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.

A family History of Pets II

my aunt, and the dog before Mippy.  I suspect the conversation here would be, "Do you think we'll see santa?"... "santa?  I thought we were waiting for the butcher's truck!"
my aunt, and the dog before Mippy. I suspect the conversation here would be, “Do you think we’ll see santa?”… “santa? I thought we were waiting for the butcher’s truck!”

When my mom was very young, my grandfather got her a British bulldog with a pedigree and the papers to prove it.  His name was Mippy, and he was definitely not a bulldog.  I don’t think my grandfather had much experience in bulldogs.  I bet he thought their previous dog had been a ‘British bulldog’ too.  I never met him, but clearly he had a keen interest in knowing dog breeds.  They probably  guessed that he was a pit bull type dog when the police officer who came to their door jumped backwards off their porch and halfway across their lawn upon being met at the door by a small child restraining a loudly barking Mippy by the collar.

even in black and white - it's definitely the 'we got a dog!' pic
even in black and white – it’s definitely the ‘we got a dog!’ pic

In the rural south, at that time, you let your dog out in the morning and he roamed the fence-less neighbourhood in a pack of dogs until sometime around supper.  He had firm ideas of who he did and did not like, and he was very protective of the family.  Years and years later, my uncle found out that his friend, who Mippy wouldn’t allow into the house at all, had been in and out of prison for various assault charges since shortly after they’d lost touch in their teens.  Mippy seemed a bit fierce, but he loved his family just as fiercely, and, typical of a ‘nanny dog’ (an old term for pitties), kept the kids from playing too close to the street and kept watch over them.  He also trapped a would-be burglar by the hand in the door of their home for over two hours before the family returned home one time.  Looking at old pictures of my mom and Mippy, it is very clear that he was a lot more pit than brit… and that he was a wonderful family pet.

not to derail this post into an anti breed-specific-legislation post or anything like that... but you can tell those kids are in danger for their lives with that vicious animal at their feet, right?
not to derail this post into an anti breed-specific-legislation post or anything like that… but you can tell those kids are in danger for their lives with that vicious animal at their feet, right?

In a somewhat incomprehensible Easter tradition, my mother and aunt got goslings one year.  I don’t know if it’s still like that, but you could, at the time, give your kids chicks that had been dyed pink or blue as well, though thankfully theirs were not coloured.  Unlike most of the chicks given to children for Easter, theirs grew happily and healthily into adulthood, and eventually lived out their lives in the pond at a nearby park.  The family also raised and bred siamese cats, who, being southern, were adressed by the children as Miss May and Miss Lily, and Miss-whatever.  Because you don’t just address an adult by their first name, that would be impolite.

a few of the 'misses cat' and my mum
a few of the ‘misses cat’ and my mum

Growing up, my mother and her siblings always had cats, along with a variety of caught-lizards, frogs, chipmunks, and, very briefly, a snapping turtle that barely fit into the old bathtub they’d found for him.  That particular adoption of the wildlife ended when my grandmother demonstrated how easily the turtle could snap up an entire frozen sausage (aka finger).

Mippy and a kitten
Mippy and a kitten

My uncle got his scout badge for snake bite treatment when he had to actually treat my mother’s rattler bite.  She’s still got a scar on her knee from the teeth.  They all paid far too little attention to the seriousness of poisonous snakes in their barefoot romps through the bamboo swamp out back of their house, the one whose owner waded through the murky waters in hip-waders and used a shotgun to kill the Copperheads that lived there.  My mother is now terrified of all snakes.  We once found a tiny snake under one of our tents.  She became convinced (despite the tent’s being in Northern Ontario) that it was a copperhead.  A baby copperhead.  On the plus side, she let us catch it to bring to the nature center, and she never usually let us catch snakes.  We found out that Southern Ringneck Snakes are harmless and quite unusual to spot.

Moving to Canada, my mother’s family continued to breed Siamese cats.  When they went on a monthlong trip to Europe, they filled a massive trough in the basement with cat food and left the cat doors open. They came home to a mostly empty trough and the remains of a variety of small birds and rodents the cats had been supplementing their diet with.  Different times.

my mum and a calf.  She claims she never tipped any of the cows - she only watched as her cousins did so.
my mum and a calf. She claims she never tipped any of the cows – she only watched as her cousins did so.

