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.

DCIM105GOPRO

(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.

play

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.

sleepyhead

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.

Posted in Pip, Skijoring | Leave a comment

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

peta pic

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…

View original post 881 more words

Posted in Scootering | Leave a comment

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.

chinwoe

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.

DCIM104GOPRO

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?

Posted in Scootering | Leave a comment

Seems Appropriate

no_lie

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Heart vs. Head

When I started this blog, I promised myself I would always be as transparent about my lows as I was about my highs. On the internet, it’s so easy to get the sanitized version of everyone’s lives and think everyone else is doing everything right while you’re the only one bumbling along. I wanted anyone else beating themselves up for not being perfect to know that they weren’t alone with their bloopers and mistakes.

In that vein, I am very sad to tell you that soon I will be driving Toast back to his breeder. My head knows this is necessary, the best thing for all of us. But my heart isn’t quite convinced, and it’s breaking over and over.

It’s not because I don’t like him, or love him, or he’s not good at the things I want him to be good at. He’s a fantastic dog, an amazing athlete, an incredible mushinois and discinois. He grew into a bit more dog than anticipated, but that’s not really it either (although I’ve felt some low level guilt for some time that he might be happier in an IPO home). I don’t have the energy or the desire to explain the situation in minute detail, but briefly: Toast and Squash aren’t safe together right now. They had one major fight earlier this year but were completely fine with one another the next day. They had another major fight last week and this time, they cannot even see each other without wanting to fight. I don’t have either the physical space or mental fortitude to manage them via crate/rotate and don’t have the training chops to safely and effectively help them fix their relationship.

I find that I simultaneously want to rip off the bandaid and leave yesterday, but also wish the day we leave would never actually come. Squash is staying elsewhere for now. I miss him, but both my and Toast’s stress have decreased significantly which has allowed us to spend as much of the time we have left as we can just having fun… mostly playing a lot of disc, a little mushing, lots of hiking and swimming, some flirt pole, and plenty of snuggles.

To my friends, family, and coworkers who have been supportive and kind about this decision, thank you so much. It helps, probably more than you realize.  I don’t know how people make hard decisions or live with those hard decisions without people like you.

To people who think I’m making a crappy decision, I haven’t tried hard enough, or some other variation thereof, I’d like to gently remind you that I haven’t shared everything I’ve tried. And I’d like to invite you to try to separate these two very large, very strong dogs (who, by the way, do not diffuse if physically separated during a fight but continue to try to reach each other [or redirect] until they are completely separated from one another’s presence out of one another’s sight) during a fight.  Or worry every single day that your management will break down and you’re going to go through it all again and wonder if next time it will be even worse.

For those of you experiencing some schadenfreude right now, I hope it’s delicious.  I get it, I don’t wear a halo myself, and I probably deserve it.

And for anyone who wants to tear me a new one, go nuts I guess…. I’m pretty sure you can’t think anything about or say anything to me that I haven’t already thought about or said to myself, though. I don’t, however, want to see anything negative about his breeders. They were completely transparent about his breed, his parents, and his litter from the beginning, have been nothing but supportive of and kind to me throughout his time with me, and are providing him a fantastic place to land in preparation for the next chapter in his life.

 

 

So we’ll have one last road trip together before we have to say goodbye, my sweet, best boy. I’m so, so glad you were my Toasties, even if it was just for a little while. I love you so much and I always will no matter where you are. I’m so sorry I couldn’t give you what you needed to stay here with me, but I’ll always be grateful and happy for the time we spent together. We had such a good time, just such really good time, and you taught me so much about so many things and forced me out of my comfort zone many times in the best possible way. I know you’re going to go on to do amazing things in all your adventures to come, but I will miss you, best brown dog. Very best brown dog.

bestbrowndog

 

Posted in Not Mushing, Toast | 9 Comments

Pip Day the 11th

bdaypip

 

The second of our spring Mush Puppy birthdays is upon us, this time our honorary MP Pip.  So I suppose we might as well continue making 2016 the Year of Telling MPs’ Stories.

The first dog I got as an adult was a retired racing greyhound named Desire. She was a really fantastic dog in a lot of ways, but in particular she came into my life at a time when I was really lost and helped me put some things back together.

IF

Best Girl

She and I, and later my husband, navigated all the changes of young adulthood together; school, graduation, first “real” job, marriage, first house.  I can’t recommend these retired racers enough, but when she died I couldn’t bear the thought of having another dog too like her so I started looking on Petfinder for the most un-greyhound like dog I could find.

I found Pip.

teenagepip

First day home.

That was 2005, and like all the dogs I’ve had in my life I’ve learned many lessons from Pip over the years. Though incredibly sweet and cuddly with people he knows, he’s shy and wary of people he doesn’t know and has taught me a tremendous amount about advocating for your shy dog. He came to me a severe resource guarder, and we slowly but steadily transformed that from a bite risk to a “listening to Pip complain” risk. When Squash was a teenager, Pip’s fun policing escalated to an attack and he taught me an enormous amount about repairing dog/dog relationships: Desensitization, counter-conditioning, management, and rebuilding trust. And he’s the very best bed warmer on a cold winter day.

We’ve come a long way together and we’re both 11 years older since we first met. He’s not drivey; we don’t mush or play agility or disc or any other sport. But he’s the dog who quietly sleeps at my feet at the end of the day, still loves to hike and swim, sleeps in and takes naps like a champ, and can always calm and quiet my heart and soul. So I hope there are many more Pip days to come.

pipsupe

Camping on Lake Superior

 

bdaypip5

Yes, I baked him a cake.

Posted in Not Mushing, Pip | 1 Comment