As the days of Christmas shopping approach, I am reminded of the early days when Ed and I would meander through the mall or department store together to shop for our family and close friends. The difference in our definition of together led to a compilation of shopping rules. Ed defined together as being under the same roof with the same mission with the chance of meeting up with each other every now and then, if at all, ’til the end of the excursion. I can’t tell you how often I was caught asking a stranger if he thought this would be a good gift for my sister or demanding an opinion from a stranger whose nose I had imposed upon with a decanter of perfume. It got to a point where I would spend most of my time wandering through Freddie Myer or The Bay looking for tall, dark and handsome and not focused on actual shopping. When I’d finally caught up with Ed, he would have an armful of evidence showing successful shopping while I had a basket of nerves and frustration. (Mind you, my poor sense of direction up and down the aisles at times added to my exasperation!)
Hence, the shopping rules: If one of us paused to examine potential gift items for consideration, and the other kept going, he has to declare “I’m just in the next aisle” or “I’m heading over to the sporting goods section” or “I suggest we meet back here in a 1/2 hour”. What a difference that made in the enjoyment level of shopping together and making collaborative decisions on what to buy each other’s family members. I know, some readers would want to remind me here how lucky I am to have a husband who participated at all in Christmas shopping for others!
That rule book still lives on in our household. Although we make every effort to incorporate Cabo into our activities, there are times when we have to leave him on his own while we do our errands or visit neighbours or … actually … I’m having a hard time coming up with other scenarios where we leave him on his own outside our work schedules and the odd occasion when we join our parents for dinner out and leave him at their place for an hour or so. It would be easy to engage him with a bone or wait ’til he’s napping to slip out on him but we don’t. I don’t want him to wander around the house looking for us or, after he’s given up the search, to remain on high alert wondering if the next car driving by is ours or if the sound of the neighbour’s front door is us coming home. I know how it feels to spend more time searching than is necessary.
So when we’re leaving Cabo on his own, we tell him. We prepare the usual peanut-butter-laced bone (a sign that he’s being left on his own) and just before we leave, we give it to him letting him know we’re going out visiting, or to work, or to supper (all key words he associates with being left on his own for a while) and that we’ll be back. He immediately turns his attention to the bone and the stuffed toy that’s been assigned to share it with him, and we simply say “bye, Cabo”. As soon as he hears “bye”, he knows it’s final. The same applies when only one of us is leaving … we say “bye, Cabo” and encourage him to watch out the front door or porch for Ed or me to leave. Again, he knows it’s final.
That may sound like a lot of conversation for a puppy but it sure alleviates anxiety and makes the time alone more manageable for him.
I should take this opportunity to tell you that I’m taking a break for the Christmas season. I have one more class in my 9-course Communications and Public Relations Program at McMaster University so after two and half years of blending a full-time job with school, I am ready for a computer break. We’ll be back in the new year so if you’re enjoying this blog, there are more tales ahead. If you want to be notified when we post again in the new year, simply click Follow on the sidebar to the right. For now, bye and thank you for all your interest and support since September as readers.
It’s not just a dog’s life, it’s one we’re happy to share with family, friends, and avid readers!
Yesterday was grey and rainy off and on so we took our time in starting the day. Ed had brewed some fresh ground Starbucks beans, and served up an appetizer tray of breakfast pastries. Cabo had a good morning outside in the back yard and then lounged by our bedside while we read aloud a few chapters from our most recent selection from the library. I had passed by a book featuring a young white golden retriever puppy on the front cover and couldn’t resist. The Puppy Diaries is a compilation of stories written by the executive editor of the New York Times Jill Abramson for the publication’s website about the joys and challenges of training a new rambunctious addition to their family. A good read so far.
Although Cabo’s positioning throughout the reading was a combination of relaxed lounging and not-so-subtle signals that he wanted to go for a walk, we carried on with our coffee clatch-like morning. When there appeared to be movement towards a change of wardrobe, he wondered if it was in preparation for a long-anticipated walk. Rather than allowing his anxiety level to to increase while he figured it out, I said “No, Cabo. No walk yet. You`ll have to wait.” Most dog owners (aka pet parents) would either spell out W-A-L-K or avoid the four letter word altogether until they could immediately follow through with a walk. I, on the other hand, feel it’s better to alleviate the anxiety and teach puppy to wait. Cabo immediately surrendered and layed back down of the floor with a recognizable “hrrrumpffff”.
