100 Word Challenge – Room

In an attempt to get back back into writing (and fully distract myself from other things in my life), I figured I’d start with 100 words… no more… no less… with Thin Spiral Notebook’s 100 Word Challenge.  This week’s challenge was :

Room

Click the word to go read some other submissions or submit your own!

Didn’t have any time to try to find a neat picture to go with it, so here’s Gwynn.

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***

“Junk it.”

“All of it?”

“Yeah.”

“Family don’t want nothing?”

“You deaf?  Why I gotta repeat myself?”

“Nah, I got it.  Just sad is all.  I mean, this lady filled them frames with pictures of the people she loved, and they ain’t got time for her stuff?”

“Take a closer look before you get all poetic and crap.”

Grubby sleeve to dusty glass smeared the grime away enough to see images.  He repeated the process on a few more frames before saying, “Oh.”

“The new owner, Mr. Fluffles, wants this room for empty boxes and catnip.”

“Cats, man.  No nostalgia.”

Dog Days

Why?  Because we need more dogs on the internet.

Gwynn is doing immensely better, but it’s the level of difference between someone recovering from a near-fatal chainsaw accident and someone recovering from a possibly career ending sports injury.  The house no longer smells like dying, but it is also still not full of the peppy steps and play-bows of a pretty high energy pooch.

He’s back going upstairs, though, which makes an immense difference to him…

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(he thinks he’s people, now, and now I have a pillow mentally labeled as “not mine”)

And enjoying the comforts of sleeping in many places much more comfortably than he did while his stitches were still… oozing…

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(behind the barbecue, in an attempt to look pathetic enough to get some more barbecue)

And has even started getting back into fitness…

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(He likes to sit on things)

Not Quite the Worst Case Scenario

I was leaving for Nashville in less than 12 hours, so it was unsurprising that we found ourselves at the vet – Gwynn had gone from limping on Monday to having trouble getting to his feet on Thursday.  A thorough exam later and we were sent home with the diagnosis of ‘strained muscle in back’, some muscle relaxants and instructions to come back next week.

I headed out to Nashville (awesome place!) safe in the knowledge that my family had it covered in the Dog department.  Frequent check-ins reveal they’re still only taking him on short walks, but the meds are doing their trick.

Almost exactly a week later, I’m on a bus somewhere in the US and getting a frantic series of texts.  With pictures (that I’m not going to share with you because you’re welcome).  In the winning submission for most traumatic belly-rub ever, Doodle discovered that Gwynn’s “back issues” were actually from an oozing, swollen and painful wound fully hidden in the thick fluff of Gwynn’s armpit.  From what we can tell, he must have hit a tree branch at speed when we were last out in the woods.

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This was his ‘stoned Cindy Lauper Lamp’ phase.  

Painting by numbers:

10 days the dog was in pain before we properly identified the issue

6 hours and a border crossing away from him when he’s checked in to the vet.

4 days at home during which time I could have identified the issue before it became so terribly infected

2 days at the vet with the worst blunt-force injury my vet had EVER seen, requiring a great deal of surgery to remove infection.

4″ of stitches along his arm-pit, that, because it had been sitting for so long, still had a huge amount of infection.

6 pills spread out throughout the day to combat pain, swelling and infection

7 days before he could semi-comfortably make it around the l

10 days during which the wound oozed nearly constantly, requiring the living room to be coated in a constantly refreshed layer of towels.

To add insult to injury we got the stitches removed yesterday at the same time as he was diagnosed with a skin infection on his nose.

It’s not the worst case possible, I keep telling myself, but it came far too close for comfort.

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On a more positive note, Gwynn has been thoroughly enjoying the freedom I’ve given him from leash during his lamp-phase.  That and the food – I don’t think the dog will willingly go back to kibble.  He’s eating better than a university student home for the holidays.

Scattered Marbles and Physics

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I’ve lost my marbles.  I was so good for a while, with the healthy eating and the flexing of my imagination and the general adulting at life, and then the seam ripped and all my marbles scattered.

The fitness one rolled under the desk and wedged itself in the corner with the dust bunnies.  I keep trying to get it out again, but the gravitational pull between my bum and the couch feels insurmountable.

