Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘re-entry is hard’ edition

I always find going back to work after the Christmas holidays very difficult. It is just not long enough. Plus there is the spectre of a brand new year ahead that begins with my least favourite month of the year. It always seems to me that January is one long-ass month of misery. In no particular order here are updates from The Swamp:

  • I had a couple of other observations about our trip to Calgary. I was stunned to find out that I had to give personal information in order to purchase gravol at a pharmacy. Apparently they want to keep track of who is purchasing it. Is there a gravol intervention staged if one tries to buy too much?
  • Rental car companies do not put snow tires on their cars in Calgary. Seriously people, WTF is that about? It makes the fact that I didn’t get stuck or seriously injure us in a crash all the more shocking. I seriously have not lost my winter/snow driving skills.
  • We took in a new senior dog. She is a 16-year old Shih Tzu. She is a great dog. She sleeps a lot but when she is awake she is very engaged and charming. She certainly lets us know, in no uncertain terms when she is not happy with the state of her world. She loves food and snuggling. She has been getting around a lot better since we started her back on metacam. She is able to navigate our stairs in and out. She can go up the stairs to the bedroom but sometimes she just prefers to be carried and we oblige her. She is getting along with the other dogs and seems to have adjusted ok to such a big change. It is always tragic seniors lose their homes because their people have to go into care homes. Tosh was extremely well socialized and is very resilient. She set a land-speed record in terms of how quickly she settled into The Swamp.
Tosh and Piper
Tosh and Piper
  • Jesse is continuing to evolve. He is looking really good and has gained some muscle mass in his back legs. Now his ‘princess’ behaviours are emerging. He is one loud and vocal dog for sure. If he wants something he whines and carries on like he is going to die. The other day Deb heard him screaming downstairs and asked me if he was in distress or if we were playing. We were playing. He definitely loves the sound of his own voice!
  • He and Kiefer are battling out to see who can be the lowest dog in status in the house. Tosh and Zoe are really good at kicking them out of their big dog beds and making them sleep in the small ones. It really is quite hysterical to see those two trying to contort themselves into the much smaller space. Meanwhile, Tosh and Zoe are spread out on the big beds looking quite contented.
  • The new Port Mann Bridge has not gotten off to a good start. There were ice bombs after a storm and it turned into a skating rink when the temperatures dipped down below zero the other morning. Even though it has had problems it has already been successful in reducing congestion on Highway 1. This is a great boon to commuters and has already reduced my commute time. The bigger benefit though is to the economy. As a port city Vancouver has very high levels of truck traffic. Making it easier for them to move goods in and out of Vancouver. Lower levels of congestion will also be good for the environment.

Things I have learned from my dogs

Over the years, Deb and I have been fortunate to share our lives with many dogs. We have had many foster dogs who eventually went to new homes. Mostly though if we foster a dog we generally end up adopting it. We don’t generally foster young dogs, instead we focus on senior animals who need stability and security in their last years. Every dog we have had the pleasure of knowing has taught me something. Dogs are patient and wise; unlike us, they do not demand that you get their lesson immediately. Dogs have seen the very worst and the very best humankind has to offer yet no matter what they have been through, the violence and cruelty they have been subjected to most dogs still have an ability to trust us.

Tippy – unconditional love is a powerful healer

Tippy was my very first dog as an adult. She was a Maltese/Shih Tzu cross. I had just started university when Tippy came tome via a friend. This dog showed me the wonder that is unconditional love. During the first couple of years she was with me, I was going through counselling trying to deal with my fucked up childhood. Tip probably soaked up more tears than she should have. We were inseparable. She came to work with me, we went to grad school together, she was my constant companion. She was fiercely loyal and I adored her. Others were not so fond of her though. She was a little, shall we say, on the dominant side. Her place in the car was the front passenger seat and she did not like it if someone else was in that place. She would make their lives miserable![1] She also didn’t appreciate it if I had someone sleep with me – she would growl at them all night. For such a small dog,[2] she certainly had a big presence.

