Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘coming up for air’ edition

  • The month of January has literally flown by for me. Usually I hate January because it seems to drag on forever. This January has been one of the best in recent memory. The first week sucked but a lot of that was my annoyance that the Christmas break was over and I really had to go back to work. Once I got passed that it was all ok.
  • As I have mentioned, I hired a research company to find my biological parents. At the beginning of the third week of January, she had located my biological father. I had almost forgot this was going on until I got an email from her with the information. We subsequently met a couple of days later. It was interesting because when I thought about my biological family, I really focused on my mother. I never thought about him. I was quite conflicted about the meeting with him. Although it went well in the sense that he did not reject me, I found the evening frustrating, as I could not get any real information. I will definitely see him again as I really would like to get to know him a bit. I also feel like he took advantage of my biological mother in that he was almost 10 years older than her. When I pointed that out she said she didn’t realize that he was that much older. Plus I get the sense that he drinks a lot[1] and it has really affected his mind. I really want to meet my half-brothers as I feel they may be able to give me more insight.
  • This week I was able to make contact with my biological mother! We talked on Tuesday and met on Wednesday. I was so stressed out when I was meeting my biological father; I was quite relaxed meeting my mother. We are quite alike in a number of ways. I really went from feeling like an alien[2] to seeing myself reflected in someone else. She clearly suffered for being forced to give me up for adoption.[3] I, of course, want to jump in spend as much time with her as possible but she is not there yet. So I am backing off and giving her time.[4] She said she has a lot of things coming up in the next couple of weeks that will make her too busy to spend time together. I think she also needs some serious time to process this reunion. She has never told anyone that she had a baby she gave up for adoption. She has told me she will tell people in her life. I am confident that we will have a great relationship once she has some time.
  • Deb, Angelina and the dogs are my rock. I have a safe place to come home to where I am loved and accepted no matter what. This is something my biological mother never had. I really want her to come here and share what we have.
  • I have been feeling so much better since I began to incorporate music into every day. Music really is the thing that keeps me sane, balanced and in harmony with the world. Lately I have been enjoying David Francey,  Richard Shindell, the Decemberists, Paul Simon, and Cara Luft. I am hoping to go to a house concert Cara is putting on in Maple Ridge.
  • Talking about dogs – Zoe is so happy in the morning. She runs like a puppy and if she can find a toy she is over-joyed. She goes out to pee, comes in for her treat[5]. I got some great pictures of her with my new iPhone 4S:
Zoe - looking like a puppy!
Zoe waiting not so patiently for my breakfast!

[1] He might have given it away by the 2 vodkas on the rocks he drank while we were at the freaking White Spot!

[2] I have several idiosyncrasies like not being able to stand the feeling of dirt on my hands and so does she!

[3] Her mother forced her to give me up as they would not have supported her in keeping me in anyway.

[4] Anyone who knows me will realize how difficult this is. I am not known for patience and waiting when it comes to something I want. I think this may be maturity showing.

[5] The only reason she will go outside and get her feet wet is for that little chunk of pupperoni!

The Conflict of Interest Dogging Veterinarians

Guest Post by Alphamutt[1]

Our recent experience with Canada West Veterinary Hospital was overall a rousing success. Piper came through her soft palate resection like a superstar, and we were very pleased with the care she received from Dr. Mark Smith and the fantastic support team (who do most of the work with little of the “glory”).

The one huge issue I have with Dr. Smith, and many, if not most vets, is the fact that they are in a clear conflict of interest when it comes to one of the most important issues of pet health: nutrition.

Our family vet, Dr. Sarah Ralph from Eastridge Animal Hospital, let Can-West know, in her referral, that Piper is raw fed. Dr. Ralph is not on board with raw feeding, but she is no longer trying to dissuade us, so we have reached a truce, of sorts. Dr. Smith took note of Piper’s status of a raw-fed dog, and felt the need to share his opinion of the practice, and sternly tell us that she would require a cooked diet for one month post-op.

I tuned out his unscientific, fatally flawed logic, as I always do now when I here “Salmonella yada, yada, yada” and other untrue and archaic comments from those who think that kibble, even the “highest quality” kibble (now there’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one) is a healthy substitute for a natural raw diet for canines.

While my attention was diverted from the vet’s soliloquy about King Kibble, my eyes came to rest on a book close to his elbow. It was a reference book about canine anatomy. Guess who published this book, probably used daily, if not hourly, by all the vets at Can West?

Hills Science Diet.

