Jack’s Walk

A new friend for Jack? ©voyager, all rights reserved

When we walk around our neighbourhood during the day, Jack and I have a regular route. We walk up to the high school, then down toward the park and then loop around back to the far end of our own street and then it’s a straight line to home again. This route is Jack’s choice because it gives him the best chance of getting a few love pats along the way. The walk takes us past his teenaged fan club and the home of his best dog friend, Leo. It also allows me to avoid problems because I know where all the other dogs live along the route. Most dogs are friendly and get along well with Jack, but there are one or two exceptions. There’s a Jack Russell at the end of our block who strains at his leash snarling and barking at Jack madly. We only know him as “Shut-up you bastard,” but I’m sure he has another name. I’d stop to ask except he won’t stop barking long enough to speak to his person, a frail elderly man who likes to holler. There’s also Izzy, a pug, who wants to challenge Jack. Jack picked him up once and spat him out again, without injury I should add, but it only made Izzy more determined to get Jack. So now, we always cross the street to avoid him. Izzy has a great person named Linda who Jack and I both like, but she understands that Izzy has issues and always controls him from her side of the street. Recently, though, neighbours a few blocks down have gotten a new dog, and it barks at us every day no matter what time we go by. It’s always at the window, I imagine because his people work and he is watching for them. The new dog not only barks, but he jumps around a lot, occasionally banging into the window. Jack says he wants to be friends and tells me that we should knock on their door one evening to meet him when his people are at home. I think we should wait until spring, when the new dog is more settled and we can meet casually outdoors. I tell Jack that not everyone wants a voyager at their door with an 85-pound hairy goofball, asking if their dog can come out to play. Jack says he can’t understand why, and furrow’s his brow at me. Sheesh, alright, Bubba! Maybe I’ll go alone to take them a few Christmas cookies and check the situation out. If they’re agreeable, perhaps I’ll take Jack for a playdate. I think the new dog does look like a fun sort of fellow, just look at that smile, and its barking and antics do seem more playful than aggressive. Who knows, maybe Leo has some competition for the title of Jack’s Best Friend?

Jack’s Walk

Bubba’s growing hair like a buffalo.

Today, Jack and I encountered a new danger with the ice. Instead of worrying about falling on the ice, today, we were worried about the ice falling on us. It’s a bit above zero today, and all the ice on the trees is starting to melt and let go. Throughout our entire walk, we heard the ice cracking overhead and saw pieces of ice fall around us. Twice I was hit in the head with small pieces, and by the time we got home, I was getting nervous that a more substantial chunk might get me. Even Jack was getting a bit antsy, which surprised me. Typically, Jack is calm about things falling around him. Once, in the kitchen, I dropped a large pot full of cold water and carrots right beside him. It made a colossal clatter, and water and carrot pieces flew around Jack like a cartoon explosion. It was theatrically spectacular, and it made me jump, but  Jack didn’t flinch. Nope, instead, he waited a second or two and then started to eat the carrots closest to him. He said he was helping me clean-up. So a few bits of ice falling are nothing compared to that. Perhaps he’s just used to things falling in the kitchen. It often happens, although not usually on the scale of dropping an entire pot, but Jack knows that the kitchen is a place where things unexpectedly fall. Things falling outdoors is unusual and kinda strange, and mummy doesn’t like it. Even though my leash handling doesn’t change, Jack can feel all my shit through the leash, and I vice versa. It’s part of how we talk to each other. So, I knew Bubba was feeling a bit on edge. At about the halfway point of our walk around the neighbourhood, we sped up as much as the ice beneath our feet would allow. And we were both grateful when we spied our own home ahead of us. We made it safely, although our own birch tree dropped a cascade of ice beside us on our way past it. This made me extra grateful because I was worried that this graceful, slender tree would lose branches with the ice, and it hasn’t. So far.

All in all, it’s good to be home. Jack wants to make cookies, and it does seem like a good day to bake. You’ll know to find us in the place where good things drop unexpectedly.

Jack’s Walk

Early December Morning, ©voyager, all rights reserved

 

We had a gentle, light dusting of snow this morning, and it was just enough to make the world look fresh and pretty for a while. That’s one of the things I like about winter, the way that snow covers a landscape with a coat of crisp, clean stillness. Ogden Nash says it much better than me, though, so I’ll let him.

 

Winter Morning Poem

Winter is the king of showmen,
Turning tree stumps into snow men
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white,
The world looks good enough to bite.
That’s the season to be young,
Catching snowflakes on your tongue!
Snow is snowy when it’s snowing.
I’m sorry it’s slushy when it’s going.

