Dogs in the City

Dog trainers on TV are not a new thing. Good dog trainers on TV though are an uncommon sight. For some reason, TV seems to attract trainers who are firmly in the negative reinforcement camp. Perhaps seeing men dominate dogs until they submit makes for better ratings. Belittling the dog owners also seems to be a ratings juggernaut as many of us like to watch the train wrecks.

There is a new trainer on TV these days: Justin Silver. His show, Dogs in the City, features New Yorkers and their problem dogs. These are not the typical problems you see in other cities. New Yorkers seem to take ‘quirk’ to a whole other level. But I digress.

The show generally features the story of 4 families and their dogs. After the initial assessment, Justin returns with a plan to help the family manage their dog’s behavior. Invariably, his methods are based on positive reinforcement and leadership. For Justin, leadership seems to be one of the most important facets of his methods. As we know many negative dog behaviors stem from a lack of leadership. Basically the dog feels like it is her job to protect you from whatever is going on. In doing this the dog then becomes anxious and may develop aggression. Instead he asks people to provide leadership to their dog; let the dog know that they are not in charge and that you will manage the situation. One great example of this was a dog that was owned by 2 gay men. The dog hated other men. New men would come into their apartment and the dog was growl aggressively beside one of his humans. Clearly what needed to happen here was the dog had to know that his humans would manage this situation. At Justin’s suggestion, they determined a behavior they wanted the dog to exhibit[1] when new people came into the apartment. Once the person was in the apartment and the dog had a chance to investigate within parameters everything was fine.

Justin is also a friend to rescue. The last episode featured him with Edie Falco supporting a local New York rescue. He also assisted with some training tips for some of their more difficult dogs. Particularly a beagle named Conan who barked non-stop when he was over-stimulated. This behavior was getting in the way of him being adopting. Again with a little leadership and telling the dog what he wanted it to do, Conan was able to calm down enough. He also used clicker training and treats to work with this dog.

Some in the local rescue community seem to be quite down on this show. However, I would much rather have the public watching Dogs in the City than those other shows. If nothing else they will learn that there are positive ways to get results for their dogs. Another great point, highlighted by Deb, is who would hire a trainer after watching Brad Pattison pin a dog until it peed? Or after watching Cesar Milan pick a dog up by its collar and leash? They give trainers a bad name. Justin Silver is a positive trainer who really seems to speak dog.


[1] Most often, we are very sure what we *don’t * want our dogs to do. By giving them something to do in a certain situation they know who is in control. Dogs want to please.

My Journey with Ulcerative Colitis

I realized the other day that it has been 7 years since I first started to show symptoms of ulcerative colitis. This disease is very difficult to live with as it interferes with digestion, can cause major blood loss and creates a great deal of fatigue. Here is a brief synopsis of the ulcerative colitis events in my life. Keep in mind that every day has been a struggle to deal with fatigue, pain, random fevers and ‘digestion upsets.’

