Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays

Farley, Grace, Jack Jack and I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you (my faithful blog readers) a Merry Christmas! This card was done by a good friend of mine named Cindy. You can see more of her work on her website -

We have Jack Jack, Farley and Grace, from left to right.

On a side note - Jack Jack is no longer afraid of the fountain. I placed it on a bath mat, and that seems to be working for now. He isn't running up for a drink, but he will drink from it without too much encouragement. So that's progress.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's The Small Things

So, this past weekend I finally broke down and bought the dogs Christmas presents. All year long my mom complains about dog toys laying all over the house, so I vowed not to get them anything this year. My plan was to do homemade cookies instead. Well, my MOTHER was the first one to cave . . . she got them holiday-themed tennis balls and some other toys from the vet clinic (they carry great toys there).

A lady that sells pet supplies as a home business had an open house this weekend, with 30% off everything. I needed dog food anyhow, so I went to her place. The dogs have LOTS of presents now. I bought a Premier "Kibble Nibble" for Jack Jack, since he loves toys that make him work for his food. Farley got a "Pentapull" toy with squeakers and made of nylon. Grace got a Tough Turtle puzzle toy. It won't matter - Jack Jack will steal it from her anyhow.

The big thing that I bought (well, my mom and I are splitting the cost - she's such a good doggy grandma!) is a Drinkwell Platinum water fountain. I have wanted one for the dogs for ages, and it was on sale, so I took the plunge. Grace and Farley walked up, looked at it, and had big drinks. No issues, other than Grace dunking her ears in the water. I need a room-sized placemat to catch the water dripping from her mouth and ears. She looks like a Loch Ness Cocker!

Jack Jack, on the other hand, is completely convinced that it's a Cocker-Spaniel-eating-monster. He took one look at the fountain and retreated to the far corner of our kitchen, shaking and tail tucked. I sat on the floor in the kitchen for quite a while, trying to calm his nerves and ease his worry. He watched the other two dogs have a big drink, and so he got brave and took a drink. Well, as soon as the water "chugged" in the reservoir he backed RIGHT off. Poor guy . . . he's totally convinced it's evil. I wish he wasn't such a scaredy cat! Anyhow, I did hear him later, drinking out of it when nobody was around. Of course, once it chugged, he quit drinking, but I didn't hear the frantic scrabble of nails on laminate. In the meantime, I have an alternate source of water for him.

Any suggestions on a huge placemat or something else to catch the water from my Loch Ness Cockers that insist on dragging their ears through the dish and walking aorund with water dripping from their lips???

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Beautiful, Special Girl

Grace had her last therapy visit of the year yesterday morning, so I spent Friday night bathing, drying and trimming, to make her even more beautiful than usual. She had a wonderful session this morning - she managed to win over two residents that initially didn't want to see any dogs at all. It was pretty cool to see them enjoy her visit by the end of it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


After an entire week of deep-freeze weather (at least -30, and quite often much colder), we are finally seeing warmer temps. Don't get me wrong, it's still brisk at -16 Celsius today, but at least this is walking weather! Jack Jack will be so, so, so happy to go for a walk tonight. He's been standing with his nose pressed to the front entryway closet doors, begging me to take him for a walk, every single day. The cold weather doesn't bother him one bit.

I've been babysitting some Pugs for family friends (they live across the street, thank goodness). One is an 18 month old male, and the other is a 6 month old female. Two very cute, very sweet dogs. Also very snorty. The noises they make are just unreal! Their barking sounds like strangled shouting or something - it's an odd sound for sure. The Pugs have been hating the cold weather, so there have been quite a few accidents inside. With the warmer weather, they're pottying outside more, which is also a nice treat for me.

The countdown to Christmas is on, with just 8 days to go. I can't believe how fast time is flying by. My shopping is done, I just have wrapping and labelling to do. Hope you're well on your way to being done shopping too!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Irony Reigns

I'm pretty sure I have posted blog entries with the word irony before. Or maybe Murphy's Law, since that's another one I use a lot. Yet again, I have been affected by my friend Murphy.

As you know, I bought a new car two weeks ago. A beautiful 2008 Dodge Avenger, brand new (never sold). I picked it up on the Tuesday after I bought it, and drove it around happily for a few days. Love, love, love it! The heated seats and command start are a blessing.

On Monday (this week), it got super cold. Like, -35 or something ridiculous like that. I tried to start the car Monday after work to go out and do some errands, and it wouldn't turn over. I plugged it in and let it sit, but no dice. Dead battery. Bummer. My dad had it boosted and driven up to the dealership for them to look at. I got all kinds of different calls from the dealership about the possible issue. Whatever, I just wanted it fixed. On Thursday my dad called me from the dealership to tell me that he had good news and bad news.

The good news was that they replaced the battery on my car. Good stuff.

The bad news? While some schmuck was moving my car, they banged it up and did some nice damage to my rear bumper. Now a new rear bumper is on order, and it should be replaced in the new year.

Sheesh! The damage sucks . . . but I guess at least the dealership put the first scratch in her. Hopefully that takes care of any damage for a very long while!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I Learned Something New

About myself! I learned that once I turn something into a habit, it really sticks! Yesterday when I got home from work it was -10F. Brrrr, right? Yes! But despite the cold temperature, I really wanted to take my youngest dog for a walk, so I bundled up (longjohns, hat, mitts, down jacket) and off we went. It was cold, but I felt great!

In the past (in my old life, I guess you could say), I never would have contemplated walking in that kind of weather. I was a fairweather exerciser at the best of times.

I'm proud of myself. I hope that this means that I've made a permanent lifestyle change. If so, I see nothing but better health in my future! And a less hyper dog, who LOVES his walks.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Slight Scare

So, on Friday night it was SUPER windy up here in the Great White North. I took the dogs outside, but the wind was a bit much for me, so I came inside and waited for them to finish up. Farley came in quickly (hey, he has no hair!), but Jack Jack and Grace were being uncharacteristically slow. I couldn't figure out what was taking them so long, so I went outside to check, and saw that our gate was open :( The wind must have blown it open, because we're all very careful about closing it.

Of course, my heart was racing . . . Grace is a runner, but will ALWAYS come back when called. I knew they hadn't been gone long (max of 7 or 8 minites), but I was worried that if Jack Jack got spooked, I'd never find him. With all of the inflatable lawn ornaments out right now, he's easily spooked. I ran out the front door, calling the dogs. Grace came running from about 3 doors down, smiling and wagging. Life is just an adventure to her.

I couldn't find Jack, and I could feel the tears welling up in my throat. I called and called and called him, getting more frantic with each call. I'm sure it was only a few minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. Then, like a magical apparition, he came around the corner of the house. What I think happened is that he was wandering in the neighbour's yard when he heard me calling out the back door. As I ran to the front of the house, he ran to the back door. The wind must have been carrying my voice away from him.

Anyhow, all's well that ends well, but that was darned scary for a few minutes!

Friday, December 04, 2009

What A Pain In The . . .

So, a friend had recommended that I try the Biggest Loser Cardio Max DVD. I ordered it through Amazon, and finally tried it on Tuesday night. First of all, what a workout! Wow! I was sweating by the end of the warm-up LOL Secondly, I am still sore today, especially in the glutes, adductors, hamstrings and quads. I decided not to do the DVD last night - I took a walk instead, hoping it would help ease the muscle soreness. Not so much. I'm going to try to do the DVD tonight, but I'm not sure my legs can take it!

This weekend is a busy one for me. Tomorrow morning I have a haircut booked (hooray!) and then tomorrow afternoon is my work Childrens' Christmas Party, so my mom and I are taking my two nieces to that. Tomorrow night I'm hoping to catch a movie with some friends, and then go home and get some SLEEP. Sunday I HAVE to groom my youngest dog, and I have a meeting in the afternoon for an organization that I volunteer for.

Talk about being on the run!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Canine Artist Terry Stanley

I commissioned three paintings by artist Terry Stanley, and she sent me photos of them yesterday. All I can say is WOW! She has a beautiful eye for the soft expression of a Cocker, and I couldn't be more thrilled with what she did for me. You can see her website at - her prices are VERY reasonable, and her work is outstanding. She has done artwork for several of my friends, and all of the paintings turned out beautifully.

Thank you Terry, for capturing my "babies" in such a beautiful manner. I can't wait to frame these side by side and display them with pride.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I had a GREAT day yesterday! My young niece (5) is in town for a visit, and we picked up her 8 year old sister to have a day with them. We took Mackenzie (older) to swimming, and then we went to visit my dad at work (Chrysler dealership), and I ended up buying a NEW CAR! It's a 2008 Dodge Avenger, but it's never been off the lot. It's fully loaded (sun roof, DVD, heated seats, 6 CD player, heated/cooled beverage holder, leather interior, etc), but it was "on sale" so they could move it. I pick it up tomorrow, and I can't wait!!!!

Last night was the Santa Claus parade, so we took the kids (my mom and I). It was about -3C, which is actually nice for here, but by the time the parade was over we were all VERY cold. I had to use my heated blanket to get warm last night.

