This Place We Call Home

Written By Jenny Pavlovic

We’ve all heard the saying, “Home is where the heart is.” I’ve lived in the same home for over 25 years. It’s a small house on 5 acres, with a beautiful state park in the back yard. If you’ve been reading along, you’ve read about my adventures with the dogs here, and about the deer, eagles, and other creatures that share this space. We have well over an acre fenced in for the dogs to run, and can walk from our back yard right into a park with trails and access to the St. Croix River. There’s plenty of space to run, and to set up an agility course or a track for the dogs.

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Recently life threw me a curve that has me thinking about moving. My job has been going well. I was promoted recently, received a significant raise, and have a new manager who is helping me define my new role. Everything was going in the right direction, when the company announced that it’s moving 15 miles farther west. This may not sound like a lot, but would mean a commute of over 45 miles each way, partly in city traffic, and would likely mean that I’d spend 3 hours or more commuting every day. Over the years I’ve resisted moving for a job and have been able to stay employed. But now there are fewer and fewer jobs on this side of town. My other employment options are mostly also farther west.

So I‘ve been faced with the idea of possibly moving. I probably wouldn’t consider it except it’s getting more difficult for me to take care of this place and have time for the dogs and friends and any kind of leisure activities. We’re all getting older. When I began thinking about the tradeoffs of moving, my biggest considerations related to the dogs. We’re used to open space, and quiet and seeing the stars at night. We would be overstimulated by the noises and lights of the city.

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Much of my daily life is spent playing with the dogs in the yard, walking/running them in a huge fenced area on our property, and exploring nearby parks and trails. I want my dogs to be able to bark once in a while without bothering a hundred neighbors. I don't want my herding dogs to be overstimulated by too much activity in the neighborhood (which may require some re-training). Chase and Cay have both lived here for most of their lives and would have to adjust to a change.

I wonder how dogs adapt to living in the city. I suppose it’s all that some dogs have ever known. If they get enough exercise and time outside and love and good food, they’re probably fine. But how do dogs who’ve only ever lived in the country adapt to living in the city, or even the suburbs? Mine would need retraining to know that they had a much smaller area to protect.

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As I’ve driven around suburbs where I might like to live, I’ve noticed that my chest tightens up when I see houses that are close together. House photos online never accurately show how close together the houses are. In one neighborhood, I found a very nice house, not too big, with a 0.62 acre yard. I think it would have been ok, except that the houses around it all had bright Christmas lights and the house behind had a rather gaudy display of brightly blinking lights. It felt a bit too much like Las Vegas. Maybe in the day time, with the lights off, it would have been ok. I guess I’ve been spoiled, especially by not having another house directly behind.

Most of the newer neighborhoods in this area have bigger houses and smaller yards. We don’t need a big house, so I’ve mostly been looking in older established neighborhoods, with smaller houses that are farther apart. Some even have half acre, or larger, lots. What about the dogs that live in those big houses with tiny yards? I hope they get out for a good walk every day. Although a good walk can stimulate their senses and make them breathe hard, even at 7 ½ and 9 ½ years old, my dogs do not wear out easily while on leash.

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One of my biggest considerations is having open space to exercise the dogs every evening after work. This means a safe place to walk year-round, whether it’s light or dark, hot or cold, rainy or icy. We have enough space on our own property now that I can run the dogs inside the fence in the dark on a cold winter night. I can walk laps around the field, which requires walking up and down hill, and we all get enough exercise and time outside. What if we only had a half acre or less of our own property? A friend suggested that I look for a place with less land to take care of, with a park behind where we can walk.

In going through this process of deciding what’s most important, I realized that it’s not just about keeping the dogs happy. For the past 25 years, through all the things that have happened in my life, I’ve had this peaceful place to come home to. What has kept me grounded is that walk on the hill with the dogs. Every night, they get out and run and unwind, using their noses to learn what happened in the neighborhood that day. Every night, I follow them up the hill, discarding the frustrations of the day and grounding myself in nature. In the summer we watch the sun set. In the winter, we look at the stars. I wouldn’t do it faithfully every day by myself. It’s the dogs that get me out.

We may stay here or we may move. I don’t have the answer yet. For now, the dogs and I will take our walk up the hill every evening to leave the cares of the day behind and ground ourselves.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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