Transitioning to the kitchen, we announced as we sat down to the breakfast table: “Cathy and Ed are having breakfast now and then we’ll go for a walk.” At this point, I was thinking of my girlfriend Angela who, if she witnessed this exchange, would have said with exasperation “oh for goodness sakes, you two! He’s just a dog – he doesn’t understand all that!” (Ed, of course, thinks Cabo understands every word he says.) With that, Cabo walked away, layed down on the floor in the hallway (with the usual hrrrumpffff) to wait.
As soon as we were done our breakfast, we changed into walking gear while Cabo positioned himself voluntarily on the usual 4th step from the downstairs landing to don his harness. When we opened the door to go outside, he waited patiently for the signal. “Okay” said Ed and Cabo joyfully scampered down the driveway. I said calmly yet firmly “wait” and he stopped perfectly at the end of the driveway for instructions: left or right? Neither, we’re taking the car. He willingly hopped in and away we drove to a familiar trail head of the Bruce Trail.
We encountered a nice couple on the trail walking their two dogs off leash. As was Cabo. We told Cabo to wait while they approached us. And he did! The dogs had a great encounter, the adults had a great exchange (surprised at times by our commonalities) and then carried on our way in opposite directions.
In the past, it would have been tough to draw Cabo away from other dogs, away from the fun. But he’s come a long way. He simply left the company of the other 2 dogs, trotted toward us, and adopted our pace as we continued along the trail. We had a second similar encounter with another couple whose dog was also off leash. The 6-month old blue heeler mix and Cabo had a great run around and then we each went on our way – seamlessly, and without coaxing.
We’ve been waiting for this time when Cabo listened well to the word wait – patiently, and consistently. The wait was worth it. For all of us! After all, it’s not just a dog’s life – it’s a family life where we all wait for each other!
p.s. At times we leave Cabo in the car while one of us runs in to the grocery store or pharmacy or library or coffee shop … he waits patiently without pacing or whimpering. The trick? We always arrive back at the car with a treat in hand and this phrase: Thank you for waiting!
The Power of Positive Training – Pat Miller
Bark Busters – Sue MacInnis, Behaviour Therapist and Trainer serving the Golden Horseshoe
Animals Make Us Human – Temple Grandin
With all the distractions of social media, internet playgrounds, and overcommitment, it’s difficult sometimes to stay focused on what’s important and what you set out to do.
Even as a youngster, I was easily distracted. As mom was preparing school lunches – one of several bedtime rituals – she would many times say to me “run downstairs to the freezer, dear, and bring up a loaf of bread”. “Sure mom” and I’d disappear downstairs. 10 or 15 minutes later, I’d surface empty handed. Not because I couldn’t find the bread, but because I forgot! I would pass by my brother adding final touches on his balsa airplane model, or get caught up in the Star Trek episode on tv, or offer unsolicited suggestions for the crossword puzzle my father was working on, or remember when I saw them that I hadn’t hung up my hat and mittens when I came in from school through the back door.
I worked hard as a student and throughout my career to stay on track and to manage distractions but it didn’t come easily.
Now Cabo – he has an incredible ability to focus. He’s happy laying stealth for an hour on his own on the front porch watching people pass by with their strollers, skateboards, bicycles, and dogs (without barking!). He’s perfected the skunk and raccoon patrol in the back yard – laying in wait at night without distraction for an unsuspecting intruder. He’s a master at outwaiting and outlasting grandpa throughout our visits by sitting tall and still, focused on his pocketful of treats ’til one appears. And he’s relentless when it comes to retrieving popcorn that (deliberately yet secretly) falls from our hands to the floor until the bowl is empty. So focused! A trait to be admired.
