I have written this blog (and 236 others, two of which were deleted…why did I do that?!) for just under one year. Some 20,500 people have dropped in to date. I am currently involved in a writing project (very interesting stuff which I’m sure you will all want to pay big bucks for…or not). That’s the good news. The bad news, for some, is that I am taking a temporary break from blogging. Others may see this as cause for celebration (the crass, reactionary types). Regardless, I am outta here for a time, but like MacArthur (or was it some other dude?) said, “I shall return”. Thanks to all the regular readers, the web drifters, and especially to those who have taken the time to send comments (except perhaps, the demento types who really seem to have a loose grasp of reality and lack social decorum).
Opal, my long-suffering (that’s just an expression!) guide dog bids you adieu for now too. She says to tell you that she will update you personally on the progress I make with my writing project (literary pimp, that she is). It just wouldn’t seem right to go on blog holiday without one more pop-culture reference all wrapped up into a piece of wise advice: “Stay calm, be brave, and wait for the signs”- (from the Dead Dog Cafe gang on CBC Radio),
I awoke yesterday with a massive chest cold. (my mom would have said, “Tu as coucher les fesses a l’aire” -translation: “you slept bare-bummed”. Maybe so, but Christmas Eve with my sweetie was worth it. All through the wee hours last night, I coughed, railed and hacked gobs of… well, never mind. At six AM this morning when Opal woke up, she jumped on my bed and proceeded to give me an intense 45 to 60 – second breathalyzer test. She stuck her shnozz next to my lips and carefully sniffed the odours (not too pleasant, I imagine) emerging from my mouth. Then, she promptly lay down beside me, head hung over my legs, until I could get up an hour later. Clearly Doctor Opal diagnosed something not very healthy and decided to cut me some slack. She continued to request samples of my halitosis throughout the day. She must have thought I was insane when I saddled her up and said, “Come on, puppet, we’re going to Sobey’s to buy some honey”. We got there and back with barely any commands being uttered and moving quite slow. I spent most of the remainder of the day wrapped in my authentic Hudson’s Bay wool ‘point blanket’ with Opal and Lucy both settling over me like poultices. Thanks girls. You really know how to take care of your mum. What better nursemaids can a gal have?
Thanks a lot buddy. Yeah you, the nameless smoker who flicked your LIT cigarette butt into the air by the Walmart entrance today. Yeah, I realize it was cold out and you were caging that smoke as long as possible before entering the insanity that is Wally World two days before Christmas. Plus you couldn’t be bothered disposing of the disgusting dregs of your addiction properly, like in a receptacle, oh no, you had to toss that flaming fag, without glancing where it might land, like ONTO MY GUIDE DOG, Opal! That explains why she became startled… I had no clue. I thought it was the foot traffic making her nervous, until someone told me what happened, expressing their outrage about it to me, long after you had blown into the store while exhaling the smoke from your last drag (into somebody’s face, no doubt). I bet you’ve started a forest fire or two in your day, huh? You’re the kinda dope that tosses butts (and beer cans) out the car window as you speed down the road. Sheesh! Here’s my Wise Advice for you. Give them up for New Year’s, you creep. Get the patch! Arm yourself with mints and toothpicks. Sign up for support groups, acupuncture, psychoanalysis…but give me a break and leave my dog out of your pathetic path of destruction. And hey! quit smoking and you’ll start to feel better, smell better and sound better. The extra bonus for the rest of us is that you will decrease your share of the smokers
burden on the health care system.
I was about to blog a rant, entitled, “Canadian Tire is Uninspired”… (a rhyming title and a rant to boot). Actually, it was going to be a rant ABOUT boots, or the lack of the allegedly “on sale” boots that appeared in the Canadian Tire flyer this week. With aching feet, bad boots in my closet, and a Canadian Tire gift certificate to put towards anything my heart desires, I thought my problem was near resolution. Yes, I would head into the Christmas shopping fray at CT and buy those puppies for my sore dogs. My sweetie, ever the pragmatist (and maybe not so willing to go into the fray with me), suggested that I check their web site or call ahead to check on availability of my size. ‘Good idea’, I concurred. I entered the item code number into the Canadian Tire web site and yielded nothing except messages to ‘contact store for more information’. Then I dialed and dialed my phone some more, waiting on hold forever and finally talking to frantic staff people immersed in bedlam over in the Canadian Tire stores throughout Halifax. I thought one guy at the Spryfield Canadian Tire was having a breakdown. Lucky for me I have ‘Crisis phone line’ training and could talk him down from his counter top. Two hours later, I was back on the phone with the sweetie to announce “Canadian Tire is lying to me. There is not one store location in town with ANY of those boots in any size. They never had them to begin with. Those shysters just want us to get us into the store to impulse shop…’cause they know we would. What happened to the Canadian institution of my childhood? The one with the catalogues (just the right size) I would strap to my knees in lieu of real hockey pads ’cause we couldn’t afford the ones they sold in their store? (catalogue about to axed from publication) The ones who gave you Canadian Tire ‘money’ with every cash purchase? (about to be relegated to memorabilia collections too).” Sigh. The boot search continues.
