Princess Zoesephine

It is amazing to witness the capacity of dogs to overcome their difficult circumstances once they come into rescue. For the most part, dogs are very resilient animals. However, some dogs no matter how long they are in rescue they just never recover to any great degree. This post is not about a dog like this. Instead I am going to profile our Zoe who has managed to change so profoundly from the day she arrived.

Zoe arrived in September of 2009. A former puppy mill breeding female from northern BC, she had been rescued by Turtle Gardens. When Zoe arrived she was a mess. She was not toilet-trained and really had no interest in going outside. In the early days she would come into the living room and pee on the floor right in front of us. We eventually solved the toilet training problem through food. Zoe is highly food motivated so getting treats when she actually goes outside has been very effective.

Zoe has gone far beyond just learning to do her business outside. She has truly become the master of her own universe… and us. Here are some highlights of how self-actualized Zoe has become:

  • As I pointed out in this post, Zoe always wants what I am eating. It does not matter if she likes it. The other day she was clawing at my leg[1] for a piece of my pancake. I doubted she wanted it but I gave in anyway. I offered her a piece and it hit the floor and she walked away from it. She went to the other side of my chair and repeated. Now I had 2 pieces of pancake on the floor.
  • Zoe hates to get her feet wet. In the rain,[2] it takes minutes some days to get her to off the step and pee. Wash, rinse, repeat 5 times a day!
  • If Zoe is somewhere she doesn’t want to be she can bark incessantly. We separate the dogs to eat. Zoe tends to eat in Deb’s office as she will take other dog’s food. As soon as she thinks she is done[3] she begins to bark. She will continue to bark until someone gets up and lets her out. Most of the time when we go to let her out she tries to leave with whatever food she hasn’t eaten yet. It’s not that she wants to eat it; she wants to prevent others from eating it. What this sets up is a growl and snarl fest wherever Zoe decides to take her food.
  • Closely related to the above, Zoe has no bite inhibition. Trying to get food from her means literally putting your intact skin into jeopardy.[4]

Zoe has become our little princess. This is typical of the breed – they really take their royal origins seriously. She has a pillow on her bed or she stretches out on the Newfoundland’s bed. I saw her there this morning snoozing on her back in the middle of the giant bed. She cracks me up in the morning as she races down the stairs with her tail going in circles and her back legs flying out behind her. It is really a surprise to see her do this as she is at least 12 years old.

We adore this dog. She has recently been diagnosed with pulmonary issues and will need to be on Lasix for the rest of her life. We now have to get through a blood test and a dental. The thought of losing this amazing little dog is absolutely heartbreaking and we are not ready yet. Last week gave us a big scare!


[1] Which really, really hurts.

[2] And let’s face it, it rains a lot here.

[3] She may be done but really she thinks she might be missing better food some place else.

[4] We believe Zoe was a starved dog when she was having puppies. She has all the hallmarks.

Stephen Harper is Killing Canada

Seriously. Seriously who voted for these assholes? They certainly didn’t run on a platform of sticking it to seniors, seasonal workers and refugees. Yet that is what is happening. Every day we seem to hear another cut to some social program somewhere. Harper and his cronies are consistently targeting the poor, the old and the stateless all under the guise of fiscal prudence. However, a little analysis will show that these cuts are just plain cruel and the amount of savings is chump change when compared to the size of the overall Canadian Federal budget.

Small ‘c’ conservatism, at its roots, is steeped in Protestant Christian doctrine. Canada, a country founded mostly on Protestant Christianity[1], has deep roots in Calvinism. John Calvin, a French theologian, believed in predetermination. He believed that a person’s fate in the afterlife was predetermined, meaning there was nothing a person could do in their life that would change this outcome. Out of this grew a belief that successful people, those with wealth and power, would be going to heaven. Clearly this cast the poor and the downtrodden as expendable as they had no hope of going to heaven anyway. We see this principle alive and well in Canada today. Even though our society is multicultural and far more secular today these beliefs still inform political ideology. Income supports to help the poor and disenfranchised are almost always the first thing on the chopping block in times of economic uncertainty even though they are a very small part of the overall budget.

