Monday, 28 September 2009

Bad Dog, Kenya ...

Bossy Dogs

Does anyone else have a bossy dog who uses her voice to terrify other dogs? Kenya is never vicious, but she sure looks and sounds as if she is. The other dogs seem to get it (and get over it) fairly quickly, but some dog owners get quite frightened.

Yesterday two old dogs came for their initial visit. They nosed around the house as all dogs do ... and Kenya went into one of her hissy fits when one of them sniffed the basket of potatoes. It was her second hissy fit ... the first occurred at the front door when the dogs attempted to get in past us rather than waiting ...

This time I crated her until she calmed down and gave the other dogs a chance to wander around till they felt comfortable without her to oversee and criticize their every move.

She cried occasionally from the crate.

I reassured the two friends that Kenya was all talk and no teeth, and that the first meeting and first day were all it would take to ensure that all three dogs would get along. But I also told the owner that if she wasn't feeling comfortable I understood and it might be better if she found a different situation for them ... a kennel or another boarding situation if she was going to worry. I mentioned that Erin who lives near them had taken on dogs I didn't have space for, and said they might be more comfortable leaving them there.

After fifteen minutes I asked the women if they wanted to try again. Okay. I let Kenya out but made her sit and look at me and told her she had to be calm. She came into the dining room in a much more civilized manner and behaved like a much better hostess. Everyone got cookies and pats and the women decided that it would be safe to leave these old souls with me for a few days.

I'd like some advice from anyone who has a dominant female dog, and has gone through this. I know that some bitches like Mica have got over the nastiness and become comfortably dominant. Is there anything I can do to hasten the process? Crating works but only after the fact.

I'd like to discover a way to train Kenya out of scaring the hell out of pet owners without interfering with her basic personality as a dominant dog.

These dogs, by the way, did nothing to make Kenya be that nasty. She could have simply said quietly. "The house rule is that no one eats anything Oma doesn't give them, so don't bother sniffing." She didn't have to threaten them with the death penalty.

Friday, 25 September 2009

The seat of the Second Wonky House Chair

The text to accompany this chair:

Oma began with a set of colours and an idea of a decrepit old house whose shutters were falling off and whose porch was in need of repair. Then she began to play with patterns to bring the subdued colours to life.

The last part to be painted was the seat. It seems to be the heart of the chair, and it brings together Oma's fascination with labyrinths, knot gardens, kaleidoscopes, and quilting. Maybe you can find the footsteps leading to the treasure in the centre of the labyrinth, or perhaps you will see the hedges that separate the different parts of the garden as hand stitching. Perhaps the dots of colour will become flowers or maybe they will seem to be fabric. Maybe you will simply see patterns unfolding and changing as images tumble in kaleidoscope.

Or perhaps you will see something quite different. Maybe a mandala.

Oma hopes that you will enjoy "The Heart of Things" as much as she enjoyed creating it.
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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A Bad Trip

What was I thinking?

Several months ago, I paid my $35 and signed up for a trip to St. Sauveur. The purpose of the trip was a little hazy. Discount outlets were mentioned. And cafes. The local stitch and bitchers were putting it on and a neighbour of mine was doing the actual organizing. I imagined fibre outlets, cozy bistros, and quaint architecture. From time to time I had some second thoughts about the whole thing but people assured me that St. Sauveur was a lovely place to visit so I decided to accept my fate and began to look forward to the excursion.

On Monday I took Kenya to spend a couple of days with Tamarak and Carlos, their two dogs, the kids' five cats, and a daughter's palm-sized dog called Kaiah. Kenya loves visiting them; for a gregarious dog who like cats even better than dogs, it's like having a holiday in a zoo.

On Tuesday morning at seven I was on my way to pick up Rowboat Flo. We arrived at the Vorlage parking lot to the clucking and chortling of fifty women already being gregarious. I was hailed by several people from my past life as well as neighbours and acquaintances from Wakefield. Have I mentioned that I am not very gregarious ... that I take a couple of hours of silence and tea to wake up before starting my day in earnest? I huddled into my hermit's corner and took out my water bottle and the peanut butter sandwich and banana I'd brought along.

