Archive of ‘Bits and pieces’ category

Dog Songs, Russian Novelists, and Memoir

I have always revelled in a well-told story. Many of my especial childhood memories are of burrowing under a comforter while my father or mother, most often the former, read aloud. The best books were those featuring characters I understood. Sure and I enjoyed fairy tales and books with animals doing people-like things, but the best ones illustrated young girls and boys in my own time, exploring a world to which I could relate. Dragons, talking geese, and princesses in castles could only be so interesting. It was much easier to tuck into a realm that resembled my own. Settings were important. Good, well-rounded characters were vital.

My reading choices haven’t changed very much. I still prefer reality to imaginary, biography to novel. The best writers, for me, are those who are capable of making me feel. It doesn’t matter if the location is fourteenth century Spain or modern day Toronto, if the characters don’t have honest flaws and tangible exertion, I am lost. I don’t have to relate. I do have to understand. In this way, science fiction and fantasy don’t make it to my night stand very often. Dystopia, travelogues, and history do.

Reading can be an escape. It is also a chance to learn and to challenge myself. There is great value in struggle. It took me a year to finish Ulysses and I am afraid it will take me longer to finish The Sound and the Fury. But I will feel so much better for having made the accomplishment. Some people want to climb mountains or run marathons, I want to work my way to Proust.

However, as much as I gain from toiling through books thicker than my thigh, when I read for pleasure, I mostly read memoir. I like to connect with other people who have experienced things I never will. Memoir is a glimpse into another life, another way of thinking. The stories are authentic, told by real people who felt compelled to share them. The first memoir I read was Amy Tan’s Opposite of Fate. I picked it up because I had enjoyed several of her novels and I’d always wanted to know how closely her terrifically flawed characters resembled her own life. I wasn’t disappointed. Not only did the book help me enjoy Ms. Tan’s fictional work even more, but it introduced me to a genre that has provided me with much larger benefits than simple entertainment.

Memoir taught me that the best writers are those who make themselves vulnerable, who can show the reader, through the stories they reveal, what makes them cry.

Yesterday I picked up a book of poetry for the first time in many years. The poetry section in my personal library maxes out at three. I allow the works of Homer in this count. I assumed I didn’t like it. I don’t enjoy long descriptions of flowers or mountains or Grecian urns. I don’t want to waste the little time I have interpreting Milton when I could be snuggling with Zamyatin.

Spare me. Please.

Despite this lifelong horror of verse, when I found a volume entitled Dog Songs, I couldn’t resist. I guess it makes sense that the first poem I read in over a year has to do with canines – what else? It helped that Mary Oliver’s collection isn’t very long. Accompanying the poems are sunny sketches of the dogs she recollects. I don’t know if the pictures made all the difference, made the words more visible, however, once I began reading I couldn’t stop. Within too short a period I was finished and longing for more.

The poems didn’t feel like poems. They were written in poetic style and given the author’s impressive credentials, including a Pulitzer Prize, I am certain they are of brilliant poetic quality. To me, they read more like stories. Almost, like poetic memoir.

It is possible I have been wrong about poetry all this time. Though there are many poems that are just one long ramble about the beauty of the stars, I have been shown, by a fellow dog lover, that poetry can also tell intense personal stories. Bursts of real life in verse form. By the end, I felt I understood the author. I know she had a hound named Benjamin who ate field mice and she later formed a treasured bond with Percy of the curly white fur. Her grief was ripe when she shared his passing. Through her words, I gained a sense of personal struggles and drastic change. Though Mary Oliver has lead a life far different from mine, I related to her joy in dogs off-leash and her worries when her friends drifted far. I learned what made her cry.

I don’t see myself ever writing poetry, you can sigh in relief. I would have to spend years reading it to ever get up the nerve to try and, as we have learned, I still haven’t finished Faulkner. Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs has inspired me in other ways, reminded me there is more than one way to be vulnerable.

I hope after all these years I have given you an idea of who I am, other than just Shiva’s exhausted owner. Not that this is a terrible way to define myself. I do hope you have been able to relate in some way, that I have made myself open and that I have helped you do the same.