I never got to that sole rant of a blog. Why? This morning I got the Warm ‘n Fuzzy Christmas feeling, not from any success in my search for affordable boots, but from two news items I heard on CBC radio. Very simple. First, a rescue dog called Ace, found a Hamilton woman, lost for THREE days, buried in in a pile of snow, ALIVE. She should have been dead. CBC found the story and put the ‘miracle’ tag on, just in the Saint Nick of time. Good job, Ace!
This was followed by a moving tribute (given by Jane Kansas) about a local homeless man, ‘Terry’ who died over the weekend at age 65. He was a colourful Halifax fixture, know as an eccentric, often irritatingly in-your-face kinda guy who could cry crocodile tears on cue if you were ‘nice’ to him, or dismiss you if you had no money or smokes to offer. The man was an alcoholic and suffered from schizophrenia. He wore dapper suits and sports jackets to panhandle, albeit dirty ones. His death is not the happy note here. The fact that his tribute made it to mainstream media IS. This guy’s passing could easily have gone unnoticed. If we can’t take care of our unfortunate citizens, we can at least mark their passing.
Yesterday, a memorial service was held at St. Georges Round Church to honour the lives of people who have lived and died homeless and in poverty. Perhaps more people could make it a point to attend this yearly service in future.
Short answer to this question? Yes, of course! They’re dogs, just dogs with special training. All dogs will misbehave, given the opportunity (and all you people with allegedly ‘perfect pooches’ need to rethink that plan to nominate your canine for sainthood!)
I must say that I get a lot of comments from people (bus and taxi drivers, store keepers, hospital staff etc.) who remark that Opal is a very well behaved dog. I would agree, given what I’ve heard about other guide dogs, much to my surprise and horror. Sure, Opal has been known to lick women’s bare feet in public when I’m not paying attention. Her passion for soft and fuzzy things has overwhelmed her more than once too; she stole a ladies gloves off a seat at the ferry terminal once, and she has tried to boost a stuffed animal or two from Walmart’s and other stores. Ok, so maybe she has also shredded a basket (‘off the job’) and torn several pairs of my panties into confetti. At least I caught up with her when she tried to destroy my bra, in time to rescue it. See a pattern here? Oral fixation…jaws and tongue in action? Like many labs, she loves to carry stuff. The first thing she does when her ‘saddle’ (harness) comes off at home, is to pick up the nearest object that will fit in her mouth and run like a dog possessed.
I have said this more than once: Dogs are a lot like kids. They are opportunistic. They need good structure, routine and enforced rules in order to behave like good dogs. I think that most of the stories I hear from cab and bus drivers about guide dogs jumping around, barking, annoying the driver or passengers (!!!!) in their vehicles, is not about a ‘guide dog being bad’. Nope. It’s about a handler that does not ‘sort their dog out’. These are the handlers that give the rest of us a bad name by allowing the public to develop a negative impression of guide dogs. I have been at functions with other people who had guide dogs, in one instance, 35 blind people and handlers. All were relatively very well behaved (even the people). I have also been at meetings, and parties where only one other guide dog and handler were present, where I became irritated beyond belief (the handler irritated ME, the dog irritated Opal), ’cause the handler was asleep at the switch and not paying attention to, or doing anything about his wandering and misbehaving dog.
The off-duty guide dog will eat that chocolate birthday cake, those half dozen blueberry muffins (low fat), the marinating steaks etc. IF THEY HAVE OPPORTUNITY. They will bother your guests, demand attention, ‘act out’, just like small children, unless you enforce the rules which YOU create, consistently. It makes them feel more secure to know who is leader of the pack (or parent). It is really about ensuring that they do not have opportunity, and preempting the food theft, destruction of property, annoyance of guests etc, BEFORE IT CAN OCCUR. Put your stuff away! (like my panties which should not be lying on the floor next to the hamper). Put your foot down firmly (but do not carry a big stick!–be kind and fair to your dog).
Two of my favourite things to talk about (and I do so incessantly), are Opal and my church, the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax. When I have a reason and opportunity to combine both in one conversation or text, my life seems very sweet indeed.
