My heart is broken for a dog I have never met. His name is Diego. He is a one year old Chihuahua. I saw him once, on Tuesday, or maybe it was Wednesday, evening last week. My first thought was annoyance: another off-leash dog in the ravine. Then my brow furrowed when I realized the wee guy was alone. He was far up the path, at least fifteen metres away. He was chasing a squirrel. I stopped and Shiva stopped with me, though she had spotted him too. He stopped and looked back at us. Telling Shiva to sit and stay, I took a step forward and knelt down. Diego ran in the other direction. For having such short legs, he sure could motor. Shiva and I followed at a distance. I hoped I could trap him somewhere and then Of course, I didn’t have my phone. It wasn’t long before he was too far ahead for me to believe we would catch up. Without a way to contact Animal Services, I wasn’t sure what to do. Several joggers passed him by and didn’t pause. And then a cyclist almost ran him over but after a jerked swerve, he kept on going too. I wanted to call out, I didn’t understand why they didn’t stop. I was too far away and Shiva was too enthusiastic for the little guy to turn back to us. He turned a corner and we followed. By the time we had rounded the bend, Diego was gone. There was a sharp hill on our right but I couldn’t see him scurrying up the side. He wasn’t on the road ahead or in the parking lot. Defeated, all I could do was hope the he had found his human and returned home. I’d completely forgotten about the incident until last night when I saw the poster. My heart dropped. All I keep thinking about is how small he was and how alone he must feel in this hectic city. It is no place for a scared Chihuahua. I wish I had done more. I wish I’d had my phone with me. I wish I’d handled the situation better. I know what it is like to be in Diego’s human’s place. We are so lucky Shiva has come home with us, safe, every single night since we adopted her. I hope this shy baby is home with his people right now. I wish there was something else I could do.
Update: Diego has been found! I received a message from his human yesterday evening, shortly after I posted this. He was returned home safe on Friday evening. It is a huge relief. Thank you so much for your kind comments and support!
Today’s post is inspired by the daily prompt over at The Daily Post.I have a feeling this excellent website is going to be a vital resource for me as I plod through my 100 Days Project.
I am inhibited by fear at every turn. Some fears I am better at ducking through, others prevent me from doing things that many people accomplish without thinking. The most prominent one I have been unable to face millions of people do every day, often multiple times. As a result, there is a great deal of shame that tags along with the paralyzing thoughts. Few understand, including family. I wish I could explain what to me sounds like a rational aversion but to them sounds insane. Or worse, weak.
Fear is a weakness, I suppose, when it stops one from living life. But my fear, this fear of driving a car – I may as well be open – has been easy to manage. Sure, relying on my own power or public transit can be more complicated and time-consuming. When I lived on my own, I became accustomed to carrying leaden bags of groceries for twenty blocks or more. On occasion, I still do. I don’t mind. I’d rather deal with the pain of plastic biting into my hands than the fear of losing control of a motor vehicle.
It wasn’t easy for me, but I steered this motor boat for almost five minutes!
Shiva has less fear than I do. If it comes down to fight or flight, she will often choose the former. She doesn’t worry about things beyond her control. Scary strangers in hats are nothing a little barking won’t cure. Thunder that shakes the house isn’t more important than a good nap. Shiva will scale trees, jump off cliffs, and face the claws of The Cat over and over and over again. Nonetheless, even the fearless wonder is daunted by her own dragon. She will take the teeter on the agility course backwards but put her on a boat in the middle of the lake and she turns into a shaking mess desperate for comfort.
Shiva is not a happy puppy
Though it can be debilitating for her in certain circumstances, in a way, I am glad Shiva has this one unshakeable fear. It shows me that she does care about her safety. So often she rushes ahead without thinking and it has already gotten her in trouble. At least in this one area, she appears to have a bit of sense.
This could be my inner coward talking. I like that we seem to almost have something in common. Shiva hates going to the lake, despite the fact that countless dogs adore swimming and will do anything to get back in. I am terrified of sitting behind the wheel of a car, despite the fact that most human adults spend a lot of money to do it every day. It is far easier for me to contemplate skydiving or bungee-jumping than driving to the corner store. It is far easier for Shiva to tear across a wooden log or jump from a second story window than put her face underwater.