My grandmother’s family has a farm in northern Manitoba, cattle.  Once they were up in Canada, my mother spent a number of her summers at the farm.  The family farm, as you’d expect, had a dog.  Hector.  As you might also imagine, there have been many farm dogs since the first dog to be acquired by the first farmer.  But still, Hector.

Hector
Hector
Also Hector... just a different one
Also Hector… just a different one.  My mom’s on the right, holding a cat.
Hector - though they usually do stick to border collies, so this guy (or gal... they didn't have an alternate girl name) was an exception to the usual rule
Hector – though they usually do stick to border collies, so this guy (or gal… they didn’t have an alternate girl name) was an exception to the usual rule

One of my favourite stories growing up was about my mother and aunt showing up at the farm for a funeral, the first time they’d been there in quite a few years.  No-one was home, so they found the hidden key, went in, and hung around until someone came home.  They didn’t think anything of this until a few days later when the present Hector wouldn’t let a person out of the car until a family member came out to greet them.  They still didn’t think anything of this until they found out that this wasn’t the Hector that had been around last time they were at the farm.  Hectors recognize family.

This grim couple are my a few greats-relatives.  And their little white fluffy dog.
This grim couple are my a few greats-relatives. And their little white fluffy dog.

When I hear stories of my mother’s childhood, I kind of imagine a cross between Indiana Jones, the early years, and Dr. Dolittle.

<— A Family History of Pets I ||| A Family History of Pets III —>

Winter Camping

I love camping – any chance to go into the woods for a few days and disconnect is OK by me.  And yet, the few times I’ve been winter camping, it’s been in a yurt.  Not quite glamping (*shudders*), but going up for a weekend and staying in a yurt is the equivalent of renting a really tiny cabin with a separate cabin a 20 minute walk away that has the toilets.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s excellent – go up to Algonquin in the winter, stay in a yurt, spend your days playing in the snow, skiing, snowshoeing, building a snow fort, maybe sit in a chair on a frozen lake, extra chilly beer in your mitt-clad hand, watching the sunset.  Camp in the winter.  Whatever gets you out there, whatever extras you need to take, bundle up for the cold and go. 

we couldn't get a very clear shot of the canvas tent all lit up at night,  but it still turned out pretty fantastic
we couldn’t get a very clear shot of the canvas tent all lit up at night, but it still turned out pretty fantastic

And, when you are given the opportunity to spend a weekend learning wilderness survival skills in the winter… also go.  Just… bundle up wayyyy more.

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Doodle, Gwynn and I went up near Bracebridge near the beginning of March to participate in an Intro to Winter Camping and wilderness survival clinic organized through the Muttley Crew Meetup Group, a weekend at a private camp where the dogs could be off-leash at all times.

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Gwynn and one of the German Shepherds, Sabre, had a bit of a romance all weekend – Sabre would follow Gwynn pretty much anywhere, and I think he’d have followed him into our car at the end of the weekend if he could have.

Leaving the balmy +5C temperatures of the city, I was pretty sure I had seriously overpacked on gear for keeping warm.

Arriving in the -10C temperatures, in the woods near Bracebridge… I was glad I’d packed so many sleeping bags.

By the end of the evening, there were 7 people total, and 7 dogs.  Two very large german shepherds, a Bermese, an enormous labradoodle, a Great Dane, Gwynn, and one wee little white dog.  Gwynn looked like a small dog compared to all but the little one.

We lucked out, in finding ourselves with a group of dogs that all played nicely together.  No ganging up or bullying, all the roughhousing was very clearly being enjoyed by all parties, and all in all, the dogs were great.  It was like the most ideal version of a dog park visit, ever.

our great dane buddy needed a bit of extra help keeping warm, but she still had a great time out there.
our great dane buddy needed a bit of extra help keeping warm, but she still had a great time out there.

On to the winter camping and fun!  Before I start with that, though, I want to make something clear –  I am not a professional (in anything related to camping, winter, or survival), and I’m not writing a how to winter camp blog post.