  • June 2005 – I had a number of symptoms that were strange. Mostly it was mucous, blood and thin ribbon-like stools. I was also spending more time in the bathroom than usual.
  • December 2005 – I had my first colonoscopy. It was negative for any sign of ulcerative colitis. My symptoms had also stopped.
  • February 2006 – the symptoms come back with a vengeance. Lots of pain, diarrhea, mucous and blood. My doctor started me on Asacol, which is a first-line treatment for ulcerative colitis.
  • July 2006 – I saw my first gastroenterologist. He says I likely have ulcerative colitis and says I need a colonoscopy. He then shut down his practice before I could be scheduled. I didn’t know this so I waited 18 months as my symptoms worsened.
  • October 2007 – I finally see a new gastroenterologist. He decides I don’t have ulcerative colitis based on one symptom of Irritable Bowel Syndrome[1] – which I also have. He took me off all ulcerative colitis medication and I became really sick. When I finally had a colonoscopy a month later I had really deteriorated. I had active ulcerative colitis in 1 metre of my colon. He was extremely condescending and rude to me. When I asked him about going on immune suppressant drugs[2] he said he would never put me on that medication.
  • November 2007 – I developed an immune response called pyoderma gangrenosum. It caused what looked like an abscess by my eye that had to be lanced and then a huge abdominal wall lesion that eventually measured 10 cm by 10 cm. It was extremely painful. It took more than a month to diagnose. During that time they hit with me intense antibiotics that, in the end, did nothing. It was only after a wound care nurse figured it out that I was appropriately treated with steroids.
  • January 2008 – I ended up in hospital for 2 weeks. I had dangerously low potassium levels due to diarrhea. I also had very low hemoglobin due to constantly bleeding. I was also in extreme pain. I ended up on prednisone for 6 months and huge dose of morphine that I then had to wean off of. I could not work for 6 months.
  • November 2009 – I ended up in hospital again as my immune system had been wiped out by Imuran. I was in for week. I had 2 blood transfusions and spent time in reverse isolation.[3] This is the closest I have come to dying. Literally.
  • July 2011 – I needed to take a sick leave for about 2 months. I was exhausted and really struggling. Likely it was all due to stress.

I have been back at work since mid-September of 2011. The last 6 months I have seen a steady improvement. I have been looking after myself very well. I am wondering if the addition of kefir to my morning smoothie is helping. Some people have had success with repopulating their digestive tracts with good bacteria. I have tried this with Florastor and VSL #3[4]. Perhaps naturally occurring bacteria from real food is better? I hope the upswing continues. I would love to have my life back.

[1] I had colon spasms. I have always had them. Apparently, in his mind, this meant I didn’t have ulcerative colitis.

[2] Ulcerative colitis is believed to be the result of an overactive immune system attacking the colon. Immune suppressant drugs help to control the immune system.

[3] Everyone coming to see me had to gown up except for Deb. They let her do what she wanted.

[4] Both of these are ridiculously expensive.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘Tuber Edition’

  • Ruby (aka Tuber)[1] is doing so much better. Some of you may remember the post I wrote a couple of months ago: Fixing Ruby. Ruby had never known that human beings could give her good things in life. She has come so far. Gone is the sad little dog who wanted to hide in her crate all the time.[2] We now have a bright-eyed[3] confident little dog. Her tail is up and her ears almost stick straight out from her body. She loves life. She is following in the tracks of many dogs at The Swamp who try to kill the humans by sticking so close to their feet that we trip over them. She goes to the park and enjoys herself immensely. I would regale you with pictures but she hates the camera.
  • My health has really improved lately. Sticking to a routine has really helped my fatigue levels. I no longer sleep in on weekends. I used to sleep 12+ hours on the weekend just to be able to work all week. This morning I was awake and up at 8:30, which is early for me. Clearly all of the things I have been doing to look after myself have worked. Getting back in touch with the things that make me happy and contented was a good plan. Luckily, I will likely never run out of things to crochet for people. I have started on a new Realta afghan for my best friend Joe. I am making it queen size, which means it is roughly 4 times the size of the last one.
  • Piper has lost 2 pounds! This is ½ of the weight she needed to lose according to the vet who did her soft-palate resection last year. Her breathing is so much better even in this heat.
  • The rest of the dogs are doing well. Ruby and Zoe are hardly coughing at all now on their Lasix. Kiefer seems to surviving the heat ok. He likes to lay on the cool tile by the front door or in the living room in the shade. If it gets much warmer I will have to set up the air conditioner in the living room for him. Sawyer is still cold. He is always looking for a blanket to go under.

[1] Tuber as in potato. She is about as bright as one. But she is sweet, so very, very sweet!

[2] She still won’t sleep anywhere unless it is a dog bed.

[3] But very deaf …

And We Wonder Why So Many Women Died

The ongoing saga of the Missing Women’s Inquiry[1] was dealt another blow this week with pictures of Corporal Jim Brown’s sexual activities being uncovered.[2] The pictures showed the RCMP officer in various sexual situations where women were being dominated and demeaned. In one photo, he has a knife to the neck of a woman. While Brown didn’t play a large role in the investigation, these pictures suggest attitudes that likely affected how vigoursly the Coquitlam RCMP pursued the investigation.