Harper has been quite strategic in his cuts to OAS. He has not targeted current recipients or even people 5 years away from claiming OAS. Instead, he has put the age increase for eligibility a full 10 years down the road. This really does not make sense as it is the glut of baby boomers retiring in the next 10 years that will cost the program the most money. Clearly Harper knows that messing with seniors is never a good idea. Current recipients of OAS don’t really care what is going to happen in 10 years and those of us that it will affect are too busy trying to make a living to protest these changes.

This week’s announcement about changes to EI really reflects conservative ideology. The fact that the EI program is well funded by contributions from individuals and working Canadians seems to have escaped him. Other governments have actually taken money from the EI program to help offset other deficits. In the changes announced, Harper and his merry band of con artists is going after seasonal workers. These changes will not affect Harper’s traditional base of support in the western provinces. Instead it will punish those who did not elect Conservatives. By limiting the amount of EI a seasonal (or heavy user as they are now being called) worker can receive will have a huge impact on the local economies where it can least be afforded. Reducing the amount of money in circulation will have huge ripple effects through already depressed areas of the country. These changes will also put more pressure on provincial welfare systems.

Harper’s reason for this change is completely insulting. The federal government is arguing that Canadians are sitting on EI while Tim Horton’s and McDonalds have to bring in temporary foreign workers to staff their outlets. In the ‘new world’ ‘heavy users’ of EI would have to take a job that pays 70% of their normal wages if it is within an hour of their homes. First of all this is going to be so difficult to enforce, in fact I think it will cost more to enforce this edict than the money they will save. Let’s not forget that the EI program is healthy – there is no fiscal reason for these changes. Instead it is about keeping the poor in their place, under the thumb of the federal government.

I have saved the best for last. While the changes to social programs above are draconian, it is the cuts to the refugee health program that are the cruelest. Canada agrees to take about 3000 refugees per year from war torn areas of the world and refugee camps. We transport them here[2], they receive a monthly stipend and health coverage under the Interim Federal Health (IFH) program. We also accept refugee claimants who are also covered by IFH. Through a quiet order-in-council, the Harper government has made deep cuts to this program to save $80 million over 5 years.[3]

Under these changes, which take affect at the end of June, refugees will only be treated for diseases that are a danger to the Canadian public or diseases that make a person a danger to society. If the refugee has tuberculosis they will be diagnosed and treated. A severe mental health issue like psychosis or schizophrenia may be treated if the government believes the refugee could hurt people. If you have diabetes the government may pay for the diagnosis but not the treatment – so no insulin or medication. They will also not provide medical equipment[4] or pay for emergency dental work or medication for depression. Refugees whose claims have been rejected or who are from a Designated Country of Origin[5] will not have any coverage. So if a rejected refugee presents at a hospital with a heart attack they will receive treatment, as the hospital cannot turn them away. The refugee will then be stuck with a huge bill and no way of paying so ultimately the province will be on the hook for the costs.

IFH will not pay for any medication except under the two exemptions of conditions that pose a risk to the Canadian public. In some cases they will pay for the diagnostics and a surgical procedure if it is warranted. One example that was given is that of a refugee who needs to have a stent put in their heart. This would all be paid for but the medication needed like blood thinners or statins would not be covered. This literally makes no sense and, in fact, is counter-intuitive. If you pay for a surgery but not the medication to maintain its efficacy, the patient will be back in hospital for further procedures. Most refugees live in abject poverty for the first couple of years at least and if the choice is medication or feeding the children you can guess where the money is going to go.

My solution to all of this is for the Harper government to cancel a couple of fighter jets. Why do we need fighter jets? We are not at war with anyone except the poor, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable. Our government’s priorities are extremely screwed up. As an individual I feel powerless to do anything to change what is happening. I am only hoping that we have something that still resembles Canada at the end of this government’s mandate. In the meantime you can all expect some long rants.

[1] Except Quebec and some other French-speaking enclaves which are primarily Catholic.

[2] They have to pay the transportation costs back at the end of the first year. For some large families this amounts to a debt of thousands of dollars. Welcome to Canada and your new indebted life.

[3] 80 million sounds like a lot of money unless you put it in perspective. This amounts to $16 million a year on a $6 billion budget. Basically the government is going to go through the couch and gather some change.

[4] Think canes, walkers, and crutches.

[5] Designated Country of Origin – is a country, determined by the Federal Immigration Minister that has a high refusal rate for claims or a country where refugees abandon their claims. Currently Mexico would be such a country. We don’t yet know which countries will be on the list.

