I live in Canada, and have for most of my life. I couldn’t possibly write all there is to write about its diversity – in people, culture, geography and weather conditions – because, frankly, I haven’t experienced very much of it. I haven’t even made it to all of our provinces. Some of those that I have been to, frankly, don’t count – I only have hazy memories of a childhood visit to the family farm on the border between Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
I made my first foray into British Columbia this winter. I didn’t see much of it, I was skiing in the Okanagan region, and then driving to Calgary. So really, most of what I saw was mountains. But wow the mountains. It amazes me that there are places as breathtaking as that in the world. In my own country, for that matter. Much as I love the forests in Ontario, nothing here compares to the enormity of the Rocky Mountains.
The lure of spending time in the mountains was enough to make me ignore my lack of coordination and agree to spend a week downhill skiing with friends.
We had a pretty fantastic view of the mountain from our rental unit.
Despite what my family was convinced would happen, I didn’t do any serious harm to myself while shooting down the hill.
I improved drastically while we were there. I went from that “gah, the last time I went downhill skiing was nearly 10 years ago… and on an Ontario hill” stage to “Hey, if I go at my own (slow) pace and concentrate hard, I don’t fall down too much, and also don’t feel too too terrified.”
Thankfully my focus on getting down the mountain alive wasn’t enough to keep me from paying attention to the scenery.
We also got in a day of snowshoeing…
And crosscountry skiing. I’m quite sure that crosscountry is my favourite winter sport!
Driving back through the rockies to Calgary was great – we saw so many mountains and had a chance to stop and take pictures all along the route.
Now I just need to figure out where in Canada I want to explore next!
My drive in to work today was terrible. I mean, quadruple the length of time, three lanes down to two down to one down to what the hell is that guy doing, cars sliding into and out of my ‘lane’, holy cow gentle on the brakes, come-on-car-let’s-survive-this, gee I wish my windshield wipers were doing more than spreading the slush on my windshield, TERRIBLE. At least I wasn’t stupid enough to get on the highway.
Toronto really doesn’t get much snow. We’re in Canada, so you would think that we’d get a fair bit, but Lake-effects+location means that Toronto winters are grey, occasionally slushy, and gross. So, despite the terribleness of my drive this morning, I am definitely not complaining.
We have snow.
The kind that drowns the city in soft white fluff, covers the mud, the dead grass and the neverending discarded Timmy’s cups. It rounds the hard edges of buildings, makes every tree look like a confectioner’s dream, and muffles the noises of living.
When I was younger, I loved to bundle up in as many layers as possible to keep myself warm and sit in the snow. Preferably the deep fluffy banks of it that let you sink in like a lazyboy sofa made specifically for me.
Now, with at least as many layers of warming clothing, I like to walk in it. I love the crunch of snow under boot. I love my morning walks when the snow is falling so heavily, the roads are untouched by tire tread, and the world is covered in a blanket of white. Before people have had much chance to go out and shovel, layer the inevitable and hated coating of salt down, and start churning up dirt.
Gwynn likes to stick his whole head into piles of snow, shoving it in there as though the snow is the downy pile of fluffy white feathers it resembles. On mornings like this, I can’t resist letting go.
Gwynn treats snow like a reason to be on his best behaviour. Any other morning, if I were to drop the leash in the neighbourhood, he’d be up on peoples’ porches, worming his way into their back yards, and generally causing a huge pain of himself. With the snow thick on the sidewalk, he sticks close, dashing forward and back and rooting through the snow in search of smells.
Tonight, we’ll go out for an extra long walk through the snow-lit woods. Even after dark, the snow glows, like it stores the sunlight for later use.
In a recent post, I told you a little bit about how much of a pain the dog boots I first got Gwynn were. I also explained why the weather in Toronto last winter was such a bizarre combination of abysmal (seriously, SO. MUCH. RAIN.), and lacking in severe weather conditions. I got new boots… Gwynn got new boots… it’s a miracle winter came this year, frankly.
Ruffwear was nice enough to send me a set of their Polar Trex dog boot. What most interested me about their boots was that they don’t use velcro. The boot is held on with (and I quote, here) a Cam buckle ankle strap and cord loop closure system. My hope for this was that, if snow did get into the system, it would still function.
The next thing I noticed was that the rubber sole of the boot is by the same company that produced my toe shoes. That isn’t what you’d call ‘pertinent’ information, but it is information.
I’m going to break it down into aspects of the whole boot experience, so bear with me.
