Things I learned about my dog while camping

Whoever said that dog training is never over was a very bright individual indeed. After all the time I have spent studying my dog’s behaviour, enough to fill several years of blog posts, one might expect me to be an expert on Shiva-isms. This is why expectations are premeditated resentments. If Labour Day Weekend 2014 is a forecast for my future, I am a novice in the way of the Sheevs.

Once I climb out of myself and look at it from an aerial view, I can see how this is a positive. Learning more pushes our relationship forward. Time had taught me how to give us both a break.

DSC08233We spent the last weekend camping with family. We’ve never done this before as we always lived several prairies and a Canadian shield away. I was nervous. Obviously. Shiva has met these family members before and it sometimes went well, sometimes… Less well. To be kind about it. Camping brought fresh hope, however, in a clean environment. There would be no territory for her to defend.

This was the thought. Shiva had other ideas. Doesn’t she always?

Alas, there were plenty of dicey moments, more than made me happy. But there were also more moments of clarity than I could have predicted. It turns out, gaining a little outside perspective on my dog’s actions can spin even my cynical brain.

DSC08203Things I learned about my dog while camping (with my parents)

  1.  Shiva is a dog. Yep. Stunning, right?
  2. Shiva is a dog who does dog-like things. You are blown away, I know it.
  3. Dog-like things include barking and sometimes jumping. Can you believe it?
  4. Shiva’s bark is loud and frightening BUT she is easily called off after one or two woofs. This is not the end of the world. Some people startle, some people swear, some people laugh, and some people don’t do anything at all. None of these reactions say anything about my dog.
  5. Shiva is a very well-trained dog, in comparison to the majority of other dogs. Comparison games are dangerous and I don’t want to play them, but it feels awesome when Shiva sits after one cue and other dogs the same age look like they have never heard the word before in their lives. I shouldn’t gloat over this. I don’t care. Shiva and I worked hard!
  6. Shiva likes her sleep. She turns into Grumpy Dog when she doesn’t get it.
  7. Shiva can sleep alone in a tent when she is motivated to do so. She cannot sleep alone at home.DSC08195
  8. Shiva has a lot of trust in me. When walking on narrow board walks and passing unpredictable toddlers and flailing cyclists, she didn’t have one reaction. Not because these things didn’t bother her, but because we worked together to give her the space she needs. This is why I can stop her from losing it at the end of her rope when people and other dogs wander by our campsite, sometimes staring as we eat our dinner. She knows I will take care of it.
  9. Shiva makes mistakes. And so do I. Thus far, no one has died.
  10. Shiva is not a dog everyone likes. She isn’t cuddly with strangers and she struggles with impulse control in new environments. She is anxious when forced to stay still. These are not endearing qualities. It doesn’t matter if anyone else loves her. It has nothing to do with my training.DSC08222
  11. Shiva is not an easy dog and is not a dog for a beginner. I was a beginner. I am not any more.
  12. Shiva is great with smaller dogs and puppies. I love this about her.
  13. Shiva is not going to change. She might mellow, she might learn more fun tricks to show off, but she isn’t going to turn into the relaxed, submissive dog other people think she should be. Good on her.

Do you still learn new things about your pets after years of living together?

Best of 2013, aka End to the Year of Shittery


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


  • 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.


  • 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?

5 Things I Like to Discover About People


Unlike my last instalment of the 31 Lists Project this time I am jumping ahead. We already know I have massive difficulties stating what I am good at so day 14 is completely out. On the other end of the spectrum, I am a little too good at confessing my failures and it’s getting old, which means day 17 is also out. Besides, no one has that kind of time.

Anyway, I scanned the list this morning and day 28’s topic intrigued me. I love finding out fascinating things about people, especially things I could never anticipate. You can never tell by looking at a person what she has experienced or what secrets she may be hiding. Uncovering the unique talents and pleasures of people I think I know is always a thrill. But what are my favourite discoveries? That’s what you are about to find out.

5 Things I Like to Discover About People (Consider this encouragement to bare all in the comments)

1. What are you reading, right now? – As someone who takes public transit, I see a lot of people reading on the commute every day. Innately curious, I always strain my neck trying to get a glimpse of the book cover. Curse the advent of e-readers! All they do is prevent me from snooping on my seatmate! I love finding out that the little old lady who gets on at the stop after mine is a huge fan of Tolkien, or that the young undergrad who always stands by the back door reads everything from Harlequin to Sagan. It isn’t about judgment; I am just fascinated by books in general. I want to know what other people are interested in and whether they enjoy the book or not. I am always stunned when people say they loved A Time Traveler’s Wife, because it just seems so odd to me that others got something out of a book I didn’t like. I love hearing opinions that are different from my own. For instance, right now, I am reading Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. I was obsessed with the Netflix Show in the summer when I was unemployed and wanted to finally get the real account. It isn’t nearly as entertaining as the show but worthy of a read for other reasons.