Given the culture of the RCMP, one of misogyny and sexism, it is likely that missing survival sex-trade workers from the Downtown Eastside was not given a high priority. The women all poor, mostly Aboriginal, some addicted to drugs were not deemed a high priority. After all the killings went on for at least a decade. Even though the RCMP knew about what was going on at Piggy’s Palace[3] and they had reports from women they didn’t step in to shut it down. There is speculation now that Jim Brown may have even attended some of those parties.

I can almost hear the hew and cry from the BDSM community about these pictures. The argument will go that he is entitled to a private sex life. And, while that may be so he nonetheless had a responsibility to conduct himself in a reasonable manner. Instead he allowed pictures of him to be taken and displayed on an adult website. This would indicate to me that he sees nothing wrong with holding a knife against a woman’s neck or having his boot on a woman’s back. At the least he has questionable values. The values we hold as human beings inform every single part of our life; they guide what we do and what we deem important. In Jim Brown’s world, women are there to be used, abused and degraded.

Clearly the Missing Women’s Inquiry has not even yet begun to scratch the surface of what went so horribly wrong. Why did so many women have to die? This Inquiry needs to be completely scrapped. At a minimum a new process must be set up with impartial legal personnel who come from an anti-oppressive framework that understands the intersections of class, race, poverty, gender and ethnicity. The dead must be honoured and we must learn lessons from what happened. If we do not take this opportunity the next serial killer will be able to operate just like Pickton did.

[1] The Missing Women’s Inquiry was convened to investigate why it took so long to stop serial killer Robert Pickton who has been convicted in the deaths of 6 women and charged with a further 20.

[2] Interestingly the Vancouver Sun only called them ‘racy.’

[3] A place on the Pickton farm where the brothers held ‘parties’ that featured sex-trade workers from the DTES.

Evangelism at The Swamp

Over the years, I have been accused of militancy in many areas of my life. It started when my friend Joe told me I was a musical imperialist. This came about on a trip driving from Calgary to Vancouver. We did not have the same taste in music.[1] We decided that we would alternate playing a tape.[2] A problem arose when he would start a tape and asked me if I liked it and I would say no. He would try another one and I would still hate it. Then he gave up. I told him to just play his music and it would be fine but he said he couldn’t enjoy it if I hated it. Clearly this all worked out in my favour![3]

I can be a bit like a dog with a bone when I find something I really love. Of course I think this is a good thing. I like to spread the word so to speak. So here are 5 things I am a bit evangelical about:

  • Raw Feeding– it took me a long time to come around to the idea of feeding our dogs raw meat on bones. I finally agreed to it when one of our Shih Tzus had to have a bladder stone removed at age 5. When I saw the stone it looked exactly like a piece of Iams kibble that she had been eating her entire life. I did a lot of research about what causes these stones to form and I learned that her system needed to be more acidic if we did not any more stones to form. Kibble fed dogs have a higher pH because of the carbs in their food. The only way to get a more acidic environment was to feed raw. Se we jumped in and we have never looked back. Our dogs are happier and healthier and our vet bills are much lower. I have written several posts about raw feeding if anyone is interested: herehere, here, and here.
  • Nasal Rinsing – another friend of mine had been trying to convince me to use a neti pot for years to deal with my allergies. I was really suffering once we moved to Maple Ridge because of all the hay. My doctor referred me to an allergist who did some skin scrapings. Unfortunately, due to my ulcerative colitis I am on immune suppressant drugs and he couldn’t get a reaction. So he told me to rinse my nasal passages daily with a Neil Med bottle. I have not looked back. I do this faithfully every day. I also spread the word whenever someone is having allergy problems.
  • Hopcott’s Meat – we have the best meat store relatively close to us. It is all hormone and antibiotic free and it tastes really good.
  • Crocheting – I have become reacquainted with crocheting. I used to do a lot in my 20s and 30s but had stopped for some reason.[4] I find it much more relaxing than watching TV and being on the computer. I can almost get into a Zen-like phase as I create something. Here are some pictures of projects I have completed recently:
Dragon in filet. Pattern circa 1900
Baby blanket
Realta Afghan
  • Apple – my first computer was a Mac Plus. It had no hard drive and 2mb of RAM. Around 1995, I decided to get a PC as I was discovering I had a knack for computers. I even had my own mobile computer repair business for a little while.[5] I stuck with PCs until about 2009. I had noticed over the years that every PC I had became really slow no matter how much RAM or how fast the CPU was. It was infuriating. I did some research and apparently as Windows degrades the machine slows down.[6] The only answer was to format and re-install windows every year. I was not into doing that. The other answer was to get a Mac. I already had an iPod, iPhone and an iPad so I knew the quality of Apple’s products. So I made the leap back to Apple and I couldn’t be happier. Apple gets a lot of flack for its proprietary ways but really there stuff just works. I live happily in an Apple world.