Because I am not sure how to close, I am going to end with a quote from Oliver’s “Percy Wakes Me” because I think it is apt. It is my goal to one day describe this blog in a similar way.

This is a poem about Percy.
This is a poem about more than Percy.
Think about it.

Pawprints in the Snow

One of my favourite things about early morning walks in the snow are the signs of wild animals I spot everywhere. Before the bootprints of other humans, or the tell-tale marks of pet dogs, have trod all over the white canvas, it is easy to pick up the more unusual traces of more exotic species. It also shows me a little bit of the reason behind Shiva’s sniffing madness. No wonder she can’t resist the seduction of the hideaway under the branches, when so many animals call it home.

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Most of the tracks are easy to decipher. Squirrels, mice, and birds make up the majority of pawprints in the snow. The rabbits are even simpler to detect, with their larger hind legs and their funny hop. That doesn’t make these smaller animals less fun to track. I take great joy in following a bunny trail, hoping if we can just go far enough, we will find a utopian burrow. Our own Watership Down. 

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There is a certain part of the forest in the river valley that I love to visit the most after a recent snow fall. It could be wishful thinking, but every time Shiva and I visit there – as long as we make it before everyone else – I see small, canine-like prints scattered along the side of the path and leading up a hill. There are no human tracks around these footfalls, so I know they can’t be made by an off-leash dog. I like to believe there is a fox den nearby and dream of catching sight of one eventually, if we are quiet enough.

fox

Alas, I am sure whatever animal is creating these tracks would run off long before we entered the area. For all I know the prints are those of someone’s cat or a small dog that has strayed too far. But I like to believe in the secrets of a fox den. It makes me smile to think such special creatures could be living near my front yard.

Every once in a while I will come across prints that I can’t interpret. In all my years of dog walking, I have seen raccoon and porcupine and coyote, I know all of the above roam freely in the ravine of our city. But these tracks that Shiva found recently don’t match those of which I have become familiar. I can’t determine what they are or even make a solid guess. This is a northern city with northern animals, I assumed I had seen them all. But I still have yet to even come up with the possible perpetrator of the below prints.

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I wish my photographs were better. They had to be snapped quickly as there were joggers on the path behind us and Shiva was giving them the evil eye. But the toes looked long and there weren’t the normal pad marks from dog paws.

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Perhaps I am wrong and they are canine, maybe a dog with more fur which would not necessarily show in the snow. But I haven’t come across anything like these tracks before and I am curious. I haven’t seen anything like them again, either.

What do you think they could be? Do you enjoy following animal trails as much as we do?

Blackberry Purgatory: A Real Thing in the World

My mobile phone is in the midst of an identity crisis. It sounds like a joke but I couldn’t be more serious. It is stuck in cellular purgatory. Not quite a Blackberry, not quite an Android, it doesn’t know where it belongs. Half the time, it doesn’t even know it is a phone. Frankly, it is a mess. I don’t know how much longer we can co-exist.

It used to be so cool. When we first met, I felt proud to have it in my pocket. We were pals. I loved to talk up its full keyboard with its wicked email functionality. And if you have never used Blackberry Messenger, you are missing out on one of the smoothest communication systems ever implemented on a smart phone. The messaging system of a generation. And the emoticons? Don’t even get me started.

Alas, due to extenuating circumstances, we are going to have to part ways. It isn’t something I ever foresaw. Despite all of the naysayers, I have been true to my dear little phone. Applications and photography meant nothing to me. I didn’t flinch when friends went the way of Instagram and Evernote. Loyalty, that is what mattered to me. They could keep their Angry Birds and their high-speed Internet. My Blackberry and I were just fine with our app-less realm filled with blurry photos.

But, something unfortunate occurred and I was forced to make a difficult decision: my camera lost its zoom. And I mean this quite literally. The zoom button on my camera is broken. Thus, all of my photos require serious editing before they can be published online. Otherwise they look like this:

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Do you know what the subject of the above photo was supposed to be? Me neither. Anymore. Ugh. Pretty unforgivable for a blogger who spends the majority of her time posting pictures of her dog.

