August 30, 2006


Marriage. The idea scares the bejeezus out of me, I can tell you that much. But for two out of three couples in this photo, it is very much a reality.

Our friends on the left-hand side are getting married on Saturday. Scott is the best man and I am a bridesmaid, potentially a topless one. My thwarted efforts to...

  1. have the bridal shop order the correct size of dress,
  2. have said dress altered,
  3. have the zipper of said dress repaired (after the seamstress broke it), and
  4. have said dress repaired AGAIN (after the seamstress claimed to have fixed it)

...have made it clear that I still merit my nickname. The bodice of the two-piece dress is in the hands of yet another seamstress (hopefully a competent one this time) and I will not get it back until tomorrow afternoon. Did I mention that the wedding is on Saturday? Yes, this Saturday. And I still haven't had a chance to try on the bodice, since the zipper is an integral part of the outfit. But shhhhhh! don't tell the bride about all this. She doesn't need the added stress. Not that I do, either, mind you.

August 23, 2006

Good-bye, Aunt Mickey.

Our favourite calendar girl

Aunt Mickey passed away last night. The photo above is from the 2006 calendar produced by Aunt Mickey's Ladies Auxiliary branch, of which she was a 30-year member. The "back-to-school" theme was chosen because Aunt Mickey's photograph appears in September. I will think of her fondly every time I look at the calendar next month.

May she rest in peace.

August 21, 2006

Downtown driving

Saturday morning's driving lesson was supposed to include a session on the highway. My instructor must have decided that he still had a reason to live, however, as he phoned fifteen minutes prior to my scheduled start time and said that he had changed his mind. He picked me up about 90 minutes later and had me drive around downtown instead.

There were lots of premature left turns, plenty of wide right turns, and worst of all, lane changes. Apparently I make very "aggressive" lane changes, having yet to master the technique of gradually moving into the new lane. When Lino says, "Change lanes," I feel compelled to stomp on the brake, check my blind spot, and then turn into the new lane at a 90-degree angle. After a particularly harrowing swerve, Lino remarked, "You really like to put the fear in me, don't you." I replied, "Yes, yes I do," but what I was really thinking was Dustballs and popcorn, Lino. Dustballs and popcorn.*

*See the anonymous comment following this earlier post.

August 19, 2006

Ain't he sweet?

Look at what my brother (who does not want to be mentioned on my blog, so forget you ever read this) had engraved on my new iPod!


Once upon an all-too-brief time, I was a foster parent for the Toronto Humane Society. I took in animals who were recovering from illness or injury or who were not coping well with life in the shelter. The experience was more challenging, more rewarding and more heartbreaking than I could ever have imagined. Although Scott did not share my enthusiasm, he was grudgingly supportive and he spent many Saturdays shuttling me and my charges to the shelter clinic.

My first charge was an eight-month-old German shepherd recovering from a leg wound. I remember expecting her to be an adorable little pup with oversized ears and big clumsy feet. Wasn't I surprised when a large wolf-like beast emerged from the pound dragging the shelter worker behind her. Tanner was a handful, to say the least. When we brought her to a cottage, we had the delight of introducing her to swimming. Unfortunately, we never could convince her that joyfully leaping upon running children, attacking other dogs, and pooping indoors were bad ideas. I had to be honest about her wild nature, and once she returned to the shelter it took four months for her to find an adoptive home.

My first felines were a mom and her six ten-day-old kittens. What I didn't know when I took them in is that they had been exposed to distemper. We lost four kittens in quick succession. One died in my home after a visit to the emergency vet. I had to bring the other three, one by one, to the shelter clinic to be euthanized. I will never forget putting one sick little kitten in a shoebox and travelling by streetcar to the clinic. Fellow passengers asked for a peek and I obliged, not having the heart to tell them what was about to happen. I still feel sick when I think about it, and yet I miss the fostering experience all the same.

Molly was the mother of those four unfortunate kittens, and I adopted her and her surviving sons, Samson and Trooper. Trooper did contract distemper, but after losing his four siblings and my own cat, Milligan, within the space of two weeks, I'd had enough. I took a week off work and spent my time cuddling and force-feeding Trooper until, against the odds, he recovered.

Cosmo was an elderly poodle found wandering the streets. He was blind, deaf and toothless, he wore a diaper, he couldn't be caged and he couldn't be left alone. We were close companions for a week. I had to carry him in my arms on the subway to and from work and he slept by my side at night. He was a great asset at work, calming a normally tense environment and softening even the crustiest of co-workers.

When a fellow volunteer dropped Patches off at my house, the first things I noticed were the dog's size and smell. She was considerably overweight and she half waddled, half limped. The smell was the result of the fact that she had soiled the bed that came with her, and she herself had several brown "patches" that didn't belong. Hers was a rude welcome, as the first thing I did was drag her upstairs for a bath. She stood miserably in the tub, hanging her head in resignation as I scrubbed her clean.

