Dispatches from The Swamp – ‘the senior dog’ edition

Things at The Swamp have been quite good lately. I had the week before Easter off and I spent it doing self-care. I listened to music and played computer games for a couple of hours a day. This always makes me very happy. I find when I am listening to music and singing my mind completely empties. I am one of those people whose mind never, ever stops. I am always thinking about something or trying to solve a problem. Even at night, if I wake up I have a hard time turning my mind off again.

All of the dogs are doing well. Tru is an amazing dog. We thought she wouldn’t last the week when she first got here. We are not complacent though. She clearly has something wrong with her – likely some kind of cancer. She doesn’t eat much and she is quite thin. Tru has an odd diet. She loves carbs like chocolate and cake. The only meat she will eat right now is ham. We expect that will end eventually. I think Tru is enjoying her life right now and doesn’t want to go anywhere quite yet.

Ruby[1] is doing fabulously. She is slowly coming out of her shell. She is spending much less time in her crate. She really turned a corner last week when she suddenly became more confident. She is still on the periphery of the dogs as she appears to be scared of the pack. Although, Ruby was able to muscle her way in to the group to get some roast beef. She is sleeping on the bed with us at night. She is certainly becoming much more interactive.

Tuber is such a sweetie!

I really wish more people would consider adopting senior dogs. It is such a rewarding experience to take in a dog who has had a less than stellar life and introduce them to all the pleasures of life. Watching a dog have roast beef for the first time is so rewarding. When you have a dog who has been forced to live outside her/his entire life begin to enjoy the comforts of living indoors is amazing. It takes very little to provide for a senior dog. Yes there may be some ongoing medications and things like that but most vets will not be too intrusive with seniors. When you aim for quality of life, feed good quality food, and provide symptom relief, seniors are an amazing addition to any home. Please consider giving a good home to a senior dog. It will change your life. Check out SAINTS for adoptable seniors. You can also check out Boo who is up for adoption through Bully Buddies.

[1] AKA: Tuber, Tater Tot

Quote of the Day

“I’ve always been scared and I still am scared, but I’m starting to speak out a lot better and more and I want it better for me and my grandchildren and my kids, so they can have a little bit of a better life, so I think this will help to heal a lot.”

Alice George – at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in Port Alberni.

Residential Schools are a shameful part of Canada’s history. Aboriginal children, forced to live in these ‘schools’ away from their families, suffered systematic abuse at the hands of their captors. Alice George sums it up well – it is about healing so the next generation does not suffer.

Fixing Ruby

We recently decided to take in a couple of dogs from Chilliwack Animal Control. Ruby is the second dog. Ruby was clearly a puppy-making machine. Her vulva is huge and her nipples almost touch the floor. She is small for a Shihtzu so she may be crossed with something. This dog was used up until she was no longer able to have babies. She was then callously discarded. Her teeth were so rotten the infection ate through her jawbone so she doesn’t have one on the bottom. All of her teeth had to come out so her little tongue pokes out. She had been kept in such filthy conditions that she actually has dirt embedded in her skin. She had surgery to fix the hernia and was spayed at the same time.

Love the tongue sticking out!

Ruby is quite independent. She doesn’t need anything from humans except food. She does not seem to have experienced the comfort and joy that dogs get when they interact with people. When I pet any of our dogs they almost immediately roll over for a belly rub. Ruby does not. When I pet Piper or Zoe I get happy dog noises. Ruby doesn’t make these noises. When our dogs are scared they come to us. Ruby goes to her door less crate.[1]

Ruby loves food though! Every time she goes out to pee[2] her entire body starts to vibrate in anticipation of the ‘Beggin’ Strips.’ She comes in and her tail starts to wag furiously and her mouth opens waiting for someone to guide as suitably sized piece of treat to her mouth. Yesterday she tasted ham for the first time. I thought she was going to fall over from the pleasure. Ruby eats with gusto.

Hurry up already and put that in my mouth!

Affection is something different. She really does not expect anything. I have started to give her massages at night. It is really important when introducing physical touch that it be firm and purposeful. Light touch actually annoys dogs. Last night, before going to bed I spent about 10 minutes massaging her and talking to her quietly. Eventually she started to really enjoy it. She gave me her belly for a bit until Piper came over and then she moved. She actually started to make some happy noises. I will do this for the foreseeable future. She will, in time, start to seek out affection.

