Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Ode to Merly

A friend of mine lost a dog a few days ago, and it reminded me that I never really posted about Merly on this blog, other than to briefly mention her passing.  I decided it was high time I did.

We got Merlyn Anne Durham in Texas, the first year that we were together.  We were driving through our neighborhood when we saw a handwritten sign announcing, "Free Puppies".  We debated back and forth for a week, before walking two blocks to inquire about the puppies.

It turns out they were what is now known as crossbreeds, meaning they were the product of two different purebred breeds.  Mom was a champion Dalmatian, and Dad was the purebred Lab that jumped a six-foot fence to get to her.  The puppies, who by this time were close to 16 weeks old, looked more like Holstein cows than they did like Dalmatians--instead of spots, they had large black splotches on their VERY white fur. 

We named her after a character on a tv show we were watching at the time, a show called "American Gothic."  The name of the young girl on the show, Merlyn Anne, went hand in hand with the name of our other dog at the time, Arthur.

Because we got her near the end of her prime socialization period, and because at the time neither we nor her dam's owners knew anything about properly socializing an animal, Merly was never really good in public.  She would bark and jump at people she saw in the distance, and she would go ballistic if she saw a dog while on leash.  It wasn't much better in the car--if she saw a dog, she would throw herself at the windows as if she wanted to go through them and murder the other animal.

Nonetheless, she was the smartest dog either one of us had ever seen, and the sweetest, and we loved her.  She moved from Texas to British Columbia to California to Ontario with us.  She loved the heat in Texas and California, absolutely HATED the rain in BC, and was cold ALL the time in Ontario.  She didn't like to be outside unless it was roasting, and spent most of her time here in Ontario either huddled in front of a fireplace or curled up on a warm dog bed.

She learned to walk at "heel" the first time we ever put her on a leash, she defended our house from intruders one day when the back door blew open while we were out, and she delighted in laying out in the sun in the hottest weather.  She ate a couch and never learned not to get things off the kitchen counter.  She was learning clicker training just by watching us teach Lance.

We got Lance to be a companion to her, to liven her up and get her moving again at the age of twelve.  And while that strategy worked, deep down she hated him.  But she never blamed us.  And four months after we got him, we discovered she had cancer.  Six weeks later, this past March, we made the incredibly hard decision to let her go.

I still miss her terribly, and occasionally still cry when I think about her, as I'm doing now.

One of her favorite pastimes:  'scroonching' in the warm sunlight.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kai's 1st Trip to the Dog Park

Against our trainer's advice, we took Kai on his very 1st trip to the local dog park today.  It actually went pretty well.  He met about 20 new dogs, and about the same number of new people.  (Because he was taken from his litter early, we're doubling the recommended 100 dogs/200 people met before being 20 weeks old.  So far, he's "collected"  151 people and 70 dogs. )

Interestingly enough, there were mostly big dogs there today, most of them nearing a hundred pounds.  Lance, of course, was ecstatic--lots and lots of playmates.  And Kai?  Kai didn't seem fazed at all.  He seemed more comfortable meeting these dogs, all off-leash, than he does playing with the other puppies in puppy class.  Maybe it's because he's so accustomed to playing with his big brother.

Here he is on his way into the park, meeting his first dog-park dog.

And this one was taken right before he got REALLY dirty:

On to the Niagara DogFest this weekend!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


As those of you who know me personally are aware, I am the clumsiest person on the planet.  If any of you who don't know me play role-playing games, think of me as having a dexterity of about 10-20% under average.  Never mind walking across a flat surface--I have fallen and semi-seriously hurt myself just standing still.

I can't remember if the last injury was when I fell down the stairs and broke the rice maker or when I slipped on a discarded straw while getting into a bus seat, but the most current one happened today in my kitchen.  This is not entirely my fault.  I don't know what moron chose the tile for our kitchen, the tile which we couldn't afford to replace when we re-did the kitchen, but it is so slippery when wet that even sure-footed, athletic types have fallen on it.  Even the DOGS, on their four legs, fall on it.

Moving on--I was refilling the DWD (dog watering device), which with two Shilohs has to be done almost daily, and I didn't notice the very small puddle of water under my right Croc.  Two steps later, down I go.  Now, I COULD have stayed on my feet, but it would have meant putting all my weight on Lance's ribs.  In the split second I decided that was a bad idea, I realized that I was surrounded by two large puppies, and had no where else to conveniently put my foot.  So I over-reached, knocked over a kitchen chair (with the camera bag on it, no less), and fell smack on my knees.  Ouch.

