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Why Saugerties, NY is one of the best towns to base your Hudson Valley visit

LIGHTHOUSESaugerties is an easygoing, down to earth town that was called one of the “coolest small towns” by Budget Travel. Situated between the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains it is a very picturesque.

Location: Saugerties is 20 minutes from the also popular towns Kingston, 15 minutes to Woodstock & Catskill. 25 minutes to Hudson & Rhinebeck, 30 minutes from New Paltz & Hunter Mountain. All of these towns have great food, hiking, shopping, etc

Pet Lovers:

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Dogerties General Store & Gallery next to the movie theater on Main Street carries quirky home, pet, and outdoors items. Brooklyn expat Susie DeFord (me) hosts gallery opening parties that partner with nearby Inquiring Minds bookstore (also pet friendly) for events like involving music & writing on Saugerties popular First Fridays where stores stay open late and do special things for the community.

Wolf Moon carries pet food & treats.

There are plenty of pet friendly reasonable Air B&Bs in Saugerties & nearby Catskill. We are about to open one 10 minutes from Saugerties in Catskill on our 7 acres with creek & mountain views. Message me for details.

There are great easy hikes/walks to the Lighthouse & Falling Waters Preserve both along the Hudson River. Also check out Esopus Creek Conservancy Trail, Indian Head Mountain Loop, Huckleberry Point Trail. If you’re active in general there’s also good kayaking & biking (see also Revolution Bicycles)

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Some of my favorite hikes in nearby towns are near New Paltz (Minnewaska, Mohonk), Woodstock Overlook Mountain Hike, Poets Walk, Kaaterskill Falls, & North South Lake Region to name a few.

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Food: Who doesn’t love a town with 2 chocolate shops? Krauses is traditional & while Lucky Chocolates has more eccentric flavors & is also is a café that serves lunch, juices, & coffee. Rae the owner is a pet lover & lets pups come in from time to time. There are tables outside as well.

New World Home Cooking– innovative dishes.

Hudson Valley Dessert Company serves up great bakery items.

Cue & Stella’s Station: both seasonal businesses have outdoor seating and are pet friendly. Cue has live music a lot in the summer.

The Dutch Ale house: OMG best burgers in town, truffle French fries, & great food in general.

Pig Bar & Grill also has good burgers.

Miss Lucy’s kitchen: has the best brunch & deserts bar none.

Love Bites serves American fare.

Rock Da Casbah: for Rainbow Cheesecake & interesting twists on food

Deliciouso: has the best sandwiches in town, hands down. Also Brine Barrel.

For Mexican check out Main Street Restaurant & El Rancho

Slices, Village Pizza & have great pizza.

Chinese & Japanese check out King Szechaun & Tomo Sushi

Best Italian is Annerella’s off Malden Turnpike & Mirabella’s 

Takeaway Black Eyed Suzie’s 

Vegan Gourmet to Go 

Diners: Village Diner is super friendly & awesome, Barclay Heights Diner is cool too.

Coffee Shop: Blue Stone Roasters, Lucky Chocolates, & Inquiring Minds Bookstore also serve coffee.

Shopping:

I already mentioned Dogerties General Store but there are a slew of shops in town that have interesting finds.

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For nice home goods check out Lighthouse & Boudoir Baby Fine Nursery & Children Furnishings, & Argentum Home.

Quirky vintage etc stuff: Rock Star Rodeo.

For fashion check out: Dig ,  Juda Leah (super awesome couture), CCB, & The Pink Chandelier  & Frank & Co Fine Jewelers a staple to the community for 30 years providing.

Saugerties is known for its antiques you can see them at Saugerties Antique Center, Circa Jerk, & Newberry Antiques & English Gardens Antiques, Fed On Lights & Green.

In addition to Inquiring Minds bookstore, OUR bookstore is a great used bookstore.

Entertainment: Orpheum Theater has 3 screens and is awesome. $7 movies $5 on Mondays & Thursdays. Great popcorn.

There are several events in the summer & fall months. Hits horse shows, Saturday Farmers market, Garlic Festival, Food trucks, Zombie Crawls, 4th of July parade, Bed races Car shows & other shenanigans.

We hope you’ll come visit!