Finally! What took you so long?

It is dogs like Ruby who break my heart. She should have been someone’s pampered pet not a moneymaking machine for humans. Dogs give us all so much already; I can’t imagine how anyone can think it is ok to breed them over and over again until there is nothing left. Actually, I don’t think there is ever a reason to breed a companion animal. With so many dogs waiting in shelters and rescues all over BC it is preferable to adopt rather than buy.

We will make sure that Ruby knows love. We will make sure she knows that not all humans are evil. She will get to know the life of being a pampered pet and she will, at some point, get excited at the sound of our voices knowing that we will make her feel good. And we will do it all on her terms, respecting her wants, needs and desires.


[1] Ruby loves her crate. She has a nice soft bed in it. We took the door off because she does not need to be contained in it. I wish she didn’t feel like that was her safe place but she does.

[2] She is remarkably house-trained it seems or else we are just putting her out enough.

Music from the Swamp – the ‘I like to sing’ edition

Today I thought I would feature some songs that are fabulous for singing along. When I am singing along to a song that hits the right chord for me, I am probably at my most ‘zen.’ Everything feels right and my mind is focused only on the music. The songs change over time so here are some of my current favourites:

Counting Crows – Anna Begins

John Stewart & Stevie Nicks – Gold

This is a very old song. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was about 14 years old. It took years to find it again as all I could remember were the opening lyrics.

Eagles – The Last Resort

Tori Amos – Witness

I couldn’t find the original song. If you are interested it is on her Beekeeper album which is one of my favourites.

The Decemberists – June Hymn

More in the Music from the Swamp Series: The David Francey Edition, The Decemberists Edition, The Warren Zevon Edition, The Playlist Edition

In the ‘Public Interest’

I attended an interesting conference last week. The conference was focused on legal resources for settlement workers. Where I work we do a lot of settlement work and there are so many facets to it, it was important for me to attend to expand my knowledge. The conference was comprised of smaller workshops on various topics.

I attended a session put on by the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (OCTIP) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). On first glance, one would think this is a compelling issue in Canada today.[1] In fact, the OCTIP, with help from the federal government, has put together an 8-hour training session on the issue. These people clearly have money to burn. Their materials are plenty and varied. They have cards, brochures and wallet cards all printed on high-quality paper and cardstock. They talked about people being trafficked for the purpose of sex work, other types of labour and organ procurement. Yes, you read that correctly: organ procurement. Apparently the issue is so dire CIC has created a separate temporary residence status for trafficked person.

I honestly felt like I was in a different world listening to this presentation. They never actually presented a case of a trafficked person. We were presented with a list of things to look for so we could identify a trafficked person.[2] After the presentation, I asked how many cases they have of confirmed trafficking in Canada. The answer is less than 100 in 6 years. I have been working with refugees for almost 4 years and we have never seen a case of a trafficked individual. My next question was how much money has been directed at this problem and neither of the presenters knew the answer! There are 4 full time people in the OCTIP in BC and at least one federal person. That would be 5 FTEs conservatively. If we took an average[3] of their salaries as $55,000, that would mean at minimum they are spending $275,000 per year. This means that each trafficked person costs the system $16,500.

I then attended a presentation on family violence. A crown attorney presented some of the difficulties in prosecuting offenders. At one point, the discussion turned to the Missing Women from the DTES[4] and Robert Pickton. The crown attorney very callously spewed what he thought were the numbers in the case. He said Pickton was charged with 8 or 9 murders and that there were 18 that did not proceed to trial.[5] I could not believe the complete disregard for the women who were killed by Pickton displayed by his comments. As a crown attorney you would think he would know the numbers!

What was even more galling was his explanation as to why Pickton never stood trial on the other 20 murders: it was not in the public interest. What he means by this is that because Pickton is already been sentenced to life in prison for 25 years there is no point in taking him to trial on the other charges. I would ask, exactly, whose public interest is he talking about? Certainly not mine or, I am sure, the victims’ families in this case. I would also point out that if the women had been from Kerrisdale and their skin a little lighter there would most definitely be a ‘public interest’ in proceeding on all charges.