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We packed my regular three-season tent and put a folded tarp underneath the tent.  According to one of the leaders from our trip, the winter camping tents are slightly better at releasing the humidity from sleeping, but aren’t really all that necessary for a few days of camping in the winter.

We packed three regular three season sleeping bags (not down… and not at all compactable… oldschool Coleman sleeping bags), and the heavy old down sleeping bag my mom kept of her father’s.  We layered one coleman bag underneath us (on top of sleeping mats)  and two on top, with the heavy down bag on top of all that.  Clearly, this method of keeping warm wouldn’t work if we weren’t camping within a five minute walk of our car, but for a drive-up and camp situation, it worked.  If I were to go on an interior trip in winter, I’d be buying or renting a good quality four-season bag that would compress down small and light.

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under this blanket was the great dane – the shepherds were shocked EVERY SINGLE TIME the blanket moved, unable to remember that she was under there.

We couldn’t get Gwynn under the blankets.  I think that’s very much dependent on the individual dog, whether they’re cold or not.  Gwynn in March is Gwynn pre-hair-cut, so, frankly, sleeping on our legs, outside of the warmth of sleeping bags, was probably the most comfortable temperature of sleep he’s had since January.  The Great Dane would burrow under blankets at night, and had a coat on during the day.

Our first night was not pleasant at all.  We didn’t bring all our sleeping bags in that night, and Gwynn’s curling up at the foot of our bags successfully pulled off most of the heavy-duty bag, making it hard to stay warm.

I find it just about impossible to sleep if my feet are cold.  Even with a fresh pair of wool socks (you want to change your socks every day and evening, even if you don’t change anything else – the socks compress down in your boots and absorbe humidity, so they’re less effective by the end of the day), wasn’t warming me up enough to get to sleep.  It went down to -16C, and I swear, I woke up every fifteen minutes.  Lesson 1: Even if you feel fine now, bring extra warm stuff down to your tent for bed anyways!  Next time I winter camp, I think I’ll layer a tarp on top of my tent right from the start, and not feel any qualms about extra extra sleeping bags.

One of the other women there gave us the wonderful gift of HotHands hand warmers on Saturday morning, though.  They were magical, and made a huge difference on our second night out. It went down to -20C, but we were able to get under the covers and spark some initial heat with hand-warmers between two layers of sock (they say not to have them directly against skin if you’re not paying attention to them), slept soundly and completely restfully through the night. Getting warm at the beginning of the night – even doing some jumping jacks and jogging on the spot before getting into the tent – is a good way of ensuring a warm and restful night sleeping outdoors.  If we’d had more nights sleeping there, we might also have had to worry about the condensation buildup in the sleeping bags (damp bag = less warm).

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Sit tight, and I’ll be back in a few days with tales of the wilderness survival side of our trip!

A Family History of Pets

 I don't think I've said it before - but seriously, get these details from your grandparents while they're still around - you'll regret it later if you don't.  labeled 'may, winter, 19', I have so many questions.  dogsled?  frankly, it looks like they're off to Narnia.
I don’t think I’ve said it before – but seriously, get these details from your grandparents while they’re still around – you’ll regret it later if you don’t. labeled ‘may, winter, 19’, I have so many questions. dogsled? frankly, it looks like they’re off to Narnia.

When my aunt was born, my dad’s parents had to get rid of their dog, Spot.  In my dad’s own words, the dog’s name was Spot, because… well… he had spots.  I suspect my grandfather was involved in the naming.  He was original like that.  My dad grew up in a small town that is nearly as small now as it was back then, and the dentist has a farm just on the outskirts, and lots of horses.  My aunt is so allergic to animals that, when visiting her parents’ home as an adult, if the wind blew in from that direction, she would have to stay inside with the windows shut, or risk her throat closing up.  One time, a plane was emergency landed for her, because the company ignored her when she said that there could absolutely be no animals in the cabin, and allowed someone to bring on their tiny dog in a carry on.

My dad was three the last time he’d had a pet.  He didn’t have another pet until he and my mum married.

