Archive of ‘Selfish Rants’ category

Dear ignorant Edmontonian dog owners

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.

Sincerely,

Kristine Tonks, lover of all dogs, including Hungarian cocker-jacks.

New City, New Rules

Never in my life have I ever in a city where people flout leash laws like they are ephemeral guidelines, existing only for as long as it takes the peace officer to post the sign and then high-tail it for his afternoon nap. In Halifax, people would at least get yelled at for pulling the kind of crap people do here. I even was yelled at once at 7:00 am on a Saturday morning by an older gentleman with a cranky border collie, for letting Shiva run loose one day after the summer dog ban came into effect. Me! A rules-obsessed perfectionist. But in Edmonton, or at least in my hipster neighbourhood, which is as liberal as Alberta gets, it seems my fellow dog owners do not feel the rules are meant for them.

Sigh.

It’s fine, really. Shiva and I are good at this game. We are accustomed to diving in bushes and dashing around parked cars. We know how to make our boundaries clear and we have thick skins. My eye doesn’t twitch any more when someone refers to my furry pal as “unfriendly”, even though she is the one behaving herself like a canine saint. No longer do we need to estivate indoors or avoid daylight hours at the public park. We deal.  I resist the urge to argue when a cyclist insists the ravine is an off-leash area and that I must be mistaken despite the fact that I spend more time pouring over animal by-laws than most people spend  bathing.

I am not joking. I like to know the rules and when I am breaking them. It seems I am alone.I have accepted this. But that doesn’t mean it is fair.

Shiva loves to run, lives to run. But most days she can’t. The dog parks are too far away and I don’t want to be the jerk with the wild animal distracting the other dogs from their games of fetch or jogging with their humans, or whatever else these lawless critters are up to in public, non-off leash areas. It sucks. We have worked for five long years on her recall and it is just about as perfect as it can be. Yet we can’t show it off because we don’t want to be rude. Of course, it is okay if other dogs and people are rude and ruin our fun. It is far better to be in the right. At least we can look ourselves in the mirror in the morning and know we didn’t spoil a law-breaker’s good time.

Double sigh.

The breaking point occurred about six weeks ago. There is a woman who walks her two beautiful dogs in the ravine around the same time Shiva and I venture out in the morning. The two dogs are almost always off leash. One dog is not a problem. A gorgeous, happy Newf, he never gets in Shiva’s face and I have no issues at all with him being untethered in the on-leash park. The other dog is a Border Collie. Younger, faster, and, er, spunkier. She never hesitates to get right in Shiva’s space. Shiva, when on leash, takes objection to this. Most of the time we are slick enough to get out of there without injury. During their encounter six weeks ago, we were not so fortunate. In the five seconds it took for the woman to drag her dog away, Shiva had sustained an injury to her left eye.

It wasn’t serious. Her blood clots as fast as she gobbles her dinner. But there was blood. In her eye. It freaked me out. I am sure the woman didn’t know. It was too quick. I don’t blame the Border Collie. I blame the leash.

I have decided to change the rules. I can’t do anything about the laws. If it were up to me, all parks would be off-leash to dogs and humans who can prove they have connection and self-restraint. I understand this is impractical.  Nonetheless, I have come up with my own, albeit illegal, solution to this lifelong annoyance.

From now on, if I see an off-leash dog approaching, I am going to swing around, un-clip Shiva from her restraint and give her permission to play. This solves two problems. One: prevents my reactive mutt from feeling trapped and in need of defending herself. Two: lets Shiva let off the anxiety that builds from watching other dogs zoom without joining in herself.

Will the other dog-human partnerships appreciate it? Some will, some won’t. Shiva is friendly enough off-leash. I have no concern she will hurt anyone. Regardless, she has a certain vivacity that many other dogs find hard to resist. She has been known to lead many a canine into trees and bogs, encouraging them to run like the cops are chasing them, and then run some more. Shiva always comes back. The other dogs… Well, that’s not really my problem, is it? They shouldn’t be off-leash if they don’t have a recall.

Two wrongs may not make a right but I can’t think of a justifiable argument from the other human’s side. Sure, Shiva is a nutjob, but she’s harmless when untethered and has self control. The potential consequences are much, much worse when I leave her on. What can the culprit say? If his or her dog was leashed as he or she was supposed to be, Shiva wouldn’t have bothered them. Why should we be the ones going through the stress of avoidance all the time?

