I’ve been reading a book entitled 1982 by Jian Ghomeshi, current host of the brilliant CBC Radio show Q and former drummer of Moxy Früvous. Now there is an obscure Canadian reference. It is an odd sort of memoir, written in a simple style that is deceptive and funny. I spotted it in a Canada Day e-book sale and was attracted by the title, the year I was born.
Ghomeshi’s early life is somehow compelling, in spite of the fact it wasn’t that different from many other young lives in Southern Ontario at the time. Indeed he was of Iranian descent, which is still not easy in this era, let alone so soon after the Islamic Revolution. Regardless, he was from a family of moderate wealth and had access to all the privileges this entailed. This is a new country, by all counts. Ghomeshi may have been the only immigrant kid with Iranian parents in his neighbourhood, but he wasn’t the only immigrant kid. I say this not to take away from his experiences or any hardships he endured, only to showcase the point that it isn’t necessary to survive kidnappings in Somalia or take off on solo journeys around the world in kayaks to write books worth reading.
It is something I am happy to learn.
I haven’t finished the book. I am taking my time. I am enjoying all of the tributes to songs and bands I’d forgotten. The author’s teenage obsession with Bowie makes me smile and I almost wish I’d been old enough back then to appreciate the genius as it was emerging. Bowie and Rush and Talking Heads and Depeche Mode. These were all late discoveries for me. I also spent my childhood in a suburb outside of Toronto so there is that familiarity as well. As Ghomeshi was rediscovering the universe at the Police Picnic, I was an infant camping with my parents only an hour or so away. It’s kind of cool to read about things you know.
This is also something I am happy to learn.
I’ve lost my original train of thought. I think this post was supposed to be about theme songs. JIan Ghomesh’s theme song was “Under Pressure” and we have already decided Shiva’s theme song is “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett.* I was going to write about what I think my theme song should be. Oh well. Maybe another day.
What are you reading right now?
*Oddly, Jian Ghomeshi and Joan Jett are linked in a strange but fascinating way. You’ll have to read the book to learn how.
I hope you will forgive me tonight. I am obligated to write and I have so many things swirling that need to be said, that should be said, no, screamed, so that everyone can hear and appreciate. Yet, I am too sad, too in the moment to make them clear enough for anyone to understand. Is there a point in talking to the void without expectation of being known?
It is possible, if only for its therapeutic potential.
My good friend said goodbye to a family member today. It was as hard as it would be. There is no other way to experience it but to expect the ugly and know that it is the only way. It sucks. It isn’t fair. I wish I could make it better. Nothing can make it better.
I had other things to say tonight. Words kindling beauty and promise and, hopefully, humour. There is a time for these things. It might even be now. If I were a better writer I could share them. Alas, I am flailing. I don’t have it in me to come up with anything appropriate. All I can do is look to tomorrow. It won’t be better but it might be easier.
The writer of this week’s poem wanted me to be clear that he wrote it in less than fifteen minutes, hence the title. He gave me permission to share it, though it took some convincing. Despite his somewhat over-confidence in all other aspects of his life, in this area it seems he is dubious of his talents. I think he is wrong and am certain you will enjoy this piece as much as I do.
In all sincerity, this may be my favourite yet. There are no fancy allegories or obscure references. It features only the simple experiences of a human and a dog. This is the kind of verse I can get behind.
Due to the poet’s reticence, I am using an approved pseudonym.
A Fifteen Minute Poem, by SabirWulf
The daily routine of coming home to a mutt
I sprint up the stairs, to let you out of your hut
Free of the crate, you run down the stair case
You have to beat me down there, like it’s some kind of race
I see you waiting, hiding behind the chair
The wagging tail over the armrest let me know you were there
You pounce towards me, mouth open in a grin
You want to tug and wrestle, this time you may finally win
The crazies soon dwindle, you are just glad that I am here
“never leave me again” you pleas “ it is my only fear”
Other than water, lawn mowers and the occasional gnome
And the stretched use of words to rhyme, in a quickly written poem
The running is done, it is time to lay near me
Tightly locked in place, despite finally being free
Some ear scratches, you want nothing more than that
Except, oh wait, I think you saw the cat
You leaps up once again, in play and in joy
He’s cute and he’s orange, and he’s your favourite toy
Until he fights back, you don’t understand that game
But even if it hurts, you want to play all the same
“I wish I wasn’t home by myself through the whole day,
But I know you have to go, at least that’s what you say.
Our daily routine, I cannot wait until when
You get home tomorrow, and we can do it all again.”
Is there a dog-related poem you enjoy? If so, I’d love to read and share it here.