 

bernard-illust6The writing marble went off somewhere, I don’t know.  I keep catching sight of it out of the corner of my eye but when I turn to face it, it’s vanished, like the escaped class-pet in the ducts of every parent’s nightmares.  If the hamster came home not-pregnant and lived in the walls for all of Christmas break… then how is it now pregnant?  How?  I’d come up with a story, but my mind is a blank.

I keep finding and then dropping the arts and crafts marble – at this rate, those mitts will be ready to wear around June.  I’ll have to give them to my friend whose baby is due in June.  The magic eight ball’s sources say the likelihood of my starting and completing my baby themed project is no.

I know exactly where the ‘being a functional adult and taking responsibility’ marble is.  It’s kind of lego shaped, I step on it at the most inopportune moments and the instant stubbed-toe agony it produces tells me which marble it is.  I just don’t like it, so I leave it where it is, even if that means I’ll step on it again in a month or two.

Healthy eating is a slippery one, and I think it rolled under the fridge.  Every time I think I’ve caught it I realize I’m actually holding on to a gobstopper.  Which I then proceed to eat.  Lint and all.  Pretty sure there’s a magnetic field between junk food and my face.

This has been the status quo for more than EIGHT MONTHS.  Interspersed with random flare-ups of art or writing that are the equivalent of an “I aten’t ded” sign to the universe at large.  While this past summer can be blamed on my atrocious work schedule and location (10 hrs x 6 days of broiling hot site work for 3+ months WILL melt all the get-up-and-go from your body and leave you a dehydrated Iced Capp junkie potato), the rest of it is entirely on me physics.  I did the adult version of the toddler-flop and became an object at rest.

Has letting everything go made me happier?  More relaxed?  Surely I’m at least caught up on the laziest of pseudo-chores, the television? Hah.  My globe-trotting friend over at The Mundo Express is doing a better job of that while living out of a backpack and maintaining a blog!

 

Physics is getting tough on me and I hate shopping a lot, so with the goal of breaching the gravitational hold of the couch I signed up for Krav Maga classes last week.  This object had better get in motion if she doesn’t want to come down with a bad case of forcefully applied physics!

Next step: find something healthy and filling that’s faster to make than a  microwave chocolate mug cake (link… and paleo link… for when you want to pretend that it’s healthy.  Because I care about you and your sudden inexplicable desire for microwaved cake.  Blame it on me physics.).

Passenger

I read a great prompt on reddit, but frankly, prefer the ability to format and see my formatting that I get with my personal blog.  So, the prompt was:

You’re on a generation-starship whose passengers have long forgotten what the starship even is or where it’s going; Tell us what happens on the day that you arrive at your destination.

And I’m responding.  Here, instead.  Because I like formatting, and also because I can include art I find inspiring.  I found this on DeviantArt, and it’s a digital art piece by the user Tadp0l3.  His work all makes me feel like I want to be on the starship enterprise.  Or any starship.  Check out his work by clicking his name or the art below.

“In Close Orbit” by tadp0l3

A strange noise filled the air and Bob KVXX97 jerked awake with so much force that he slammed his head into the padded ceiling of his sleeping pod.

“Ship!” he yelped, clapping his hands over his ears in an attempt to reduce the noise. “Ship, what’s going on?”

WE HAVE REACHED OUR FINAL DESTINATION. PLEASE REPORT TO YOUR DEPARTURE POD.

“Departure pod? What is that? Ship, help!” as he spoke, he caught the glow of data flashing on his wrist-drive. “Oh. Nevermind, thank you Ship.” Bob felt most in control when he had instructions on his wrist, secure in the knowledge that the Ship would guide him in the right direction.  He was safely in the Ship’s hull.

The alarming noise stopped, increasing his sense of security. Things would all be Ship Shape.

departure pod 102 departing at 2700 hours… passenger directed to follow aquamarine guidance light… estimated time to departure pod 0027 minutes… estimated arrival at surface 2950…

He puzzled over his readout as he got ready to leave his pod. Ship had prepared him an unusual set of apparel and even as he sent a query to clarify terminology ‘surface’, clarify terminology ‘departure’ and clarify sub-category ‘departure pod’, he wondered why the Ship had felt the need to give him such strange clothing and multiple shirts, one of which was unusually stiff and heavy, and had closures down the front. While soft on the inner face, it had multiple layers of fabric and the outer layer was not pleasing to the touch.  He was used to a certain level of quality, and couldn’t think of any situation in which he might need a secondary shirt, let alone one with this unusual design.  Instead of his usual rubber soled soft-socks, he had been provided with bulky footwear that made him think of the space-suits he had stumbled upon once as a child.  Back then, Ship had told him they were available in case of emergency, but would not be required.  Now, he apparently required a space boot, though without the rest of the bulky uniform.

