Adjusting

Wow. Time flies.

I’m not sure how two and a half months passed since I’ve updated this blog. Yes, I’ve had a lot going on, but not THAT much.

I have a theory, though. I’ve seen a lot of people abandon their blogs after dealing with a loss and subsequent grief. There are plenty of reasons for this – changes of habit, depression, or just not wanting to return to the place where you’ve poured your heart out and exposed your wounds.

I think it might also include, at least with blogs, not wanting the memories to scroll off the main page. You keep updating, eventually the story of your loss won’t be as visible. It’s like you’re somehow no longer honouring those you lost and miss. By not having it out there, right in front, it’s as if you’ve forgotten or moved on.

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Hell Is Other People

So we seem to mostly be dealing with the chaos that life has handed us these past couple of months. I think we’re actually over the hump. I can look at a picture of Bowie without crying; that’s something at least.

And in trying to make some sense out of it all, to accept all that has happened, I keep playing various scenarios over in my mind. Particularly ones with other people. That is, remembering who stepped up and who got in the way. None of the “getting in the way” folks did so intentionally, I don’t think, but there’s a real social cluelessness that seems amplified when it comes to death. I don’t know if it’s simply that I am/was more sensitive to it, or if it’s because people are just uncomfortable dealing with grief in general.

But some of the things people said or did with regards to our situation are just mind-boggling.

The worst had to be the questions. Bowie was a neighbourhood fixture. And when he was gone, people noticed. Some people noticed and said nothing, aware that the answer to what they were thinking was none of their business, and using their brains to conclude that if the lady with two dogs is now seen with only one dog, that it might not be the best time to ask her where he had gone.

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Goodbye Daniel

It is said that funerals are not for the dead but are an event wholly for the living – a way to mourn, celebrate and accept the passing of a loved one. And the people who attended the funeral of Greg’s uncle Daniel most definitely did all of the above.

If I had to come up with one word to describe the event, I’d have to say “Toronto”. Not that Daniel, or the event to celebrate his life, was all about civic pride, but rather that the event and the people who attended it represented everything that is good and wonderful about this city. Daniel was the hub for people from so many different cultures and walks of life to come together. Coming from a family who are Catholic and having lived for some years as a monk, Daniel moved to Toronto in the late 70s when he accepted that he was gay. I’m not a religious person, so I can’t speak to what compels a religious type of spirituality, but his dissatisfaction with the Catholic church and their stance on homosexuality provoked Daniel to explore other religions and methods of spirituality, and with that, other cultures.

He planned the service himself before he passed. Held in a United church and encompassing prayers from the Dominican friars from the University of Toronto (he worked as their personal chef for many years), it also included passages from the Koran, the Torah, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead as well as meditation and other prayers and hymns. One of the Dominicans sang the most beautiful a capella version of Ava Maria I’ve ever heard. After the service the reception included Indian sweets like jalebi and burfi – Daniel had always dreamed of going to India so Indian sweets were a perfect fit.

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Routine Changes

One of the prerequisites of living with dogs is that you have to like routine. Dogs are creatures of habit; they like the important events of their lives (walks, dinner) to take place at the same time every day, and can get easily stressed if the schedule deviates. Losing a dog can mean that a human’s schedule, previously based around the dog’s schedule, can go a bit loopy.

Tula is still with us, of course, and we’re working hard to keep things as normal as we can for her, because she’s still very stressed at Bowie being gone. Keeping our lives as similar as they were before helps us too. We need that 7am walk every day to wake us up and prepare ourselves for the day. We need the system and the regularity of having to be home to feed or walk Tula at a certain time, just because it helps us to organize our days better.

There are little things that are missing, though, little scenarios we’d play out with Bowie that Tula doesn’t do. For instance, after the morning walk, Bowie would wait impatiently while I removed my coat and shoes, washed my hands, put my hair back and put on house shoes before feeding him. Every single morning he’d bark at me to hurry up, follow me into the bedroom while I put my shoes on, stomp around, bark at me some more, and then finally herd me out into the hallway and through the dining room to the kitchen to dish up his breakfast. We’d see the border collie in him at this time – he’d have nipped at my heels to get me to move faster if he thought he’d have been able to get away with it.

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Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes

Greg went and picked up Bowie’s ashes on Thursday night. I didn’t want to go do it because I was sure that I would break down, but when he brought everything home, and we looked at all the stuff, we were oddly cheerful. Not because we were happy he was gone, far from it, but that there were parts of the process that were amusing, and that brought back wonderful memories. The pet cremation company, Gateway, makes every effort to be as classy and inoffensive as possible in dealing with people’s beloved companions. We opted for the cedar box as opposed to an urn, and it comes packed in a gorgeous blue box. If not for logo on the front, you’d swear it was something from Tiffany’s. 100 pounds of dog is still pretty heavy when it’s converted to a bag of dust, and the cedar box inside weighed about 8 pounds.

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The End of the Dude

It was a regular Sunday. I was in the kitchen making lasagna. Greg took the dogs out for a walk around 4pm. Bowie got up, stood to have his haltie put on, and walked out the door, just like he has a thousand times before; nothing out of the ordinary.