Today was not my typical Saturday. I haven’t done any reading, nor have I indulged in a single nap. Instead, I faced two fears and am still coherent enough to write something. I think that warrants a celebration, don’t you?
Fear number one was a task I put off for a long time. In many ways, it felt of Herculean proportions. But it had to be done for the sake of future joy. After great procrastination I forced a smile on my face and went to the mall to find a new bathing suit.
Ugh. It was every bit as awful as expected. I didn’t used to hate shopping. I also used to be thinner. There was once a time, not too many years ago, where searching for something to wear to the pool or beach was enjoyable. Back then, I expected to find something I liked, even if cost more than I wanted to pay. Back then, I was an optimistic idiot who weighed a certain amount of pounds less.
I know. It’s hypocritical of me to complain about my dissatisfaction with my body. Everyone knows how I don’t believe in dieting, how much I despise the weight loss industry, and has been annoyed with my lecturing about health at every size. But I am as susceptible to the beauty complex as much as any other woman. All my logic and well-reasoned arguments zip away when I am faced with struggling into a bathing suit that is too small, in a size that used to fit perfectly.
I tried to tell myself all of the things I would say to a friend. It is just a number, every style fits differently, it’s okay to not weigh the same at thirty-two as you did at twenty-two. They kind of worked. I was able to drag myself through the stores and I did find something that was almost comfortable. It wasn’t fun. There was no giggling with friends or posing in the mirror. Other than a panicked selfie I sent to a friend for confirmation I wasn’t going to terrify children, It was a solo experience. It was better that way.
The water slides tomorrow better be the best water slides in the world.
The second fear I faced was good old stranger danger. As if the trauma of the dressing room wasn’t horrifying enough, I then had to attend my PH’s company barbeque.* If it was a large crowd, I would have been fine. With groups of thirty or more it is easy to blend in, find a spot on the peripheral and people watch. If it was a tiny circle, I would have been fine. I can handle people I don’t know in more intimate gatherings of up to six. It’s groups between 7 and 20 that intimidate the crap out of me.
This was a group of twelve. Terrifying. My shyness kicked in right away and all I wanted to do was disappear into a corner. Unfortunately, one can’t do that in such a small crowd. People notice when certain people aren’t talking and will call them on it. And when they call them on it, the whole group usually turns to stare at said quiet people, waiting for them to stammer out an excuse of why they aren’t as verbose as everyone else. It’s a brilliant time all around.
Somehow, I made it through the pre-dinner drinks and chitchat and all the way through a somewhat awkward meal. It helped that my not-shy but introverted PH was there. At least I wasn’t anti-social all by myself.
At the end of it all, I rewarded myself with my very favourite Saturday activity. No, I don’t mean beer at the pub, although that is close. When we got home, exhausted after interacting with so many strangers, the first thing I did was go for a walk with the Sheevs. It reminded me that no matter how frightening the world can be, as long as I have a dog to walk, I can handle anything.
*By the way, why is it spelled barbecue in the U.S. when Americans also use the abbreviation BBQ? It’s an oddity.
He hated reruns. It is why he knew it would never work out between them. Their temperaments were too different. He craved new sounds, new hills, new smells. Television didn’t provide any of that. He was a creature who needed to be moving, blasting the next challenge. She held him in place when he was driven to push on. Staying was impossible. But how could he leave?
She loved reruns. It is why she believed it had to work out between them. Familiarity brought her immense comfort. It was bad enough she had to face the capriciousness of the twists outside her front door. When at home, she felt the need to remain still, surrounded by the recognizable and next to him. He was the necessary companion, the hinge that kept her tied. How could she let him leave?
It is apparent I am now immune dog poop. I must be. Every now and then I will end up with some on my hands or on my shoe or on other things that are connected to my body. This used to be revolting. I would run home as fast as I could to wash said item at least three times. But today when a smidge somehow ended up on my hand (I blame the distracting group of cyclists)? I shrugged, wiped my hand on some bark and grass, and then continued on my way, at least thirty minutes from home. Huh. Want to know something really gross? We have been using the same leash for over five years and have never washed it. Not once.
Look familiar? This leash gets around!
Is that bad? I assume it’s bad. It would be bad if it was any other item I touched every day for that long. You must be repulsed by me and my doggy grime. But I can reform! After this evening’s “incident” I realized it was time this nylon rope had a bath. Only, I had no idea where to begin. It’s not like I could put it in the washing machine. Right? Nothing for it but the sink. Is this normal? After I’d scrubbed it as best I could with as much hot water as I could, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a better way. Once it was as clean as I felt like getting it, I realized I hadn’t considered the drying process. Surely the metal would damage our electric appliances. I don’t own a hair dryer any more – long story – so that wasn’t an option either. I guess one doesn’t live in the driest province of Canada for nothing!