I am tired of turning around and walking another thirty minutes out of my way just to avoid meandering mutts with lazy humans. I have been doing this too long. The incident with Shiva’s eye was the end of it. I won’t put her in situations where she feels in danger. And I won’t stick to boring residential streets, where we still run into the occasional off-leash dog or stick-wielding toddler. Shiva deserves a walk in the forest as much as anyone. It’s time to take a stand.

Get to the point, already!

Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay.

It’s been a while. More than makes me happy. Instead of dwelling, I should just get to the important stuff. Of course, this is me, so, there is likely a bit of a morass ahead. You might want to duck and cover, or just close your browser window. I won’t take offence.

The main thing: Shiva is well. Mostly. She has a bit of a warty, bulbousy, strange sort of growth thing on the corner of her mouth. I officially noticed it last night, which means I pointed it out to my PH, but if I am honest with myself I first saw something weird a week or so ago while we were camping. Not wanting to worry and not observing any discomfort on the muttski’s part, I didn’t investigate. From a distance it looks like an incisor poking out. Up close it looks much softer and furrier. The PH did some internetting and seemed to think it is some sort of virus that sounded, to me, like the canine equivalent of HPV. This strikes me as funny for some reason. As far as I know, the Sheevs hasn’t been engaging in any unprotected sex. I refuse to angst over it until we get her to a vet.

So, yes, Shiva is as Shiva as ever. Still barking at the neighbours, still chasing magpies, still stealing the covers at night. Why we ever gave in to the pressure of letting her sleep on the bed I’ll never know. And yet, I’d miss her if she wasn’t there. Life with dog, eh?

How am I? This answer is less simple. I know. More navel-gazing. Vomit.

I am reading a lot. I haven’t sped through so many books in so few months high school. It has been fantastic. I even got around to the Harry Potter series, of all things. Naturally, this concerns me. I worry my apparent addiction may have more to do with a drive to escape mundanity than appreciation for literature. If I was reading Proust I could justify it. Tesla biographies and novels featuring characters named Penumbra do not exonerate me. It feels self-indulgent. If I enjoy something, it must be tainted. Like a lagniappe from the Body Shop or Starbucks. If it’s free, only the desperate accept.

A week and a half ago we went on holiday. It was the first full week journey the PH and I (and Shiva) have ever commenced together. It was amazing. We did a lot of this:

BC Sand

And saw a lot of these:

Wild Pacific Trail

It would be easy to brush off the way I am feeling as post-vacation doldrums. Indeed, perhaps that is all it is. Only fitting. As an anticipation junkie, I languish without something to which I can look forward. I don’t know if it’s accurate this round. Then again, I am not prepared to name it anything else either.

Ho hum. And so I carry on, working and walking and whinging.

As far as this blog goes it is hard to me to say. This could be the first post of the rest of my life or it could be the end. I do know I want to put words down but I also know the trappings of the petosphere – as much as I owe them – constrain me. I don’t feel I can go back to the way things were. At the same time, I am reluctant to move on to something else. I have ideas, zillions of them are on the brink of escape one moment and then gazillions more are suffocated by my insecurities the next.

I’d like to try something new, define myself in some other genre. But I don’t want to give this space up either. Rescued Insanity is as much a part of me as Shiva, maybe more. I can’t see letting it fade away. Then again, I don’t want to let it pigeonhole me either.

How to proceed? I don’t have the energy for both. I don’t want to continue doing nothing. Thus I think my thoughts and meander my paths and avoid making any changes because it’s just too daunting.

I guess we shall see. But enough about me. How are you?

Portland Can Have ‘Em: Keeping Edmonton a Secret

If you have been keeping up with Go Pet Friendly’s Annual Tournament, you’ll have seen that Edmonton was booted during round three. At first, I was pretty bitter about it. Portland, Oregon may seem brilliant with all its craft breweries and its gigantic bookstores and its Voodoo doughnuts, but that doesn’t mean it is pet-friendly. Dogs can’t drink beer or eat doughnuts and I am positive most of them can’t read.