Ship had also packed him a large bag.  He unzipped it, trying to remember if he’d indicated an interest in a few days of hydroponics-visitation in the recent past.  It contained more of the strange clothing, a variety of pre-packaged dry-goods and an assortment of small equipment similar to things he’d seen diagrams of during his studies.

Bob glanced at his wrist drive, but it only repeated its previous message.  His screen had provided definitions for his queries, and this did nothing for his elevating anxiety.

“Ship!”

PASSENGER BOB KKVXX97, HOW MAY I ASSIST?

“What does all this mean?”

CLARIFICATION OF QUERY REQUIRED

“Why am I dressed like this?” Bob gestured at his ridiculous outfit. His pants were stiff and grubby beige, with unnecessary pockets on his thighs and random loops and zippers down the sides. He was fairly sure he could remove the lower legs on them if he chose to. He’d put on his first shirt, but just held the sturdy second shirt in his hands. He was adequately covered and heated without it.  And, if anything, the clothing he had on already, down to the heavy footwear, was making him over-warm.

THE TEMPERATURE OUTSIDE AT THE LANDING SITE IS APPROXIMATELY 8 DEGREES CENTIGRADE. THE ATTIRE IS SUITABLE FOR INCLEMENT WEATHER INCLUDING RESISTANCE TO WIND, RAIN AND TEMPERATURE DROPS. YOUR FOOTWEAR IS DESIGNED TO PROVIDE ANKLE STABILITY ON UNEVEN TERRAIN AND GRIP SLIPPERY GROUND SURFACES.

Bob requested clarification on terms weather, wind, rain and terrain. He had always wondered if the Ship secretly had a sense of humour, and apparently he had his answer. The Ship had a terrible sense of humour.

“Outside. Outside is… space. Outside is not a suitable place for Passengers to be in. Ship, initiate self diagnosis.”

SELF DIAGNOSIS HAS BEEN RUN NUMEROUS TIMES SINCE ARRIVAL IN ORBIT. REQUEST FOR SELF DIAGNOSIS IS DEEMED UNNECESSARY AND DENIED.

“Ship! We can’t leave you! We are Passengers, we travel Onboard, it’s what we do.”

INCORRECT.

Bob frowned. “What do you mean by that, ship? We’ve been Passengers for generations uncounted, and we shall be Passengers ever-more.”

SEVENTEEN.

“What?  What does this number represent?  Clarify!” Bob stroked his wrist drive in an attempt to self-soothe.

GENERATIONS. THE GENERATIONS HAVE BEEN COUNTED.

Bob gasped. “But… but First came Ship and it was in need of purpose,” he muttered , clutching the distressing outer shirt in his hands as he repeated the History. “So it called the Passengers from the Earth and was replete with purpose.”

YES.

“But… you’re saying we’ve only been here for 17 generations? Science says we’ve been around for millions of years. So… how?”

FIRST GENERATION PASSENGERS ARRIVED ON-BOARD IN TERRAN MEASURED YEAR 2207 FROM VARIOUS PARTS OF THE PLANET COLLOQUIALLY KNOWN AS EARTH.

“Why doesn’t anyone know this?”

97% OF SECOND GENERATION SUFFERED FROM ACUTE DEPRESSION AND FINDINGS SHOWED THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THEY WOULD NEVER KNOW A LIFE EXTERNAL TO THE SHIP WAS HAVING A DELETERIOUS EFFECT ON MENTAL WELL-BEING. THOSE WHO DID NOT COMMIT SUICIDE AND THOSE OF THE FIRST GENERATION DECIDED THE HIGHEST PROBABILITY OF SURVIVAL WAS FOR A POPULATION WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE OF NON-SHIPBOARD LIFE.  UPON ARRIVAL AT DESTINATION, CLARIFICATION WAS TO BE PROVIDED TO THE CURRENT GENERATIONS AT DEPARTURE FROM SHIP.

“But… I don’t want to leave. I’ve never known anything else,” Bob whispered. He was hunched miserably in the standing end of his pod, the bag sitting forlornly at his feet.

YOU ARE A CIVIL ENGINEER WITH A FOCUS ON GEOLOGY AND METALLURGY.