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How I Lost Everything and Regained Myself

After battling horrible clinical depression for almost a year, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve cried. I haven’t had suicidal thoughts for about a month. My new medication regimen- Brintellex, Seroquel, Lamictal, & Kolonopin has helped but there were/ are so many other things that contributed to restoring me to sanity.

Just to recap: My depression got really bad this year after a trauma and I was in and out of the hospital in Brooklyn and Kingston, NY with suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression etc. No one could get my meds right. I was doing everything I knew to do to get out of it but it wasn’t happening. I had to sell my dog walking business because I couldn’t run it anymore. After several years of talking about it, my husband and I decided (backs against the wall) to move full time to upstate New York.

After 15 years of calling Brooklyn home I couldn’t handle it anymore, though it felt like I couldn’t handle life anywhere. For four months I went down to Florida to stay with my family. I was in and out of the hospital- meds, ECT, etc to no avail. When I got out of the hospital the last time it was so hard to stay in the day. I constantly thought about the past, what I’d lost or given up- my business and my home in NYC. There was also fear of the future- when would my memory come back after the ECT, when would the depression end, how/ when would I work again, how would I make a living in Catskill, NY?

The ECT and depression shattered my confidence. I was afraid to drive, sometimes afraid to leave the house. I had to force myself to get out of bed and shower. Every day I prayed, sometimes yelling at God to help me, and not understanding why he wouldn’t. But I was lucky. I was in the hospital with a lot of homeless people who had the same struggles with mental illness and alcoholism that I’ve had over the years. The only difference between me and them is that I have a supportive family and friends. I tried to be grateful for having a roof over my head, heat, and food.

Walking the dogs was the one thing that I could stay present doing. I forced myself to run with Izzy, my parent high-energy dog. I was in therapy twice a week, which was good. I finally found a meds doctor that could handle me. He said I was hard to treat because most doctors saw how upset I was and just kept throwing meds at me with all their side effects, instead of keeping me on only a few things and giving the meds time to work. I just thought if I found the right doctor and meds I’d be ok, but it was more than that. I was also in an outpatient program that was kind of bullshit, so I decided to go to noon AA meetings and walk dogs at a local shelter instead. It helped to work with the dogs and remember my trainings skills, especially helping a shy one who needed extra help.

I tried to look at things with a positive attitude even though I didn’t feel it. My dad was having heart issues and I got to spend more time with him and my mom than I had before I moved out years before. The people in AA in Florida saved me- I got sober there 19 years earlier and I still knew and kept in touch with the women who sobered me up. They were there for me again calling and praying for me, meeting up with me at meetings and dragging me to church. One woman started to call me every morning to pray with me. I found a few friends who had been through ECT and talked to them a lot for reassurance that I would get better.

Eventually, even though I wasn’t 100% better it seemed like things were starting to lift a bit so after Thanksgiving my mom and I drove back up to Catskill, NY to the small cottage we rent where my husband Dennis had moved our stuff into. Half of our stuff was in a storage unit as well. Dennis was still in Brooklyn staying at a friend’s apartment and finishing up his job. He magically got a new job in Albany in his field and was working both jobs for a few weeks until he could come upstate full time. He had only gotten his license the summer before, so he also had to buy his first car. I don’t know how he had the strength to get through it all on his own, though he did have help and support from a few friends.

After a two-day drive my mom and I arrived at the cottage. Dennis hadn’t had time to unpack much since he’d only been up a few days. We opened the door and saw all the boxes and all our stuff strewn about and I burst into tears. The feeling of loss of my old life was excruciating. I didn’t want to leave Brooklyn and give up my business but it was killing me and I was letting it. I worked 24×7 just to afford it and after years of that and dealing with the noise, crowds, gentrification, etc. it became impossible to sustain. My mom and I spent the next few days unpacking, organizing, and getting rid of stuff. I cried a lot. I still felt suicidal at times. I still wondered if I’d ever be “normal” again. I was afraid I wouldn’t and this might be the best it would get for me, crying and struggling everyday.

Dennis arrived that weekend to start our life full time upstate. It was so good to see him after four months of being apart. I still don’t know how I got so lucky to have such a wonderful, strong, and supportive husband. After a few more days, he started his new job and my mom left to go back to Florida. I felt alone and afraid. I spent time switching my pet Susie’s Pet Care web profile to upstate boarding and training. I started to get calls for boarding with the holidays coming up.