Not sure what's on tap today, but I hope it's not as exciting as yesterday!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kids In Motion

Thank you SOOOOOOO much to Polly Bennett for this pencil artwork of my kids, Jack Jack (with the toy) and Grace. I love it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Back On Track!

I am finally getting back on track! For most of the month, I have been sidelined due to a mysterious ankle ailment that has caused joint pain in both ankles.

The doctor, chiropractor and I thought that it was likely my new shoes (New Balance cross trainers), but none of us were sure, so I was on strict orders to avoid being on my feet unless I was going to work or letting the dogs out. I have really missed my walks, and the dogs have been getting cabin fever too.

This week I decided that my ankles are finally 98% better, so I have started walking again. I feel re-energized, and the dogs are thrilled! The weather is really moderate for this time of year (high 20's), so I'm finding the walks very refreshing. It feels good to be getting back on track!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Awesome Holiday Ideas

A friend of mine that lives in California is an extremely talented photographer. Part of what she does is create holiday cards and items with her photos on them, as well as offering to create goodies with your own photos on them. Her website is

While Cockers hold a special place in her heart (she started San Diego Spaniel Rescue), she photographs all breeds, and is very willing to work with you to create a special memento.

Check out her website today - even if you don't order anything, I think you'll enjoy her photography.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved magazines. The glossy, brightly coloured covers and the feel of the slick pages sliding through my fingers got me addicted to buying magazines. I think I inherited some of it from my mother, who also loves magazines. Today I thought I'd list a few of my favourites, in case you're thinking of buying your favourite dog-lover a magazine subscription for the holidays.

Whole Dog Journal - no paid advertisers keep this publication from appearing slanted towards one lifestyle or another. All viewpoints are presented (within reason) and all sorts of articles are included. For the positive trainer or holistically-minded, this is a must-read.

Modern Dog - a Canadian publication, the ads and gift ideas are always trendy and hip. The articles run from substantial research to fluffy pop media. Obviously filled with pictures of dogs, I love the "fashion" pages. This magazine does a breed feature in each issue, and they're always well-written.

The Bark - this is a West Coast USA publication, with a very west coast slant. I love, love, love the regular columnists (including Patricia McConnell PhD, who is my idol), and the articles are deep and inspiring. This magazine includes some great fiction as well.

The Cocker Classic - how can I not promote the only Cocker Spaniel specific magazine out there? Published every other month, it is in full-colour, and it has some excellent columnists (check out the "Canada Corner" column!).

Canine Review - another Canadian publication, this magazine is geared towards show people and their dogs. It is filled with ads for all breeds, big and small, and it includes show updates from coast to coast. It also includes the Top Dog stats for conformation and obedience. A great all-round "show dog" magazine for Canada.

Canadian Dog Digest - a relative newcomer to the Canadian dog magazine scene (it's three years old now, I think), this magazine hit the ground running. It's beautifully put together, with full-colour pages and gorgeous ads, similar to the major publications in the US (ShowSight and Dogs In Review). The columns are great, especially the features on prominent breeders and dog show clubs.

Hope this gives you some food for thought, and if you haven't heard of any of these magazines, please check them out. I promise you, you won't regret it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Question Of The Day

Well, we've had about 4 inches of snow today (maybe more) so I just got my daily cardio workout by shoveling our driveway and the back deck.

This leads me in to the question of the day - yhy is it that the driveway seems so short when trying to park several cars there, but it seems miles long when you have to shovel? Seriously, it seemed like no matter how much I got rid of, there was just a longer and tougher job ahead of me. UGH!

I hope it quits snowing now, as I'm not sure I'll be able to lift my arms to shovel tomorrow. have a good one folks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Yes, it's that time of week again. This week I am thankful that I can read. I am fortunate enough to live in a country where public education is free (some schools may charge nominal fees for books or supplies, but no tuition) and the education received is good. Yes, the quality varies from school to school, but overall, we (as Canadians) have the opportunity to learn the basics of math, science, language and history/social studies.

In Mexico, there is a fee to attend school. The country is mostly poor, so there are thousands of kids that never get to learn to read, to add and subtract, or learn their heritage. These kids go on to be young adults with no real aim or purpose, and as adults, they will never really get ahead in life, because they aren't equipped for working. I know that Mexico isn't the only country that this happens in, but I have personal experience with Mexico, so I'm referencing that.

I love to read. Reading teaches me something new on a regular basis. I read auto-biographies, educational (non-fiction) books, almost all kinds of fiction, and even young adult literature. Reading provides me with an escape when I need it, or even encouragement when I need it.

I am so glad that I learned to read, and that my mom fostered a love of reading.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Good News

This past weekend, in addition to seeing an off-Broadway production of A Chorus Line, I took Grace and Jack Jack to an eye clinic. Basically, breeders take their dogs to these clinics to ensure that their dogs are free of eye diseases like cataracts, retinal folds, extra eyelashes, etc. I go every year, but this year I was late getting to a clinic, because it seems like there aren't as many as there used to be.

Anyhow, bright and early Sunday morning I brought my kids to be examined by a CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation) certified vet. Both dogs tested absolutely normal - free of any eye defects at this time! Yahoo! That is me doing the happy dance, and breathing a sigh of relief for another year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Today I'm thankful for something that seems miniscule, but I am trying not to take stuff for granted. I'm thankful for the health insurance that comes with my job. I have an extended dental plan that covers the majority of any dental work I need done (including cleanings and exams every 9 months). My dentist has recommended that I get a night guard to prevent me from grinding my teeth at night. The pricing of the night guard is just shy of $500, so it's not a small amount. Fortunately for me, my dental insurance covers the cost, so I won't be out of pocket right before Christmas.

It's small, but right now it feels like a lot.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, flyScarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.
Short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throwThe torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

- John McCrae

Thank you to every man and woman that has fought for our country and for our freedoms. Your sacrifices will not be forgotten. Today is your day to be remembered and thanked.

Monday, November 09, 2009

My favourite headline today

Those of you that are Canadian are most likely well aware of the governing party's "Economic Action Plan." If you're not familiar with it, then I doubt you watch TV. The ads have been on incessantly for weeks now.

So why do I care? The irony is just TOO good not to share with you on this fine Monday afternoon. This is by far the best headline on today.

'Canada's Economic Action Plan' signs painted in U.S.

A member of the B.C. legislature wants to know why the provincial government is paying a Washington state company to make road signs extolling "Canada's Economic Action Plan."

Way to support your country during a time of need! I just love that we're making work for the Americans, who, by the way, don't want their government to allow the import of our so-called "dirty oil."

Yet another reason to laugh today.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Bus Etiquette

When you ride the bus to and from work everyday, you realize that there is such a thing as bus etiquette. I don't take public transportation - the company that I work for provides bussing to all employees and contractors. I catch the bus at the same place and same time every day.

Similar to airplane etiquette, it's common courtesy to ask the person behind you before flinging your seat all the way back. There's an order to how people disembark (get off) the bus. Being quiet is common courtesy, as quite a few people use the 45 minute ride to sleep or read. Cell phone use should be limited to emergencies, and music/movies are played through headphones.

Today after work I sat in my usual seat (when you take the bus every day, you get into a habit of sitting in the same place every day). Several "new" people board the bus, each sitting in their own seat (despite the fact that it's obvious that they know each other). The guy in front of me was sitting in the outside seat (I always sit on the inside), and without even a glance behind himself to see if somebody was seated behind him, he threw his seat back. He didn't slowly put it back, he pushed the button and threw all of his weight into it. He did have the grace to turn around and apologize to me. Fine, no big deal.

Well, normally people put their seat in the upright position when people start getting off. This way the people disembarking don't have to fold into a pretzel to get around the seat that is flung back. Of course this gentleman couldn't be bothered to set his seat upright, even when I shoved it with my hand and my knee. When I looked behind me as I was leaving the bus, he just stared at me.

I'm sorry, but have some freakin' manners! Seriously! People like that make riding the bus a pain in the hind end. I hope they don't get on again Monday.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ankle Update

Yesterday I went to the doctor to talk about my sore ankles. I quit wearing my New Balance shoes a couple of weeks ago, and while I have noticed some improvement in my ankles, they are still painful. I still haven't found any rhyme or reason to when they're more painful ~ it doesn't seem correlated with the amount of time I spend on my feet. While I was at the dog show a couple of weeks ago, I expected to have very sore ankles, and I didn't. They were a bit sore, but not out of the ordinary.

Anyhow, after some discussion with the doctor, we decided that it was either the new shoes and the angle that they're putting my foot at while I walk, or else a combination of the walking and the shoes. Personally, I find it weird that the walking would just be bothering me now, when I've been at it since early June, but doctor knows best, right?

My doctor's recommendation is to take a break from walking, and then to slowly re-introduce the shoes, to see if they aggravate the ankles again. We did pinpoint the pain to the actual ankle joint, NOT the tendons or ligaments surrounding the joint. We talked about it being auto-immune or something like that, but then other joints would be involved.

