Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

I’ve been doing a bad thing and instead of working on projects that I need to get done for Christmas, I’ve been searching the net. Why? Well, one reason is that I’m curious and have to see what’s going on in the world and the other is that how can I be sure that this is the sock pattern that is finally going to pull a non-knitter over to the dark side if I don’t look at every freaking pattern on the net. Lets just say that I have a passion with matching the right present to the right person instead of throwing the “anal” word around, mmmkay? I do the same with a pattern and yarn. I will knit the thing three or four times before I’m happy with the fabric I’m getting. Not the whole thing, of course, just half the back or maybe half a front or sleeve. I’ve mentioned before my total avoidance of swatching but I have to admit it would save me time. If only I could trust them.

So while I was searching for the perfect sweater pattern I found a load of other stuff that I thought I could share, and I also have a few tips for some inexpensive presents that you can still make in time for the holidays. So here we go:

1) If you have someone who has a pet, be it a dog or cat or rabbit or hamster, I would recommend looking into getting Pet Projects – The Animal Knits Bible by Sally Muir & Joanna Osborne. In this book you will find things like a knit curtain for the front of your rabbit, guinea pig or other small animal cage. This is a nice gift as it is fairly easy to make, the sample in the book has a carrot motif but I made it much larger for our dogs crate. I found a chart for a pattern of bones and knit that instead of the carrots. Turned out great. It’s a great way to give your small pet some privacy especially at night.

I’ve also made the puppy papoose for a friend who has a Chihuahua. Both she and the dog love it because it is knit from wool it keeps the dog cozy and warm. Her husband made a frame for it so that it hangs it like a hammock and the dog sleeps in it all the time. Very cute. And I’ve made a couple of the knitted animals at the back of the book as toys for my cats and the neighbours dog.

The patterns are easy to follow, the charts in the back are in colour and the things I made turned out really well and the animals they were intended for loved them. Besides, any book that includes a blanket for our equine friends is a keeper for me.

2) Another useful book(let) to have, especially if you have children to knit for, is The Knitted Farmyard by Hannelore Wernhard. I’ve made everything in this book and my kids loved them. The only one I had problems with was the pattern for the horse/donkey. I could not get that one to look like the pictures no matter how hard I tried. Everything else turned out exactly the way they look in the book. My girls especially liked the kitten, the chickens and the ducks. I also put a very small piece of velcro on the backs of the vegetables so they could pretend to plant the garden and have the vegetables “grow”. And because she uses pipe-cleaners as a stiffener for the people and some of the animals they are safe for all but the youngest children. My kids played with this for years and I think I still have some of the pieces around here. I know we definitely still have the chickens because I found some on my youngest daughters bookcase recently.

3) Any of the Jean Greenhowe’s books are a real life-saver if you need a small gift for a child. My kids loved the dinosaurs, the sheep, the food, and the topsy-turvy doll. She has some amazing books out there but a lot are hard to come by and expensive so if you find one, treasure it especially if you come across any of her folk costume books.

4) For the dog lover/owner any of the Patons dog sweater books, Dog’s Life or Another Dog’s Life are worth picking up. I’ve knit countless sweaters from these books for various dogs and all have fit well and been well received by both owner and dog alike. Don’t raise your eyebrows at the cost of them on Amazon because you can get them elsewhere cheaper.

5) I love Garn Studio (Drops) household patterns. I’ve made a few things from them and they have been well received and much used. One person asked me to knit her a few more facecloths to replace the ones I had given her because she had worn them out. I think I might make her these for her birthday next year.

Drops has so many lovely accessories for the home – blankets, baby things, crochet flowers and rugs, Christmas decorations – that you could choose anything from their selection and probably have a hit. I also love their clothing patterns and if you are looking for some cozy slippers or socks to make for someone you know who has cold feet, they have some lovely ones and I can say from experience their felted ones are like little furnaces for your tootsies. And they look good, too. Bonus!

6) If you have someone who will not make Santa’s nice list you could always stuff Grumpy in their stocking. I think this pattern is so stinkingly cute that I wanted to make a couple of dozen of them to put in the coal-scuttle I have on the hearth. I was talked out of this idea when someone pointed out to me that we have two cats. Two cats and a pail of knitted things. Yeah. Nothing wrong with that picture. But he’s still darn cute!

7) Then there’s the Christmas pickle. I really don’t know what to say about it except that I have never heard of the Christmas pickle.

8) If you are looking for something to put on a table or mantlepiece these are a cute idea. I love the look of them and the floppy hat just makes these little gnomes look that much cuter! If I have the time I might whip these up for my mantle. I think next year I could make them a lot bigger and put them in the front hall. Hmmmm….

9) If you are looking for something silly to give someone you could try a nightcap. I know exactly what my husband would say to me if I gave him that as a gift but I’m sure there are people out there who know someone with a sense of humour who would find a nightcap a charming gift. I think it’s quaint and I have to admit that I find it somewhat endearing to see a man running around in a nightshirt and cap. Maybe there is some kind of ancient gene memory floating around my subconscious but I think it’s adorably old-fashioned. I’m sure Alex Langlands or Peter Ginn from the Victorian Farm would wear it.

10) A mitten garland is a cute idea for an Advent Calendar but maybe for next year as we are already four days in and then the time it takes to knit all those mittens. Still it’s a wonderful idea for anyone with children who doesn’t want to buy one of those awful cardboard calendars with that itty-bitty piece of old chocolate behind each “door”. I have to admit that I wonder how fresh that chocolate is and besides it really isn’t as good as say…Lindt.