As I sat on the floor, trying to recover, and trying not to cry (I'm a huge crybaby.), Lance came over, as he always does in these instances, to try and comfort me.  He puts his enormous head against me and just lets me lean on him.  And it works, too.  It's VERY comforting, and usually makes me feel a lot better. (While the noble Lance did this, the super-mischievous Kai took the opportunity to bite my hair, bite my clothing, and bite my hand.  I swear we should have named that dog Loki.)

Luckily, I wasn't too badly hurt.  Just two scraped-up and bruised knees.  Oh, and a bruised shoulder from where I hit the kitchen chair.  Still, it could have been worse, especially as I was home alone at the time.

Sigh.  It's time for more analgesics. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

On Fire

I've been wanting to get more witchy in my blogging, and now I easily can.  I found Pagan Blog Prompts a couple of weeks ago, and this is the first time I've gotten brave enough to use it.  The current prompt is: 

"Extreme Temperatures

For a lot of Pagans, worship and rituals take place outside when at all possible. What about when the weather is just too hot or too cold to do anything outside? How do you connect with nature when you can't be out in it?"

I have always, always, ALWAYS hated the heat.  Growing up in South Texas will do that to you.  (I used to hate sunny days, too, and for the same reason, but four years in BC's Lower Mainland cured me of that.)  This hate/hate relationship with hot weather never used to bother me, but then I found my true Path.  Now I feel guilty about how I see heat.  After all, Wicca is a nature religion, right?  And it's all about balance, right?  Yeah.  And here I am, dreading the next six weeks or so.

But I do realize that guilt is a Christian concept.  I shouldn't feel guilty about it, I should learn from it.  And so I'm trying.  I'm trying to get out and do more "summery" things--sit out on our makeshift patio, crawl out of the air conditioning and take a walk in the "lovely" heat, grow things in the garden, etc.  I'm trying to relearn how to dress as efficiently for the heat as I used to when I was a kid growing up without air conditioning.  I'm trying to not think of THE SUMMERLANDS as an absolutely dreadful place.

What about cold, you ask?  Cold has never been a problem.  I've always LOVED the cold.  Even if you can't perform a ritual skyclad in it, you can always add enough layers to go out in it.  Again, it goes back to my roots in South Texas--where I only experienced any degree of cold at all a handful of days a year.  My birthday is in January, and I HATED celebrating it in shorts.  I love living here in Ontario, where we get a REAL winter, with snow and everything.

But heat.  Ah, heat.  I am getting better.  I don't hate it as much as I used to.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Coming Out of the Closet

Broom Closet, that is.

To honor (and enter for) my friend PhoenixWitch's giveaway, a book entitled "Out of the Broom Closet:  50 True Stories of Witches Who Found and Embraced the Craft", I decided to blog about my own experience coming out.  (Check out the giveaway, and a good blog, here.)

I've actually been quite lucky--my story is pretty boring.  No high drama, no civil rights violations, no lost relationships or bad feelings.  I'm going to have to tell it in pieces, 'cause it's all been piecemeal, I didn't take out an ad in the paper or make any other kind of grand announcement.

It started out quietly, due to the fact that my DH was concerned about issues at his workplace.  I was dying to plaster it all over my Facebook page, but he didn't want his coworkers to know, and he was concerned about telling his family, many of whom are on Facebook.  I suppose I didn't really want to announce it to my own mother over FaceBook, either.  My DH and I both decided that we'd at least wait until we could tell our families personally.

I wanted to wait until I saw Mom face-to-face, but I felt that I was lying to her, keeping something so important in my life from her.  I ended up kind of blurting it out on the phone.  I'm really lucky in that my mom has always been super-supportive of me and my life decisions, so it didn't go badly.  It was a little dicier telling the rest of my family, which I did when I had to attend the funeral of a very dear aunt, and my entire family wondered why I didn't want to actively participate in the Catholic ceremony.  Still, when another 80+, very Catholic, aunt heard I'd changed religions and stated that it didn't matter, because all gods are one god, I felt truly accepted.

At this point, I REALLY wanted to be open about it to everyone I knew, but we still had the problems of DH's workplace and family.  I told a few people who were exclusively personal friends, not in his professional field at all, but that was the extent of it.  He ended up telling his mother in a phone conversation also, and although she has not been as accepting, he has yet to be disowned.  :)  At that point, I DID plaster it all over my FaceBook page, seeing as I am not FaceBook friends with any of his coworkers, so they'd be unlikely to see my page.

