Gosh, I have been so good with this whole NaBloPoMo thing until now. It’s the first time I really am sneaking in an attempt at writing only slightly before the stroke of midnight. Not bad considering there is only one week left. I’m doing much better than I expected.
I have a good excuse so even if I hadn’t managed to slide open my laptop before Friday ended, I would have given myself a pass. After all, I just spent the last two hours in conversation about art and writing with a literary genius. Well, a literary genius and the 1,699 other people in the audience. Oh, and Alanis Morissette was there too. Regardless, I figure if I just soaked in two hours worth of advice from a woman I have admired since I was a teenager, I can be forgiven for being too spellbound and overwhelmed to have a whole lot to say myself.
Besides, there is something more important going on here than my inner wranglings and my sudden onset of celebrity-star-struckedness. I don’t know if anyone has noticed but there have been a few changes around here. A house-cleaning, if you will – a simplification. The Art of AJ has done it again. Thanks to her magical work, I am so pleased to show off Rescued Insanity – The Next Generation!
Or something much less cheesy.
It’s cleaner, it’s brighter, and it’s a whole lot more comfortable. The new look feels a bit like a liberation. There is so much room to kick off my boots and flail around. The furniture has been pushed aside and it is time to dance! I’ve always flirted with the line between pet blog and personal blog and now I feel like the scenery matches the direction. It’s a new era, in a way, with one hundred percent more authenticity and without losing an ounce of Shiva.
Thank you for sticking with me after all this time. For listening to my stories and hanging in there when they dried up. The Petosphere is a beautiful place. I am so grateful you still consider me a member. And thank you to AJ Emm for putting it all together so quickly. Everyone of you means a lot to me. I definitely could not and would not have pulled through alone.
My goal these days is to combat the overwhelm, end the glorification of busy. I was caught up in that wicked trap of thinking the more I did the more I needed to do for too long. It didn’t make me a better person. Mostly, I just did a whole lot of things as quick as I could, praying it was “good enough”, before leaping into the next task. It did no one any favours. No wonder I spent every weekend passed out on the couch, using Shiva as a pillow, ignoring all the work I had to do around the home, wondering if I was ever going to stop dreading Monday.
Granted, there are always going to be times when the sheer amount of stuff piles up and I feel that familiar rise of panic. Tis the nature of the beast. But I am going to try very hard to cut down on my thinking I need to do all the things all the time as fast as possible. I’d love to say I am going to eliminate this train of thought entirely but then I would just stress that I wasn’t doing it properly and it would be one more thing keeping me up at night. So I am going to try. When I feel my shoulders tensing in anticipation of an immense workload, instead of ducking my head and attempting to bulldoze through like Shiva on an agility course, I am going to take a deep breath and ask for help.
That’s the goal, anyway.
Project Simplification Commence!
Part of this whole mental conversion is taking the time to enjoy, to get to know myself better, and figure out what is important to me. Not to my boss or my barista or that person I see at the bus stop every day, but to me. It’s not an easy process. Especially when life interrupts in its typical jackass fashion. Being instinctively lazy, I’ve been tempted to avoid a lot of the hard work. That’s why I have to make at least a part of it a little more fun.
This is where the blog comes in. I have finally – for now – figured out what I want to do with this space. It only took me three? four? twenty thousand? years? Now that I know, I want its appearance to match its direction and purpose. After all, the online world is a strictly visual one. However, the thought of embarking on a redesign makes the ol’ panic crawl up from my belly. And what am I supposed to do when I get that feeling?
Ask for help.
This is where the brilliant and creative AJ Emm comes in. The same talented individual who envisioned the current style, has agreed to tackle its next incarnation. I have no idea why. I guess she likes a challenge. I feel so lucky to get to work with someone as kind and helpful, someone who knows what I want without me having a clue how to articulate it.
Stay tuned for Rescued Insanity: Simplified
In the meantime, you have an opportunity to receive a bit of AJ’s genius yourself. She is so generous with her skills, she wants to give you a gift – a custom portrait of the special pet (or person) in your life. I almost don’t even want to share this amazing opportunity with you as I kind of covet the prize for myself. Who wouldn’t want an adorable keepsake like this?
I am lucky enough to know both of the animals featured in this portrait and trust me, this is the closest the two have ever gotten to each other. AJ is magic like that.
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.
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?
Halifax is again making national news with the addition of a “puppy room” to the Dalhousie University campus. I used to think I had attended a fairly decent school for my undergraduate program eons ago. But I don’t remember seeing a single animal on the grounds. Unless you count the pronghorn mascot statue.
While this story is great and I am glad students have this chance to unwind, it’s amusing to me how revolutionary of an idea it seems to people across the country. Animal lovers have known the emotional and mental benefit a furry body can provide for decades. It’s about time the rest of the world caught up.
Do you think a puppy or kitty room would have helped you get better grades?
We’ve had a bit of a surprise ending to an otherwise normal Saturday. First a walk at the park, then a very positive agility class, a trip to the aquarium to check out some fish, and finally… On short notice, a very special guest has crept into the lives of those at Shiva’s House of Deluded Dreamers.