I'm not keen on taking a break from my walks - I've done SO well at getting into a routine that I miss the walks on days I don't go. I'm still debating that advice (don't tell my doctor!). But I will re-evaluate the shoes and figure out if I need to get new ones. Again. Anyhow, just wanted to update everyone.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Does This Scare You?

Every day when I have a free minute, I read the daily news headlines on my Blackberry (my other right arm LOL). I like to have at least a cursory knowledge of what's going on in the world. My headlines include Canadian news, US news, world news, technology news, entertainment news and health and science news. In the technology news section was the following headline:

Lawmakers Seek Ban On Laptops In Airline Cockpits

Call me paranoid, but isn't it terrifying that pilots (or co-pilots) are allowed to have laptops in the cockpit? Shouldn't they just be concentrating on flying the plane? I mean, I know that it's not like driving a car, which requires awareness of passing traffic and other drivers. But still, don't they have to watch the gages and stuff? Make sure the engine is working and that the plane is at the right altitude and stuff?

Maybe it's just me . . . but I find the thought of pilots surfing the net while flying my plane frightening. And that Northwest Airlines flight that overshot Minneapolis by 150 miles due to pilot inattention proves that it happens. What next?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy Weekend!

I hope everybody had a wonderful Hallowe'en! Ours was pretty good. We got about 6" of snow yesterday (started in the morning and continued all day and throughout the night), so my mom didn't think we'd get many kids. However . . . she wasn't counting on the kids waiting ALL year for free candy! I knew we'd get a few. We got around 45 kids, lots of them wearing cute and clever costumes. Yes, most of the kids had their costumes over their snowsuits . . . we're used to that here in the Great White North . . . it happens regularly that we have snow before Hallowe'en.

The two younger dogs were in their crate with bones to chew on. I'm trying to clean their teeth without having to put them under anesthetic. Jack Jack has particularly yucky teeth - he was born with some kind of defect in his tooth enamel, so it attracts plaque like nobody's business. The bones are helping, I just have to keep it up. Farley was gated in the basement, but he could still see the doorway, and he barked at every kid that we gave candy to. I honestly think he enjoys it - that's his way of greeting them. Most of them were "impressed" with our vicious dog LOL None of them have the slightest clue what a teddy bear he is!

I shovelled the driveway last night (shared the job with my mom), and then did the deck and driveway again today. Good cardio exercise! Then I took the dogs for a walk through the snow - I think it's at least twice as much work slogging through the snow . . . but the dogs had fun, and I enjoyed the fresh air and exercise.

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mysterious Ankle Ailment

I have never, ever heard of this happening to anybody before, and a Google searched revealed nothing, so I thought I'd reach out to the World Wide Web for information.

Since early September I've been wearing All Rounder shoes by Mephisto. They're a Mary Jane style, but a bit high in the back, so I find they rub on my Achilles tendons somewhat uncomfortably. It's not painful, just irritating. So in early October I decided to go shoe shopping. I wanted runners or sneakers with good tread, for walking the dogs every day. I knew that I didn't need top-of-the-line shoes, but I didn't want to cheap out either. I ended up buying a pair of Natural Balance #645 cross trainers, for just over $100. Out of all of the shoes I tried on, they were the most comfortable by far. I wore them to work a bingo later that evening, and my feet felt great. Sore from standing, which is par for the course for me, but no other pain.

Thanksgiving weekend I bought a pair of insoles to put in the shoes, since I am a pronator (my feet tend to roll inward somewhat, flattening my arches). I paid $25 for the insoles - I got them at a sporting goods' store.

By the Sunday, my ankles were sore, but not along the Achilles tendons. The pain was on the front of my ankles, where the tibia (shin bone) meets the top of the foot. It's not an electric or shooting pain, but it's not a dull ache either. Since then (the day before Thanksgiving), my ankles have been sore. They didn't start out swollen or bruised, but I do think that my right ankle is just slightly swollen on the front, and behind the inside ankle bone). The right is more painful than the left, but both are sore.

Thinking that it might be the new shoes, I wore a completely different pair of shoes for the dog show (Josef Seibel shoes). I did find that my ankles were way less sore. However, they are still sore, especially the right one. And now that I'm back home, they're almost as sore as they were before. My theory is that it's some kind of tendonitis that developed from wearing the shoes. It's not muscular pain, and it's not bone pain (at least, I don't think it is). Any guesses or ideas? I do have a doctor's appointment next week to get them looked at, if I don't have to go to the ER before then.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Time Flies . . .

I think I've used this blog post title more than once . . . typically when life gets the better of me, and I seem to miss out on posting on my blog. It just seems like every now and then the universe implodes, and my time just disappears. Last week (and the week before!) was like that. My favourite co-worker (well, I have two favourites) informed me that he wouldn't be returning to work on our site anymore. He's from the US, and due to tax complications, he had to go home. I'm mentally able to do my job without the early coaching and mentoring he provided me, but I will miss the mental and emotional support. He's still available via email and telephone, but it's just not the same.

This past weekend I had a dog show to attend. I have been in somewhat of a dog show dry spell - my last show was in early June (except for my trip to California, but I didn't show anything there). Before June I showed in early April, so it's been a sparse year for shows. Anyhow, when I go so long between dog shows, my expectations grow. I start thinking of dog shows on a more glamorous and industrious way than they typically actually happen. Fortunately (for me, anyhow), this past weekend didn't disappoint one bit. Oh yeah, there were still some of the usual scandals or what have you (scandals is the wrong word, but whatever . . . ), but everybody managed to play nice and get along. We had some beautiful dogs being shown in our breed, and a nice big entry. We had a number of dogs in obedience (more than usual), and a few successes, which is always a positive.

Personally, I had a really nice weekend with my girl Grace. Gracie passed all three days to earn her Pre-Novice obedience title, officially known as the PCD in the Canadian Kennel Club. It is a pass/fail class that judges the dog on modified Novice Obedience commands, making things easier for the dog and handler. It is not required to have a PCD in order to compete in Novice, but it's a good class for new dogs or handlers. Gracie is now known as Silverwood's Elegantly KLAD PCD, RN, CGN - bred by Valerie Richardson and Vicky Bennett, and owned, loved and trained by me. Her sire is Am Can Ch Buttonwood's Crown Royal, and her dam is Ch Silverwood's Pretty In Pink. Gracie is my therapy dog, as well as an agility dog in training.

I am so proud of Grace and everything she has accomplished for me. She missed out on puppy classes and foundation obedience classes - she was home-schooled and suffered from my own lack of knowledge. Despite me, she's a pretty dog to watch (when the mats are clean and she isn't sniffing for food), and she never hesitates to trust me and to do what I ask of her. I hope to have her ready for Rally Advanced and Novice Obedience next year, in time for our National specialty.

We also had our club's Christmas party (yes, yes I know it's early) . . . we took advantage of the nice weather and the great location (Camrose has a new casino that was a FABULOUS venue in which to have our dinner) and got everybody together in one spot. It involved a gift exchange, awesome food and a ton of laughs. I don't usually get to attend the party, because I hate braving the wintery roads in November, so I was glad to take part this year.

All in all, it was a great weekend that exceeded expectations. Who can ask for more than that?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Last week I went back to where my mom grew up (we call it The Farm) for my grandpa's funeral. It was a sad week, obviously, but in other ways it was a good week. I am so VERY thankful for the family I have. As my blog readers know, I'm close to both of my parents, so being thankful for them is a given. But I am very fortunate to have a close-knit extended family too. We don't email or call regularly, but every time we get together, it's like we were never apart.

I saw cousins that I haven't seen in several years . . . but I honestly felt like we hadn't missed a beat. Some are married with kids (kids I hadn't seen before, other than in pictures), but still, our relationships are comfortable like they've always been. Other cousins are more distantly related (primarily by marriage), and yet we act as though we're as close as *true* cousins.

I love the feeling of having a large, warm, welcoming family. I'm sure others would feel smothered by the constant presence, interrogation and whatnot, but I find it comforting. I'm not sure if it's because most of them live so far away, so we see them infrequently, or if it's more that my mom always taught my brother and I that family is above all else. Either way, it was really, really good to catch up with my cousins, aunts and uncles, despite the sad circumstances.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Family Values

Today some of my co-workers and I were discussing how families and family values have changed over the years. I'm not that old (even if my nieces think otherwise LOL), and I have noticed a huge difference in how families operate these days. When I was growing up, we had supper together every night, at the table. Not in front of the TV, not reading a book or the paper, not in our own rooms. We ate, we chatted about our days at work and school, and we shared clean-up duties.

I see a lot of families now that eat on the run, eat in front of the TV, or that eat on their own, independent of each other. How on earth can that foster communication between family members? How will you know what's going on in your parents'/kids' lives otherwise? Too many kids seem to be adrift in society . . . no anchor in their home life to keep them stable, and no values coming down from parents.