Yes, that Hills Science Diet. Maker of the notoriously low-quality, high-priced *prescription*  “food” for dogs and cats.

It’s common knowledge that veterinarians receive precious little education about animal nutrition while earning their degrees. Most of that “education” is subsidized by companies that make, market and sell pet foods. Kibble and canned crap that causes many of the illnesses and diseases treated by veterinarians around the world.

Therein lies a huge conflict of interest. Vets and their clinics are hand-in-glove with pet food manufacturers who are creating patients for those vets. Vet clinics sell the products, actually push the stuff on their clients, and then treat the dogs and cats that suffer all kinds of health problems, many life-threatening or life-ending, that a kibble and/or canned diet causes.

Pet guardians need to be smarter. They need to educate themselves about the diets they are feeding their animals. Accepting one source of information as gospel, be it a veterinarian, the internet, word-of-mouth, published reports or whatever, is irresponsible and potentially disastrous.

We will continue to feed our dogs a bones and raw food diet. Aside from age-related illnesses, breed-related issues and conditions that are a direct result of abuse and/or neglect sustained before we adopted them, our dogs are in terrific physical and mental condition. They have sparkling white teeth, tons of energy, bright eyes, lovely plush coats and, in varying degrees, great intelligence.

We will also continue to enact lively debate with anyone who thinks kibble is an appropriate diet for dogs, especially veterinarians, who should make it their job to know better.


[1] Otherwise known as Deb.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘cat has lost her mind’ edition

Bella with her new Lion Cut
  • We have had Bella for a very long time. We bought her from a cattery that bred Maine Coon Cats. Bella never quite lived up to her potential at the cattery. She had only managed to have one litter of kittens and that only happened because she let the stud cat out of his cage. Bella is very smart. She and I have always had the most involved relationship because her stuff has always been in my office. Over the years we have had to devise many ways to keep the cat stuff from becoming foodstuff for the dogs. They love her kibble and they especially love her litter box. For the most part, Bella stayed in my office out of choice. Occasionally she would wander to other places in the house like the living room or dining room but it usually didn’t last for long. All that has changed now! Since getting her first ‘lion cut’ back in June she has been a force to be reckoned with. She is all over the place. She spent much of June in July in the kitchen meowing for attention and getting it. She was rubbing herself and preening and overall a very happy kitty. Now she has moved to the living room where she has taken up rubbing her face on my computer and threatening to jump into my dinner from the other table. I am not sure what has caused the change. Right now we are positing that she has been hot under all that hair for years and she feels much cooler and freer. Any cat experts out there want to take a guess?
  • I finally prevailed in programming the Logitech Harmony One remote. The hardest command to get it to do is the skip forward 30 seconds. I couldn’t remember how I did it the first time so I had to figure it out again. All is well; we now have everything connected to the one remote again. One minor problem, the Shaw technician took my Apple TV power cord rather than the one for the old PVR box. Still waiting to get it back.
  • I just took the first pictures off of my new camera and I am very happy with them! The camera is just a little purple Sony point and shoot. It is small enough to fit in my purse and really easy to use. Here are a couple of pictures!
  • Deb on our way to Vancouver Island - staying in the truck with the dogs
    Sawyer - the sun worshipper

    Piper panting away in the truck
  • Me - going in to get steak from Hopcott's on our way home

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I think there may be a revolution’ edition

  • As my regular 17 readers would know, I am not a fan of summer. I hate the heat; it makes me sicker than I already am. I get heat stroke in like 5 minutes. Just going to the car and doing errands makes me want to lose my cookies. I am also not a big fan of the rain. It seems like it started to rain last November and has not stopped yet for any length of time. We had a long, wet winter. A cold, wet spring. Now, it seems like autumn has arrived without a spring or a summer. This weather is similar to late September early October. Even though I hate the heat and the sun I am starting to feel bad for my friends who adore the heat. I hope you at least get the month of August!
  • I am really getting impatient for Lion to drop. It is supposed to come in July and there are only 13 days left of July. I get it free for my Mac Pro, which means I should get it for my other computers. I love how Lion is going to bring more of the iOS system to the Mac. I suspect Mac purists may not like this evolution but it is the direction computer operation systems are heading. One of the things I like best about Mac OS X is that it is intuitive and easy to use. iOS is even easier to use so any integration will only make Macs easier to use.
Clio a week ago
  • Clio is starting to fade. She has been on Lasix and cardiac meds for almost a year now. She is at the highest dose of both. She is not coughing so that part is good. Lasix is hard on a dog’s kidneys but it is a necessary drug to keep the water moving out of her lungs so she can breathe. She is still eating although not as much which is causing her to lose weight. She is not in any pain, nor is she vomiting or having diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea are signs of kidney failure. The other thing that the vet told me could happen is that her heart would basically explode which would be a catastrophic death. So, as long as she is not any crisis we don’t need to make a decision. If/when she starts to cough we will immediately let her go.
  • We have decided that Deb’s birthday present is going to be a trip away for both of us. I score too!! We are trying to find a place that will take dogs, has luxury, maybe a dog sitting service etc. I think we are willing to go to Vancouver Island but not the Gulf Islands. Anyone have any ideas?