So maybe zoom isn't as big of an issue as my impatience and utter lack of skill. Whatevs.

So maybe zoom isn’t as big of an issue as my impatience and utter lack of skill. Whatevs.

Something had to be done. As much as it pained me, and it hurt a lot, I knew I had to make a change. The world cannot be deprived of Shiva photos. It is my sworn duty, after all. It has gotten to the point that I either spend money on a new camera or upgrade my cellular plan. A greater dilemma one has never faced.

I loved my little black phone. It was the first mobile device to give me access to email on the fly. We had a great time together, chuckling over Facebook feeds, making snarky remarks on Twitter. Unlike all of my other phones, this one understood me. It knew my distaste for personal calls and responded by having almost no calling ability whatsoever. Never once did it make me feel guilty for not answering a ring. Never once did it store a voicemail message for me not to return later. In gratitude, the only time I forced it to make a call was in the midst of a dire emergency. Even then, I made sure to keep it under a minute. I could always tell when my phone was overwhelmed by the heat in my palm. I will miss that heat. We were united in our anti-social inclinations. It never expected me to be who I wasn’t. I never demanded anything more than it was capable of providing.

This isn’t to say our relationship was perfect. There were times I took my phone for granted, neglecting it enough so as to let it fall in a puddle. Unforgivable, I know. But did it forsake me? Perish the thought! As soon as I realized my mistake and gave my phone it’s due, all was well again. My phone never held a grudge.

Sadly, things changed. My wireless company was displeased with the lack of modernization within my account. They told me I could not update my phone number from a Nova Scotia line unless I upgraded my calling plan. They didn’t understand the link between my phone and I. They especially didn’t understand my lack of calling features. They wanted to separate us forever.

For a long time, I refused. Faithful to my stocky pal, I weathered their threats and clung to the past. They couldn’t make me change. I would never let go! They would have to pry my Blackberry from my cold, dead hands.

And then my camera lost its zoom and my priorities shifted. With a new job forcing me to hustle from one meeting to the next, having a phone that could be used as a phone started to make more and more sense. I couldn’t keep paying long distance charges every time I needed to call a taxi. It was time to say goodbye.

Now, as I wait for my new phone to arrive, scared to discover uncharted land, my Blackberry isn’t what it used to be. It has forgotten how to and has all but lost connection to the outside world. The only communication we have these days is via text message. It just isn’t the same. It knows the end is coming. I wish there was something I could do to ease its transition to the next world. I wish I knew what to say or how to prepare.

The thing is, I am not as afraid as I expected I would be. The time has come to discover my next mobile relationship. It won’t be the same, it couldn’t be. I will never forget my Blackberry. It was my first glimpse of a new technological world, my first real experience of mobile freedom, of breaking out on my own without being tied down by cords and dying laptop batteries. Nevertheless, if there is anything this week has taught me, as I say farewell to my fading smart phone, it is that I am nothing if not resilient. Just as I learned how to type on my Blackberry’s keyboard, I will conquer the touch screen. I am ready to move on.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll even set up my voice mail this time. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Email Symbiosis

This will be my ninth holiday season with my PH. It’s a bit wild to realize that. Back then, I never thought we would last. I never intended for us to, frankly. I had just finished university and was contemplating world domination, or running off to work on a cruise ship, or teaching English in Thailand. The world was supposed to be at my feet. That’s what I told myself at the time. I was free of responsibilities! It was time to buy a Eurail pass and find adventure. Somehow, I ended up sticking around, hanging out with friends and working out my quarter-century crisis by hauling banquet tables. Call it cowardice or laziness or – gag me – love, yet I didn’t leave. Thus, almost ten years later, after numerous life changes for the both of us, my PH and I are still together.

Huh.

As gobsmacking as this would have been to my twenty-two-year-old self, I have no regrets. Sure, I still haven’t been to Thailand, but  I get to live with my best friend and receive emails like this:

From: ***************
Subject: coming clean
To: “Kristine Tonks”

Just in case you hear any rumours, I thought I should tell you first.