I'm not a parent, so commenting on parenting techniques is just going to sound lame and out of place. I get that. But it drives me crazy to see kids (of all ages) hanging out at bus stops, in parks or at the mall. No supervision, and nobody to answer to. Kids texting frantically, desperate for the next piece of gossip or celebrity news. Why aren't they at home, learning about household chores or spending time with their family? What good can come from hanging out with no distinct purpose?

You know what scares me? The fact that I'm a young person and yet most people would think that I sound ultra-conservative and like a fuddy-duddy. It's so frustrating!

And that's my rant for the day ;)

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Today has been a tough day . . . I got woken up with the news that my Grandpa Fred had passed away in his sleep. My mom was taking it very hard, and I think I kind of went into shock. It's not like it was unexpected - he's had Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's for years, and has been in a long term care facility for the past 8 years. Still, he's been a fixture in my life for 31 years, and I guess I kind of thought that he'd always be around. Ya know?

Tuesday we head out for the funeral (it's an 8 hour drive each way). The two younger dogs are going to a local boarding kennel, and the old crankpot will be staying with a good friend. We'll be home either Saturday or Sunday, depending on what's going on at the farm.

Hug the ones you love, and always tell them you love them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Small Step For Me . . .

HUGE step for Jack Jack! I hope this brag isn't premature, but Jack Jack has had an excellent week, in terms of other dog encounters. Jack Jack is a sensitive kind of guy. So sensitive that the idea of coming face to face with another dog scares the dickens out of him. Normally he gets very reactive - barking (sounds almost like a shriek), lunging and hackles raised to the sky. We've been working diligently on this for months, with little apparent progress. We've taken to walking along the fence outside of the dog park, to avoid these stressful (for both of us) encounters.

Tonight after supper I took Grace and Jack Jack for a walk. I don't know why, but I decided to walk through the dog part, with the dogs off leash. The few people (maybe a dozen) with dogs that were there were clustered on the other side of the park. Immediately Grace and Jack Jack took off running towards the group of people and dogs, so I called Jack Jack back. He turned on a dime and came towards me (MEGA praise!). We walked about halfway through the park, past a big stand of trees, so he couldn't see the gathering. Once we got past the trees, I noticed that a dog was closer to us (had crossed roughly half the distance) and Jack Jack saw the dog once I did. He peeled away at top speed.

This was the moment of truth. I called him. He stopped and looked over his shoulder at me. I could literally see the wheels turning in his head, weighing his options. I called again, in a happy voice, and he turned and came to me. He didn't bark, jump or react to the other dog at all, even though he got within about five to six feet of it. WOW! WOW! WOW! This is huge for him!

Earlier this week I was walking Jack Jack (left Grace at home) and we went around one of the outdoor ice rinks. I didn't see the lady walking her two small white dogs until we were almost face to face with them (well, about five or six feet apart). I started talking to Jack Jack to keep his attention, and he walked with me past that lady with her dogs without acting out at all. I was thrilled with that! It's a big step forward for my little dude.

I sure hope this is the beginning of an upward trend. He's such a sweet dog, and I think he'd be more fun to walk without the reactions and freaking out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Good Day

Have you ever had one of those days where everything just seems to fall into place at work? People come to you with questions or issues, and you can actually help them figure everything out? I had one of those days today. When working on projects, work days can be frustrating because nothing is the same from day to day. You can never really predict what people will need help with, or what issues you will be faced with. Today was NOT one of those days.

I was busy from the time I got in until the time I left. Not swamped, mind you. Just steady. I did stuff that I knew was useful and productive, and everybody was pleasant. The stars lined up perfectly, and I had a fabulous day. It was a good feeling to get stuff accomplished and crossed off my list, while still feeling unrushed.

Hope you had a good day at work too!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Beautiful Weather

At a point in time where we should be approaching fall in Northern Alberta, we are experiencing some glorious summer weather. And it's about time, too! We had such a cool, wet, grey summer that it hardly felt like summer at all. I guess Mother Nature figures that late is better than never, and I can't say that I disagree.

Saturday morning Grace and I had her third practicum visit for the therapy organization that we want to work with. She did extremely well (again!) and passed the evaluation with flying colours. She is so sweet, loving and even-tempered that everybody loves her - residents and staff alike. It's like she was born to be a therapy dog, because it's when she really shines. Now she's officially a member of the Paws FM team. I am so proud of her.

Saturday night was the Opimian Society ( I think) dinner. The theme was South Africa - so all of the wines were from South Africa, as was the menu. And what a menu it was! The appetizer was braised python and tofu. The "salad" was arugula with octopus (not calamari, either - REAL octopus) that had been marinated in lime and red wine for three days. The main course was ostrich with a corn risotto. Dessert was an apricot malva cake that was to DIE for. I was nervous about this meal ahead of time (it's pretty exotic, and I'm such a conservative eater), but it turned out to be pretty good. Python doesn't have much of a taste - it seems to absorb the flavour of what it's cooked with. It was kind of flaky, like fish. Octopus tastes like what it's marinated in, and it was chewy, but not too rubbery. Ostrich was the biggest surprise - it was just like beef. So yummy and the risotto was the best I'd ever had. That apricot cake was unreal . . . soooo tasty.

Sunday was a quieter day for me. Hot again, so I stayed inside as much as I could. I gave Farley a haircut, ran a few small errands, and spent time online. Stupid FarmTown is sucking away my life LOL

Hope you had great weather where you live, and that you took advantage of it as much as you could!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Okay, so I wasn't really AWOL . . . I knew where I was, and so did almost everybody else. But I couldn't come up with an equally attention-catching blog post title, so this is what you get.

Last week I was down south in Calgary for work. The project that I'm working on is getting ready to move into its next stage, so a lot of work is being done to optimize the current estimate and schedule. The working sessions were okay, but it was the after-work sessions that were fun. Monday night we had supper at a restaurant called Teatro, which was amazing. Gourmet food, and tasty too! The red wine wasn't all that shabby either. Tuesday afternoon we did a group trip to Banff (yes, the mountains!). I spent some time in downtown Banff, and then the group met for supper at the Maple Leaf Grill. Another fabulous restaurant, and they could not be held responsible for the ensuing snafu. Due to a major electrical storm, the power at the restaurant went out. For an hour. Even the emergency lights. It was all very romantic, with red and white wine and flickering candles. Too bad I wasn't interested in getting romantic with my co-workers. Still, it was an adventure.

Wednesday and Thursday nights I got together with some very, very, very good friends (you know who you are!). We had supper at Open Sesame one night, and The Barley Mill the second night. Both meals were excellent, and I highly recommend Fruli (strawberry beer!). We went and saw "The Goods" on Wednesday (cheezy, predictable "plot" but great laughs) and "500 Days of Summer" on Thursday. More of an indie flick, we all really enjoyed it. I'd highly recommend it!

My weekend was (predictably) busy. My mom and I ran errands on Saturday, and on Sunday I assembled our new computer desk. It was a monumental task, but I had no left over pieces (always a good thing!) and it looks beautiful. Monday I worked. Yes, it was Labour Day, so I laboured ;)

Hope everyone behaved while I was away!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again

Those of you that have been faithful blog followers of mine from the beginning might remember me posting about my puppy Billy taking a flying leap into the hot tub as I was closing the cover. I did a quick search for that post, but couldn't find it. I distinctly remember writing it, but whatever . . . maybe the blog Gremlins took it.

Anyhow, today it was hotter than hot outside (for Northern Alberta), so we were all out enjoying the sunshine. We all know that winter is coming sooner rather than later, so we're trying to soak up as many rays as we can while they're still around. Anyhow, my dad was barbecuing steaks for supper (can you say yummy???) and my mom and I were soaking our feet in the hot tub - we just rolled up our capris and dangled our feet in. I couldn't see Jack Jack anywhere, so I called his name. He came flying up the steps of the deck and did the doggy version of the cannonball right into the tub! He swam to the edge and then I hauled him out.
So far Grace is the only dog of mine (well, except for Quigley) that hasn't jumped into the hot tub. Everybody else has done it at least once - Keeley, Billy (many times!), Farley and now Jack Jack. It must be an initiation thing or something . . .
On another note, I bought the dogs a Nina Ottosson ( puzzle toy. They're made of wood, and they encourage the dogs to think and play and use their brains. I wasn't sure if they'd be able to figure it out (it's The Brick, if you visit the website). I was surprised to see that the dogs figured it out quickly . . . especially Jack Jack. I honestly think that the clicker training has taught him to think and reason things out, and that will help him with these kinds of games. I figure that mental stimulation is always good, so I'm glad the dogs like this thing . . . it's just another way to keep them occupied.
Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, August 28, 2009


So, for the past 6 or 7 weeks, I've been making a concerted effort to be more active. My goal has been to get out and be active for at least 30 minutes, at least 5 days a week. For the most part, I've been successful at meeting that goal. Most days I take the dogs for a walk, since that benefits the dogs as well as me. Some days I head out on the bike, taking Jack Jack with me for company. And other days it is yardwork or something else that becomes my fitness activity for the day.