Would life be easier for us if we could conquer these fears? LIkely and maybe we both will in time. If only for how good it will feel to achieve something I haven’t thought possible for a long time. We aren’t going to let them stop us from living joyful lives, however, even if Shiva never leaps off a dock and I never drive again. Fear is only bad if it prevents you from living your life. In that regard, I think we are going to be just fine.
Is there anything more inviting than a swing on an empty playground? Perhaps a warm cup of coffee on a rainy afternoon, or a dog in mid play bow with tail slowly wagging. Many things will draw an involuntary smile. A garden of wildflowers, an open fire, the look on my PH’s face as he pets The Cat. Yet, the magnetism of the childhood activity is hard for me to resist. It is silly, isn’t it? I am thirty-two, not eight. I shouldn’t miss the rush of air on my face or the satisfaction of leaping into sand from giddy heights, landing on two feet without a wobble. It is hard to say what part of me still craves the feeling of legs pumping and hair wafting. Nostalgia is too simple. But can it be anything else?
Shiva and I met a coyote last week. We weren’t hiking in the mountains or bushwhacking in the woods. It was 6:30 on a Monday morning and we had just begun our ritual walk in the ravine. I saw movement ahead and my first assumption was an off-leash dog. Before I could even roll my eyes, the animal turned to trot in our direction and I knew my initial inclinations were wrong. There was no mistaking the confidence of a wild predator. This was no muttski.
He looked like this, actually, only not as healthy.
He, or she, was thinner than other coyotes I’ve seen. Rangier, even, than the photo I nicked from Wikipedia to the left. The animal, whatever his or her sex, was built almost like Shiva. He was the same height and shape, only with less muscle and lacking her adorable puppiness. I haven’t spotted one in Alberta for a long time, not since I lived in the South and I would see them wandering down the side of a prairie road. Shiva and I hear them often but seeing them is rare. In a way, we were lucky.
Shiva doesn’t have a lot of experience with predator-type animals. Or any. Her response to most of the wild creatures we have encountered is much the same. Raccoon… Friend! Duck… Friend! Deer… Friend! Porcupine… Best! Friend! Ever! For the most part, she sees the world as full of animals dying to be sniffed. Her sole objective is to get her nose up the other animal’s bottom as soon as she possibly can. I had hope that she would be smart enough to tell the difference between a rabbit and a species who could cause he harm.
I was wrong.
Shiva responded to the sight of the coyote with the same alert anticipation she responds to off-leash dogs. Cautious, to be sure, but not afraid. Ears erect, tail high on her back, she wanted to investigate. If she hadn’t been connected to me via a thick nylon cord, she probably would have. Would this have been a problem? It’s hard to say. It was just one coyote. In all likelihood, he or she would have taken off and all would have been as normal. Then again, I wasn’t willing to take that kind of risk.
I am still unsure as the best thing to do in this scenario. While I have read all the books and heard all of the well-meaning advice, I don’t know if there is any one right way to respond. Sometimes the right thing turns out to be wrong and sometimes the dumb thing turns out to be smart. Show no fear, they say. Don’t look weak. Stand your ground. In an actual dangerous situation, I think all one can do is trust her instincts. More often than not, my instincts tell me to get the heck out of there.
Not that I think Shiva and I were in any danger. The coyote was far enough away and outnumbered. There was no need to do anything. Still, I chose to leave the park and take a different route. It seemed more reasonable at the time. Who needs that kind of stress on a Monday?
It makes me wonder, however, if I need to prepare myself better for future encounters. We live in bear country now and if I am going to follow through with my goals to hit up the back country this year, it is very possible a coyote will be the least of our problems. It’s not just my safety I have to worry about. The quickest way to ruin a good backpacking trip is to watch Shiva run up to a Grizzly and shove her nose up his butt.
Do you have any dog-wild predator encounter stories? How did you handle it? What do you do when you see a coyote?
Last year, the Year of Shittery if you remember, we spent too much time stressing, talking, angsting, planning, moving, and then acclimatizing to appreciate the world still turning underneath our feet. I had enough adventure finding new tenants, convincing landlords to rent to us unseen, packing all of our belongings for the second time in a year, and then trekking across the country with a cat under my arm – for the second time. This year, however, is the first year in several in which our household is staying in one place. This means, I get to find my excitement elsewhere. Summer in Edmonton is a unique experience. It lasts but sixty days, give or take. I drooled over the thought of a break from the uninhabitable temperatures for months before they arrived. I glare at anyone who utters a negative word about the heat. It won’t last, I say. Devour it while you can. Meanwhile, I have a life list to brush off. It’s yellowed a bit, torn around the edges from being flattened out and then crammed back into my pocket so many times. It is a little late, July 8 already, but I have projects in the works, trails to attempt, tents to sleep in. I am my father’s daughter, after all. If I am not doing a new thing, I am seeking the next one out. I have eaten sea urchin roe, zip-lined through the Nova Scotian forest, kissed the Blarney Stone, and worn a bikini in public. It is time for a new challenge. And I know just the thing.