11) You could always knit up some Christmas balls for your tree. These ones are really nice and if you did them in red and white or gold and white would be very festive. I especially like the third one with the silver snowflakes circling the middle. A friend of mine has gone on a knitting binge and decided that next year she is going to hang 50 of these things on her tree. Yes, she is as crazy as me. Maybe a touch worse.

12) And in case you need some ideas for projects here are 23. I love the chairs and I don’t think it would be that hard to figure out. I have a couch that is desperately in need of a new cover and my dining room chairs could use a redo and I don’t think it would be that difficult…there I go again planning projects that probably will never get done. Oh how I wish there were two of me…then again maybe not…I mean, can you imagine? *shudder*

13) To charm the kids or grandkids you could knit some fairy mice decorations for the tree. Or these little knitted stockings that you could put a small candy cane treat in. Or these bonny little felted mice. Or anything from Frankie Browns Ravelry page. Her Pocket Teddy or the Daisy Chain kit are so enchanting I just want to pinch their little cheeks. Now that’s adorable because anyone who knows me knows I don’t go in for all that cutesy-cutesy nonsense.

So there you have it, my friends, thirteen alternative gifts to make for the people in your life. The books come in handy all the time when you need something quick and different. I like all these things because they don’t take much time to knit and you can probably find something in your stash to use so they are very economical. And since my mantra this Christmas is “Why buy when you can make”, these ideas are just right up my alley. I plan on making a few more posts about how to economize this season so stay tuned. Not all of the ideas will be knitting. Ooooo, I can feel the suspense even now.


Well, with only five more Saturday’s until the eat-fest, gift-giving, gift-receiving, gift-returning, lame excuse-making, tacky ornament display making, tree murdering, over-spending spree day is here. Yes, I mean Christmas.

I don’t do Christmas, at least not in the traditional way. We don’t decorate, don’t put up a tree but that’s mostly due to cats and my husbands ennui, and gift-giving is usually minimal. For me, I’m not a Christian and I feel hypocritical and disrespectful to partake in something I don’t believe in. And I abhor that something that was/is religiously relevant for some people has been made into a crass, commercialized exercise in proving who loves someone more by the gifts they give.

You know I’m right even if no one wants to admit it otherwise hand-crafted, hand-made, and home-baked gifts would get more respect. But unless the person has specifically asked for a hand-made gift the usual response is, “Oh, you made that yourself? How lovely and thoughtful.” and then you never see the gift again until you are in a thrift store you happen to come across the sweater. Or if you give home-made cookies, or breads, or soaps, or hand embroidered dish clothes/pillow covers etc. the words may say one thing but the face is saying quite another. Meanwhile they coo over the new iPhone their dad/mom/grandparent/lover/husband/wife/mailman gave them.

Now not everyone is like that. There are a lot of people who like hand-made things. When my daughters were small some of their favourite gifts were the toys I made for them. I knit farm animals, sweaters, socks, hats, mittens, or sewed stuffed animals, dresses, costumes, or duvet covers. One year I made a duvet for my oldest daughter. She still has it. I enjoyed making them things that no one else had. Now that they are older, hand-made things aren’t as appreciated as much and, more so my eldest daughter, store-bought things are worn while the stuff I made sits in a drawer somewhere. I usually end up giving her a gift card so she can just buy her own things. And this is why I don’t like Christmas.

I really don’t see the point in asking someone for a Christmas list, taking the time to make a thoughtful choice, spending the time in the store looking for and paying for said item and knowing that, in all reality, they could have bought the damn thing themselves. And now that she is working there really isn’t anything I could afford to buy her that she just can’t get herself. My younger daughter not so much.

This year, however, I decided that I’m having a very home-grown Christmas, very low-key with all gifts either home-made or thrift store purchases. Have I started on any of these incredible gifts. No. But I did start looking through patterns and matching them to wool. And I also took a good look around the thrift store the other day. What can I get at a thrift store that my kids might like? Books. Books are the one thing that will make my girls happy no matter what. So books are always a high priority gift item. Then there is the glassware, accessories and the happy accidents you can stumble upon. Like finding a copy of The Absolute Sandman Vol. III by Neil Gaiman, for $20cdn. Or a sweaters worth of Briggs and Little Regal yarn in the Horizon Blue colourway for $.49cdn each. Or finding a stash of vintage knitting needles and getting 12 sets for $1.00.

Now my kids love that sort of thing. I’m lucky and I know it. I am also fortunate in that most of my relatives love getting hand-knits, especially cotton socks. My father-in-law and my sister-in-law are both diabetics and say the cotton socks I make for them are by far the most comfortable they have worn. So socks will be very appreciated. I also plan on making some cashmere gloves, cowls and hats for various people. Cashmere is such a lovely yarn but expensive so the things that only take one or two balls make gift giving a little more affordable. I also have some very lovely silver silk yarn which was given me (I have no idea what brand) that will make a wonderful tie or skinny scarf for someone. I might splurge and get some store-bought items but since neither my husband or I currently have jobs they would have to be inexpensive. Well, I have a job but it’s part-time and they’ve cut my hours. Well, technically they didn’t, they just hired a couple more staff which amounts to the same thing. More staff means fewer hours for us all.

If I have to buy anything, it will probably be the following (if I can’t find some of them at the thrift store or used book store):

The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest – my girls have both read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but we haven’t been able to find these used and they want to read them

Sherlock – the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch (don’t you just love that name?) *I had originally put Elementary but as anyone who has watch these to shows will attest, they are very, very different.