Dispatches from the Swamp the ‘Maple Ridge Extra Foods Union Tribute’ edition

  • Here at The Swamp, we were spoiled by an Extra Foods really close to our house. Prices there are about 20% cheaper than other grocery stores. Plus we could use our President Choice MasterCards and get serious points on every thing we bought. Factor in ‘meat markdown Mondays’ and it was a raw-feeders paradise. Then the company refused to negotiate with its workers and they went on strike in December of 2008. Those workers, mostly women, have been picketing for 3 ½ years. Through summer, winter’s cold and driving rain and snow they stayed there, in the parking lot. Finally, they banded together with some other stores and they were able to win a small increase that was retroactive to 2004, a far better deal than the almost 50% wage cut being demanded by the employer. While we are hugely happy the store has re-opened, it is the seniors who live all around it who are the most relieved. They can go back to walking to get their groceries and still stay within their budgets. It was really nice to go in their yesterday and congratulate them on their victory.
  • We had a little scare this week with Zoe. We took her to the vet because she has a slight cough. Upon exam, the vet said she needed a dental, which was fine. She listened to her heart and lungs and said everything sounded fine. We decided to do x-rays and a blood test before her dental because she is 12. On the x-rays they saw shadows and decided to put her on some Lasix to see if it was just water or something more sinister. After a couple of very long hours we found out it is just water and she needs to take Lasix for the rest of her life. We know Lasix burns out the kidneys after a while but it is not cancer, which is what is important! She is antibiotics right now and will have her dental next week.
  • Ruby has the same thing going on as Zoe. The previous vet clinic cannot find her x-rays so we will have to repeat at our vet next week. I have never seen a dog so calm at the vet! She just didn’t care as the vet poked and prodded. Zoe, on the other hand, was not amused.[1]
  • The growing of the hair experiment is over. I had decided to do something different with it because my sleep apnea head gear had caused a line of flat hair on the top of my head for the past 10 years and I was tired of it. I recently got a new machine and headgear and I realized after a couple of weeks that it does not rest in the same spot and does not need to be tight. So I got my hair cut yesterday!!! My hair, when left to its own devices, is think and coarse. It is so thick that my hats did not fit anymore!
  • I love my new office. I have so much space. The walls are purple and there are dog beds all over the place. Deb ordered some musical note border paper to go around the middle of the walls where the colour changes. It is black and white and should look fabulous!


[1] Zoe is a princess. In fact, that will be the subject of an upcoming blog post!

We all need to take a lesson from Quebec Students

Students have been protesting planned increases to tuition for 3 months. It does not seem to matter what the Charest government does the protests come back stronger than before. This is not a surprise to those of us who are familiar with Quebec history. Whether it was the October Crisis, the confrontation at Oka or the power of the sovereignty movement, Quebecers have a long history of effective protest. What makes Quebec stand apart from other provinces is their absolute commitment to social justice and access to education. Quebec has the lowest tuition in the country. If the proposed tuition increases go through, Quebec will still have the lowest tuition in the country. Quebecer students don’t seem to care about the government’s claims – to them, this increase will reduce access to education.

Canada has never been a country to sustain any kind of long-term protests seen in other countries. We seem to just take what the government dishes out and retreat to our indebted homes to lick our wounds. Very rarely is public outrage translated into political action. One recent exception was the HST petition that succeeded in causing a referendum. I doubt it would have been so successful if it were not for the polarizing influence of Bill Vander Zalm.

Our current political climate is cruel and very negative. The Harper Conservatives keep lobbing cut after cut after cut at us and like good little Canadians we take it and hope that someone, somewhere will fix it. It started with extending the age of eligibility of OAS.[1] Since then we have seen medical insurance for refugees being cut[2] and now being told that we have to be prepared to take any job if we happen to need EI. The Conservatives are eroding, even further, what differentiates Canada from other countries.

I am sure that no one who voted for Harper saw all this shit coming. But it is so predictable. He is a social conservative. He believes that everyone just needs to work harder and they will have everything they need. We know this is not true. People do not languish on EI or welfare because they want to. No one wants the state to pay their way if they have an option. I am afraid that the Canada we get back when he is done is going to look nothing like the Canada of today. This makes me very sad and not very hopeful for the future. I only hope that our youth take a page from the Quebec students who will not back down. We need that kind of commitment to save Canada now.