Tomcat... before he got really into cat-fighting and shredded his ears.  First rule of cat fightclub... you run to grandpa when you get hurt... but you also don't talk about cat fightclub
Tomcat… before he got really into cat-fighting and shredded his ears. First rule of cat fightclub… you run to grandpa when you get hurt… but you also don’t talk about cat fightclub

My grandfather kept cats – stray farm cats who found their way to him, and who were willing to continue living their lives outdoors, visiting with my grandpa on the porch.  He couldn’t invite them in because my aunt would then no longer be able to visit.  Frankly, I’m not sure if most of them got more of a name than ‘cat’, or possibly ‘gray tabby’, ‘calico’, and ‘black cat’.  The one I remember best was, in yet another highly original choice by my grandfather, named Tom.  Short for Tomcat.  Another original.  I’m sure my uncle Tom appreciated the sharing of names.

The Clydesdales - or some of them anyways
The Clydesdales – or some of them anyways

My grandmother grew up on a farm, and was terrified of the Clydesdales her father used for farmwork, and equally terrified of the cows and their horns.    Those work horses are one of my dad’s few memories of his grandfather, and he agrees – to a small child, they were immense and immensely terrifying.  My grandmother grew up with chickens as well.  She doesn’t eat eggs, though she will use them in baking.  She grew up poor, and always said, “You don’t eat the chicken if it’s still laying eggs.  You eat a lot of eggs that way.”  When we took riding lessons near her house, she would stay as far from the horses as possible, despite their considerably more petite size.

One of the strangest old family headstones at the cemetery near where my dad grew up has a small photograph in it.  I wish I had a picture to share with you, but I’m only ever there for funerals, and frankly, that is not the time for photography.  The main thing you need to know is that everyone on that side of my family has a very distinctive look.  When in a room full of us, it’s very clear who is ‘us’ and who married into the family.  Pictures of my grandmother at 17 look like pictures of my aunts at 17, and probably would remind you a great deal of her mother, and grandmother at that age.  The men in the family are even more obviously the same.  So this photograph is of a man who looks like my dad.  Dead on, in fact.  It looks like my dad… if he were to grow out a full and magnificent handlebar mustache.  And, while I have never met this dearly departed distant relation, I think we’d understand each other just a little bit.  Set into his gravestone is a picture of him and his cockatoo.

a relative I suspect is on my grandmother's side of things... based on the basket of eggs. People don't dress nearly as dapper anymore while collecting eggs...how times have changed!
a relative I suspect is on my grandmother’s side of things… based on the basket of eggs. People don’t dress nearly as dapper anymore while collecting eggs…how times have changed!
my grandfather and the creatively named Spot
my grandfather and Bunkie
cat pictures - common even in 1945
cat pictures – common even in 1945

Stay tuned – next we look at my mom’s childhood!

Snow

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.

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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.

Magic.

Foreign Dogs

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.

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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.

Afghan Hound With Short Hair
Even the Afghan hound I saw there had his hair cropped shorter than this, to deal with the heat

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.

Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil.

Apartment Life

I’ve rented apartments.  I’ve lived in a basement apartment and a main floor apartment.  I lived in university residence for a year – probably the closest I’ve gotten to an apartment building.  I’ve shared a room with one girl… and with three girls.  Pre-dog.

When some friends went out of town for two weeks, they handed me the keys to their eleventh storey apartment and permission to bring the dog.  A perfect test of how Gwynn would do in my theoretical near-future move to an apartment or condo.

Some thoughts.

I am in bridge engineering.  My brain says the balcony is safe, in that it is lacking in signs that might indicate its imminent failure.  Gwynn and I agree that, regardless of its so-called safety, if one must go out on the balcony, the best place to be is plastered up against the building.  I love their view, but frankly, my future abode will need to be closer to the ground.

freaking amazing to watch a lightning storm from here, too… strangely, wasn’t bothered by the drop when standing out there in blustering winds with electricity and rain falling from the sky.

At home, Gwynn isn’t concerned about noises outside his  lign of sight.  At the apartment, between the hours of 10pm and 7am… he was on high-alert.  Any suggestions to get Gwynn to stop barking at every twinge of noise from outside the apartment would be appreciated.