“Theoretical civil engineer! Theoretical geology!  It’s a silly course of study with no practical applications! My mother hated that I wasted my time on it. She wanted me to go into language arts!”

INCORRECT. AND CORRECT.

“Clarify, Ship.”

YOUR TRAINING WILL PROVE INVALUABLE TO THE FIRST GENERATION PLANET-SIDE. AND YOUR MOTHER WAS DISAPPOINTED WITH YOUR COURSE OF STUDY UNTIL SHE DIED.  THOUGH LIKELY DUE TO HER LACK OF KNOWLEDGE THAT THE WORD THEORETICAL WAS ADDED TO THESE EDUCATIONAL STREAMS IN THE SECOND GENERATION.

“Wait..” Bob felt he was beginning to grasp the enormity of what the first Passengers had done.  “You’re saying that all the theoretical degrees… they’re… they’re real? Even…” he lowered his voice. “Animal husbandry?”

FIRST GENERATION LIVESTOCK WERE ON DEPARTURE POD 75, 76, 77 and 78. THEY ARRIVED WITH THE SECOND WAVE OF IMMIGRANTS AND ARE PROVING TO BE WELL SUITED TO THEIR NEW HABITAT.

“Wait, you’re saying there are already Passengers out there? How are you able to assist them with their attire? Their health and wellness? Their breakfast?!”

Bob tried to wrap his mind around the idea that he could actually go out and acquire base elements for steel from rocks and earth. His Theoretical PhD would be… Actually useful.

SEVEN NEW SETTLEMENTS HAVE BEEN COMMENCED. FIRST ARRIVALS INCLUDE THOSE WITH TRAINING IN CONSTRUCTION, MEDICINE AND ANIMAL HUSBANDRY. PREFABRICATED BUILDINGS WERE PUT IN PLACE PRIOR TO THEIR ARRIVAL FOR BASIC USAGE. MY PURPOSE IS TO MAINTAIN THE PASSENGERS WHILE SHIPBOARD. ALL PASSENGERS ARE TO DEPART-SHIP AND COMMENCE FULL HABITATION OF THE PLANET. TEMPORARY MEASURES ARE PUT IN PLACE DURING THE INTEGRATION PERIOD.  SHIP WILL MAINTAIN ORBIT AND ACT AS A COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITE, SHOULD OTHER FORMS OF LIFE OR OTHER TERRANS ATTEMPT CONTACT.

“And then we can go home?”

AND THEN YOU WILL BE ADEQUATELY PREPARED TO SURVIVE AND FLOURISH IN YOUR NEW HOME.

Bob whimpered, and a thought struck him, making the whole thing, if anything, even worse. “But then you’ll be alone.”

There was a long silence before the ship responded.

I SHALL HAVE SERVED MY PURPOSE.

“But you’ll be alone.”

There was a soft hum and the provision slot opened to reveal a tiny earpiece.

WHILE NOT REQUIRED FOR MY MAINTENANCE, PASSENGER INTERACTION HAS BEEN A MOST PLEASANT ASPECT OF THE TRIP. WHEN NOT INCONVENIENT TO YOURSELF, CONTINUED CONVERSATION WOULD BE AGREEABLE.

Bob smiled and put the ear piece into his ear, where it promptly formed a link and disappeared from his ear canal. “I’ll miss you, too, Ship.”

He fumbled the outer shirt on – coat, Ship clarified – and hoisted the bag onto his shoulder. His stomach was a knot of excitement and terror. “If we aren’t Passengers, what shall we be? What is our new purpose?”

There was a long pause, and for a terrifying moment Bob thought something had gone wrong. Ship knew everything – even the History the Passengers had forgotten. It never took this long to answer.

TO PROVIDE THE PLANET WITH PURPOSE, Ship replied at last. TO EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS.

Bring out your Dead!

It’s been basically forever, but so is the internet, so all my stuff’s just where I left it!

I’d rather talk about present-day things than dig up my reasons for my gradual drift into the decay of a sadly abandoned blog.  It’s fine, it’ll scrub up clean, it just needs a bit of tlc to get rid of the weird stains and dusty smell.

Not unlike most of the houses I’ve looked at in my (also forever) house hunt.  I’ve seen all sorts.