As I mentioned, I’ve been feeling out of touch, low, and pessimistic. Things got better with a holiday to plan but, once over, the bland feelings returned. I hesitate to call them by another name as they seem to be related more to boredom than to anything insidious. It is an overall flatness, a disinterest in all activity. Perhaps I am regressing to teenagehood as it doesn’t feel dissimilar. Perish the thought.
As I stew, burrowing further into mindless routine, complaining yet doing nothing to pull myself out, I refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Nothing changes if nothing changes, as the motivating author of a Life Less Bullshit is always pointing out. It is easy to push this away, in favour of wallowing. My friends, do I like a wallow. I am just so good at it too. It isn’t as if I have such a plethora of skills to engage. It seems a shame to toss this one after honing it for three decades. What will I have left but brownie eating and being bad at bowling? These abilities are not in as high demand as you’d think. It seems there aren’t as many prizes these days for the worst bowling score one can achieve while actually trying. What is the world coming to?
This was my prevailing opinion on the matter until this morning. Strange that my mental ass-kicking should come on a Monday. The bus was late, my feet were still sticky with mud from my morning hike, and I scrolled through the emails on my phone with impatience. I could previse the way the rest of my day was going to go and it wasn’t optimistic. Ever anxious about exceeding allowable data, I almost never click on links without access to wifi. The messages I can’t read via my inbox either get deleted or saved for later. Sometimes later comes, most times it doesn’t. I realize now I am the one who loses out the most with this disorganized and hasty practice. Lucky for me, Amber Adrian is a blogging endangered species who still sends the full text of her posts to email subscribers. If not, I would have missed out on this bit of brilliance:
But you know what doesn’t help the drama? Excusing yourself. Because that makes you less you. Because doing the things you love keeps your engagement with life at a steady burn and being engaged with life makes everything better…
And this too:
For now, it seems to boil down to “do your shit and let yourself feel as good as you can as much of the time as possible.”
Oh, and this:
I am not nearly the special feelings snowflake I thought I was. If I feel scared and lonely and joyful and overwhelmed and stuffed with love for things, you probably do as well.
I will stop before I just copy and paste the whole dang thing. It isn’t a long piece but it packed all the protein I’ve been needing into easy to swallow bites. In that way it proves everything I’ve been telling myself isn’t true, which is kind of annoying. No one likes to be as wrong as I have been. I am forced to deal with the idea that if a woman, whom I have never met, living in a place I have never been, can write something simple yet has a profound impact on me, it might be possible for me to do the same for somebody else. The more I write, the more I will want to write. The more motivated I feel to do something I enjoy, the more pumped I will be for other things and the more interesting my life will become.
In essence, I need to stop wallowing and get out of my way. Darn it all anyway.
It isn’t going to be easy to keep me accountable. The lure toward mindlessness is powerful after months of indolence. As if it was Kismet, not a week ago I learned about the 100 Days Project from my friend at NEPA Pets. Several wicked minds in New Zealand know what it is to want to do a thing and be unable to show up get it done. The concept is as uncomplicated as it gets. It is so hard to do on one’s own. This is where the internet comes in. Starting July 11, every day for 100 days, people around the world will do the thing they haven’t been able to do. The range of projects is as diverse as the people starting them. There are photography schemes, physical activity goals, plans for interior decoration, phone calls, and love letters. It is a glorious pile of desires to create and be and do.
It felt like hubris to join in, but I signed up anyway. From now until mid-October I am going to write at least 100 words every day. They may not be good words. They may not make sense. They may be stream of consciousness or they may be gag-inducing poetry that would make even my eleventh grade English teacher wail. They are going to be mine. Even though it isn’t July 11, it would be too easy to wait and forget and excuse myself, so I am starting four days early. With no expectations, no rules, no strings beyond 100 words, I am going to get this done.