Note the handy poop bag dispenser. This is a National Park that welcomes dogs with open arms. It was stocked even in the winter.

Note the handy poop bag dispenser. This is a National Park that welcomes dogs with open arms. It was stocked even in the winter.

In my opinion, the amount of rain the western U.S. city receives each day should be reason enough to stay away. Walking in a downpour is not fun, no matter how beautiful the riverside park might be. I know this from personal experience. I used to live in Halifax.

Can we go back inside now? Rain sucks.

Can we go back inside now? Rain sucks.

Edmonton has just as many off leash parks as Portland and an even bigger riverside forest, both of which one can enjoy in full sunshine almost 365 days a year. How does that not make it more pet friendly?

I am honestly asking because I am still confused by this.

But, I am not bitter. In fact, now that I have had a few days to gain perspective, I am relieved. Portland can keep its bragging rights. It suits me fine if all of the pet lovers of the world see it as some sort of canine Mecca. It means we will have all of this to ourselves:

Taken at Elk Island National Park, less than 30 minutes away from our home in Edmonton

Taken at Elk Island National Park, less than 30 minutes away from our home in Edmonton

No, looking at it now, I am thrilled Edmonton will remain a secret. I want everyone to keep thinking it is a frozen wasteland where none but the truly brave venture. The fewer people who visit, the more we can enjoy a peaceful hike on a Sunday afternoon, unaccosted by hordes of tourists. Places like Portland and Carmel are so jam-packed full of people during the summer months that Edmonton is almost serene in comparison. For that reason alone, it is a much happier place for Shiva and I. Crowds just give us hives.

We didn't run into a single person on this hike. That makes us happy.

We didn’t run into a single person on this hike. That makes us happy.

Heck, what do I care if people would rather stay on the other side of the border? In Edmonton, our pets are well-cultured. In order to preserve this, it is probably best to keep the riff raff away. They’ll never know just how much fun we Edmontonians can be, never get to experience the spirit of a true Edmonton festival – as Canada’s reigning festival city, we know how to have a good time – and they’ll never know how amazing it is to take in a performance of a symphony orchestra with their dogs by their sides.

We also have a wicked sense of humour*

We also have a wicked sense of humour*

As far as I am concerned, I’d rather avoid the publicity a win in Go Pet Friendly’s contest would bring. Save that for the more common jet-setting locales like Vancouver and Key West. Edmonton prefers to move quietly along, enjoying its diverse food trucks, its beautiful garden paths, and its very own restaurant for dogs.** I like that the employees in my favourite high-quality, regionally-owned pet stores have more than enough time to answer my questions and I never have to wait in line. What a shame it would be if these places were taken over by visitors. How horrifying if the invasion of foreign dogs meant some of the pet friendly spaces were taken away.

The grounds outside Muttart Gardens are beautiful, calm, and pet friendly. I'd like to keep them that way.

The grounds outside Muttart Gardens are beautiful, calm, and pet friendly. I’d like to keep them that way.

Thank you, to those people out there who recognized how pet-loving Canada’s most northern metropolis is. My appreciation for your support in the vote is sincere. You helped us not only beat out West Hollywood and Tuscon, but also Toronto and Montreal. Here in Alberta, we consider that a victory of epic proportions.

But my thanks must go to those who voted for Portland as well. You helped keep Edmonton a lovely secret. Every time I stroll along the river without meeting another dog, I will remember you and be grateful.

Of course, my real gratitude must go to Go Pet Friendly for running such an entertaining tournament. The competition is wicked and I can’t wait to see who ends up the final winner! Make sure to keep voting!

*Thanks for reminding me about this, Back Alley Soapbox! Best prank ever. 

**Thanks, Jessie, for telling me about this place in your comment!

Edmonton: The City of Pet Lovers

Edmonton? You ask. Isn’t it in Canada? Isn’t it cold there for nine months of the year? Who wants to go there? The short answers to these questions are: yes, well… yes, and YOU want to go. Or you will, once you have finished reading this post. Once I am through with you, you will not only rush to cast your vote for the largest city north of the 53rd parallel in Go Pet Friendly’s Annual Tournament, you will also be rushing your dog to the car to make the drive up here.

Does this really look like the land of ice and snow?

