Another love letter to my dog


Do you ever look at your dog and wonder how anyone ever gave you responsibility over such a vibrant creature? I suppose it might be different if you have children. No doubt one’s feelings of overwhelm at the sight of offspring supersede those that bubble up upon gazing at one’s dog.

I assume.

However, among us childless souls, am I alone in my awe? How am I, an imperfect, at times bewildered and unfinished, adult trusted with the life of a breathing animal? Who decided I was capable?

Sometimes, when I look at Shiva, I can’t help but be stunned that she is still here, still thriving, that I haven’t done anything to screw her up. Well, not too much.

I soak all of her in. Her rough foot pads, her muscled shoulders, her expectant eyes, her folded ears, her sugar-dipped muzzle, and her cold nose. Her teeth are as hard as they are gentle while they brush my fingers, her soft tongue seeking the last trace of peanut butter on my thumb. Our relationship is intimate and yet, I have no idea what goes on in her mind. Why does she trust me so? Why does she tolerate my restriction of her liberty?

These dogs, they are special. They are much wiser, much more enlightened than we will ever be. How did such lowly humans ever get so lucky?

Letter to My Dog, Part 475

Dear Shiva,

As always, it has been a long time since I have written you a formal letter. Longer, even, than the last time. I like to think I haven’t bothered because I haven’t had the need to communicate with you outside our physical interactions. I may be wrong, but we seem to get each other a tad more these days. What do you think?

Never mind, I take that back. I don’t want to know.

We both realize this is a lie, of course. Almost every minute we are together I am obsessing over your mood. “Is she relaxed? Am I stressing her out?” These are the questions that run through my head every time I look at you. “Are you happy?”

You aren’t telling.


That isn’t true either. You are telling, I am not observant enough or selfless enough to pick it up. Me, me, me. Such a typical human, eh?

To be fair, you aren’t the most considerate dog in the world either. When you are wanting to go outside, you don’t first wonder if I am feeling tired or ill. When you are hungry, you don’t worry about saving some of your for later, in case we run out of money to buy more. This is why you are so amazing. This “in the moment” thing you have going for you. It can be trying sometimes, yes. Your struggles with separation anxiety are proof of that. Sometimes I wish I could just tell you that we will be back or that something is temporary, like when the vet was trimming your nails. It will be over soon, I said with my eyes. I don’t know if you understood.

Because I am human and can only see things in my near-sighted human way, I am jealous of how you embrace the positive of every situation. You don’t think about later when I might go to work and leave you alone, you just savour the brilliance of the now. This is the most important lesson you have to teach. No doubt I am a frustrating pupil.

All of this hit me this morning on our usual walk. Being a Monday I was tired and impatient and wanted to get everything over with as soon as possible. Being a dog, you didn’t know about Mondays. You only knew it was morning and we were outside and there were things to explore. It meant nothing to you that I wanted to continue on our way so I could get home and get the next step of my day going. To you, there was no difference, in that moment, between today and yesterday, or all of the days previous and to come.

wpid-wp-1407811477930.jpegThis was what struck me as I tugged on your leash, anxious to move on. “C’mon Sheevs,” I believe I said. “This isn’t a Sunday. We can’t spend an hour sniffing at a leaf.” The second the words were released into the air, I realized how silly they sounded. And how inaccurate. The only thing preventing you from sniffing and me from relaxing and savouring the warm summer sunshine were my concerns for what was yet to come.

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

This is the one philosophy of Gretchen Rubin I try to embrace.  Dogs know it instinctively. You are in no hurry to get to the end. Nor should you be. Nor should I.

Thank you, puppy, for reminding me how special these moments are, and how fleeting. Too soon we may not be able to linger together. In my future impatient moments, I will strive to remember this. As frustrating as daily life can be, it is all over too soon. The little things are what matter the most. Our walks together are something I will always treasure. Before they are something of the past, I should make the most of them, just the way you do.

