Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘new dogs’ edition (Part 1)

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that we have recently added two new dogs to the crew at The Swamp. After suddenly losing Ruby on the dikes on July 18th, our house felt very empty. I believe the best way to honour Ruby[1] would be to take in another dog in need. I had been reading about Charm, a blind Shih Tzu who had ended up at SAINTS. I contacted Carol and she said a volunteer was interested in fostering Charm but she had another dog, described as a Shih Tzu Cross, named Mustang Sally who needed a chance.

A few days later, I went out to meet Sally (who is now Gracie). She was super sweet, affectionate and despite the fact that she had ended up at the SPCA seemed remarkably issue-free. She came home with me that day. She had some medical issues: her skin was scabby and itchy from an untreated flea infestation. She had recently lost 16 teeth and was spayed. Her vulva was large and infected. She has since been to the vet for blood work[2] and antibiotics for her vulva infection. Her skin is looking better and her vulva is calming down.

Such a cutie!!!

As soon as she arrived she wormed her way into our hearts. This dog, hands down, is the happiest dog I have ever met. She runs; she play bows; she fetches like a champ; and she is always on, except when she sleeps. She does love quiet cuddles and sleeping on the bed. She is really giving young Sawyer a run for his money. She is always trying to play with him. They became besties in the first hour. Her relationship with Sawyer was completely unexpected yet so amazing.

Gracie chasing Sawyer. He loves it!

Gracie is not a Shih Tzu. She is actually mostly Lhasa Apso. The two breeds have lots in common as they were both bred to protect people: the Shih Tzus guarded palaces in China and the Lhasa Apso looked after Buddhist monks in their monasteries. The Lhasas are a bit bigger than their Chinese cousins and personality-wise they couldn’t be more different. Lhasa Apsos are fiercely loyal (as are Shih Tzus) and they have a very deep bark that you would expect to come from a much larger dog. They have excellent hearing and their job is to ‘sound a warning’. In Gracie’s case, she sounds a warning… at everything. Dogs barking outside, dogs barking inside, a fly moves in the kitchen, you get the idea. We are teaching her to be a little more discerning and she is getting the idea. We also don’t really want her to think she has to protect us. It is our job to protect her. Lhasa Apsos like to be with you all the time. It is only in the last couple of days that I can go to the bathroom without her. They also like to sit on your feet. I am not sure what this is about but I am sure it will come in handy when my feet are cold in the winter!

So beautiful!

The only real issue that Gracie seems to have is that she is a bit dominant. Luckily for us we have experience with this kind of behaviour and can effectively manage it. It really manifests with bigger dogs for some reason. She seems to be mostly leaving Kiefer alone but poor Jesse[3] he can’t move at the moment without her going after him. This will resolve as it did with Kiefer. She also likes to get up high on furniture or people and growl if other dogs come near.

Gracie has earned a couple of nicknames. I tend to call her Happy Gilmore in the morning or when I come home. She acts like you are returning from the war and she hasn’t seen you in years. She jumps, and dances and is generally exuberant. My other nickname for her is ‘itchy and scratchy’ as she loves to scratch in bed preferably whilst she is pressed into your back. I am sure Deb will pipe in with other nicknames!

Gracie and Jesse

So, this post can be summed up as follows: Gracie, the dog we never knew we wanted and who would fit so perfectly it was like she was meant to be with us.


[1] We are still hoping that somehow Ruby can come home.

[2] Her blood work was good except that her liver numbers were slightly elevated.

[3] The other new dog, featured in Part 2.

Republican Assholes

Not a day goes by that I am thankful I live in Canada and not the USA. Consider this lovely quote from Todd Akin who is running for the US Senate, in Missouri:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin said that even in the worst-case scenario — when the supposed natural protections against unwanted pregnancy fail — abortion should still not be a legal option for the rape victim.

“Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”H/T Shakesville

So in Akin’s narrow little world, us women-folk have the ability to know when we are being ‘legitimately raped.’ And, our bodies, the wonders they are, can discern the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sperm! Does the cervix just close up shop? Does the egg scream ‘no, you can’t impregnate me you legitimate raper!’ Let’s take this a step further. What defines a ‘legitimate rape.’ Clearly it depends on the victim. Given many of the Republican’s beliefs one can guess that the victim of a legitimate rape would be white, Christian, and virginal. Not a virgin – your rape is bogus even if you have all the signs of a legitimate rape; a sex-trade worker, you weren’t raped, you just didn’t get paid; college student taking birth control, you weren’t raped you planned for it.