Does this really look like the land of ice and snow?

Not too long ago, I would have shared your disbelief. Edmonton is in Alberta – despite spending 15 years of my life here, the prairie province is not my favourite place. I envisioned a lot of sky and a lot of brown grass and not much else. As you can see from the picture above, this vision was very wrong.

However, there was another, more serious reason to avoid the home of North America’s largest mall. Not too long ago, Edmonton’s by-laws contained a nasty little feature, anathema to all true dog-lovers: B.S.L.

Shiva and BenchYeah… Not good. Though pit bull type dogs were never disallowed within city limits, before October 17, 2012 they were considered a “restricted breed” and had to be muzzled in public, along with a whole bunch of other ridiculous regulations. When these laws were in place, there was no way I would have considered moving here with Shiva. It was just too big of a risk.

But all this changed in the fall of 2012. After years of campaigning by a supportive and dog-loving community, Edmonton City Council voted to abolish all legislation specific to certain breeds or appearance of breeds. The animal control by-laws are now much more reasonable and fair and welcome dogs of all shapes, sizes, and heads. I consider this a huge point in the city’s favour. After all, it was the community that made this happen. The people and organizations who made it clear they did not support such discriminatory laws. If the movement hadn’t been so strong and so logical, the council would never have voted to chuck the laws out. This tells me Edmonton is a city with its priorities straight.

Edmonton may be known as the City of Champions but I think it should be known as the City that Loves its Pets.

There are dogs everywhere in this city, you never know when you are going to see one

There are dogs everywhere in this city, you never know when you are going to see one

Here is an even better example of dog love:

Shiva is a bit of a bratface. She can be a bit obnoxious on a leash, especially when encountering strangers who stare her down or other dogs who do the same. Despite this, despite her trying to leap on the backs of neighbourhood joggers, I have yet to face a negative reaction to her behaviour. The people here seem to understand that dogs are dogs and sometimes they do rude things. No one has yelled at me for Shiva urinating on a bush on public property – which happened several times in Halifax  - and when Shiva loses her cool at the end of her leash, the other dog owners often apologize to me.

Now that is class.

Is that not enough to send you voting? It looks like I am going to have to get to the quick and the dirty.

Wild Earth1. Edmonton is home to many wonderful patios that welcome dogs with open arms. This local bakery several blocks up from our house is just one example. In warmer weather, just several days ago in fact, the brick path is covered in tables and chairs where dogs are invited to join their handlers in a freshly-baked lunch. The counter has a basket of dog cookies by the till and the staff members are so friendly, one of them even agreed to watch Shiva while my PH nipped inside for a coffee. She also didn’t hesitate to sneak our puppy a cinnamon twist while they waited. How is that for service?

2. Dog parks. Edmonton has 41 off leash spaces within city limits. 41! I mean, really, you’ll never run out of options, no matter where you are.

3. Edmonton’s Downtown Farmer’s Market moves outside from late spring to mid-fall and is completely pet friendly. One of my favourite things to do during the warmer months is browse for yummy local snacks while breed-spotting at the market.

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4. Edmonton is within driving distance of six – six! – of Canada’s gorgeous National Parks, all of which are pet friendly. From Jasper to Elk Island to Waterton Lakes, there is no shortage of extravagant scenery or mountain trails to explore with your canine pal.

So this photo was taken in the Crowsnest Pass, still in Alberta, still only a drive from Edmonton

So this photo was taken in the Crowsnest Pass, still in Alberta, still only a drive from Edmonton, still stunning

5. Sure, yeah, Edmonton gets snow. You know what it doesn’t get? Rain. Since we moved here in July, I think it has rained about five times. And I don’t mean five days, five times. This includes a light sprinkle overnight. Most dogs love rolling in the white stuff. Very few dogs love a drenching downpour.

Heck, I took this picture tonight at around 7:30 and the sun was only starting to decline

Heck, I took this picture tonight at around 7:30 and the sun was only starting to decline

6. Being further north than most other cities in North America, Edmonton benefits from extra hours of sunlight in the spring time. In mid-June, the sun rises before five am and starts to set long after ten o’clock at night. This is a whole lot of extra dog walking time. 