Hurrah for good old Albertan summer sunshine. I am willing to bet it will be dry before I go to bed tonight.
But is there a more sanitary method? Are there people out there with tried and true leash cleaning skills? I’d love to hear any tips you have to share. You’ve got time, of course. It might be another five years before I get to it again.
A mere ten days in to this 100 Days Project and I feel like I have run a marathon. I have gone from elation at the start of something new to feelings of uselessness, stubbornness, and ultimately insecurity. I will see this through. It’s one hundred words. Even I can manage that. What I am not certain of is what my mental state will look like by the end.
I need to start carrying my camera with me on walks again. Somehow I got out of the habit and my stash is getting low. I’ve never been a skilled photographer and am too lazy to learn. In spite of this, even the most dull picture of my dog can inspire a couple of sentences.
Not that there is such a thing as a dull photo of Shiva. I mean, really.
I’ve been reading about writing again, which is at once motivating and depressing. This article from the Atlantic encapsulates this for me. One writer will say how hard the craft is and then the next will tell me that I am a fool for thinking I could ever learn to be better. Writing prompts are a challenge. I am always disappointed with my results. It might be because I take them at their word instead of seeking my interpretation. Giving myself more space to experiment sounds like a solid concept in theory. It’s just too bad none of it is worth the time it took me to type.
This is what this project is all about, I can’t forget. 100 Days of slogging through in the hope of saying something worthwhile amidst all the rambled mash. It is to teach myself how to say what I mean, how to match the words on the page with the circling thoughts inside. It is possible at the end I will be no further ahead than I am now. This is the risk I take.
I know you are doing the best you can with the resources you have. In all fairness, you don’t know any better. You have a dog but you put no effort toward learning how that dog lives and behaves and interacts with the human environment. You are lucky, however, as your dog was born more gentle, more forgiving, and more tolerant than many dogs. I don’t blame your dog, please know this. It is never, ever the dog’s fault. The only one who should bear any guilt is you.
You are the owner who brags about never having to use a leash and then exclaims “she never does that!” when your dog tears across the street after another dog.
You are the owner talking on his cell phone at the dog park, not caring when your dog’s overly friendly actions cause distress to others.
You are the owner who gives me a blank look when I ask you to please get a hold of your dog as my dog and I pass in an on-leash park.
You are the owner who cries how his dog was abused as a justification for her asshole behaviour.
You are the owner who never scoops and then complains when my dog marks on a tree on the public boulevard in front of your house.
You are the owner who walks multiple dogs on extendable leashes and blasts my dog for riling them up from the other side of the street.
You are the owner who ignores my warning that my dog is not keen on strange dogs lunging in her face, and then flips out at me when she growls.
You are the owner who alpha rolls instead of trying to understand the reason behind your dog’s actions.
You are the owner who relies on tools to do your work for you but don’t bother to learn how to use them properly.
You are the owner with the electric fence and the broken chain and the over-used crate.
You are the owner taking pictures of your children climbing on your dog’s back and chasing him with sticks.
You are the owner who demands that all dogs be friendly to everyone at all times but is too lazy to train her own dog.
You are the owner who euthanizes without asking questions when her dog snaps at a child.
You are the owner with the miniature labradoodle on television, demanding the reinstatement of BSL, asking why anyone would want to own “those dogs”.
You are the owner who dominates rather than builds a relationship.
You are the owner who blames everyone else.
You are the owner who rants about the boxer-pit bull-malamute “or whatever it was” and how it should be banned from your city just because one dog who kind of looked like that breed hurt another dog.
You are the owner who doesn’t love dogs, not really. If you did, you would spend more time learning and training. If you did, you would put your dog ahead of your ego. If you did, you would learn the local by-laws and do your best to keep all dogs safe. Most of you might love your own dogs. I will give you that. But not enough, not the way responsible owners do.
You are the owner who views her dog as a status symbol, who spends a lot of money on grooming and outfits or spike collars to make her look tough but almost no time.
You are small in number yet your presence is felt on every street. The responsible owners know how to avoid you but you have a way of ruining the happiest of strolls. You are impossible to ignore. You are the reason the laws exist yet you never follow them.
I know you won’t listen to me, even if you read this. I am under no illusion. You don’t listen when I ask you nicely to re-leash your dog on the side of the road so you aren’t going to take a blog post by a stranger to heart. Besides, you don’t think I am talking about you.