Now let’s talk about the no abortion for rape victims even when the woman’s body fails to recognize the sperm of a ‘legitimate rapist.’ No abortion for you! Instead, we are going to protect that child and make you give birth to it – which, I am sure, would feel like being raped all over again. The thing about how these regressive pricks view women means that at some level all women are harlots and asking for it. It is as though the mere presence of our vaginas makes us want to have sex. And those men in Washington are bound and determined to control women’s vaginas!

Now, you may ask, why I am getting all upset about this little gem. After all, it is not as though Todd Akin is going to come up here and get all up in our Canadian vaginas. He doesn’t have to. Our Canadian media covers enough American politics to ensure that his message is spread here. Canada’s abortion debate has been closed since the 1980s. Yet, this year, Motion 312 came to the floor of the House of Commons to further ‘clarify’ when a fetus becomes a human being. Up until this point, it was at birth. Even though Stephen Harper assured all of us women that he had no interest in re-opening the abortion debate, he has, nonetheless, allowed this motion to come to the floor brought by one of his MPs: Stephen Woodworth. So even though Akin and his ilk can’t make policy here they can sure influence it. This is even more so when Conservatives are in power in Canada. With a Liberal government, social conservatism really does not gain much traction here on the policy front. We can only hope that this motion is ultimately defeated. The fact that it saw the light of day is still so disturbing.

Notions of Race and Ethnicity

There have been two stunning examples of how race and ethnicity mix together to produce vile results. While the events are not linked in any way, what they do illustrate is how systemic, almost to the cellular level, racism is in Canada today. The first event was the reaction of Sageunay mayor Jean Tremblay to the PQ’s secularism policy.[1] The second issue was the bank of Canada’s decision to change the features of the female researcher on the back of the new Canadian $100 bill to make her look more racially ‘neutral’. These issues clearly demonstrate that while Canada may pride itself on being multicultural, we are still a nation of xenophobes when it comes right down to it. Racism runs far, wide and deep in this country.

One of the things Jean Tremblay said regarding the PQ’s secularism policy:[2] “We have to respect the Muslim but we have to respect the Christian more.” He went on to rail about how Canada was a Christian country and that people coming here had to respect this fact. He was saying this with a certain PQ candidate in mind who happened to come from Algeria.[3] She earned the ire of the mayor by supporting her party’s secularism policy. What Tremblay is not saying is that ‘those’ people, who also happen to be non-Christian and non-white need to learn their place. If they dare to come to Canada and in particular Quebec, they had best be prepared to bow down to the white, Christian man.[4] In his world, Catholicism is the only acceptable religion and any limits placed on its expression are outrageous.

As the Bank of Canada was designing our new plastic money, the decided to consult some focus groups. Apparently, there was concern that the picture of the researcher on the back of the new $100 bill looked like she had some ‘Asian’ features. The Bank of Canada was skittish enough that they decided to ask for revisions to make the woman have a more ‘neutral’ racial look. The use of the word ‘neutral’ here is extremely problematic. Clearly the Bank of Canada defines ‘neutral’ ethnicity as Caucasian. They then went on to say that they don’t feature any racial groups on Canadian money. Whoa, wait a minute no racial groups? What are Caucasians if not a racial group? What the Bank of Canada really meant was that they only group they will feature on money is Caucasian people. So we can now all know that we are getting a large heaping serving of racism along with our money!

These examples illustrate how white privilege permeates every part of our society. Racism thrives on power imbalances. In Canada, white people have all the power and, apparently, we feel the need to let every non-white person know the score.

As a Canadian, this disgusts me.

[1] Which I blogged about here.

[2] This policy would forbid any provincial government employee from wearing any religious paraphernalia (Kirpan, Hijab, Burka etc) however they could wear one small cross. They also said they would not take down the crucifix in the National Assembly.

[3] In a spectacular display of racism and privilege he said her name was completely unpronounceable to him.

[4] Who is also straight.

Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘rant edition’

It’s been a while since I have done a rant post so here goes!


Why, oh why, do the BC RCMP insist on setting up HOV lane checks on Highway 1 during rush hour? Here is why this is a stupid idea: the mere presence of the RCMP on the highway causes a back up. Seriously, you could just park an unoccupied cruiser on the highway, with no officers in sight, and that highway backs up for miles. I have actually asked them this question, via twitter, and they say they are there because people complain about HOV lane cheaters. I call bullshit. I would like to meet one of these people who would rather sit in traffic for an extra 45 minutes just to have the RCMP nail the cheaters.[1] So here is how I see it – the BC RCMP create the situation that causes people to cheat by going into the HOV lane by creating such a backup that people lose it in frustration. Sounds a helluva lot like entrapment if you ask me. The number of times they are out there during rush hour has increased incredibly. The cynic in me believes that the RCMP know they are going to lose this revenue stream once the new lanes come on line and the new Port Mann is open. Why else would they be doing this so much right now? I have been commuting into Vancouver for 6 years and they only started doing this recently. The other thing that pisses me off about this is all the costs incurred by traffic snarls. Think of the gas (pollution created) burned, the time spent and the overall cost to the economy to have so many people sitting in traffic so they can catch some cheaters. Seriously, BC RCMP stop it now!