The bus rumbled out of the parking lot at 7:30, and I watched familiar landscape slide past the rain-misted window, and thought that this would be just fine. One of the organizers announced that we would be stopping at Tim Horton's and then at the factory outlets and then moving on to an unintelligible mumble. We took a side trip to get to a very crowded Tim Horton's parking lot, a detour I didn't appreciate, but then I am not a coffee drinker. Get over it, I told myself. These people need their morning caffeine.

An hour later I began to wonder where we were. We were taking a very different route from the one I had thought we'd take ... you know ... divided highways where you can make good time. By ten the bus was crawling along a winding gravel road, jolting from one pothole to the next and stopping and starting at every set of railway tracks. When I got up to use the washroom I had to lurch from one hand rail to the next. At the doorway to the facility I wondered whether I should wait until the bus found its footing, but decided that might take longer than I wanted to wait. It was an experience.

By now everyone was talking about the fact that this was supposed to be a 2 ½ hour trip and the driver was undoubtedly lost since we had seen signs for different towns coming at us from opposite directions. No explanations were given by anyone in charge so the rumours grew.

At 11, 3 ½ hours after our bus left Vorlage, we finally arrived at the factory outlet shopping centre. It was a 20 minute walk from the village of St. Sauveur. Immediately visible was a McDonald's and several factory outlet stores. Is this it? I wondered. Did we travel 3 ½ hours to get to a McDonald's and the same factory outlet stores that exist at the corner of Baseline and Woodroffe?

"Calm down," the inner voice scolded. "This will be a two hour stop for bargain hunting." Then the organizer's voice drowned out the sweet sane little voice in my head. "Be back here at the bus by 5 when we will be leaving."

"Five?!?" screamed my little inner voice. "That's six hours here!"

Flo said, "I guess we won't be going into second hand shops and Sally Anne's today."

We asked where St. Sauveur was and headed in that direction stopping once for specific instructions. After five minutes, Flo said she was unable to walk any further. She was in pain. (Flo is 80 years old.) So much for our escape from the outlet mall.

"Well we can eat at McDonald's," said Flo hopefully.

Good god, no ... I began to search for an alternative. Bad enough to have to spend six hours wandering around a sterile shopping mall. I wasn't going to compound the misery by eating sawdust under a golden arch.

That was when we discovered the nicest fast food place I've ever encountered. You lined up and ordered pre-made food, but it was good food, and the decor was several steps above the red and yellow clowns of McDonald's. It became one of our two bases over the course of the next six hours. The other was a protected bench near a washroom.

By 3:30 Flo and I had bought some panties, an eco-friendly shopping bag, and a pair of far too expensive jeans. Then, we discovered a discount grocery store where we had our happiest shopping of the entire day. They had Quebec artisanale cheeses, squeaky fresh curds, a mountain of local garlic for $2, an armful of fresh leeks for $4, bulk quantities of flax seed for a song ... We filled a shopping cart and felt as if the day had almost been worth it.

Then we made our way back to the bus, loaded our purchases into the overhead bin, and relaxed. Flo fell asleep and I finished the sock I was working on.

Once I got home I still had to go and pick up Kenya ... I got home at 9, ate some curds with a slice of bread and a tomato, washed the whole thing down with a glass of red wine ... and fell asleep.

Were there any good things about that trip? Probably the nicest (and quite surprising)
thing we encountered was very very nice salespeople. They were genuinely pleasant whether we bought anything or not. It was also nice to talk to old acquaintances from my teaching life and to chat with Pike Lake neighbours when no one was in a hurry.

Would I sign up again? No. I am not a shopper and I really don't like being surrounded by people and traveling that way. The next time I visit the Laurentians I will take my car and my dog and amble my way along stopping at second hand shops and tiny restaurants that look interesting. I will choose a sunny autumn day, and I won't really care if I ever reach the discount mall. But if I did happen upon it again, I'd go straight to the grocery store and load up on garlic, leeks and cheese.

And now today I plan to paint and make vicchyssoise.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


Claire died yesterday at 1 p.m. I am sad, but actually less sad now that she has been released from the turmoil that her life had become. My sadness began the day she told me that she had lung cancer. It grew every time there was more bad news ... that the radiation was not working and there were more tumours on the lung ... that the cancer had spread to the brain ... that her mind was only hers part of the time ... and then the final blow ... that she had to enter palliative care because the woman I knew to be Claire had almost vanished.

