Let Me Count the Maisy Ways

It’s February. We’ve had a week of 60s F weather, and the trails are *mostly* iced out although still pretty muddy So I swapped the skis out of and the scooter into the van and we’ve gotten out 3x this week. I can’t remember the last time I ran dogs 3 days in one week.

And once again I am reminded how awesome Maisy is. My little enforcer…

1. Drags his smug looking and not-at-all sorry face away from the tree he just blew an “on by” for.

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2. Body blocks him when he sees some deer off the trail and wants to veer off.

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3. Keeps body blocking while he gets his shit together.

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4. Yet again, adding a little shove to the block.

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5. Once more for the kids in the back, “I SAID WE’RE GOING ON BY THE DEER SQUASH”

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6. She knows how to sneak a peek at the deer without breaking stride.

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Also, I just really like this picture:

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On the Pip front, he is continuing to do very well. We are about 7 weeks out from his surgery and so far so good. He got to go to the dog park today; with the heat wave we’ve been having the river has mostly iced out as well so he got a little water time, which I’m very grateful for. He doesn’t swim so much anymore but he loves to play in the water and I really wanted him to feel well long enough to get back at least once.

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Just a Thing I Wrote About Pip

A little bit of his hair is in my eye, but I don’t really mind. This has become our bedtime ritual, he waits for me to get into bed and open my ereader before coming to my side of the bed where he sits, watching; going through the motions of politely waiting to be invited up as if he wouldn’t just wait until I was asleep and get on the bed anyway. I move the same blankets to clear the same little space on the sheet which I pat like I do every night and he hops up and plops down next to me, so close that my temple and shoulder are pressed against his back as I read.

He’s warm, it feels good on a cold February night. He runs hot, always has, and he likes to cuddle up. He’s the best dog to take along on the edges of camping season when it might still or already get chilly at night in a tent. My little fuzzy space heater. I wonder if we’ll ever get to take another camping trip together; spring seems so far away. I’m suddenly very glad I took him last fall.

I was worried it would feel desperate and clingy and all-encompassing, this uncertain space of time between knowing and letting go. At first it did, but we’ve made it a month without catastrophe and he’s still feeling well and now that we’re familiar with this place it feels calmer, more ok. Good, even? No, not exactly good, but… it feels pure. It’s surprisingly freeing, all expectations and worry over consequences (go ahead and have a[nother] bite of my sandwich or ten more treats, what’s the worst that could happen you’re dying for crying out loud) have fallen away at the same time patience and forgiveness (muddy pawprints clean up so easily, and you’re not really snoring THAT loudly and I only need half the pillow anyway) have blossomed and what is left is so true and pure and full of old memories and new memories being born.

It occurs to me that this is how we should be with all those we love, all the time. We’re all dying, really, just some more imminently than others. I wonder if I’m capable of doing so. I decide to try, though patience has never been my strong suit.

With that thought, I close the reader and as I set it on the nightstand we both sigh our last sigh before sleep, another ritual; I think he just enjoys the memory foam mattress topper but for me it means “yup, we had another good day together.” I know it’s real, that he’s still here for now. I’ve got his hair in my eye to prove it.

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(Edit: Because this post has been shared with people who don’t know us, I’d like to clarify that Pip has been diagnosed with a malignant form of cancer called hemangiosarcoma. We don’t know exactly how long we have left with him, but we are looking at months. Writing this has been an effort to help sort out my feelings about knowing what, but not knowing when. As of today he is feeling well and we are trying to just live in that state of pure enjoyment each day. Thanks for kind words and thoughts, and if you’re going through the same thing, you’re not alone.)

Posted in Not Mushing, Pip | 1 Comment

Well, it’s 2017

It’s been pretty quiet around here. Like last winter, this winter has been stingy with the snow and a little too generous with the thaws, freezing rain, and ice. We’ve been skijoring a handful of times and hope to get up to the Gunflint soon to get our fix, but mostly we have to find indoor things to do.

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(Our most recent snowfall, which sadly has already mostly melted away.)

