Less Wordy Wednesday – Friends from another land

While on holiday sans Shiva last week I fulfilled one of my biggest dreams.

No, I didn’t go skydiving. This was even better.

Last week, I saw this cheerful face in person:

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I even got to scratch these downy ears.

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These adorable little bears from Kol’s Notes hardly require an introduction. They are only the most famous Canadian dogs since the Littlest Hobo. The was a moment, when the Kolchak himself licked my hand, that I contemplated never washing it again.

Jealous yet?

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Shiva should be. Now more than ever I realize how fast she would make friends with funny Koly. He is a dog after her own heart with superior begging skills. IN a way, I am relieved I couldn’t bring her along. She is bad enough as it is. Can you imagine being around this face all day?

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They are every bit as sweet as they sound on the blog, and even cuter in real life. No photo can do either Kolchak or Felix justice. I feel so lucky that I finally got to meet them in person. One doesn’t run into real canine celebrities very often. Though our visit was brief, I hope one day I will be able to count them among my small group of friends.

Trading the moving van for some hiking shoes

Camping ShuswapLast 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.

Best of 2013, aka End to the Year of Shittery

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To be frank, 2013 kind of sucked. By the end of January last year I had already determined it would be the “Year of Shittery”. Whether or not this bad attitude got in the way, the last twelve months lived up to the moniker. Things weren’t going in our favour. From being forced to confront financial issues, to having to leave the best job I’ve ever had, to taking an over-extended blogging break, to multiple tragic losses, to Shiva’s scary time at the emergency vet, and a whole bunch of crappy moments in between, it wasn’t the happiest time of my life. I could not wait for a fresh start. There is nothing I would love more than to put it all behind me and begin again with a sense of hope.

Positively Present shared a post outlining all of the best moments of 2013. As hard as it is for me to hammer pleasant notes out of the last year, I do want to get this blog off to a more positive start. I am determined to find my inner optimist this round, even if it is going to take every ounce of energy I’ve got. Somewhere, deep inside my cynical brain, must be a woman walking on the sunnier side of the street. She has just been knocked over by the hordes of blacked-robed, nay-saying, unmotivated, bitchy pessimists masquerading as realists. Now that it is 2014 and I have crawled to the other side with all my limbs intact, I am going to give this brighter woman a chance to stand and speak. Nothing is so bad that I can’t find a highlight or two. This is what she would say, anyway. Perhaps it is time I listened.

025Year of Shittery be danged, here are the best moments of 2013, as I remember them (in no particular order):

  • The weekend we spent in Prince Edward Island, sans-dog for the first time in four years
  • Ranting over Nanaimo bars with a good friend
  • Finding our beautiful new house in Edmonton
  • Seeing my best friend for the first time in way too many years
  • Trying okonomiyaki for the first time
  • Shiva getting to meet her cousins for the first time

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  • Doggie Easter Egg Hunt – I haven’t laughed so hard before or since that day. The photo we have of Shiva with the Easter Bunny will always make me smile.

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  • The New Adventures of Flat Kristine – gosh, I have some kickass friends
  • Lion’s Winter Ale by Granville Island Brewing
  • Being brave enough to take The Cat on a plane.
  • Almost meeting Margaret Atwood
  • Cheese tasting at the Rocky Mountain Wine Festival
  • Almost meeting Christopher Lloyd
  • Holidays with family for the first time in five years
  • Re-designing my blog and rekindling my love of writing by participating in NaBloPoMo for the fourth time
  • The rollercoaster at Klondike Days, even though my PH was too tall to ride
  • Beating my previous time in the Bluenose Marathon

If I am to think on it, it is possible 2013 wasn’t as low a year as I have described. Though there will be no zany video like 2012, I suppose it wasn’t a total write-off either. Most of all, however, it is the people who helped me survive. Without so many incredible friends, many of whom have gone unacknowledged, I might be languishing in the bottom of a cardboard box somewhere, lost to an overdose of chocolate and bad young adult fiction. I regret my lack of reply to your outreach of support. But please know it made a huge difference.