2. Do you have any pets? – This one is a no-brainer. Whenever I am struggling in a social situation – okay, every social situation I have ever been in – it is an easy conversation starter. Sometimes it leads to connection and sometimes it doesn’t. But it never offends. Besides, I never tire of hearing about other people’s relationships with their animals.

3. What are you listening to? – I don’t talk about it much in these parts, but music is important to me. I have been through huge changes in musical preferences during my 31 years and I always love to hear different recommendations. Much like the reading question above, I am fascinated to find out what people are listening to, right now. I don’t care if it’s Miley Cyrus or Classified, when I learn someone I know is a huge fan of a genre I never previously considered, it can lead to an awesome new discovery. Most people struggle to find a favourite song or musical piece (for the record, mine is Beethoven’s “little symphony in F”) but they have a preferred band or artist. I love discovering who that is.

4. What was your favourite subject in school? – The alternate question is “what was your university major” but that can be incredibly elitist. Though most people have degrees in my current social circles, I know that not everyone does and I don’t even believe that everyone should. So it’s easier to ask their favourite thing to study. Again, I love the unexpected and I especially love finding fellow history majors who are working in fields completely unrelated to their degrees. It’s a kinship of sorts.

5. What do you watch for pure entertainment’s sake? – Again, it’s all about differing perspectives. People never cease to surprise me when they tell me they loved the last Will Ferrell movie or that they can’t get enough of Keanu Reeves. It goes to show how little one’s guilty pleasures have to do with their intelligence levels. Seinfeld is practically Tao around my house, yet Pamela has made it clear how much she despises the 90’s sitcom. Not that I am one to talk. The fact I have yet to read or watch Harry Potter will surely have me lynched in some circles.

What about you? Are their any questions to love to ask? Are there any secret shames you like to uncover?

5 Jobs I Have Had

OHIA - 31 Lists

Like the “rebel rebel” I am, I am backtracking even more on the 31 Lists in 31 Days thing, all the way back to numero duo. I am determined to get to every single item on the list. I am especially looking to number 19: strange things I have seen people do in public. As a long-time public transit user, I could fill a book on that one topic alone. Knowing my laziness, it might be 2017 before I get to the last subject, which is supposed to be my goals for 2014. Meh. My blog, my rules.

5 Jobs I have Had

JobsThough I have taken Ms. Dooce’s rules to heart, I figure I haven’t worked any of the below jobs in at least six or seven years so I am probably safe from eternal damnation. Heck, most of them are so random I’ve never even bothered to put them on a resume.

1. Barney’s Body Guard – You remember the big purple dinosaur, right? If you are too young to know who I am talking about then I don’t care if you understand. This was more of a volunteer job than actual employment but the experience was so traumatizing that I am including it here. You may not think a character from children’s television would need protection. You would be wrong. Until you have been mauled by over two dozen obsessed toddlers all at the same time, I don’t think you will ever understand what I went through that night. I am still not ready to talk about it.

2. Fish Fry Cook – This wasn’t technically my job either. I worked as a server in a seafood restaurant for four years while I attended university. One dull night we thought it would be fun to switch roles for a few hours. The cooks put on aprons and worked the front of house and the – mostly female – servers attempted to work in the kitchen. It wasn’t pretty. I still haven’t rid the smell of tartar sauce from my skin.

3. Ice Cream Scooper – After university I fell upon the harsh realization that the world wouldn’t just hand me my dream job because I had a shiny new degree. So I drank. But in order to afford the booze I worked two jobs, one was scooping ice cream at a kiosk in a local park. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds as it was also the rainiest summer my dry prairie city had ever seen. Mostly I just pigged out on chocolate bars and read escape literature.

4. Banquet Server – As much as it sucked to work until four in the morning every Saturday night serving holiday parties and fundraising galas this was actually one of the best jobs I have ever had. The hotel was awful. The management was useless. I attribute my hatred of the Wedding Industrial Complex to this period of my life. And yet it was also the best group of people with whom I have ever worked. When one is up until all hours of the night appeasing drunks and rolling cutlery, only to get up three hours later in order to serve the hoity-toity Sunday brunch crowd, something amazing happens. It bonds you to your co-workers like no other job you have ever had. It’s also where I met my PH.

5. Weight-loss Counsellor – I lasted at this position all of four days. It surprises me I lasted that long. In less than half a day I realized it was a lot less about helping people and a lot more about selling snake oil I signed a contract, however, that prevented me from sharing all of their evil secrets. Thankfully the company I worked for is long since out of business. One day I might write more about my opinions on the diet industry. The problem is, once I get started, I may not stop.

Oh, the tales I could tell. Since I can only list five, instead of going on about the job that made me quit the corporate world for good or the job that made me swear off glucosamine, I thought I would instead share a super bonus list! Aren’t you lucky?


5 Jobs I Wish I’d Had

1. Juror – I know, no one wants jury duty. Except me. Perhaps I just read too many John Grisham novels as a teenager but I always thought the experience would be fascinating. If nothing else, it would be something new. Unfortunately, I am sure wanting jury duty means that I would never be selected.