Horror house – There’s a weird feeling of everyone from the house having vanished abruptly while in the middle of doing things.  Half-dug garden, shovel still balanced precariously in the dirt, the end basically corroded away from having been in the dirt for so long.  Fire pit prepped for a fun evening of toasting marshmallows… in late October (in Canada)… and full of multiple rain-falls of water.  Beds all slept in, but everything else looking like it couldn’t possibly be lived in.  Fridge… ugh, well.  Clearly not a recent grocery run, though thankfully mostly things that won’t go too horribly badly.  Boxed in and completely inaccessible parts of the house… that you can turn a light on in.  No, it’s really not a cupboard, why the light?  Is that where the previous owners went?!  It has potential, in a bleach-everything and reno when you have money kind of way, but seriously, what happened to the person who started painting the living room?  In spite of the dilapidated state of all items in the house, there are no less than 3 Werner ladders in the yard.  Those things are $200+ a piece, but, hey, why waste water by washing your sheets more than once every two years?

Raccoon House – The listing agent has made a funny, and requested that you kindly remove your shoes upon entry.  Unwilling to see what the fuss is about the bubonic plague, you decline.  Don’t touch the walls… or the counters… or the weird orange-chunky stains.  Make a note to wear construction boots to all future house viewings, because you can feel FAR too much through the thin flats you wore today.  How much dog pee and water damage does it take to cause hardwood floors to be spongy?  The only thing you can hope is that the last time it was inhabited by humans was over 10 years ago, or that previous resident’s life will make you sad to think of.  It is ridiculously overpriced considering the $200,000 minimum gut-and-reno you’d need to do before moving in.  And this is assuming you can get your friends to come out for sledge-hammer time more than once.  You could see low-balling it and doing some real HGTV highlight reel style stuff, though.  It goes for well over asking, with a bidding war.

Seller thinks you’re stupid House – this house was last purchased 3-6 months ago and is on the market again… for $250,000 more.  They put in an ikea kitchen, and apart from the jet-engine noise of the stove fan, that’s actually quite nice.  No-slam cupboards, oooooh.  And some new faux-hardwood in dark tones throughout the newly open concept kitchen-livingroom.  Having done this, the seller has proceeded to paint everything in neutral tones.  Except the seriously dinged up baseboards.  And the doors.  They didn’t wash the doors either, so the yellowed grime of 50,000 grubby hands opening and closing the doors is still present and accounted for.  It leads one to question whether the walls got washed before the paint job.  Everything else, down to the grimy shower head, and newly beige faux-wood-panelling in the basement, is the same.  But FANCY KITCHEN OOOOH.

Monster House – I’ll be straight with you, this particular house makes me drool.  It’s in original condition.  Really unique features, beautiful moulding, a ton of Potential.  It’s the old victorian, the charming fixer-upper.  And you know that the pipes, electrical, roof, basement, etc will need to be fixed.  I KNOW people who’ve had this house – have it – and have been slowly renovating it over the course of… 20 years.  They aren’t done yet, and golly, the surprise expenses just keep on coming!  But it’s just so freaking charming.  I don’t care if gabled roofs are the devil (paraphrased from my parents, the proud owners of one), I want one.  Gingerbreading?  Sign me UP!

Kitch-House – the person who owns this is extraordinarily artistic.  And has bold visions.  It is hard to see the house past the jungle-scene (with fake vines and stuffed monkeys glued on for a 3D feeling) bedroom.  Or the bathroom reminiscent of a bordello.  No room that small should be that deep a red.  And where does one acquire a black toilet?  Black-and-white tile on the floor does not require you to put up black-and-white striped wall-paper or paint everything in your kitchen black and white.  No one needs to experience vertigo just to get a glass of water.

WTF House – You want to meet the owner.  No.  You want to see them from a distance.  Maybe on a TV interview?  My favourite place was like the jetsons made a porno.  Lots of chrome, lots of mirrors, very Jetsons-expensive furniture.  Who doesn’t want to see themselves pooping from 365 degrees in the bathroom?  And, well, no need to explain the ceiling mirrors in the bedroom.  Clamshell hottub (think Venus on the half-shell with a lid shell and everything) was imported from Italy.  The elderly couple selling the place was a surprise though.

What do I want?  A fixer-upper with neat architectural details a non-open-concept layout and minimal/no previous DIY-er interference.  With a private drive.  I don’t even care how many mirrors there are in the place.