The Chunk – embrace life and enjoy things with abandon

The Chunk was my accidental Shih Tzu. Dog lovers know the kind, the dog and breed you never knew you wanted! The Chunk was a force to be reckoned with. Typical of her breed, she was incredibly stubborn and tenacious. The Chunk was all about doing what felt good – she was a true hedonist. We were happily her slaves. When she really enjoyed things she did so with abandon. She loved to play on the bed in a little game we used to call ‘shih tzu abuse’[3] which involved pushing her away, trying to grab her paws and body slamming her. She would never do this in front of the other dogs for some reason. She exemplified the idea that to live life to its fullest you sometimes had to do it with abandon.

Piper – loyalty to those you love is not negoitable

Piper has taught me so many things, it is hard to know where to begin. I think I will start with patience. Piper took 3 years to completely toilet train. We all spent hours upon hours outside, in the rain, the heat, the snow, telling Piper to go pee. Twenty minutes was a good morning. She would sniff, eat grass, run the fence with Diesel next door. It also seemed that just as she was getting ready to pee something would distract her and we would be starting all over again. Piper is also incredibly loyal and attuned to me. If I am sick, she is always right beside me. She does not ask for attention she is just there. If I do not go up to bed the same time as Deb she will stay with me even though she really wants to go up for treats. She tolerates all the other dogs who want to be with me because she knows that she is my #1 dog in the house. Occasionally she gets tired of the interlopers and will launch herself on me for some love and snuggles.

Zoe – it takes focus to meet your goals

I adore Zoe. She came to us from Turtle Gardens 3 years ago. She was a former breeding dog who had lived a rough life. Once she got here, she quickly put her past behind her and became the diva she was always meant to be. I have blogged before about Zoe and how she gets her own way all the time. Zoe seems to have a unique skill wherein she can punish us if we don’t give her what she wants. Most of the time it is just easier to give in so at least she will stop for a while. This dog has such single-minded focus it is scary. If it was her job to cure cancer it would be done. World peace? She was just bark until everyone put down their guns.

Jesse – embrace change to meet your needs

Jesse is the newest addition to The Swamp. We adopted him through Bully Buddies. Jesse has had a hard life, you can tell just by looking at him. He worries about everything. Losing his Dad has been very difficult for him. Yet he has been able to come here and adapt. Jesse is 8 and he has some pain issues from the botched surgery on his back legs. He has never lived with multiple dogs yet he is managing here just fine; he has great patience with Sawyer who is in love with him. He hates to be left alone and has severe separation anxiety yet he will go into his crate without much fuss. He is even bonding with us. However we know that should he ever see his Dad again he would be over the moon and then crushed even more if he couldn’t go with him. Jesse has taught us that making the best of a bad situation, being adaptable and rolling with change is what we all have to do. Jesse is trying so hard to be resilient and still enjoy life.

[1] Just ask my best friend Joe!

[2] 7.5 pounds on a good day.

[3] Don’t worry, no shih tzus were harmed in this activity.

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 …

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.

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!

Innovation from The Swamp – the ‘Zoe Diet™’

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.

Do I look capable of being a tyrant?

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 that all 20 pounds of her lands on my lungs with her face right in my face.[5] Then I put her down and we start over again, wash, rinse, repeat.

Yesterday I was eating breakfast at my desk. Zoe detected that I could possibly be eating and came into my office. She started clawing at my lower leg.[6] She then stretched up on her back legs and clawed my chair and started barking. I ignored her for a while as I tried to enjoy my eggs and tater tots. Shihtzus are knows for their tenacity and Zoe has that in spades. Finally, I give in and give her a piece of egg. She sniffs it and turns her head away. She doesn’t even like eggs! Then I gave her a tater tot. She didn’t want that either. I thought I was free now that she knew I wasn’t interested I thought I would be permitted to finish my meal in peace and quiet. Huh, was I ever wrong.

It's all lies. Here I am patiently waiting for my turn.

Here is the thing I have learned about living with Zoe: she always gets her way. It does not matter what we do to try to change a behavior we always lose. If I were to put her out of the room while I ate[7] she would create such a raucous noise that there would be no peace for anyone in the house. One time I thought I was going to outsmart her when she was up on my footrest clawing at my stomach for my food. I decided I would suddenly lower the footrest so she landed on the floor. I did it once, I did it a second time and the third time, instead of landing on the floor she launched on my head. I lost.

I need a rest after driving my humans to distraction.