The Game of Thrones – not the books, we have them, but the television series

The Borgias – because my kids loved it but didn’t see all of them

Supernatural – because who doesn’t love Dean and Sam

The Knitters Book of Wool – for my sheep loving daughter

A Sephora gift card – for my make-up loving daughter

Some Godiva chocolate – for my staff

Some treats for the cats, dog, rabbit and degus – we generally don’t give them many treats but since I make them dress up for the occasion, I have to reward them. Well, I dress up the dog and then shame him on Facebook but I just may have to put a Santa hat on the bunny this year. She’s just so darn cute. And since she has cancer I don’t know how long we will have her so it makes sense to humiliate her before she hops over to the other side. I would shame the cats, they really do deserve it for all the things they make me do and do to me, but they have sharp pointy everything that I’ve kind of learned my lesson and tend to leave them alone.

I can’t think of anything else. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts so I don’t have to worry about him and I really wouldn’t be giving gifts if people didn’t expect something so that’s what the cashmere is for. It makes a beautiful gift for anyone.

I have to say this job hunting right before Christmas sucks like a big sucking black hole but there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to keep applying to jobs and going to interviews and sending out resumes and sooner or later something will stick. Hopefully sooner rather than later because I don’t cherish the thought of trying to sell my home at Christmas time.

Hello. My name is Sheila and I have an addiction. To be precise I have several addictions. Ok, I have 22 addictions but that’s it. At least that’s all I’m admitting to anyway. My friends might have a different count but that is their problem. My problem is that if I like something I quickly become addicted to it. Hence the reason I’m not still 97lbs. soaking wet – I discovered I actually like food. Ok, that’s not the reason, I still ate, and ate a ton, when I was skinny, the fact is I was a lot younger and burned through calories like a flame thrower through paper. I couldn’t keep weight on. *sigh* Those were the days.

Well, that went a bit off from where I wanted to go. Let’s see…addictions. Oh, yes. I guess the reason I have so many addictions is because of my short-attention span. No, I’m not ADHD, it’s just that I only have a finite amount of years left and I’m trying to cram as much stuff in it as I can. So in order to do that, I have to multi-task. And that can be downright amusing even to myself.

One thing I have to confess, though, is I’m not addicted to housework. That kind of gets ignored until the dust bunnies start raiding the fridge and eating all the lettuce. The real bunny gets annoyed. Right now there is laundry piling up, the floor needs a good vacuum, I have to sort through boxes of stuff that we boxed up a couple of years ago when we thought we would have to sell the house (I won’t mention that the reason I have to go through those boxes is because we might have to sell the house before the new year if neither of us gets jobs), bookshelves need tidying and the whole place needs de-webbing. It’s bad when the spiders start having to fight for corner space. But, these things get done eventually and in two days it will be back the way it is now so no hurry.

But the things I’m really addicted to are:

1.) knitting. Love, love, love knitting. Love the feeling I get when I finish something and someone says how lovely it is and they are surprised I made it myself…hey! Are they implying I’m too dim to make myself a sweater? Or that they didn’t know people still did that? Or that they are surprised I’m capable of making anything let alone a sweater? Ok, I will give them that last point. But more on that for another time. I am also starting to realize I have startitis right now. I have THE sweater to finish (the one I was making for a party), a shrug (making for same party), a pair of socks, and a lace cardigan on the needles right now. I’m also looking at some very pretty yarn I have to make another very pretty shrug to go over the dress I wore to the party yesterday because, well, you know a person can’t have too many ufo’s after all. I will get them all done but these things take time you know.

2.) The Good Wife. A tv show about a lawyer. But, wait! It’s more than that. It’s about a married lawyer whose husband cheated on her and ran for governor and won largely due to her composure and her support-my-man attitude and because she hates to have her dirty laundry aired for everyone to see but before she forgives him she is hired by the law firm her former never-consumated-the-relationship-due-to-bad-timing wannabe lover is a partner at and she takes up where they left off and has a fling with him but realizes it wasn’t a smart idea and breaks up with him and goes back to her husband only to betray the witless ex-lover by leaving the firm and starting her own because she got pissed off at the way they treated people who worked for them but before she left she had been fantasizing about their fling so who knows why she really left and if they will get back together again. *Whew!* Anyway, I love this show! I love Julianna Margulies’ (Alicia Florrick) character, I love Chris Noth’s (Peter Florrick, Alicia’s husband) chemistry with Julianna Margulies’ character, I love Alan Cumming’s (Eli Gold) character, I love Archie Panjabi’s (Kalinda Sharma) character, and I love Christine Baranski’s (Diane Lockhart) character but I hate Josh Charles’ character (Will Gartner). Hate him with a passion. Icky-poo. But, again, this is best left to another day.

3.) Canning and jam-making. This year we made 18 jars of jam from different fruits, 4 jars of mixed pickles, 8 jars of morello cherries, and 8 jars of dill pickles. This is more than we did last year. Hopefully next year we will make more.

4.) Shoes. I love shoes. If the house ever burst into flames, I would save the animals first and then run back into the burning house for my shoes. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I love Irregular Choice shoes? Well, I do. And I love these the best and one of these days I shall own a pair and then my life will be complete. Ok, maybe not. But I will be happy until they come out with something even better which will be in a couple of months. Unless, of course, I change my mind and decide to go with these little babies. Or maybe these. I won’t mention my absolute devotion to Lamb shoes simply because I can’t afford them but I drool over them every time I see them. Then there is Bottega Veneta (these ones in particular) but unless that guy from Kenya really is my long-lost uncle, my toes will never see the inside of any of their shoes.