7. Edmonton is home to some very nice hotels. Many of them are pet friendly. When we first moved here, we had yet to arrange a permanent place to live. Though our current home was found in short order, the hotel staff at a very comfortable chain downtown were more than accommodating. It was just what my PH needed after his long drive across the country. They smiled every time we walked in the door and never batted an eye when Shiva barked at fellow guests. I am so grateful they gave us a place to rest while we got our bearings. Shiva and The Cat enjoyed it too.

Shiva in hotel

8. This one may seem vain, but can I just say, Whyte Avenue in Edmonton is a wicked ego boost. All I have to do is walk down this happening busy street with Shiva by my side for five minutes and my confidence glimmers. Edmontonian hipsters cannot resist a dog. Every single person we pass either smiles in her direction or stops to gush over how cute and well-behaved she is. They don’t even need to pet her, they are willing to love her from a distance.

Whyte Ave makes me feel better about my life

Whyte Ave makes me feel better about my life

9. Edmonton is also the city of festivals, many of which are dog friendly. My favourite so far is Ice on Whyte, an annual ice carving festival within walking distance of our home. This is one event worth braving the cold with your mutt.

10. Edmonton has all the feel and action of a big city without the expensive price tag. Alberta has no provincial sales tax and Edmonton’s hotel, food, and beverage rates are notably lower than other major Canadian cities. If you want a cool place to go that won’t cost a fortune, Alberta’s capital is a great choice.

11. I’ve said it before but I know I need to say it again: Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley is the largest green space in North America, 22 times the size of Central Park in New York. All of this is dog friendly. I dare you to walk all 93 miles of trail space.

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If you aren’t convinced yet that Edmonton is an amazing place to be a dog, then I guess there is nothing more I can say. This city has surprised me in its openness and its greenery. Even when covered in ice it is pretty dang gorgeous. I hope you’ll come visit one day. But more, I hope you’ll vote for my city in Go Pet Friendly’s Best City For Pet Traveler’s Tournament. 

Shiva would lick you for it.

Dog Love: Why Does It Even Matter?

What the heck is love, anyway? Sure, we all think we know. We like to spout things about self-sacrifice, everlasting affection, and deep romantic attachment. Everyone has his or her own concept of what it feels like to love someone and of what this love should consist. We are eager to sneer at celebrities who marry one day and divorce the next, superior in our knowledge that it could not have been “real” love. Even I talk about it like it’s some defined thing, a concrete noun with assigned meaning.

Naturally, my opinion on this meaning is the only correct one.

Wanna hear it? Probably not. But I am going to tell you anyway.

The One True Definition of Love, as told by Kristine, shaming all other definitions of love because this is the one true definition and everyone else is wrong:

  • There is no such thing as love at first sight, love must grow over time to be real, otherwise it is just silly infatuation
  • Love means wanting to say you are sorry, over and over and over again
  • Love means putting those you love first. In fact, it means being grateful you can put them first, without a smidge of resentment.
  • That being said, love is not unconditional. I don’t care what crap your mom told you. Love can end.
  • There are no varying degrees of love. You either love someone or you don’t. You can’t “kind of” love somebody or only love them when they behave a certain way.
  • Love and need are two very different things.

I am going to stop now because I think I have made my point. I have no doubt ticked some of you off. If not, I have ticked myself off so I guess that’s good enough.

The thing is, I don’t believe anyone gets to tell us what love is. It’s too personal. It is such a profound word for some of us and an inscrutable one for others. Half the time, I don’t think I understand it at all. All I can tell you is how it feels for me based on my own experiences. Given that your experiences are – we hope – very different from mine I don’t get to tell you how you feel. As someone who was told throughout her childhood that her emotions were wrong, I believe in a person’s right to choose how she labels her feelings.

Or even whether she names them at all.

The author of Something Wagging This Way Comes wrote an insightful and wise blog post today about a – in my perspective – less than insightful study. Ever since I read the science article this morning I have been ruminating over the concept of defining how dogs feel love. Pamela has already done an excellent job of breaking down the methodology and pointing out the scientific flaws. I feel the need to push it further.