I am not writing this because I am expecting anything to change. You don’t care what I think and you certainly don’t care about my dog’s discomfort with your dog’s behaviour.
All I ask is that you stop blaming the dog. All I want is to prevent the harmful notion of BSL from hurting the good dogs and good people of this good city. I worry your ignorance will lead to something that will only make the situation worse. Blaming dogs instead of the real culprits solves nothing. It doesn’t prevent your miniature cockadoodle from getting attacked. All it does is spread a culture of fear toward dogs who were unlucky enough to have owners like you.
Please stop. Stop going to the media. We all know they smile with glee every time a canine incident is reported. Stop feeding that machine. Stop using the term “pit bull” as a synonym for “dangerous.” I assure you, the two are mutually exclusive.
If you stop blaming dogs for their ignorant owner’s mistakes, I will stop glaring at you when your Siberian labra-chug tries to hump my dog.
Well, I will try, anyway.
Kristine Tonks, lover of all dogs, including Hungarian cocker-jacks.
When I have looked for poems to share online, I have done my best to find ones with a positive theme. This search has not been an easy one. For understandable reasons, the world of verse is rife with heart-wrenching odes to canine companions. Most of them I can’t even get beyond the first stanza without weeping. Because I know all of my kind readers are susceptible to this same emotion, I have steered clear.
I make an exception today. Be warned.
This poem was sent to me by my practically mother-in-law. I have mourned at least one dog with her in spirit and so it rings a personal note. It is simple and earnest and true. It ends with the hopeful belief we all have of meeting our friends again. Bittersweet, I guess, or as I called it as a child “happy-sad.”
As I share it, I can’t help but think of the dogs the Petosphere has lost. The Calis, and the Bellas, and the Blueberrys. I never got to meet them in person but their absence remains ripe. This grief is a lucky thing, I think. It would be far worse to never have witnessed their brilliant spirits at all.
I stood by your bed last night, I came to have a peep.
I could see that you were crying, You found it hard to sleep.
I whined to you softly as you brushed away a tear,
“It’s me, I haven’t left you, I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”
I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea,
You were thinking of the many times, your hands reached down to me.
I was with you at the shops today, Your arms were getting sore.
I longed to take your parcels, I wish I could do more.
I was with you at my grave today, You tend it with such care.
I want to re-assure you, that I’m not lying there.
I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key.
I gently put my paw on you, I smiled and said ” it’s me.”
You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair.
I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.
It’s possible for me, to be so near you everyday.
To say to you with certainty, “I never went away.”
You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew…
In the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.
The day is over… I smile and watch you yawning
and say “good-night, God bless, I’ll see you in the morning.”
And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide,
I’ll rush across to greet you and we’ll stand, side by side.
I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see.
Be patient, live your journey out…then come home to be with me.
Author ~ unknown
My biggest regret for a long time was not taking a break between university semesters to travel. The idea did occur to me at the time to take some time off to visit Europe, like many of the people I had read about in teenage novels. None of my friends were into it, however. We were all studious to a fault. School first, fun later. As if there was some sort of race to see who could pile up the most degrees in the shortest amount of time. It was always a competition. I did have one acquaintance who took a solo trip to Australia in the middle of our second year. My best friend thought he was just lazy. We all doubted he would return.
So, I didn’t go anywhere. I promised myself I would as soon as I graduated. Of course I didn’t. The opportunities were there. I passed them over in favour of working at a hotel stacking chairs. Too much fear to go it alone, I guess.
In later years my biggest regret was not recognizing my passion for all things canine. If only I had spent more time with my childhood dog, maybe I would have realized this love sooner, maybe I would have studied something more useful in school than the Decembrist revolt, and maybe I would have found a career of which I could be proud. So much time wasted writing papers on ancient Roman medicine, so much time lost.
Regret is useless, we all know. If I hadn’t worked at the hotel, I wouldn’t have met my PH. If I hadn’t chosen Bismarck over my Siberian husky at home, I probably wouldn’t have met Shiva. A Kristine without a Shiva is a very sad thing indeed. Now I am glad I didn’t do those things, though the wistfulness remains when I look back.
I am not sure what my biggest regret is right now. I hope this doesn’t mean I am in the midst of making the mistakes I will later rue. I regret when I abandon myself or when I ignore my own desires for the sake of doing things I think will make others happy. I regret turning down chances for joy due to fear of judgment from others. More and more I am learning how to be okay with being myself; less and less do these regrets niggle. Maybe one day I’ll even give myself that European backpacking trip.
On the other hand, I am thirty-two years old. If I do make it there, I will be staying in hotels.