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.**
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.
A friend of mine regularly uses Gwynn as an example of what a ‘real dog’ doesn’t look like, according to her and her boyfriend’s view of dogs. Not to say that they don’t like him, just that when they think of one day getting a dog, they picture something more like a husky or german shepherd – preferably something with ears that naturally point upwards, fur that only grows to a certain length, and an enormous head. Gwynn’s ears are floppy, and really, under all that fur, extremely tiny. He looks exactly like the kind of goof he is, which is part of why I’m always surprised to run into people who are nervous of him. And it’s true that there are some dogs that just seem more… doggish. A lab of some sort, or a rottweiler, or golden retriever – there are dogs that just have the look of a dog that could, say, trek long distance and find his way home, surviving in the wilderness.
Gwynn doesn’t exactly look like that dog that will drag you out of the way of a train, getting injured in the process. Or like the kind of dog that, if he got lost in the woods, would come out unscathed and happy. A significant proportion of the dogs on this Hero List fall into that doggish-dog category.
Gwynn is still up north with my family, soon to return from his great camping adventure. One of my biggest concerns with this venture (apart from the possibility of him growing more attached to my mum than to me while he’s away) is the bears. Yup, there are bears in them thar hills, and with the drought conditions we’re experiencing in Ontario this summer, they’re coming out of them hills in search of delicious cooler-shaped snacks and empty yogurt cups. Last year, he nearly dragged me into the woods after a very surprised adolescent bear who wandered past our site. I strongly suspect that he was yelling, “FRIEEEEENNNNNDDDDD!” as he bounded towards the innocent 200 lb youngster. This is why he’s on leash except for at the dog park. That, and the raccoons.
This summer, he’s apparently found his inner wolf. With bears roaming the campground the past few days, he has shown himself to be a real doggish dog.
First, he dogged up and refused to let my mum go to the washroom. He put his woof down and just said… well… “woof”. Translated roughly as “We’re going back to our campsite, NOW!”. She found out from the Park Wardens that there was a bear in the campsite across from the outhouses she was headed to.
Then, to confirm that this wasn’t a fluke incident of dog-needing-to-go-home-just-because, a bear found itself in the uncomfortable position of being too close to my dad for anyone’s comfort. It probably wasn’t expecting trouble, browsing in the bushes near the campsite, far too close for comfort to my dad, whose recent knee surgery does make him somewhat of a wounded gazelle. While my dad attempted to not have a heart attack, Gwynn took charge!
He growled and barked and growled some more, making no attempt to chase after the bear, just standing guard in front of my dad until the fiendish bear got the message, and left the vicinity.
We’re pretty sure that the common theme here is ‘protect the family from bears!’, and not, “let’s ensure that neither of my parents have to use the outhouse again by scaring the crap out of them.”
I really, really want to complain about the cold. SO. MUCH. It was -12 Celsius (10 F… according to google) on Saturday, and windy, and holy cow, itwas cold!
But it’s -27 Celsius (-17 F)(NOT factoring in wind-chill) in Calgary today, so really, I believe the phrase that applies to me is ‘buck up, sissy-girl’.
The other reason that it isn’t reasonable for me to complain is this – half-way through January, and this is the first time it got this cold? I am spoiled in winter weather this year, and I should shut up before Murphy catches up with me. This time last year, I was a month and a half into a royally unpleasant season of icy winds and freezing rain – a world of sloppy slushy, gloomy grey standard Toronto Winter. Last week was the first time they salted the sidewalks (they being ‘everyone other than my one crazy neighbour who just layers down the salt so heavily all winter that I walk on her lawn to avoid the gravel-like dog-foot-doom she creates’). This winter, apparently the road salt industry (in Ontario, at any rate) is having serious issues – they aren’t selling enough salt, and the people being paid to salt the roads – they aren’t getting paid to salt the roads.
There’s a whole industry that is going into decline.
But HOLY COW, it was COLD out!
I think the real problem was that it went from +10 C down to -12 C in the course of hours. Friday evening, it was chilly – like, around freezing ‘chilly’ – Saturday morning, it was bitter. Also, going for a three hour walk that went down through the trails by the brickworks, and then back up Yonge street to St. Clair (where I parked my car)… that might not have been the wisest choice. Not to mention that this walk started at 4pm, with only a brief pause in a doggy boutique (to defrost) on the way back.
Plus side – Gwynn loves it. This kind of weather is the reason I am letting his coat grow out until spring. He is completely insulated, and completely ecstatic at any opportunity to roll around in the cold white stuff, even when it’s a windy 12 below, and my face is so cold that my words slur from the numbing effect the wind has on my lips and jaw muscles. He bounced along beside me, beard crispy with icicles, while I wished I hadn’t let my face freeze into a smiling position. My teeth hurt from the cold.
