5 Things I Wish I Were More Knowledgeable About

NikitaAt the start of the month my brilliant web designer friend, AJ Emm (I hope I can consider her my friend), came up with a fun blog challenge that attracted me instantly: 31 Lists in 31 Days. I love lists and I love challenges so I signed up on day one. And then promptly forgot about it. Not atypical behaviour.

Oops.

I’ve never been a rule follower when it comes to these things. I think it is because in my real life I have to obey every single rule I come across, even the one about eating asparagus with one’s fingers, that being a rebel online is my only outlet. Repression. It works in mysterious ways.

Regardless, today’s list was actually supposed to be about 5 Halloween costumes. Since I am not a Halloween fan and the only costume I’ve ever enjoyed was the year I dressed up as Charlie-Brown-dressed-up-as-a-ghost I decided to rewind a bit and check in with the list from day three.

5 Things I Wish I Were More Knowledgeable About

1. Cat behaviour. There are dozens of seminars offered in every city on understanding one’s dog and interpreting canine body language, but why are there never similar lectures on figuring out what the heck your cat is trying to tell you when he is climbing the curtains at three in the morning? Even the books are fairly limited. It’s an area in which I feel like a complete dunce.

2. Quilting. I’ve always wanted to learn a craft and learning to quilt has always had an almost romantic appeal. There are so many hidden symbols and traditions and as a historian I am fascinated by the centuries old practice. Unfortunately, I barely have the patience to learn how to sew on buttons.

3. The French Language. I feel as a Canadian I should be able to speak at least rudimentary French. Much to my humiliation I forgot most of it after high school and even my reading has degraded to nothing. My lack of ability was noticeable when I lived on the East Coast, next door to Canada’s only true bilingual province. Je m’appelle Unilingual Moron.

4. Writing. I would really like to take a writing class, even just an online one for fun. There is so much I have to learn about mechanics and story building. I never even took a single English class in university and I regret that now.

5. How to Play a Musical Instrument. Music has always been important to me but other than fiddling around with my electric keyboard as a child and one six week session of guitar lessons I’ve never been able to play much worth mentioning. I’d like one day to be able to sit down at a piano and hammer out something other than “Oh Susanna.”

All of this navel gazing has gotten me thinking about how much my desires have changed over the years. Ten years ago I was terrified of cats and certainly never envisioned living with one. I wish I could say my dog at the time took precedence – featured in the photo above – but poor Nikita was even barely on my radar. Nope, instead here is what this same list may have looked like a decade ago. Ah, 2003…

5 Things I Wished I Were More Knowledgeable About at Age 21

1. Driving. I still don’t know much about it, honestly, other than the fact I am terrified every time I step on the accelerator. But back then I was naive enough to think I would get over my fears one day.

2. Moving to Ireland. Yeah, I am not even going to touch that one. Man, did I live in lala-land back then.

3. Sex. Because I hadn’t had any yet a the time. At this point, I have nothing to hide.

4. The Political System of Belarus. I remember being in a panic over my Comparative Politics class December of that year. I had one semester left and was determined to keep my 3.9 GPA. I have no idea why now.

5. How to Dance. Yep, never really learned that skill either but back then it seemed important.

What about you? What 5 things do you wish you knew more about?

Olden Times and Ancient Rhymes…

Of love and dreams to share!

Ahem. I apologize. The instant the calendar turns to December I feel like I have free reign to belt out as many holiday tunes as possible. The iconic song from the best Christmas special ever is always one of the first on my playlist. It is this time of year when I miss choir membership the most. Christmas, for me, will always be able the music. I don’t care how much my PH teases or how many times the radio plays “Silver Bells”, there is such a small window of opportunity for rocking around the tree that I am compelled to take advantage.

Of course, the start of December marks more than just the ability to annoy people with my out of practice singing voice. It is also the beginning of some pretty big blogging events and I would be remiss if I did not provide the full details.

And the lights. Can't forget those.

And the lights. Can’t forget those.

calendarNumber 1 Today was the very first day of the brilliant Advent Calendar for Dog Lovers. Each day leading up to the 25th all host bloggers will be offering a different dog-themed giveaway. Every. Day. That is a lot of chances to win! Last year I was too distracted over things that did not matter nearly as much as winning doggy prizes and did not put forth my full effort. But this year, this year I have a feeling I am going to win big.

Since I am going to win it all, I guess there is no point in me sharing this with you. Still, I wouldn’t mind a little competition.