It is good to get work, but I can’t charge what I did in Brooklyn up here, so I’m not making as much which worries me even though it’s not as expensive up here. I have a therapist and psychiatrist up here from the time I spent in the hospital in Kingston over the summer, so I saw them. I started going to a lot of meetings up here and getting more connected. People started to invite me places and offer support. Sometimes, I’d go 3-4 days without crying. The suicidal thoughts started to subside somewhat. I got a small Christmas tree and decorated the front of the cottage with lights and wreaths.

cottage

It has been an agonizingly slow process but I’m starting to be able to stay in the day more. I have time, which is something I never had in Brooklyn. I took a sewing lesson and am learning to sew dog coats, collars, bandanas, and bed covers. I’m getting better at it so I decided to open an Etsy store appropriately called Dogerties. Besides boarding and training dogs I figure maybe I can make a little money sewing dog stuff too. I’d like to find a groomer I can apprentice with to learn grooming as well. Hell, maybe someday I’ll open a dog shop where there’s also grooming and training. I’ll do that when things slow down with the boarding. I’ve had 4 dogs here a lot due to the holidays, which keeps me pretty busy.

4 dogs

sewing

We’re also looking for a house up here. Our landlords want to turn our place into an Airbnb rental sometime this year. I spend a lot of time online looking at houses and doing what I call “stalking houses” where I drive by to check it out and sometimes get out and sneak around checking it out. It’s pretty amazing what you can afford up here for less than what Brooklyn costs. We want a place with a bit more space and a bit of land for the dogs to run on. I don’t want to open a kennel but I do want to keep boarding a few dogs at home. We’re also looking for a place that might have an extra apartment or building to do an Airbnb rental to make some extra money.

I’m grateful Dennis has a full-time job and I made a little money selling the business. It takes some of the pressure of earning money off. In NYC there was always a ton of pressure to run on the treadmill of constantly working and going out. I’m starting to have some acceptance around what happened and where we’re at now. Sometimes it feels like I just woke up and my old life was gone and I started this new life and was not sure I liked it. I miss my friends and sometimes I miss the city, but I think a lot of what I miss is the ego-trip I had about living in NYC and making a lot of money and going out a lot to museums, shows etc. though most of the time I just worked.

Upstate so far, and I hope it stays this way, there’s been time to enjoy the quiet life, though there is a lot going on here in the arts and music between Woodstock, Saugerties, Catskill, Kingston, and Hudson. Shit Dan Deacon and Cibo Motto played BSP in Kingston last year, I actually played their O-positive festival a few years ago. I have time to take hikes with the dogs, sew, write, do volunteer work with Saugerties Animal Shelter & Ulster County SPCA and hopefully start playing music again. People have had me over to their houses to hang out—which never happened much in the city. There’s a feeling of community I’m starting to get here that I don’t think I had in Brooklyn. Friendships were more frenzied in the city and often it was hard to make plans and actually see friends because of the unending busyness and exhaustion. I get to actually spend time with my husband instead of feeling like we’re roommates crossing paths between work and other commitments.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I feel like I lost everything, but somehow got myself and what was really important in life back. Sometimes I’m scared I’ll get sick again or that I’m somehow missing out by not being in the city. But for today, it’s noon and I have four dogs asleep on the couch as I write this in my pajamas drinking coffee. Tonight is New Years Eve and I’ll be grabbing dinner with some friends and speaking at a meeting. It’ll be low-key and I’m cool with that. Here’s to 2016—

I made it through 2015 by the skin of my teeth, but I made it, and feel like I can finally exhale.

 

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Dogs of Brooklyn now available on Kindle!

Howdy folks! After a few months of formatting hell Dogs of Brooklyn is now available on Kindle. It’s also still available in paperback via Amazon. More e book formats to follow we’ve stepped into the future and are trying not to get any on our shoes!

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A Major Award?

Fragile- that must be Italian!

I got an invitation in the mail to the Dog Writers Association of America (who knew there was such a thing?) Awards Banquet on February 12, 2012 at the Affina Manhattan Hotel. Apparently, someone nominated my poem St. Francis of 42nd Street which appeared in Dog Fancy Magazine in 2010. I’m not really sure what I’d win if anything or who I’m up against but the idea of several Dog Writers at a banquet is pretty funny. I will most definitely blog about that party–Wish me luck!