If you’re not in the United States, trying them on in-store won’t be an option. That being said, they go into great detail about the sizing online, and I chose the right size pair for Gwynn based on the measurements of his paws. DO trace your dog’s foot and measure it – I think they quite purposely didn’t mark their sizing down as small, medium, large, etc – because your large dog might have medium sized feet. Gwynn looks like a ballerina in his boots, his surprisingly dainty feet usually covered in a thick muppet-like coating of hair. 4/4 paws!
Donning and Fitting
The back ones are easy – he practically puts them on himself by trying to put his foot down. The front ones require a bit more shimmying around, but with practice, it’s getting easier to do – basically, his wrist gets in the way.
They have some good tips, and a video talking about how to adjust the boot properly, which I found very helpful. The strap needs to be pulled tighter than I did the first few times, but I’m getting better at it.
I am very happy with the buckle closure, and with the additional strap and loop closure at the top of the boot. The only way I could think of to improve that would be to make it a plastic snapping-buckle with adjustable strap (like on many collars). Then I could, mostly, keep each boot at the correct tightness for fore- and hind-legs.
I’m not entirely happy about the way the boots fit on his front legs – they come up over his Carpal Pad, which I think is a big part of why the front boots don’t stay on nearly as well as the back boots. It doesn’t seem to make him uncomfortable, but it’s not ideal. They should consider selling the boots with a shorter front-set. If either of their other types of (non-winter) boots had the buckle closure, I’d consider getting two of those to use on his front legs, since they’re a lower boot. Velcro+snow, however, generally means rummaging through snowbanks, trying to find that boot. Based on some of the reviews on their site, I wonder if Gwynn might need a different size of boot for his front paws.
Gearing up and Fit – 2/4 paws!
The boots have held up quite well to a few months of off-and-on usage. They don’t seem to be getting salt-damaged, and all the seams are solid. After they’ve been out in fresh snow, they look just as good as when I took them out of the box. It’s a wonderful thing. Just based on the construction of these boots, I wouldn’t have any concerns with ordering other products from the Ruffwear website. 4/4 paws!
The first time I put them on him, I held in so much laughter that my stomach hurt for days. Want to see a dog act like the ground is lava? Yeah.
He got used to them within short order – just get the dog moving around outside, and they’ll tend to forget about the boots. Both Ruffwear and I strongly recommend tightening the boot after you’ve been walking for a while.
Additionally, I’d suggest checking/tightening the strap every half hour or so, if your dog is off-leash and running around in the snow. We had a beautiful snowfall last friday, and spent 2 hours out walking in the woods, with Gwynn off-leash and running like a madman. By then, I’d had much more practice with getting the boots tight enough, and before letting him offleash at the park, I retightened them. An hour later, he still had the boots on. Downside – I didn’t check them and retighten at that point, and I spent the next 20 minutes trying to find a lost boot (soon followed by the other front boot) in the snow at dusk. They stay on as well as I think is reasonable to expect – but all that running around does loosen the straps a bit, so tighten them on a regular basis. While I wish I could just put his boots on at the beginning of a few hours of off-leash hike and forget about them, I think the only way that would happen is if his boots were part of a full-body snowsuit, or were attached to each other in a harness over his back.
On-leash, I didn’t bother tightening them at all, and could forget about them entirely.
Wearability – 3/4 paws
Price: 89.95 USD
The price seemed kind of steep, especally compared to the 40 I spent on the frankenboots (pre-modification). The frankenboots were terrible quality, however, and the Polar Trex should last me quite a few years without any modification or repair. You really do get what you pay for. One nice feature of the product is that, if you do lose a boot, they sell individual replacements online.
+ great quality
+ helps a lot to keep our walks enjoyable with snow and salt
+ stays on perfectly while on-leash
– have to tighten straps regularly if the dog is running around loose
– The boots are too high to fit the front paw comfortably, based on my dog.
+ easy to order spares
– boots will fall off
– definitely requires practice putting them on.
Would I recommend them? Depending on their purpose, yes. On-leash, they’re wonderful – they’re sturdy, protect Gwynn from all the things that ruin our walks, and Gwynn doesn’t seem bothered by them at all. They aren’t a perfect product, though, and I do have to spend a bit more time than I like counting red-feet when Gwynn is bounding through the snow. If your dog spends a lot of time out of your sight when they’re off-leash, that could become a particularly big problem.
Gwynn and I are giving them a 70%. Slightly less than 3 paws!