– Ogden Nash

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

Well, Jack and I did venture out yesterday. Twice. About 1 in the afternoon, the sun came out for an hour or so, and the sidewalks got all melty and full of slush. It seemed like a good time to go for a walk, and so we did. It was a delightful walk, too. Sloppy and cold, but not really icy. The sun started to melt the ice off the trees and the wires, but it didn’t shine long enough to raise the temp above zero, and so today, the trees are still frosted. Jack and I went out again after supper, and the sidewalk slush had turned into rough frozen ice. It wasn’t as slippery as I’d thought. The snow that covered the ice helped rough it up, and the soles of my boots were mostly able to find traction. Even Jack managed better with only 1 slip and no falls. Today the world remains frosted with ice and snow, and I love the way things look. There’s so much more light, and it reflects like millions of tiny, shiny diamonds in the glow of streetlights at night and the short glimpses of the sun today. The walking is difficult, but not dangerous. Most people have shovelled, and what ice remains is rough and well trampled. We need to go slow and shuffle a bit, but it’s so pretty outside I don’t mind.

 

Here’s another song for today. I sing this song when I’m on the beach ins the summer looking for sea glass because they shine like diamonds when you find them. Today the whole world is made of diamonds. And of course, we’re all as bright, and beautiful as diamonds ourselves, so let’s all shine a bit today, too.

 

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

©voyager, all rights reserved

We had freezing rain all day yesterday, and it’s left our world coated in ice and a perilous place for walking. Jack and I set out early yesterday morning, just as the ice was starting, because I thought it might be the only window of opportunity for the whole day and I was right, The ice began to coat everything quickly, and a minute or two after leaving the house it was already slick walking. We went once around the big block, very slowly and cautiously. Mostly I walked on the grass, but Jack preferred the sidewalk because the grass was sharp with ice, and he was wearing vaseline boots that don’t have a decent protective tread* like mine. Jack did fine until we reached the places where the sidewalk slopes. Even four-footed Jack struggled once or twice with his balance on the sloped driveways. Poor Bubba found himself sliding sideways toward the street a few times, and in trying to correct himself, he had one or another of his back legs slip out. Then I’d see him freeze and dig his toenails into the ice and look up to me, asking what to do next. I encouraged him to use the grass a few times, but he said it hurt his feet and that made sense, so then I encouraged him to walk on the street, but Jack’s been raised to stay away from the road, and it’s so ingrained that he doesn’t like to do it. By the time we got home, the ice was already building up a thick coating on everything, and we both felt lucky to reach the house upright and undamaged. We didn’t leave the house again for the rest of the day.

©voyager, all rights reserved

©voyager, all rights reserved

We may not leave the house today, either. Today, we’re getting snow on top of the ice, making things even slipperier and more dangerous. No one has yet put down any salt, and it’s treacherous out there. Jack says he can use the backyard if he needs the toilet, and I thanked him very much for his consideration. Jack has seen me go Boom!, on the ice a few times in his life, and it always upsets him. When it’s slippery, Jack automatically slows down, and as he walks, he keeps looking over his shoulder to see how I’m doing. He’s such a good boy. Maybe I should try to take him out – just around the small block. What do you think – Should I stay or should I go?

 

  • I tried a set of real dog boots for Jack a few years back, and he wanted no part of them!

 

 

 

 

In Need of Cute

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The bunnies, back in late summer. I think we can all do with some cute. You know your blogging team is all struggling with personal and health shit, so, sorry for neglecting you a tad. I had a busy week, because the world is a shitty place for kids and sometimes you can help, at other times you can’t and that’s the hardest part because all you can do then is keep your files up to date to prove you did everything you could. I’m taking that kind of shit hard. And because my mind is constantly working on 10 things at the same time while also forgetting some rather simple things I managed to damage both my front and my back bumper in two different but equally stupid events the same day after 20 years of driving without any accidents. Duh.

Jack’s Walk

I think tree roots look like dinosaur toes. ©voyager, all rights reserved

Boy, am I ever glad to see the end of this week. It’s been a week full of frustration and a bit of embarrassment. I’ve been tackling the list of things that need to be done when a parent or any other person dies, only it hasn’t been going as well as I’d hope. To begin with, I completely forgot about an appointment at the bank on Monday. Then, the very next day, I managed to completely forget about an appointment with my dentist. I called both places as soon as I remembered, and they were gracious about rescheduling, but I hate to inconvenience other people. It makes me feel stupid and appear scatterbrained, neither of which is generally true.