Their apartment was heated through in-floor heating.  I can imagine it would be wonderful when it’s quite chilly out.  Despite being shut off, though, it was warm.  Melt-chocolate-warm.  I kept all the windows open (contributing to dog-barkiness, unfortunately), and a fan going at all times that I was in the apartment, just to keep the temperature tolerable.

Having to get into an elevator, go down 11 storeys and out of a building every time he has to go to the washroom SUCKS.  I had him outside every 1-2 hours until 10pm, just to be on the safe side.  He took advantage – giving me that ‘I gotta go SO BADLY’ look from the apartment door far more regularly than he actually… had-ta go.  This is not my favourite thing.  I really REALLY like having the option of just letting Gwynn go out in the back yard for a quick pee or sniff whenever he feels so inclined.

I’m not sure if it was just this particular building, but in two weeks, we met a broad assortment of dogs – one of which was friendly.  One.   The others were stressed-freaking-out-barking-lunging-hackles-up any time we ran into them.  What is up with that?

Having seen a wide variety of dog in the building – from tiny purse-type through to bigger-than-Gwynn – the elevator conversations I had were baffling.  I had this conversation at least 10 times over the course of 2 weeks:

Random Elevator Rider: “That’s a big dog.”

Lexy (it would be rude to disagree, I guess?): “… yup.”

RER: “Is it going to get bigger?”

Lexy (visualizing Gwynn as an orange newfie.) : “Probably not?”

no… THAT’s a big dog.

Washing dishes by hand:  better in a building (with a sink and taps) than at a campground.  Still not very fun.

Apartment laundry facilities – empty… at least at 8am on Thanksgiving Monday.

Cooking for myself:  I still really enjoy cooking. Nice to know.  Living at home, my family apparently believes that I have zero ability in the kitchen.  Away from home, I can try whatever recipe strikes my fancy… or have peanut butter and toast.

Overall, I think Gwynn and I are destined to rent/buy a main-floor unit, or closer to the ground, anyways.  Considering that housing-prices in the GTA (and, more importantly, within an hour or so of drive to my office) are bizarre and terrible right now, a condo or apartment is really my only hope of leaving home in the near future.  It’s nice to know that Gwynn and I can live in an apartment without too huge an adjustment process.

He’s Sexy and He Knows It!

On a particularly frigid September morning, we started our trek.  It only looks like I abandoned him in the woods at night – I swear it was just unnaturally dark that morning, and he left the trails with me.

Also, he isn’t a zombie…

It was cold out – I was beginning to have my doubts about the plan.  It’s only going to get colder!

I mean, look at that gorgeously hairy beast – he should clearly stay the same, for always!

He disagreed.  Last winter was unusually warm, and he spent most of his indoor time sealing drafts.  I suspect our overall house-heating-efficiency was increased just by the dog’s naps.

but how will I entertain myself without his full head of hair?

The arguments for won out in the end – Gwynn got a fall haircut.  He’s been wiggling along to LMFAO ever since, like a toddler who drank a supersized coffee and a fistfull of pixie sticks in one go, and is now running around naked in the front yard.  He lost his fur coat and he’s raring to go.

“When I walk on by, girls be looking like damn he fly”

“This is how I roll, come on ladies it’s time to go”

“When I walk in the spot (yeah), this is what I see (ok)
Everybody stops and they staring at me”
he’s sexy and he knows it

For the Dogs

There are dog people, and then there are dog people.  Eileen was dog people. They were her passion and her life’s work.  I met her through the Muttley Crew – a dog hiking group through Meetup.com.  She introduced me to so many local trails I would never have known existed – places near Toronto that have hidden away from the urban life.  She brought together a group of people whose only real commonality was dogs, and made sure to socialize with everyone on the hike.  And their dogs, of course.  She hardly knew me, but she still checked in on me when I didn’t make it out to any hikes for a few months.