But all through this year long journey from failed surgery to her death yesterday, my love and respect for Claire grew. She faced death with a grace I can only hope one day to emulate.

First was quiet dignity and hope. She believed in the medical system, and she brought to her own defence a positive attitude. Then came the realization that she would not make it, and we talked about the inevitability of a death she seemed to accept ... not welcome, but accept without fear.

During her own travails, Claire never lost sight of the fact that life ... her own life and the lives of others ... was about a lot more than the cancer. In the early months she continued to garden as much as her strength would allow. She put in new plants by the road, plants that will forever remind me of her strength, her love of beauty. She went on one last hike with her hiking group, joining the snails whom she had encouraged for so many years.

In the winter while she and Tom made their five day trips every week for radiation in Montreal, Claire was exhausted, but she always had a smile when she saw me, and she always asked about my life ... we talked about far more than cancer. We discussed the movies I lent them. She loved Kenya and was interested in all my dogs. We talked about books, and the doings of the lake.

In the spring she was very sick, and I saw less and less of her, but when she wasn't sleeping she always welcomed my visits. One day she asked me to come over, and when I got there she took me out to the garage to show me a rocking chair she wanted me to have. It is still white with primer, and when I paint this one it will be a treasure to hold onto ... my last gift from Claire ... the last of many.

Claire taught me a great deal about living life fully, and she taught me at least as much about dying courageously. She was a beautiful woman.

I want to make Claire's chair a physical embodiment of her courage, her spirit, her love of life and her openness to beauty in people and nature. I will do my grieving as I turn this ghost of a chair into a song of praise for a life well lived, for a woman I love.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Two Hours Later ...

I took the cradle in at 10:30 this morning and Kelly called at 1 to tell me it had sold!

Update on the Insane Washer

I left it unplugged overnight and now it is working. It did some strange thing with all its lights (sort of like a space ship checking all controls before lift-off) and then it worked. I won't cancel the appointment until the day before because one never knows what will happen next.

Erin tells us that Mercury is in retrograde and is playing tricks ... hmmn!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Too black a mood to post ... but I need to vent

I woke up in a wonderful mood despite getting almost no sleep last night because I was tending to a dog with explosive diarrhea and vomiting ... a dog who would die before she would sully the floor with such things. We were outside several times during the night. Today she is on a rice and water diet

When I got up I intended to get a whole bunch of necessary jobs done ... bills ... phone calls ... laundry ...

I got the bills in order and put the laundry in the machine and pushed the power button. Nothing. Nada. Not even a flickering light with an error message. I tried a lamp in the outlet. Fine. I tried again several times and was greeted by deathly stillness.

I broke the silence with an oath and all my plans scattered themselves as I collected all the bills and sat down at the phone to fume through extended waiting periods on hold with a faulty recording machine playing staticky canned music (must have been a Kenmore), receptionists who passed me on to other people, and finally a tough babe who agreed that two machines costing $1800 should not have caused me this much grief but said that no repair person would come inside my house if I didn't agree to pay the service call. She did tell me who manufactured the bloody machines (dryer-Frigidaire; washer- Whirlpool) and said that I would definitely get a response from Sears head office (it has been close to a month since I wrote) ... but she refused to give me a repair date before NEXT Friday ... that is the 25th. I have washed two loads of laundry in my washer since mid August!

So ... I have organized my tasks and dealt with a broken washer and wanted to commit murder today. I have not accomplished anything worthwhile.

Well ... that's not strictly true. I took a calming break to choose my colours for my next chair ... Iguana green, bright blue, bright yellow, brick red, turquoise, orange and cream ... the colours of the Algarve. I think it will be a wonky house chair ... and I think it will be a funky attempt to capture what is essentially Wakefield. A frame house with a sagging verandah in those colours will be the centrepiece and the legs etc. will be garnished with those colours and images that are quintessentially Wakefield.

And now I think I shall rest and rejuvenate myself so that tomorrow I can deal with all the things I should have done today.

The cradle is ready to go ... and I am having trouble letting go

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