Last night I thought I'd get on the Wii Fit, just to see where my weight is. I haven't weighed myself since early July, so I was pretty sure I'd lost a pound or two. Imagine my surprise (and dismay!) when I saw that I'd gained 3.5 pounds! I know it's not a lot, but still . . . I've been working hard and really, honestly thought I'd see a reward for that work (yes, yes being healthier is a reward in itself, but come on, I wanted to see a weight loss too).

I won't quit being active, because I know it's good for me and it's great for the dogs. Guess it's time to really get serious about what I eat, since the bump up in activity didn't cut it. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Something To Say

Well, it's official . . . I've been blogging for three years and have hit 400 posts, and I still haven't run out of things to say! Wow! I would never have managed to continue this blog without hearing from my faithful readers (who put up with bad humour, rants, and all kinds of weird stuff). Thank you for sticking with me and for reading my writing.

I find that I can express myself better in writing than I can verbally. The words just seem to come together much more nicely for me when they're whirling around my head instead of just spilling out of my mouth. Someday I dream of writing a book (about Cocker Spaniels - I know, it's a big surprise), but until then this is my creative outlet.

I hope to be blogging for a while yet . . . and I can't wait to write about my 500th post!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Clicking Away

So, I've been having a lot of fun with this whole clicker training thing. I have the most fun with Jack Jack, because he clearly enjoys the challenge as much as the reward, and he will try all kinds of things to see what I want.

He now licks his lips on command about 75% of the time when I say "yummy!," after less than a total of 20 minutes of training. He'll get more consistent as we keep practising and working in various areas. He knows that when I say "Go to your bed" he should find his dog blanket and sit on it. He picks up the dumbbell (no cue added yet) and touches a step stool. I want to progress to him putting his front feet on the stool, laying down on the dog bed and picking up and holding the dumbbell. I know we'll get there :)

I've been working with Grace as well, but she is not the type to try anything for a treat. She has been clicker trained since she was a baby, but I used mostly luring (instead of shaping), so she's used to relying on getting direction from me instead of figuring out what I want. This makes our progress somewhat slower . . . but it's coming along. She has learned to go and sit on the dog bed . . . I'm not sure she's completely associated the sit with the bed, as sometimes she sits OFF the dog bed and looks for a click/treat, but it's coming. I'm not sure what we'll work on next, but maybe 101 Things With A Box.

This has taught me to be more observant of what the dog is doing, since clicker training (shaping) is all about catching your dog doing something, and clicking that action. This has also taught me better timing (clicking too late or too early reinforces the wrong action). And it has taught me that dogs can learn fast if they really want to!

Clicker training doesn't have to use treats as a reward. You can use praise, play or anything else as a reward. In fact, every time you ask your dog to sit before opening the door to the backyard, this is called using the Premack Principle - which is that if the dog does one thing, they get to do something inherently rewarding. Another example is taking your dog to the offleash park, and occasionally calling them back to you, and then releasing them for more play. Every time you call the dog and then release it to play, it learns that coming when called means FUN!

The theory is that the clicker runs on a pathway through the brain's amygdala, which is the most ancient portion of the brain. Responses from the amygdala are fear and startle responses (like us being afraid when we hear a car backfire, thinking it's gunfire). You don't learn those responses, they're just a part of you. For some reason, science is showing that when an animal is clicker trained, they retain the responses longer, and the responses become ingrained.

A real life example is Jack Jack, who is very afraid of other dogs. Even when he's walking past the dog park (we don't go in, we walk along the outside of the fence) and he starts barking (aka freaking out) at another dog, I can get his attention and calm him down by having him give me a high five. That was one of his earliest clicker trained behaviors, and he NEVER fails to respond to my cue (my hand, fingers up and palm forward in a "gimme 5" signal).I know I sound like a fanatic (and maybe I am!), but my experience has been so positive with this method of training. If I can ever answer questions or provide links to resources, please ask!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Sound of Silence

You wanna know how I know summer is almost over? My 4.5 year old niece has gone home to her parents, to get ready for the new school year. My parents left to take her home this morning. As sad as it is to see her go (we've certainly enjoyed her energy and antics over the past several weeks), I must admit that the silence in the house is wonderful. Given that we are three adults living in the house, the most noise we're used to is the television and the occasional outburst from the dogs (you're right, with Farley, it's more than occasional). With my niece here, there is almost never silence. She fancies herself an opera singer, so she's always singing an aria somewhere . . . or a kids' song, if she has a particular favourite that day. When everybody left this morning, I finally understood the oxymoron of deafening silence. I turned off the TV and could hear the thoughts running through my head!

It's a cruddy day today - cool and grey. I haven't been able to motivate myself to get moving yet, but I need to. I was supposed to groom dogs today, among other things, and I've accomplished nothing. Sigh. Well, a trip to the post office and to get groceries, but nothing truly constructive. Mind you, after the hard labour of last weekend (think garage clean-out!), a day of nothingness is kind of nice.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Farley - When I think back to getting Farley, I made almost every mistake in the book. I allowed my landlady's dog to beat up on him, I used jerk & pull obedience methods and I gave him some pretty bad haircuts. Still, he has loved me and given everything he could to me, every single day. I am thankful for our good night and good morning routines. That's our time, since the other two sleep in crates. I look Farley in the eyes and tell him how much I love him and how much I appreciate every day with him. He sneezes on me (he aims for my glasses I think!), licks me, turns around 3 times and snuggles in for the night. In the morning, he covers his eyes and groans when I turn the light on. He wags his tail slowly, and wakes up in his own time, coming to make sure that the evil, killer socks are chewing my ankles off. Those moments mean the world to me.

Grace - I am so thankful to Grace for helping piece my heart back together after Quigley died and I sent Billy to Mare. At that point my heart was a bleeding, broken mess, and Gracie-Lou came into my life and wove it back together. She was a very naughty puppy, but she always checked to make sure that her antics were making me smile instead of scowl. Despite not enjoying obedience, she learned quickly and tolerated my fumbled clicker training attempts. In agility, she excels despite me (certainly not because of me!) and she seems to know what I want of her even if I can't get the right words out of my mouth. She is a serious, sensitive soul . . . meant for healing and caring and loving. She is the epitome of a therapy dog, and my niece Tashie's bestest friend ever. She tolerates everything, and uses those deep brown eyes to tell me she'll take more, as long as it means I love her.

Jack Jack - This dog is my Farley understudy. I honestly didn't know that you could love two dogs so much and so intensely all at once. It's true - you can. Despite Jack Jack's fears (most of which are deep-rooted), he wants so badly to please me that he'll try almost anything (except approaching nasty black garbage bags). He has joie de vivre that I haven't seen since I had Billy . . . and I didn't fully appreciate it in Billy, due to my other struggles at the time. He is smart, fun and so very loving. He is always checking to make sure Mom is close by (that's me!) and that I'm okay. He loves Grace and tolerates Farley, but he adores me above all else. I am so thankful for him to allowing me to polish my clicker training and behavioral training skills on him, and I'm glad that he has slowly gained confidence and interest in the world around him. I love his big heart, his soft eyes, and his desire to be with Mom at all times.

Even on the days that I would gladly PAY somebody to take my dogs, I am thankful for what I learn from them, and for how much they give of themselves. They are my comfort on rough days, my sunshine on cloudy days. They have taught me to live in the moment, and to forgive those you love. They have also taught me to play often and to play hard. They're good dogs, and I'm awfully glad they're mine.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Busy Weekend

I did more shaping with Jack Jack and Grace over the weekend - I actually find it VERY addicting to be able to train simple behaviours in 15 minutes. I taught Jack to lick his nose when I say "yummy." It's quite cute :) I taught Grace to target to the palm of my hand in a matter of minutes, which will be helpful in a whole bunch of different situations. I also finally brought out the weave poles again, after a super long break. I left them quite open, and she went through them successfully 4 times before I ended the session. I have to work on getting them closed, but at least she didn't look at them blankly. That could have happened - it has in the past. So we'll see how that goes. A new agility session starts in September, and I want it to be successful for us, so that means putting in way more practice than I have over the summer.

My mom has decided to get a new garage door (ours has been broken for years), so we had to clean out the garage this weekend. It was a HUGE job - the garage was literally packed to the rafters with junk of all sorts (we're ALL packrats in the worst way). My mom did the bulk of the work, but I did some too, and also cleaned out my shed at the back and the area where I have my dog stuff in the basement. We took 7 loads to the dump, of which I assisted on 4 of those loads. I was so sore yesterday I could hardly move! And I got heatstroke on Saturday from working withoutt a hat and without drinking enough water. I know a LOT better than that! But the garage looks awesome now, and the new door should be installed sometime this week. My next project is de-cluttering my bedroom, which scares the dickens out of me, but will be great when it's all done.

Let's just say I'm thankful to be at work today, where the most strenuous thing I have to do is work in Excel!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Clicker Fun!