Such is life with a Shihtzu. They are crafty and tenacious. Zoe is a prime example of a self-actualized Shihtzu. She has come a long way from her former puppy mill life. Thanks again to Turtle Gardens for rescuing our little despot. Yvette’s dreams of her becoming a ‘yuppy puppy’ have long been achieved.

So does anyone want to try the Zoe Diet™?

[1] I have actually become very good at ignoring her barking. It fades to background noise for a while anyway.

[2] Which in her little mind means she has not been fed fast enough.

[3] I then tell her: “Zoe, don’t do that it! It hurts mommy.” But she is an evil, Machiavellian dictator and she does not care. For her the ends definitely justify the means!

[4] See footnote 2.

[5] Sometimes I think she wants to take the food right out of my mouth.

[6] I am dreading capri season!

[7] I’d probably gain weight.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I hate daylight savings time’ edition

  • I really don’t understand why we are still doing this whole daylight savings time thing. When it was first introduced in 1895 and really took hold during World War I. The idea was to save electricity by reducing the use of incandescent bulbs to light evening activities. Surely this is no longer necessary now. Plus since George Bush had the bright idea[1] to stretch out the amount of time we spend in DST, it now starts earlier and ends later. I hate it. It messes with my routine.
  • I had the last of my sedation dental work done on Thursday. This time I seemed to remember way less of that day than before. It also took much longer for me to shed the effects of the medication. I wonder if the medication becomes more effective each time you use it. Anyway, I get the last of my new crowns on Friday. Yippy for me!
  • I have to say that the longer I live with Zoe the more impressed I have become at how she gets her own way by making your life so freaking miserable that you can’t even consider not giving in to her. Case in point – last night we had pizza. Zoe barked and scratched at my chair and me for a good 40 minutes. Finally I gave her some. Then one of the pieces I gave her went under the chair and she would not rest until she got it. She tormented me by almost upsetting my laptop until I got up and flipped the chair up so she could get her damn pizza! There is no hope of ever training this dog. The only reason she will humour us and pee outside is because she gets a treat when she is done. She tries to play us with this as well by going out on the step and coming back in without doing anything. I think we have convinced her that we are all pretty stupid.
  • We have been involved in transporting Miss Pickles between Chilliwack animal control and her foster home in Vancouver. As a surprise, Pickles’ foster mother made some liver cakes for the dogs! Nummy! They really enjoyed them. Here are some pictures of the layered liver cake!
L is for liver. A is for apple. T is for Tru! Tru got her very own cake.

[1] No pun intended.


I cannot think of a thing to blog about today. Well, ok, I do have a topic but it is not appropriate for my blog. Le sigh. Maybe I need an even more private blog than this one. And because I can’t blog about what I need to I have writer’s blog. Oh and the other reason I can’t think of anything? Zoe is barking and growling at me trying to get my chicken tacos!!

She is not as innocent as she seems!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘happy Thanksgiving’ edition

  • We cooked a 20-pound turkey yesterday. It took a little over 5 hours. I stuffed it with all the old bread heels we had in the freezer. It was cooked perfectly. Since I purchased a meat thermometer I have never over-cooked a turkey. If I was looking at it there is no way I would have thought it was cooked. It was divine – you could see the juice coming out of the breast and the dark meat melted in my mouth. I was very happy!
  • We had some friends over for dinner and there 14-month old son. The dogs were amazing with him. They all wanted to lick him and did. He patted Kiefer. All of the dogs were very good with him, which is great as our dogs rarely see children. We kept the dogs outside while everyone was eating so people weren’t overwhelmed. They hadn’t eaten yet so they were hungry. They ended up getting lots of food and some of them were in turkey comas until well after noon today.
  • My mother has a cold. This is worrisome as she has COPD. I hope she is able to fight it off and it does not turn into pneumonia. I am not sure she would survive pneumonia again.
  • We are so in love with the new pictures of the dogs. There are many more that I haven’t posted yet. However, I have saved the best picture for today:
Amazing picture of Zoe

More Pictures

I am busy crocheting this today.

My newest project!

I am two-thirds of the way done, so the push is on.

Instead of a blog, I give you more awesome dog photos!

"I want my agent."
"I have a very large tongue, apparently."
"I have no idea why I am in this pose."
"I am truly one of the beautiful people."
"You don't really think you can get away from me, do you?"

Posting may be light over the rest of the weekend. We have people coming for dinner tomorrow for Thanksgiving!