I currently have a female in my office.

She is about 110 pounds, beautiful hair, affectionate and, well, naked.

 I love bernese mountain dogs. :-)

From: Kristine Tonks
Subject: coming clean
To: ******

Awwwww! No fair! Who does she belong to?

It’s okay if you leave me for a Berner. I would understand. ;-)

From: ***************
Date: Fri, Dec 13, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Subject: coming clean
To: “Kristine Tonks”

LOL.

It is my co-worker’s nephew’s dog. He couldn’t leave her home today so he had to bring her in. He left shortly after and has been gone all day. Sora is mine now, regardless of what my co-worker thinks.

From: Kristine Tonks
Subject: coming clean
To: ******

So jealous. I want a puppy in my office.

From: ***************
Subject: coming clean
To: “Kristine Tonks”

Damn I shouldn’t have said anything, he just came to get the dog.

Sigh.

From: Kristine Tonks
Subject: coming clean
To: ******

Why? Doesn’t he know true love when he sees it? So cold.

Did you get pictures to remember her by?

From: ***************
Subject: coming clean
To: “Kristine Tonks”

Sadly no.

I thought I had more time, I guess you never know…….

From: Kristine Tonks
Subject: coming clean
To: ******

Star-crossed lovers. A truly tragic tale. I hope you see her again one day.

We’ve grown together, my PH and I. I will never be a believer in love at first sight or any of that artificial hyper-romantic humbug. At the same time, it is hard not to wonder if some relationships are just meant to be.

Learning How to Be Grateful: One Old Paystub at a Time

Today didn’t have the greatest beginnings. The pants I planned on wearing had a rip in them but I had to wear them anyway and hope nobody noticed because no other pairs were clean. Also, I haven’t purchased a new item of clothing in over two years and I am running low on options. Shiva spent forty-two minutes of our forty-five minute walk sniffing a single clump of snow so I didn’t get the exercise that usually helps me face the day. I was worried about a friend who had to face a pretty scary job interview and my leftover spaghetti lunch spilled out of the container and into my tote bag.

Gripe, gripe, gripe, gripe.

As it is the American Thanksgiving and as I missed out on writing my annual Canadian Thanksgiving post due to indolence, I wanted to take some time today to share my overdue gratitude. Apparently, though, all I can think of right now are the ways things didn’t go right, instead of the countless ways they did.

I mean, my cat and my dog actually shared the same chair! This should thrill me for at least a month!

I mean, my cat and my dog actually shared the same chair! This should thrill me for at least a month!

Which, really, is a general problem of the human brain and the purpose of this day in the first place. Why do we seem to ignore the millions of things that go well, in favour of fixating on the few things that go less well? If there is anyone out there who knows the answer to this, please provide me with the link to your blog yesterday.

Each year I tell myself I am going to cultivate a daily practice of gratitude. Each year I do nothing. I get stuck in the medium, pondering the best way to go about expressing my thankfulness as opposed to just expressing it. Missing the point seems to be a habit with me.

Last January I found this great idea on Pinterest – as one does – that suggested creating a gratitude jar. The image iself was beautiful. A lovely glass vessel decorated with gleaming ribbon and filled with little white notes neatly clipped. It seemed so simple and yet so special. The initial concept was that at the end of year, or in the midst of a particularly rough day, I would pull out the hand-written thoughts and remember how much good there is in the world. It was a brilliant idea, a genuis idea! I instantly fell in love.

But I didn’t budge an inch. Instead I obsessed with finding the right jar and then determined I would never create anything as pretty as what I saw online, deciding to just give up completely. It was too much work. I’ll do it next year. Maybe.

Who can compete with this?

Who can compete with this?

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So here I am. December is a sleep or two away and I have done nothing but bitch for eleven months. Again.