But I’m really here because I have some sad news, I just didn’t want to start out sad. A few weeks ago Pip was feeling pretty crummy and ultimately was diagnosed with a tumor on his spleen. In dogs, these tumors are either really really good (completely benign, remove spleen and all is well) or really really bad (very malignant, removing spleen does not make much difference). Of course the kicker is that you can’t tell for sure unless you remove it and send the whole thing in to a pathologist. With about a 50/50 chance of each, we decided to go ahead and take it out.

Unfortunately, Pip’s tumor was malignant hemangiosarcoma, basically the worst possible diagnosis. I don’t regret doing the surgery, his recovery was really smooth and he’s back to his normal self and feeling great. I’d take the same chance again in the same circumstances. We just don’t have much time with him from here on out. It could be two months, it might be six months, but it won’t be very long. Certainly not long enough.

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So, he’ll feel good until he doesn’t. Right now he does and we’re trying to just enjoy it. It’s a very bittersweet time. I’m very very grateful for the time we’ve bought together. Each time he does something silly or adorable or even just completely and utterly ordinary normal Pip, I realize how precious it all is and how fortunate we are to have a little extra time with him. He feels so good right now that it’s easy to forget any of this is happening. But then sometimes I look at him, mostly when he’s sleeping and looks so sweet and peaceful, I remember and it hits me and my heart just squeezes. So little time left.

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Being a dog, he’s blissfully unaware of what the future is bringing, and while I can’t un-know what I know I’m trying to navigate the end of things with as much love and laughter as possible and trying to let the anticipation and sadness slide off. He’s getting some extra privileges and lots of snacks and bones and all of the other good things he loves. And I know when the time comes that he’s feeling unwell again we’ll have to say goodbye, but it’s not today. Not today.

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Just Keep Mushing

Fall training has been up and down this year. Towards the end of the summer, Squash pulled a muscle in his shoulder during an off leash hike that required rest for several weeks. Subsequently, he re-injured it at agility and had to rest again. We’ve been doing exercises and stretches and slowly building back to normal activities, and he’s good for mushing so we’ve been working on conditioning. He’s still out of agility at the moment but should be good to go back, restarting slowly, in the next week or two.

Today I didn’t grab the GoPro as I was heading out for a run but didn’t think much of it. Some days I bring it, other days I don’t. Of course today of all days it would have been nice to have because we had some challenging tests of our ON BY skills, one of which I’m sure would be hilarious to the viewing audience, and went 1 and 1 with them.

In the first, Squash and I had an epic battle of wills over a squirrel which inexplicably decided to run only 5-6 feet up a tree that was only a foot or two off the trail. In other words, pretty much in front of the dogs’ faces. Maisy was perfect as (almost) always but she’s little in the face of a determined Squash. For that matter, the two of us together are little in the face of a determined Squash. I spent a good amount of time untangling lines and resetting the dogs only to have him spin and stare/whine at the squirrel. Eventually, though, our impasse ended and we got moving again.

While he was still amped up on adrenaline from that encounter, we came to a fork in the road and I must say the dogs executed a committed, stunning right turn despite the turkeys standing in the middle of the trail down the left turn. He knew they were there, he was longing to hear COME ON HAW pass my lips, but he turned GEE when I asked him to.

I do this for fun and to exercise my dogs. Other than a few skijor races, I don’t compete in events. I don’t make a living running dogs. So my standards for my dogs are perhaps slightly lax compared to other mushers. That being said, although I can appreciate the humor in spectacular failures like our 5 minute squirrel standoff this morning, it can be frustrating to put time into training and practicing and have something go so wrong.

I don’t always get the instant gratification of a beautiful success right after an ugly failure like I did today, but it was a nice lesson for me. Just keep mushing, just keep mushing. Nobody is perfect, and one flop doesn’t erase all the successes. For every squirrel standoff there’s a turkey turn. Just keep mushing.

Posted in Bloopers, Scootering, Successes, Training | Leave a comment

Montreal’s Mayor Hates Dogs (and Cats)

All 3 of the Mush Puppies could easily fall under the “pit bull type” based on their appearances. Thank god my city is too sane to require me to pay $450 in fees, muzzle them whenever they’re out of my yard, and keep them on a THREE foot leash – which would make mushing impossible. Come on, Montreal, get your shit together.