Lots of love, and probably too many treats,

Your grateful human

Dear Santa – Shiva Style

014For the last three years, when the holiday season looms, one of the things I have anticipated the most is Tales and Tails’ annual “Letters to Santa” feature. This round is no exception. Today’s letter, from the incorrigible Küster, reminded me why I enjoy this so much. Sure, it’s a little impractical. We are all adults. We know dogs can’t really write letters to the big guy in the North Pole. Nonetheless, I think these letters showcase just how well the author knows her dogs, knows what they likely would say, if they had the ability. Her sound comprehension of each of her dogs’ unique personalities is something I covet.

We are all only guessing. There is no way to truly understand what our dogs are thinking and there is certainly no way to know what they would make of a bearded man who delivers presents around the world. Still, I wish I had the confidence the of the Taleteller when it comes to knowing what motivates my dog.

I don’t think this cuts it, but here is my attempt at Shiva’s letter to the jolly old elf, with warm thanks to all the puppies at Tales and Tails for the inspiration. 

Hi Mr. Kringle!

How are you? My name is Shiva! That’s with a “v” and not a “b”. A lot of people get confused. Since I hear you bring presents to all the good doggies I wanted to make sure you got the name right. Sheeeevvvvvaaaaa. And not Shebbbbbaaa. Okay? Cool!

Ummm! I guess I am supposed to tell you about all the good things I did this year. But it’s kind of boring and I’d rather tell you about all of the fun adventures I went on! Like, I went on this reaaaaalllllyyy long truck ride and saw lots of cool new things! I ran and ran and sniffed and didn’t get sick once! Also, I am living in a really cool new place that is kind of cold and kind of weird but it smells really good with lots of really nice doggies and my people are here so it has been lots of fun! I just wish I could run more. I missing running. But that’s okayI I can always run in my dreams.

Oh! I just remembered. I have been extra good this year. Just ask His Excellency Mr. Kitty Meister Meister Kitty. He doesn’t bat at my nose with his claws nearly as much these days so I think this must mean I am doing better. Yeah, I still chase him sometimes but only when he runs first! I think he likes it too. Yeah, we’re totally BFFs now. Totally.

010Anyway! Can I ask for what I want now? Honestly, I don’t want that much. Only, can you get my people to stay at home with me more often? That would be nice. It sucks when they have to leave every day. I try to be good when they are here. I don’t jump on the counters as much and I tolerate all of their weird cuddling. But they still leave so maybe that’s not enough. If you could make that happen, it would be great.

Also, if it isn’t too much to ask, I am a bit worried about something. I am not sure why I am worried but my human has seemed upset lately the closer it gets to the big day so I am assuming something scary is going to happen. They tell me it is going to be my first Christmas away from home. That sounds exciting but when my person says it her face gets all tense so maybe it’s bad? I don’t know. I just want everyone to be happy. Can you make that happen? Will you be able to find me if I am not at home on Christmas Eve? Is that why my person is worried? I hope not. Can you please tell her it will be okay? That’s all I want, us to be together and happy no matter where we are. Because if I am with my people and they are with me then I know it will be okay.

So, that’s it! I hope you have a very good week and holiday with your doggies. I promise to be as good as I can and Mr. Kitty Meister Sir promises to also be good so maybe you can give him something he wants too? Like maybe more string? He seems to like string.

Happy holidays, Mr. Kringle! I don’t know if I want to see you because your booming voice is kind of scary but I hope your magic is real.

Your doggy friend,




I Write More and More Letters

Dear Startled Dog Park Man,

I am sorry I didn’t feel sorry when my dog tore open your flimsy plastic treat bag. Giggling and shrugging were probably not the most considerate responses to my dog’s stealing all of your dehydrated turkey. I know how expensive that stuff is. I forget that most other dogs have manners and don’t see a Ziploc bag waved in their faces as an invitation to destroy. No doubt it is behaviour for which I should feel ashamed.