**The company gave me a pair of boots to review, but the opinions are my own, and not influenced by Ruffwear.**
No. Not an insulting term for people of a different nationality than me. Just to be clear, I mean Canines. Canines in Foreign lands. Frankly, I think it’s an improvement on my working title of “Mexican Dogs”.
I was lucky enough to spend a week this winter in beautiful Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Gwynn also spent a week at the beach – just one in more northern climes. He visited a friend of ours at her cottage while we were gone, a week straight of snow-frolicking and wrestling with her two dogs, and picking up a few bad habits along the way.
Dogless, I redirected my usual doggy time to observing everyone elses pooch. I’m not sure why I was so surprised to see so many people walking their dogs down 5th street in the evening. I know dogs aren’t limited to Canada, US and Europe. I just tend to imagine them being far less pet, and far more work elsewhere.
I think most cultures have, to some extent, a sweet spot for our furry friends. And the differences in their treatment of dogs is one of the things that stands out most to me about being in a strange country.
In France, dogs are permitted in restaurants and cafes, and generally most places. If someone had their dog very well trained – chances are, that dog wasn’t on-leash. And I’m talking about Paris, not some very rural community where leash laws are kind of ignored. Dogs there are welcomed into far more places than they are in Canada – but they also have higher expectations placed on them, in my opinion. It’s very much a society of “You are welcome here, but you’d better behave yourself.” Another big difference I noticed was in equipment – simply put, male dogs in France still have it. A British woman I walk with on occasion was baffled at the North American predilection towards neutered males. Her female dog is altered, but her male is fully equipped.
The downside I found when I was in France was an apparent lack of responsibility on the owners’ part for dealing with business. You know… business. Charming cobblestone streets, beautiful treelined paths – it’s PARIS, and P is definitely for Picturesque… but also for Poop. Watch where you step.
A friend recently returned home from a two year contract teaching English in Vietnam. She told me about how many street dogs and street cats there were. We have wild cats – in fact, we have a wild cat problem in Toronto – but wild, roaming, dogs is outside my realm of experience. She told me about how many of these animals found homes with the temporary immigrants who came for limited-time contracts in Vietnam. While it is possible to bring your beloved Vietnamese pet home with you at the end of your time there, after vet bills and vaccines and all the hoops you have to jump through, it comes out to a very expensive second plane ticket home. A common occurence there is for more newly-arrived friends to adopt departing friends’ animals, passing that creature on when it’s time for them to depart as well. I’m frankly not sure if I could bear the idea of parting ways, but I find it sweet that people make such a point of finding their street-dog or street-cat a replacement caregiver before they leave.
I found Mexico to be a bit like Canada, and a bit like France, and a bit all its own. All the male dogs I saw were fully equipped, and stores didn’t seem to have a problem with dogs coming into them with their owners. The streets were spotless. Maybe it’s because I was mostly in areas where lots of restauranteurs and shop owners were basically right out in the street, watching you , or maybe it’s simply that the dog owners of Mexico believe in not leaving a mess behind (after my own heart). Whatever the reason, the streets I went down in Playa Del Carmen were cleaner than my own neighbourhood, when it came to dog business. Possibly because most of the places I saw dogs in were quite busy, most people had their dogs on-leash. Very different from Canada, nearly every dog I saw was a naturally short coated animal. Makes sense, considering that, visiting in the middle of their winter, I experienced the warmest of Toronto’s summer conditions.
It’s when I travel that I wish Gwynn were more travel-sized. I miss him immensely when I’m gone, and feel a bit of irrational jealousy of people just going about their usual day with their dogs at their sides. I love it, though – seeing those commonalities between myself and the people whose country I’ve travelled to. It really doesn’t matter where you go, you’ll always find someone out for a walk.
Happy Turkey Day to my American friends in blogland! I don’t get why you guys put it so late in the fall, but you make up for it by merging yams and marshmallows and brown sugar into an unholy trinity of glorious “no really, it’s not dessert!”
What am I thankful for on this entirely ordinary Thursday in Canada?
I’m thankful that the salmon are done running, and that the animals have had time to eat all the dead salmon. Because old-rotted-raw-salmon-on-the-river-bank, as I have learned the hard way, is a demon-smell worse than skunk, but less terrible than old-dead-naked-beaver.
Gwynn is thankful that the two week period in which he got 5 baths, including one that involved vinegar, coke and baby shampoo, rinced and then applied again is over.
I’m also thankful that, this week, when I took Gwynn and Sadie into the woods for a walk, it was Sadie that rolled in something I’m going to loosely label ‘mud’. There are times it’s really nice to be able to pass a dog back to its rightful dog-bather at the end of a walk.
Hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving (or Thursday), preferably full of so much food that you pop a button on your pants. Because, regardless of which Thanksgiving day you do, it’s all about the turkey!
There is nothing I love so much as being in the woods. The prospect of a trip north leaves me giddy and making lists, even if it’s just for a weekend. Since Gwynn is back up north with my family, it’s doubly exciting to go up. After all – what’s better than the woods? Seeing one’s pooch for the first time in a week.
This trip, I drove up with some friends of Doodle’s (and mine). One advantage of this is that we actually got some photographs of the drive up!
Another is that K has a fancy camera, an artistic eye, and an enjoyment of taking pictures. Any pictures with unusual colouring are definitely hers. Other pictures, it’s probably equal chances being from my camera or hers.
It was considerably chillier up there than it has been most of the summer. And rainy, though we lucked out with clear skies friday night, saturday morning, and sunday morning.
We had a great trip, even with the rain. Less fun… the trip home.
**NOTE: Much as I appreciate the regular correspondence with people looking for skilled glass-blowers in the GTA… Ontario… Canada… I am NOT one of them. I’m not sure why my blog has turned up so high on the google list. If you are looking for someone, I recommend:
Minna Koistinen from Playing With Fire. You can find her here: http://www.playingwithfire.ca/ , and if the thing you’re looking for is relatively simple, she might even teach you how to make it yourself, which is a very cool experience. ***
I recently went to a Glassblowing workshop at Playing with Fire in Toronto. Glassblowing is terrifying, thrilling, and so much more stressful than a glass artist makes it look. Given the opportunity, do it.
Our teacher, Minna Koistinen is a member of the Geisterblitz Glass Studio, an internationally renowned partnership of glass professionals, artists, and designers. She has her own line of glass fine art, sold Canada-wide. She makes glassblowing look effortless, like the most natural thing in the world is to swing a blowpipe just so to make that small lumpy piece of glass into a thin, elegant vase, all without setting anything on fire.
Her assistant, Andrea, is apprenticing in the art form. There are very few trades (or so it seems to me) that still use this as a means of instruction, but most art forms seem to need that time observing and helping out to really learn the techniques. Especially when it comes to things like glass-blowing, where learning to get a feel for the material is a big part of determining just what it is you will make.
Minna walked us through the equipment we would be using, and then ran through each exercise, while maintaining a steady stream of comments and instructions for us. She and Andrea helped each of us through the exercises, which is good because the minute I got the rod in my hands, the only thing going through my mind was a kind of dull roar of “MAKING GLASS!!!”, mixed with paranoia at potential death by fire. Step by step instructions were enormously helpful!
When you’re dealing with a material whose temperature starts off at a molten yellow glow above 2000 degrees Celsius, safety is a very important feature. Even after it is cooled to the point of solidifying, the glass is still hot enough to cause severe burns and nerve damage. Throughout the entire process, all I kept thinking to myself was Don’t Touch the Glass!
I was a little bit concerned that I would do something that would cause shattering of glass, set something on fire, or just plain experience some of that terrifying nerve damage. I am not exactly graceful.
Another distinct possibility was getting that oh-so embarrassing teacher feedback of “well, isn’t that… special. I had no idea you could make that particular shade of brown out of such pretty starting colours of glass.”
We each made a clear-glass ornament by letting strings of glass slip off the pipe and swishing the stick around to create a pattern. Next, we made paperweights (all the pictures show this), with coloured glass inside them. All the movements that appear to come so naturally to Minna are considerably more difficult than they appear. Focusing on not burning oneself while also keeping the rod turning to catch the molten glass that wants to slide to the floor, and following instructions – it’s all a bit stressful! It’s also amazing. As an art-form, I found glasswork to be a terrifying rush that I have never encountered while doing watercolours. There’s the time-constraint of rapidly solidifying glass, the paranoia about catching things on fire* and the thrill of making something that will be completely individual to me, even if the next person makes the exact same moves as I do, uses the exact same colours.
All the coloured glass burnt red-orange when it was added to the original molten clear glass. The art of glass blowing doesn’t end at the point of tapping off – the glass has to cool very slowly and evenly, or you risk it shattering, or, at the very least, cracking into pieces. Yes, my other fear apart from fire was explosion. The last I saw of our paperweights that day, they were orange-filled, despite the fact that only one of us actually put red and orange tones of glass into her piece.
A few days later when I went to pick them up… well… judge for yourself!