The puppy isn’t yet sure what to make of our visitor. All she knows is, she isn’t very happy at being kept out of the office. What’s going on in there, anyway? Why can’t she see?
All a Shiva can do is whine her dis-satisfaction and hope the humans will eventually give in. Until then, she is going to be one curious canine.
I can’t keep the happy news to myself for one minute longer. You may recall that I entered a contest held by Iams Home 4 the Holidays in an attempt to win my way to this year’s BarkWorld Conference & Expo. It was the one in which I posted a video of my cat shedding sixty pounds of fur all over me. I am not joking. Every time I picked him up, he left several cats behind on my skirt. You can watch the damning evidence here.
He’s not sorry at all, is he?
Well… I didn’t win. But that’s okay! The author of Mayzie’s Dog Blog did and I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more. It was hard to shrug off the loss but since I never expected to attend anyway, I put it out of my mind. Until about five days ago.
On my way home from work I saw a message on my phone from the very kind and generous founder of the social “petworking” event. Before I could talk myself out of it I responded and several emails later I found myself the recipient of an offer I could not refuse: free airfare to Atlanta, Georgia and a pass to my very first pet blogging conference.
I’d normally insert a “woo hoo” here but that doesn’t seem to cover it. By the time October rolls around I am going to be in incredible shape after all this happy dancing!
It’s hard to put into words how excited I am about this incredible opportunity. BarkWorld is the only industry-wide educational conference featuring social media and lifestyle discussions for pet lovers from all areas of interest. There will be keynote presentations from Twitter, ASPCA, Meetup.com, and the director of the HBO documentary Madonna of the Mills. I have no idea how I am going to decide which educational sessions to attend. Have you seen the presenter list? With speakers like the brilliant Dr. V of Pawcurious and Andy Hartman, the VP of the United States Dog Agility Association it’s going to be hard to contain myself!
If that wasn’t enough, there are a multitude of activities in between sessions. From dog yoga, to a charity HOWL-O-Ween costume party, to a special tour of the Georgia Aquarium. The latter could be a life list item all on its own.
And I haven’t even mentioned the best part! Guess who else will be there? None other than two of my blogging heroes, Kim Clune and Amy Burkert. Not that I will be brave enough to actually speak with either. But I look forward to learning a lot from their sessions and bragging on Twitter about being in the same room with them.
I mean, wouldn’t you?
It all came together so quickly I still can’t really believe me going to BarkWorld is a real thing in the world. But somehow it is. October 25th can’t come fast enough!
I can’t thank founder Denise Quashie enough for this opportunity. I will do my best not to spend the entire conference hiding under the table.
Even though our official moving day was Sunday, I couldn’t consider this new house a home until everything was back to normal. Meaning, until we had full internet access.
The move itself was typically insane. I say typically because it seems when we do things, we do them in the worst possible way in the shortest amount of time. Planners we are not. Organized we are not. Yet somehow everything always comes together and we get the job done. Maybe most people would move on a day their practically husbands aren’t working midnight shifts. And maybe others would enlist help with loading and unloading a 26 foot Uhaul. There may even be some who take their time. But those people are wusses who clearly don’t have what it takes.
Pay no attention to the dozen bruises on my right arm.
Not to mention the ones on my legs.
Of what I am most proud is the fact our animals survived the stress of a complete environmental change without any major issues. They did have a brief skirmish while we were packing that involved a cat being pinned by a dog paw, but other than giving me my first gray hairs, nothing irreparable occurred. Shiva seems to think of the new house as her home and The Cat, well, The Cat is probably plotting yet one more evil scheme. All is as it should be.
There are a lot of exciting discoveries I’d like to share with you. After only two and a half days I have a lot of stories to tell. They will all have to wait. For now, I am just going to sit on the deck and enjoy.
This morning was our last walk around the lake. While I am very excited to be moving on, I know I will miss our 5:30 am off-leash walks on the quiet trail with no one else around. That’s not to say there isn’t the possibility for such things in our new neighbourhood, but Shiva and I have a lot of memories stored in each corner of this path. It’s hard not to feel a little wistful about leaving them behind.
I am willing to bet that Shiva has spent more time in this little forest than any other dog in the world in the last three years. It has become as much our home as the house in which we lived. It’s where we practiced countless tricks, perfected recalls, worked on her reactivity. This park just two blocks away was the first place Shiva ever ran free.
The forest is my “happy place”. There is nothing more relaxing than meandering around the path, laughing as Shiva leaps over tree stumps, and stopping to play in the water. We owe the forest a lot. It essentially became the fenced backyard we didn’t have.
But our time here is now done. We are leaving it open for another dog and human team to enjoy together. I hope they appreciate it as much as we did.
As part of Petfinder’s Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, I am taking a minute every day in June to share the photos of cats waiting for their forever homes.