5.) Reading. I’m currently reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and Bring Me The Head Of Prince Charming by Roger Zelazny. And I just finished The Accident by Linwood Barkley. I tried reading the Game of Thrones but just could not connect with the characters, mostly because of the disjointed storyline. But I love the TV series. I have discovered that I am really not allowed to be in a store, be it a thrift store or book store, unsupervised. I will come home with an arm load of those things. I love the smell of them, the feel of them and the words, mostly, that come off of them. I love cookbooks, history books, novels, old science or medical books. Just about anything except romance or chick-lit. Personally I find it pretty insulting to have a special section called “chick-lit” and then to see how they define that term…

6.) Bad TV sit-coms. That is worth a couple of posts some other time.

7.) Love this site. It is so useful for sussing out a pattern. If I see something I like in one of the magazines, I go over to Ravelry and look it up then look at what others have done with it. So nifty for people like me who are not quite perfect because you get to see the sweater or whatever on real people, unlike Vogue who routinely puts their sweaters on women you wouldn’t be able to see if they stood sideways. Never mind that half their patterns are unwearable anyway. I don’t remember it always being that way, in fact I have old magazines where just about all the sweaters would look good on a real live human being. The last years (2013) issues haven’t been too bad, a couple of horrendous “inspirations” that make you wonder who was bribed, but nothing too ridiculous. I stopped buying Vogue though, got tired of paying for half a magazine. Actually I stopped buying a lot of magazines thanks to Ravelry. I can find whatever I’m looking for there, view it on a lot of different people, read about the problems/modifications people had/made and decide if I want to go for it. Much better on the old budget as well.

8.) Music. I love music. I love music so much that I actually had been writing for another blog but took what was supposed to be a temporary leave-of-absence while I sorted out my part-time job but has ended up being a lot longer leave than I intended. I will be getting back into it though. There is too much good stuff out there being ignored for me to keep quiet for much longer. I like singer/songwriters/folk/folk-rock/indie/electronica the best. And anything from Manchester from the late ’80s to the early ’90s pretty much makes my heart go pitty-pat.

9.) My cats but I’m not a crazy cat lady. I don’t dress them, or the dog, up in costumes or clothes, well there was the time I put a sweater on Mac but he looked so darn cute, and there are the pictures of Pete with Christmas lights on. And there may be one with a ribbon tied around his neck. And a couple of others of him in various holiday paraphernalia. But other than that. I do love my cats because they were rescued from the barn my daughter worked at when they were only 5 days old. The mother had 9 babies and try as she might she just couldn’t feed them all and so we took the three smallest. We bottle-fed them and burped them and cleaned their little bums and coddled them and spoiled them until they grew up into giant pains-in-the-butt. But I love them anyway. I also love our found bunny, Ruby. Poor thing. We found her on the side of the road in August looking like she needed a good meal. Now she is into everything and we wonder sometimes if maybe that was how she ended up on the side of the road. And we have 3 degus (they are like miniature chinchillas) who keep me up at night fighting over their wheel.

10.) Make-up. I love make-up but make-up doesn’t love me. When I was younger I could wear whatever I wanted and I did. Now I can wear Almay, Quo and Tarte and that’s about it. Clinique, even though it says it’s hypoallergenic, makes me break out and my eyes itch. I would so wear the eye make-up you see in ads if only it wouldn’t make my eyes swell to the size of golf balls. You know the stuff I mean. Like this, which when I think of it is almost exactly how I did my eyes last night, or this or this. A bit dramatic you say? Certainly and I wouldn’t wear it during the day but for those occasions when I had to go out to a party or event? I would be right on that. Now due to my allergies I have to be careful about how much I put on and what products I use. Sad, sad days for a make-up junkie like me.

Well, that’s my top 10 addictions, not necessarily in any order just how they came off the top of my head. I haven’t touched on clothes, or thrift store finds, or kitchen gadgets, or grocery stores, or gourmet food stores, or British shops, or pet stores, or Homesense, or Winners,or Dollarama, or George Clooney…there are so many interesting things out there I don’t know how to be bored. Mind you I mostly window shop right now because both my husband and I are looking for work but looking is free and other than the lip marks I leave on certain items, it’s mostly harmless.

“Clearly you have no understanding of dogs.” This is what I said to my youngest daughter a few minutes ago. The reason? Well, our dog Pete is a foodaholic and as said daughter was making a salad and said dog loves lettuce, he did his usual thing and sat three inches away from her hoping, praying, that something would find its way off the counter and into his mouth. And as said daughter is not completely heartless, she caved and gave him a bit of romaine. And, of course, said dog, after eating his lettuce, only drooled all the more and only looked more expectantly between the counter and the floor. Daughter looked at him and said, “Just because I gave you one piece doesn’t mean you can expect more.” So clearly she does not understand dogs.

