Lots of questions. And a baby goat.

It is day 58 of my 100 Days Project. I feel like it may as well be day 1. So many words, much more than the required 5800, and I am no closer to my goal of figuring out my goal.

The point of this challenge was to cultivate a daily writing practice. This I have done and am doing. It can be checked off. The underlying point, however, was to move beyond writing for writing’s sake. One can only blather on about nothing for so long.

Granted, I’ve done a decent job of this for over four years. Maybe there is purpose in a lack of purpose?

This is all a little too meta, isn’t it? Even for me. I am putting a lot of weight on one online scheme.

I am proud that I have stuck with it. Though I have dropped from blogging every day, I have faithfully kept up with my personal project. In the last few weeks, I have leaned toward pen and paper as a preferred medium. It is all very old school. There is something more appealing about burrowing into my deep blue chair, notebook in hand, scratching out the first thing that comes to mind, than there is about balancing my laptop and frowning at a bright screen. The experience of writing on real paper feels more natural. I correct myself less, crossing out much less than I would delete if I were typing.

But then, if I can get the same catharsis from writing my thoughts by hand as I do from sharing them online, is there a meaning behind this space at all? Why bother stammering to the void? Would it be more rewarding to hold my words to my chest? Should I just start a journal and be done with it?

What am I doing, really?

These are questions I can’t answer. I hate that. I hate that I am 32 years old and I have no clue what my passion is, what my goals are, what it is I want to do with my time. If I wasn’t afraid, if I was to throw everything at my dream, what would that dream be?

I don’t know. I am frightened I never will.

That’s enough ennui for today, I think. Because I don’t know how to end this properly, here is a short video of a baby goat. I filmed it while on holiday in British Columbia two weeks ago. If I could have fit him into my suitcase, he would be cuddling in my lap and life would be perfect.

Sweet dreams.

Feeling 32

February 18, 2014 won’t be one for the memory books. I am okay with this. I have no insightful words for myself like last year. No life lessons to share, no vows to make for the coming year. I am all out of profundity. Beyond it, in a way. There is just me, my dog across the living room on the couch, and the glass of wine I am contemplating. This is life. This is 32.

There are worse things.

Because that wine is going to go bad if I don’t drink it, I will leave you with my favourite Taylor Swift parody video. I expect I will be singing this song all night.

Less Wordy Wednesday: Tuffer Than I Expected

When I got home from work today there was a happy surprise waiting for me. My birthday had come early and our awesome prize package from Planet Dog, won during Kol’s Notes’ wicked Advent Calendar for Dog Lovers event, had finally arrived! I had forgotten all about it until I saw the familiar brand label on the box.

Shiva was pretty excited herself.

Shiva and Ball

Despite the fact that I have seen these toys in stores all over the country, I have never purchased one for Shiva. I love the concept behind them; treat-releasing toys are something I am always looking at for my starving puppy. They are perfect for working her mind and her body and often give me a chance to read a book for several minutes while she occupies herself with snarfing every last crumb. Nevertheless, when I felt the texture of the Orbee Tuff line offered by Planet Dog, they never seemed all that… Tough. I doubted their ability to stand up to Shiva’s gaping maw.

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See those jaws? They are even bigger than they look on camera.

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I am glad to say that I was wrong to doubt. Though the material is quite flexible, the rubber holds up well. After a few bouts of rough play, the ball is still without any noticeable teeth marks. Granted, they are not chew toys and are not meant for a full frontal assault. We are still going to be careful. But, so far, Planet Dog gets a Shiva lick of approval.

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I am looking forward to testing out the Snoop this weekend when I have some time to put the Shivster’s brain to the test. For now, I am content to watch her run all over the house, knocking over wine glasses, in pursuit of a dog’s real best friend.

The rubber ball.

Thanks again to Kol’s Notes for offering such a cool prize!

Train Your Dog Month Challenge – All You Have is Each Other

I attribute my success to this – I never gave nor took any excuse ~ Florence Nightingale

When the month began I was full of plans. I said an official farewell to 2013 and all of its days of aggravation. Nothing was going to get in my way of deepening my neglected relationship with Shiva. Not the office, not the new season of Community, not even my winter ennui. This time we were going to get things done. I vowed.

002Only, in all my swearing and promising I forgot one fairly vital aspect to my scheme. In order to meet my goal, I would need the committed participation of a partner, a canine partner with ambitions and desires of her own. I could be as motivated as I wanted but it wouldn’t make one bit of difference if I couldn’t convince Shiva to join in on the fun.

I’ve written the well-known agility phrase on this blog many a time before – “great dog, shame about the handler” – but in some, limited cases it can go the other way. Even if I am over-the-top enthused about something, if Shiva is more interested in napping on the chair, there isn’t much I can do. This is a lesson my former trainer used to try to drill in my head every time I complained that all the other dogs appeared smarter, saner, sharper. It only took me four years to learn it.

