Friday, March 25, 2016

PawsGo Exploring Washington, D.C.'s Cherry Blossoms


PawsGo Exploring the Cherry Blossoms

 Cherry blossoms.  Two words that fill those of us that live and work in the Washington D.C. area with both delight and dread.
The flowering trees that surround the Tidal Basin and frame so many of our national monuments are beautiful.  You can see the puffs of light pink as you drive across the 14th Street Bridge from Virginia, or past the museums that line the National Mall.  Yes, they are delightful.  But we dread them because arrival of the cherry blossoms means one thing we really hate – TRAFFIC.

Living and working in D.C., you welcome tourists.  D.C. is a great city – the majority of museums are free, there are endless things to see and do, so we expect month after month of school groups and vacationers.  But cherry blossom season takes tourists and traffic to an annual high, to the point that it has been at least five years since I made the effort to take Boomer for a walk around the Tidal Basin and see the trees.

My friend Mandy and I were each already planning on taking the day off.  So we made our plan to head out fairly early in the morning, arriving at the Haines Point parking area just before 8:00 a.m.  Lattes in hand, and our dogs Ella and Boomer by our side, we started the 2.3 mile walk around the Tidal Basin. 
Cherry blossoms are not indigenous to Washington, D.C.  They are Japanese.  Bringing cherry trees to Washington, D.C. was the brainchild of a woman (of course) named Eliza Scidmore and it took  20 years to make her idea a reality.
Eliza was a real renaissance woman with a fascinating life.   Born in Iowa, she moved to Washington, D.C. during the early part of the Civil War.  She became a travel writer and a member of the National Geographic Society.  Through her travels she developed a love for Japan and the Japanese spring time ritual of cherry blossom viewing.  Why not bring this delightful ritual to D.C.?, she thought, so she petitioned the parks service to plant the trees.  It wasn’t until First Lady Helen Taft heard her appeal that the project moved forward.  A gift from Japan, the first trees were planted on March 27, 1912.
Evidence of the trees’ history and the Japanese influence can be seen as you walk around the Tidal Basin.  Small monuments and plaques dot the walk way.  Larger, more current and modern monuments physically eclipse the small historic reminders, but all the monuments large and small, old and new fit perfectly and complement each other.
We wander through the FDR memorial – a sprawling tribute complete with water features, meditation areas, and – FALA, Roosevelt’s beloved dog.   
We quietly walk past the MLK memorial (no dogs allowed) and gaze at its majestic stature.
Along the way Boomer and Ella make friends with other dogs and get lots of attention from passersby.  It’s still fairly early.  We see numerous photo shoots, both professional and amateur, it’s a beautiful morning and the blossoms are near their peak.   As we approach the Jefferson Memorial, the dogs are literally grabbed by a group of Chinese tourists and our own impromptu photo shoot begins!   We leave with a sneaking suspicion that Boomer and Ella will end up in a Chinese whiskey ad or on a billboard in Beijing!
It’s nice to take the morning off, spend some time with your friend and wander through a bit a history and a part of the city that you’d normally curse due to traffic.  The cherry blossoms are indeed delightful!
To learn more about the cherry blossoms and the best time to visit check out the National Park Service website at or Facebook and Twitter @nationalmallNPS  
To learn more about Eliza Scidmore go to




Saturday, March 19, 2016

Food for Thought -- Allergies in Dogs, A Holistic Look

Food for Thought -- Allergies in Dogs, a Holistic Look
by Dr. Janice Elenbaas

 An allergy is a sign of an overactive immune system. The body is working overtime to protect us from a perceived threat. There is overproduction of histamine in response to exposure to a foreign protein. The result is swelling and inflammation. This can be seen as:

 -itchy, red moist skin  or 'hot spots'

-increased scratching

-runny eyes

-itchy back or base of tail ( especially in flea allergies)

-ear infections

-paw chewing



Common triggers are:

-fleas - the most common cause of allergic response

-pollens - like tree and ragweed pollens

-mold spores


-cigarette smoke


The most common cause of allergies is a reaction to fleas followed by inhaled allergies. Only 10% of dog allergies is due to foods.

 Having said all that, allergies are still a sign that the immune system is overworked and turned against itself. It has over-responded to a naturally occurring protein. Symptoms in and of themselves should never be covered up or ignored. It would be like ignoring your oil light indicator in your car. Eventually, something more serious can happen.

 Traditional western medicine uses steroids, antihistamines and topical creams to block the immune response. This might work for a time, but if the cause is not eliminated, there will be a revolving door of symptoms and drug treatment.

 The holistic approach is to balance the immune system and a large portion of the immune system is in the gut. A healthy GI tract means a healthy body.

 Most commercial dog foods contain artificial colorings, flavors and preservatives. Traditionally, dog foods are made up of ingredients unfit for human consumption. It is common for them to contain moldy grains, spent grains, mycotoxins, poor quality proteins and artificial supplements. Kibble is processed at high temperatures, denaturing proteins, making them hard to digest and destroying naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.