At 4:15, Greg was back. “Something’s wrong with Bowie.” He explained that while walking along the hallway on the 1st floor to go to the lobby, Bowie’s bladder had let go, something that had never happened since he was a puppy, except for the one time when we had just brought him home from having knee surgery and he was stoned on painkillers. Greg got the dogs outside and Bowie wouldn’t move, just stood there looking freaked out.

So Greg brought the dogs back upstairs. He went back out with Tula, and Bowie went to lie down in the dining room in one of his usual spots. He refused treats which is really odd, but at that point, we just thought he had a stomach-ache. I looked up his symptoms online and in a couple of books we have, but couldn’t find anything that seemed to match. Greg returned and we brushed it off as him having eaten something weird. Tula once didn’t eat for two and a half days until she barfed up a big chunk of pineapple. It was one of those situations where if it was still bad in the morning, we’d call the vet.

At 5pm, I filled the dogs’ food bowls. Tula came running but Bowie didn’t and when I took the bowl of food to him, he refused it. He was still alert and responsive, though, and would shake a paw and respond to an ear scratch.

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Unleashed

I’ve probably given myself a bad reputation for being that crazy neighbourhood lady screaming at people to put their dogs on a leash. I’ve gotten into arguments with people about it. Of course, the kind of people who let their dogs run around leash free on city streets are usually not the kind of people (and yes, I mean “kind of people” in the MOST derogatory way) who you can talk logic with. They don’t believe their dog would ever hurt another creature and they think you’re whack when you point out that a leash would protect their dog from harm. “Oh, he always comes when he’s called,” they’ll reply. Then they’ll call the dog over to prove their point and the dog will give them a withering look and wander off in the opposite direction.

This morning we were out walking the dogs and walked past a nearby apartment. An older Asian woman was sitting on the curb of the driveway in front of the building, a yellow dog (some kind of lab/sheperd cross as best I can tell) sitting beside her. I’m watching the dog because I can tell it’s not on a leash, but it sits there until we’re almost past. And then it leaps up, runs across the driveway and through a flower bed and latches onto Petula’s head. I kick at it a few times, and scream at it, and it backs off.

Through it all the Asian woman sits there unblinking. She doesn’t get up, yell at the dog, or make any effort to hold it back. In fact, she says nothing at all, despite the fact that Greg and I are screaming bloody murder at her – until we threaten to sue her, at which point she just starts repeating “not my dog, not my dog!” Given her behaviour throughout, that might very well have been the case.

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It’s a Shar-Pei Thing

Anyone who has ever met my little brown dog has undoubtedly heard me moan about her behaviour. Particularly the stubbornness. Tula doesn’t do what Tula doesn’t want to do. If this happens to including crossing the street, well then shes not crossing the street – it’s not uncommon for her to stop dead in the middle of a crosswalk and refuse to move, oncoming traffic be damned.

We always thought this was just a Tula thing – that we had adopted a headstrong creature with a determined personality.

Until last night as we were walking past Trinity Bellwoods park and watched a young woman dragging a shar-pei across the road. We recognized it immediately – the exact same “planted to the ground” stance, the same taut shoulders and neck, the pulling with the head. Not going, no how, no way. No reason, either, other than “I’m a shar-pei and I don’t want to”.

It was reassuring in a way – to know that it was a breed thing. That it wasn’t our poor dog-training skills or that we had somehow gotten a broken, disobedient dog. Like the wrinkly skin and the absolutely fear of rain or wet grass, this sudden desire to simply stop turns out to be a shar-pei thing.

Doesn’t make it any less frustrating (or terrifying when a truck is barrelling at you), but at least we know where it comes from now.

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Into Every Life, a Little Change Must Come

When we first moved into this apartment, we weren’t sure how long we’d stay. I was not keen on the idea of apartment living, and we were still considering buying a house – this was to be a test to see if we could live in a condo without going insane. So we bought a cheap sofa, figuring we’d get another one if/when we moved again. It wasn’t ever very comfortable; I migrated to a chair rather quickly when I discovered that the angle of the seat on the sofa made my leg go numb.The cat shredded the arms, and a certain little brown dog pretty much claimed the thing as her own.

Four years later, we’re still here, after realizing that we could live in an apartment but that most condos won’t allow our large dogs. Four years later, and we really needed a new sofa.

We splurged on what we’ve called “our first grown-up sofa” – a stylish green loveseat that looks like it should be on the set of Mad Men. Other than the fact that the seat is a little deep for me and I need an ottoman (when we checked it out I was wearing boots that make me 2 inches taller; my feet touched the floor fine in the store, not so much at home), we like it very much.

Tula, however, while she likes it fine now, was not especially pleased with the transition.

Bringing new meaning to “curling up in a chair”. Still not impressed.

Dog and blanket installed on new sofa. “I guess this will do.”

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Puppy Love

I’m not a huge fan of Christie Blatchford at the Globe and Mail. She’s a little … shrill about most things. But although some readers hate it when she writes about her dog, these are probably my favourite articles of hers. Saturday’s article, in particular, hit a nerve.