In my opinion it is an act of hubris to assume we can ever understand the way a dog feels about his human or anything else in his life. Science can help us predict his behaviour and even – maybe – help us understand the way a dog might view the world. But I do not believe it is possible to know if my dog loves anything, be it me, the Am Staff at the dog park, or a stuffed Kong. I just don’t feel comfortable labelling any of her emotions with certainty. I believe she feels them, I just don’t know if it is my place to determine what they are.

Love is too complex of an emotion, too intense. That doesn’t mean dogs don’t feel it – I believe they are capable of so much more than we will ever be able to prove in a lab. However, I don’t know if it is possible to interpret their actions as something so complicated without hearing from them first. It seems to be doing them a disservice.

No doubt you are narked again. If you are the kind of person who reads late night blog posts written by people who spend too much time pondering canine philosophy, you are the kind of person who puts her dog first. I know your dog appreciates it. I know your dog is happy when you are around. It is possible your dog loves you. It is just not my decision to make.

Nor is it a decision for scientists in a lab to make.

Do I think Shiva loves me? No idea. As I said in my comment this morning, it doesn’t matter to me if she does. In fact, based on my own definition above, I hope she doesn’t. I don’t want her to put my health and happiness before her own. If there is a threat, I want her to run away as fast as she can so I can handle it. It isn’t her job to protect me. What is more important to me, and what is easier to gauge by her behaviour, is that I do think she trusts me.

Trust is much less complicated than love, and – in many ways – is much easier to define. Shiva shows me she trusts me by letting me handle her, even when she is in pain. She never flinches from my touch, even when she doesn’t want to be pet. When she used to be terrified of water bottles, she now will drink from one as I pour it into her bowl. She lets me reach into her mouth, even when she scooped up something super yummy from the ground. Shiva looks to me when uncertain and dives forward when I say something is okay.

For Shiva, I am a means to getting what she wants. But I am also someone safe, someone she relies on to care for her when she is feeling unwell I don’t need to call it love in order to feel proud that I can provide her with what she needs. My love for her is more than enough for the two of us.

Real Life Confession #12: I Care Too Much About Hair

Being a woman, it follows that I hate almost everything about my physical appearance.

Maybe that isn’t true. Hopefully it isn’t true for any of the women who might read this. But, we are told by every commercial, every magazine, and every soup label that who we are and how we look is wrong.* Societal disdain is a hard enemy to combat and most days, I don’t even try. I accept the fact that I don’t look like a Hollywood celebrity – noting that most Hollywood celebrities don’t even look like Hollywood celebrities – and try not to think about how others would rate my attractiveness.

Cat ears notwithstanding, I recall being happy with my hairstyle that day

Cat ears notwithstanding, I recall being happy with my hairstyle that day

Age has taught me that none of it counts.  Manicures are for twenty-somethings in the midst of quarter-life crises. Me? I have a dog to wrangle.

Except in one area, that is. I may have given up on having clear skin, may not have weighed myself in at least five years, and may have embraced the classic t-shirt as my personal statement, but I spend a superfluous amount of time thinking about my hair. It is a vanity I cannot dethrone.

This is not to say that I think it always looks photo-worthy. Please. I am not the kind of woman who gets up at three in the morning to spend four hours making sure her tresses gleam. At least, I am not any more. (See aforementioned dog.) If it doesn’t look remotely decent, however, I have difficulty holding my head high when going to the grocery store. I don’t care about my tattered jeans or my dirty shoes when running out for cat food. I have to make sure my hair is clean and in place. In an ideal world, it would also be trimmed every six weeks.

Clearly, things often amble far from the ideal. Six or seven years ago I may have subsisted on ramen in order to pay for regular salon visits, which may be a part of the reason I am in a bit of a fiscal downturn, but this wasn’t sustainable. The biggest problem with this: when I let my hair situation slide too far, my confidence slithers right along with it. Basically, if my hair looks like crap, I feel like crap.

It is a bit ridiculous, I realize. No one else cares or even notices. I never judge anyone else for something as petty as the shape, length, or style of their locks, It is foolish to hinge so much of my personal pride on a pretty mane.

Logic has no place here. When my hair has split ends up to my eyebrows, I can’t help but reflect on past splendor. It seems like just yesterday I was walking around with this super-cute style:

2007

If I remember correctly, the colour lasted about a week before it turned poop-red. It was lovely for the seven days it hung around, wasn’t it?