It’s ridiculous because the thing is, I have a million things for which I am grateful. The point of the jar isn’t to make something that looks appealing in a photograph. The point is to dedicate a bit of time to feeling positive about my life. It doesn’t matter if it goes in a glass decanter covered in unicorns and sparkles, it only matters if I sit down to acknowledge how lucky I am. There doesn’t even need to be a jar! I can use a shoebox or an old pot or a grocery bag!

Because as much as I complain I am grateful. I am grateful I even have all three of the aforementioned things around to use! The box means I have something to protect my feet, the pot means I have a way to cook dinner, and the bag means I have enough money to purchase food. I am grateful I have a computer that still works enough for me to type this. I am grateful I have a blanket on my lap and a healthy dog beside me and a furnace that supplies heat. These are all amazing things! Stupendous things! Things that should make me dance every morning on my way to the shower!

Well, maybe not dance. With my lack of coordination that early in the morning I am likely to fall down the stairs and throw my whole gratitude thing down with me.

So even though it is only November 28th and not January 1st, even though I don’t have a special jar, or special shiny paper or even a pen that doesn’t leak, I am going to start this thing today. I may have to write my notes on tissues or the back of old pay stubs but hey, I should be grateful I even have a pay stub on which to write! I may not remember to do it every day or even every week but it’s not about ticking off a box on my to-do list. It isn’t even about perfection. It’s about doing something for myself that may one day change my perspective and may even lead to doing some nice things for others.

It begins now.

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I Write More and More Letters

Dear Startled Dog Park Man,

I am sorry I didn’t feel sorry when my dog tore open your flimsy plastic treat bag. Giggling and shrugging were probably not the most considerate responses to my dog’s stealing all of your dehydrated turkey. I know how expensive that stuff is. I forget that most other dogs have manners and don’t see a Ziploc bag waved in their faces as an invitation to destroy. No doubt it is behaviour for which I should feel ashamed.

Perhaps if you hadn’t rewarded my dog for ignoring my recall I would have felt a bit more apologetic in the moment. I realize you were just being generous, but I would ask in the future that if I am calling my dog away, you don’t stop and give her a treat. Doing so only encourages her begging and makes it harder for me to convince her to leave you alone. It would be like someone throwing one hundred dollar bills at you while your boss yells at you to get back to work. On whom would you focus your attention in that scenario? You really did bring it on yourself.

Again, I am truly sorry I my dog ate all of your treats. I am glad they didn’t make her sick.

Regretfully,

Your Fellow Dog Walker

Dear Shiva,

I know you haven’t had an easy time of it lately. I know between the cone and the kennel rest and the harassment from the feline you are probably losing some serious shit. All you want to do is play and run around. But you can’t and it sucks. It sucks for us too. I promise if you keep hanging in there, eventually there will be a time you can do this again:

But all work and no sleep makes for very grumpy humans. I don’t like being grumpy. I don’t like locking you in your kennel at night. So if it’s not too much to ask, could you please, please, please settle down nicely tonight?

Thanks.

Forever yours,

The Woman Who Controls Your Food Supply

To the So-Called Dog Lover at the Pet Store,

What may have seemed like a rip-off to you actually made my dog much more comfortable during her time of distress. I don’t care if you thought the flexible blue cone was a waste of money. It was cheap, but still far nicer than the horrible, stiff, plastic thing the vet gave us. I don’t appreciate your rude attitude nor do I appreciate you telling my practically husband that spending money on something that might make our dog’s life a little easier is stupid.

You’re stupid. I hope whatever animal you own never has to wear such a thing but if he or she does, I hope you learn the error of your ways.

Annoyed,

Your Former Customer

Dear Food Network Canada,

I admit, I have stopped watching you. There was a time I was your biggest fan. I would gleefully rush home after work to make sure I caught the latest installment of Top Chef Canada. And I loved you even more for Bitchin’ Kitchen. Somehow, though, I got over you. Maybe it was all the unnecessary drama over who made the best appetizer out of vending machine snacks. I can’t say why but I’ve tuned out. Your longtime, hardcore fan no longer is even willing to pay the $3.00 a month to watch your network.

That’s right. I don’t get the Food Network anymore. Haven’t for months.