I’ve been under the blogospheric weather for a few days, but only because I have been busy….mostly singing. Last night, the UU church of Halifax held its rescheduled ‘gospel sing-along’ evening. What does this mean? Yes, of course, a bunch of white folk singing gospel songs could potentially translate into a pretty lame event, however, when UU’s sing gospel, we REALLY try hard. Last night, we also provided cultural and racial acknowledgements, and historical information about the music that we were about to perform. As a member of both performing choirs, I had been rehearsing full tilt and memorizing a plethora of song and hymn lyrics for weeks (SONGS GUARANTEED TO NEVER LEAVE MY BRAIN AGAIN!). An early snowstorm had forced us to reschedule the event. Finally, last night, we sang…and shone, perhaps not like blinding light, but certainly with spirited illumination. Opal was well behaved (as usual )and slept, wrapped around the microphone stand at my rhythm- tapping feet. We finally got home after 10 PM and eventually got to bed, but not before her ritual settling period had passed. (Opal needs to relax when she finally gets out of harness, and usually does so by picking up a soft object and running around like a nut. Lately, my panties have been the object of choice. She turns them into lingerie confetti. That’ll teach me to leave my dirty clothing lying about!). Early this morning, Opal accepted my unreasonable demand to ‘saddle-up’, (good sport that she is), and off we went to church again. This time we were helping out in the UU orientation for the newcomers. We participated in the day-long UU boot camp until early afternoon and then left the group to tend to our last UU mission of the day; A hospital visit to a church member who has been beset by surgeries and the aftermath of infection.
One of the perks of the harness which Opal wears, is its status and how it can act as a pass to enter into places where pet dogs can not go. A hospital is such a place. My friend, M. who is the unfortunate soul in ill health, has two dogs of her own…at home. What a smile I heard in her voice when Opal gave her a huge greeting! She had no roommates in her hospital room and the place was oddly quiet, so I took Opal’s harness off for a minute to allow for some big time kissing and goofiness. THIS is true medicine, UU canine style.
This just in from Halifax:
Wise Advice chief, HRM (AKA Lablady) and her staff canine, Opal, were rescued on Mumford Road by Bionic Lady late yesterday afternoon. Ms. ‘S’, better know as Bionic Lady because of her nifty titanium prosthetic leg, noticed Wise Advice and her trusty pooch trying to navigate home from the Mumford bus terminal. Realizing that there was no way that the self-proclaimed queen of advice-giving would be able to navigate the narrow, windy, and perilously slippery snow tract which pedestrians had created to replace the sidewalk, Bionic Lady cleverly guided the guide dog and Wise Advice (who tucked in behind the dog) through the rough terrain to safety. Their victorious survival story was recorded by CBC TV crews who happened by on their way to film other snowstorm cleanup and disaster stories all over Halifax. It seems that Saturday’s storm hit HRM by surprise. The official line from the city is that they had not contracted the snow-clearance teams to work before November 30th and “were caught by surprise” (this despite the statistics which show that Halifax has recorded snow in November almost every year in its history). Bionic Lady said to CBC reporter, Mindy Ming, “It’s a bitch out there, ya know? They haven’t even cleared out the bus stops at major intersections yet. The curbs downtown are like, gone”. Wise Advice said she had serendipitously been traveling on the same bus as her neighbour, Bionic Lady. “Yeah, I was standing next to the driver all the way to Mumford terminal with Opal ’cause there was no way those young kids were going to give up their seats for me or anyone else. It gave me a chance to have a nice chat with the driver, though. The driver told me (when he wasn’t stopping to dig snow from his bus’s doors at bus stops, so they could close properly), that 48 hours after the snow storm, not one street in HRM is plowed properly and even bus stops at busy, main intersections are inaccessible, and that there is no way the ALF buses could deploy their ramps for the wheelchair users anywhere”.
“Guess they’re (wheelchair users) screwed for getting to work this winter” the driver announced grimly as he drove his bus around a string of cars stuck in a mid-road snowbank. “I feel like Superman and MacGyver all rolled into one” he announced with pride. “Yeah, I had to pull two people out from UNDER my bus who had slipped off the snowbanks as they tried to get on board at a couple of un-cleared stops. AND I made a nifty shovel out of my lunch pail so that I can dig the doors out when they get stuck!” he added excitedly. Wise Advice told Mindy Ming that she should take the film crew over to city hall and film the undoubtedly well-cleared parking lot there, and interview the mayor and council as they emerge from ‘work’. “Maybe shove a camera in their face and ask them if any of them have time to do double duty as chauffeurs to the thousands of elderly and persons with disabilities in Halifax who are at risk of not accessing medical appointments, employment and necessary travel because of the dumb asses’ decision that it’s OK to gamble and allow un-contracted snow crews to get caught with their ski-doo pants down. Environment Canada is forecasting rain in the HRM area for the next couple of days. Prediction? Ice slicks where sidewalk snow paths exist, and ice mounds at curbs. This equals lawsuits and liability. It would have been cheaper just to clean up the snow in the first place, rather than pay for all those broken bones and physiotherapy.” She left for home with Bionic Lady to have a cup of tea.