The first stage of grief

I tried to embrace it. I really did. Even if this morning’s snowfall was a temporary mishap, I know winter is peeking over the horizon. Complaining isn’t going to prevent it from coming. Better to find the joy in the approaching weather than to let it get me down.

Yet, when I opened the door this morning and paused in the threshold, even Shiva looked wary. The wind was bitter. The flakes that wafted into the mudroom were depressing.

Regardless, we grit our teeth and moved into the cold, leaving our furnace and blankets behind. My breath wafted out in front of me. I tucked my head into my coat and contemplated going back for a scarf and mittens. At least I had thought to wear boots. My toes wriggled in thanks to my foresight.
After a moment or two Shiva lost her trepidation. Dogs are experts at rolling with the punches. Accepting the sudden drop in temperature as just the way things were, she bounded down the sidewalk with her usual verve.

I trailed behind as quickly as I could. The faster I walked, I told myself, the sooner we could go home. My nose was already numb. My fingers throbbed and tightened around the leash.

I really am going to have to find those mittens.

Edmontonians are tough creatures. Expecting to see no one brave enough to face this unaccountably early snowfall I was surprised by how many cyclists and joggers we ran into as we wandered through the ravine. These Northern people don’t let a little thing like freezing to death stop them from their exercise routines. I wish I could say I was as stubborn. If it wasn’t for Shiva, I would have still been in bed.

I know I need to get over it. Soon it will be much colder than it was today. If I am to survive I will have to find the beauty in an endless winter.

But not today. Today I am allowed to whine and vent and tantrum as much as I please. Today I let myself hibernate  and brood. Tomorrow I will get up in the morning and force a smile on my face. Today, however, today I will continue to pout.

Summer is gone. I am allowed some time to grieve.

This is a plea for help

I have become that which I despise, that which I never thought I could be. There is no part of me that is confrontational. Strangers are dangerous. No matter the circumstances, I will go out of my way to avoid interaction with them. I will even use those dang self check outs when I have a ridiculous number of items just so I won’t have to make eye contact with someone.

I am a ninja with self check out. Fastest scanner this side of Toronto.

And yet! And yet, I have turned into the obnoxious outspoken crazy dog woman. The woman who yells at people and calls them out when their dogs are acting like hooligans. The woman who is just so bloody tired of dealing with ignorant people who think it is okay if their dog chases mine down the street. Something in me has snapped. I won’t, I can’t, duck my head and seethe inwardly anymore. My mouth speaks before my brain gives it permission. I know it doesn’t help; I know it won’t change anything. I can’t remain silent.

In essence, I have become my mother.

Oh, how that smarts.

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Mr. Poodle Man has been a common target. If we head a certain direction in the morning we are bound to encounter him. His dog is beautiful, poofy and black and bouncy and everything a standard poodle should be. Except for the whole barking at Shiva’s heels thing. If this dog was on a leash it wouldn’t be an issue. Of course, this dog is never on a leash. His or her owner doesn’t seem to think this behaviour is an issue. Sure, he calls and tells his dog to stop, but we all know that does nothing. Yelling down the street while your dog harasses another dog, making no effort to retrieve your pet and in fact having no leash on you at the time, does not impress me much. You are putting your dog, and mine in danger. If this was a park, I would let Shiva off to defend herself. It is almost always a residential road. Mr. Poodle Man may be willing to risk his dog getting hit by a car. I am not.

Do you know his response to my request to restrain his lovely dog?

“Mmmmhmmm.”

Mmmmhmmm. Indeed. There was no apology for his dog’s rudeness, no sheephish grin, no acknowledgement of how scary it might feel to be stalked down the road by a strange dog. I almost wanted to encourage Shiva to react, just to show him how risky his laissez faire attitude is. If I knew his address I would have reported him to Animal Control a long time ago. This poodle is going to get hurt.

And then there was the episode tonight with the Pomeranian. Shiva and I were on our usual evening jaunt. To the right of us was a busy parking lot outside of an outdoor swimming pool. We heard high-pitched barking and looked over. A small brown dog ran loose on the road. He or she headed right for us. My first thought was that this dog was lost. Rewarding Shiva, I directed her to my left side and looked around for an owner. I caught sight of a man walking a German Shepherd behind us. Not good.