The other plus side is that my reason for driving across Toronto to go for a walk was to join a good friend I don’t see nearly often enough for a walk in the woods. She is my only friend in the GTA whose idea for ‘what should we do?’ would be (in the winter) ‘go for a long walk’, instead of ‘go to a movie/restaurant/bar’, and I am so grateful for that. Much as I like movies/food/alcohol, I really think I spend an unhealthy amount of time watching TV, I prefer cooking and trying new recipes, and I really don’t drink all that much (not to mention the ‘past my bedtime’ factor of going to bars or clubs).
I really can’t complain about the weather, especially now that the temperature is back up to +4 Celsius. Though, now that it’s warm out, I want to complain about the fact that all the snow is melting into sodden heaps of mush.
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.
My previous post mentioned that we went to visit Doodle in Ottawa over the Thanksgiving weekend. We decided to skip the muss and fuss and hustle and bustle of a big turkey day dinner and getting Doodle from Ottawa to home by herself… and back again. Instead, we experienced the hustle and bustle and muss and fuss of transporting four adults, one large dog, and a van-full of stuff for Doodle’s slightly barren residence room on a 6+ hour drive to Ottawa.
Have you ever had that moment of epiphany? The moment you look upon something, and think, “OH! Now, I get
it… that ishow it’s supposed to be.” That’s what this was like.
On the drive, we stopped at the most extraordinary place. A dog park… whose design and construction had been done with the enjoyment of both dogs and dog owners in mind. It might seem strange to you that I find this shocking. But, you see, Toronto’s dog parks are not made with enjoyment in mind. They are made, against fierce opposition, in the least desirable parts of parks, using the fewest resources possible, and, from what I can tell, designed by people who aren’t really sure why dog owners want such places to begin with. Local dog owners aren’t given the opportunity to give suggestions, and the suggestions they do give are generally ignored. “Be grateful we even let you have dogs in public green-spaces” seems to be the motto.
We stopped at the Quinte Dog Park in Belleville, Ontario. It is three fully fenced in acres of wooded parkland. In low areas where the ground would otherwise be muddy, woodchip has been put down. On higher ground, it is grassy or covered in pine-needles, depending on what kinds of trees are nearby. It is big enough that the dogs pounding the ground don’t tear it up nearly as much as they do in smaller dog-areas. There are benches scattered throughout the park, as well as fire hydrants – a feature I find hilarious. Did I mention that there are trees in the park? Trees = shade and protection from the elements. For dogs, trees = squirrel-homes and the potential to chase squirrels… not to mention all the sniffing opportunities.
The Quinte Dog Park has garbage cans spaced out along the fence line. It also has boxes full of unused poop-baggies beside each garbage can. I used my own doggie bags, because I had them with me – but making dog-bags available is brilliant. People can no longer use the excuse of ‘I forgot my bags’ or ‘I ran out of bags’ to ignore their pooch’s mess. And, while I can’t say I walked everywhere, I can say, I didn’t see any dog-poop on the ground.
It has a small bus-shelter type thing near the fence. A simple shelter, donated by a construction company in the community, that gives people a place to stand if it starts raining, or just to get a bit of protection from the wind.
It has a water cistern with a gravity spigot at the bottom, donated by another local company. No installing expensive plumbing, just a simple tank that probably gets topped up every week or two by the company that donated it.
It has a board with tennis rackets and a chuck-it hooked on to it. Items I’m assuming were donated, for the sole purpose of a bit more intense game of fetch.
I think one of the main differences between this amazing dog park and the parks I find in Toronto is that the dog-owning community is allowed – even encouraged – to help maintain the park. There is a donation box, and a dog park Association that finds contributors and helps maintain the park itself. It was so clearly designed by dog owners, for dog owners. It has sponsors to help in the maintenance, instead of relying solely on city money. It is purposely built and maintained, rather than being a side-note like so many GTA dog parks are.
I realise that I’m sounding very harsh on the parks in Toronto. Some of them are quite good (Cherry Beach and High Park, to name a few). The ones in my area (all new/newer construction) are… functional… “At least there is a dog-park” is about all I can say about them. The grass lasts for about a month out of the year, leaving it muddy and unpleasant the rest of the time, and there isn’t a stick of protection between you and the north pole during the winter. No shade in the summer, either.
Seeing the Quinte Dog Park confirmed – Toronto could do so much better. Hopefully the City will take the challenge.
I read the most amazing and hilarious story by The Single Cell , and it inspired me to reminisce about my own rodent experiences.
My mice were nowhere near as dramatic or diabolical as hers, nor did I vanquish them in quite so Tom-and-Jerry a manner. My mice were at my rental house in London, and I was living there alone at the time.
When I discovered the first mouse-chewed bag of rice, I was a bit concerned. I proceeded to move things around in the cupboard and realized just how truly screwed I was – it was like a tiny army of rodents had invaded my cupboard overnight, and chewed and pooped on everything. Bakers chocolate, potatoes, flour, Mr. Noodle, everything. They’d even nibbled on the labels on canned tuna. I had dreams for months that a mouse was crawling across my bed, or through my hair.
