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.

Master Class – I woke up in bed with a man and a cat.

This week’s Master Class (follow the link to read the other submissions and submit your own) was the following line from a novel:

I love Robert Heinlein, so this quote really excited me – it’s Heinlein!  And, thankfully, it got me out of my lack-of-writing funk, because I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write something by him.

Criticism is always welcome.

Cats on unmade bed ... Re-edit...

I woke up in bed with a man and a cat.

Considering I hadn’t slept in a bed in at least six months, the violence of my previous close encounter with a man, the fact that the last cat I’d seen I had caught, killed and eaten, and my complete lack of memory pertaining to my arrival in this situation, I felt surprisingly contented.

He had an arm draped across my waist and his head nestled against my neck, breath tickling at my hairline.  His face was childlike in repose, and he stayed deeply asleep despite my own jerk to wakefulness.  I felt surprisingly safe in his arms, though I still preferred him unconscious.

The cat looked at me with distain, sitting primly upright on the man’s hip.

Last I remembered, I’d been drinking a tea of boiled pine needle and willow-bark, huddled miserably under the sodden boughs of an evergreen.  No fever, now.

Last I remembered, I was trying – and failing – to fight off the infection that would likely kill me, from the arrow wound in my shoulder.  No pain.

The cat minced its way to the bedside table and began to groom itself.  The man rolled closer, draping a leg across me and moving his hand up my side, and I judged that the usefulness of his being asleep was at an end.

I cleared my throat.

His eyes snapped open, feral and golden, and before I could think of something to say, he had me by the throat.  I kneed him in the groin and clawed at his face as my vision grew spotty.

Asleep, he’d been childlike.  Asleep, I hadn’t seen the mangled left side of his face, the clawmarks trailing from his forehead, catching at the corner of his eye and down to snag at the corner of his snarling mouth.

The pressure on my neck eased enough to allow me faint passage of air as he looked around.  He crouched, poised for action, casually gripping both my wrists to prevent me from further self-defense.

“What is this place?” he snapped, sweeping the room with his sharp gaze.

His breathing was rapid and shallow, like that of a wild animal cornered by hunters.  I saw my own death in his eyes.

The cat stepped into my field of vision, and, with a suicidal seeming lack of fear, burbled a chirruping meow and butted its head against the man’s chin.  He swore and jumped back in surprise, like he hadn’t seen the cat in his in-depth perusal of the room.

I sucked in a breath and scrambled weakly away to the relative safety of the other side of the bed.  My neck throbbed with each rasping breath I drew in.

When it seemed that he wasn’t about to do anything drastic, I relaxed slightly.

He glared at me and repeated his question.

“Hell if I know.”  I was feeling a bit hard-done-by and in no mood to answer the questions of psychopaths.

“How did I get here?”

The cat took the opportunity to sprawl playfully on its back and purr.  It was a she, with clear signs of past litters.  And equally clear scars marring the sleek black of her fur. Like some bird of prey had been keen on accessing her intestines.

I pulled at the shoulder of the loose-fitting and blissfully clean tunic I was wearing.  The wound I last remembered with angry red lines tracing away from it in the firelight – blood poisoning – was the pale pink of an old scar.  My turn for questions.  “How long ago did you get that scar on your face, Bucko?”

He touched his jaw gingerly, as though expecting to encounter something horrible.  Not finding what he expected, he dashed to the mirror and stood staring at his reflection, stroking at the scars and shaking his head in disbelief.

“I was hunting, and the bastard caught me by surprise.  Barely got out of it alive.  Don’t remember making it home.”

Unabashedly, he stripped off his own pristine white tunic.  His chest and left shoulder were lacerated with equally old scars.  Based on the claw marks at his stomach, I couldn’t see how he could have lived long enough to heal from those wounds.  Not with the loss of old-modern medicine.  He and the cat both looked to have been part of some creature’s meal-plan.

I took a few tentative steps towards the door-shape in the smooth wall, but darted back when it hissed open.

A short plump woman entered, pushing a wheeled table ahead of her.  She took in the scene with a pleased smile – me, crouched in one corner, him, half-naked and ready to attack in another.  The cat continued purring on the bed.