For the first few days of her stay, Patches did little more than lay under my coffee table and avoid eye contact. This wasn't surprising considering the fact that her original family had dropped her off at the shelter after twelve years, claiming that they were moving out of province and could not take her along. With a good diet, arthritis medication and plenty of TLC, Patches soon had a new lease on life. She slimmed down, stopped limping, and preferred running to walking. In spite of many admonishments, she insisted on climbing up onto the sofa and drooling profusely on the cushions. Patches was with me for two months before someone noticed her on the "Special Needs" section of the Humane Society web site and arranged to adopt her. Although I was sad to see her go, I was thrilled that her story had a happy ending.

Scott the surrogate

My next responsibility was a set of five orphaned kittens. Because Molly's brood had suffered from distemper, I was instructed to keep the new kittens away from the room where the sick ones had resided. Thus, the five new kittens lived in my bedroom. The experience was something like this. I had to weigh the critters daily and was expected to bring them in for their vaccinations as soon as they reached 650 grams. Unfortunately, the entire lot ended up with diarrhea. It didn't dampen their spirits at all, but it dampened a few other things. I recall laying in bed listening to the phbbbbbt! phbbbbbbbbbt! phbbt-phbbt! of their intestinal distress. Back to the clinic we went. The vet showed me how to inject fluids subcutaneously, leaving a liquid-filled hump in the kittens' backs. I gave it a try and nearly passed out at the sound of the kitten screeching. The vet was prepared to send me home with needles and packages of fluid but, as my knees buckled and my face flushed, I realized that I wasn't up to the task. I had to leave the kittens behind to be cared for in the nursery. It left me with a feeling of failure, however I knew that overextending my abilities would not be in the kittens' best interest.

Pixie was a deaf Pomeranian. She spent most of her time with us snoozing in a cat carrier. We had to stamp our feet to get her to come out. Scott nicknamed her "Pissie" for her habit of peeing on the floor the moment we let her in from the back yard.

Araps was a purebred Lab who had twice been hit by cars. He had lost his tail and he walked askew, but he was otherwise normal and demonstrated the usual Lab penchant for chewing. I had a habit of calling home to check for messages while I was at work and I wondered if the ringing phone was an annoyance to Araps. One day the answer awaited us in slobbery pieces on the living room floor. At first I couldn't identify the mangled object, but Scott cleared up my confusion when he picked up a tiny piece, put it to his ear and said, "Hello?" We collected the bits and pieces and have displayed them in a shadow box next to a photo of Araps.

Angel was an older sheltie who was either deaf or aloof. She constantly lay by the front door, possibly anticipating the return of her former owners. While walking her one day I met some neighbours who were seeking a companion for their Australian shepherd. They fell in love with Angel. When they learned that she was a foster dog, they began calling the shelter daily in the hope of adopting her. For one reason or another their request was denied, however the last time I bumped into them they introduced me to their new sheltie puppy, Peewee.

My final fostering assignment was a cat named Snowball and her three newborns. Sadly, my lousy luck with felines continued. Snowball became ill and refused to nurse her kittens. I returned them all to the shelter.

Shortly after returning the last fosters, Scott surprised me for my birthday with a trip to a breeder. Knowing that he is not a dog person, I was touched by his selflessness. There was a catch, however. If I got a puppy of my own, I would have to cease bringing home "rental pets," as he put it. I didn't like that condition, but honestly... could I resist Ferris?

August 17, 2006

"...not very pleased at all."

What do you expect when you ask a dog to guard stuffed animals? Some may call this incident tragic, but it made me laugh out loud.

On the road again

Following each driving lesson, my instructor, Lino, writes a comment in my workbook. I had a lesson yesterday evening, after which I came inside, flipped open my workbook, and found that Lino had written this:

"She scares me."

August 15, 2006

More tests for Ferris?

Following Ferris' bloodwork last week, the vet called to say that, once again, Ferris has elevated levels of this, that and the other. He wants us to return to the clinic for further testing. I am losing confidence in the vet, as he continually orders more tests and prescribes various medications but provides no relief. I'm beginning to suspect that he is more fond of my bank account than he is of my dog.

Our breeder is strongly against giving Berners systemic meds like Revolution. Our groomer was appalled that the vet diagnosed mange over the telephone. Friends and family alike are telling me that I'm being hosed. The vet's response would be that, unlike his critics, he went to school. But as someone pointed out, in every class, including medical and veterinary school, one student has to finish at the bottom of the class. How do you know that's not your medical professional?

It's time for a second opinion. Are steroids as good as some say, or are they as dangerous as others warn? Did they aggravate an existing liver problem or did they cause one? Does Ferris even have a liver problem? What is causing his weight loss? Are his apparent hallucinations due to his constant itchiness or is there more to it? When will he be healthy enough to be vaccinated? And can I find out the answers to these questions for less than a thousand bucks, please?

August 11, 2006

It's always something.

This morning it was dog vomit. Three puddles of it. One on Ferris' mat, and two on the bed in his crate. The latter two puddles contained a bit of blood, so off to the vet we went. If nothing else, I figured it would give Ferris a good half-hour walk.