It is impossible for me to end this wrap-up without mentioning the special contributions of some pretty spectacular individuals in the petosphere. Thank you to No Dog About It,  Kol’s Notes, The Dog Park, Peggy’s Pet Place, I Still Want More Puppies, NEPA Pets, CindyLu’s Muse, Go Pet Friendly, Heart Like a Dog, Life With Desmond, Something Wagging This Way Comes,  Bunny’s Blog, Dancing Dog Blog, Tales and Tails, My Brown Newfies, Terrier Torrent, Bringing Up Bella, The Daily Dog Blog, and Roxy the Traveling Dog for making me scream with laughter, sob at work, and feel better about life in general. I know I wouldn’t be blogging right now without your encouragement. You have all made it possible for me to face the New Year with confidence and hope. Thank you.

And thank you for sticking around to see me through to the end. Let’s see if we can’t make 2014 a brilliant year to remember! As Mr. Churchill said, success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts. Here’s hoping I can keep this in mind.

What are your favourite moments from 2013?

Looking Ahead is Frightening

Being an introspective and, perhaps overly, reflective person, I often like taking advantage of the last day of the year. When every media outlet from television to Twitter is wrapping up the previous twelve months with various lists and pithy statements, it is an instant excuse to navel gaze to one’s heart’s content.

This afternoon I happened to be watching a cheesy holiday movie – as one does – and was struck by a simple question uttered by a character in the film. The movie itself doesn’t matter. It isn’t worth remembering. Yet the question lingered in my mind as it relates to something I’ve been asking myself for a long time. I figured something so inspiring couldn’t be original to a sappy film and a few seconds spent on Google proved me right.

What Would

It’s a big question. One I’ve been battling to answer all evening. It all comes down to knowing what you want more than anything else in the world, what is worth taking a chance on. I really wish I knew what this is for me.

I’ve never been all that career-oriented. Obviously. No doubt, I’d be making a lot more money right now if I was. And I probably wouldn’t be sitting here. Financial security, as important as it is, has never driven me on. It is enough to motivate me to get out the door every day, but money alone is not enough to make me feel successful or confident. Currency is apparently not my currency.

But what is? What is my version of a dog treat? What gives me the zoomies? If money was no object, what would I spend my life doing? I think before I do anything else, I need to figure out the answer to these questions. Not only would it give me focus, it might help me understand what it is exactly I am doing with this space. As I head into my thirty-first year of living – bloody hell – it’s about time I found a bit of direction.

What about you? What would you do today, right now, if you knew you would not fail?

Life List Item #98: Perfect My Dog’s Recall – Check??

There is no such thing as perfect. This I know as well as anyone. As much as I strive for it in everything I do, I’ll never really attain the goal. Still, when it comes to my dog’s recall while off-leash, I’d like to get as close as humanly possible to the p-word.

Last night, on our walk, I think Shiva and I reached the precipice.

We were walking along the old power line trail too late in the evening. I say too late because the sky had grown dark and I try to avoid meandering through the forest when I can’t see very well. I figure not getting attacked by a coyote is a good way to live. Yesterday I must have felt like living on the edge. Or maybe I’m an idiot and just didn’t realize how early the sun goes down these days.

We’ll go with the former. It makes me sound badass.

So we were walking and Shiva was doing her whole sniff-run-sniff-run-sniff thing. It was all very normal. At least, it was normal until I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked over, all I could see were three tufts of white springing into the trees. Before I could even take in what that meant, there went my dog, bouncing into the bushes right after them.

Deer, was my first thought, almost in relief. Surprisingly, my second thought was perfectly rational as well. Given that Shiva was about to become the next cover girl for the Nova Scotia Lost Dog Network anyway.

Remember to sound happy, I reminded myself.

“Shiva!” I called in an uncharacteristically upbeat, Minnie Mouse voice. “Puppers! C’m’ere you silly girl!”

Less than two seconds later, Shiva’s head popped out of the darkness and her body followed, speeding towards me with tail wagging. I was too shocked to fully take in what had just happened. This is my excuse for not immediately putting her back on the leash. Instead I gave her a handful of treats with a side of praise and then watched her run off again in the direction of the deer.

Well that was dumb. Oops.

Yet I still managed to keep my head together. I am just as amazed as you are.

This time I pulled all the stops. I ran down the path the opposite way, skipping and whooping and taunting.

“C’mon Shivers! Let’s go this way! Woo hoo!”