“Excellent, you’re awake.”

She turned to me and extended her hand, but before she could introduce herself, he had her in a headlock.  Without missing a beat, she stuck him in the arm with a small syringe and he dropped.

“Let’s try this again, shall we?  I’m Myra, and you have been saved. Welcome to ARK, the last bastion of pure life on earth.  Breakfast?”

I suppressed the growl of my stomach.  “How long have I been here?”

“Eighteen hours, dear.  And your mate’s been here nearly seventy – stomach wounds are a nasty business, even in the healing tanks. We scooped you up in the storm – it gave us enough cover to come in without alerting the mutant population to our presence.”

Mate?! My skin crawled but I kept my face neutral.

“Why save us?”

“Because you are a healthy and genetically pure female human with many fertile years left, and he is a genetically pure male human whose genes combined with yours will produce healthy, genetically pure offspring.”  She smiled in a deeply unsettling way as she said this.  “You will help true humanity begin again.”

I felt like screaming.

Thought and action were simultaneous, giving her no warning of my intention when I broke her neck.

I slapped the unconscious man hard in the face to no avail.  Feeling time trickling away, I grabbed the pitcher of water and upended it on him.

He awoke, spluttering, and I tossed his shirt at him.  “Come on, we’re getting out of here.”

“You killed her.  Why?”  I paused in stuffing the breakfast foods into a pillowcase, happy to see that he was riffling the drawers for useful tools.  Happier to see that there was warmer clothing than what we had on.

I sketched out what information she’d given me, and added, “No-one gets to take my freedom from me, and no one will ever rape me again.  Humanity be damned.”

He nodded, amusement in his eyes as he noticed the tight grip I had on the breakfast knife.  “I never did understand the purists, anyways – mutants are a-ok by me.  Damn, no shoes.  Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.  Grab the cat and let’s go.”

“Why bring the cat?”

I pictured the scars on her belly, wondered at her opinion about being kept in this cage.  I’d always been pragmatic about survival, and pets were a hindrance, but she was a survivor too.  All I said was, “Snack?”

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 —>

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.

IMG_20130208_062830

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.

The Runaround

Gwynn and I have been taking agility classes for the past few months.  Shocking, right?  I bet, based on my absenteeism in dog-post-land, you assumed I’d gotten rid of my furry buddy.  Considering how remiss I’ve been in posting at all, you could also make the judgement that I’ve also gone away.  Perhaps we both went ‘to the farm’.

We have been doing agility, though, and, if I do say so myself, we’ve been improving at it.  If any of you in the Toronto area are interested in doing some classes yourself, I highly recommend All About Dogs.  They also have doggy first aid classes, rally-o, disc-dog, flyball and other classes, which I’d bet are just as good as the agility.  They are all about training in steps, so that the final performance is how it should be.  They are also all about making sure the dogs are enjoying themselves.   Gwynn is in love with Renee.  She is a fluent speaker of Dog-ish, and can do amazing things when she takes one of the dogs in the class for a demo of an exercise.  I completely believe that the levels of training in dog agility are mostly for the owner.

Agility is a great way of continuing your dog’s obedience training in a fun way.  You might not be practicing anything very obviously command-like, but it’s in there.  I’m finding that our agility training is improving things so much outside of class for Gwynn and I.  He pays a lot more attention to me when he’s off-leash, his recall has improved drastically, and we are overall working better as a team.

I’m learning a lot about what my body language is telling Gwynn.  Very little of what I’m saying as we go through the course has any impact on what Gwynn is doing.  It’s my own fault in guiding him when, despite my enthusiastic shout of “Tunnel!”, he follows me along the outside of the tunnel.  In the same way, when I shout “Table” while directing him (properly)towards the tunnel, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he does the tunnel anyways.

Having a weekly class has also encouraged me to do more training at home (sorely lacking at times).  We’ve been working on our tricks as well, and Gwynn, I must say, is very enthusiastic in playing dead.  Not terribly good at acting… but definitely enthusiastic.  You’ve never seen someone fake-get-shot and fake-die with such a huge grin on his face until you’ve seen Gwynn do it.