It’s because I’ve not really recovered from caring for mom before she died, and my fibromyalgia has been acting up. In the days before mom died, I knew I was burning out. I’d had 2 months worth of 8 – 10 hour days trying to keep mom calm and quiet, which didn’t really happen until the last few days of her life, so it felt a lot like bailing out a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean. The need was constant and you couldn’t relax. Even when I came home, I could still hear her calling for help. It disturbed my sleep at night. I lost my appetite and it’s only thanks to regular meals provided by friends that I didn’t completely stop eating. I put so many of my own things off until later, that when mom did finally die I had a long list of to-do’s that suddenly needed to be done plus a list of extra things to do for the estate. I’m generally pretty chill, but I’ve been feeling rattled, and I’ve been having more pain. Then there’s the brain thing, that I struggle to describe. When I was Case Managing, I carried a large and complex caseload in a sizeable territory, and every day was full of multi-tasking and constant reprioritization, so I know that my brain used to be capable of these things. I used to read 2 – 4 books a week when I was working and a book a day when on vacation. I always found learning new things easy. Now, I struggle to read. I don’t remember characters, and I lose pieces of the plot. I’m lucky to read one book a week and it feels like work. Learning new things has become time-consuming, difficult and taxing for all the same reasons. My brain is a sieve and things just fall through. I don’t know how to describe this to people except to say that I have a terrible memory or that my brain feels sluggish – neither of which is exactly right. I feel like Algernon near the end of the book Flowers for Algernon, as things are being lost. It’s all very frustrating and when I’m tired or stressed it’s at its worst. That’s the sort of week I’ve had. Next week, I have new appointments with the estate manager at the bank and with the dentist. I hope to redeem myself and apologize to both, on time and in person. I also have a shiny, new to-do list, and I think it’s well organized to start. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. My mom left me executor of her will, and I will find the way – just maybe not the express route.

The Art of Book Design: The Black Dog

A.G. Plympton. The Black Dog and other stories. Illustrated by the author. Boston, Roberts Brothers, 1896.

I promised Jack that I would read him this story on the weekend. His best friend is a black dog named Leo, and Jack is convinced that black dogs are the most fun. I hope the story is full of adventure with a happy ending. Those are the sort of stories that Jack likes best. Me, I enjoy reading stories out loud that are full of interesting characters so I can make up voices and play-act a bit. Jack usually pretends that he doesn’t care about that, but I know he loves it, too.

Jack’s Walk

Late afternoon at the river ©voyager, all rights reserved

The Landscape looks mostly brown and grey, but there are bits of colour here and there. The dogwood is bright red and there’s a bit of blue in the sky that’s reflected in the water and some of the grass is still green, but overall the landscape is hibernating and gone fallow. This is the dread time of year for me. There’s so little light and the days end so quickly. This photo was taken around 3:30 in the afternoon and by 4:30 it had gone full dark.

Jack’s after supper walk is now always in the dark and I have to push myself to get out. I don’t mind the cold. I can dress for that, but I do mind the dark. Generally, I feel safe walking with Jack. From a distance, he can look intimidating and he’ll bark his big boy bark if he’s feeling nervous or uncertain. He’s also very protective of me. Overall I feel fairly safe in my neighbourhood, but things have happened here just like they happen everywhere. In 2009 an 8-year-old girl was abducted while walking home from school. Her name was Tori Stafford and her home was just a few houses down my street. She was raped, tortured and murdered. I try not to think about that sort of thing when I walk, but I go past that house nearly every day and it’s hard to forget. I know I’m not a kid, but I’m small, and I couldn’t protect myself well and sometimes I get nervous. Jack picks up on that and it makes him nervous for no reason so I work to stay calm and to keep my leash skills confident. I feel it most often when a young man is approaching me on the sidewalk. Often, I’ll simply cross the street, but there are places where I don’t like to do that because of other dogs. Once, I was walking Jack at night and a car stopped beside us. I watched a young man in the back seat kick the female driver in the head and then he exited the car, hurling expletives and he then approached Jack and me, muttering about the “bitch” that was driving. I couldn’t walk past him and I didn’t want to turn my back on him, but then another fellow got out of the car and apologized to me and led the angry man away. He obviously saw I was frightened and came to help. Jack didn’t do anything except wag his tail at the angry man – maybe he was trying to defuse the situation, but I was really scared that night. It’s another month before the shortest day of the year arrives and then I can slowly see the days get longer. Until then, Jack and I will carry on bravely through the night.