So, I just finished reading Karen Pryor's latest book "Reaching The Animal Mind" (awesome, awesome book guys!), and decided that I wanted to try a shaping exercise with the clicker, instead of the luring that I had done to get my guys into the correct position. One of the standard games that clicker trainers use for shaping is called "101 Things With A Box" - basically you sit in a room with few distractions, a box, a clicker and a hand full of treats. Then you start clicking your dog for any interaction with the box, with the goal of a particular behaviour (two feet in the box, pushing the box, etc).

I didn't have a box, so I used the dogs' little couch as my object, and I sat down to work with Jack Jack. First I clicked him for looking at the couch. After a couple of times of that, I asked him to actually touch the couch with his nose. Success! Then I clicked for front feet on the couch . . . all of this happened within about 5 minutes or so. Once he got that figured out, every now and then he'd put one paw on the couch and then look at me, to see if I'd reward him for that. I could literally see the wheels turning in his head! Finally I got him to the point where he'd be on the couch with all four paws, and that's where we quit for the night. In about 10 minutes I shaped him to stand on the couch with all four feet. His tail wagged madly the whole time, and his eyes were sparkling.

I worked with Grace after I put Jack Jack in the crate . . . we didn't get as far as all four feet on the couch, because she's far less willing to experiment than Jack Jack is, so I had to do more clicking for looking at and then sniffing the couch. But she had fun, and it was good for all of us.
If you have clicker savvy dogs, I encourage you to try shaping . . . it's a great mental workout AND it's fun!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What A Night - Redux

Really, you'd think we'd had enough issues last week . . . but I think it was our weekend to be tested by the powers that be.Friday morning the sewer backed up again . . . thankfully this time it was shower water, so nice and clean. Much better than the "grey" water we got on Wednesday night. We cleaned it up, left my dad with money for more Drano, and then headed out of town.

Half an hour out of town, my "Check Battery" light came on in the car. There are no service stations (with more than just fuel) within 3 hours of my hometown, so we just kept driving until we found a slightly larger centre. Stopped at a garage to have it looked at - no problems with the battery. The guy figures it might be a loose connection. Whatever, at least the car is safe. Friday night we went for supper with my Aunt & Uncle, to celebrate their 40th anniversary. It was a really nice meal, and we had a great visit with them. They're good people.

Saturday night we saw the Lipizzanner Stallions, which were amazing. Talented horses, talented riders . . . it was very cool. I'd never take a 4 year old again, as she was bored and so she wouldn't be quiet or sit still, but the older kids enjoyed it. After the show we sat up late visiting with my brother and his fiancee.

Sunday we got up relatively early and drove home. It was an uneventful drive.Sunday afternoon the sewer backed up AGAIN. And it was bad this time . . . it came up through my toilet and everything (I live in the basement). Fortunately I'm looking after a friend's house, so I just took the dogs and stayed at her house, to get away from the smell.

Monday morning the plumbers came and used their tools to push whatever blockage we had far, far away. Cost almost $800, but if it worked, I'm happy. It's nice to be back home and in my bed. I don't want any more adventures!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

What A Night!

Holy crap, what a night last night.

First of all, Jack Jack is just being ridiculous about Grace, who's in heat right now. One of them was in a crate pretty much at all times last night, just for my own sanity. I thought my mother would kill him . . . he was howling for Grace during the day, I guess. Took him for a bike ride to see if using up his energy would help . . . not so much. Thank God it's almost over. Just a few more days, by my calculations.

Went to the chiropractor, because my upper back is sore (again). Had forgotten my wallet in my work bag and couldn't pay. He was good about it (I've been a patient for 5 years now), but I was embarrassed.

Watched "Next Food Network Star" - uneventful, thank goodness.

Went downstairs to go to bed, and the sewer had backed up into the basement. There was an inch of standing (dirty) water in the laundry room and out into the hallway. By the grace of God it did not go into my bathroom, the pantry or the furnace room. It was so disgusting! So then my mom and I spent over an hour fixing the issue and cleaning up. Everything had to be washed in bleach (floor, baseboards, etc) and now there are dozens of towels to wash. It was not fun, and of course, after that, I had trouble sleeping. Thankfully it appears to be fine this morning.

I almost stayed home today, just to recover from my night!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Karma Can Be Nasty

Remember when you were little, and you'd be driving your mother up the wall, and she'd say to you "Someday I hope you have a kid just like you!"? I remember that, clear as day. However, since I have absolutely no desire to have kids, I doubt it'll happen to me. But . . . my brother has a few kids. Okay, five altogether. And yeah, one of his kids is an awful lot like him.

His second-youngest daughter is spending the summer with us . . . my dad is VERY close to her, and so they both enjoy her being here. We've had her for about a month already, and with every passing day I realize that she is JUST like her father was at this age. Busy, non-stop, always moving and always making noise. She loves to sing, talk, yell and make any other amount of noise. Sometimes it's endearing, sometimes not so much. She loves to argue with authority and she questions everything.

For those folks that don't believe in genetics playing a part in temperament and personality, I can prove otherwise. Honestly, my brother hasn't been busy like this since he was little (no not just a few years younger, but a LOT younger) . . . and yet, it's like going back in time. It's almost kind of eerie, really. So yeah, karma can be a real bitch!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reasons to pay attention while mowing the lawn . . .

Lessons learned from cutting the grass this weekend.

1. The obvious is so that you don't run over your toes (of course, if you're being safe, you have shoes on, and wouldn't catch your toes anyhow).

2. So you don't accidentally cut down your mother's flowers (this did NOT happen, by the way, but it could).

3. So you don't run over the newly-seeded areas and rip out the grass before it has time to root.

4. So you don't run over the power cord, trip the breaker in the garage, lose your power source and have to shell out big bucks for a new cord. Really, it could happen to anybody. Not necessarily me or anything. I'm just saying. Really.

FYI - safety first.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book Reviews

Recently a friend loaned (lent?) me two of her books. Both were books I'd seen on the shelves at Chapters, but for one reason or another, I hadn't picked them up. I love getting the opportunity to read stuff that I would normally pass by - sometimes that's the best way to find a favourite new author.

Lullabies for Little Criminals

A Canada Reads award winner, this book takes place in Montreal. It's the story of a young girl and her father, and their difficult life. He's a junkie without a decent job, and her perception of the world is coloured by the way she was raised (and saying she was raised is a stretch in itself). It's very well-written, and despite the somewhat dark subject matter, it's a quick read. It's a book that's tough to put down once you've started it. Not for the faint of heart, or anybody who would rather pretend that there is no seedy side of life. Sorry, I can't remember the author's name, but I think her first name is Heather.
Rating: B+

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Another book whose author I can't remember. I really should write that information down, or look it up on the Net before I start these posts. Anyhow, the story is about twins born on a very snowy winter night, and the father making a snap decision that will forever change his life, as well as the lives of his family and his daughter (whom he gives away due to her having Down Syndrome). It's not like there are a lot of twists and turns in the story that keep you on the edge of your seat, but it's very well written and it draws you in like a familiar friend. A bittersweet ending almost leaves you wanting more. I really enjoyed the book - more than I thought I would when I read the back cover.
Rating: A-

Speaking For Spot

By Nancy Kay DVM (why is it I never have trouble remembering authors' names when they've written dog books?). A great book for any owner that has ever question veterinary care. Nancy Kay guides you through vet visits and lets you in on what questions to ask and what kind of answers you should be getting. She does cover a few specialized areas of care, such as dogs with cancer, but the book is a great way to save a bit of money on caring for your dog, while being your pet's advocate when they need you the most. You can check out Nancy's website at
Rating: A+

Friday, July 24, 2009

People are stupid!

Normally I really like the people I work with (and I'm using the words "with with" to indicate all of the people in the trailer I work in), but right now somebody is really ticking me off. I should stop here and say that it could just as easily be the night cleaners or other people randomly wandering through our trailer (it happens!). I normally keep bottles of Diet Coke in the refrigerator, so that I can have a cold drink every day. I buy 6 packs of bottles at the grocery store and keep them cold until I want one. While I was on vacation, somebody drank TWO of the bottles! Now, who would go into a communal fridge and just help themselves? That is so wrong!

But it gets better (or worse, depending on your perspective) . . . Because the cafeteria isn't easily accessible, I tend to bring frozen dinners to have for lunch. There's no way I can remember to go outside to the deep freezer to get one every day, so I typically bring them in on Mondays. I know I had enough this week, because I bought 5 of them last weekend while grocery shopping. Lo and behold, when I go to get my lunch today, my last frozen dinner is GONE! Now, in my opinion, that's worse than stealing my drinks, because now I have no lunch. AND, I took lunch much later than usual today, so I couldn't even go to the caf to buy something,

Why do people think they have the right to take what's not theirs? There's nothing okay about it! Get off your lazy butt and go buy your own drinks and your own lunch . . . your lack of planning doesn't mean I should suffer.

And that's my rant for today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm Still Alive, I Promise!