Number 2

Today is also the start of Something Wagging This Way Comes’ Pet Blogger Gift Exchange. The best thing about this event is that everyone is a winner! I can’t think of a better way to get to know my fellow online pet lovers. In fact, I found out who I have been paired with today – shhhh – and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Don’t worry, it won’t be a secret for long!

In case you missed the sign up for this exciting holiday tradition, never fear! Submissions will be accepted until December 20th so as many people can join in the celebration as possible. What are you waiting for?

Number 3

This one I am much less anxious to share as I am much less confident of my chances. However, I have such a good time preparing my audition videos that I want to encourage all of you to do the same, whether you decrease Shiva’s likelihood of being selected or not.

Remember the wicked Andrew Grantham of Talking Animals fame? The one who donates 100% of the proceeds from his merchandise sales to the Nova Scotia SPCA? Of course you do. Every year, the talented video editor puts out a special holiday montage based on videos submitted by pet-loving fans. That’s right. Your pet might just end up an Internet star!

Last year Shiva and I auditioned but clearly I did not work hard enough to enable her entertaining qualities to shine through. Maybe this year is her big chance at glory?

006I’ve decided it doesn’t matter. Win or lose, we still have a blast trying. I encourage you to try out with your cat, dog, parakeet, or guinea pig as well. If you win, your video will be featured in a special holiday video. If you lose? You’ll have had a lot of laughs! Besides, it’d be awesome to see a few more Petosphere animals in the mix! Special thanks to Bringing Up Bella for the reminder of this opportunity!

Do you know of any other fun pet blogging events during the holiday season? Please share the details in the comments!

Mindful Interneting – What’s Up in the Petosphere This Week?

The Internet is a kind of vortex. I open up my laptop with the purpose of checking one thing and three hours later I am researching some completely unrelated topic while downloading music from my favourite band in the whole world,  even though I didn’t know said band existed until ten minutes ago. I don’t have an addictive personality. Sure, I like my morning cup of coffee and I’ll never turn down a free drink, but I’ve never struggled with an actual dependence on something. And, trust me, I have tried. Nothing ever stuck. That is, until the Internet. I am fully confident if I had to I could live without television. Perhaps, I could even live without books. But don’t take away my interwebs.

As a self-respecting dog-obsessor, a lot of the stuff I look up is canine related. I jump from article to article so fast that I barely register anything. The idea isn’t to learn or process, it’s just to read for the sake of reading. But what’s the point of that?

These days I am attempting to live with greater mindfulness. This includes my time spent Googling the name of the actress who plays the girlfriend of that movie I saw three years ago. Rather than powering through every link that comes up on my Facebook feed, I am trying to be more selective. When I do click on something, I commit to it. Actually read and consume it. It’s been pretty life-changing. So much so that I feel compelled to share what I’ve learned.

Here are some of the articles I loved recently:

Pawsitively Training sums up exactly how I feel about recall training: “Your dog has to want to be with you before he or she will recall to you.” Precisely. The video in the post is quite helpful as well.

Pit Bulls Make the World Go Round has some wicked advice for handling encounters with off-leash dogs, the bane of many of our existences.

The Working Pit Bull has a fantastic guide to understanding “soundness” and relating it to your dog. I am so grateful to My Life With Flyball Dogs for sharing it with me in a comment last week. It’s made me look at dogs in a brand new way.

This article by relationship-based trainer Suzanne Clothier on gauging thresholds in dogs has also helped me a lot. I still don’t know if I am an expert at reading Shiva’s body language. Sometimes I jump in unnecessarily and other times I think I wait too long. It’s so hard to know and she seems to react out of nowhere. When in doubt, it never hurts to increase distance. Good to know.

All five of the finalists’ stories for Freshpet’s World’s Greatest Pet Parent contest are inspiring and made me cry happy tears. My favourite kind of weeping. You may recognize the dog in the first story, owned by none other than the writer of No Dog About It. If you are as touched as I am, why not throw a vote her way?

Speaking of votes, it is now time to get your nominations in for the 2013 BlogPaws Awards. I’ve been having a blast putting up some of my favourites from the Petosphere. (Yep, that’s what I am calling it from now on. I decided.) I am so glad I have been able to take my time with my entries as well, as opposed to dashing them off at the last-minute in my usual style.

This fascinating article from National Geographic suggests that the domestication of dogs  may have had more to do with the “survival of the friendliest” rather than any active effort on humanity’s part. Really, when it comes down to it, science is just catching up with what dog lovers have always known. The world doesn’t change when we adopt them; the real magic occurs when they adopt us.

