Sunday, July 29, 2012

Meet Scooter

Scooter is a 12-week-old, miniature dachshund who has just recently found his way into our lives.  David brought him home on Thursday and kindly introduced him to me at work where I fell instantly and irrevocably in love with him.   Thirty seconds and one whiff of that puppy smell, and I was all mush and madness over him.

Our little Scooter.  The newest McKilligan.

He has the cutest paws!
He was terribly timid at first, scooting away when anyone tried to pick him up.  Thus his name!  But he warms up to people quickly and it didn’t take long before he was more interested in being a puppy than in trying to avoid the attention that was lavished on him by everyone he met. 
In the X-pen where he discovered the joy of sticks!

He is the third dachsie that has taken the family name in the past 14 years.  Oscar, a true-to-the-breed black and tan was the first.  He was David’s dog through and through and when he met an untimely end at four years old, he opened the door for Simon, the second dachshund, to steal our hearts.  Simon died just over a week ago, but 1902 Riverbank Drive just would not be complete without a canine prince at the master’s side and so Scooter now has the honour of being man’s best friend in that household. 

This weekend, I had the honour of Scooter’s presence in my own home for a night and a day.  While I was sharply reminded of the work involved with puppyhood, I was also in puppy heaven with this cute little guy snuggling on my lap, following me faithfully around and performing his puppy antics for my amusement.  It took my mind off the 5:30 a.m. sojourn into the back yard in my pjs so he could go pee.  Not that I’m complaining.  He slept through from 11 o’clock.

We had to make a trip to Bizz’s Pet Grooming to buy a couple of toys for Scooter.  He’s a chewer and it was either find him something he could chew on or sacrifice the mouse pad, the iPod cord, the corner of my laptop or my emery board.  For a tiny, little, clumsy puppy, he had no problem getting into his share of mischief. 
Three seconds with those sharp puppy
teeth and I almost didn't have an iPod
charge cord.

Oliver adopted Scooter as a playmate right away.  They chased each other around the living room and even had a snuggle on the couch.  I think Oliver is trying to tell me something.  There may be another addition to the household in the near future, though it won’t be a dog.

I love dogs.  At this point in my life, though, a dog is just not practical.  I will happily settle for visits with this little guy from time to time.  And on that note, it’s time to get outside and see what I can do about getting that darn fence accomplished so he has a safe place to romp when he does come over. 
Nap time

Welcome to our world, little  Scooter.  You have a big hole to fill in our hearts, but you’re already well on your way to doing that. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Little One

Pets, like people, come into our lives for various reasons.  Some stay a short time.  Some stay for many years.  They affect us in different ways.  Teach us different lessons.  Make us worry.  Make us laugh.  Make us mad. 

Ten years ago a tiny puppy came into our lives.  Technically, he was my birthday present, though he arrived two months after the fact.  I didn’t want a dog.  We had just lost one a week before my birthday and I wasn’t ready to take on another.  But when I got the call at work that my present had arrived, I went home and fell instantly in love with a Miniature Long-haired Silver-dappled Dachshund, whom we named Simon.  

Simon was a happy little thing.  While he had a lot of dachshund traits, he was less aggressive and more gentle than typical dachsies.  He had a funny little spot on one eye and a bent tail where his mother bit him right after he was born.   Quickly he became our loyal and loveable Little One, who also answered to Skooby, Skooby-Dooby, and Pig Dog, which was an affectionate reference to his seemingly endless appetite.  His one fault – besides being characteristically difficult to house train – was that his endless appetite was punctuated by food aggression.  But we adapted!

Simon was a kisser!  Given half a chance, he’d lick your face off.  Like many small dogs, he had no idea that he was a small dog.  He wasn’t particularly brave and he didn’t really like strangers, but when he got to know someone he welcomed them into his pack unconditionally. 

He loved to chase balls.  And sticks.  He would pack his stuffies around and often would fall asleep with one in his mouth.   He was easily entertained, too.  All you had to do was step on a toy so he could pull it away from you.  Once it was free, he’d drop it back at your feet so you could step on it again. 

He loved to go for rides.  No opportunity to go with us in the car or truck was ever refused.  Long ride or short, he was always up for a rolling cuddle.  He was an excellent mouser, too.   Working alone or in tandem with his old pal Neiko, no rodent was safe once spotted.  Simon, true to his breed, was a relentless hunter.

Groomers were the bane of his existence and with two of them in the family he was never safe from the “noose” or the clippers come spring time when we had his long coat shaved off.  His fine hair was a magnet for burrs and we were not fond of having to pick them out of his fur.  He quickly came to recognize grooming cloths and when my daughters (the groomers) arrived in nylon pants, he would cower and shy away from them in hopes of a reprieve.  They always won!