I can’t lie and say a niggle of worry didn’t appear in the back of my mind. In the few seconds before Shiva emerged once more, it did occur to me that she might not come back this time. That things could be not very good at all and it would be all my fault. Luckily, I was saved from further self-flagellation when Shiva came running toward me once more, just as eager as before.

This time I was smart and grabbed her collar as I offered her the treats with my other hand. I continued the treat party while clipping on the leash, eventually giving her every last bit of kibble in my pocket, cursing myself for not bringing something of higher value.

And then we continued on our walk, as if nothing had happened. As if I hadn’t just done the impossible and successfully recalled Shiva from deer, an animal she has only previously seen from far away. An animal that is often the bane of existence for off-leash dogs everywhere. Apparently not Shiva. She has got to be the only dog in the world who finds bird seed and mud more attractive than wild animals.

Not that I am complaining.

I am really proud of her for making the right choice not once, but twice! There are posts on this very blog from two years ago filled with whining about how her recall sucked and was never going to get better. I’ve proved myself wrong and it’s a great feeling. Furthermore, I don’t want to harp on it too much but I am proud of me too. Not once did I panic last night. I kept my cool, remembered not to scream at Shiva like some sort of freaky banshee, and she rewarded me with a beautiful response. Positive reinforcement at its best.

Maybe we do make a good team after all.

The 13 Project – Join Me?

We are all constantly looking for ways to help animals in our communities. Yet, with our high drive lifestyles we don’t often make the time to do as much as we’d like. This is how I feel, anyway. There is so much I want to do. Unfortunately, I usually end up talking about these things a lot more than I actually do them. It all seems a little daunting at times and I find myself questioning my capability. What power can one shy, broke, and inexperienced woman really have?

This is how I felt until I read this post on Sarah Hosick’s blog  and the 13 Project took me by the shoulders and gave me a solid reality shake. I wish I’d found out about it before last week’s Blog the Change event as it fits in perfectly with the theme of creating change without spending a dime. It reminds us all that we as individuals can make a serious difference, one animal or even one blog post, at a time. Though I am definitely late to the party, when I read about the 13 Project as created by Pretty Fluffy I knew I had to sign up.

The 13 Project is all about making a commitment to doing 13 acts of kindness for animals before the end of the year. The goals should all be achievable things one can do with the resources available. We all have different skills that can contribute to the cause, no small how small we think they seem. It’s not about perfection or competition. No one person’s actions are better or more important than anyone else’s. You don’t need to have a lot of money – or any at all. You don’t need to have a network of thousands or be a board member of a large organization. You don’t even need to have any spare time to volunteer.

The only thing required is a desire to help.

When the project began there were exactly 13 weeks left before the end of 2012. Since I discovered it a few weeks in, I have some catching up to do!

Here is my list of goals for the rest of 2012:

1. Share and promote the 13 Project online.

2. Participate in National Pit Bull Awareness Day.

3. Contact my local shelter about becomming a foster home for cats or kittens.

4. Commit to running the 10K in next year’s Bluenose Marathon to raise $1,000 for the Nova Scotia SPCA.

5. Attend BarkWorld Expo and learn new ways to promote the awesomeness of cats.

6. Purchase one of these calendars for my friends and family.

7. Share the photos of adoptable pets on Facebook and Pinterest.

8. On my blog share as many online campaigns I can find that support animal welfare but don’t require cash donations – such as this terrific #BTC4A campaign to raise $5,000 of Petco’s money.

9. Teach my cat a unique trick and share the video to spread awareness that cats are just as much fun as dogs.

10. Write a letter to Jungle Pets, the only store in the HRM that still sells puppies and kittens, to explain why I won’t shop there.

11. Write a letter to Pets Unlimited, a chain that finally stopped selling puppies and kittens, to explain why I now will shop there.

12. Donate pet food to Feed Nova Scotia.

13. Steal some more business cards from my favourite trainers to hand out and promote positive training methods.

I know most of you are involved in many animal welfare related activities and are filled with many ideas of the small ways we can help. If you have any suggestions of easy things we can do to make a difference in the lives of pets in our communities, please chime in!

I know we are all strapped for time, but if you’d like to join the 58 others who have committed to the 13 Project check out the details here. If thirteen goals are too many, you can always aim for five, or even just one! The idea isn’t to see who can do more; it’s just to do something, no effort is too small.