Do you share my online addiction? What is on your must-read list this week?

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like… Holiday Insanity

Can I blame it on the rain? I have been devouring holiday traditions like a reindeer on too much eggnog. Perhaps it’s the persistently snow-less weather or the fact that I’ve not had a chance to do a bit of shopping, but in every other way I am doing my utmost to be as festive as possible. No one can accuse me of not getting into the spirit!

And it’s not just goofy antlers on my forgiving dog either! I’ve downed more gingerbread lattes than should be legal, dressed up as Santa to support the Nova Scotia SPCA, sung my favourite holiday songs every day in the shower, and stuffed my face with shortbread. I’m also in the middle of reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and have A Charlie Brown Christmas prepped for the DVD player.

Tradition, we know how to do it right.

Another custom I have this time of year is taking advantage of the five free downloads offered by Through a Dog’s Ear. They always arrive just when the holiday stress starts to build. Though concert pianist Lisa Spector performed the pieces to help anxious dogs, I find the music does wonders to calm frazzled humans as well.

I have admired her work long before I met Lisa at BarkWorld. Now that I have spoken with her and learned a little about what inspired the project, I am even more appreciative of her generous gift during the insane winter season. Her latest blog post shows a passion and understanding for dogs and their comfort and is reflective of her warm personality.

Unfortunately, there are only two selections left! Today’s free download is one of my favourites by Rachmaninoff. I have been listening to it while writing this post and I know I feel more relaxed already. If I close my eyes I can picture a warm fire in the place of my television screen and my Christmas tree already up and decorated instead of still in its box.

Music is a powerful thing. Maybe if I keep listening all of my cards will be posted for me too.

Do you have any favourite traditions?

Welcome to the Advent Calendar for Dog Lovers hosted by Kol’s Notes, PupLove, Rescued Insanity, Woof Woof Mama & I Still Want More Puppies!

Today’s giveaway is sponsored by Rustic Hound. Click here to enter to win a sturdy, stylish charm collar for your dog, plus be entered to win our Grand Prize package worth more than $1000!

Holiday Guift Guide for Dog Walkers

Around this time of year all my brain can focus on is keeping warm and staying sane through the upcoming winter months. The fact that it’s only November and I still have at least four more months of icy wet dreariness ahead of me is not sitting well. Getting up at five-thirty in the morning is never easy, but it’s downright depressing when one is facing a long trudge through cold darkness. I almost dread going home after work just to face the same trudge and the same cold and the same darkness all over again.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a little lacking in holiday spirit over here.

Not to worry, I am sure it isn’t permanent. There are a few things that help me get through this lip-chapping season. Since this is also the time of year people start formulating holiday shopping and wish lists – unless you are a keener and had everything done by October – I thought I would put together a gift guide of sorts for anyone with dog walkers in their social circles. Here are some of the items I would love to discover under the tree.

Fleece-lined Pants

Yes! They do exist! It is possible to be stylish and warm at the same time. No longer does the dog walker have to give up all vanity as soon as the temperatures fall below zero. Snow pants can now be relegated to the ski hills and long underwear can be cast to the back of the drawer. No dog walker should have to go through winter without a pair or five. They would especially make a great gift for anyone who does agility practice in cold barns over the winter. I am so not looking forward to that again this year.

Rubber Boots

Totally unsexy, I know. But I swear by the classic green wellies to get me through the season. Chuck in a washable lining and you are set for long walks in the snow or mud. You never have to fear the quasi-frozen puddle again. They do come in some fashionable colours now but I like the $10 men’s varieties for both tread and comfort.

Hot Cocoa

Nothing like coming home from a long winter walk to a mug of hot chocolate. We tend to have a shelf dedicated to the stuff from November to March. You can find it in many different flavours and qualities. For extra bonus points, throw in a bag of marshmallows or a bottle of Bailey’s. Alternatively, you could skip the cocoa altogether and just buy the Bailey’s.

Insulated Hooded Sweatshirt

I have been lusting after one of these ever since I saw them in Mark’s Work Warehouse last year. They are so warm that on many milder winter days I could probably get away with leaving my heavy coat at home. With deep pockets for treats and poop bags and cozy hood to keep out the wind, it would make nighttime jaunts with the Shivster a lot more comfortable. The pretty purple colour doesn’t hurt either.

Socks

Yeah, I realize socks are kind of a lame holiday gift. Everybody gets them and nobody really wants them. However, I can never seem to have enough pairs of them. Maybe it’s how I walk but very quickly I find holes appearing at my heels. I blame the heavy walking shoes I wear on a regular basis. Am I alone in kind of hoping for several new pairs under the tree? These thermal ones would just be extra special.