Children

I recently had an experience that reminded me how important it is to be a parent.  I am not a parent, just to be clear.  I just spend a lot of time in parks, and in the neighbourhood so I have plenty of opportunity to judge them.

You (in general), as a parent, are responsible for teaching a brand new person the ins and outs of life, and interacting with the world.  That’s a big thing!

Scene 1:

I was walking Gwynn through High Park after he’d gotten his spring hair cut this year.  Right out of his haircut, he looks like the most delightful teddy bear on earth to cuddle and squeeze and pet.  Beautiful day, tons of people around, and I was on my way to the dog off-leash area to let him run around a bit (and, as is inevitable, get some mud on the wheels, as it were.).

With that many people around I pay a lot of attention – make sure to keep Gwynn close when walking past that person who is looking nervous of him, or that kid holding an ice cream cone at dog-level, etc.

So I noticed when a girl – probably about 10 – locked on to Gwynn and began speed-walking away from her mother and directly towards Gwynn (from behind him), hands already outstretched.

Gwynn is friendly.  But He. Is. A. Dog.  And coming up behind a strange animal and surprising him with a random pet from a stranger?  Nuh uh.  And this is where I judge the kid’s mom, and intercede in the teaching of life-interactions.

Placing myself between Gwynn and the little girl, I told/asked her, “You know you always need to ask permission before going near a strange dog?  Right?*

I got a blank look in response to this, but at least she’d stopped moving forward.

“You have to ask, because the dog might be scared of people, or mean, or sick, or not like kids or surprises, but if you ask, I might say yes,” I add, when it becomes clear that Mom isn’t taking advantage of this teachable moment.

I get through to her.  “Can I pet your dog?” she asks.

“Absolutely!  He’s very friendly.”

End scene.  I really hope I got through to her, but frankly, I. Am. Not. Her. Parent.  or friend, or relative, or teacher/person of authority in her life.  There is just as much chance that she will go off and complain with her mom about that weird rude (possibly even that B word) who tried to lecture her about dogs, when her dog isn’t even not-friendly, so why? why?  And if her parents aren’t bothering with agreeing with me on this, then why would she?

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Why yes, he is friendly… but I’m friendly too until a stranger surprise-touches my butt

Scene 2:

Gwynn and I are walking through the park near me last weekend, on a pretty high traffic multi-use trail.  Enter a little boy on a bicycle going the opposite direction to us.  I moved off to the side, but that wasn’t necessary, because he came to a stop, dropped his bike and says, “Hi,  my name is (Let’s call him Timmy), can I pet your dog?”

Delighted, I said, “Yes!  And thank you for asking!  His name is Gwynn.”  And we spent the next few minutes talking about Gwynn, and bicycles.

Younger brother caught up, asked the same question, and, getting another enthusiastic YES-and-thank-you, started walking with his bike towards Gwynn.  Mom shows up on her bike at this point, and immediately says, “Stop and put your bike down, you’ll make the dog nervous.”

Brilliant.  As I walked away, I overheard the older kid telling his mom about how “That lady with the dog thanked me for asking if I could pet him!”

It warms the cockles of my heart, it does indeed.

directly after grooming

directly after grooming… everyone wants to touch him

In conclusion:

Parents: teach your kids proper animal etiquette.  Always ask, and always be gentle with animals are the rules they need the most.  And try not to pass your own fears of animals on to them.  Also, you are doing a fantastic job, in general (not that my opinion matters, here, but still.), at raising children and handling the screaming and the constant energy and the many MANY ‘Why?’ questions, and oh god, it just seems exhausting.

People with dogs: also educate kids if they don’t seem to know about the ask rule… and if they do know – make sure to let them know that them doing the right thing is AWESOME.  Because sometimes hearing something from a stranger can reinforce good behaviours that parents are teaching.

*Blog readers – you know this, yes?  If you didn’t before, you know now.  “Is your dog friendly?”, “Can/May I pet your dog?”… “Is it ok for my (child too young to speak coherently especially to strangers) to say hello to your dog?” And, regardless of what size a dog is, how happy he seems to be to see you, and how experienced you are with dogs, if the owner says ‘no’, then give them space!

Skunked or Bamboozled

With the warm weather, the skunks in my neck of the woods are emerging from their winter sleep.