My ‘discussion’ on Twitter with @BCRCMP


I am a little late to the party on this one but here goes anyway. So, last winter the feds parachuted in a ‘third-party’ manager into Attawapiskat to deal with the housing crisis. Instead of owning up to their part in the housing crisis there, the feds accused the Band of mismanagement. The Band challenged this decision in court, rightly so. It turns out that the federal government over-reached its authority and, in fact, there was no mismanagement at all. To add insult to injury, the manager appointed by the Harper Conservatives, had been fired by another Band. It is time that Canada steps up and recognizes First Nations as the experts on their lives and needs. We have treated First Nations so abhorrently there is nothing we can do to apologize for residential schools, the robbing of culture and the complete disregard for their right to self-governance. We must pressure our federal politicians to do the right thing. And, as winter quickly approaches, there is still not enough housing in Attawapiskat; people are still living in the treatment centre and substandard housing.


It seems that the Parti Quebecois has made a decision to become secular and remove religious paraphernalia from the Province’s National Assembly. It seems that Monsieur Tremblay is a Catholic and in his little pea brain he believes that Christians have a right to promote express their religion in all aspects of Quebec and Canadian culture. His reasoning is that Canada is a ‘Christian’ country founded on ‘Christian’ beliefs. While he is technically correct that Christianity informs a great deal of our culture, that doesn’t make it right. What is even more disturbing is that he is singling out one PQ candidate: Djemila Benhabib. It seems that Ms. Benhabib[2] had the audacity to support the PQ’s secularist stance and she supports removing the crucifix from the National Assembly. In the year of our whatever 2012, religion has no place in politics. Separation of church and state people. Monsieur Tremblay believes so strongly that he is right that he is appealing a human rights case so that he can continue to recite a Christian prayer to open council meetings. The clip of him speaking with Bernard St. Laurent of the CBC was so racist and dripping with white, male privilege! Because Ms. Benhabib was not born in Canada, he believes she does not have any right to express an opinion on the subject. In his mind, he can’t go to Algeria and assert Christian supremacy so she should just accept Canada’s Christian values. He does say she is free to be a Muslim. Wow, big of him. I am sure she is very relieved that she can practice a religion in Canada!

I am not a big fan of organized religion. It has been used to keep the masses in line. So much has been done in the name of religion that it really boggles the mind. I have studied a fair bit of religious history and honestly I do not see any upside. I believe people can be spiritual but bowing down to an angry, punitive god is not on my agenda. Our society is growing increasingly secular which is a good thing. And don’t forget that Monsieur Tremblay’s brand of Christianity is Catholicism. This is a religion that does not want people thinking for themselves EVER! They are not even allowed to interpret the bible for themselves – they must rely on priests. They believe in transubstantiation whereby the priests can turn wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ.[3] Attendance at mass is down in most of the developed world perhaps due to the sheer number of children abused by pedophile priests, supported by the Vatican. Don’t even get me started on Benedict.


This lovely gem is fresh from the news today. I don’t even know what to say. I cannot believe that she and I inhabit the same planet. I don’t believe in capital punishment but if she is convicted of animal cruelty, I would flip the switch myself. I doubt I am alone in this one.

[1] Yes, it is frustrating to see people cheat the HOV system. Personally, I would rather focus on my driving than worry what others are doing.

[2] Commenting on her name on As it Happens last night, Monsieur Tremblay stated that it was ‘unpronounceable.’ Apparently in his world the only names acceptable are ones familiar to him. Privilege run amok here folks.

[3] Hello, critical thinking skills!

Feminist Video of the Day – the ‘swimsuit’ edition

As women, we are taught to hate our bodies from almost the time we are born. If a baby or young child is a little chubby, people[1] fret that she may grow up to be fat. We police each other’s bodies and being fat is the ultimate body sin. If you are fat, I can pretty much guarantee that you are going to be bullied all the way through school. I know I was. It was relentless. It reached a fevered pitch in about grade 6. We were at a new school and I just didn’t get the kids there. There was a boy who would wait after school to beat me up, just for the sin of being fat. Luckily, I befriended a young mother close to the school who would watch out for me and let me come to her house. I can remember the terror I used to feel as I tried to get out of the school quickly before he realized I was gone. It might not have been as bad as it was if I had not had a mouth on me.