But, not always! The worst is Cabo’s keen eye for fallen paper – tissues, paper towels, napkins – and his focus on retrieving and eating them when we’re out for a walk. A snap of the Martingale collar is never in time, a foot plant on top of the paper is never soon enough, and forget about forgetting to put the paper wastebasket up out of reach when we visit other people’s homes! He’s too focused and too fast! And will not give it up. This is something that’s been troubling us for a long time. He’ll gladly give up his bone, his favourite toy, even a special treat – anything he’s allowed to have. But if it’s contraband – something he knows he’s not supposed to have – we have to dig deep for our best dog handler skills OR our best negotiating skills. His incredible focus for not letting go is silently commendable. Oh, and then there was the time my husband came home and Cabo enthusiastically greeted him with coloured paper in his mouth. That coloured paper was strewn on the hallway floor as he happily presented Ed with a sample. How Ed kept his composure is beyond me. It was a bundle of cash that Ed had set aside in his fishing bag to pay for his new fishing gear he was eyeing at Bass Pro Shops.
We’re still looking for a remedy for this unconquered appetite for paper. Will he outgrow it? Does he need specialized training? Do I need specialized training? Do I need to suit up in mesh-metal gloves to overcome his guard-dog snarl and the snap that would follow? Who knew this beautiful, gentle, fun-loving, intelligent, and well-mannered puppy could be so focused on not surrendering? I’ve seen Cesar Millan in action in this scenario but for me it’s like watching a parachute jumper: no way in h#>% am I going to succeed in overpowering this puppy without hours of training, a guide, and certification! That’s going to take a lot of focus on my part to win this one. My friends Victor and Yani have both tried to teach me but the courage and force field for me just isn’t there yet!
This is more than just a dog’s life. It’s one that demands incredible focus and determination. And one that can inspire many of us to persevere.
Picture this: Click on Focus: Inspired by a dog!
For some reason, people nowadays don’t seem to find the time, make the time, nor take the time to have some down time. With the pace of working full time, commuting, visiting family and staying in touch with friends, doing homework, chores, errands, cooking, and, well, just simply staying engaged, some times we just need to get off the grid.
Yesterday, we did just that. We had a Cabo day. That is what we learned from our dog.
Sleep in, eat, walk, nap, eat, find something simple to keep entertained, nap, roll over and stretch, snack, nap … . We had a great family day and Cabo was faced with a perplexing dilemma: demand attention or another walk, or simply let sleeping/resting humans lie. That’s because he had the royal nod to join us on the sofa bed – a privilege not granted often!
Some of you might think “yeah, right – if I only had the time”. Well, in my view, to have the time you have to create the time and then take the time. When we have a headache or a cold, we reach for the medicine cabinet and take some pills and perhaps 10-30 minutes or more of down time. But why wait ’til you’re sick to take care of yourself? When you know you’ve been running hard, plan to take the time to renew and regenerate.
Cheryl Richardson, life coach, says her initial work with clients is focused on self-care — freeing up their time and identifying and eliminating what drains their energy. “The idea of adding more work by encouraging them to set goals or take on anything new makes no sense when they’ve already got a full plate (and most of them do). Instead, I focus on clearing the plates to immediately improve the quality of their lives.”
David Bach, a renowned motivational and financial speaker takes the “Finish Rich” wisdom that has already helped millions of people and tailors it specifically to all of us who forgot to save, procrastinated, or got sidetracked by life’s unexpected challenges. He teaches people how to spend less, save more, earn more, live more, and give more however, he says in order to live rich, you have to experience joy in life along the way. And appreciate the simple pleasures that cost little or nothing.
Yes, dogs can teach us to never pass up an opportunity to go for a joy ride, and to enjoy the ecstacy of fresh air and wind in your face, and to not pretend to be someone you’re not, but the most important lesson from dogs, I feel, is to stop and smell the [roses], take a nap, sit and watch, and to just be content with calm and stillness. By the end of a day like that, you’ll be more energized and more able to handle the pace of life when it resumes again. I’m glad I’m not waiting ’til retirement to learn the value of a Cabo day!
Links below: Other things we can learn from a dog
Often around thanksgiving I take stock of things to be grateful for (I know … as a writer, I should have said “things for which I should be grateful”). I recall walking down the boardwalk in White Rock (just south of Vancouver) one year when my mother was visiting us from Niagara (we were living on Canada’s west coast for 20 years). I was telling her how much I was struggling with things that should have been easier for me. No matter what the subject (I honestly can’t remember), it was her response that sticks out in my mind. We passed by folks who were being wheeled in their chairs or mobile beds by family, colleagues, or support staff down the boardwalk. “See?” my mother said to me. “It could always be worse for you. At least you can walk and enjoy the sights unaided by others.” I replied “Yes, but my struggles are self-made. Those people don’t have a choice.”