When we entered the bathroom, he would follow to the door.  If we asked him if he wanted to have a shower, he beat a speedy retreat, suddenly having something better to do than hang out with us. 

He had the requisite repertoire of tricks for one of our family dogs:  sit, lay, sit pretty, play dead, speak, sing, crawl and roll over – preferably for a treat!  Stay was a bit more than he was willing to concede to, though.  That one just never really took.

Last weekend Simon was playing with some other dogs at a friend’s home.  We don’t know what happened (no one saw it), but somehow he got badly hurt.  When Dave called him to take him home, he was laying in the grass in the shade of a tree.  Eager to please, he tried to follow, but his legs were not working and after a few steps he collapsed, unable to walk at all. 

The next day I accompanied Dave to Smithers to the vet to have Simon checked out.  It was determined that he had experienced some trauma to his neck and the options were few:  a) steroid anti-inflammatories; b) referral to a specialist for surgery; c) euthanasia.  For Dave, the latter was not an option at all.  The nearest specialist is in Vancouver and getting Simon down there was difficult, limited to a Friday.  We chose the anti-inflammatory route and left him at the clinic with high hopes that the treatment would reduce any swelling and he would be okay.

On Tuesday, we brought him home.  Far from okay, he was still paralyzed and so we began exploring option b.  That didn't pan out either and so we were forced to accept option c.  On Wednesday, as Dave held him in his hands, Simon was gently put to sleep by a skilled and caring technician.  It was one of the hardest things we have ever had to do.

Through our tears of sorrow, we got him wrapped up in a blanket and took him back to Dave’s father’s farm where he is now buried next to Neiko in a beautiful spot next to the hay field. 

They say “Don’t be sad that it’s over; be happy that it happened.”  I am so happy that Simon was part of our lives.  He was such a funny little dog.  Whenever I was sad or upset, he would nudge my arm with his nose so I would lift it and let him snuggle on my lap.  He would look up at me with his puppy-dog eyes as if trying to tell me that everything would be okay.  There were times when he frustrated me and I lost my patience with him, but I always forgave him – as he did me when I let him down. 
Our Little One!

Dogs are such amazing people.  They’re so loving and loyal and forgiving.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to think about adopting another one since Neiko died last November.  There is a part of me that wants to give another dog a loving home.  And then there’s that part that just can’t bear the pain that goes with losing them.   At least not yet.   Right now, I just hope that wherever Simon is, there are lots of stuffies and squeakies and pig ears and treats for him. 
I miss you, Little One.  I’m so sorry we couldn’t do more for you.  You were so loved and you have left a big hole in all our hearts.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Year is 1974...

The year is 1974.  I am laying on my sister’s living room floor listening to a record and being completely blown away by the words and music that I am hearing.  I’m 12-years old.  I haven’t even begun to notice boys much yet.  I don’t even really understand that I’m being completely blown away.

I listen to every word, every note, pulling them deep into myself and storing them in a place where they will be safe.  A place where I can go back and draw on them any time I want to.  I am eager to get home so I can go and buy my own copy of the album.  I have to have it.  I want my world to be filled with this music.

In the years that followed the discovery and subsequent purchase of that single album, I added others by the same artists, treasuring them, listening to them over and over again.  My friends did not understand the attraction.  While they played the Bay City Rollers to death, I stubbornly stuck to that which made me feel the way these songs made me feel:  like the flower child I fantasized being.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have fifth place in the birth order of my siblings.  Some of my very earliest memories involve the music that my older sisters and brother listened to.  (Snoopy vs. the Red Baron by the Royal Guardsmen still ranks among my favourite songs ever!) Without them, I would likely have no appreciation for the sounds that the 60’s and early 70’s injected into society.  Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Procol Harem, Deep Purple, Led Zepplin, Joni Mitchell, Rita Coolidge, Arlo Guthrie... may never have touched me with their lyrics and rhythms.
But this album, this incredibly funny, touching, bawdy, emotionally charged, collection of songs… Well, it was pure magic.  It never ceased to overwhelm me with its raw, edgy, passion, like something slightly dangerous from some forbidden place seeping into my mind and casting a spell that has lasted nearly forty years.

The band members all looked like the sort of guys that my parents would have locked me up to keep me away from, not at all the clean-cut, boy-next-door types.  They were battle-scarred and triumphant heroes of the musical anti-establishment movement unafraid to speak their minds through poetry that could not fail – if the listener paid a modicum of attention – to open the minds of others.   They cracked my adolescent mind wide open, introducing me to imagery of a world that I would never personally know.  A world, however, where people felt the same pleasure, the same pain that I did and would in mine.  By the time I was 18, there wasn't a single feeling or emotional experience that I could not relate to one of their songs. They got me through break-ups and make-ups and hang-ups and hang-overs.  They were the best musical friends – and emotional support group - I have ever known.