2. Radio Disc Jockey – When I was younger I was the biggest music snob in the world. I am talking, unless it was written two hundred years ago by a white man with a European name, I wasn’t interested. Regardless, I still listened to a wide variety of music and learned to find the genius in even the most popular of tunes. What always bugged me, though, was repetition. I hated how every radio station played the same one hundred songs over and over and over again. At the age of sixteen I decided that one day I would start my own station and I would never play the same piece twice. I would play everything: opera, rock, country, R&B, baroque, hip hop, even pop. But my listeners would never know what to expect next. It would be amazing, I thought. Of course, now that I am older I realize no one is going to listen to a station that plays Fidelio one moment and then AC/DC the next. Except me.

3. Chocolatier This was a job for which I actually applied once. It was Bernard Callebaut in Calgary, Alberta. I thought it would be fun. I secretly hoped for samples. Unfortunately, the hiring manager was a bit of a cow and probably expected me to quit after a day or two. No doubt she was right but I still wish I’d been given a chance.

4. Letter carrier – This is a job that is getting phased out but I always thought it would be awesome to get to walk around outside all day, every day with nothing more to worry about than getting a postal code mixed up. I would have been in amazing shape. I’d even deal with the frigid temperatures. Tragically, they were almost never hiring and it wasn’t meant to be.

5. Lounge singer – Okay, this is total fantasy land but I’ve always thought it would be awesome for one night to be one of those airport lounge entertainers. Just for fun. With no one in the audience but a few intoxicated flight attendants and a man who missed the last flight to Los Angeles. One day…

How about you? Any weird jobs you’ve performed? Any jobs you feel you missed?

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.


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?

Things Making Me Feel

Things Making Me Feel Needlessly Guilty

The three times I used Shiva’s surgery as an excuse for asking another dog owner to re-leash his or her dog.

The fact I wish I had thought of this sooner.

I spent the extra bit of money I had for this month on symphony tickets instead of savings.

The fact that I almost wish our Christmas this year would be as quiet as previous years. As lovely as it will be to spend the holidays with family, the coordination makes my head ache.

The Nanaimo bar I ate for lunch.

My cat. I haven’t seen him since I startled him off my chair. No wonder he hates me.

Things Making Me Feel Needlessly Happy

Our wee little tree and twinkle lights on the staircase. if I could, I would cover the house in them.

The fact that there are so many programs celebrating the beauty of dogs. Like this one:

Re-reading one of my favourite books from a wiser perspective.

Nutcracker tickets.

December is just one day away.

Shiva’s purple polka-dotted coat made by my kind and generous practically mother-in-law. We are so lucky.

The yummy roasted potatoes I just had for dinner.

Things Making Me Feel Needlessly Nostalgic

This photo of Shiva with our old lilac bush.

012Mint chocolate Girl Guide cookies.

The thought of giving up my Blackberry.

The wish I had blogged more last year so I would have a record of all we experienced. The knowledge that even if I attempt to tell the stories now, they won’t be the same as they would have been.

Things Making Me Feel Relieved

Tomorrow is the last day of Movember.

Things Making Me Feel Less Relieved Than I Expected

Tomorrow is the last day of NaBloPoMo. I kind of wish it wasn’t.

Tips For Traveling With a Cat

107 Top Ten Reasons to Bring Your Cat With You on an Airplane

1. You are deaf.

2. You are moving across the country for the second time and the last time your cat’s screeching during the drive nearly caused you to be arrested for animal cruelty.

3. Your practically husband threatened to put the cat in the box of the truck if he had to endure another five-day road trip with His Yowliness.

4. You have a pet blog and think it would be a fun experience to write about.

5. You are insane.

6. Your cat already spends his days plotting your death and may as well have one more reason to hate you.

7. You are seeking revenge on your cat for chewing the cord of your $300 flat-iron.

8. Your cat is deaf and/or dead and/or actually a stuffed animal.

9. You want to discover if the pitch of your cat’s cries is louder than that of a newborn baby.

10. You have a loving relationship with your cat and he or she travels well, ie. you live in a magical fantasy land, ie. your veterinarian is kind enough to give you drugs.


Top Ten Reasons Not to Bring Your Cat With You on an Airplane

1. You have healthy hearing abilities.

2. You are moving across the country for the first time and naïvely think your cat will do well on a road trip for five days even though he despises the car and even though you have never leash or kennel trained him before.

3. Your cat’s yowls are easily drowned out by the radio.

4. You decide to put your cat’s comfort first and turn down the job promotion.

5. You haven’t lost your mind.

6. You are pretty sure the pilot will make an emergency landing just to get away from your cat’s screeching.

7. You have a loving relationship with your cat and have spent many years training him so he travels well in the car, ie. you are a far better person than I am.

8. Your cat has healthy hearing abilities and/or is alive and/or is not a stuffed animal.

9. Your veterinarian only gives you a small cloth soaked in feline hormones, an item which is essentially useless when your cat is already stressed from being shoved into a bag, hauled out of said bag when going through security, and then shoved back in for six hours straight without being able to empty his bladder.

10. You are smart and decide to ship him cargo.