Years later, when my husband and I were adapting to an unpredicted stay here in Ontario after our “gypsy” road trip from out west (I know, there’s a long story in that one phrase but bear with me), I asked Ed with exasperation one night: why is this SO hard to move from one province to another and why is it SO hard to make this move work?! And why do I feel so frustrated and defeated? He said to me: It’s because you chose to make this move, it didn’t happen to you.
How interesting and insightful. I have always undervalued the effort it takes me to overcome obstacles that I bring upon myself. I strive for the simple life because, really, it’s not that much of a stretch for me. I have always been employed, I have exceptional good health, I have friends who love me for who I am, my parents are still alive and still together, and I have been happily married to the same guy for more than half my life. And I have such a good dog who adores me and makes me feel special. Really, what’s so tough?
Faith is being sure of what we hope for … and certain of what we do not see.
My sister is a great cheerleader and one of my biggest fans. I am fueled by her “at-a-girls”, “way to go”, and “you should be proud of yourself” words of encouragement. I think others could benefit from those phrases as well. So, to my friends and family who are battling some pretty tough obstacles that have come their way, here’s a shout out to you:
- At-a-girl for giving up drinking and smoking at the same time with such a positive attitude
- Way to go for working so hard to get good grades on your medical tests after all these years with stage 4 renal failure
- You should be proud of yourself for repositioning yourself in a new career, recovering amazingly well from open heart surgery, and reducing the gap in a long-distance relationship through commitment, desire, creativity, and perseverance.
- Good on you for uprooting from your long-time family home, choosing a new neighbourhood with your new husband, and inviting your 80+ year old grandmother to share your home and to overlook her sometimes calling you by your deceased mother’s name.
- Way to go for being such a great daughter and honouring your mom in so many ways through her good health, her sickness, and her passing away.
- Congratulations on taking the big step of securing a full time job, living on your own, and sifting through the remnants of a shortened relationship looking for the good things to remember and build on
- At-a-girl for keeping up the fight throughout your cancer marathon and for your determination to cross that finish line.
- Way to go for your stubbornness and determination as a war survivor to live independently after your husband and so many of your friends have long passed away.
And to those I don’t know who are struggling with some pretty big challenges: stay positive, keep pressing on, and don’t look down.
I am happy to welcome back my guest blogger! Please enjoy this post from Ed and let us have your comments. It’s not just a dog’s life, it’s a dog’s perspective. He’s offered an interesting take on a topical current event.
I first got the impression that Cabo wanted to join the protest movement when he arbitrarily decided to bark at some imagined wrong during a drive through downtown Dundas. Perhaps he just wanted to stick his head out the unopened window. I deeply exhaled on his face (partly as retribution for the close proximity of his bark in my ear) to eliminate that possibility and he did turn away. I then started to examine recent signs of protest from Cabo:
- manipulating a sock so it appeared as if he was wearing a bandana
- him peeing on the exterior wall of the Bank of Montreal
- as an ardent environmentalist, he eats organically grown sticks and recycles them quit readily
- I’m quite sure he has no paying job
- he likes grass
- he occupies the occasional piece of furniture
- and although he doesn’t own a tent, he does enjoy jumping into them
We’ve all been inundated with the Occupy protest movement for the last two months. Protesters ‘occupy’ parks in cities across Canada (CTV News video) Listen, I get the free speech, right to assemble, Wall Street domination thing. My family history was greatly impacted by the suppression of many freedoms by an Eastern Block power. But I will camp, sing, and go unwashed in my designated camping spot for a weekend with a tag that says Occupied which I have willingly paid for. Remember that occupation by a hostile mass has been an act of war in the past.
