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What a 2017 it’s been.

My sarcoidosis went into remission, and although it has caused permanent changes (glasses, asthma, arthritis), I am basically still the same person and not too badly worse for wear. Notwithstanding a few smaller issues with my back and knees, this year was the year my health started the slow climb back upwards, and that’s something worth celebrating. I plan on spending some time in 2018 making small changes to keep on feeling better and staying better. My 40’s have definitely been the years to put plans into action, and my health is a big one on that list.

Shawn and I celebrated another anniversary and every year that we get to do that is a blessing. If there is one thing that we’ve clung to since 2014, it’s that life is short. Super short. You should be with the people you want to be with and let go of anyone and anything that isn’t a positive force in life. We know that as the years go on and the kids keep on leaving to pursue their own lives, it will only be ourselves left at the end, and we better still like one another. We’re still planning that trip to Italy and one of these years, we’ll actually do it.

We bid a final goodbye to our beloved dog, Katie. And we miss her every day.

I took my first ever in my life solo trip this year. At the end of June, I flew to Edmonton Alberta, my first time west of Ontario, to see my baby brother get married. For one day short of a week, I stayed with my internet-now-real-life friend Allison in her beautiful home and learned to drive my way around Edmonton. I went to the big mall, had dinner with my internet family/friends, visited with my family (all six of my siblings in the same place for the first time in six years!) and watched my baby brother tie the knot. I missed my own family dearly and it was sad that my husband wasn’t able to come with me. That just made the coming home that much sweeter.

As soon as I got back from Edmonton, I jumped into a jam-packed rehearsal schedule, as, for the first time since moving East, I got involved with a theatre show. I have to admit, I was a little gun-shy to get into a theatre again, my last experience not exactly leaving on a high note, due to (pun intended) drama, but, I’m glad I did. I threw on a habit, and became a singing nun in Sister Act. The run was fantastic, playing to nearly sold out crowds nightly and it was great to be a part of a production again.

We celebrated three years this fall of Shawn’s life since the heart stopping September of 2014. As always, I had a mini-meltdown in the days leading up to the anniversary and as always, we reflected on the fragility of life.

Speaking of getting back into the habit, I put on my writer’s cap again this fall and was a featured author at the Saint John Fog Lit festival. It really felt good to talk about my writing again and to speak at the events. I am, as ever, appreciative of cities that celebrate the arts and their own local artists.

And to cap off a wonderful year, I did my exam for French with the province and received a certificate of Intermediate ability.

2018 is already shaping up to be a busy one. Shawn and I will both be students at the University, working towards continually improving and updating our skills. I will keep working on French while I move to a new department at work. Kathryn, our second youngest, is graduating from high school and Shawn Michael, the baby, will start his Grade 12 senior year in the fall.

Life is a journey. It should be savoured and enjoyed. Live well, love hard, and let the rest go.

Peace, my friends.

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My friends made fun of Shawn when we had two girls, and then three. And then we rescued our dog Kira, a girl, and got our dog Katie, another girl. There was no getting around it, the women ran the household. Estrogen trumps testosterone. Girl power reigned supreme.
And we liked it that way. My girls talk about everything and anything in front of the boys. So much so that Shawn Michael, my delightful 16 year old, doesn’t even bat an eye at the mention of periods, cramps, tampons, and being endlessly dragged into bra stores at the mall. Actually, I think he likes that last part. I keep telling him what an amazing partner he will be some day, after being raised in the warm bosom of a bevy of females. It’s true too, he’s one of the most sensitive, plugged in, compassionate and caring PEOPLE I know, let alone young men.

So we moved and kids got older and grew up. Keisha moved out, Liam moved out, Ash moved out. Kira passed away and then Katie. And now we have myself, Shawn, Kathryn, Shawn Michael and Kermit. And Cole.
Who is Cole?
Oh, he’s Kat’s boyfriend. A sweet, lovely, overgrown puppydog of a boy, and he spends a lot of time at our house.
Now it’s three against two!
I wish I could say that I don’t like it and that the boys are being stinky smelly boys and exerting their power over pizza orders and choice of programming but in truth, I like it. He is one of those kids who just….effortlessly fit in to our world and we have claimed him as one of our own. So, I wish I could say I don’t like it, but, it’s nice to have back a small bit of the chaos we had when the house was fuller. Watching the two of them is like getting a glimpse into a not so distant future when the kids will come home, god willing, for holidays bringing with them their partners and one day, their own kids.
It’s going to be a weird holiday for us this year. No extended family is coming, Liam can only come home for a day, maybe two, and Keisha can’t come home at all. And while Shawn and I have time off, the younger kids will all have work schedules.
But I like it.
I don’t mind this shift in the force. After all, life is change. You can either roll with it, or fight against it, but it’s going to happen whether you like it or not. I choose to embrace it.