My sister came with me to last week’s class, and videotaped some of our runs.  And then, with the magic of her Mac laptop, she fancied up her videos for your enjoyment.  I now have a Youtube channel.  Just understand that it might be under my email, but it was set up by my sister, who took the video, laughed most of her way through the filming of it, formatted the video and posted it on Youtube for me.  Pretty much the only thing I did was come up with an alternate name when it turned out the channel name “Gone for a Walk” was taken!

Check it out:

Footloose

I got Gwynn in the fall, at 6 months.  My neighbour, longtime dog owner, asked me if I would be getting Gwynn some boots for the winter.

I scoffed.  I proudly informed her that I would never dress my dog up in silly and unnecessary people-clothes.  He’s a dog.  I’m letting his hair grow long to keep him warm in the winter, and mid-October he was already deep into his transformation to wooly mammoth.  Wooly mammoths don’t need boots or hats or coats or vests.

You know what else wooly mammoths are?  55 lbs of dog whose feet are being burnt and cut by the massive amount of road salt my neighbourhood is coated with in winter.  55lbs of dog is A LOT to carry home, having made it 4 blocks before he refused to budge.  And in winter, my hands were unimpressed at their new use as de-icer of dog-paws.

I also discovered that the fur between his toes, no matter how I trimmed it, still collected clumps of snow until his toes were splayed painfully and a wad of ice was applying pressure to his palm.  Yet another painfully-cold hand-melting of puppy paws on the side of the road.

I ate my words.

The boots I bought him that first year were useless.  Within days of first purchase, the straps were fraying.  If I’d left them as they were headed, the boots would have been strapless by the end of the month.  Velcro, by the way, does NOT hold up to being covered in snow.  Nor does it work to re-velcro once there’s snow in the tines.  The leather sole to the boot also started coming unwound within a few uses – yet another sewing project for me.  The damn things didn’t stay on at all well, either – they flew off no matter how well I’d snugged them on his feet.

Uninformed about other types of boots (unwilling to just refund/exchange the damaged boots every few weeks), I stuck with them, adding snaps, sewing repairs and turning them into frankenboots that still… really didn’t stay on adequately.  We ended up using hockey tape at the ankle every time we went out skiing.  We still played the 1-2-3-4 game, and I carried spare hockey tape in my pocket.

Last year, I contacted RuffWear and asked if they’d be interested in a review of their Polar Trex boot.  It looked like it already had a lot of the things I’d added to the frankenboots, without any handiwork on my part.  I’d read some good reviews of their other projects by You did What with your Weiner, so I had hopes that this product might also be good.  They were nice enough to send me a set.

It was fate – that (and my own purchase of new Sorels) would explain why Toronto’s winter last year consisted of a low of just about freezing, no snow, no de-icing salts and a whole heck of a lot of rain.

This year, however, do I got a tale to tell!  We had snow for a little while, we’ve had some bloody cold temperatures, and my neighbours are putting salt down like it holds the key to spring arriving on time.

Gwynn and I have finally had a chance to give these boots a thorough workout, and I’m ready to give you all my honest opinion of them.  I’ll be posting that this week, so stay tuned!

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.

Feb2011 350

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.

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?!!!

Gone Campin’

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.

It might just be one of the most wonderful things… to be greeted with such absolute love and happiness.

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.

Fiddling with colours…

… and artistic 🙂

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.

I’m kind of in love with her camera’s selective colour options

K & S … Doodle had to work on Sunday, unfortunately, so she missed out on hiking shenanigans

Gwynn found some puddles after all that rain

He’s very good at recall lately, and we practice a lot… still, on trails in this kind of woodland, I let him drag the long-line for short stretches, and call him back often.

We had a great trip, even with the rain.  Less fun… the trip home.

two lane undivided highway + Sunday afternoon cottage traffic + an accident closing the southbound lane = usually 4 hour drive extended to nearly 7… shoot me now.

a better picture to leave you with… sometimes Gwynn chickens out after he gets up on the rocks. Or his ‘getting up’ point is too close to a very long drop for my sanity.