Pete is a good dog. He’s part Rottweiler and part Shar-Pei and at any given time we have no idea which part is going to show up at the door. Sometimes the Rottie greets us with waggy tail and a head butt pushing us in the direction of the kitchen. This usually means he wants his dinner but it could also mean he wants your dinner or the cats dinner or that there may be something that may have looked like food at one time somewhere in the kitchen and he wants it. When the Shar-Pei wants out we can be sure that taking him for his daily walks is going to be a challenge. If he doesn’t get his way he will stubbornly mope along, dragging his heels and making the walk more of a tedious examination of every blade of grass, every tree trunk, and every bush in the park. Then there is the eating of the grass…

Pete has a problem. He eats grass. He eats everything really and one time he ate a toothpick which ended up with a tense couple of days until he passed it. Don’t even ask us how we knew when it was out…but, yes, Pete is a grass eater and he can be seen walking in the park with a plant or two hanging out of his mouth at any given time. It can be funny but it can also be a bit scary. The last time he was at the park my daughter thought he had eaten some Wild Parsley, better known as Hogweed. This meant a frenzied search on the internet and a call to the vet because that stuff is poisonous and it can kill a dog very swiftly. Fortunately, nothing bad happened but it does mean we have to be very careful about what that dog is putting in his mouth.

Because of Pete’s, shall I say, dietary open-mindedness we have a section of the freezer filled with pumpkin and stocks in a company that sells a digestive aid. The pumpkin is for the inevitable stomach and digestive upsets and the aid is for the noxious fumes that emanate from the posterior region of the dog. Sometimes, when there is a hostage situation, I really believe that sending in a gassy dog would be the quickest way to resolve it. But you never see the guys on Criminal Minds or NCIS suggesting it.

When we first adopted Pete he was a little rough around the edges. He would routinely butt his head under your arm when you opened the refrigerator, hoping to snatch something before you missed it. I watched him one day pull a loaf of bread out ever so gently, using just his front teeth. He would also try to swipe whatever vegetables were within reach and if you weren’t fast enough you would find yourself chasing a dog with a tomato hanging out of his mouth. And there was the time he took a whole bag of tomatoes off the table and managed to bite everyone one of them before we knew what he had done. He also took a sack of oranges but he only managed to gore two of them before we grabbed the bag. Life in the early days with Pete was always a question of what he would try to eat next.

He has calmed down a lot since those early days, he knows better than to try to swipe food out of the refrigerator. He will still eat whatever he can sink his little teeth into if we aren’t looking. Like the time we thought we could leave him alone in the house while we went to buy a new fridge. Let’s just say that I hope the birdseed tasted better going in than it looked coming out. It lasted for days. Kind of like confetti after a wedding when you think you’ve finally vacuumed up the last of it and you look in the corner and there’s a few little dots staring back at you. Needless to say we never leave him uncrated now. He does like his crate and will go into it on his own when he wants some alone time so no need to worry that he is being abused. And he doesn’t get left in it for hours nor do we do this very often but it is very reassuring to know that he isn’t going to hurt himself while we are out.

Pete is generally a quiet, good-natured dog. He gets along well with just about everyone and most dogs. There have been a couple of instances where he got a little growly but it was only with two dogs of the same breed – Yellow Lab. He’s fine with the black coloured Labs and he’s also fine with a little girl Yellow Lab on the other side of our circle, it’s just these two particular dogs he doesn’t like. Don’t know why, they are nice and friendly, they come up wagging their tails like any of the other dogs we meet and Pete is good with them for all of two minutes. After that he gets a bit growly. The owners of these two dogs are very understanding and I’m sure Pete would never attack another dog, he’s just not that aggressive but we cross the street when we see them now.

Pete does love small dogs, however. He loves small people, too. I can remember not long after getting him, running into a neighbour whose son had just learned to walk. He came toddling over to Pete and clung onto his side, griping his fur as only a little kid can do, in other words, in a death grip. Pete stood there stalk still and waited for the little boy to let go, he then wagged his tail and sat down. He let that little boy use him as a toy for about five minutes and then we continued on our way. I have also seen Pete hold himself rigid while an elderly lady used him to regain her balance when she accidentally stumbled and put her hand on his back to steady herself. I have seen Pete be totally calm when in the presence of wheelchairs, and children with mental disabilities. He is also very gentle around the elderly and will sit quietly by their side allowing them to pat him as long as they wished. He would make a wonderful therapy dog if he could be trained not to get too overwhelmed by new situations.

That is really the only thing that is wrong about Pete and I hesitate using that word, “wrong”. It’s not a bad thing but it can be frustrating to see him feeling so overwhelmed that he starts humping his bed. At least it’s only his bed that he violates. But trying to calm him down can be a bit of a task. We’ve tried to expose him to all manner of new situations, taking us with him on trips to the pet shop or other places and he’s usually fine when there but when he comes home he seems to have a hard time relaxing and we realize just how much a trip out can stress out a dog like him. He loves to come with us and I don’t see any reason to leave him home so we just deal with his emotional outbursts as best we can. Giving him something to chew really seems to help but for a dog that will eat pizza crusts covered in mold, he is really picky about his chewy’s. We got him an elk horn once and it just sits there untouched but give him a dried tendon and he’s in heaven.

We’ve had Pete for four years now and he was about two when we got him, or at least that was the rescue and our vets best guess. He could be older, his muzzle is turning grey and his eyebrows are showing signs of white. I dread the years where he will slow down, where he will enjoy lying in the sun more than he does now which will be something since he loves lying in a sunbeam until he is so hot you can’t touch him.  The walks will become shorter. The naps longer. He will become arthritic (he already is showing signs of that) and maybe deaf or blind. And then one day he will be gone. But in the meantime, Pete is still very much a big part of our lives. A huge dork who is learning that when you tell him to watch where he is going it is usually because he is about to fall into the ditch or walk into a tree. But right now he is still our huge dork and until the time comes when he wants to say goodbye we will give him as much love as we can. I think we owe him that.