Wanna know one way to recapture my loyalty?

I have this friend. She has this blog, called Kol’s Notes. If you are worth anything you will have heard of it. She comes up with amazingly creative recipes, like these ginger apple and lamb muttballs or these ingenious shepherd’s pie pupcakes. I mean, seriously. She is the Martha Stewart of dogginess. Do you need any more proof than her most recent holiday concoction? Dog treat filled ornaments! Who does that?

A talented woman, that’s who. If your network is worth anything, it would recognize how booming the pet industry is and leap on that bandwagon. I’d like to suggest Ms. Kolchak Puggle as your first doggy chef. Smart, hilarious, and adorable, she is a guaranteed ratings diva.

Think about it.

Missing you,

A Closet Foodie

Dear Kitty Meister,

Before this becomes a habit, let me make one thing clear to you. No amount of scratching, howling, or shrieking at the treat cupboard is going to get you what you want. It may have worked in the past because you are really annoying when you holler at the top of your lungs but no more!

You may think you deserve sympathy due to your advanced age. You are wrong. Nine years is not that old, my furry friend. You are perfectly healthy. Stop the whole pathetic feline act and stop pretending you are starving when you have a full food bowl and when I know your favourite person gave you a handful of kitty crack less than thirty minutes ago.

It is time for an intervention. If you don’t keep your trap shut, I may decide you need to be weaned off the treats completely. Cold turkey. How do you like them apples?

Exasperated,

Your Consolation Human

Dear Petosphere,

It is almost the holiday season and that means my new favourite pet blogging event is upon us. That’s correct, it is time for the Pet Blogger Gift Exchange, hosted by none other than Something Wagging This Way Comes and I Still Want More Puppies.

Have you signed up yet? Why not? Better get on it before December 1st rolls around and everyone is having fun and making new friends without you.

C’mon… You know you wanna and I wanna get to know you better! So what’s stopping you?

Your biggest fan,

Your Fellow Pet Blogger

Things You Need To Prepare in Case of a Canine Emergency

Thank you all very much for your kind inquiries after Shiva’s health. She is alive and well – mostly. I don’t have the energy to share the full story with you yet but I sincerely appreciate your warm concern. It has meant the universe to me to know that other people get it. Co-workers try to understand but unless you have a pet who is your reason for getting up before the sun every day, you’ll never truly understand the trauma.

Quite frankly, all I can think is that Shiva has brilliant timing. In all the years we’ve had her she chooses now, during NaBloPoMo, when I am trying to regain my writing mojo, to get herself into a pathetic situation. Dang animals, they’ve always got to take centre stage, eh?

I might have had four hours of sleep in the last two days, so, if I babble, this is my excuse.

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Shiva: pre-cone

Having never been to an emergency vet before and having never had a dog on two weeks of kennel rest, I am stumbling blindly on unfamiliar ground. This ground is especially tumultuous in that it is paved by a tornado with no sense of self-preservation.

In times like these, I just have to be grateful for lessons learned that are now – finally – paying off.

- Never, ever, underestimate the value of a wicked “stay” cue.

- Kennel training. If you haven’t started it now, get on it. It may not seem necessary, but the crate can be what ensures your dog heals with minimal stress.

- Find your dog’s currency, STAT. You never know when you’ll need a well-placed bribe.

- You might want to keep the address and phone number of your closest 24-hour veterinary clinic on your refrigerator. Googling in a panic is not a good time. Especially when the clinic doesn’t have an address on the main page of its website. What’s up with that, yo?

- Seriously, I can’t over-emphasize the value of a “stay”.

- Find your people. In a brutal moment, when my PH had to leave my side, I was so grateful for my friends who “got it”, who didn’t need me to explain, who just understood that I needed to feel like everything was going to be okay.

- Be prepared to bawl your eyes out in front of the emergency vet. It’s okay. No one is judging you. And if they are, that says more about them than it does about you.

- In stressful moments like these, it can be so easy to forget simple things, like your own name and phone number, let alone the name and number of your veterinarian in a different province on the other side of the country. You might want to have this kind of information on hand in your wallet, just in case.