Fleecy Down Throw

Like the cocoa, this is more of an aprés-walk gift but definitely an awesome one. My best friend gave me a goose down blanket several years ago and it is still my go-to for taking off the chill after an outing. Shiva loves it too.

Slow Cooker

I don’t know about you, but the last thing I feel like doing after tramping around in the snow is coming home to mess around in the kitchen. Slow cookers from what I hear are perfect for easy – and hot – meals that one can prepare without a fuss. People who walk their dogs as much as I do probably don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Once the animals are taken care of they want to relax. It’s easier to do that when dinner is already ready and waiting.

Walking Light

Walking in the dark sucks. And dangerous. Most fun dog walking areas are not equipped with street lights. I guess municipalities assume no one is crazy enough to hit the park before the sun rises in January. Well, dog walkers are and I hate that I am now mostly stuck walking on the boring sidewalk every single day. If I had a light that made it a little safer, I might be able to head into the forest I love so much other times of the year. It would make walking much less of a chore, if nothing else.

Personal Alarm

Speaking of saftey, and forests, my practically mother-in-law gave me a personal alarm a few years ago that I have started to take with me while I walk the dog in more isolated areas. I’ve never had to use it but I feel more secure in coyote territory now that I have a line of defence. People who walk dogs in similar areas throughout the winter and the approaching mating season, may also appreciate such a gift. It’s small enough to stick in a pocket and easy to use.

Dog Walking Gift Certificates

When all else fails, there is nothing like a night off. Many professional dog walkers offer gift certificates for their services but if you are short on cash and not on love for dogs, why not offer to do the job yourself? I am willing to bet your dog walking friend would be overjoyed at the thought of remaining indoors on a cold night while someone else walks her dog. Bonus points if you are willing to take on an early morning spot too.

If you, like me, are dreading the long walks ahead of you this winter, what gifts would you like to receive? Is there anything I missed? What is on your wish list this year?

 

Things I’ve Read While Fooling Around

Stupid Internet. How could anything be more important than watching me play keepaway with a stick?

I’ve been a bit of a shut-in this long weekend. As you saw on Saturday, we’ve had a surprise visitor on our hands who is keeping me indoors more than usual. This of course means I have done a lot of procrastinating. All of the things I wanted to get done – laundry, early Christmas preparation, cleaning, catching up on my favourite Food Network competitions – have somehow taken a backseat to lollygagging on the Internet. I blame the little orange furball taking up residence in our office. (More on that later.)

Here is just a bit of what’s been keeping me from my chores over the last three days:

If you want to get 100% effort from your dog, you need to be putting in 100% of effort into the dog. Whether that means putting in the work training your dog to get reliable behaviors or whether that means being enthusiastic with your interactions to get the enthusiasm back, what you put into your dog, you will get out.” – Success Just Clicks

We get to choose which fountain we are going to drink from. I am sipping my beverage from the same one that brought us vaccines for polio, heart transplants, space travel, digital cameras, and microwave ovens.”Fearful Dogs’ Blog

“To love animals is to be soft, childlike, or pathological. To admit dependence on animals — particularly emotional and psychological dependence, as pet owners often do — is seen as a type of neurosis.”Opinionator

” I cannot just sit back and hope people notice me. I have to put myself out there and make them notice me. I can not treat my professional network like a Ron Popeil kitchen device.”The Dog Ate My Wallet

“Why do humans take credit for everything that impresses them?”The Daily Wag

” I have learned the hard way to never, ever look down. Ever. Inevitably you will see a rat, likely multiple rats, scrambling up and down, back and forth, running, jumping and having what seems like the time of their lives.” Woman’s Best Friend

“With a rod dominated retina and a wider field of view, dogs are MUCH more sensitive to subtle motion changes than humans are. This is why a flick of the hand can be so distracting and can cause a knocked bar or a sudden pull out of a tunnel.”Low Country Dog Agility

This may be the best agility video you see all year.

Delilah’s in the ring next, watch her on this technique, it’s just about perfect, she approaches the dog, carefully and cautiously she stretches out her head, nose in, the sniff is done, she turns.  Oh no!  She deviated from her dismount to inspect his manly bit. ” – Heart Like a Dog

Heart Like a Dog is also running The Dogs of Blogville Calendar Contest. There is just one more day to enter!

Not that I need any help avoiding work, but have you read anything interesting lately?

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.