But back to Cabo. Do dogs need any type of a stimulus package? He gets bones. Grandma buys him all kinds of stuffed toys. Do dogs do anything for political or economical gain? No, they are not motivated that way nor are they that smart (after all, their own farts sometimes surprise them … ). Then it dawned on me: dogs, Cabo in particular, do not have financial worries. They live in the moment without conscious consequences. They are uninhibited.
Cabo believes that his upright pack mates have exceptional hunting and sheltering capabilties. My dog thinks my wife anad I are the greatest. He’s never asked for a second opinion. We are quite willing to invoke spending incentives on him. And the local Royal Bank even allows him inside their premises!
And if he really did want to protest, it would be to have a nearby dog run. He could easily garner lots of support from friends such as Jade, Otis, Layla, Weiser, and Mickey. Dogs could easily teach us all about friendship. Friendship is something that should not be limited (unlike our ideas of protest). Is there such a thing as too many friends (or protests)? I know he doesn’t consider them associates. A wag of the tail and a sniff and a dog knows how good his life is. To paraphrase Gene Hill “whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot about little puppies”.
And that surprising bark in downtown Dundas? Well, I think he just noticed a favourite place, Bark & Fitz, and took it to heart.
As I sift through my thoughts and ideas on what to share with you, I am aware that some writers don’t always have a file or cache to draw from on a continuous basis (humbly referred to as writer’s block).
Since I have an hour commute to work, I have developed an audio relationship with Q107 and the banter between John Derringer, Ryan Parker, John Garbutt and Maureen Holloway. Preceding this humourous, often divergent and sometimes irreverent exchange at/around 7:55 a.m. is a sponsor segment by Saul Korman. Who? Saul from Korry’s on 569 Danforth. Not being a Torontonian nor a long-time resident of Ontario, I had never heard of Korry’s until I heard his radio spots just before Maureen’s Last Word segment on the Q. While I can now recite the street address of his retail store, and can rattle off four suit labels (Hugo Boss, Canali, Pal Zileri and Roberto (Korry’s own label)), and can now confidently define “business casual” for our Board of Directors, my more impressionable learning from Mr. Korman is how to blog on a daily basis on such a defined topic with interest, variety, clarity, brevity, consistency, reliability, and good cheer. I find myself earnestly anticipating his radio blog for his clever, casual delivery on key messaging and, simply, good reasons why the listener should want to buy men’s clothing from his store. I’ve learned about his favourite tropical vacation spot, recent banquets he’s attended, customers of note who have visited the store “the other day” and, in the MEANtime, his gracious way of grooming his son to participate in the radio spots.
Since my husband wears a uniform to work, and his tailored black suit for once-in-a while special events still fits him a decade later, and since my Dad has all the clothes he needs (he’s reminded me on more than one occasion) and the men I work with have limited engagements that call for a suit, I’m only likely to refer people to Korry’s by encouraging them to listen to his radio spots – for inspiration, mostly. Certainly a new way of looking at ordinary things.
Oh, and Cabo? He’s not much for wearing any clothing. His wardrobe consists of a harness which he loves because it represents good things and adventures ahead of him.
Well how fun was this day?! A look back to when Cabo was born – 2 years ago today.
If you’ve had a full day, a long day, a hard day, or a crazy-mixed up day, a look back at youth, innocence, and enthusiasm is a great injection of good energy and good cheer.
Working full time with an hour commute each way, balancing time with family and friends – long distance and nearby – chores and schoolwork, fresh air and exercise, and replenishing energy and supplies can be draining. But all it takes to smooth the bumps and fill in the holes is a warm greeting at the door or a quiet moment to reflect on good memories.
When I was out west handling not so well another arduous commute by public transit in and out of Vancouver, I recall a conversation with a colleague who gave me a ride home once in a while. I asked her how she managed this commute for so many years without being grumpy every now and then. She responded by sharing with me an exchange she had with her then retired husband: Edie, I can greet you at the door with a glass of wine when you come home from work, I can prepare and serve you dinner, and I can keep the house in good order but I can’t fix your commute – so please don’t complain about it. I’ve never forgotten that tale, that lesson, that positive perspective. I don’t complain about my commute, and I value being greeted after work with a glass of wine, a welcoming paw and wagging tale, and a shared moment of reflection on the day. Even if you live alone, there are ways to arrange for a warm welcome for yourself after a long day that will put a smile on your face: a chilled beverage in the fridge, a made bed, a light on in the entrance-way, a quick message exchange with a long-distance friend, an open magazine where you left off the night before, or just 15 minutes of calm before starting dinner. It’s not just a dog’s life – it’s the simple pleasures and moments of reflection that bring peace and comfort to the day.