Hey everyone!I'm sure by now you all think I'm dead . . . I've chatted with one or two of you, and worked on your farms on Farm Town, but otherwise have been pretty much AWOL for a while now. Fear not, I'm still around, just busy as all heck!
Since starting this new job I've done an inordinate amount of traveling, as all of you know. I've been to Houston twice and Toronto once, and there's more travel coming this fall. Home has been busy, because my niece Tashie is here for the summer, which means less time online and more time outside (when it's not raining). She's finally learning to ride a bike (with training wheels) and that takes a lot of work.

On July 8th I flew to Pomona, CA for the American Spaniel Club summer show. I spent 4 wonderful days at the show, soaking up the beautiful dogs and meeting a ton of people (from the Zim forum, and from email lists that I belong to). I spent some time narrating for the DVDs that get made of the show, and lots of time visiting people. Jack Jack's black sister went to live in Australia, and her owner came to LA for the show, so I spent some time with her. My pictures are all up at
The Monday (July 13th) we went to Disneyland (Jackie, Ange and I). We had an awesome time! Ange and I had never been, so Jackie was our tour guide and we spent a blistering 14 hours there. It was so much fun, and my pictures are also up on the Zenfolio site.
Since getting back, I've been on the run at work, as well as being busy spending time with the dogs at home. They've been feeling kind of neglected, what with me being on the road so much, so I've been trying to spend as much time as I can with them.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

100 Reasons To Love Canada

What's not to love about Canada? Not much, but when asked about what they DO love, our readers shared hundreds of favourite things about our home and native land. Did yours make the list?

We Canadians love our health care and hockey. And don't keep us from our Tim Hortons coffee -- preferably with beavertails and butter tarts. From the rolling Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains, we boast about our hearty multiculturalism and polite people. When Kathy Ullyott, Homemakers Magazine's editor-in-chief, asked you to share your top 10 favourite Canadian things, our e-mail inboxes overflowed. There are many things that make us proud to live in the Great White North, including our crazy Canadian weather. Sure, we complain about it, but we really cherish beautifully coloured leaves in the fall, snow-fort wars in winter, cherry blossoms in spring and lakeside vacations in the summer.

From the thousands of suggestions we got, we culled this list of 100 reasons to love Canada -- beginning with the 10 that were named by the most readers:

Readers's top 10 Canadian favourites

10. Tim Hortons "Coffee addicts unite! ... Who can resist rolling up the rim?" wrote Anne Shelton of Toronto. Yes, we love Tim's coffee, Timbits, Iced Capps frozen cappuccinos, sour cream cake and maple doughnuts -- spelled d-o-u-g-h-n-u-t-s, please, not d-o-n-u-t-s! (See item 56 on this list for more on Canadian spellings.)

9. The beautiful Canadian Rocky Mountains, "...still mostly untouched. You can go hiking without running into crowds of people." (Lasha MacLeod, Sherwood Park, Alta.)

8. Fresh water That includes our lakes to swim and fish in, clean drinking water, rivers, streams and ponds. "The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway are proud parts of our history in discovering the country," said Terri McBride of Hunstville, Ont.

7. Hockey Included in "Our Game" are CBC's Hockey Night in Canada -- both the show and its former theme song -- as well as national teams: The Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens, Cheers to our women's teams too. In Canada, hockey is "the sport that brings friends and communities together," said Kim O'Reilly, Calgary, Alta.

6. Health careBarbara White of Barrie, Ont. said it best: "Having a husband diagnosed with cancer at 33 and, 10 years later, still waking up beside him and watching our children grow together makes me thankful every day that I am a Canadian. I have not had to get a second or third job, still have a house without having to sell it all in order to pay medical bills!"

5. FreedomWe're overwhelmingly grateful for our freedom of speech and religion; for our nation's independence and democracy, and for our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Linda LaRochelle from Port Alberni, B.C. wrote in to say: "In Canada, a democratic country, we enjoy the freedom to live our lives pretty much as we choose."

4. Our changing seasons"Canadians enjoy talking about the weather and are often disgruntled by the extreme heat and cold. But the changing of the seasons gives us not only something to talk about, but also to look forward to." (Cheryl Telford, Newmarket, Ont.)

3. The Canadian characterYou described Canadians as friendly, polite, generous, warm, open-minded, forgiving, humble, welcoming, caring, curious and honest. "It's the people that make a country great and we have a great country with outstanding people -- young and old." (Beth Corrigan Jenish, Oshawa, Ont.)

2. The landscapeVast, clean, diverse and green -- those are some of the words you used to describe our home and native land. "Whether travelling east to west or west to east, we truly have a beautiful country to be proud of," said Cheryl Telford.

And...1. Multiculturalism "From our people, our landscape, our culture(s), food, etc., the very fabric of Canada is a patchwork quilt, full of colours and textures and richness," says Linda LaRochelle, Port Alberni, B.C.

After your top 10,* your lists of favourites took on a more personal flavour. And speaking of flavour, we do love to eat, drink and be Canadian! Here are your toasts to Canadian tastes.*The balance of your top favourites are listed in no particular order

11. Culinary variety "The availability of food from around the world, including locally grown produce." Catherine Charnell, Victoria

12. Maple syrup "Dripping freshly brewed maple sap onto frozen snow for that wonderful taffy treat - awesome!" Louise Aspden, Utopia, Ont.

13. Poutine "Who would have thought fries + cheese curd + gravy could be an out-of-body experience?" Ashlee Mackey, Houston originally from St. John's, N.L.

14. Beef "Best beef in the world, from Alberta." Marybell Ritchie

15. "Canadian beer is the best, hands down!" Jennifer Rayment, Bolton, Ont.

16. Seafood including P.E.I. lobster, Atlantic salmon, Newfoundland chowder, "Atlantic Coast Lobster and BC salmon." Pat Greer, Aylmer, Ont.

17. "We have real bacon. Canadian back bacon." Patricia Fretz, Courtice, Ont.

18. Nanaimo bars "So traditional and so B.C.!" Alana LeSueur, Surrey, B.C.

19. Fresh produce "An abundance of homegrown fruits and vegetables." Karen Mitchell, White Rock, B.C.

20. Saskatoon berries "on ice cream, with fresh cream, on their own as you mow by the bush, mmhmm." Barb Beck, Wetaskiwin, Alta.

21. Wines "Yes, we have some of the best in the world and for many of us, right at our doorstep." Susan Fox, Thornhill, Ont.

22. Butter tarts "You can't find them anywhere else! It's the treat friends from the U.S., Britain and Australia want when they set foot on Canadian soil." Jo-Anne Page, Toronto

23. "Any farmer's market on a Saturday morning." Carrie Chenier, Etobicoke, Ont., (a transplanted Northerner)

24. Icewine "Mmmmm..." Kristi Briltz, Regina

25. Beavertails "Delicious and just part of being a Canadian." Katrien Reed, Belleville, Ont.

26. Fiddleheads "Nothing heralds spring as much as a steaming plate of freshly picked fiddleheads served with butter and a side order of pork." Anne Glazier, Bathurst, N.B.

27. Smarties (originated in the U.K., but made in Canada!) "Do you eat the red ones last?" Jaclyn Nelson, London, Ont.Canadians may not be as flag-waving as citizens of some other countries...or are we? All of these distinctly Canadian icons and national symbols got lots of "votes."

28. "It does us no end of good here to see and have an excuse to salute the flag of Canada -- a hockey game (yes, on ice!) or a Maple Leaf Ball." Shairon Burton

29. The maple leaf "So unassuming, so clean and so elegantly simple -- so reflective of Canadians." Willy Wilkins, Richmond Hill, Ontario.

30. The beaver "Our national animal is hard-working and has a strong sense of family." Christine Peters, Edmonton

31. Money "Brightly coloured bills and unique coins" Lynda Colvey, Cold Lake, Alta.

32. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) "So proud, independent, brave...they make us feel safe." Erin Purdy, Ottawa

33. O Canada! "I feel pride in my heart each time I hear our national anthem." Sandi Larson, Cold Lake, Alta.

34. Parliament Hill "The grandeur of the place added to the lasting memory it created in my parents' visit to Canada. Their photograph in front of the parliament buildings will forever be present in my living room." Cynthia G. Garcia

From natural wonders to unique species, from the majestic Atlantic to the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains, there's no question that Canada puts the "great" in "great outdoors."

35. "Our national and provincial parks" Sandra Kropinske, Kamloops, B.C.

36. Niagara Falls "It's spectacular at night. Canada is fortunate to have a wonder of the world." Tracey Ilnisky, Gilbert Plains, Man.

37. Oceans "The smell of the Atlantic Ocean (with icebergs and humpbacks in the background of course!)" Ashlee Mackey, Houston, originally from St. John's, N.L.

38. "Fresh air and blue skies -- you can truly appreciate it after you visit some dirty steel towns." Suzanne Michal, Ottawa

39. "Our caring about the environment." Chris Sherlock, LaSalle, Ont.

40. "Watching the Northern Lights dance across the winter sky." Sandi Larson, Cold Lake, Alta.

41. Highway 60 through Algonquin Park "Watching for wildlife, namely moose, hidden within the lush landscape is one of our family's favourite pastimes." Louise Aspden, Utopia, Ont.