[1] Which will not be felt immediately. Instead, it will hit my generation.

[2] Refugees will only receive treatment for conditions that are a threat to public safety (i.e. TB) or if they are not treated the person may be a danger to the public (i.e. severe mental health issues). Need a cane, forget it! A life-saving medication like insulin – not going to happen in Harper/Kenney’s Canada!


I have been suffering a little bit of a blog block the last couple of days. I can’t seem to blog about anything until I purge this out of my system – so here goes.

I am pissed off. I seem to have managed to end up with 2 mothers, neither of whom is very interested in me. This is not news with my adoptive mother. She is much more interested in my sister. She wants her approval and she wants to spend time with her. When I am around, Deb is definitely her favourite daughter. I have come to terms with this as it has always been like this in our family. It doesn’t matter what I accomplish because I am not my sister. This is not news. I have dealt with this my entire life.

Being adopted, I had a vision of what my birth mother would be like. I envisioned her being smart, witty and interested in what I had to say. I thought she would be relieved to finally have contact with me and that we would be able to spend some serious time together. I want to get to know her. Going out for dinner[1] was fine in the beginning but it is superficial and getting old. No one really relaxes and you have wait staff interrupting at inopportune moments. We have had several dinners out and nothing really moves forward. Our best visit was when she came out for lunch one afternoon.

Communication from her is sporadic at best. I haven’t seen her since the end of March. She does not initiate contact nor does she respond to emails in a timely manner. She does not want to drive to Maple Ridge, as she doesn’t like to drive at night. We have offered to pick her up and take her home but she doesn’t want to do that either. We have offered our guest room but she says no. I invited her to watch the Survivor finale last weekend which would have had her on her way by 7pm but she wouldn’t do that either.

So I find myself in a place where I still don’t have a mother type that meets my needs in any way. However, I am strong and can deal with this but that is not really the issue here. I feel like I have lost my fantasy and gained absolutely nothing. I have been patient, understanding that she needed time to come to terms with being found. I know she has a lot of shame around getting pregnant and I know she has never really dealt with this in any concrete way. I am clear that though that the current situation is not tenable for me.


[1] Which is pretty much all she wants to do.

In honour of Zoe being ok, I thought it would re-post this in her honour! We love you Zoe!!!

Dispatches from the Swamp

We have the next new greatest diet plan ever living here at The Swamp! Zoe is our secret weapon. I think if we could market her to normal people we would make a small fortune. Here is why: whenever I eat something she claws my legs and barks at me non-stop until I give her what I am eating. She usually will allot me 5 minutes before she starts her tirade.

If I am eating in the living room she starts by popping up on her back legs and clawing at my chair. This invariably annoys me quickly because we have leather furniture. Then she barks. About every 10 seconds she will let out one bark.[1]

When that fails[2] she will jump up on my footrest and paw my stomach.[3] When that fails to work to her satisfaction[4] she will launch onto my chest. This means…

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Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘crap, summer seems to have arrived’ edition

  • We said goodbye to Tru on Monday. She was ready to go. We thought she might have passed on her own over the weekend. She went very peacefully. I am pretty sure she lived for an extra 3 months because she liked it here. Rest in peace Tru, you were a very good dog.
  • The last 2 days have been so warm! Uggh. I dread the annual arrival of summer. I just don’t cope in the heat. We are mostly ready though. We need to buy a new air conditioner for the kitchen. I also think the house may be warmer now that the big tree is gone out front.
  • Given that summer appears to have arrived, I am trying to break my feet in to where my Birkenstocks this year. I have spoiled by the plush Naots with orthotics. I really missed wearing the Birks last year so they are on my feet today.
  • Deb and I went to a fundraiser last night. It was a dance and the music was bluegrass and swing. I thought my ears were going to bleed. We lasted a grand total of 2 hours. I donated the dragon I made in filet crochet but it didn’t even get one bid! Deb thinks it was just the wrong crowd. However, the pug umbrella we donated sparked a bidding war. Who knew?
  • All of the dogs are doing really well. We have such a nice group right now. They all get along very well. We are taking Ruby and Zoe to the vet on Monday. Ruby has a heart condition and needs a refill on meds. Zoe seems to cough a couple of times a day. It is not getting worse and it does not happen when she is active. I am thinking collapsing trachea but just want to be sure. We have had her for almost 3 years now, which means she is likely 12. Other than that she is totally fine being her princess, entitled little self.
  • I am in my new office!!! This makes me very happy. We have tons of storage space in here. I have room for all my craft stuff and furniture. Plus it is purple!!!!