- “Stay” works. Just make sure your dog has learned “stay”. You won’t regret it.

- Coffee. Always have lots of coffee on hand. You never know when you’ll have to stay up all night with a dog coming down from anaesthesia. It’s not a good time.

Did I miss anything? Have you ever had to make a trip to emergency with your puppy? I’d love to read about your experiences.

Should We Put the Extendable Leash Behind Bars?

Is that were it belongs? Many people I’ve talked to would be thrilled if extendable leashes, such as the infamous Flexi, were outlawed. I gotta say, I have cursed them multiple times myself. It often seems to me that the length of the leash is inversely related to the size of the dog. The tinier the puppy, the further he is away from the human at the other end. Not only does this strike me as dangerous, it’s also really annoying for everyone else on the sidewalk.

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Naturally, this is a stereotype. Before I get all sorts of hate mail, I’d better correct myself. There are many wee dogs who are calm on a leash and walk beautifully beside their handlers. There are also many large dogs who tug and yank and scream at the end of a long, extendable line. It’s just the latter don’t get walked very much after their people end up in the hospital due to one too many shoulder dislocations.

One councillor in my municipality has proposed an end to these types of leashes on city streets. As quoted in a CBC news article, he believes:

“The length of the leash allowed dogs to go to further into private yards and defecate and then leave the stuff behind. Also, if it’s too long it allows an unruly dog to be more free to lunge at a person.”

Speaking from personal experience, a dog can lunge and defecate regardless of the length or style of leash.

We actually purchased a retractable leash for Shiva before we even brought her home. My childhood dog used one all the time so it was just another product I assumed we’d need. I thought they were better than boring old 5-foot lines. Most have more comfortable handles and they are advertised as giving dogs more freedom. How could that be a bad thing?

Shiva’s reactivity quickly put an end to that line of thinking. It only took a few episodes before the line snapped and the leash sat at the bottom of a garbage can. I was just grateful said snapping happened in our backyard and not on a city street.

Despite this bad experience, I am not wholly against these tools. Long lines are quite useful for those working on recalls. In the appropriate places at the appropriate times, I see nothing wrong with giving your dog wider space to roam. Many breeds – like beagles, greyhounds, and Siberian huskies – are difficult to trust off-leash. Extendable leashes enable these dogs to enjoy a run without worry. In my opinion, it would be a shame if this was no longer a possibility.

We all have our biases. Most dog walkers are responsible and don’t allow their canine companions to roam aimlessly into the road or on private property. I know when I rant under my breath about the three Chihuahuas yapping at the end of their extendable leashes, that most people who walk small dogs pay much closer attention to their charges. But it still annoys me.

Once more it seems to be a case of the few ruining it for everyone else.

What do you think? Should municipalities place restrictions on the length of leashes? Do you think this is a problem even worth debating?

Why My Rottweiler Let My Pomeranian Beat Her Up – and Other Important Questions

Blog statistics aren’t something I delve into very often. They usually make me feel icky inside. Numbers have always had that effect on me, really. Ever since I entered ninth grade and encountered trigonometry. And graphs.

Naaaasty. Wasn’t math so much nicer before all that crap? When all one had to do was find the value of x?

Because it’s been a self-esteem-kicking week, I decided I may as well pummel myself down further and dust off the ol’ Google Analytics. Maybe I just needed an excuse to pour myself another glass of wine, I am not sure. Regardless, I logged in and immediately became immersed. It wasn’t the statistics themselves that grabbed my attention, though. I really still could care less about those. It was the common search terms.

Hilarious stuff, truly. If you haven’t checked out yours lately, I highly recommend it for a giggle.

Most of the top ten items on the list made sense. A lot of “rescued insanitys”, “heart dogs”, and “what to buy before getting a dogs.” It stunned me that according to Google the top search term for my website is actually “Rottweilers” and by an enourmous margin. It is something like thirty percent! To this day my most popular post ever written was the one in which I admitted to an instinctive, yet embarrassing fear, of the breed. I hope this means my shame-faced confessions have helped other people conquer their own demons.