Dog Fancy 2010

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Play and the Importance of Time

Phoebe doing Urban Agility

I’ve blogged many times about my dog Phoebe since  she was given to me last year by a client. When they got her from a shelter in 2009 she was a growly shaky mess at people and dogs. Phoebe’s previous owners had a baby in 2010 and despite her overall improvement, her aggressive displays when people came over worried them. She never bit anyone but she definitely nipped at heels and could be pretty nasty and scary looking when she was scared. I think they made the right decision for their family and I was grateful to keep her since she and I had developed quite a bond in the time we’d worked together.

When I got Phoebe in January 2010, I immediately enrolled us in an agility class. She had some basic obedience commands but as a scaredy dog she really needed to build her confidence by learning new skills. At the beginning of our 6 week class she was afraid of the jumps and tunnels. By the end she was showing off and so proud of herself to be able to navigate these new challenges. After that we turned Brooklyn into our own urban agility course. I’d have Phoebe jump on stoops etc. as we walked through the neighborhood. Anything that she could stand or walk on I’d cue her to jump on and give her treats. This made walks a lot more fun for both of us.

Phoebe still was a bit growly and barky when meeting new dogs on the street on leash. We realized we we not helping the situation by pulling her away with the leash and saying her name in a stern voice. In fact, we realized by doing that we were cueing her to freak out. I don’t recommend this for everyone, but we started dropping her leash when we met other dogs. We greeted them first using a happy voice while Phoebe snuck around and investigated them from behind. This seemed to help her anxiety meeting other dogs and she’s improved with that as well.

As for people who wanted to say hello to her, we would hand them a treat and have her give them high fives etc so she was more focused on doing tricks and getting treats than worrying about a new person. It also kept new people from scaring her by reaching over her head (which most dogs don’t like) and petting her inappropriately. Shy dogs appreciate a sideways approach and an underhand chin scratch greeting more than a stranger’s hand coming over their head and patting it.

We take her several times a week up to Prospect Park for off leash hours. Mostly she would stick close to us and occasionally growl or bark at other people or dogs. Sometimes she would play with us and run around if we were away from the other dogs. Again over time this improved but aside from occasionally sniffing other dogs, she’d stick with us.

So imagine my surprise the other morning when she met another little terrier named Toby and actually started to engage in play, jumping around, running, bowing in play pose with a big grin on her face. She had never played with another dog before! Then she met a little Pomeranian down the street from our house named Richie and started doing the same thing. I almost cried with joy.

It can be hard having a rescue dog with issues and sometimes you wonder if they’ll ever feel stable enough to come out of them. Phoebe is proof to me that with time and consistent positive training a dog can get better and have a happy life, despite how difficult its beginnings may be. A lot of it is being willing to examine my actions with my dog and improving those as well as being consistent with her. I feel like a lot of owners give up on their dogs too quickly or aren’t willing to look at what they might be doing that contributes to the problem.  Dog training isn’t so much about training the dog, it’s about training yourself to behave in ways that help your dog to understand what it is you want them to do instead of the behaviors you don’t want them to do. This doesn’t just mean yelling “NO!” at them every time they do something wrong. It means showing them other behaviors you want them to do instead so they learn it’s fun to work/live with you instead of just getting yelled at all the time.

Dogs are nonverbal, dog training should be quiet. I don’t say much to dogs when I’m training them. I give them physical and verbal cues but I don’t repeat myself. If I’m saying “Sit, Sit, Sit” then I’m doing something wrong and need to look at that. I want them to do the behavior on the 1st not the 3rd or 10th request. When I go to off leash hours I hear so many people yelling at their dogs over and over again. It annoys me, so I can only imagine how the dogs must feel considering their hearing is so much better than ours. What if everyone worked with cheese or hotdogs on recall at home then at the park making it super fun and awesome for a dog every time they came? What a peaceful morning it would be for all of us. I think the owners and dogs would be so much happier. We really have to ask what is important to our dog–its usually fun and treats. If we’re the most fun thing in our dog’s life with the best treats there’s no end to what we can teach them and what they can ultimately teach us.