Today I thought I would share two kittens because it is Friday and I am sure we could all use an extra bit of cuteness. The guy to the left is Smudge at the Partnership for Animal Welfare in Greenbelt, Maryland. He is one of four babies left at the shelter without a mother at just four weeks of age. Out of all his siblings, Smudge is the smallest but when you are a young kitten, ready for an action, size isn’t going to get in your way!
Sweet baby Ella is spending her time with the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew in Calgary, Alberta. She was found out in the cold with her mother but no siblings, which makes her a real survivor. Ella is fearless and loves to climb and snuggle, maybe even both at the same time! She would make the perfect pet for anyone looking to dote on a new feline friend.
While most of our weekend was spent freaking out over our housing situation (thanks for all of your advice on Friday’s post!) there was a shining moment amidst all the stress. A friend of ours from agility invited us to a park on Sunday morning for a doggy playdate. Shiva’s very first doggy playdate, I should add.
Shiva is not a dog who makes friends very easily, though not for lack of trying. She is usually either too exuberant for other dogs’ liking or the other dogs are too slow to catch her interest or her overly happy greeting has them running in fear. It’s really hard to find a dog with the same amount of energy who doesn’t mind her poor manners. Despite our participation in dog sports for the last two and a half years, until now we hadn’t met a dog who would be a good match.
Border collies and Shelties are definitely out. Her boisterous enthusiasm can be a bit much for most herding breeds who feel the need to control their surroundings. Shiva is a dog who cannot be contained and this usually ends up causing problems. We try to encourage her to leave these dogs alone if we can. We have had some success with Boxers and Huskies as they tend to prefer a rougher play style. Unfortunately, we’ve only met a few in passing at the dog park and Shiva hasn’t formed any lasting bonds.
Dog parks can be great fun however, we haven’t managed to make any actual friends there, human or canine. It tends to be different people we see every visit and everyone just moves along at their own pace. Which is fine, it just means Shiva has been friendless in the commonly used sense of the word.
Do dogs need dog friends? Like everything else, it probably depends on the dog. I do believe Shiva is an extrovert in some ways as she always seems to get hyped up right after she sniffs another dog. Many a time it’s when we’re walking away after a greeting that Shiva will start bouncing around, full of joy, as if saying hello to another dog was just the best thing ever and she can’t wait to do it again. I don’t think she was suffering because she didn’t have a doggy pal to meet up with every now and then, but I do think she had a blast yesterday.
I know I am projecting. I can’t help it. It was so much fun to watch her chasing after a ball for over an hour, with a dog who has just as much, if not more, zest for life as she does. The two of them were just so cute together. Perhaps it’s silly; I kind of felt like a proud parent as we watched them run around. Shiva may not have needed a friend to be happy, but I am so excited she finally has one anyway.
As part of Petfinder’s Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, I am taking a moment each day to share stories of cats in need of forever homes.
This is Radcliffe, who is hanging out at the shelter in Delhi, New York. He was found as a stray at the young age of 12 weeks and, as you can tell from his photo, is already full of that admirable catitude.
The internet can be a harrowing place. Before pet blogging I spent a lot of my free time on politically-based websites. The bitter vitriol that was spewed out in comment sections left me sputtering. The more I read, the angrier I became. Everything set me off back then: television commercials, overheard conversations on the bus, comedic one-liners, newspaper articles, magazine advertisements. I quickly became just a seething mass of angry frustration. Nothing was safe from my outrage.
I think what Ms. Walrond says here encapsulates this perfectly:
“I think our general outlook is similar to our bodies: our ability to look at the negative, if exercised like a muscle, gets stronger and more robust, to the point where all we can see is negative. (And I think this is true, even if we try to wrap up these expressions with a wink and wry smile, even if we think we’re being funny or entertaining. Negativity is insidious this way.) And if all we see is negative, then happiness and joy necessarily make their departures.”
Please don’t think I was miserable. There were still many joyful moments of gratitude in my life. However, in the midst of the pleasant times, I would see something out of the corner of my eye in a store that would have me grumbling out loud. It must have been very annoying for those around me.
I have described all the numerous ways Shiva has changed my life, but blogging about Shiva has also had a large impact. The comments on posts about adorable puppies and the pros and cons of feeding raw aren’t nearly as fractious as those regarding minority rights. Once I entered the pet side of blogland, I didn’t have the time to check out the daily galling political news of the day. Eventually I was only reading about the latest attack on women’s issues once a week, and then once a month. Slowly, my daily rant at the television screen turned into a simple eyeroll. With Shiva on my brain, I had more important things to stress over.
It’s not that I don’t feel anger toward these things anymore – they are still very important – but I have learned how to better pick my battles. There are many things in the world of animal welfare that tick me off. There are many things worth yelling about, from abusive training methods to puppy mills. It’s all out there and it all needs to be discussed for the purpose of effecting positive change.
They keyword being positive. Hollering about my distaste of pet perfume isn’t doing anything to make the world a happier place, even if it makes me feel better for a few minutes.
Instead, as per Karen Walrond’s suggestion, I am going to share some of the things I found on the Internet that are making the world more beautiful today.