Yep, focusing on the positive today.

Many of the other search terms were not nearly so logical. I thought I would share some of the ones that had me raising an eyebrow. The title of this post being number one, here are some of the others on the list:

“Empty bread bag” – This makes me a little sad, actually. I hope these people were able to find some cheer through my silly stories, despite their lack of bread.

“Pimp outfit” – I am sure most of these people were sorely disappointed.

“Cats are evil” – Egads! No! Cats are AWESOME! Awesome, I tell you! Pay no attention to the cat plotting my demise in the shadows…

“Name a breed of dog a man would be embarrassed to admit he’s afraid of” – This is a judgment-free zone. You will not be mocked for your fear of Yorkies here. I promise.

“Picture of elephant’s front feet” – Did you find what you came for? If you didn’t here you go:

picture of elephant's front feet

via

“Tim Flach poster” – I am sorry to say I didn’t know who this was until I looked up his name. I am so glad I do now.

“Fort Needham Memorial Park” – Ugh. Worst. Dog Park. Ever.

“Don’t say you ever loved me you always loved yourself” – Yikes. Good luck with that. Sounds like you are better off without.

“Absurd looking dog handlers” – You came to the right place?

Why, yes. I would rather stick a slobbery pouch in my back pocket than wear a fanny pack.

Why, yes. I would rather stick a slobbery pouch in my back pocket than wear a fanny pack.

“Breed of dogs with crook at the end of tail” – I believe you are thinking of the Briard.

“If my dog shits in the woods do I have to pick it up” – Yes.

“I fostered kitten now its gone and I miss it” – Awww, that’s sweet. There is an easy solution to that problem, though. Why not foster another?

“Just Say Nana Na Nan Anananaaaana” – You know what? I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Have you come across any interesting search terms for your website? Do share. I always appreciate a reason to laugh.

Is Your Dog a Reflection of Your Life? Sherlock Holmes Thinks So

I’ve been catching up on my Sherlock Holmes reading as of late. It only took me twenty years. One of my favourite fiction genres has always been the mystery novel and yet until the last few months, I never once gave Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a try. Granted, I did most of my mystery reading as a teenager. Back then the lives of older white men understandably held very little interest for me. So far I am enjoying the experience. The books aren’t without problems, of course, and I have some beefs with the point of view, but they make for good reading on a cold winter’s night.

One wouldn’t think a fictional Victorian detective would have anything to do with dogs. One would be wrong. Perhaps it is just proof of my own obsessions but it didn’t take me long before I found a story that relates at least indirectly to my favourite subject.

In The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, there is a tale called “The Adventure of the Creeping Man.” The plot of this story doesn’t matter and I won’t go into detail about that. It was a particular line of thought shared by the title character that caught and held my interest, rather than the narrative. I will quote it exactly:

“A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones. And their passing moods may reflect the passing moods of others.”

Naturally, I immediately stopped reading and thought over this concept.

The idea of people’s moods affecting their dogs’ behaviour isn’t new. It is also one I have explored a lot on here. Most trainers and behaviorists agree that our emotions directly impact the emotions of our dogs. This is why I was told to sing a song to myself when walking Shiva in the earlier days of her reactivity. If I could prevent myself from tensing, I could hopefully help her relax as well.

I think what Sherlock Holmes determined in the above quote takes this a step further. And it was written long before dog behaviour was anything scientists studied in any great detail. Insightful, I think, but is it completely accurate?

Shiva is a mostly happy dog: anxious at times, dislikes surprises, values her family life more than anything else. She is adventurous in her appetite and attitude. She is not overly fond of strangers. She has lots of energy but is not ambitious.

Yep, I can relate to that.

What do you think? Does your dog reflect your life?

Congratulations go out to Elyse and Riley, winners of last week’s giveaway! Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their favourite videos. You made my weekend a lot more adorable than it would have been otherwise. For those that missed it, I highly recommend checking out the comments for this post. Make sure you have some serious time to spare.

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