The crazy cat lady. We hear that all the time by people who think just because you have a few cats that perhaps you’ve taken up standing on the corner and yelling obscenities at people. I mean, what does it mean? Crazy cat lady. Just how many cats qualify you to be a “crazy cat lady” or “crazy cat person”. Is it two? Three? Five? Ten? How many? And why aren’t there any crazy dog ladies or crazy rabbit people or crazy guinea pig people. What about birds? I know some people who have five birds. Are they crazy? Well, yeah, they might be. Have you heard the noise five birds can make? Nevermind the mess and destruction. But I digress.

I grew up with animals. We had chickens and rabbits and cats and a dog. And once we had an owl that one of my siblings found that was hurt. Mum nursed it back to health and off it flew. We also brought home things, like little brown snakes. Why I have no idea. We grew up in the country, snakes were everywhere. Why bring them into the house? Being surrounded by animals certainly has skewed my attitude about life with the beasts. I can’t imagine not having them. We lived in farm country, everybody had scads of animals. So are dairy farmers “crazy cow people”? Were the Cowans “crazy horse people” because they had race horses? And does the fact that we had a flock of about a dozen chickens qualify us as “crazy chicken people”? So why is it that if you have a few cats around that people think you are crazy?

Yes, I know there have been many reports of hoarding situations where there have been scores of cats taken out of someone’s home. And yes, there does seem to be a disproportionate amount of women, mostly older, involved but does that mean everyone who has a few should be tarnished with the same brush? What about dog hoarders. There are lots of them out there and yet no one seems to want to call everyone with a few dogs, “crazy dog people”.

Is it because cats are still one of those animals that most people know nothing about? Is it because cats are still seen as being aloof and independent? Most people think it’s cute to see a dog dressed up as Tinkerbell for Halloween and yet I’m seen as a crazy person if I put a sweater on my cat. Is it because dogs, especially the small, furry variety, are often seen as child replacements by a growing number of crazy, delusional people who can’t distinguish between two and four legs? I mean, come on, people. If you own one of the hairless breeds or a small dog that can’t take the cold or if there is a medical reason for your dog to wear a frilly dress, fair enough, but it’s a dog. Yes, they are just as much a part of the family as your two-legged members but they are still animals and no amount of perfume, nail polish or designer clothing is going to cover that fact. I mean, I love Pete and he has a winter coat because we live in Canada and we have two seasons: winter and not winter, but he isn’t my child. If he was I would fully expect Ripley’s Believe It Or Not to show up at my door.

Is it because most people think dogs are more openly affectionate than cats. I have had a lot of animals over the years. There was one time that we had: five cats, one dog, three budgies, two degus, one rabbit, a bare-eyed cockatoo and two guinea pigs. And we would have had four canaries as well but I found a good home for them. That was insane, even I admit that and yet it was also a fun time where we never had a dull moment and I don’t regret it one bit. What I found out is that all animals are affectionate in their own way. Dogs haven’t cornered the market on that emotion. Not only are animals openly affectionate to us but they are just the same to each other. Our cat, KD, and Bugs, the rabbit, certainly had a very affectionate relationship. But then, KD seemed to like everyone and everything. Sure, owning that many animals made it next to impossible to entertain and it made it difficult to go out anywhere, at least in clothes that didn’t have fur or feathers on them, but it was also a time when love seemed to be everywhere. The minute you sat down there was someone wanting your lap or a pat or a scratch or your food. Did you know bunnies like oatmeal raisin cookies?

Right now we have: two cats, one dog, three degus and a rabbit. The dog we got from rescue and is somewhat aloof, not at all like our laps-are-made-for-dogs Cocker Spaniel. Honey was the doggy equivalent to a velcro suit, the minute you sat on the couch she was stuck on you. The cats we took in at five days old when it was obvious the mother couldn’t look after them. Mac was the most affectionate of the three and although the other two have become friendlier as they’ve aged I wouldn’t want to say they are overly affectionate. They have their moments and if we aren’t swatted by one of them at least once during the day, we worry that they may be sick. The degus my daughter got to keep her old degu company when her companion died. Are they affectionate? In their own way, yes. They don’t come out and cuddle the way their predecessors, Mika & Pita, did but they like to have attention and come running over if you talk to them. And the rabbit? Well, the rabbit we found along the road. She was obviously abandoned and had been on the loose for some time. How such a loving little bunny ended up on the streets I have no idea but someone’s loss is our gain.

Ruby was just over a kilo (around 2.5lbs) when we found her. She had been out on her own for quite some time, or so the vet thought because she should have been between 2-3 kilo’s (4-6lbs). Unfortunately the vet discovered that she has uterine cancer and the roots of her teeth are getting overgrown. Either one is a death sentence for her. The cancer is slow-growing so she could have a couple of years before it becomes a problem but the teeth are another matter. The vet said to take her home and spoil her rotten in her remaining time and she seems to be basking in the attention. So far she’s a happy, affectionate little creature who loves to run over to you for pats. She loves getting spoiled and seems grateful for everything we do for her. Our other rabbit, Bugs, was also a very affectionate bunny, but he was more of the, “Yes, yes, I’m adorable now give me that cookie” kind of attention seeker. And now we are thinking of getting Ruby a friend. Is that crazy? Ok, it may be a little weird but crazy?

I have had three other cats over the course of the years. Duke and Spike were my first two. Duke was a very loving gentleman who, when not dragging my knitting all over the place, would sit on my lap and put his two paws on my shoulders, nestle his face against mine and go to sleep. At night he would curl himself against my back or snuggle in against my stomach making it impossible to move. One eventful morning I thought I was paralyzed because when I went to stand up, I couldn’t move my legs and fell flat on my face. Duke had just been sleeping next to me and because I couldn’t move I guess I had slept on a nerve funny. Spike, on the other hand, was a bit of a neurotic and was afraid of everything, poor soul. He spent most of his life hiding under the bed but when he ventured out, he could be such a loving and forgiving cat. I’ve always felt guilty that he didn’t have a happier life.