The album I listened to on my sister’s living room floor was the second album by the band.  And there was nothing sloppy about it.  Following the huge success of the single Sylvia’s Mother from their first album Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, Sloppy Seconds introduced the world to such cult classics as Freaker’s Ball and Cover of the Rolling Stone, which led to…. What’s their name, again?... Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show being featured on the March 29, 1973 cover of the magazine.  Written by Shel Silverstein, whose imagination put delicious twists to common concepts, these two songs seemed to characterize the band, whereas, as love songs go, Sylvia’s Mother epitomized the painful side of love like none other before or after it. 

Today I received a fresh new copy of Sloppy Seconds in the mail.  I have owned this record in all of its incarnations from vinyl to 8-track to cassette tape to CD, never being without it for any longer than I absolutely had to.  I have listened to it literally thousands of times and it never gets old.  I still own most of their albums and continue to listen to them, too.   If I could have all their music, it would be one dream-come-true. 
My heroes!  

I never did get to see Dr. Hook in concert, but I did get to see Ray Sawyer play at the Smithers Hotel Bar, before it burned down in the early 1990’s.  Packed into the tiny venue with at least a hundred more people than the bar was licensed to hold, I sat not 10 feet away from one of the seven men, who unbeknownst to them, opened my eyes, my heart and my mind and taught me that, in spite of life’s hurdles, I can touch the sun.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

AR 1520, Where Are You?

AR 1520 is one of the largest sunspot clusters on the Sun and it released a massive X1.4 class flare directed straight at Earth.  What this means is, a blob of magnetically charged solar material was expected to impact Earth at 3:20 this morning.  The potential result, besides messing with some power systems, was spectacular auroras that were supposed to be visible from as far away from the North Pole as the central, continental United States.  This is something worth staying up for.

Where I live, auroras are not frequent, but neither are they very rare.  During the late autumn/early winter months, the north-eastern night sky is sometimes filled with dazzling displays of dancing green and red lights.  I have seen them as early as August and as late as March.  Usually, it’s hit and miss - I just happen to look out a window or up at the night sky and there they are - but when an announcement of the possibility of being treated to a show in mid-July appeared on my Google+ stream, it was an invitation I could not refuse.  Of course, I posted it on Facebook with an open invitation to my friends to join me. 

The plan was:  a) take a nap from about 10 to 2:30; b) get up and open a bottle of wine; c) wait for anyone who might show up; d) sit in the back yard and wait for the show to begin.

What happened was: a) M (a dear friend) showed up at 10 o’clock with a bottle of wine; b) we drank her bottle; c) I kicked her butt at Boggle; d) we opened my bottle of wine; e) we kicked each other’s butts at Crib; f) we walked down to meet my daughter, who wanted to join us; g) we went into the back yard at 3:30; h) we discovered that the sun was already rising and; i) there was no aurora to be seen.

Not actually what we saw,
just a reasonable facsimile. 
Slightly tipsy, over-tired and disappointed, we called it a night.  My daughter (not tipsy at all) went home and M crashed on the sofa as it was not a good idea for her to be driving.  I don’t know how long she stayed there - she was gone when I got up at 9. 

Two years ago, I would never have stayed up all night just to maybe see an aurora.  I would have been bummed that I would miss it, but it never would have occurred to me to invite anyone over and stay up to watch it happen.   My life then was somewhat prosaic, a parody of what life should be.  With an uninspired and uninspiring partner, my own inspiration had waned to the point of living a colourless existence with little social inclination and less adventure.  What passed for life was a mundane and humdrum transition from day to day, age creeping up the scale and fun hibernating in a cave like an old bear - quite possibly on another planet, in another dimension.  

I have since learned that life really is meant to be lived.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive or dangerous to be uplifting.  Simple things – like waiting up all night for an aurora – make a difference.   M and I laughed all night.   We just got to be silly, for no real good reason, and it felt good.  (Thank you, M, for making my life a little bit brighter last night!) 

The tarnish is coming off my heart, off my mind and off my life.  Like the clay shell that hid the golden Buddha, that old patina of sadness and longing that enveloped me for so long is falling off.  Beneath it is a whole new person filled with the light of inspiration and joy.   And this little light of mine… Well, I’m gonna let it shine!

What drives us to settle for things that are less than we are worthy of is a mystery to me.   And it’s one that I no longer wish to solve.  There is far too much wonder and beauty and pleasure in this world to enjoy and discover.  To waste time now on that which hurt so much is pointless.  Sure there remains a small part of me that would still love to take certain people by the hand and walk with them down this path of wonder and beauty and pleasure.   Yet, having reached out so many times and having had my hand slapped for the effort, I’d now rather reach for the stars.  And the auroras – even if they don’t show up!