The Missing Women’s Inquiry was supposed to give the families some explanations as to what happened. Instead it has been rife with issues from the beginning. With little to no Aboriginal representation and focusing almost completely on the police and their investigation many advocacy groups and victims’ families have expressed that this forum will not, in any way, address their concerns. If all this isn’t bad enough, there are now allegations surfacing about sexism in the workplace of the Inquiry. Apparently the environment is highly sexualized where women have routinely faced demeaning comments. To make it even worse, as if that is possible, the women didn’t want to make complaints because they are concerned their future job prospects would be compromised.

It is time for the BC provincial government to get its act together. Why have we spent 1.65 million dollars on combatting human trafficking[6] while Aboriginal women die on the DTES? Misogyny (racism and classism too) is so deeply ingrained in our culture that women can’t even get a fair shake trying to improve justice for dead women. I grow increasingly weary the older I get. It just seems to get worse.

[1] I am sure being a trafficked person is very devastating. I am not, in any way, saying this issue is not important.

[2] If you are interested in the signs according to OCTIP: http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/octip/signs.htm

[3] Their salaries probably range from $40,000-$70,000 a year.

[4] DTES=Downtown Eastside.

[5] Pickton went to court on 7 charges of murder and once was dropped. He was convicted of 6 counts of second-degree murder. He did not go to court on the other 20.

[6] Which are most likely many cases of human smuggling. Not that human smuggling is a good either.

Music from the Swamp – the ‘playlist’ edition

As I may have mentioned a time or two, music is central to my self-care. It is how I escape the stress and anxiety that mark my life. I am really not fit to live with if I do not have time to listen to lots of music in my day. On the days I go to work, I have my 1.5+ hours in my car to listen to music and sing loudly. On the days I am home, I probably spend 3 hours listening to music while I have breakfast and spend time on the computer. In no particular order, are 5 songs that I am really relating to these days.

  1. Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Death to my Hometown’ – Bruce may be old but he is still able to capture the pulse of America in his music. He has done this in the past with songs like ‘My Hometown’ and ‘My City of Ruins’ after 9/11. He does not disappoint with his latest song. The premise of the song is that even though war has not come to America, its cities and towns have been decimated. He points out that no dictators have been crowned but that marauders and robber barons are to blame. It is a very powerful song.
2. From the new Sinead O’Connor album there are several songs I really love. The standout right now is the ‘Queen of Denmark.’ I love the anger in this song.
3. Since seeing Spirit of the West at the Commodore on St. Patrick’s day, I have become re-acquainted with their song ‘Unplugged.’ The song is about not wanting to become a burden to one’s spouse. As I get older this song really resonates. This is a live, ‘unplugged’ version:
4. I have featured David Francey before. I just keep finding songs I haven’t heard before that I really like. The latest one is the ‘Long Way Home.’ Canadian music at its finest if you ask me.
5. The Decemberists song ‘The Crane Wife 3’ is an amazing song to sing too. It really satisfies the singing need.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I am on vacation’ edition

–       The last 3 months seem to have just flown by. I have been super-busy at work with grant applications and reports. I have been feeling remarkably well which has made the workload manageable. I always seem to see getting to Easter as a major accomplishment. I hate that there are no statutory holidays between January and April.

–       Ruby is fitting in well. She is such a sweet dog. She is completely addicted to ‘beggin strips.’ Her little body positively vibrates when she knows one is coming her way. I love watching dogs who have had nothing or very little their entire lives begin to embrace life at The Swamp. Every meal is an opportunity to let them know that they are loved. Yesterday she had cooked turkey and her tail never stopped wagging the entire time she was eating it. She is going to see the groomer on Monday. We are hoping they can get her clean. Her belly seems to have embedded dirt in the skin. I will post pictures once she comes back!

–       As the years go by, I have to say that I really dislike our neighbours. They are always imposing some sort of noise on us. This weekend it was parties with very loud music on both Friday and Saturday night. Then there is the almost never-ending barking of their dog. Even weekday evenings we are not immune as they sit outside and talk very loudly. I can’t imagine going through life and being that entitled. I can’t wait for another summer of pool parties…