And now we’ve been thinking of getting Pete a buddy. After Mara went back home it became evident that Pete missed her company so we’ve been considering what kind of dog we would get as a second pet. I’m lobbying for a dog-friendly cat but the only problem with that is that our cats aren’t very cat-friendly. They barely tolerate each other and they are brothers. A large bunny, like a Flemish Giant, would be able to take care of itself but they aren’t called “giant” for nothing. Those big-footed, fluffy-tailed, long-eared lapins weigh up to 11 kilos (25lbs). I’m not sure I want to be scooping up bunny poop from that big a bunny. Besides, if Ruby wants to she can release quite a kick so can you imagine one from a bunny that size?

So if I got one or two dog-friendly cats or kittens would this push me into some kind of domestic companion stratosphere where my neighbours start whispering behind their hands when they see me? If we got another dog are the neighbours going to sharpen their pitchforks and light their torches just as a precaution? If we got another rabbit would Monty Python show up at our door looking for the Holy Grail? At what point does having a few animals turn into “that crazy animal lover down the street”? And if I do become the “crazy cat lady” should I send out flyers advising my neighbours to keep their cats indoors lest they “disappear”? Will there be a picture of me tacked to the bulletin board at the local animal control? Do vets give a volume discount?

Day Three – Pete

Posted: November 3, 2013 in Uncategorized
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This is Pete.  And doesn’t he look sweet and innocent.  For the most part Pete is a sweet and innocent puppy but like most dogs, he has his moments.  Like a few moments ago when he tried to rip my clematis out by the roots.  Those kinds of moments.

Pete was an unexpected dog.  As I said in a previous post, we had owned a Cocker Spaniel who was the apple of my eye.  She was my dog and followed me everywhere, slept with me, and did everything I asked of her.  The world’s most perfect dog.  So it was devastating when she finally decided she had loved enough and needed to take her leave of us.  She was fifteen and had given us every ounce of love she had in her little body.  I was convinced I didn’t want another dog but my daughter, and the universe, had other plans.

Honey died in June of 2009.  A year that would also see us lose two cats as well all in the space of three months.  And we almost lost a third when my baby, Mac, decided to make a grand escape only to get lost for eleven days in what was one of the worst summers for severe weather.  To say it was a horrible spring for us was a bit of an understatement.  Now I know more horrible things happened all over the world but when bad things are happening to you those become static noise.  Sad but true.  So in a year of loss and near loss and unbelievable stress, a picture of a happy-go-lucky, funny-looking dog seemed as incongruous as feathers on a cat.

After Honey passed and KD a month later, I was just not in the mood to be looking at potential new family members but there was something about Pete that I just knew we needed.  He was named Bruno at the time and was at a rescue who had brought him in from a high-kill shelter in Ohio.  As I said, I had no interest in adopting another dog but my daughter seemed really keen on him so I let her fill out the application.  When the news came back that he had already been adopted I thought that would be the end of it.  But I was wrong.

A week after being told Pete had found a home, the rescue called to ask if we wanted him.  The adopters had not checked with their condo to see if he would be allowed, they just assumed since other people in the building had dogs, small dogs, that Bruno would not be a problem.  Unfortunately, at 50lbs, he was just a little bit too big to pass their regulations.  So he was returned and now the rescue wanted to know if we still wanted him.  So we went to his foster home to see what he was like.  Pete’s foster had nothing but glowing things to say about him and indeed Pete seemed like a lovely, friendly dog.  Could we take a week to think about it?  No, he had to go now since they had another dog that desperately needed fostering.  So we took a long, hard swallow and signed the papers.  Pete was ours.

What followed was a tense trial and error time where we had to get used to a stubborn, assertive, bullying, cat-loving, funny, exhausting dork.  He really didn’t have many house manners, he would shove his head into the refrigerator and try to grab whatever he could before you could stop him.  He had a couple of “accidents”, he tried to play with the cats (who really hated him on sight despite growing up with a dog), he surfed the counter, and tried to bully us around.  The rottie in him made him act like a herding dog and he would try to push us around to do his bidding.  He was never aggressive, never mouthy, never dangerous but he had ways of letting you know what he thought of your attempts to train him.  What saved us was his absolute devotion to food.  If he thought there was a treat in it for him he would have danced on the ceiling.  What a mercenary.

We did finally teach him manners.  There were times when I regretted adopting him.  There were times when it was frustrating.  And there was the time shortly after we got him where he went out the front door and kept going.  But that isn’t unusual for a rescued pup and we did get him back mostly because he was overweight and had the stamina of a guinea pig.  And also I was determined not to let him out of my sight.  I found out just how fast I can run in stocking feet.  On the other hand he has never tried it again.  Not because we beat him or punished him but because we took the time to train him properly.  He still doesn’t have as good a recall as Honey but he is at 98% and I think that’s pretty good for a dog who thinks he’s the smartest being in the room.  