Perhaps if you hadn’t rewarded my dog for ignoring my recall I would have felt a bit more apologetic in the moment. I realize you were just being generous, but I would ask in the future that if I am calling my dog away, you don’t stop and give her a treat. Doing so only encourages her begging and makes it harder for me to convince her to leave you alone. It would be like someone throwing one hundred dollar bills at you while your boss yells at you to get back to work. On whom would you focus your attention in that scenario? You really did bring it on yourself.

Again, I am truly sorry I my dog ate all of your treats. I am glad they didn’t make her sick.


Your Fellow Dog Walker

Dear Shiva,

I know you haven’t had an easy time of it lately. I know between the cone and the kennel rest and the harassment from the feline you are probably losing some serious shit. All you want to do is play and run around. But you can’t and it sucks. It sucks for us too. I promise if you keep hanging in there, eventually there will be a time you can do this again:

But all work and no sleep makes for very grumpy humans. I don’t like being grumpy. I don’t like locking you in your kennel at night. So if it’s not too much to ask, could you please, please, please settle down nicely tonight?


Forever yours,

The Woman Who Controls Your Food Supply

To the So-Called Dog Lover at the Pet Store,

What may have seemed like a rip-off to you actually made my dog much more comfortable during her time of distress. I don’t care if you thought the flexible blue cone was a waste of money. It was cheap, but still far nicer than the horrible, stiff, plastic thing the vet gave us. I don’t appreciate your rude attitude nor do I appreciate you telling my practically husband that spending money on something that might make our dog’s life a little easier is stupid.

You’re stupid. I hope whatever animal you own never has to wear such a thing but if he or she does, I hope you learn the error of your ways.


Your Former Customer

Dear Food Network Canada,

I admit, I have stopped watching you. There was a time I was your biggest fan. I would gleefully rush home after work to make sure I caught the latest installment of Top Chef Canada. And I loved you even more for Bitchin’ Kitchen. Somehow, though, I got over you. Maybe it was all the unnecessary drama over who made the best appetizer out of vending machine snacks. I can’t say why but I’ve tuned out. Your longtime, hardcore fan no longer is even willing to pay the $3.00 a month to watch your network.

That’s right. I don’t get the Food Network anymore. Haven’t for months.

Wanna know one way to recapture my loyalty?

I have this friend. She has this blog, called Kol’s Notes. If you are worth anything you will have heard of it. She comes up with amazingly creative recipes, like these ginger apple and lamb muttballs or these ingenious shepherd’s pie pupcakes. I mean, seriously. She is the Martha Stewart of dogginess. Do you need any more proof than her most recent holiday concoction? Dog treat filled ornaments! Who does that?

A talented woman, that’s who. If your network is worth anything, it would recognize how booming the pet industry is and leap on that bandwagon. I’d like to suggest Ms. Kolchak Puggle as your first doggy chef. Smart, hilarious, and adorable, she is a guaranteed ratings diva.

Think about it.

Missing you,

A Closet Foodie

Dear Kitty Meister,

Before this becomes a habit, let me make one thing clear to you. No amount of scratching, howling, or shrieking at the treat cupboard is going to get you what you want. It may have worked in the past because you are really annoying when you holler at the top of your lungs but no more!

You may think you deserve sympathy due to your advanced age. You are wrong. Nine years is not that old, my furry friend. You are perfectly healthy. Stop the whole pathetic feline act and stop pretending you are starving when you have a full food bowl and when I know your favourite person gave you a handful of kitty crack less than thirty minutes ago.

It is time for an intervention. If you don’t keep your trap shut, I may decide you need to be weaned off the treats completely. Cold turkey. How do you like them apples?


Your Consolation Human

Dear Petosphere,

It is almost the holiday season and that means my new favourite pet blogging event is upon us. That’s correct, it is time for the Pet Blogger Gift Exchange, hosted by none other than Something Wagging This Way Comes and I Still Want More Puppies.

Have you signed up yet? Why not? Better get on it before December 1st rolls around and everyone is having fun and making new friends without you.