(The workplace issue was finally resolved when he took a ten days off for the Winter Holidays, and then his boss called and asked if he could come back in for a few hours, ON THE SOLSTICE!!!  His boss had no idea that there was anything special about the day, but I put my foot down and told Don, "No, absolutely not.  You are NOT working on Yule."  He ended up explaining to his boss that we weren't Christian, and the 21st was as important to us as Christmas Day is to him.  Voila--end of secrecy.  At that point, I stopped hiding my pentagram under my shirt when I visit Don at work, and he can now ask for other Wiccan holidays off.  And he can be free about what he posts on his own FaceBook page.)

The final revelation came when, at an Earth Hour party we threw, I drunkenly inadvertently revealed to all our neighbors that we are Wiccan.  Again, no fireworks, nobody storming off in anger, nobody avoiding us after.  (This IS Canada, after all.  :)  )  Just one admission that somebody's daughter had looked into Wicca, and one tasteless joke about why we didn't cast a spell and make the joker rich.

At this point, I still don't shout it from rooftops, but I don't hide it, either.  I wear my pentagram and other Craft jewelry freely anywhere I go, I leave Craft books out in plain site all over the house, and I'm willing to discuss it with anyone who asks.  And I feel wonderfully free and privileged to be living in this time and place, where I am able to be open about my Path without having to worry about nasty repercussions.

Bright Blessings, All!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


 Talking about the paranormal on a forum I'm on (The Witches' Path), I typed this in response to a query about a few events I'd witnessed:

The first incident happened when I was in high school.  Growing up in a very small town, the list of things to do was very short.  One of the things on it was just riding around with your friends with no particular purpose in mind, through town and around the nearby country roads.  One night, a group of us drove into the cemetery, circled a few times, and drove out.  As we turned out, we saw something black, human-sized but animal shaped, in the sweep of the headlights.  As we continued down the road, it started running on all fours alongside the car, but in the tall weeds on the side of the road, so we couldn't see it clearly.  We got a little nervous, and the driver accelerated, but the thing, whatever it was, kept up with us.  We were still thinking it was an animal of some sort (although nothing native to South Texas, mind you).  We started to get downright scared when we accelerated to about 35 mph, about as fast as we could safely go on the dirt road we were on, and it kept pace with us.  We really started freaking out at that point, and the driver went even faster, up to nearly 50 mph.  It finally started falling back, but as it lost ground, it turned and looked into the back seat, and its eyes were most definitely red, even though there were no lights reflecting in them, as it was well behind the headlights, and not far enough back for the taillights.  We all screamed at that point, and the driver floored it, almost losing control of the car.  She managed to get control of it, and we left as quickly as we could, circled a LONG way around, and went back to town.  In the subsequent days, we asked everyone we knew if they'd ever heard or seen anything like that, but no one had.  It was a long time before we went anywhere near that road again, though, especially at night.  I can still remember it quite clearly, and I still have no earthly idea what it might have been.  Or UNearthly idea, really.  Anybody have any ideas?

Another, less spectacular, incident happened when my husband and I moved into a house a few years ago.  After we moved in, we felt a little uncomfortable in it, so we had a friend cleanse it.  (Neither of us knew anything about it back then.)  She did a great job, and the house felt much better, but after she left we realized she'd forgotten to do the garage.  She came back the next day, and while we were standing by the garage door talking about it, the light over our heads flickered and went out, and a second later there was a crashing noise in the garage.  Hesitant as we were, we entered the garage to investigate, but found no evidence of anything having fallen.  Our friend cleansed the garage as she had the rest of the house, and we had no more problems.

And although I personally don't think of possible life on other planets as paranormal, I've also seen a UFO.  At the time, I didn't know if it was an alien craft or a super-secret military project.  Now, 15 years later, I'm thinking the former, since I've yet to hear of anything even close to the technology I witnessed:  My then-fiancee and I were walking along a riverwalk, fairly late at night, talking and star-gazing.  We saw a particular bright light, which we assumed was a plane, flying across our field of vision left to right.  Just as we noticed it, it dove straight down, perfectly straight, about halfway to the horizon, then, in another 90 degree change of direction, took off to the right again, and disappeared from our view, accelerating impossibly rapidly.

As a result of these encounters, there is very little in which I don't believe.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Speaking of Badly Behaved Dogs. . .

Just to prove me wrong, my puppies were absolutely AWFUL tonight!  I think Kai spent more time on "time out" this evening than he spent out of it.  And I don't know WHAT was wrong with Lance.  He was hanging over me all evening, but didn't seem to want anything in particular other than to annoy.  I finally had to ask him to move away when his hot breathe on me started to make me nauseous.  All this after they'd broken out of their confinement in the kitchen, almost gotten into a fight when Lance got into Kai's food, and just generally been pushing my buttons all afternoon.

I've never been so happy to see animals go to bed.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dog Show

Back from a super-exhausting weekend at the outdoor dog show in Woodstock, Ontario.  It was only our second show ever, and our first outdoor show, and was it ever an eye opener.