Ray the Vicktory Dog

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Yesterday the Montreal City Council voted almost 2 to 1 to adopt an extremely harsh animal by-law.  One that punishes all dogs and owners, but most especially blocky headed pit bull terrier type dogs.  Or ones that look like them.  Or ones that might have any dna of one.

The by-law is incredibly restrictive, and in some cases cruel beyond belief.  Most people are concentrating on what it does to pitties…but it effects every single dog owner in the city.  Let’s take a look at some of the information I uncovered in my research:

The portion aimed at pit bull terrier like dogs encompasses these type of dogs:

  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • Staffordshire Terriers
  • American Pit Bull Terriers
  • Any mixed breed dog which has any degree of these breeds in his make-up
  • Any dog who presents with characteristics of these breeds, regardless of actual breed (if your dog has short hair, or a…

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How I Rollerskijored and Tracked Myself Out of a Well.

So, yeah. Rehoming a pet you still love deeply is a weird, grieving-not-grieving experience. Watching them thrive and be happy is amazing and wonderful and terrible and confusing. I find myself vacillating between desperately not wanting to be a creepy “your dog used to be my dog” stalker and longing to ask how he’s doing. Add to that the dismal feelings of failure and shame, add a dash of paranoid feelings that people you know and respect now despise you, and it’s all very mentally exhausting. So it’s not surprising, really, that after Toast left us I spiraled down into one of the worst depressive episodes I’ve had in a good long time. (Well I’m pretty good at faking it so maybe it is surprising to some people.)

Thank god for the other dogs, because they forced me to at least go through the motions even if I wasn’t enjoying things. It’s hard to completely skip activities and classes when you have a squirrelly polar bear in your face. They need stuff even when you don’t feel like doing stuff. So we marched on through the summer together. The weather (alternately blazing hot or pouring rain) kept us from mushing regularly, and then later in the summer a minor but nagging injury sidelined Squash from agility.

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But the one vaguely positive thing about these episodes for me is that I develop a sort of not feeling, not caring, invincible recklessness that can pass for bravery if you don’t look too hard. In my younger days that led me down some questionable roads but acting out is a little different in my 40s so it looked more like this: After a few years of not trialing we returned to the ring and finished Squash’s RL1 in WCRL rally (and subsequently registered for additional trials), I bought some rollerskis after learning that my regular cross country ski boots would fit the bindings, and signed Squash up for a novice tracking class as an alternative to agility until he could return.

The potentially most dangerous of these was rollerskijoring. In retrospect I kind of wonder what I was thinking. I’ve only done it with Maisy so far, at first because even I wasn’t reckless enough to go with both dogs right out of the gate and later because of Squash’s injury. It was hard to get my rollerski legs under me; it’s like and not like skiing. Once we get some momentum going it feels exactly like skate skiing to me but getting started felt so hard. Still, once Maisy decided the rollerskis weren’t going to eat her and got into it, it was fun. Like, really fun. It felt fun. I think that’s when I might have very first started to feel more like myself again, to feel like anything at all, after our first few runs.

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lookit me with my PP and my MP

 

I was really missing agility when I signed up for tracking, and it was mostly a way to keep Squash engaged in an activity while he was taking a break. But I’ve come to not only like it for itself, but love how it has changed up my sleeping habits and typical morning routine as well as re-energized my interest in and enjoyment of a number of everyday tasks. Most days I work an afternoon/evening shift, and traditionally I was a stay up late, sleep late person. Now, on my mornings off I typically get up early to take Squash tracking, stop and do an errand on the way home (grocery shopping, pet supplies, whatever), do some chores when I get home, +/- take Pip and/or Maisy out, and take a short nap before going to work. I feel better. I’m cooking more. Chores are small tasks here and there rather than dedicating a day to them all. I’m writing a blog post for the first time in forever. All because I found something enjoyable and reinforcing enough (tracking) to get up early for.

 

I barely know what I’m doing here. We’re doing very short, young, heavily-rewarded tracks for the moment. But it’s fun and we’re doing it together and it’s getting me out of bed and back into the world. Into enjoying the world. As Squash’s exercise restrictions get lifted we’ll probably shift back towards mushing again, but for now we’re having fun.

Ain’t dogs and dog stuff grand?

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Seems Appropriate

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