Even if I have to run over myself several times in the process.
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.
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.
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.
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:
And saw a lot of these:
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?
To be honest, one of the reasons I have resisted poetry so long was because my early introduction to the form was crammed full of the morbid and, in my opinion, broken thoughts of Emily Dickinson. It isn’t that I didn’t think she was brilliant, I just never liked what she had to say. My first real literature instructor adored her, however, and I remember being forced to analyze for weeks on end the cheery “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and the optimistic “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.” It made me miserable. I didn’t understand why it was necessary for me to take on the agony of a 19th century woman. I was a teenager and had enough of my own angst through which I needed to work.
However, now that I am older and less impatient, I see the value in wading through Ms. Dickinson’s swamps. The practice is still frustrating but if I pace myself I don’t get dragged under.
The below poem isn’t exactly a dog poem. The dog disappears after the first line, which, I admit, bothers me. From what I can discern with my limited knowledge, the poem has much more to do with the overwhelming power of nature and perhaps the writer’s renouncement of life. It certainly reads more like a suicide, akin to that of Edna Pontellier in The Awakening. The reason I sought it out has everything to do with the title and nothing else. I have always loved the short six-word phrase and thought it would be perfect for the title of a novel or memoir.
No doubt it has already been taken.
Regardless, when I looked at some of the literary reviews for today’s selection, I learned the dog might be more important that I had first imagined. One particular analysis by Djehuty struck me most. Instead of a woman walking her dog along the beach, he saw the speaker as Orion, strolling with his dog, Sirius, across the celestial plain. Rather than it being about a woman’s wish to surrender herself to the sea, it is possible it described the power of the Roman god and the water’s inability to conquer the sky.
Who knows? According to my high school teacher, there is no such thing as a false interpretation when it comes to poetry. It certainly makes for happier reading. Besides, the constellations of Orion and Sirius have always been my favourites.
“I Started Early – Took My Dog -”, by Emily Dickinson
I started Early—Took my Dog—
And visited the Sea—
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me—
And Frigates—in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands—
Presuming Me to be a Mouse—
Aground—upon the Sands—
But no Man moved Me—till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe—
And past my Apron—and my Belt
And past my Bodice—too—
And made as He would eat me up—
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion’s Sleeve—
And then—I started—too—
And He—He followed—close behind—
I felt His Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle—Then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl—
Until We met the Solid Town—
No One He seemed to know—
And bowing—with a Mighty look—
At me—The Sea withdrew—
It is at once both difficult and easy to find poems to share in honour of dogs. Easy because writing is a solitary business and many a poet found comfort in a silent friend. Difficult because most of the poems are melancholy. While I understand and even expect this, I am not seeking remind anyone of the shortness of a dog’s life. There is enough gloom, I think, and it is not my role to add to it.
Perhaps I am just looking in the wrong places. I am new to this journey, after all, and this part of the internet is unknown. I am looking forward to seeing what I can discover over time. But certainly, if you have a favourite to recommend, I would not turn it away.
Today’s selection was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I should know her works better than I do, I feel, because the name has such significance. From the little I have learned, her life was not simple and it does not surprise me she gained an affection for the canine friends in her life. There is much to which I can relate in the following words. I hope you can as well.
“To Flush My Dog”, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Yet, my pretty sportive friend,
Little is’t to such an end
That I praise thy rareness!
Other dogs may be thy peers
Haply in these drooping ears,
And this glossy fairness.
But of thee it shall be said,
This dog watched beside a bed
Day and night unweary—
Watched within a curtained room,
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
Round the sick and dreary.
Roses, gathered for a vase,
In that chamber died apace,
Beam and breeze resigning.
This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining.
Other dogs in thymy dew
Tracked the hares, and followed through
Sunny moor or meadow.
This dog only, crept and crept
Next a languid cheek that slept,
Sharing in the shadow.
Other dogs of loyal cheer
Bounded at the whistle clear,
Up the woodside hieing.
This dog only, watched in reach
Of a faintly uttered speech,
Or a louder sighing.
And if one or two quick tears
Dropped upon his glossy ears,
Or a sigh came double—
Up he sprang in eager haste,
Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,
In a tender trouble.
And this dog was satisfied
If a pale thin hand would glide
Down his dewlaps sloping—
Which he pushed his nose within,
After—platforming his chin
On the palm left open.