Friday, 20 January 2012


I am recently returned from Victoria, B.C. where my sister lives and where she was having surgery.  My role during this event was to keep her dog happy-ish, to make sure Sis survived the experience and to run the household and do the cooking when she first came home.  I think I can safely say that I achieved all of those goals.  The dog might not agree, but I’m not consulting her.
            Peanut is a rescue dog and a small dog (8 pounds)—both of these conditions mean that she’s not the cuddliest animal, as she seems to be always anticipating mistreatment, accidental or otherwise.  But we reached an agreement of sorts:  I fed her and made sure she got outside regularly and she eventually decided that I might not be the evil step-sister.  By the end of my stay, she would actually wag her tail at me and allow spontaneous caresses.
            I admire the dedication of dog owners.  They are required to get up in good time, even on weekends, because the dog must go out.  If they don’t have a fenced yard, they must get dressed and accompany said dog.  And at the other end of the day, there’s no getting into your jammies early and reading in bed—you must stay dressed until the last doggie bathroom opportunity has passed.  This is more self-discipline than I can maintain for more than a few days.  The inability to have a pajama day about once a month would send me into a tailspin of unhappiness.
            Peanut also has health issues that the SPCA knew nothing about.  She ended up with bowel and bladder problems that have only been solved by a special diet—one cooked and assembled by my sister.  You haven’t lived until you’ve made dog food.  It was one of the first required tasks when I arrived in Victoria and we made a double batch just before I came home.  The dog eats better than we did—chicken breast, brown rice, peas, various oils and a vitamin supplement.  Basically, expensive chicken and rice salad for dogs.  However, she has responded to this diet very favourably.  The expensive medicated food purchased in the vet’s office had to be tamped down her little throat, but she eats the new homemade mixture willingly (and in fact, with less exercise than usual during my sister’s hospitalization, she’s actually getting a little coating of lard on her ribs on this diet).  The best part?  No more expensive vet visits.  When I owned rabbits, the motto of our household was “No vet bills,” so I completely understand the joy of having solved the problem!
            The “game” each morning was to find where Peanut had chosen to hide for the night, extract her from her crevice and get her outside before her teeny bladder exploded.  The final morning when it was just the two of us, she finally volunteered to come out of hiding and report to the back door.  Breakthrough!  That evening, she actually sat with me on the sofa and repeatedly murdered her stuffed squeaky reindeer.  There must be a lot of homicidal rage in her small body—the toy died many horrible deaths.
            Walkies were another challenge.  In the beginning, I had to carry Peanut out of the house, no matter how badly she needed to relieve herself.  She would stand mournfully on the back step, refusing to move under her own steam.  Eventually, I carried her to the end of the driveway, reasoning that if she wanted back in the house, she would at least have to walk back to the door.  On day two, she seemed to realize that this wasn’t just some complex torture scheme that I had developed for her—this was actually an activity to make her more comfortable.  Her participation, though not enthusiastic, was at least successful.  Happiness can sometimes be a warm dog poop—for Peanut and for me, realizing that I wouldn’t have to clean it off the floor indoors.  The bottom line was that she needed to be within sight of the house, in case my sister should suddenly reappear.  No long walks allowed.
            Once we returned to the great in-of-doors, Peanut would usually deign to eat her carefully prepared chow.  I could almost hear her saying to herself, “Well, as long as I’m standing here, I might as well eat this.”  She did actually set a record of eating 5 servings before producing a poop—I think her eyes were actually bulging at that point! 
            Needless to say, we all survived.  Dog and owner were joyfully reunited after 4 days and order was thus restored to the universe.  Only one doggie accident happened indoors.  I had no accidents and have happily returned to a dog-free existence.  Life is good.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy New Year!

I have successfully navigated into 2012 and I am excited to get after the goals that I have set for myself this year.  I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I do generally take some time to evaluate the old year and set some aims for the New Year.  In looking back at 2011, I realized that it was a year of contemplation, evaluation and planning.  My surgery in April slowed me down and gave me six weeks leave to do very little except to examine where my life was and where I might like it to go. 
            The rest from my usual schedule, which I tend to pack much too full, gave me the breathing space to have a look at alternatives.  I know one thing for sure about myself:  I am an introvert, which, for you extroverts out there, does not mean that I am lonely, antisocial or hostile towards others.  Extroverts get their energy renewed by spending time with people; introverts get theirs from spending quiet time alone with their own thoughts.  One of the reasons that starting a blog was disquieting for me is that it does reveal the true me to the world:  my intellectual life is the part of me that I tend to think of as the “real me” and I protect that person from the slings and arrows of the outside world. 
            Interestingly, any of the personality tests that I have taken have identified me as an introvert, but always very close to the borderline between that state and extroversion.  I do enjoy time spent with friends and need their company to have a full and complete life.  Without friends, who would drag me to movies?  Who would I convince to attend conferences with me?  Who would I talk over the frustrations and joys of life?  I realized as I recovered from surgery how lucky I was to have the circle of friends that I do.  One friend took me to the hospital, helped me find where I ought to be and stayed until I had removed my street clothes and put on the hospital gown.  Without her, I might have just walked right back out the front door and chickened out completely.  Another woman collected me from the hospital and made sure I got home safely.  A third friend was my emergency contact and was on hand for my first shower in case anything went wrong.  Numerous people visited both in hospital and at home, took me to get my staples out, offered tea and sympathy, and were just there, providing emotional support during a time of weakness.  I love them all.
            Those six weeks of recovery started a trend in 2011—once I was back into the swing of regular life, I started to journal in a serious way, following up on the many lines of thought that the down time had started.  I vowed to write three pages a day in my journal until such time as the exercise produced some insights.  Word to the wise, don’t start a program like this unless you really want to know what’s wrong in your life and are willing to make some changes.  I distinctly remember the day that some little person inside me got tired of the regular litany of things that were bothering me and the problem solving that I had been engaging in on the journal page.  It was like another person grabbed the pen and said “Okay, you’ve wanted to know what should change to make you happier—here it is.  This is what you need to change.”  Very startling the first time it happened, but it started to be a welcome voice, offering great advice.  Sorry, X-Files, the truth isn’t “out there”, it’s inside me. 
            After realizing how important my friendships are to my happiness, I have declared 2012 to be the Year of the Friend.  My plan is to spend time with my current pals and to make a few new ones too.  This may entail attending a few more meetings that I have over the last several years and digging myself out of the comfort zone of my home (to go out into the world where potential friends may be found).  I’m also vowing to get over my discomfort with the telephone, to get my home internet connection made to make email and Facebook more useful and to be the one to make the first overture more often.  Being an introvert, I’m not marvellous at making small talk—if I’m ever going to acquire the skill, this is the year.  So, friends beware, I’m going to be getting in touch more regularly and taking more initiative this year.  I hope you don’t get tired of hearing from me!