First and foremost--both of our puppies did well, after a fashion.  :)  Kai won for his first time!  (Go Kai!)  Poor Lance was the only one at this event in his class (Senior Puppy --  puppies 9 to 12 months old), so while he won all of his events, it didn't really count.  Still, he and his handler, my DH, gained lots of experience in the ring.  (10 trips to the ring over two days), and he got some very pretty ribbons.  Don handled Kai, too, but that was a nightmare due to having to switch too quickly between the two dogs.  Look like I'll have to grit my teeth, endure my aversion to being in the public eye, and handle Kai.

Moving on to more unpleasant topics, I unfortunately witnessed the first dog fight I'd ever seen.  A Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog who had escaped from his owner attacked a Shiloh Shepherd who was waiting to enter the ring.  It was very upsetting to witness, even from a few hundred feet feet away.  The site was incredibly violent, and the sound, which was clearly audible across the field, was unbelievable so.  The Catahoula, which was apparently overstressed, went on to attack another dog and bite a human before being restrained.  An ambulance was called, as well as an emergency veterinarian, as the dog collapsed after its spree. (The two dogs it attacked suffered minor injuries, as did the young woman whom it bit.)

That incident, and a few much more minor ones, illustrated to me that a great number of show dog people know nothing whatsoever about properly training a dog, other than for showing.  Now don't get me wrong--I also met a fair amount of people who seemed to know a lot about training their dog to be a dog. But the majority I met owned dogs who were badly behaved and badly socialized outside of the ring.  And even in the ring--I heard of one dog being seriously injured at another show when he was attacked from behind while showing, and at this competition I saw one handler who had to forcibly restrain her dog from attacking the one next to her, right in front of the judge.  I witnessed dogs wearing choke collars and muzzles, dogs who were fearful or aggressive when they got too close to another dog, dogs who were anxious in crowds, etc, etc, etc.

The main problem, I believe, is that owners avoid contact with other dogs for fear of injury to their own prize dog, thus totally hampering the socialization of their animal, which could prevent "incidents" in the first place. I even heard from one of the more knowledgeable owners that it's not uncommon for people to isolate their dog from all contact with others.  I couldn't believe it!

Goddess knows our dogs aren't perfect, and they are not the best trained in regards to showing, but at least Lance is friendly and relaxed around dogs of any size and knows how to meet, play, and interact with them, and Kai is getting there.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Sorry I haven't posted anything lately.  Been super-busy with new puppy, long weekend, and upcoming dog show.

We now have Kai in Early Puppyhood Education, and Lance on Rocking Horse Walk (a group walk for puppies that have gotten too big for Puppy Walk, but are too young for Adult Walk).  As well, both are furthering their crate-training, as they each have to stay in their crates while their 'brother' is participating in his own class.

Lance is also taking handling classes, so hopefully he will show better at this competition than at the last one!  We're very excited today, 'cause he actually let us position him for "stacking" without sitting down on us!  We're really hoping that by Sunday he will stack (stand correctly for his breed) on command.

 We had a VERY frustrating long weekend.  Don got Thursday the 1st (Canada Day) off, of course,  and he took Friday also, desperately trying to keep from total burnout at his all-consuming job.  Of course, Wednesday night we got a call from the people who were scheduled to seal our driveway, saying they had to come on Thursday.  "On CANADA DAY???" we inquired.  They assured us they were working on the National Holiday.  Okay.  We spent the morning clearing plants, grills, and so on off the driveway, and making sure the dogs could get to the side garage door so they wouldn't have to cross the driveway to get out to the yard.  Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We couldn't get anyone on the phone, so we eventually gave up and went to puppy class, which was also being held on Canada Day.  Sigh.  When we got back at around 8 pm, the team was there, taping the driveway.  "You're not going to do this at this hour???"

"Yes, we have plenty of time before dark," they assured us.

And they did.  Until their machine broke down.  And the other machine didn't come until after dark.  And their boss decided they had to quit.

That's fine, we thought.  They said they'd finish the next day.  No problem.

We spent most of Friday on the phone threatening law suits and complaints to the Better Business Bureau if they didn't actually get out there and do it.  They finally, finally allowed as to how they could get out to us Saturday at noon.  Okay, we growled.

We called again Saturday at 1 pm.  This time, they were delayed by problems at ANOTHER job.  We were assured they'd be there at 5 pm.  We decided if they weren't, we were done with them.  They showed up at 4:58 pm.

At which point we were informed that it would take 48 hours to dry, not the 24 they had originally told us it would take.

We didn't strangle anyone.