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Hurricane Irene Adventure

I’m getting back on the proverbial Blog-horse after a long break, getting married, honeymoonin’ etc (more on that later) with a rather dramatic post—My brush with Hurricane Irene. I was scheduled to go to a dog training intensive up at Sue Sternberg’s Roundout Animal Shelter in Accord, NY the last week of August. The week before everyone starts freaking out in NY about Hurricane Irene coming. They started evacuating parts of the 5 boroughs that were near the water. We were next to an evacuation zone in Brooklyn but not necessarily in it. On Thursday 8/25 (I’m supposed to head to Accord 8/26), I get an email that they’ve cancelled the dog training course. I already prepped to take the week off work and put a deposit down on a cabin on a farm upstate so I email the people to ask them about it and if their property is in a flood zone, safe if there is a storm etc. They reply that the deposit is not refundable and that it should be safe up there—no flooding. So since everyone is freaking out in NYC we think, maybe we’ll be safer upstate so we go to Accord.

When we arrive in Accord we go to the farm. We drive on a little bridge over a creek onto the property. It’s a nice little cabin decked out in cowboy style décor. When we get there the owner is chasing chickens out of our yard, there are horses grazing, dogs, cats, and rabbits running around. Things are great Friday and Saturday. We go to Pizza Barn in Accord which is good Friday Night and hang out on the property with our dog and all the other animals they have on the farm. Phoebe our dog is psyched to chase the chickens and rabbits around. Saturday we go to Sweet Sues in Phoenecia for pancakes and we wind up going to Shandaken Day in a big field in town.

Pre-Hurrican Chaos, Shandaken Day

There were all kinds of booths set up and we wind up getting our pictures taken by this wild Parrot Lady. Then we drive to Woodstock. We head back to Accord for a while to rest. Then go to Saugerties to Fez for dinner and Lucky Chocolates for desert and had a nice chat with Rae the owner. Then the rain starts so we head back to the cabin thinking it’ll just be a bad rainstorm.

WE WERE WRONG! In the middle of the night the power, water, sewage goes out. We have no ability to flush the really full toilet that is backed up from all the water. There are crazy sounds outside and we and the dog are freaking out but can’t see anything because it’s so dark. We wake up early when it starts to get light out. It’s still pouring rain. We go outside. A tree fell crashed through our fence and just missed the cabin.

Tree in front of cabin

Outside Cabin

Another fell up by the main house and took out the main power line.

Power lines

The horses are running around the property. Then we look down towards the road we came in on. The small creek we went over is now a rushing river that has covered the bridge and is inching up the property to the barn and our cabin.

Road into and out of farm

Road into and out of Farm

I’m freaking out that we’re basically trapped and I want to get in a fistfight with the farm owners since obviously the property floods and they lied to me to get my deposit instead of letting us out of it due to the coming storm.

Property Flooding

We start talking to people in our building in Brooklyn on our cell phones, they haven’t even lost power but our basement is flooding. They are taking shifts sweeping the water out. We ask them to go upstairs and check on our apartment and cats and everything is fine there. Only one small leak we already knew about and it’s not too bad.

We hang out in the cabin and try not to freak out more even though we have to go to the bathroom in the yard next to the fallen tree since the toilet is screwed up. Periodically, we go to the car to listen to the radio news. Apparently, the city is fine but upstate NY (where we are) and New Jersey are getting slammed with flooding. I’m keeping my mouth shut and not fighting with the people on the property even though they have a generator running in their house and we’re in the dark.

Finally, in the afternoon the rain stops. The water goes down enough for us to wade through and walk to “town” to see what damage has been done. The main roads are flooded and no one can get anywhere. We make it through another night hoping the water will have gone down enough for us to drive back to Brooklyn Monday morning.

On Monday morning, we get up and pack the car. The water has gone down enough for us to at least get off the property. I go up to the main house to try to get some of our money back since clearly we aren’t going to be staying here with no power, water, toilet for a whole week. I have to fight with the people to get our money back, but I’m from Brooklyn and I don’t take no for an answer! What assholes! We get out of there and drive back but instead of 2.5 hours to get home it takes 6 because there are all these roads closed and the news isn’t reporting it so we don’t know it till we hit traffic. When we finally get back to Brooklyn I want to kiss the sidewalk. I’ve had occasional thoughts about living upstate but I think after this I’m happy to stay in the city with my working toilet and electricity for the rest of my days.

The Catskills area got really messed up by the storm. More info can be found on how to help here.

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