This all places tremendous strain on the immune system to identify and eliminate these foreign substances.  No wonder the immune system is on overdrive. Toxic response is shown in skin lesions and other allergic responses listed above.

 So what can we do?

 We want to allow the body to work as efficiently and easily as possible:

 -reduce fleas

-improve the quality of food

-feed high quality, whole foods without artificial ingredients

-try nutritional supplements like essential fatty acids

-use natural anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements

-feed probiotics

-reduce environmental pollens - use an air filter - certainly do not smoke around your dog

 Seek advice from a holistic vet.

Please remember that allergies are a sign that something is wrong inside. Take a multi prong approach and consider acupuncture, chiropractic and herbal treatment. Be patient. True healing takes time and patient persistence!

With four years of nutritional training and twenty years as a Doctor of Chiropractic for both humans and animals Dr. Janice Elenbaas is the founder and owner of Lucky Dog Cuisine, and a guest blogger for PawsGo


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Two Girls and Two Dogs Take a Walk Through Historic Alexandria, Virginia

This weekend we finally got a break from winter and took advantage of it.  Boomer and I joined our friend Jean and her dog Daisy for a 6 mile urban hike from our Del Ray neighborhood through Old Town and back home.

Jean and I are friends, neighbors, and our career paths have a number of similarities.  In addition to exercise and time with the dogs – I was excited for time with my friend.

Fitbits full charged and humans fully caffeinated, we took off on our trek that would take us through a variety of Alexandria neighborhoods, to the Potomac River, through historic Old Town and back to Del Ray.

The morning was ours for exercise, dog time and some much needed girl time – perfect for solving the world’s problems, a walk of this nature provides many “snoop-worthy” stops and google moments.

Our Del Ray neighborhood was built around a rail yard in the late 1800s.  Crossing those historic (and currently used) train tracks was the beginning of our hike.

Along the way we ran into dogs (and their owners) and one of Jean’s colleagues and his dog. 

Boomer and Daisy did well on the walk, and about 40 minutes into our excursion, they got a well-deserved play break at Old Town’s Founder's Park in the heart of Old Town and on the Potomac River.  Old Town Alexandria, Virginia is a town with a rich history, and played a featured role in the Revolutionary War, the formation of Washington, D.C., and the Civil War.  Today, it’s the backdrop of the PBS series Mercy Street.  It’s also a great place to window shop, grab a bite to eat and wander streets that look close to the way they did 200 years ago.
A much needed romp in Founder's Park

We leave Founder’s Park we work our way past the Torpedo Factory.  The Torpedo Factory actively produced torpedoes until the end of World War II. 
 It was used for storage by the federal government until the mid-1970s when it was turned into an arts center.  Today it houses nearly 100 art galleries and studios.
From the Torpedo Factory we turned up one of our favorite streets – Cameron Street.  We passed the backside of the familiar Carlyle House, which was once part of the Mansion House Hotel. 
The back of the Carlyle House, the focal point of Mercy Street

During the Civil War, Alexandria – a Southern town and the hometown of Robert E Lee, was occupied by Union troops.  Any large home or building (hotel) was immediately taken by the Union and turned into a hospital or utilized by the Army.  This is largely the plot of Mercy Street.

Jean, Daisy, Boomer and I have walked about 6,000 steps when we hit Wise’s Tavern – at the corner of Cameron and North Fairfax streets.  On April 16th 1789, George Washington was first publically addressed as President of the United States at an event at Wise’s Tavern.
Wise's Tavern
We stop and say hi to a passerby and her dog.  It turns out she’s the owner of the dog-friendly Sonoma Cellar on King Street.  We plan on visit for their Taco Tuesday and wine tasting.

A few blocks further up Cameron is Gadsby's Tavern – which is where the Colonial elite hung out – including George and Martha Washington.  Their “city” house is within eyesight of the tavern.  Apparently Martha wasn’t much of a cook, so when they were in the city, they had their meals at Gadsby’s.  Like much of Old Town, Gadsby’s is also said to be haunted. 

As we hit Washington Street one of the two main thoroughfares in Old Town, we are facing Christ Church, which was the home church to both the Washington and Lee families.

Walking down Washington Street we pass Oronoco Street where the Lee family lived in several homes, including the Lee Fendall House, where Jean had her wedding reception.  At the end of the block at St. Asaph Street is  Old Towne School for Dogs which is packed full of delicious treats, accessories and food for dogs and cats.

We cross Washington Street and walk down Oronoco heading into the Parker Gray neighborhood, which was created during and after the Civil War for freedmen and emancipated slaves.  The neighborhood remained historically significant during the Civil Right era with notable leaders of that movement residing in the neighborhood.

We’ve broken the 10,000 step mark as we turn down Fayette Street – looking at renovated houses, sleeping secret gardens, and courtyards that look eager for spring.
A beautiful garden waiting for Spring
Finally, crossing back to our side of the railroad tracks, we’re home.  We’ve made new friends, seen some old ones, solved the world’s problems, made plans for Taco Tuesday and had some quality girl and dog time!

Doggie photo op by the Potomac