42. "Red dunes on the beaches in P.E.I." Lisa Mallia, Toronto

43. The Trans Canada Highway "It allows us to discover all that our beautiful country has to offer. Take the ride!" Anne Shelton, Toronto

44. "Skiing in the morning and going to the beach in the afternoon." Fiona Baxter, Ottawa (formerly of Banff, Alta. and B.C.)

45. Canoeing "There's no better way to reconnect with the natural world and so many wonderful lakes and rivers on which to do it." Bernadette Hardaker, Orangeville, Ont.

46. "Cottage country -- i.e. beautiful Muskoka, lovely Tobermory, sizzling Sauble Beach." Vivian Lee, Toronto

47. Wildlife "We have everything -- moose, deer, rabbit, beaver, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, etc." Joyce Poyton, Hamilton, Ont.

48. Polar bears "This bear is twice as big as a lion or tiger...OH MY!" Pat Greer, Aylmer, Ont.

49. Canada Geese "Each time I hear their calls soaring above and see the unmistakable "V" formation I remind myself how grateful I am to be Canadian." Louise Aspden, Utopia, Ont.

50. The loon "Hearing their eerie love song invokes a sense of peace and wonder within me." Louise Aspden, Utopia, Ont.

51. "Sideways snow." when you live with it, you never think you'll miss it." Ashlee Mackey, Houston, originally from St. John's, N.L.

52. Autumn "Love that crispy clean air and the crazy quilt of colour." Shairon BurtonDoes Canada have a unique culture and heritage? You'd better believe it! And here are some of its hallmarks, identified by Homemakers readers as among their favourite things about Canada.

53. Diversity in history and heritage "Canadians have a diverse and rich heritage from our ancestors. It's instilled in us that we must leave a mark as Canadians on our planet." Connie Grant, Saint John, N.B.

54. Bilingualism "What an advantage to know another language -- especially good for solving crossword puzzles!" Mary Danieli, Burnaby, B.C.

55. "Our First Nations...a great heritage, a rich culture, a great people." Ruth Witt

56. Canadian spelling "The letter U -- I love sending e-mails to my U.S. friends with words like colour, favourite, and humour. A special mention for the letter Z (zed)." Jennifer Williatte-Battet, St. Joseph du Moine, NS

57. Family Whether you gather at your local Tim Hortons or during Canada Day or Victoria Day celebrations, you cited family as source of Canadian pride.

58. We actually say, "eh." Tammy Taylor, Oakville, Ont.

59. Canadian comedy and our sense of humour."Canada has some of the funniest quirky comedians from French Canadians, Newfoundlanders, Nova Scotians, First Nations...Russell Peters, Shaun Majumder." Barb Derick, Ottawa

60. Canadian literature Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables was a popular choice. "Robertson Davies, yes, and Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence and Margaret Atwood...we have so many wonderful writers in this country." Lily Gillespie

61. Local talent "Uniquely talented Canadian actors, directors, writers, artists representing!" Vivian Lee, Toronto

62. Canada Day fireworks "Unites wonderful people of all ages and cultures in this great country of ours." Danielle Vincent, Gatineau, Que.

63. "CBC radio and TV keep us in touch with our awesome country and with the other nations of the world." Ruth Witt64. "Homemakers magazine I can't wait for the next issue!" Brenda Critch, Lindsay, Ont. [Well, really, how could we resist including that one?!]

Of course, Canada has scores of native sons and daughters, of whom we're all justly proud. Here are just a few that rated special mention:

65. Terry Fox "A true Canadian hero." Nicole Okano, Richmond, B.C.

66. Mr. Dressup "Although Ernie Coombs passed away a few years ago and Casey, Finnegan, Aunt Bird and Alligator Al are all tucked away in a special chest. Our children will always remember the many skills and information they learned from the show." Jo-Anne Page, Toronto

67. Pierre Elliott Trudeau "He was an inspirational leader." Shammy Singh, Toronto

68. A prime minister [Stephen Harper] who apologizes. "The prime minister's apology to the aboriginal peoples who attended residential schools is a wonderful accomplishment and a step in the right direction for the future." Eileen Lucas, Fort McMurray, Alta.

69. David Suzuki "He is fighting the most important fight there is save our place on this planet." Bernadette Hardaker, Orangeville, Ont.

70. "Mike Myers "Canada's greatest ambassador." Linda Lee, Moncton, N.B.

71. Musicians "Jann Arden, Bryan Adams, Sarah MacLachlan, Great Big Sea, Loreena McKennitt, Barenaked Ladies, Chantal Kreviazuk, Terri Clark, Nelly Furtado, Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, Shania Twain, Tommy Hunter, Chilliwack, Loverboy, Nickelback, The Rankins, Diana Krall, Avril Lavigne, the list goes on and on and on!" Linda LaRochelle, Port Alberni, B.C.

72. "Proud artist Emily Carr." Lynmarie Hubley, Kingston, Ont.

73. "The talented artists and the people who support them." -- Jeanette BearssCanmore, Alta.

74. Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven "These artists really had it all together. Their paintings capture a true feeling of what Canada is and how vast and different its landscape can be, even in just one province." Katrien Reed, Belleville, Ont.Peace, Order and Good Government: It's enshrined in our Constitution; it's something we're famous for worldwide -- and, in one way or another, it made the lists of dozens of our contributors.

75. Education "Even with budget cuts there are still many excellent English as a Second Language programs offered in many schools, community centres and religious institutions in cities and towns in our magnificent country." Jo-Anne Page, Toronto

76. Our military "Thank you for the fighting, the peacekeeping and the ultimate sacrifice of your lives to make this world a better place for my children and myself. " Barbara White, Barrie, Ont.

77. Order and citizenship "We don't assassinate our political leaders...we,"pie" them instead!" Christine Peters, Edmonton

78. Democracy "I love being able to vote in a democratic society." Linda Klages, Hanover, Ont.

79. "The economy and opportunity that Canada offers to her people. We can aspire to a sound future. Students can find vocational training at a reasonable fee and most could afford to take some type of post secondary training education." Sharon Thurston, St-Anicet, Que.

80. Pensions "How many countries take care of its older generation like we do? At some point we will enjoy the Old Age Security Pension and Canada Pension Plan." Susan Scriver

81. Transportation "Subways and buses, trains, ferries, cars, and planes to take us anywhere in our vast country within a matter of hours instead of weeks, like in pioneer times." Sharon Thurston, St-Anicet, Que.

82. Clean roads, cities "I love that our highways and streets are kept clean of litter. " Lasha MacLeod , Sherwood Park, Alta.

83. Safety/sense of security "I feel safe in my community and trust in my neighbours." Laurie MacNeil, Cleveland, N.S.

84. Peace "Our peace-loving nature, known throughout the world." Linda Chaput, North Bay, Ont.

85. Opportunities "It's the land of opportunity and the best place to live on Earth." Gloria Shields, Port Hope, Ont.

In many ways, Canada is a nation of communities, and many of our readers cited local landmarks, hometowns and home provinces as inspiring patriotic pride.

86. "The streets of old Quebec City." Ashlee Mackey, Houston, Tx originally from St. John's, N.L.

87. "We have 13 beautiful provinces and territories to explore. The beauty is incomparable to anything or anywhere else." Peggy McPherson, Windsor, N.S.

88. Ottawa's Rideau Canal "I never feel so Canadian as when I am skating on the Rideau during Winterlude." Katrien Reed, Belleville, Ont.

89. "I love the CN Tower lit up at night. Your eyes are drawn to it like a magnet." Susan Scriver

90. Toronto "This city is amazing! The galleries, the theater, the community, the Toronto Maple Leaf fans!" Suzanne Creighton, Toronto

91. Calgary Stampede "I lived in Alberta for 13 years and loved when the Stampede came to town. It brought the wild west to us for 10 days." Roxanne Zinck, Sussex, N.B.

92. "Free multicultural events at Harbourfront, Toronto." Patricia Lewis, Toronto93. Prairies "Grain fields and grasses that look like waves as they change direction with the wind." Kathleen Alexander, Saskatoon

94. "Ottawa and the Tulip Festival." Cindy San Antonio, Whitby, Ont.

95. "Vancouver is one of my favourite cities. It is so diverse and has beautiful scenery right in town!" Lasha MacLeod, Sherwood Park, Alta.

96. Muskoka "Canada's area of magnificent lakes, rocks, flora and fauna. Boating, swimming, fishing, golfing and cottaging in the spring and summer. Walking the trails and viewing the changing of the leaves in the fall and skiing, skating and snowshoeing in the winter. Lucky us!" Jo-Anne Page, Toronto

97. "The beauty of British Columbia" Sheila Kawahara, Thunder Bay, Ont.And finally -- drumroll, please -- unique entries we couldn't resist!

98. Pineapple Crush. "I think it might be a Newfie thing." Ashlee Mackey, Houston

99. "Elk jams in Banff National Park." Fiona Baxter, Ottawa

100. Ketchup chips -- "Not much to say except YUMMY!" Susan Paisley