I have to work with the dog I have.

And she has to work with me. Don’t worry, I know all too well who has the shadier end of this deal.

This realization doesn’t mean this month was a failure. I didn’t give or take any excuses. The primary goal of Train Your Dog Month is to spend more quality time with your dog. I do think I have accomplished that.

Before I get to the exciting results of The Great Challenge of Getting Shiva to Hold an Item in Her Mouth, I first want to share a small, but important, victory.

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Due to a lot of patience I have been able to re-teach Shiva that the camera is not a scary Gorgon who will turn her into stone if she looks it in the eye.

I don’t know where she got this notion. She used to pose so well. All I’d have to do was pull out the black box and she would leap into action, presenting her best side for all the world to admire. Somehow, though, something altered. Was it the time I posted the picture of her with her tongue sticking out? Was she upset that I would share such an unflattering image? Or perhaps The Cat has been telling her about the time I captured his fur-less behind for all the world to see.

For the record, I never posted any of those pictures online.

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Whatever the reason, it was getting a bit annoying. She has such a pretty face. This is – mostly – a dog blog. It should feature photos of said dog, and not just the back of her head. I don’t think the world needs to be inundated with Shiva butt pictures, as cute as they may be.

So we got to work. A few handfuls of well-placed treats, multiple withheld sighs, and my best squeaky cartoon voice, and she forgot all about the mythical creature in the camera. The most vital part of this formula was the withheld sighs. I had to remind myself that Shiva is not inclined to respond to frustration. Instead of growling at her to pay attention to me and not the birds flying overhead, I had to force myself to relax and wait. And wait. And wait. And sometimes, I had to call it a day and try again another time.

I had to work with the dog I have.

It paid off. Just look at these puppy eyes.

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I even managed to get a picture of her in which she doesn’t look freaked out.

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My Shiva model is back. I am going to try not to lose her again.

004Now, I guess, I need to own up to this whole retrieving business. I wish I had a wicked video to show you. I mean, I have a video but it isn’t the one I wanted to make.

My clever PH realized that the trick to getting Shiva to return with the toy is to have another one in the wings. Since her favourite ball is this orange and blue wonder, he purchased a second. The results were solid. He had some pretty decent success getting Shiva to run back with the ball in her mouth, drop it on the floor in front of him, and then chase it across the room once again.

He had success. I did not.

Is it because I approach her at the wrong time of day? Do I just not throw as well? I try to match my energy to his and I spend a few minutes beforehand revving her up. But after the ball is thrown, she’ll pick it up, run around with it, and then come back to me with an empty mouth. I am beginning to think that ball games are just not going to be part of our relationship. It is not easy to admit defeat.

This doesn’t mean I am giving up on the challenge entirely. Even if Shiva won’t properly fetch for me, I am still determined to teach her to hold items in her mouth for photographic purposes. It. Will. Happen. Just not yet.

I’ll let this video speak for itself:

Not quite the trick I was hoping to show off at the end of this month.

Sure, I could say that Shiva has done much better with this behaviour than it appears. I am also much better with my timing when the camera is not running. I wish I could show you all of the other training sessions in which Shiva held that stuffed snake for five whole seconds. But I can’t. All I have in any given moment is the dog in front of me. Not the Shiva of yesterday who was a bit more interested in the game, or even the Shiva of tomorrow who might have benefited from a bit of latent learning. Shiva is a dog with emotions as important to her as mine are to me. It doesn’t matter how well she performs in a video. What matters is that we tried to do something together and we are going to keep trying. Because it isn’t about the results.

This is what I tell myself, anyway.

Now it is your turn.

I want to hear all about the fun things you have done with your pets this month. Have you learned any lessons that will help you in the future? Did your pet surprise you? Add a link with your story to the tool below and brag about all of your hard work. Every entry has a chance to win a $25 donation to your favourite pet charity and a prize pack for you and your dog!

The linky will be open for one week. While you are there, make sure to read about the challenges faced by my talented co-hosts at Something Wagging This Way Comes and  Alfie’s Blog, as well as by all the other participants. You may be newly inspired to join me in my Year of Training!

What is one thing making you proud of your pet this month?

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.

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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. 

Making the Holidays Count

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It is a continuous struggle for me to savour the moment. Especially during the holidays I find I get so caught up in crossing experiences off my list that I don’t stop to appreciate my surroundings. Skipping from one festive tradition to another, grabbing at as many tasty morsels as I can, the season whips by and before I pause a moment to bask, it is done. This seems to be a general problem, doesn’t it? The glorification of busy and of doing all the things all the time is at once compelling and empty.