I called ahead and promised to be at the clinic by 9:00 am, but it's garbage day and you can't rush a dog on garbage day. There's just so much to sniff. By the time we arrived we were in line behind something that appeared to be a growling wad of Kleenex and a pit bull who had swallowed a "foreign body." When I got to the counter I noticed that the receptionist had already prepared an estimate for $618. "Kill me now," I thought. "Save Scott the trouble."

Eventually the vet was able to squeeze us in, and I am now at home awaiting the results of Ferris' blood test. He's off the steroids until this new problem is resolved, which may mean a resumption of his hideous itching. It's always something.

Caution: gross photo below

Spot the Greenies

August 10, 2006

Doggy potty training

Ferris has his own bathroom. It's more like a 10' x 15' gravel-lined potty behind our garage. We paid several hundred dollars for a junk removal company to haul away all the garbage that we found there when we moved in, and now it's full of crap again.

It took a great deal of patience and persistence to train Ferris to use his bathroom. Hurriedly getting dressed and racing to the back of the yard in the middle of the night with my whining puppy in my arms, being vigilant about ushering him to his bathroom if I caught him sniffing the lawn, ensuring that he did his business in the right place before we took him anywhere... all measures that I knew would pay off someday. Still waiting for that day. It seemed to work for a while, but now, at 16 months of age, Ferris has regressed.

When I first began finding surprises and dead patches of grass in the yard, I thought that Ferris was suggesting that I should clean his bathroom more often. But now that I've witnessed the look of blissful defiance on his face when he relieves himself on the lawn, I realize it's more than that. Experts say that a large-breed dog is an adolescent at this age. Ferris, however, is going through the canine equivalent of the terrible twos. And I'm not handling it very well.

Before his walk every evening, I bring Ferris to his bathroom and command, "Go poop." He sniffs around to find the perfect spot, then, standing tall and proud, he pees on the back of his front feet. (He never figured out the leg-lift.) Pleased with himself, he saunters toward the lawn. I block his way and repeat my command. "Go poop!" He stares at me, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, and pants. "Do you want to go for a walk?" (Tail wag.) "Then... go POOP." Ferris seems to comprehend, as he begins walking in circles and sniffing the gravel. "Good boy, go poop!" I encourage. Ferris stops circling and makes a dash for the lawn. "No, Ferris. GO POOP!" Sometimes this goes on for ten minutes. This evening, the battle lasted for a half hour and, for the first time, I lost. I finally gave up, said, "No walk" and went inside, wondering how I would handle being a parent if I can't even avoid getting into power struggles with my dog.

August 07, 2006

I feel MUCH better now.

Hooray for steroids! Now Ferris can become a home-run champ or kick butt at the next Olympics.


Apparently my father has fallen off the Jays bandwagon.

I don't think my uncle Tony has ever been on the wagon.

(And yes, I am posting this for their benefit. Enjoy, fellas!)

August 04, 2006

Mangy mutt

Watching Ferris running about the yard this morning, I saw just how much fur he has chewed off the back of his legs and how tiny he looks compared to his old self. We've had him on prescription kibble for a while and yet his itchiness has shown no sign of subsiding. I phoned the vet, who is now convinced that Ferris has mange.

Notoedres mite

I'll be picking up Revolution and steroids at the clinic this afternoon. I am hoping for quick relief for my mangy mutt.

August 03, 2006

Driving lesson #3

Official driving lesson #3 took place yesterday. After I had climbed into the driver's seat, adjusted the mirrors and fastened my seatbelt, Lino looked out the window at my straw-coloured lawn and asked, "What's with your grass? Don't you know you're supposed to add water?"

I'm not sure what the curriculum was supposed to be for this lesson, but Lino had me attempt just one three-point turn before he decided to let me drive around aimlessly for an hour. A few times he held on for dear life and yelled, "You can't do that!" Each time I replied, "I just did."

Eventually, perhaps to distract himself from the life-threatening situation he found himself in, Lino pulled out his cell phone and made a call. Rather than phoning his lawyer to ensure that his affairs were in order, he called a friend, probably someone with a calm, soothing voice. I was feeling neglected, so I began a play-by-play account of my actions. "Did you see that? I nearly clipped that cyclist! Man, I really hate staying in my lane, eh? If we didn't have the Young Drivers sign on the roof, for sure I'd be pulled over and required to demonstrate my sobriety..."

Lino claimed to be booked up next week, so I'll have to wait two whole weeks before I can build on the skills that I learned in this last lesson. Rats!


Site Meter shows me what sites people visited just before they stumbled across mine. The latest visitor found a link to my page on the blog of my ol' buddy Jish.

Jish (or as I refer to him, JISHie) and I were paired up as WalkSafe partners back at McGill University. Initially we volunteered together once a week, but it wasn't long before we were hanging out as friends. To meet Jish is to like him immediately. His mischievous sense of humour and his zest for life are spirit lifting and -- ah, I'd better stop before I embarrass him.