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I’ve been busy, y’all.

Before the holidays, I had a job interview for what would have been a dream for me. It was a fundraising position with, wait for it, The Heart and Stroke Foundation! Yeah, that would have been super sweet. Spoiler: I didn’t get it. Which is a crying shame because I would have been more passionate about that job than anyone else I know but, c’est la vie. I *did* get a different job that I applied for and, drum roll please, this one is a full time permanent position! Yes! Since moving here (as I have much vented on here) I have only been working part time or on contract or both. But, it seems that I have now found my place and I start this coming Monday. It means that 2016 for me is starting with yet more life changes, but, that’s okay. I’ll take this new job change, because I’m super happy about it.

The holidays were weird. Not in a good way or a bad way, per se, just…weird.
First, we had to cancel our plans to go to Nova Scotia to spend a day and a half with my sister, her family, and my parents. Why? Because we have dogs and it didn’t even occur to me to look into the logistics of bringing them (because I just assumed I would) until it was too late. So, we stayed home, which, as I mentioned, was fantastic after all. And our holidays were a lot of more of the same of those days. Lazy days at home where we all hung out together, ate all the food, drank, watched movies and basically just got all loved up on one another.

I had a LONG overdue and very real conversation with my oldest, Keisha, over facetime on our phones and a lot of what we talked about got me thinking about myself, some of my life choices and how I wound up where I am and who I am today. Introspection can be a wonderful thing but it can also be a bit of a bitch, because you wind up looking at not just the great and wonderful things that got you to here, but also the bad choices, the mistakes and the heart breaks. My mind has been a whirlwind of thoughts lately. I’ve not really been talking to people outside of home unless I absolutely have to. Sometimes you just need things to be…quiet. So, I stopped texting people and I stopped posting on here and I haven’t even been as active on my social media as I usually am, but, when your head gets noisy, you need all other things to quiet down.

Y’hear that, head?? Quiet the hell down already!

I AM excited for new job. That is going to be one really big, really wonderful change. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it.

Also, we have a big spring ahead of us. Our middle daughter is graduating high school. A super big deal.

So, hello to you all who I’ve been keeping quiet from lately. I’m not neglecting you, I promise. I’m just shushing myself. I’ll be back to loud and rowdy in no time.

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My dog Katie is dumb. She is SUPER pretty and we love her, but she’s dumb. I’ve mentioned this before. She is the type of dog who will look right at you, while standing in the yard, cock her head, so you KNOW she hears you calling, and then won’t come in. Because she is dumb. She also has fallen off the couch while relaxing, walked into walls and barked at her shadow.

She also has cancer. It’s a whole thing.

So, sometimes Katie will eat people food. Not because we give it to her (she has a sensitive stomach, especially now, and is prone to doggy barfing – which I CANNOT handle) but because she will find ways to sneak it. She loves to get into the garbage. And she LOVES when forgetful teenagers leave anything edible on an accessible surface.

Needless to say, especially since her diagnosis, we’ve become a little extra vigilant.

On Monday night the kids asked for pizza for dinner. We don’t order pizza out much, we all prefer to make our own. It’s healthier and this way we can each customize what we like. For example, I don’t like tomato sauce on my pizza. I prefer alfredo. Or, brushing my crust with olive oil and parmesan. Anyway, the kids and I packed up and went to the grocery store where we bought five pizza crusts; one for each of us home that night. We took them home, thawed them, and started putting together toppings. Meat pizza for the younger two kids. Veggies and veggies and more veggies for me. And crab and smoked oysters. Oh my goodness. The other benefit to making our own is that we always have some to take for lunch the next day, so no scrounging in the morning to make lunches.

Anyway, I timed it so that Shawn’s would be last, since he gets home after us all. Well, he came home and asked me if, while he waited the five more minutes until the oven was free for him, I would stretch out his dough for him. Of course I said sure, so I spun it out and left it on the counter.

We all went into the living room and five minutes later I came back to the kitchen to put his dough on the pan.

Only it wasn’t there.

I called in to Shawn and asked him if he moved it. He sounded surprised by the very question when he said no. I said, well, it’s not here. I asked one of the girls if she was pranking her dad, but, she never pull pranks. Cut to all of us in the kitchen looking around for a large, round, raw pizza dough.

Cut to Katie, hiding in her kennel, licking her chops.

SHE ATE THE WHOLE DOUGH!!

Poor Shawn. We all had crispy, delicious, custom pizza and he had a counter full of toppings and nothing to put them on. He wound up running back to the store and getting another dough real quick which we quickly put in the oven once assembled.

Like I said. My dog is dumb.