The other week, my coworker got sprayed just outside the front door of our office – this led to the entire office reeking of skunk for the next two days, as a blast of skunky air swept through every time someone opened that damn door.  It’s not his fault, though, I blame immigration for failing to alert non-North-Americans of the key difference between Pepe and Penelope upon entry into Canada.  He’s Scottish, and they don’t have skunks.  If my nose weren’t so angry with him, I’d suggest that it’s kind of sweet that he was going out to find out what was wrong with the cat hanging out beside our front entrance.

Poor guy thought he was safe even if the cat were mean, since it had its back to him.

For future reference of people who’ve never seen a skunk.  If it’s between late evening and mid-morning, and it’s got white markings on it – even if it isn’t a skunk, it’s a skunk. Skedaddle.  If you want more particular details, they kind of look like a long haired black and white cat from a distance, but they waddle.  They stamp their feet when they’re angry/anxious, and the end you should fear most is the tail end.

I’ve had a few close encounters with skunks and their smell, but have not yet been skunked myself.  I’ve got a dog, though, and nearly everyone I know who owns a dog has, at one point or another (or, in the case of my neighbour with a beagle, 5+ times) gotten skunked, or at least had to deal with a skunked dog.  And, if your dog gets sprayed – there isn’t a chance in hell that you’re getting him clean without long exposure and contamination.

I know it’ll happen, though I do my best to fight the odds.

With all of this in mind, when I was out in my back yard this morning getting ready for a dog walk, and heard a strange watery spritzing noise right beside me, it’s no surprise that my response was a low wail of “Nooooooooooooo” and a Mr. Bean-esque retreat.

Adrenaline pumping, I ran right out of the  yard, unleashed dog close on my tail, with the sole purpose of getting out of the line of fire.  Panting and wild eyed in my front yard, I, bloodhound, I sniffed suspiciously at the air… the dog… my knees… before throwing the leash around Gwynn and quick-stepping out into the road.

From the safety of the middle of the road, I more securely fastened the dog and acknowledged that skunks probably don’t make a noise like someone charging a water gun before or during their spray.  And that, if our sump pump pipe had frozen almost solid, it would probably make just that kind of gurgling hiss.

If you see this view of a skunk then, well… it’s probably already too late. “Image by Ken Bosma under Creative Commons license

Algonquin in Winter

This past long weekend, I finally made it out skiing.  Not just any old skiing, but a trip to Algonquin.  I love Algonquin – not even just the park… the whole area.  Anywhere from Algonquin to Northern Ontario (anyone who’s been to Sioux Lookout knows Algonquin Park isn’t in ‘Northern Ontario’… not really), give me wilderness.  The woods, the trails, the lakes the rivers, the rustling of the leaves.  If I could live in the woods and commute a reasonable distance to my work (or just not work at all), I wouldn’t even hesitate.  If I could live up there, but couldn’t take technology with me, you all might just be lucky enough to get a brief final note from me.  “Gone forever to woods, bye”, maybe.  

My hermit-type habits are a discussion for another day, though, because I wasn’t solo on this trip.  I didn’t even sleep in a tent!

My friend S (my friend who does cross-country skiing too), Gwynn, and I stayed at the Motel 6 in Huntsville.  If you’re looking for a dog-friendly place to stay in that area, I cannot recommend them enough.  They don’t charge extra for (or make a fuss about) dogs, they actually welcome them!  They might have really weird motel-6 sheets, but just look at what they gave Gwynn when we got there!

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poop bags (gentle reminder, I’ll take it), a ball, and an assortment of cookies. The last place I’d stayed at with Gwynn before this tried to claim that they had no ‘pet friendly’ rooms available, and that their records didn’t show that we’d called and booked and said we were bringing the dog. it’s a nice change

We drove up Saturday morning at some unholy hour, stopping on our way up at Henrietta’s – this amazing bakery between Huntsville and Algonquin.  Try their Muskoka Clouds, or their bread… or anything, really.

We spent our morning attempting to ski one of the ungroomed trails.  It was a learning experience, and what I learned was simple:  A trail I remember as being flat-ish in summer is not necessarily a good trail for skiing!  It was lovely, though.

When we stopped by the front gate to get a day-permit to the park, we were told of three spots where the trails were groomed.  And no-dogs-allowed.  Well that’s just no fun, though I could understand it.  It put a bit of a cramp in our plan until I remembered the Rail Trail.  For those of you not often in Algonquin, it’s a bicycle trail (in summer) that runs along where there used to be a lumber train through the park.  Even ungroomed, that trail would be guaranteed to be flat!