Spending money on something that does not benefit anyone else makes me feel guilty. The simple desire to spend this money makes me feel guilty. Thus, even though getting a hair cut is a positive experience that improves my self-esteem, it makes me feel bad about myself at the same time. Which is why before yesterday, I hadn’t had a trim since April of last year.

There was a whole lot of not cute going on.

train hair

The above picture is from September and the split ends are mortifying. The mind boggles at how long my hair had grown in the five months since this was taken. I will spare you the horror.

Self-care involves taking the time for actions that have that have positive impacts on our minds and bodies. Self-care makes me feel guilty. Well, nuts to that. It is a little thing, perhaps a selfish thing, but it makes me feel so much more like myself. It should not be a source of judgement and shame. If self-care is a feminist act then maybe getting a hair cut can be too.

Taken yesterday afternoon. So. Much. Better.

Taken yesterday afternoon. So. Much. Better.

 

Or maybe I am just enabling an obsession I need to conquer. It is just head-covering, right? It might be time for an intervention.

Do you have any vanities you can’t abolish? 

*Seriously, Progresso. I expect this kind of crap from yogurt, but soup? You have ruined what used to be a faultless comfort food.

My Idea of a Morning Win

Finally! Dog blogs are legitimized! They aren’t just for odd women who get up far too early every morning and need someone to whom they can vent all of life’s frustrations.* Pet bloggers are cool people too!

At least, that’s what I thought after my first, second, and even third viewing of the below commercial. Now that I have come down from the high of temporary credibility, I am realizing this adorable television ad is not what I’d hoped. It turns out, the lyrics aren’t what I thought they were. I hate when that happens. Sometimes actually paying attention to the real words being said is such a bummer.

Before I say any more, I’ll give you a chance to understand what I am talking about.

Cute, right? I mean, she has a dog blog and everything! This is my life! I can relate!

Except for the fact that I can’t. Not really. Those bothersome things called “sexism” and “diet industrial complex” and “grammar” make it very hard to enjoy what could have been an endearing little commercial. If this is the world’s idea of a “morning win” I am worried for the future of the world. Frankly, a morning where all I eat for breakfast is a thin cookie is not one for the record books.

To ease some of my pain, I thought it would be fun to come up with my own sunrise song. I haven’t filmed a video – I am too much of a perfectionist for that – but maybe a company will hear my cry and give me the cash to do it right.

It’s worth a shot.

Here is my idea of a morning win:

I had a shower, ran the dog, took some photos for my blog, didn’t get hit on during my commute.

Bought a muffin, scored free coffee, pet a kitten, lamented hockey, impressed the boss with an argument she could not refute.

Deadlines chased, projects aced, dressed with taste, mistakes erased, and I even wrote this song!

What do you think? Sure, my version doesn’t have a fluffy poodle but it is a morning that would make me proud. 

I know, I think far too much about commercials. These things are not meant to be analyzed with half as much effort as I put in. But humour me, will you? What is your idea of a morning win?

*Please note, I describe only myself with this sentence. Most dog bloggers I know have active social lives and are not even slightly strange. In fact, they are so normal, it’s creepy. 

Real Life Confession #85: Things For Which I Will Not Apologize

018Shiva the dog is a dog. She makes a lot of mistakes. I am a human. I make a lot of mistakes when I am handling her. I am happy to own up to these gaffes. In fact, I have been happy to take the blame for every misstep ever made by a human since the beginning of time. Ones that included dogs and ones that did not.

For thirty-two years I have retracted, I have repented, and I have redressed things that happened under my supervision and things that happened when I wasn’t in the area code. It is always my fault.

But there are straws and there are camels and there are backs.* After all of this time I am drawing a line. There are now certain things, dog-related things, for which I will no longer apologize. I vow:

1. I will not apologize when my dog reacts to another dog who invades her space when the other dog’s owner is disobeying city bylaws. These bylaws include not being off-leash outside of designated areas and not being on a leash that exceeds two metres in length. So to the man walking the dog on the extendable leash in Old Strathcona tonight? I am not sorry Shiva snapped and otherwise flipped out at your dog. Your dog, while perfectly lovely I am sure, should not have been able to cross the road to get in her face. This was your fault, kind sir, not mine. You should apologize to me.