Completely Opposite Day

As horrible and dark yesterday was today has turned out to be the complete opposite. Something that had been done to me and had reminded me of all the hurt and insult I went through was righted today by a group of kind people. It has certainly made me feel better about my place in the universe. I have also decided to challenge something else that has been nagging at me for months now. It is fixed now and I hope it will change my overall outlook.

I am beginning to ponder some other changes. There is nothing much I want to say about it right now but it has to do with enhancing our quality of life. Right now between my ulcerative colitis and Deb’s MS plus working full-time, our quality of life is pretty much in the toilet. If either of us gets a virus (like the one I have had for over 10 days) we are even sicker and it takes much longer to recover. I am not quite sure what is going to change at this point. What I have come to realize is that I do not see how things can continue without some way of improving my health.

I often complain about my daily calls to my mother. Tonight was different. She gave me very good news that will ease pressures on us. I think she hopes we could be of more help to her as she is now facing having to use oxygen. She was able to breathe much better when she was on the cruise and when she was here. Anyways, it was very, very good news that has really made my day.


I am getting a little excited about my upcoming cruise with my mother. I have been gathering information and trying to figure out what it is going to be like. My mother has booked us into a Deluxe Verandah suite, which is one down from the penthouse suites. The list of amenities below is extensive and a tad embarrassing:

  • Complimentary laundry, pressing and dry cleaning throughout your cruise
  • Premium duvet, oversize bath towels and soft, cotton bathrobes and slippers
  • Gorgeous corsages and boutonnieres for the first formal night
  • Hors d’oeuvres served before dinner each evening on request
  • Binoculars and umbrellas for your use on the cruise
  • Cocktail party with ship officers
  • Priority boarding for tender ports of call
  • Special disembarkation service
  • Priority dining and seating requests
  • Exclusive daily breakfast service for suite guests only
  • High tea service in suite on request
  • A special Suite guest lunch event on cruises over 7 days in length
  • Neptune Lounge: A very special amenity exclusively for guests cruising in a Deluxe Verandah Suite or Penthouse Verandah Suite, the industry-leading Neptune Lounge features a private place to relax, socialize with other suite guests and enjoy the personalized service of a concierge. The fleet-wide lounges provide worktables, large screen television, library, sofas and chairs, refreshments throughout the day and wi-fi for a small charge. One-Touch 24-hour Concierge Service is available when the Neptune Lounge is closed.

I do have to say though that the ‘small charge’ for wifi is nothing of the sort. It starts out at 75 cents per minute. Apparently, I can buy a package of 200 minutes for $100. I was a little shocked. However, I cannot go for 7 days without some kind of access to the outside world. I will take my phone but I won’t have it on for the most part as I really don’t want to have to pay roaming charges.

My mother booked our shore excursions. We are doing an evening of whale watching which I am really looking forward to. But then there is a visit to an Aboriginal village, which concerns me given my mother’s racist views about First Nations. Then, the highlight of that day will be a lumberjack show. I feel as though I will be drowning in testosterone.

I intend to have a complete break from work. I will not be checking work email at all. I will remove it from email program and not check Gmail either. I will stay in touch with home. I am going to miss Deb very much. It is going to be weird being away from the dogs. I am so used to sleeping with Deb and the dogs it will be really difficult. I am sure the cruise will be great though!

The ‘Fence’

As my faithful readers know we have been having trouble with the neighbours parking on our lawn. Going over and yelling at the neighbours is not really an option. Nor was papering their vehicles with notices telling them not to park there or some other bizarre thing. Instead, Deb put up a ‘fence.’

Now, most fences are measured in feet – like 3 feet or 6 feet. At our house we put up fences that are measured in inches. Yes, as in 6 inches. Look for yourself! I am not sure what she thinks this is going to do. Maybe the neighbours friends will be too embarrassed to park in front of it will move on elsewhere. A woman can hope… Oh, and it is so crooked too!