Swamp Quote of the Day

Here at The Swamp, we heartily support same-sex marriage. In fact, we had one! On October 18, 2003, after the court decision and before the legislation, we got married. At the time we did it because we wanted to support the cause and be one more couple who took marriage vows. What we didn’t expect was that it would change our relationship so substantially. We are now family in the eyes of our friends, families, co-workers and our government.

Barack Obama endorsing same-sex marriage. It really shouldn’t be such a big deal in 2012 but it is monumental.

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

Review: BulletTrain Express Keyboard Platform

What is it?

The BulletTrain Express Keyboard Platform holds an Apple Wireless keyboard and Apple Magic Trackpad. Essentially, it gives you the same set up as you find on Macbook Pros and Airs.

How does it work?

Basically you snap in your Magic Trackpad and Wireless keyboard.[1] The two devices then sit in the platform. It allows the user to access the trackpad beneath the keyboard just like a Macbook.

BulletTrain Express with Apple Wireless Keyboard and Apple Magic Trackpad

Why should I care?

It all depends on your approach to computing and your style. Personally, I love how the MBPs are set up. I find I am way more productive with the trackpad beneath the keyboard. I tried using a trackpad in place of a mouse but I found it cumbersome and really not all that effective. I particularly found the trackpad problematic if I was working in a spreadsheet application; I would up reverting to a mouse.

The BulletTrain Express feels very solid. It does not move when you are typing and holds both the keyboard and trackpad level. It also provides some much needed wrist support. After 2 days of using it I have to say I am thrilled.

You could also effectively use the BulletTrain Express as an input device for a computer in the living room or media centre. It is totally lap friendly!

The only thing I don’t like is that the BulletTrain Express does not house a full-size keyboard. I do a lot of work with numbers and I need a keypad. I have purchased an SMK-Link Bluetooth keyboard/calculator.

That’s all great but how much does it cost?

The BulletTrain Express costs $79. However, you also have to purchase an Apple Wireless keyboard and a Magic Trackpad. The total setup cost: $223 and with the Bluetooth keypad is about $300. Not inexpensive. But if you already have the trackpad and keyboard and can live without the number pad then you are just looking at the $79.

So how do I get it?

You can order it here.


I love this product! Quite often I am disappointed in tech products as they are not often as they are described. This product is different. I noticed this right from the beginning. The product was on back order and when I emailed to find out when I would get mine, the product creator called me. We discussed the Express and he was confident that I was going to love. He was right. So, if you have used a MacBook Pro and loved it you will love this set up for your desktop.

[1] These items are not provided.

Music from the Swamp – the ‘Eagles’ edition

A couple of months ago, I heard someone describe the Eagles as boring. I was shocked to say the least. There are many adjectives[1] that could be used to describe the Eagles but boring is not one of them. The Eagles paved the way for country-rock. The Eagles sold more albums in the 1970s than any other group.[2] One of my favourite albums was the Eagles Live record released in 1980. The song ‘Life’s been Good’ became the unofficial party song of my youth. Here are my top 5 Eagles songs:

Hotel California – Seriously who has not heard this song? watch?v=NUbTW928sMU

Peaceful Easy Feeling – this song really spoke to the young lesbian in me. It transported me to a place where everything would be fine. I would dream about being with the woman and it was the secret I kept just for me. watch?v=44A9iDQNrss

Seven Bridges Road – The opening acapella sequence is out of this world. The harmonies in this song are some of the best ever performed. watch?v=c-q7Mih69KE

The Last Resort – the lyrics to this song are as relevant today as they were in the 1970s. watch?v=ekytTpFy96o

Desperado – again, another hymn of the 1970s. I wonder how many weddings, dances and events closed with this song? watch?v=0BwOXlGbW6Q

More in the Music from the Swamp Series: The David Francey EditionThe Decemberists EditionThe Warren Zevon EditionThe Playlist Edition, The Matthew Barber Edition, The Richard Shindell Edition

[1] Revolutionary, ridiculously talented and amazing come to mind!