“This would never have happened if I had CATS!” I wailed to my mother over the phone. I seriously considered my neighbor’s offer (my neighbor at home… a 2.5 hr drive from my rental house) of a loan of her cats for a few months, to get rid of the mouse problem. I also seriously considered emptying out the animal shelter’s supply of adult cats.
My coworkers rallied and sent me home with a bag full of the cartoon-like snap traps. It was only minimally difficult to coat them in peanut butter and set them up and circle my kitchen with them – it only felt like I’d broken a finger when a trap snapped shut on me. I’m pretty sure that the trap I stepped on in my sleepy morning haze actually broke my pinky toe, though, but sacrifices must be made in the battle against the rodents.
I fell asleep in my bedroom, the head of my bed up against the shared wall between my room and the kitchen, secure in the belief that my mouse problem was over. My mouse-traps were lined up along this shared wall (but I hadn’t thought quite that far ahead), near the fridge which apparently had a colony of mice living behind it. Just like in the safety-first commercials, these mice would see the traps and see that I meant business, and they’d get the hell out of Dodge!
I awoke with a SNAP four nights in a row, as a mouse trap went off, seemingly directly underneath me. Nauseous and trembling at the idea of killing a living creature, I rolled over and attempted to sleep, only to lie awake in the darkness. The worst night, I awoke with another SNAP, but this one was followed by a scritching and scrabbling of tiny feet, mixed in with the awkward shuffling noise of a mouse-trap being dragged across the floor. Bolt upright, hugging my knees close, I waited and hoped for the noise to stop. It didn’t, and my overpowering guilt at making the mouse suffer pushed me to my feet and into the kitchen, to face the mouse. I cried, but I dealt with it. A much faster death by drowning than by painful starvation and broken leg.
The death SNAP occurred 6 times, only one of which failed to achieve death immediately. I felt like an evil murderer.
Paranoia at this awful experience led me to clean EVERYTHING. I spent an entire weekend with the entire contents of my kitchen including the drawers themselves spread out on the lawn until they could be thoroughly sanitized and put back in the house. Pasta, rice, flour, sugar, bakers chocolate, cereal… if it wasn’t in a can or already in a jar, it was put in a mason jar or jumbo-sized Tupperware for protection
My roommate thought I’d gone nuts when she came back at the end of the summer, but I think she was happy that I had chosen this brand of crazy, instead of the crazy-cat-lady alternative.
Roomie didn’t adjust well to the jarring of all our dry goods. Possibly because all of the jars looked alike except for what was in them.
I came home one day to find that she was making a roux (cream sauce) in order to have macaroni and cheese. As soon as I showed up, she began a tirade against Ontario and its strange and not-like-Calgary weather, as she stirred her little pot of (basically) flour and milk. What was wrong with Ontario’s weather? It must be the reason the roux wasn’t thickening at all. I suggested adding cheese, since maybe that would help thicken it up. With no knowledge of the roux-making process, I had no suggestions for her when the cheese did nothing but ball up into gross little globules in the milky substance that stayed perfectly watery.
She called her mother and began the tirade again. Her mother started grilling her about what ingredients she’d added, and it was at this point that I realized just what had gone wrong with the roux. She was picking up each ingredient she’d put in as she went over the recipe with her mother. Roomie explained how she had added the correct amount of flour from her mother’s recipe, but when the mixture hadn’t thickened she added more flour. She explained this while gesturing frustratedly with the mason-jar of powdered sugar. The unlabeled mason jar that I had assumed was quite obviously NOT flour, since the flour was in its original packaging, but tucked inside a big Tupperware container. Confectioner’s sugar is WHITE-white… a glowing incandescent near-blue white that in no way resembles the off-white beige colour of flour. And that’s not even considering the difference in texture. I made a clearly incorrect assumption that this difference was apparent to everyone.
Once we had that sorted out, and she made it clear that I was no longer invited to have macaroni and cheese, and that I was a crazy person, I went about labeling all of the mason-jars. I don’t think she appreciated my “chocolate chips” and “pasta” labels, but she never mistook the confectioners’ sugar for flour again.
Bike update: I went to a spin class last night, sweat like there’s no tomorrow (pretty gross, but my bike shorts were actually wet right through the padding), and signed up to do a boxing class tonight after a few hour long walk with Gwynn. From what I can tell, this gym might not actually have any kind of A/C… Which makes me grateful that I’m not going to be inside and doing these classes much longer – my 20 class pass expires on June 11! Before it ends, i’ll get a ‘before and after’ picture of my face… it is strange just how red my face goes with even the slightest bit of heat or exercise… and how that redness doesn’t stray past my jaw-line…