The 'fence'!!
It's almost buried!!

Our fence!!!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘stoned edition’

  • Last Friday after I had all that awesome dental work done, I came home and went to sleep. At some point in the evening, thinking I was lucid, I decided to set up a more professional Gmail account rather than shihtzustaff@gmail.com.[1] So, I created a grown up account based on my name. I directed all of my personal email there and promptly forgot what I had done. Now, I had 2 Gmail accounts checking my primary personal address at Shaw. Some emails came through but many others did not. I booked flights with WestJet and didn’t get a confirmation email. Other emails I did not miss like Wordrpess’s ‘postaday 2011’ inane suggestions. Finally, on Friday, it all came back to me. I went to the new address and there were all my emails for the week. Clearly, the dental office should prohibit people from doing anything on a computer after being sedated with triazolam.
  • I have to say this: ”I am fucking sick of the monsoons already!” It has rained so hard today; I will not be surprised if the North Alouette River has gone over its banks. It is not that I am desperate for the sun to come because I am not but all this rain is too much! I know I live in a rainforest and I just need to suck it up but that would be a Herculean task for which I am not prepared!
  • Speaking of WestJet – they are an amazing company. I have a hard time flying due to obesity because of PCOS. WestJet has a program called One Person, One Fare. What this means is that if you have a disability, medical condition or you require an attendant to fly, WestJet will assess whether you qualify for an extra free seat. Your doctor needs to fill in a form and then it is assessed. I had my doctor fill out the form and fax it in. I was told that I qualified within less than 48 hours! For our upcoming flight to Calgary, we will have a seat between us. I did as much for me as for Deb. With her MS she needs to be able to stretch and move a little bit. We will also not need to stress out about whether the flight is full and if we can get a middle seat blocked between us. I can also kiss away the bruises I have suffered when we are crammed into a full row. We always fly with WestJet and we will continue to be loyal customers.
  • Zoe’s personality[2] continues to amaze me. That dog is relentless and is exceptionally good at getting what she wants all the time. Her newest thing to do is to bark and paw at me constantly while I am eating. It does not matter what I am eating she is convinced that she should eat it too. The other night I was eating kali daal, made with black lentils, and she would not stop barking and pawing, so I gave her some and she liked it. The dog is F-R-E-A-K! Dinner consists of her barking and standing on my stomach while I am yelling ‘no’ and moving her off of me. Good times Chez Shihtzustaff! The funny thing is: we wouldn’t change her for anything! She is loved, adored and treated like royalty – as all Shihtzus should be!

[1] I have been trying to use a different interface for email. While I like Gmail, I find the website interface a bit clunky and I was looking for something a little more sophisticated like Apple’s Mail program or Postbox. However, I was running into problems in that the base Gmail address was showing up as the address. I don’t like to use that, as I don’t really want people connecting me in real life to my online screen name. I especially don’t want my mother to find my blog.

[2] It always seem strange to say that dogs have ‘personalities.’

Date Weekend

Deb and I had a great weekend. We went out to do a few errands yesterday and out for brunch to De Dutch. We both had the Peach Melba pancake thing[1] and it was awesome! We then picked up a bunch of curry supplies. I needed new spices, as mine were quite old. With Deb’s change to vegetarianism she has asked me to make more curry for her as many dishes are naturally vegetarian. Tonight I made her matar paneer with potatoes because she is a Nova Scotian at her core!

This afternoon we went to see the King’s Speech. It was fabulous! It was so good in fact that I was able to completely forget about all the crap in my world. Colin Firth was fabulous. I really enjoyed watching the relationship develop between the therapist and ‘Bertie.’ If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.

We have decided that we need to do these kinds of things more often. Because we are both sick, it becomes easy to just stay home. While we need to do a fair amount of staying home and relaxing, I think we will try to balance things out a little more. We had a great time this weekend and hopefully we can do it again soon!

[1] I can’t spell it the way they do.

And now for a change…

It has been a while since Deb, the official photographer of the Swamp and the Swamp Rats has taken pictures. She got some absolutely fabulous shots at Golden Ears today. I have also included some pictures of those who don’t go to the park. Enjoy

Pipes at the park
The Punk!
Zoe the Beautiful
A fabulous shot of our beautiful Zoe who is doing so well
The 'Little Man'
The 'Big Man'
She is such a tiny dog
The ever gorgeous Bella
One of the last great pictures of Madison