2. I will not apologize when I break the bylaws and annoy someone else who is also breaking the bylaws, especially when my flouting of the rules does less harm. So to the man walking the dog on the extendable leash – this seems to be a common law-breaking habit – in the ravine Wednesday morning? I am not sorry I failed to re-leash my dog in an on-leash area. It was dark and your dog was trotting so far away from you I assumed her or she was off-leash as well. My dog obviously did too which is why she was clotheslined on your illegal leash’s cord. I am not sorry we irritated you. I am sorry your leash almost hurt my dog.

3. I will not apologize when my dog slips her collar and gets an illegally off-leash dog riled up to the extent he or she cannot be recalled. This is not my fault. If your dog does not have a solid recall with all distractions, including nutty on-leash dogs, he or she should not be off-leash in an on-leash area. So to everyone who walks their dogs off-leash in the clearing of the ravine every weekend morning? You have been warned. The next time, I might just let her go on purpose.

4. I will not apologize when my dog lunges at people who stand behind trees and then leap out in front of me. Especially when it is dark. You are lucky all she does is bark.

I'm just a dog in the world. That's all that I wanna beeeee.

I’m just a dog in the world. That’s all that I wanna beeeee.

5. I will not apologize when my dog sets off dogs whose handlers are walking them in groups of five down the middle of the road on extendable leashes. The size of the dogs is irrelevant. My dog deserves to walk in peace as much as those belonging to other people. If I can walk on the sidewalk and keep my dog in her own space, other people can too. If my dog’s presence is so arousing that your dogs just can’t take it? You need to do some training. I recommend starting by walking one at a time on a shorter leash.

Am I being unfair? Is there anything for which you refuse to apologize?

*Line shamelessly stolen from one of my favourite Canadian films. Betcha can’t guess which one.

On Books and Obsession and My Crazy Brain

Have you ever become so personally involved with a book, so emotionally connected, that when you overhear other people - strangers who are not part of this private world – mention a character in passing, as if they have the right to casually say his name, you are shocked and appalled?

I have. It’s happened only a handful of times, but when it did, shocked and appalled didn’t cover it.

At first, I was confused. How does this unknown person even know who that is? They weren’t there. They didn’t see this amazing thing occur. Then, when sensibility kicked in, I was hurt, almost betrayed, as if the character had cheated on me with someone else. It took a few more moments for rationality to take over. Because I do have a handle on reality, I did eventually grasp the notion that the fictional people in the story don’t live in my own secret realm. I was forced to recognize they were created by an author and everyone knows them because Hollywood produced a blockbuster based on the novel. They don’t belong to me.

Reality bites.

Luckily for my sanity points, this doesn’t happen often. It is rare when I can immerse myself altogether. Given the large amount of my spare time I spend absorbed in one book after another, it is something special that causes this intense of a reaction. As it happened recently with a popular young adult series, this feeling has been on my mind. I don’t know if it is the writing itself that does it, or my frame of mind when I am reading.  Now that I am attempting to take my own writing more seriously, I am curious about the particular set of circumstances that enable me to forget myself in such a way. What makes a story so good, and the characters so relatable, that it is possible for a reader to immerse herself so entirely?

I can’t take timing out of the equation, of course. No doubt my mental head space contributes. Nevertheless, when I recall the books with which I have been the most enamoured, they were usually novels written for younger generations: Anne of Green Gables, Tuck Everlasting, Hunger Games… Is it because the writing itself is simpler? Or perhaps because the characters are younger? Youth and all of its fumbling generally makes for a compelling story. For myself anyway, It is often much easier to understand the motivations of a teenager than those of a middle-aged male. There is less artifice, more instinct. Their flaws are raw and their mistakes forgivable. However, just because I find myself obsessed with young adult dystopia as of late doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a little Wally Lamb. Or even, on especially unique occasions, Steinbeck.

That’s what I love the most about books, fiction and non, and why I panic about not reading enough. Every single one is an opportunity to discover a new perspective. Some more than others, for inexplicable reasons, just entice me down the rabbit hole.

What do you think? Have you ever gotten this caught up by a book? Am I just plan nuts?

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