This past spring, Cabo and I visited the unmarked grave of a local fallen serviceman on the day he was honoured with a ceremonial dedication of a regimental headstone. I learned that day of this tradition that is not widely known: the RCMP does a grave inspection across Canada every year for members of the RCMP who have passed away and ensures the graves are maintained in good condition.
Next week we will visit the grave of a known soldier: my father-in-law, a decorated serviceman who fought in the battle of Monte Cassino as a member of the Polish Army in absentia. He passed away in 1994 leaving 2 sons and a daughter and 4 grandchildren. His wife – my wonderful mother-in-law – has been a member of the Polish Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary for over 40 years. Slowly, the members of the Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary have passed on one by one.
Although it would be tempting to not have to drive anywhere this weekend, and spend time outside hiking the Bruce Trail with Cabo and sweeping up fallen leaves around the yard, catch up on school work and chores, Ed and I will venture in to Niagara to attend the Legion’s Remembrance Day dinner with Ed’s mom and her Legion compadres. It is our way showing support for her, paying tribute to the remaining veterans, representing our generation, and honouring Ed’s dad whom we respect and miss greatly.
While we’ll take Cabo with us to visit his grandparents (my parents) beforehand and then his Babcha (Ed’s mom), he’ll have to spend time on his own while we’re at the dinner. After all, it’s not just a dog’s life, it’s a blended family life where everyone gives a little.
Although this pictorial (below) is unfamiliar to me, it captures the poignant and sobering event which reminds us of our freedom, well fought for by others.
And, in case you didn’t click on the Monte Cassino link, here it is again: Canada played a major role http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/ortona/
It was a dark and stormy night … well, that would have been ideal. It was a clear sky night here in Dundas as the trick-or-treaters made their way around the neighbourhood. As I drove up the driveway coming home from work, there was a man with a frightful face sitting on our front balcony. That would have been daunting except for the fact that the dog with him was a white, fluffy, “smiley” (if there is such a thing on a dog’s face) dog wagging his tail to greet me. My husband needed a Rottweiler to complete the scene!
Making my way from the garage to the front foyer, I was impressed by the candle-lit staircase, and pumpkin bowl filled with chocolate bar treats, and the orange gift bag topped with girl guide cookies set out for the local highschool kids collecting for the foodbank. Except for the dark and stormy night, we were ready for Halloween!
In preparation for Halloween, I’ve read that dog owners should practise a few weeks in advance with ringing the door bell and reiterate the “stay” and “leave-it” commands. Other dog owners simply shoo their dog to the bedroom or basement on Halloween night. Because Cabo is not just a dog, we felt he should be included in our Halloween.
We set up chairs discretely in the front foyer, me dressed in black, Ed with his cardigan and ghoulish mask, our own beverages and salty treats beside us, a blanket on the floor and a bone stuffed with a salty treat for Cabo, the curtain drawn back from the glass in the front door, and a light coated-wire garden fence in front of the door (to prevent any hint of a canine bolt beyond the unsuspecting trick-or-treaters).
When the doorbell rang, the first set of kids chimed together an elongated “trick or treat” while Cabo barked twice and coaxed us towards the door. Ed took his masked 6’2″ frame to the door reaching for the treats and opened the door slowly asking in a gravelly voice “are you looking for a treat?” The kids hesitantly nodded their heads with confusion as they looked suspiciously at scary ghoul guy with a white, fluffy, pretending-to-be-vicious guard dog beside him. And so went the evening with 40-something trick-or-treaters.
We each enjoyed the elements of Halloween night together with an interlude of Ed skulking next door to the unwitting neighbours to give them a scare amongst the trick-or-treaters. Cabo did whine for a bit as he wanted to be part of ALL the fun! You see? It’s not just a dog’s life of anxiety or dismissal on Halloween – it’s a family life with fun to be had by all. Until next year’s haunting …!