I was better at this last year. With dwindling funds, the holiday should have been depressing. We had no money for gifts, no budget for entertainment, and I was so exhausted I didn’t bake a single cookie. In spite of all that, we still managed to enjoy the moment for what it was meant to be. We had our tree, our out-dated strings of lights, music on the radio, and our little furry family. It was more than enough and we had as good a holiday as ever.

This year, however, I have forgotten to take the time to sit in the quiet and enjoy. Our – albeit slowly – recovering financial situation has enabled us to spend a little more and this somehow lead to an urgent need to dust off the old Christmas checklist. I had to drink all the eggnog, watch all the movies, sing all the songs, attend all the symphonies, put up all the lights, eat all the chocolate, take all the photos…

Of course, no matter how hard I work to get it all done, I still end up missing an item or two which inevitably leads to self-recrimination. For example, on the weekend I realized I had yet to send out a single holiday card. It made me feel like an enormous jerk. I meant to do it, only I forgot in all the gift-wrapping and Nutcrackering. Now it is December 23rd, Christmas Eve Eve, it feels like my time is up. Two days left to dance, to devour, to delve. Two days and the joy is done. What will I have to show for it?

Memories, I suppose. That must be the goal of all the anxiety. Gotta create memories otherwise in 2018 I might look back on December 2013 and… What? Hate myself for not attending a performance of A Christmas Carol for the sixth time?

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The holidays are special because they are so brief. As much as I adore the music, I don’t want to sing “Sleigh Ride” in February. It should be saved for December, when it is happy and relevant, when it makes my co-workers smile. If Christmas lights were not tacky in March they wouldn’t bring so much hope in the dark days of November.

I realize now, perhaps too late, that it isn’t shoving in all the festivity I can that helps me enjoy the season. Quite the opposite seems to be true. When I focus on the activities that have the most personal meaning, that is when I glean the most from this joyful time. If there is room for a bit of extra frivolity, one more lunch with friends or one more picture of my dog in an elf hat, that’s a bonus. But I should never feel let down by not jamming in as many customs as I can, as if it is some sort of holiday contest. It is far more important for me to take the time to soak it in, to indulge in the calm, and, when I have the energy, to share the little sweetnesses with others.

I don’t know how much computer time I will have between now and the New Year, unfortunately. It worries me a little, taking more than a day away from blogging. I feel my motivation is still so fragile that any slip or sabbatical, even two days, will snap it for good. With a little magic, this will not be the case.

Our travel plans are going to be fun, but hectic. It will be Shiva’s first Christmas away from home and, of course, I am very worried about how she will behave. All I want this holiday season is a less anxious dog and an un-harassed family. If we make it through this holiday without anyone’s head getting bitten off, I will consider it the celebration of a lifetime! Please wish us luck!

I will try to share a little something tomorrow, the best day of the year, but if I don’t I want to wish you all a very lovely, very happy, very relaxing holiday season. Thank you for all of your warmth this last year, even when I was being a selfish bratface and didn’t deserve it. You are the reason I am still doing this thing.

As a late gift to you, here is one of my favourite videos of all time.

Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Border Collie

Before anyone is offended by the title of this post I want to make it clear that I do not believe Border Collies any any smellier than any other breed. If anything, their OCD nature probably makes them less odorous. No, the reference has less to do with stinkiness and more to do with the fact that the more time I spent in dog sports the more former mutt-lovers I saw switching over to the dark side.

Before anyone is offended by that I want to make it clear that I do not abide breed discrimination and  I think Border Collies are brilliant dogs. Some of Shiva’s best friends are Border Collies! Er…That may not quite be accurate. Shiva’s antics tend to bring out the worst in other dogs and Border Collies especially seem to prefer eating her face off to joining her in a game of running around like a maniac. Nonetheless! I love Border Collies and before the wackadoodle I used to think I wanted one. Now I know I prefer certifiable to genius in a dog.

The reason I call it “the dark side” is because there was a period where it seemed everybody I knew was getting a Border Collie. Let’s face it, they are over-represented in dog sports enough. Just look at this Canadian World Agility Team photo:

385285_575260402518399_1083747390_nThere seems to be this belief that if one wishes to move to the upper echelons of canine athletics, one requires either a Border Collie or a Sheltie. People I knew would get their start with a mutty rescue and then once they kind of knew what they were doing, they would purchase a Border Collie puppy. It was just a shame, is all. It gives newcomers and audience members the wrong impression. Other dogs are just as capable and love the thrill of competition just as much. One of the things I love the most is watching dogs of non-traditional breeds get out on the course and do just as well. Proving that, well, one doesn’t need a Border Collie to succeed.

Anyway, apparently it isn’t just dog sports in which Border Collies are unnecessarily the dominant breed. Or should I say species?

Champis is a hero to rabbits everywhere. Maybe a more appropriate title of this post should have been “Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Dog to Do a Bunny’s Job.”