C’mon… You know you wanna and I wanna get to know you better! So what’s stopping you?

Your biggest fan,

Your Fellow Pet Blogger

I Write More Letters

Dear Driver of the Ford Ranger That Almost Hit Me and My Dog While You Ran a Red Light,

You suck.


Terrified Dog Walker Who is Just Grateful to be Alive


Dear Foster Kittens,

I am new to this fostering deal. Really, this is only the second time I’ve done this. I have absolutely nothing to base this on but I gotta say, all three of you are the cutest little bundles of fur I have ever cuddled. You are sweet, you are funny, and you have yet to insert your sharp teeth into my skin. You are proof that three are definitely better than one. You all validate everything I’ve ever said about early socialization being crucial to developing stable personalities.

It’s going to be very hard to say goodbye when you are big enough for adoption. In a perfect world, I would keep you all. You were the best Valentine’s gift a girl could have. I am going to miss you.


Your Temporary Litter Box Cleaner


Dear Shiva,

I want to thank you for your patience. I haven’t made things easy on you lately and have instead put a lot of weight on your well-muscled shoulders. You’ve handled it with style. Despite not getting to do as much together as we normally do, you’ve retained your sanity. I promise a lot of fun is on the way.

I love your silliness and, secretly, I don’t even really mind it when you jump on me in the morning, spilling my coffee everywhere. Okay, I do mind the coffee all over my pants. I only have so many pairs suitable for the office and laundry is my least favourite chore. But then you wag your tail and lean your head against me and all is forgiven.

It is my unshakeable belief that as long as you keep wiggling your bum and jumping on registration tables, everything will be okay. Don’t ever change.


Your Hopeful Human

Dear Kind Dog Park Man,

I’m sorry I doubted you. I should have known that someone who is willing to slip on icy paths at six in the morning is automatically a kindred spirit. You are a fellow member of the pre-dawn dog walking society. You live in Pretentiousville and yet you proudly show off your goofy mixed-breed pals. We should be instant friends. You, of all people, get it.

I am even more sorry to hear your smaller dog was attacked. I am a selfish heel for not looking beyond my own issues. Obviously there could be many reasons you stayed away from us at the park. It’s awful that this time was one in which the little guy was hurt. I am so glad he is okay. And not just because he is Shiva’s favourite little buddy.

It was great to see all three of your again this morning. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your walk.


Your Fellow Mutt Lover


Dear Dragon’s Den hosts,

It is too bad you felt the need to denigrate a presenter’s business simply because it was about helping senior dogs. Many of you didn’t even bother to ask questions about the entrepreneur’s financials. The fact that it was a business that involved selling diapers for dogs was enough for you to say no.

I wish you hadn’t felt the need to draw a line between helping people and helping animals. I don’t understand why the two have to be mutually exclusive. To help animals isn’t to ignore the needs of humans. The two intersect much more often than you are aware. It’s too bad you can’t see that.

In the end, it’s your loss. The pet industry is growing exponentially. No doubt the business owner is better off without you anyway. More money for her.



Dear High Cost of Heating Oil,

You suck.


Broke Renter Who is Running Out of Clean Blankets

It’s Yer Choice, Reprise

Dear Shivster,

There’s been a lot going on lately, hasn’t there? I am really impressed with how gracefully you’ve handled all the changes. I think the cat took the move harder than you did. You seemed to trust that as long as you were with us, everything would be okay. It’s faith like yours that keeps me sane.

You are such a mature dog now, sometimes I even forget how nutty you used to be. If my former self could see how tolerant you are with the little girls down the street, she would probably start crying.  Naturally, you always make sure to remind me if I start to slide. You know better than anyone how to keep me on my toes!

Like last week, when you decided all boogie boards were tools of evil demons in disguise. That was fun.

In fact you are so much steadier, that I have actually started to contemplate adding a fifth member to our family. It’s early days yet, don’t worry. Although I say that and my mind goes immediately to Dawson, a lively boy who has been living in a shelter for far too long. As sorry as I feel for him and as awesome as he is, I don’t think I am quite ready to start all over again.

