I have a full house: a pair of cats, a King, a Jack, and Leo is definitely a Joker.  I guess I could be the Queen of the pack if need be.  The point is that life got tossed upside down when King joined the crew but now things are settling down and I’ve been able to wrap my head around it all.

Exercise remained the priority with King for several reasons: it drained all his pent-up puppy energy, it helped the pack to bond in a non-confrontational way, and it further cemented my role as the pack leader.  My strategy seems to have worked because they are one happy bunch of puppies, especially King and Leo who will tear around the house playing tug and tag until they fall asleep.

I love this picture.
Cuteness level on overload

Shortly after King was neutered, I decided to take them for a short road trip to ease him into his new life as an AdventureDawg. With all the options available to me, I decided that we would head to Chicago.  That’s right: the Windy City meets the Big Smoke.  Chi-Town meet Hog Town.  I figured if I was going to be alone eating pizza on Valentine’s Day, I may as well be alone eating pizza on Valentine’s Day in a city that’s known for the pizza.  Well let me tell you: the gentleman working at the border did not expect to hear that when I crossed into the United States.  I think I saw his brain actually freeze for a second before he waved me through.

King took to travelling like an old pro.  He happily climbed in and out of the car, he managed to behave at rest stops, and he was so good when we got to our hotel room you’d have thought that he’d done it a million times before.  I was glad that I started with a short trip before plunging headfirst into a week-long excursion but I have no doubt that he’ll fit in just fine.  It will be interesting to see how he feels about tents and camping though.

Since we had a very limited time in Chicago, I’ll keep our trip to the highlights:

It got COLD!  

The Weather Network was so far off on this one it wasn’t even funny.  We found a park close to the hotel so we were able to stretch our legs a little and we enjoyed a short walk along the shore of Lake Michigan.  We were strolling along and I had this weird feeling that so many places looked familiar. Then it hit me: we had driven through here last year.  On this same road.  Facepalm.

Empirical Brewery:  Go.  Just go.  

My nerd heart skipped a beat when I walked into Empirical Brewery and saw the lightsaber beer taps, the Millennium Falcon hanging from the ceiling, and sci-fi inspired beer names.  Not only are dogs are allowed inside but there is even a leather couch where everyone can snuggle.  My pack was quite the attraction and almost everyone inside from staff to customers came for a visit.  I ended up speaking with the sales manager and he told me that they have embraced their nerdiness (is that a word?) and started having events like light side vs dark side beer nights.  The brew master even had a Sith costume.  As in he didn’t need to buy one.  Oh and the beer is REALLY good.  I plan on stopping here whenever we are close. I just have to decide what qualifies as close…

Millennium Park and Cloud Gate are off-limits to dogs.  

You would think that there would be big signs at the entrances of Millennium Park or clearly posted everywhere since it is such a tourist attraction that dogs are not allowed.  Nope.  I was chatting with some people while the dogs admired themselves in the reflection of “The Bean” and got some loving when a security guard came over to tell me that dogs couldn’t be there.  I felt awful and asked her where the signs were.  She kindly (not saying that sarcastically, she was lovely) walked me over to a post and pointed at a sign barely larger than a business card and partially obstructed by tree branches.  Are you freaking kidding me?! 

My favourite picture of “The Bean”.

Some downtown parks are not dog-friendly.

Since we were unable to walk around Millennium Park, I took the dogs east towards the lake shore to what looked like a large and inviting park.  Well that park had plenty of signs that said dogs were not allowed.  They even had some paths where dogs were allowed just to get to the lake shore and that was it. I looked up dog parks in a desperate attempt to find a place to let the pups run and many of the ones I found were for members only.  I wasn’t too upset because it was cold but it was still disappointing.

There are so many styles of pizza.

I knew of two styles: regular pizza and deep-dish.  In conversation with some of the folks at Empirical, I heard them talk about Detroit-style and New York-style and Chicago-style…my head was soon swimming in pizza jargon.  Since I was in Chicago, a deep-dish pizza was in order and since I was downtown when it was time to get said pizza, I went to Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria for The Malnati Chicago Classic.  It was a good pizza with a buttery crust and thick with toppings.  The best part was that it lasted for several days so I got my money’s worth out of it.  Maybe I expected more because of all the hype but it wasn’t the earth-changing pizza I had thought it might be.  Oh well, I guess that means that we’ll just have to go back for more.

Take online reviews with a grain of salt.

We stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Morton Grove which is in the north part of Chicago.  Some of the reviews mentioned the “sketchy” neighbourhood.  I considered the majority of the reviews, the content of the critical reviews, and decided to book the hotel room anyway.  Maybe since I work in sketchy parts of Toronto, I have a different level of acceptable sketchiness because this neighbourhood was quite low on my sketch metre.  In fact it was nothing compared to the motel we stayed in on the outskirts of Albany.  That was so sketchy that I barricaded the door for the night.  I’ll be honest: I wanted to see how many times I could fit “sketchy” or a derivative into this section.

Don’t be afraid to take baby steps.

Taking a three day trip was the perfect way to see how King was going to handle life on the road.  Had he been a disaster, we were close enough to home that we could head back if need be and it wouldn’t destroy a week’s worth of plans.  

I think he likes me.

As it is, I think King is going to do just fine here.