As my dogs get older, there’s not a day that goes by that I am not thankful for their continued existence. The vet once told us that we’d be lucky if Bowie made it to 10 years, because of his size, but we’re currently working on 11.

But they’re both slowing down. They don’t want to run and play as much as they once did. They often don’t have the patience to be petted and mauled. And when either dog gets injured or ill, or even sometimes when I walk past and look at them sleeping, I have to shake the fear, nay – the sheer dread,  of the inevitable out of my head.

When they’re gone…

No. Stop it. Not gonna happen. Never.

But it will. And somehow we’ll deal. Hopefully.

In the meantime, I make a point of enjoying every minute with them. Even if all they’re doing is sleeping; sprawled out on the floor, feet twitching, eyes rolling under their soft eyelids, barking at imaginary squirrels, chasing imaginary balls, nomming imaginary snacks.

People say it’s impossible for a dog owner to claim to love their dog as much as a parent loves a child. Those people are idiots.

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Leash Laws Exist For a Reason

I was devastated when the news on television last night announced the death of a Toronto man and his two dogs when they were hit by a train. The man was walking along a train track in mid-town when one of his dogs ran onto the track. He jumped into the path of an oncoming train to try to grab the dog. His second dog followed behind him. The man and one of the dogs were killed instantly, the second dog was put down later on when it was determined its injuries were too serious.

The police that the various news reporters talked to cited trespassing as the main cause of the accident. The tracks are fenced off, but many people clip holes in the chain link fences to allow access to either cross the tracks or to walk alongside them. This isn’t unusual, it happens everywhere – we have a train track nearby and people constantly hop the fence to save themselves the extra two minutes it would take them to walk to the same spot via the streets. And until it was fenced off, many people in the neighbourhood with dogs, us included, would walk along the service road that ran alongside the tracks.

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Shocked

I walked along Queen Street yesterday, searching the sidewalks for hydro plates. They’re plentiful, but inconspicuous, one of those things you never even notice until you go looking for them, but then they’re everywhere. A 10-inch round metal disk, set into the outer third of the sidewalk about 4-5 feet from every hydro pole so workers can access wiring for each street light, they’re unavoidable as you walk down the street.

And Toronto has somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 of them, all of which they plan to check for what they’re calling “stray voltage” after a 2nd dog was electrocuted yesterday from stepping on one with wet feet.

As a dog owner, this scares the beejeezus out of me. Particularly in the fact that they call it “stray” voltage because it’s not always there to find. After the first dog was killed in November, all the poles and plates in the area were supposedly checked, but the spot where the dog was killed yesterday was across the street from where the first incident took place. That metal plate was checked and was found to be fine with no problems. So how can we trust that any of these plates are safe?

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House Mouse

We moved into an apartment building totally paranoid about sharing our space with the usual suspects – that is, roaches and bed bugs. We have neither. What we do have is an ongoing gnawing inside the wall under the windowsill in our office, and the occasional sighting of small grey mice in our kitchen.

Having come from an old turn-of-the-century house, we were accustomed to mice. And roaches and one particularly bad infestation of moths. So Mr. Mouse and his family aren’t finding much to eat in my kitchen where food is always stored in containers and never left out.

Before Spook died of cancer in March, the two cats would do regular kitchen stake-outs, and would catch the occasional mouse. One night Bowie joined in and proved that dogs are actually better mousers than cats. But since then, our remaining cat Mollie hasn’t had much interest.

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The Dog Days of Summer

We didn’t take the dogs to Woofstock, Toronto’s annual dog festival, this year, which sort of defeats the point, yes, but it was way too hot. Hours of walking on hot asphalt is not so great for fluffy black and brown pooches. And in fact, we noticed a significant decrease in the number of dogs, especially larger ones, at the event. Waiting for the streetcar home we encountered a boxer that so hot he was foaming at the mouth. Not good. However, lots of effort was made by organizers and vendors to ensure there was water to be had, plus a cool down station that consisted of a fountain and a bunch of wading pools. Most everyone seemed to be having fun, despite the weather.

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Wish You Were Here

When my Grandfather died, way back in the early 80s, my Grandmother spent the better part of a year continuing to make his tea every day, laying out his work uniform, and even calling to him from another room. We thought for a time that she was losing it, or just wasn’t coming to terms with the fact that he was gone, but in reality, she was just having trouble changing her routine. She knew he wouldn’t be sitting in his chair when she walked into the room, that the tea would go cold, that the fireman’s shirt and pants would get placed back in the closet when she went to bed. But she couldn’t stop herself from doing all the things she had always done, or of expecting to see him in his usual spots.

A few years ago, we had to put down one of the cats Greg had brought with him when he moved in many years before. She had been very sick for a long time, and it was a decision for the best. Despite my not being especially close to this particular cat, I continued to “see” her as I went about my day, especially in one spot on the stairs where she would sit and look at us in the living room, but was able to get away from the dogs if they gave chase. I continued to see her there in that spot until the day we moved out, where she appeared, round-eyed and bewildered as I was leaving with the remaining two cats in carriers, as if to say, “Hey, you’re not leaving me here, are you?” I’ve been tempted to drop by and ask the current tenants of that place if they ever happen to see a grey cat, sitting on the stairs.

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