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Katie & Spaghetti: Press Play the Fall Way

With the first frost rapidly approaching the Salt Lake valley, I spent days hunched over in the gardens, pulling overgrown tomato vines out of their beds. Spaghetti was there too – to help eat the tomatoes.

We’d grown used to our routine out on our little half acre in Salt Lake City, but after getting our fill of pressing play this spring, summer, and fall, it’s time to transition with the seasons.

Last year, I wrote about how Spaghetti and I rode the waves of transitions together as we emerged from lockdowns to expand our world again. We had a few goals: camp and travel closer to home, reprioritize and reinvest our time, cultivate lessons as budding homesteaders, and make our daily walking habit stick. 

We failed on the daily walks, but we did hit every other goal on our 2022 list. Our pack pressed the play button with earnestness this year, and dove paws first into the world around us. 

A dog sits in a backyard garden.

Spaghetti and I spent more time than ever out in the garden, her chasing squirrels while I grew tomatoes, garlic, peas, peaches, pepper, apples, and more.

Every morning, she’d come sprinting down into the tomato patch, slinking through the tight row of marigolds and nasturtiums, and demand her daily tomato tax. One perfectly ripe golden nugget tomato in exchange for her services as farmhand. 

A dog stands in the grass and smiles.

She kept me company as I prepared for my first markets and sold produce to local chefs. From the first seedlings to the final tear down, Spaghetti oversaw every trial and tribulation in the garden this year – and there were many.

We’ve got new goals for the coming year. I’m taking classes in the spring to further my knowledge as a gardener, my book will finally be published and on shelves, we’re planning road trips to visit the towns we might want to move to some day, and Spaghetti swears she’s finally going to catch that pesky squirrel in 2023. 

A woman holds her dog who licks her on the face.

When Spaghetti and I press play now, it’s always enough. (Note: Treats and snacks are excluded from this idea of always being enough. Let’s be clear, there are never enough treats for Spaghetti.) Our van doesn’t even need to roll out of the driveway to stoke her up; she’s happy just to nap in it parked by the front door. Going camping this weekend? Cool! Staying home and working outside in the sunshine? Cool!

Giving ourselves permission to be content with what we’ve got has opened us (well, at least me) up to enjoying our play more. 

A woman and man wearing birthday hats hold up their dog who is wearing a crown.

With no more daily demands from the garden beds, we’re slowing down and savoring the coming change of seasons. Spaghetti’s new Hemp Hound™ Sweater will keep us exploring close to home and in the van even when the temperature really drops – and I’ll keep waiting for Ruffwear to make a human version for me too.

We’re cozying up, witnessing the shifting world around us, and making good on our promise to spend our time more wisely, more presently, together. 

A dog rests on the couch with a pillow and blanket.

Our pack trainer, Melissa, taught us that mental stimulation is a critical element of keeping a dog happy and healthy, right alongside physical action. So as we find our bodies spending more time indoors, the focus is shifting to exercising Spaghetti’s mind more.

Here are some of our favorite ways to press play while inside:

  • Playing ‘Touch!’ Hands down, this is our little family’s favorite way to stoke our brains indoors. We have a designated red tupperware top (you probably also have many floating around in your kitchen) as the object of the ‘touch’ command. Spaghetti is given a sit and wait, and watches as we place the red top in various places around the home. When we yell “touch!,” she sprints off to two-paws touch the tupperware, then runs to wherever we are to collect her treat. We repeat a few times in each spot before relocating the top, placing it in farther and more complex places each time.

  • Wooden dog puzzles. I found a little ‘sudoku’ dog puzzle at our local pet shop for Christmas last year, and it’s one of Spaghetti’s favorite indoor activities. Fill each little trap door with a few pieces of kibble, then let your pup exhaust their brain trying to figure out how to unlock each treasure chamber.
  • Frozen toys. A classic treat that admittedly often requires a clean-up. Take a fillable toy, like a Gnawt-a-Cone™, and load it up with peanut butter, pumpkin, cheese, treats, whatever – then pop it in the freezer. I recommend laying a towel down or regulating this activity to hard floor surfaces because it inevitably makes a little mess.
  • Gnawt-a-Dinner. That’s right, we’ll put Spaghetti’s entire dinner in a Gnawt-a-Rock™ toy every once in a while – make ‘er work for it! 

Slowing down is a state of mind, but it doesn’t mean we have to go completely stagnant when winter arrives. Life with a dog means pressing play isn’t negotiable, it’s a daily necessity.

That old adage about ‘no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong gear’ applies to both humans and pups. Pressing play throughout the seasons just takes a little extra creativity, the right layers, and a willingness to bring it inside when the weather actually is that bad. 

Katie Boué is a Cuban-American writer and outdoor advocate who lives in Salt Lake City. She and her adopted mutt Spaghetti love adventuring together in the desert. Katie is the founder of the Outdoor Advocacy Project, a community education initiative seeking to inspire and empower the next generation of outdoor advocates. Follow Katie & Spaghetti's journey at @katieboue