So, for my 12 readers, what things are you evangelical about?

[1] He likes syrupy female singers and I think I was going through my male rocker/folk phase.

[2] Yes, that would be a cassette tape! I am that old.

[3] We had a passenger with us who threatened to get out and hitchhike if we didn’t stop arguing. My dog Tippy was with us too and she liked to dance on people’s legs in the car!

[4] I suspect the reason was dogs…

[5] I discovered that I really did not like going to people’s houses to fix their computers.

[6] Unfortunately, I cannot find the original article I was referred to.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I have been AWOL’ edition

  • I have neglected blog over the last couple of weeks. Sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging. It has been a difficult and trying time.
  • One of my oldest friends committed suicide 2 weeks ago. I had known her since 1995. We met at work and hit it off. Outwardly, she was one of the most positive, dynamic women I have ever known. She had a way of seeing the positive in everything. She was outgoing and gregarious. Her passion was helping other people. I was one of the last people she spoke to on the day she died. Her thoughts were torturing her; making her feel paranoid, scared and alone. Mental illness runs in her family. She hated everything to do with mental illness and she would never admit it was affecting her as well. She made a plan with me to see her doctor, take a leave from work and see a counselor. She never indicated that she was suicidal. And here is the thing about suicide; it is those who don’t talk about it who are the most at risk. Suicide is an intensely selfish act. It leaves a trail of destruction a mile wide and deep. So many people have been affected by her death, especially her close family members. Her death impacted me a great deal as we had been in close contact for the week leading up to her suicide. Emotionally[1], I feel responsible. I wish I had the courage to name what I saw going on and insist she seek medical help. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, probably not knowing my friend. I know what I will do differently going forward though – I will not be afraid to say what feel is going on for someone. Maybe some lesson or good can come from this, as that is all there is now.
  • Zoe – had a dental and lost 6 more teeth. She is doing really well since. She is now on Lasix for pulmonary edema. She has no heart issues, which is strange according to the vet. She also is clear of cancer and her blood work was great. She has also lost almost a pound!
  • Ruby[2] is also doing very well. She is also on Lasix for pulmonary edema with no cardiac issues. As former breeding dogs, we think both Zoe and Ruby lived in horrible conditions, which did damage to their lungs. She is so funny when she thinks a tasty treat is going to be involved. She hops around and looks at us so intensely. She cracks me up!
  • Piper has lost 2 pounds of the 4 pounds she needed to lose to improve her breathing after the surgery. We can see the difference already. She pants far less when it is hot out now.
  • We have finally decided to get our water pressure fixed. We have never had good water pressure here at The Swamp.[3] The theory right now is that the pipes bringing the water in are galvanized steel that has been corroding for a long time narrowing the amount of water that can come in. I have noticed about a 15% decrease in water pressure this year.


[1] I don’t deal well with emotions as anyone who knows me can attest.

[2] AKA Tuber

[3] Which is somewhat ironic…