shoreline as well, which can help your pooch dry off a little before getting their wet feet too sandy to bring back into the car. This beachfront will give you all the space you need to play fetch with your dog as they challenge the waves of Lake Michigan.

Among the handful of beachgoers that day we visited, there were a few courageous pooches that dove into the water with full energy. One of them was a beautiful Australian Shepherd named Willow, who was eager to show-off her retrieving skills to nearby observers. Willow’s caretaker, Amanda Gonzalez, says she’s been coming there for a little over a year now. “This is definitely our favorite,” she quips. Gonzalez and Willow are among the regulars at Lion’s Den, but it’s not uncommon to meet people who check out the park from out of town and even out of state. One of the hikers that came down to the beach was Zach Rosenblatt with his handsome, brindle-colored dog Payton. Rosenblatt says, “This is the first time we’ve ever been here. We live in Chicago.” As Rosenblatt explained their origins, Payton proceeded to show me the ‘good boy’ he was by sitting and posing for the camera.

Many of the people who come to the trails to run or get in a good hike with their dogs find the water to be great for a post-workout cool down. Gonzalez went on to explain, “We usually run a bit first. [Willow] can then cool off in the waves at the beach. She requires a lot of exercise. Sometimes we bring a little lunch.” This special preserve of land has proven to be a gem in Southeastern Wisconsin. If you and your adventure buddy are looking to get out and explore an area with such biodiversity and natural beauty with plenty of places to rest, then give this park a good look this summer.

Lion’s Den is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week, so there is plenty of time to enjoy the beauty that this park has to offer, and it is free-of-charge upon arrival. It also provides off-street parking—perfect for pulling up and letting your dog hop out of the car without fear of traffic from a busy highway. Like most public areas, it is required you keep your dogs on a leash and clean up after them. Bathrooms and disposal areas are available as well. Lion’s Den has received an average rating of 4.5 stars from different Google reviews, so the experience at this park is sure to keep those tails wagging.

Another park to keep on your radar this summer is Granville Dog Park located in the greater Milwaukee area. If you and Fido are looking to escape the city life but don’t want to travel too far outside of town, this park is a good place to start. Although this dog park is located practically in the city, it most certainly gives off rural vibes due to its 10 acres of trees, trails and river access. Keep a watchful eye because its entrance can be easy to miss but nevertheless, it is conveniently located right off Highway 45 and Good Hope Road. This section of land has quite a playful landscape for dogs, especially for the more athletically inclined and the true adventure seekers. It has hills, trees, shrubs, dirt paths and tall grass. But more importantly, the most prized piece of the land is, of course, the Menomonee River.

Upon walking into Granville Dog Park, everything seems to remain fairly quaint. To the left, there is a pathway that takes you up onto a steep hill where one can overlook the grassland and treetops for quite a distance. There’s even a bench provided. From the top of the hill, looping down, around and throughout the rest of the park are a bunch of little trails where your dog can roam free. Be careful as you walk around; some of the paths aren’t any bigger than an average-sized deer trail, and at this park, there are only dirt pathways. At the very least, this provides even more of a fun, off-roading adventure for your four-legged companion, right? To the left there is a beautiful, relaxing overlook, but to the right… That’s where the real adventure awaits. As you proceed down the path on the right, you may start to hear the commotion of happy dogs at play. Barking, splashing, humans yelling out directions to their K-9 counterparts and the flow of the river are all common sounds to be heard in Granville. At the riverfront, you may find the more active dogs chasing after toys their caretakers throw into the water for them or chasing after each other’s tails. You can also find older or smaller dogs basking in the cool river water or laying down under the shade of a big tree. Picnic tables are available to those who want to relax and enjoy their furry friends at play or sit down to a nice lunch in the shade.

Regardless of the inevitable water that is going to be splashed onto you and your clothing, this park has positive feedback. According to the online source, BringFido, “Granville Dog Park has received a rating of 4.8 out of 5 bones by 5 dog owners.” Granville Dog Park does not require dogs to be on a leash, even though a fence does not surround the whole property. Three sides of the property are fenced while the river acts as a fence on the fourth side. Also, proper dog licensing and permit tags must be available, including rabies vaccinations. Granville is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day of the week. The park also offers disposal bins to get rid of any trash or waste that comes from your time spent here. Another bonus: This park is free of charge.

Our last and final stops on the doggy (water) park tour ends with a couple brief suggestions of excellent places where dog owners can get just as much joy out of the experience as do their four-legged friends. Estabrook Park Dog Exercise Area coincides with the Estabrook Beer garden in Shorewood. This makes it the perfect summer hangout for both dogs and humans. Running alongside the Estabrook Park is the Milwaukee River. This provides another opportunity for you to take a stroll alongside the river with your furry pal or to let him or her roam around in the off-leash and fenced-in area of the park, whilst you enjoy a nice brew. Permits, licensing and rabies vaccinations are required for this park, along with a daily or yearly pass in order to enter the dog park.

Lastly, Ridge Run Park, located in the heart of West Bend, provides winding trails through a wooded area and an ample body of water. As long as your dog is on a 6-foot leash, he or she can enjoy wading in the slow-moving water within this park. The park provides hikers with a segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, so it’s sure to have scenic views. Within Ridge Run, there are many pavilions and shelters so you and your dog can take a rest or have a lunch break if desired. This park has no entry fee.

As animal lovers, not only do we want to live our best life for our families and ourselves, but we also seek to give our dogs the same kind of love and respect so they can live their best life, too. After all, dogs truly are man’s best friend, and they are just as much a part of our family as they ever could be.

So, before summer is over, take some time to not only plan out the big getaway vacations you want to take with your family and friends, but also spend some time traveling around with your pup to find his or her perfect getaway. Load up the car with some old towels, doggy bags, retrieving toys and some good tunes, and surprise your pup with the water park vacation getaway about which he or she has been having all those puppy dreams.