In grade 4, groups of kids would get together with the goal of surrounding me and assaulting me. I could not take the short route home as they would get me in the alley and I did not have the protection the street afforded. I can remember one day when I did not feel well and I thought I would just duck down the alley to go home. They got me. I didn’t tell anyone. I just tried to outsmart them.

When I was 14, I ended up at the Children’s shelter in Calgary.[2] There was a group of girls who hated me because I was fat. One day, the biggest bully of them all got me in the front hall of the school. This time, I chose to fight back. I knocked her flat. I don’t remember what I did as I was in such a rage that I just lost it. None of them ever physically assaulted me again.

It wasn’t just the children that could be cruel. I don’t know how many times I heard: “You have such a pretty face,” or “You could lose some weight if you tried.” I would be have food rationed to me when I lived in care, lest I get even fatter. When I lived at home as a teenager[3], my step-father would weight me every morning and if I had not lost weight, I was beaten before I went to school. They also sent me to the doctor once a week to be weighed. All that taught me was how to forge notes. Even on their starvation diet, I didn’t lose weight.[4] Then, one summer, they hired a woman who took me and me sister on forced marches. This was in addition to weekend and weeklong backpacking trips where we would hike anywhere from 4 to 12 miles per day. I would do that with a 35-pound pack on my back. This is why, to this day, I hate hiking; I hate going for a ‘walk.’

As a society we need to come to a place where it is ok to be in the body you have. For the sake of our women, young and old, we need to feed our bodies healthy food and love ourselves just the way we are. I often wonder what would happen if we stopped dieting and obsessing about our bodies. We would have so much more energy for more productive pursuits, like say, bringing down the patriarchy.[5] This woman is so brave and really has it all figured out. Enjoy.


For some reason the video won’t embed unless I get an upgrade?

[1] Usually women.

[2] Long, long story.

[3] I was in and out of care from about 12.

[4] They were convinced I was getting a lot of food somewhere else. While I did eat a friend’s house occasionally, it was not a lot of food.

[5] A woman can dream.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘hello blog, I have missed you’ edition


It seems like life took over in July and things happened. Here are the updates:


  • Ruby went missing from the dikes in Maple Ridge on July 18th. We believe a wild animal took her as there has literally been no sign of her at all. We had Al from PetSearchers come with his bloodhound and the dog could not pick up her scent. Deb searched frantically for hours the day she went missing. She was in the water up to her chest and the rocks chewed her feet up. I think it will take months for them to heal. Al also waded the river and could not find any sign of her. We know of about 15 people who came down the next day to look for her. The brush down there is so heavy an animal could have been completely camouflaged and grab her. She is old and deaf and wouldn’t have heard anything coming. We have not given up. I am still checking the SPCA and Craigslist.
  • The only good thing that came out of Ruby going missing was that we helped to reunite another dog with its people. We were told about a dirty Shih Tzu at a mill. Deb went to look and discovered it was an apricot poodle. I posted an ad on Craigslist and the dog’s owners responded. It was their dog and they have since been reunited. One thing I learned through all of this is that most people cannot tell the difference between breeds.
  • My mother came to visit last weekend. It is interesting that when she is around us she seems to become helpless. I forgot to set up her coffee one morning and instead of making a pot herself she heated up the coffee from the day before. We have exactly the same coffee maker so it is not like she didn’t know how to do it. If something had to be put in the garbage she would either give it to one of us or put it on the lid of the can.
  • The other thing that struck me while my mother was here is her obsession with smoking. She spent most of her time outside, with her oxygen on, smoking and puffing ventolin. We went to the Fish House for dinner[1], as she loves Stanley Park. We were enjoying a lovely drive through the park and she kept asking when we were going to stop so she could have a cigarette. I was stressed as I had no idea how to get to the Fish House[2] and we were late for our reservation. Finally, I said to her: “I will not make you go into the restaurant for dinner without having a cigarette.’ Then, as soon as she was done eating she wanted to go. No chance for anyone to linger after dinner and maybe have dessert because she had to smoke. She has lost even more weight and if she gets pneumonia I think that will be the end.
  • Today, I am feeling so grateful for the dogs we have had in our lives. They have loved us unconditionally and taught us so much.

[1] It was absolutely horrible.

[2] I eventually had to go down a one-way street the wrong way.