But, not so dumb.

Five pizza doughs – $12.50
1 extra dough – $2.50
3 minutes for one dog to eat an entire raw dough??? Priceless.

Katie spent the rest of the night avoiding Shawn. The kids thought it was hilarious. Shawn…didn’t.

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Morning:
1. Get up
2. No seriously, get up. It’s hard to go through your day from in bed.
2 1/2 *wouldn’t it be great though? That floating bed from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Eat from bed, drink from bed, work out from bed, go to work from bed. Ahhhhhh
3. Okay, quit it. Get up.
4. Bathroom, brush teeth, yoga pants and tank top. My working mom’s uniform
5. Navigate hallway of teenagers yo-yo-ing in and out of the hallway bathroom
6. Downstairs for breakfast. Mine and dogs. Feed dogs. Feed face.
7. Fill water bottle and go back to bed.
Sleep?
No.
Damn.
8. If it’s a writing day, do some writing. If not, fart around on social media
9. Check emails
10. Don’t get distracted by YouTube. Don’t get distracted by YouTube. Don’t get distracted by YouTube.

Lunch:
1. Go back to kitchen.
2. Look at bowls and mess from breakfast/kids making lunches.
3. Think about cleaning
4. Don’t.
5. Make lunch. Talk to dogs. Be both my own side of the conversation and theirs. Use voices for dogs.
6. More water
7. Let dogs out again. Spend ten minutes trying to convince Katie to come back inside while she stares at me from fifteen feet away, totally not coming back in.
8. Work out
9. Sweat balls
10. Shower

Prep:
1. Time to get into fresh yoga pants and tank.
2. Clean kitchen
3. Plan dinner
4. Kids come home, listen to three teenagers simultaneously talk about their day
5. At least ONE of these kids will bitch about dinner choice. Ignore
6. Make awesome dinner. Seriously, that shit goes on Instagram.
7. Eat. Drink more water.
8. Time for television guilty pleasures depending on the night
9. Maybe some wii golf
10. Go to bed, can’t sleep, watch boyfriend Netflix until 1:30 or 2am
11. Sleep

Repeat.

My list of alternate sub-ins (to be used at my own discretion)

1. Sing show tunes or radio tunes at the top of my voice.
2. Be baffled that I was never offered a role on broadway
3. Watch YouTube videos of fav dance routines from movies
4. Try to learn them.
5. Paint my nails. Seriously, that shit goes on Instagram
6. Take my workout outside and go for a walk
7. Re-live previous “debates”, not arguments, in my head and have way wittier responses
8. Scenario act out conversations, or “debates” that never happened, in my head of course
9. Fantasize about what life would have been like if I had moved to Hollywood and been a movie star
10. Read
11. Blog
12. Nap

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Gilda Radner, one of my absolute icons, said “It’s always something”. It was usually attributed to her character Roseann Roseannadanna but, it was also the title of her autobiography. And one of my favourite quotes from said book is this:
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious Ambiguity”
She is so right. We don’t get perfect endings. We don’t get life’s problems wrapped up in 22 minutes with a swell of perfectly timed music and a cuff on the shoulder from whichever relative is dishing up the life changing advice. It doesn’t work that way. You’d think I would know this after all the stuff life has dealt to me, to my family, to my friends but no, one of the most delicious ironies of life is that even though we *know* this to be true, even coming through our hard times and commiserating with friends and family over their hard times, we still fundamentally always want the rainbow at the end of the storm. And I, for one, am always let down so hard when it doesn’t happen.

Where am I going with all this maudlin talk? Our dog Katie has cancer.

We had three dogs; Kira, Katie and Kermit. We got Kermit first seven years ago. He’s a teeny, tiny little black pomapoo weighing now about seven pounds. We named him Kermit-the-dog, or just Kermit for everyday. He is sweet and he thinks he is a cat.
Then, about four months later, we adopted Kira. She was already five years old when we got her and she had been rescued from an abusive home. She had been beaten, had bruised ribs and an injured leg and when she had been rescued, she had been left in a barn in February with no food or fresh water for over a week. She was extremely nervous when we brought her home and jumped at every loud sound for weeks. But then she fell in love with us the way we had already fallen in love with her. She was a big girl, an Australian Blue Heeler and she thought her 70lb self was a lapdog. Like Kermit. We loved her right up until we lost her at 12 years old just this past November.