Jack’s Walk

Making mud, ©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s been a pleasant late fall day here, full of sunshine and about 12°c, which feels quite warm to me at this time of year. It was so lovely that I took Jack to the river again for another swim. He knew exactly what was up as soon as I took the dog towels out of the cupboard, and he started doing the watusi wiggle before I even opened the front door. By the time we arrived at the park, Jack was filled with excitement, and he began to make small woofing noises begging me to open the door for him to leap out. Because I’m a terrible mother, I made him wait a few extra moments while I checked my camera and made sure I had bags and cookies in my pocket, so that when I finally exited my seat, Jack was almost pushing me out of the car with his nose. Before I could get the words Sheesh, Bubba!, out of my mouth, Jack was at the water’s edge and already sliding in. He splashed around for a few minutes and then crept out of the water to follow me down the trail. We only did the short route today because Jack was getting tired, but he slipped into the water one more time before we got back to the car.

He made a bit of mud getting out, but he looked so damned happy that I couldn’t get upset with him. We just used a few more towels before Jack was deemed clean enough to get in the car. Tomorrow is supposed to be another beautiful day, and then it’s due to get cold again, so Jack will likely get one more swim in before it turns icy. I hope he can handle that much fun 2 days in a row.

Jack’s Walk

Who could say no to that face? ©voyager, all rights reserved

I awoke to the sound of ice pellets hitting my window this morning, telling me at once that it was colder than yesterday and still raining. I could feel the dampness in the house as I creaked and groaned my way out of bed and went to start the coffee, so next, I turned on the gas fireplace, hoping to dry the air out a bit and add a touch of cheer to the dull and dreary day. I opened the front door to bring in the newspaper and was met with a cold wind blowing freezing drizzle in my face. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to be sticking to things or turning to ice on the ground, and a quick check-in with the weather channel told me it was above zero, by 1°c.  Hey, I thought they said yesterday that it was going to get warmer over the next few days. 1°c is not warmer, and freezing drizzle, even if it doesn’t stick, is not better than rain. Just then, Jack crawled out of bed and came to ask for his breakfast. As I was getting it ready for him, I casually said that if he didn’t want to go for a walk today, that would be alright. Jack said he’d think about it and he did until 10:30 when he decided he wanted to go out. He could see his gaggle of teenagers up at the corner talking, and he was eager to go say hi. I wasn’t quite as eager to go out, but Jack gave me the face, and I knew he meant business,  so I layered up and out we went into the nasty, wet day. I don’t think Jack even noticed the weather, he was so anxious to go see his kids. About half-way up the block, he got his reward, when one of his favourite young women called out his name and started walking toward him. Jack wiggled and wagged his way up to her and they greeted each other like long-lost friends. Soon, Jack was surrounded by a half-dozen more young people, all saying his name and stroking him. Jack handed out kisses like they were Hallowe’en candy, and by the time we said goodbye to continue on our way, Jack was positively glowing with happiness, and the day didn’t seem nearly so nasty or dreary to me. Thanks, Bubba. I love the way you live in the moment.

Jack’s Walk

There’s still a bit of colour…if you look down. ©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s been raining here most of the day, and the landscape has gone back to looking like bleak autumn instead of the deep of winter.  There isn’t a speck of snow or ice left, and I’m grateful for that. It sure makes walking Jack less fraught with danger and not nearly so physically demanding. Jack has mixed feelings about the weather. Today, for the very first time, Jack didn’t want to go for a walk. We stepped out on the porch, Jack raised his head and looked slowly to the right, then to the left, and then he turned around and asked to go back into the house. Sheesh! 2 days ago he was swimming in the frigid water of the river, and today he lets a little rain put him off. He’s a water dog for Pete’s sake.  It’s even in his name. Officially, Jack is Wasserhund’s King Jackson Brown, and Wassserhund means ‘water dog’ in German. So my water dog didn’t want to go out in the rain.

I fixed that, though. I put Jack in the house and set out across the street to check the mailbox. I could see him watching me through the window as I made my way down our sidewalk, and then he started to howl, a loud, pitiful howl like the coyotes that we hear down east. I had no idea that he could even do that! I think he thought I was going on our walk without him. By the time I got back a minute or two later, Jack was eager to go out despite the rain, so we stepped out on the porch again, and this time Jack didn’t stop to take measure. He just went down the stairs with his tail wagging: Sehr gut,  meine wasserhund.