If you’re in the Toronto area, I highly recommend taking an afternoon to try Playing with Fire and make your own completely unique creations. If you aren’t, but see something like it offered in your area, try it!
*the number of times I’ve mentioned it, you’d think I regularly accidentally set things on fire. Not true, but the paranoia remains. Also, word to the wise, do not put a muffin in the microwave for ten minutes.
It’s the big one. I’m officially old. Practically ancient and decrepit, I’m only a few short years from being set adrift on my own personal ice floe. One foot in the grave. I’m pretty sure I found a gray hair this morning. I’ll probably go bald, too. That happens to women, sometimes, you know. I’m definitely a spinster at this point, and I’m pretty sure I’m going senile.
What? My birthday? No, don’t be silly, that’s not for months. My birthday hearkens the return of flowers. Also, no, I’m not being over-dramatic here. You are. No, you are. I know you are, but what am I?
Cue the Sad Violin.
It’s my baby sister’s 19th Birthday. Nineteen. She’s able to vote. Well, ok, she could do that last year, But Still! She’s living on her own in the far-away Ottawaland, having to scavenge for her own food and beverage in the not-quite-arctic-tundra of University Residentia. She’s stopped thinking that boys are icky, probably. She attends classes at an institute of higher learning. She is officially able to purchase alcohol anywhere in Canada. She’s an adult.
She was born when I was in Senior Kindergarten. I was a great big sister right from the start. When my teacher asked me what my new baby sister’s name was, I, already deeply attached to the girl, answered, “Dooor… something… something like door. But… not. I don’t know. Can I play in the lego area?”
I taught her valuable lessons along the way. Affectionate older-sisterly lessons like,
“Don’t lie down in the middle of the road while I’m riding my bike towards you, because you will be run over. See, I wasn’t bluffing.”
And … well… off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything else that fits here. Still. I was a part of her education.
In return, she taught me valuable lessons like,
“If your demon-spawn baby sister comes up to you, looking completely innocent and cute, and wants to give you a hug, it’s actually in order to bite you on the face.”
“If you chop off your bangs, and all the hair along the part in the top of your hair, right down to a buzz-cut… twice … our hairdresser will actually get out the electric razor and start prepping your hair for being an all-over buzz-cut. And it really seems like he isn’t bluffing.” That was definitely not the best look for her, even if she avoided getting the full buzz-cut.
I remember reading the Harry Potter books to her… Aloud. With voices. We learned together that Hermione wasn’t pronounced how it was spelled.
She actually enjoys going on walks with me. I don’t even have to bribe her, most of the time.
When she was really little (in real life, not just in my mind), her teacher asked them to draw someone they cared for. While all the other kids drew spider-blob-people or block-blob-people representative of their parents, she drew a surprisingly detailed and identifyable picture of her babysitter. Having finished the front (curly hair and all) before the aloted time was up, she turned the page over, and did the woman’s back, too (typical hands-in-back-pockets-of-her-jeans stance and all).
She makes art. Artistic art, and always has. At the age when I was drawing super-creepy-spider-people with no neck and spindly arms and legs protruding at unnatural angles from their bloated torsos, she was drawing relatively proportional not-scary people whose eyes were in the right part of their heads, and the same size as each other. She’s in art school now, and the piece she gave me for my last birthday will be the basis for all decoration in a room of my future-house.
A woman came to our front door trying to sell something, and my sister politely turned her down. As the woman was walking away, she told the woman, “Be Safe.” Like she was sending the woman out into the zombie-apocalypse-wasteland.
She and her friends were once spat upon by a silver mime.
All in all, she’s pretty kickass.
I look at her, and I still see her at 5, 8, 10… maybe 15… sometimes. But she isn’t – she’s a young woman, and all grown up. Holy cow, I feel old.
So Happy Birthday, Doodle. I’m proud of you, and very impressed at how awesome you grew up to be. Have fun celebrating!
ps, I hope you didn’t get awoken at god-awful-in-the-morning again today!
I walked a LOT while I was in Ottawa visiting Doodle. I also failed at consistently finding my way back to the hotel or Doodle’s residence without phone-assistance. How on earth did I ever survive without a phone with a map on it? A map that will identify where I am, and how to get back to where I want to be?!
One morning, I did three quarters of a circle around my hotel before finally making my way back. Another afternoon, I found myself wandering up a dark enclosed staircase (with Gwynn), unsure of whether I was about to find myself inside a building (most likely a ‘no dogs zone’). Instead, I found myself in a lovely park overlooking the canal and the parliament buildings.