He has his odd quirks that make us laugh uncontrollably at times.  For instance on rainy days he will stand at the door looking all the world like the unhappiest dog ever, even his funny, bouncy ears droop (oh those ears!  I could write a whole post just on them).  We have to pretty much drag him out and then he sticks as close to the house as he can while hiding under the eaves, moping to the nearest tree, doing his business and then running back in the house.  That’s the Shar-Pei in him.  He doesn’t like to get dirty.  He licks his legs like a cat and positively hates walking in puddles or mud.  On the other hand, he has very little doggy odor which is good since he is terrified of water.  He really doesn’t like the wipes we use to give him a dry bath either, though.

Pete has been a part of our family for the past four years.  He was around two when we got him.  I am not looking forward to the years ahead when he will start to slow down, and be more content sleeping on his bed than dragging us down the road.  His muzzle is already showing a bit of gray and some days, mostly rainy ones, he doesn’t want to leave the house at all.  It’s hard to believe that the frustrations and exhaustion of dealing with a strong-willed personality has given way to a love that is beyond description.  Such is the way with dogs, they worm their way into your heart.  But I still have a sneaky suspicion that it’s a cunning ploy to make you give them whatever they want.

Day Two – Mara

Posted: November 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

We have a dog named Pete.  He’s part Rottweiler and part Shar-Pei.  Unfortunately for him but fortunately for us he is 100% dork.  His nickname around the homestead is Sir Dork of Dorkchester.  He is also his own worst enemy.  But we love him just the same even when he does dumb things like trying to eat an entire broccoli plant from the garden.

Before Pete we had a sweet little Cocker Spaniel named Honey.  She was the happiest thing alive.  When she wiggled her tail it wagged so fast it was impossible to see.  She wasn’t awarded the Wiggliest Tail in Mississauga three years in a row for nothing.  She was a champion.  But she was also a big goof.  A clown.  And so smart.

People who own dogs know that when you have one you also start learning where every dog in the neighbourhood is.  You also start making friends of people you would normally never see on a day-to-day basis.  Dogs bring people together.  But one of the side effects of dog ownership is also the fact that you become a person other dog people trust.  The result is that you become the go-to person if someone needs an emergency dog sitter.  Not a problem for us because we love dogs, are usually home and have a large enough house to accommodate two rambunctious beasts.  And this is how we come to Mara.

Mara is a beauty.  She possesses tons of personality.  She is so sweet-natured and happy that I almost considered moving and not telling anyone just so I could keep her.  She is a tawny coloured bundle of cuddly love.  She is also 125lbs.  She is a Cane Corso.  A.K.A. Italian Mastiff.  Large dog.  Drooly jowls.  Gigantic feet.  Massive head.  Biiiiiiiig dog.

Her owner left us with her for two and a half weeks while he and his wife took a pilgrimage through Turkey and Greece.  When he left her at the door he said, “Walk her a couple of times a day, give her one or two carrots and six cups of food and she should be fine.”  And he was right.  The problem was what he didn’t say which was that taking her for a walk could turn into a full body core workout.  She was a very well-behaved dog, really, but if she saw someone she knew it took all my strength and body weight to stop her from dashing over and bestowing upon them one of her wet, drooly kisses.  Let me just say that being licked by that tongue was like being slapped with a piece of warm liver.  Which is to say that it really wasn’t a pleasant experience.  But we loved her anyway.

She was the biggest goof on our walks.  We live near a huge untouched park that nevertheless has a good walking path through it.  Mara would spend the entire walk looking for the biggest piece of wood that she could carry.  When she found it, and it was usually the size of a small tree, she would proudly try to run away with it.  Now since she wasn’t my dog I couldn’t let the leash go so that meant that either her and I or her and my daughter would end up running down the path at full speed.  It must have been quite a sight.  This huge dog carrying a 50lb tree in her mouth while I ran behind her trying not to fall.  When she tired of carrying the log she would drop it and then proceed to rip it into pieces.  I was always grateful that her owner had socialized her and trained her well because it gave me a new respect for her jaws.  I’m sure glad she liked me.  I would pity the fool who tried to rob me when she was around except I wouldn’t pity him because, you know, he was trying to rob me.  Watching her was rather amusing and frightening at the same time.

In the house Mara was a dream.  She and Pete would argue over who was going to get the good bed (memory foam is apparently a popular material for animals.  My cats like the bed, too).  It never came to blows but there was a lot of whining and a few warning woofs until they worked it out.  Their arguments weren’t anything serious and usually Pete won.  Mara quickly learned that Pete got better food than her and went on a hunger strike until we added some of his to her kibble.  Then Pete wanted the kibble too.  And you think raising a couple of kids is hard.

By the end of the two and a half weeks Mara had become such a part of the household that it was a bit heart-breaking to give her back.  It was only when I saw her go out of her mind when she saw her owner that I felt happy to see her go.  The house is certainly much quieter.  Did I mention that when anything moved outside she would run to the window and bark?  Did I mention that included her reflection in the window?  Yeah.  A big baritone of a bark which meant that Pete had to then run to the window to see what the problem was.  Good thing he isn’t a barker although he has been known to bark at lawn ornaments, Christmas decorations and once a piece of cardboard stuck in a snowdrift at the bottom of a neighbours driveway.

It’s been three days since Mara went home and the house is a bit emptier, a lot quieter and mostly dry.  It is also a bit lonelier.  It’s hard to imagine how one dog, one big dog, could steal your heart to such a degree that I almost want to go to her house and tell the owner that I would be happy to take her for a walk.  Or ask if I could come in just to cuddle with her.  Or maybe take her in the backyard and throw her toy for her.  Anything just to spend some time with her again.  Poor Pete.  I love that dog to death.  He is sweet and people have been known to stop their cars and get out to give him a pat but I still miss Mara.