We never intended to get another dog, but I came home from work one day talking about my boss’s new puppy. A puggle. Cute as can be. The kids wanted to know what a puggle looked like and so we googled the breed. And then we saw the ad. A local farmer’s dog had given birth to 11 puppies. Puggle-bulldogs. They looked like caramel. As the kids flicked through the pictures of them, they landed on one and I blurted out “oh look, Katie!”. That was it. Shawn and I drove out to the farm and Katie came home with us. She is one of the most beautiful dogs in the world. She is lively and active and, well, kinda dumb, but in an adorable way (unless we’re trying to get her to come in from the woods at our house).
A little while ago we noticed that she had a bump on her back paw. So, two Saturdays ago, we took her to the vet. They thought, as I did, that it was a blood or fluid filled cyst. Not wholly uncommon, but they wanted to wait to lance it until this past Tuesday. So, Tuesday last week, I brought her back in and went home to await the call to come pick her back up.

The call came, but it wasn’t the news we expected. There was no fluid in the cyst. Also, it was much bigger than we all originally thought and it was in her lymph nodes. It was so full of tissue that even the incision barely bled. So they biopsied it and sent it out to the university.
Two days ago they called us to confirm cancer. Aggressive cancer. She will have to at the very least lose the limb up to the hip and that may not even be enough. We are heartbroken. And it’s so hard to watch our girl just scampering around as usual because she doesn’t know.

I know, those of you without pets are probably thinking I’m crazy to talk about my dogs with such emotion. After all, they’re only pets. But, they’re not ONLY pets. They are part of our family. When Shawn was in the hospital the dogs were all extra affectionate. They knew we were hurting. They gave us loads of extra attention. And now we’re planning out the next months or so of Katie’s life and trying to make the right choices and it’s hard.

Because it’s always something. And sometimes the something gets overwhelming. Because what I’d really like for a little while, is a whole lot of nothing.

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I have two dogs right now after recently having said goodbye to our oldest dog. We have a little seven pound guy named Kermit who is a Pomapoo and our Katie, a 25 pound caramel coloured cross between beagle, pug and bull dog. She is simply a beautiful dog.
But she is dumb.

Despite all of our efforts, there is a gap in our fence in the back yard which Kermit frequently uses to escape the confines of the backyard and head into the woods along our property. Katie has been, until recently, too big to fit under it, but it appears that at some point before the ground froze, managed to dig out enough space to also use this route to take off when we let her out.

The dogs love the woods. I can’t say I blame them.

Here is a typical cold day here when it comes to letting the dogs out.
I go into the cold back room (it’s seasonal, no insulation and very cold in winter) and open the second door that leads to the back yard. The dogs go out, go down the steps, off the deck, head to one or two spots they have designated as bathroom spots, do their business and come back up the stairs and inside. Five minute trip at most.
BUT
Sometimes they want to explore so, as I watch from the windows, they beeline for the spot of the fence that’s low, sneak under it quicker than they do anything other than come for food, and take off into the woods. It’s winter, I can see them just fine. They are sniffing everything and peeing on trees. Usually they will come back when I call them.

Today.

Both are out in the woods. I am on the phone with my daughter Keisha and watching the dogs through the window. I don’t want to wait in the back room because it’s cold but I can still see them through the kitchen windows. I pour myself some coffee and notice that Kermit is coming back through the hole. By the time I get to the door, he is already at it whining. Par for the course. He wants to be outside until the very second he doesn’t and then he turns immediately into a little bitch. I let him in and he shoots past me into the house. No sign of Kate, which is weird, they usually come in together. I call her, notice her in the forest right at the edge. She sees me, but just stands there staring at me.
Whatever, she is so dumb. It’s freezing out and she clearly heard me call her. I go back inside. I minute later I hear her whining, but it doesn’t sound like she is at the door and a quick check tells me she is not there.
I start to give Keisha a play by play.

“I can hear her but I can’t see her” I go back to the back room and open the back door to outside and call her.
I finally spot her.
“You won’t believe this, Kiki, she is sitting on the snow in front of the fence hole whining at it. It’s cold, she probably doesn’t want to belly crawl through it again.”
I can’t say I blame her, I wouldn’t want to either but she won’t come to the back door on the side of the house (which she could easily access, she just has to….walk there….) because she is dumb and I can’t go out and open the gate because the frozen snow has it blocked. I call her again.
“Oh my goodness, Keisha, she is laying on her side and horizontal running through the gap”. I start laughing because it looks so ridiculous. Keisha is laughing. I call Katie again and she comes up to the house but she just stands there outside, on the snow of the deck, staring at me through the open door.
“Come in” I tell her. “come in here.”
Keisha asks me what’s going on and I tell her Katie is just standing there looking at me. I swear I would love to hear what dogs are thinking at times like this, although something tells me Kate’s thought bubbles are hardly riveting reading.

She finally came in the house and went to go sit on her blanket in the living room.

If dumb blonde jokes were ever created for dogs, Katie would be the dog they were modeled on.
I love my dog. I love my beautiful, dumb dog.

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