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Busting Cabin Fever with Chris and Sammy

At times, winter enchants us. The thrill of catching air as your sled launches over an unexpected bump. Or a walk with your tail-swooshing companion – all is silent but the crunching sound of packed snow beneath weathered boots and chilled paws. 

Other times, winter drags on – frigid winds and drawn-out nights tempting us to hole up inside and hibernate. For those winter days when cabin fever seems to be setting in, Ruffwear Ambassadors Chris Hill and Sammy (the one with the paws) share their tips for keeping the stoke high.

A woman crouches down by her dog in the snow by a lake in the mountains.

What are the tell-tale signs that Sammy is experiencing cabin fever? 

There are so many. Sammy will spend hours chasing her tail – every once in a while she will catch it. She will ring the bell to go outside – just to go out, not to actually go to the bathroom – which is what the bell is for. She will stare at me, stare out the window, and then stare back at me.

A golden retriever sits in the snow by a lake in the mountains.

That’s too funny. What’s the hardest part about getting outside with her?

The winter days in Alaska are really short and ALL of the hours of sunlight are during the work day. On weekdays, I have to make an effort to get out with Sammy at lunch. 

We try to do a quick ski session or walk. I also will take small breaks to walk to the coffee shop or take a work call during a walk, just to get outside.

A woman and her dog are in a snow-covered forest.

So, how do you stay motivated? 

I know that after Sammy or I return from being outside, we both feel so much better. That’s my motivation! Winter can be hard, and where we live, it’s cold and snowy. But it just takes a few times to get into a routine.  

Anytime in the outdoors is time well spent and being able to spend it with Sammy is the best time. I feel so much better when I get outside with Sammy, even if it’s for a quick walk.

We feel the same way. What’s your top tip for making sure you commit?

Plan out your days ahead of time to make sure you schedule outside time with your dog – and stick to those plans! 

A woman cross-country skis while her golden retriever dog follows and plays in the snow.

Great idea. Now that you’ve gotten outdoors, what are your favorite winter activities to do together?

When the snow is good, we love to ski- jor and go cross-country skiing. Greg and I recently got married and one of our wedding presents was a kicksled. We can’t wait to try that with a few of our friends’ doggies! 

We still love beach walks and when it’s not too cold, we’ll go fishing. Greg loves to go on snowy runs with Sammy in the winter. 

A woman cross-country skis with her dog who is wearing a Ruffwear harness.

What kind of gear do you use for Sammy when on these adventures? 

When Sammy and I venture out, she almost always has her Flagline™ Harness on. During the winter, she also wears a Crag™ Collar and The Beacon™ Safety Light, just in case we are still out when it’s getting dark. 

I like bringing along the Switchbak™ Leash for versatility. If it’s really cold, she loves her Powder Hound™ Jacket.

A golden retriever lays down on his Ruffwear dog bed inside a cabin that looks out on the snow.

You’re well-prepared for those outdoor excursions. When do you choose to stay indoors? 

It’s ok to rest, especially during winter. Sometimes, you need a day inside by the fire, reading a book, watching a movie, and eating popcorn. Just keep in mind the frequency of those rests. 

What about those days when you stay inside? What are Sammy’s favorite indoor games?

We still do a lot of treat training. Sammy is currently learning to roll over and play dead. We also play fetch inside, hide and seek, tug-of-war, and this or that. 

This or that is a game where you present 2 items (treats, toys, etc.) and you say “this or that.” Then, Sammy picks which one she wants. Sometimes her choices surprise me. The other day she chose a blueberry over a salmon dog treat! 

A golden retriever dog lays down on his Ruffwear Mt. Bachelor Pad™ Portable Dog Bed and Highlands™ Dog Sleeping Bag.

How does Sammy stay warm and comfortable when bundled up inside?

Sammy loves sitting by the fire on her Mt. Bachelor Pad™ Bed and Highlands™ Sleeping Bag. You’ll find her curled up with her favorite giant stuffed animal and some kind of antler bone. If she is really good, mom will share her popcorn with Sammy. I’d say she is living her best life.

She definitely is! Thanks for sharing your tips with us. If we can all follow your advice, cabin fever doesn’t stand a chance this season.  

Ruffwear Ambassador Chris Hill is an environmental lobbyist and the Campaign Director for the Sierra Club. She is passionate about social justice and the outdoors. A lifelong, avid adventurer, Chris lives in Alaska with her fun-loving pup, Sammy. The two enjoy river fly fishing, hiking, and camping together. 

Inspired by Chris & Sammy's adventures? Follow their Instagram here.