It’s a lot of work, living with a newly adopted dog. You taught me that. But when we brought you home I felt prepared, even if I wasn’t. I had planned and saved and researched for months before we ever went to the shelter to meet you. Considering Dawson as our second dog feels rushed. Impulsive. Cautitious Kristine doesn’t do things like that.

But this is my year of zoomery, isn’t it?

Everything just feels so nice now. We have a yard to train in, an off-leash park within walking distance, and you actually let us sleep in past six am. There are so many things I still want to do with you. Just you. I worry a new dog would put distance between us. That your big trialing debut would be put off indefinitely. A new silly boy around is bound to take up most of my attention. I am positive our daily walks would be cut back. The last thing I want is for you to be pushed aside, put on the back burner for later.

On the other hand, I think about all the things you would gain with a live-in buddy. If the new dog liked to play and run and tug as much as you do, I am sure you’d have a blast. Maybe you wouldn’t even miss the time when it was just you and me.

Perhaps I am thinking about this too much. Typical human behaviour. Really we can’t make a decision without getting your opinion on the matter. You are a pretty important member of this family and the resident canine expert. Any potential new dog needs to pass your inspection first. I really shouldn’t even be talking about this before hearing from you.

It’s in your hands now, Sheevs. What do you think we should do?

A Letter to Shiva, Part Three

Dear Timbit Monster,

I’ve been struggling with what to say to commemorate your third adoption anniversary. That’s my excuse for tardiness, anyway. You don’t mind, do you?

Of course not. You’re a dog. You didn’t even notice that we didn’t buy you any presents this year. I knew you wouldn’t care but your male human felt pretty guilty about it. I do wish we had a good reason other than procrastination. We’ll get you something cool soon, I promise. Even though I revoked your Shiva the Destroyer title, I know you still enjoy a good stuffed-toy gutting every now and then.

I suppose I should outline all your accomplishments and remark on how much you have changed. But honestly? I don’t know if you have changed that much. Not really. You are still the same goofball who walked through our door that first day and immediately got into a fight with The Cat. You still have far more energy than you know how to control and you still dive toward every bag you see in the hope it is filled with treats meant just for you.

It’s we who have changed.

Thanks to you, I now have perspective. I no longer feel like crying when you act like you’ve never set foot in an obedience class. These days even when you humiliate me by ripping the leash out of my hand to greet a dog on the other side of the road, I just laugh. It doesn’t matter as much anymore if you behave as if you have zero training. Other people’s opinions are becoming meaningless. Through your antics you have shown me how to brush off the things that just don’t matter.

Truthfully – though I’ll deny this if you bring it up in the future – I really appreciate your silliness now. If we make it through three walks in a row without a nutty story to tell, I get worried. The older you get, the more I fear you losing your intrinsic Shiva-ness. Three years ago all I wanted was for you to mature and now I have to say… I am kind of dreading it.

 Maybe I’ve just lost my mind. Perhaps all this time I have spent with you has finally pushed me off the edge to La La Land. No one would blame me. I have never been a very patient person. You must be able to relate to that. You have never been a patient dog. Yet somehow instead of killing each other, we have ended up teaching each other. When it comes to you, I am magically able to rein in my frustration. Qutting just isn’t an option. No matter how much you push me, I am able to come back the next day for more. You have taught me all about baby steps and working slowly.

I like to think I have done the same for you.

No matter what happens in the rest of our time together, you will always be my best teacher. You are my first dog and I have no doubt you will be my craziest. I can’t see any other dog in the world matching you for sheer enthusiasm. No one zooms like the Shivster. No one knocks over that dang tire jump as often either. I have a feeling that’s going to be your legacy. You will forever be known by our agility instructor as the dog who broke the most equipment.

Thanks for three very memorable years, Sheevs. I hope we have many more.