That’s when I heard the voice of a woman come from one of the vehicles. While the little dog yapped and sped as fast as he could toward the Shepherd, she hollered at him to come back. She didn’t get out of her car, she didn’t even open her door.

The words tumbled out of my mouth before I knew they existed.

Her response was sarcastic, as expected. I told her I was just concerned for her dog’s safety. She said nothing and remained inside her vehicle. Her dog continued to run around the German Shepherd’s heels. The man was silent. Luckily for everyone’s sake, so was the Shepherd.

wpid-wp-1409108221566.jpegHow do I cure this? How do I return to my quiet, keep-my-selflsh-rants-to-myself self?

Even better, how do I help change the status quo? How do I teach people that their neglectful actions are putting their family members in danger? I feel like a jerk when I don’t speak up and a jerk when I do. Is that the way of it?

All I want is to walk with Shiva without fear, without the stress of running into ignorant owners with dogs who don’t know how to behave off-leash. Is this nothing but a fantasy?

Winter is Coming. For Realsies.

When Shiva and I embarked upon our rainy walk this evening this is what we saw:

wpid-wp-1407550117778.jpegAll complaint of water-logged sandals seemed but a distant memory when confronted with such traumatic morbidity. It seems not weeks ago, six to be precise, when the leaves first graced us with their presence. They have already begun to wither and die. For that’s all it is, according to my PH. Leaves don’t change colour, or anything so romantic, they die. In Edmonton, they die sooner than anywhere else in the world.wpid-wp-1407550095361.jpeg

There is no trickery involved in these pictures. They were taken an hour ago with my phone. I wish I could say I was joking. I wish this was some sort of disturbing prank. There is nothing funny about autumn on the eighth of August. I may never laugh again.

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The photos above don’t even show the worst of it. I couldn’t bear to take any more. It is too horrifying, too gruesome. You should not be subjected to such an atrocity.

How do people live here? This is all I can ask.

The last winter was one of the harshest of my recent experience. It began in early October and didn’t cease until May. The only thing that got me through was the certainty that it would indeed end, that one day summer would arrive and I could go outside again without fear of losing my fingers. I wasn’t wrong. The season did change. It would almost have been better if it hadn’t. To be so brief is almost inhumane. Winter is coming, sooner than I can bear.

All I can do is luxuriate in what is left. Go outside as much as possible before the temperatures drop to cruel levels. If you happen to live in a warmer climate below the fifty-third parallel, I implore you. Enjoy the summer! Relish its heat and its greenery! Though it may feel too warm to bear at times, remember me and be grateful.

Dear twenty-two year old me

You are at the precipice of a very interesting time. You feel restless and yet exhausted. You want a break but you are scared of relaxing too long for fear of losing your dreams. Unfortunately, things aren’t going to sort themselves out for quite a few years. It would help if you could actually decide what those dreams are. We both know that’s not going to happen.

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I don’t have many regrets, you’ll be happy to know. Things get a little sketchy, I’ll be honest, but you find a way to slog through and survive. In truth, I am far happier now than I was when I was you. It would cost a lot of money to convince me to do twenty-two over again. Sorry about that. In fact, the only year I would willingly experience for the second time was the one you just finished. That last year of university, no job, no responsibilities other than writing that paper on Kornilov. Sure and we still lived with our parents, that part was no bonus. It was nice having money, however, and nothing really to spend it on. I hope you savoured that year. The road ahead is a bit of a morass.

It’s not all bad. There are some things happening that will surprise you. You will start dating the man I am still with today. That was unexpected. Actually, I am reluctant to say even that much as I know the thought of such long term commitment at this point in your life terrifies you. Pretend you didn’t hear that, okay?

Hey, one day you'll live in a neighbourhood with purple houses. Could be worse, right?

Hey, one day you’ll live in a neighbourhood with purple houses. Could be worse, right?

I’m sorry your job sucks so much. It is a bit of a necessary thing, though, so you’ll just have to deal. The people are pretty awesome and will go on to help you in so many ways. Be kind, be friendly, be open, and be willing to leave your cave once in a while. Unless it is the redhead inviting you out. Feel free to avoid her as much as you want.

I have no other advice. In many ways, I am just as confused as you are. There are no answers and there is no life-affirming thing that will bring it all together. The one thing I will say is this: stop waiting. This here, right now, this awkward in between space? This is your life. Live it.

Much love – you deserve it,

Kristine

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?