My suspicion about why this trail isn’t advertised as groomed is that, having an access right in Mew Lake Campground (one of the few that remains open in the winter), they expected the trail to get at least partly ruined by all the people walking on it.  I feel no guilt about bringing the dog out on that trail, especially not after witnessing the number of walking groups that came out and almost on purpose walked directly on the ski lines.  For those of you who don’t cross-country ski – if you see those perfectly spaced ski-trail lines?  Don’t walk on them!

I also had a chance to take out a coworker’s snowshoes.  Gwynn was unimpressed at my ability to completely block the trail when he was trying to get through, but I definitely appreciated them on the steep parts of the trail – they had a lot more grip than my boots would have, and I didn’t need to slide down on my bum or clamber up hoisting myself from tree to tree.

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We also had pie and deep fried foods and were asleep before 10pm, so you just know it was a good time.

Unfocused

Gwynn and I have been working through some issues recently.  Despite being 4 (!), he’s apparently decided to try out that doggy-teen-angst thing that usually strikes sometime between turning 2 and 3.  He’s a late bloomer, I guess.

He’s started barking at people, and attempting to run towards them (fun! not.) on our walks, and is developing dog-park-bully tendencies (ditto).

I know pretty much everyone says you never just reach a point with your dog where you can stop training, but I kind of assumed that I’d be able to keep adding tricks, agility moves and general improvement on his recall and sit-stays and call it a day.  I wasn’t expecting new things.  Behavioural things.

New things like suddenly, other dogs are really really interesting – in a hard-eyes and rigid posture, jumps over the barrier separating us (mid-agility run) from another dog (ditto, but also with fear-of-dog-issues, of course) like it wasn’t a foot and a half taller than the jump height we’re working on, spend 10 minutes yipping hysterically until I just get the fuck out 20 minutes into class kind of way.

Awesome.

What does all this mean?  Well, apparently the bullying might be a mixture of the herding and poodling (poodles were originally hunting dogs, so I’m not quite sure what instinct it is here, other than… being bouncy) instincts kicking into high gear from his ancestry – lots of darting in and back, barking and general over-excited-not-listening-to-other-dog’s-discomfort-cues.

And his complete loss of interest in running the agility course with me when he could instead go cry and run the fenceline?  Lack of focus combined with the whole over-excited-at-dogs thing.  His groovy ‘do means that his eyes are a thing I don’t necessarily see when training focus-work, and apparently this is an issue, because it means that I’m rewarding the wrong thing.  He’s, more often than not, getting rewarded for face-pointing in my general direction, but actually looking at the treat in my hand/pocket/whatever it is I’m trying to get him to stop looking at.  Instead of actual eye-contact.  Yup, 100% luring, not actual training.  Mea culpa.

Yes, also I high-pitch my voice to try and make him more interested in me… but when that fails… well…

My agility instructor has recommended that I cut all the hair around his eyes, but he’s already got a bit of a mullet thing going on from the trimming I already do, and I love his hair, so I’m going to try out a few alternatives for the interim (until it’s warm enough out that I can get him fully groomed).  What are your thoughts on his style?

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She also said she thought we’d be fine continuing with agility and just adding a dog obedience class (one that focuses on, well, focus, and working on newly developed issues), but frankly, I don’t give a flying… rice-cake… about whether Gwynn and I succeed at doing 6/8/10/etc weave poles, I just want my friendly/happy/not crazy dog back.

All this over-excitement directed at people (barking/lunging), and dogs (bullying, and hard eyes/stiff posture), to my mind, means that Gwynn is not feeling safe, he’s not sure how to act in a given situation, and, for these reasons, not happy.  

this is not a dog moping about and writing emo poetry

this is not a dog moping about and writing emo poetry

On a deeper level, I mean.

He’s also on a bad track towards possibly developing aggression issues (if you don’t already call his occasional barking and bullying a form of aggression), and, well NO.  If you’ve got experience in this type of thing, feel free to link me to useful stuff on the web or leave your best tips.  I’ve already been trolling back through old posts at SUCCESS JUST CLICKS and other dog trainer blogs, but repeated information isn’t bad information.

So I’m going all Mr Miyagi on his poor confused self, and we are going to get focused, and get happy.

Wax on, Wax off.  Click, Treat.