She was the treat lady, she was the go-to person for pettings.  She was in the creek with the dogs, encouraging the more timid of them to try swimming.  She got Gwynn deeper into the water than he’d been before.  Ten minutes into the hike, she wsa the pied-piper, leading the dogs on a merry chase.  You’re having issues with your dog jumping up, not responding to ‘come’, being timid, toy guarding?  She would give you encouragement, advice if you wanted it, and absolute positivity.  She believed 100% in your dog.

She worked to get her own dog out of his own anxiety and wariness so that he could, completely comfortably, join a large group of people and dogs in the woods.

Dirty dogs are happy dogs – by the end of our hikes, the dogs were certainly happy!

She was doing what made her happiest – hiking with dogs – and that knowledge makes me glad.  While I wish it could have been years and years from now, she died with her hiking boots on.

Eileen will be missed.  I have no doubt that wherever she is now, there are happy dogs, wide open spaces, and forests for miles.

Cats: Ninja-Terrorists bent on Sleep Deprivation

The first night house-sitting, I had the brilliant idea of bringing Gwynn to stay overnight.  I figured, hey, the cats stay on the second floor pretty much 100% of the time, and I’ve yet to see hide nor hair of them in three years of dog walks and occasional house-sitting.  It’ll be fine.  No worries.

What I didn’t take into account was that these cats have an active night-life.

Two hours of Gwynn yipping and whimpering from his crate at intervals just long enough for me to believe that it was getting longer.  Two hours of the cats practicing their tap-dance routines on the second storey while Sadie paced and licked and paced and licked.

How could anyone sleep in this house?  Even without Gwynn, the amount of noise produced by three tiny felines well exceeds that of a workplace requiring hearing-protection.

I tried relocating to the basement.  The basement where the teenage son has created his personal AXE-scented nest of boydom.  I spread my sleeping bag out, lay down gingerly, ensuring that no part of me came in contact with the couch.  Gwynn’s whimpers were dying down a bit, Sadie was still restlessly pacing.

Then came what sounded like a lamp falling down, a full-grown man crashing into the tv and someone dropping pots and pans in the kitchen.  Cell-phone in one hand, bludgeoning-device in the other, I crept up the stairs, prepared to do battle against thieves.  With me in my sleep-deprived rage, those bastards stood a low chance of avoiding a trip to the hospital.

No-one was there, nothing was disturbed, and no cats were in sight.  I checked all doors, and checked upstairs to try and tell my adrenaline-high body that it’s ok to relax.

Breathing freely for the first time since I’d relocated to the AXE-swamp of a basement, I lay down on the couch, Gwynn’s leash clutched in my hand.

Sleep was within my grasp at last.  Oh sweet slumber, how I love thee.

Ten minutes later, Gwynn attempted to drag me under the side-table, where a cat sat primly just out of reach of his inquisitive nose.  Mocking me, and denying me sleep.  Terrorist.

Demon Cats

Got the cat out from under the table without interaction with dogs, tried to go back to sleep.  So. Close.

Ten minutes later, Sadie launched herself onto a chair and up the window.  Second cat bolted from behind the curtain, hissing and grumbling like marbles being ground together.  Dogs once again wide awake and wired.  Lexy half-awake and 100% not asleep, trying desperately to remember how many cats are in the house.

No apparent third cat hidden within the tiny living-room, but it’s officially 3:30 am, and I’m running on 5 minutes of light-doze, and a heaping pile of nerves.

Three?  Four?  There could be thousands of them.  Demonic Terrorist Cats… probably made of shadow and clangour.  Or maybe there’s just one.  Are there even any cats at all?  Where the hell am I?

“Here kitty kitty?  Nice kitty?”  I manage to croak out, squinting about the dark room with red-rimmed, twitching eyes.

Hearing and rejecting simultaneously, the cats began a thundering race around the upstairs, still wearing their tiny kitty tap-shoes, and dragging cans half-filled with gravel.

Evil Cat

The gravelly rrrowwwwl and simultaneous kettle-hiss of furry fury starts up again, this time from the couch.

I call the retreat.  Snatching dogs, leashes and bag, I escape the madhouse, pajama-clad and wild-haired, with the frantic energy of escape from a burning building – just another inmate running for the hills.

Can I sleep here? Please? PLEASE?!!!