Tag: Sheltie dogs (page 1 of 2)

My half-coyote dog

Dear Wendy,

As we were driving along Highway 401 towards Toronto this past weekend, I caught sight of an animal lying by the side of the road. It was a coyote, killed  by another passing car.

My heart gave a lurch, and the memories came flooding back—because long ago, before I came back from Northern B.C. to live in Ottawa, I owned a half-coyote dog named (improbably) Muffin. Continue reading

It shouldn’t happen to a dog

Dear Wendy,

Well, I just finished icing the dog’s back. And I don’t mean “covering with delicious chocolate frosting,” which would be not only demented, but extremely messy. Especially for a sheltie.


She thinks I’ve lost it, but she goes along with the gag. Good dog.

No, I mean “icing” as in “icing an injury.”

Maydeleh’s very good about it, really. Even though she clearly thinks I’ve lost my marbles, she sits patiently while I hold the icepack to her spine for the required 5 minutes.

You see, our wee doggie has reached the cusp of her golden years—she’s 9½, which translates to about 66 in human years—and she’s begun to suffer some of the aches and pains that flesh is heir to.

It’s not our dog’s first rodeo

Poor pup. She’s been through her share of health crises in the past few years.

First, there was the 2-inch bony lump that appeared on her front…knee? elbow? Whatever.

It developed seemingly overnight, accompanied by extreme lethargy, both of which had our vet looking deeply concerned. She started using words like “amputate” and “biopsy” and “specialists.” Not words you want to hear about your beloved pet, I can tell you.

At around the same time, we discovered that poor Maydeleh’s thyroid had given up the ghost, and her thyroid hormone levels had dropped to almost nothing. That’s when we started giving her Synthroid, which seemed to perk her right up.

Weirdest thing of all? When we took her back to the vet to get her thyroid levels re-checked, not only were they right back where they belonged, but the Mystery Lump of Doom had completely disappeared. It was gone, as though it had never been there in the first place. If we hadn’t seen it on an xray, we’d have wondered whether we were making the whole thing up.

Our vet actually got choked up with emotion when she told us, “It’s…completely gone! I’ve never seen anything like this!”

We all felt like we’d dodged a particularly nasty bullet.

That was then…

This time around, it started with panting and pacing.

Dogs pant. It’s what they do to cool off in warm weather: they don’t have sweat glands, so they have to rely on releasing their body heat via their tongues.

And our dog, as mentioned, is basically wearing a fur coat 24/7. Great in Ottawa’s ridiculously cold winters; not so wonderful during our brief but hot summers.

So at first I didn’t think much of it when Maydeleh would start panting for no apparent reason. But when she started panting and gasping all night, every night, in our air-conditioned bedroom that’s not even a little bit hot, I started to wonder. She’d also started having a lot of trouble getting up and down stairs, and a couple of times has actually stumbled and fallen backward. Not at all her usual thing.

Then, one night a couple of weeks ago, she was panting so loudly, and getting up to change positions so frequently, that neither she nor I slept at all. (Mitchell snored blissfully through it: advantage deaf guy.)

This is when I knew we needed to get her to the vet again. As the vet poked at her back, Maydeleh winced visibly—a big deal for a sheltie, since these little dogs are deceptively tough and hate to show signs of pain. We left that visit with a bottle of doggy painkillers, and instructions to ice her back three times a day.

For the past couple of weeks, poor Maydeleh hasn’t been allowed to chase her ball (the activity that gives meaning and joy to her life), and has had to submit to thrice-daily icing sessions.

Lately, whenever we sit down with the ice pack, Ralph saunters over and joins us; it’s as if he knows his long-time buddy isn’t happy, and needs his support. Or he’s just bored. Hard to say, with cats.alt="IMAGE-dog-cat-icing-back-after-the-kids-leave"

For her part, Maydeleh sits stoically through her icing. It does seem to give her some relief, but she’s really not back to herself yet, so she’ll be seeing the vet yet again this afternoon.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s another “magic disappearing lump” situation, but I don’t know how realistic that is. I mean, how often does that happen?

I’ll tell you, though: this little dog couldn’t be more loved. I’ll let you know what happens.






How to pee in the woods, and other important camping tips

Dear Wendy,

It takes a certain kind of person to venture into the Canadian woods in September, as the mercury starts to drop, the autumn winds pick up speed, and all the sane campers have hustled their outdoorsy buns back to the city, with its central heating and Starbucks and computers and such.


Intrepid dog stands guard.

And by “certain kind of person” I mean “bull-goose loony.”

Because yes, it’s cold out there. Damn cold. Especially at night, and most especially when the only thing standing between you and hypothermia is a small nylon tent. Okay, and a sleeping bag. And a dog.

Note: dogs make excellent foot-warmers when camping in frigid temperatures. However, if they make their way far enough north, they will also attempt to steal your pillow.

However, camping at this time of year brings certain compensations.

There’s the triumphant feeling you get when you realize that you did not, in fact, freeze to death overnight. Okay, that’s not really a selling point. Wait, I’m thinking.

Okay, how about this: coffee tastes indescribably delicious when you’re clutching it between your woollen-gloved hands and inhaling its delectable odour along with the smell of the pines and the smoke from your campfire.


Essential camping equipment: don’t leave home without it.

And it’s quiet. No traffic, no electronic beeps and buzzes, no city noises at all, except for the odd airplane thrumming past.

The forest rustles and stirs around you, hawks soar silently overhead, and you can watch a red squirrel scamper up a 100-foot tall pine tree in 5 seconds flat. You can sit on the rocks above the lake and watch canoes cutting silently through the still water…and you can remember what it’s like to live without walls and ceilings and dishwashers and deadlines.

Of course, since Mitchell and I are a special kind of bull-goose loony, we chose a campsite with the best view in the park.

The catch? It was a good half-kilometre hike, up hill and down dale, and back up hill again, to the nearest outhouse.

Important outhouse information

Oh, and speaking of outhouses: on a previous trip, Rachel and I discovered that if you’re willing and able to make it another couple of hundred feet, you’ll find what looks like a normal outhouse…that turns out to contain an actual flush toilet! Two of them, in fact. Luxury!

So this past weekend I was able to commune with the Great Outdoors without once having to venture into the Smelly Tomb of Doom. Given your morbid fear of pit toilets, I believe you’d count this as a plus, no?

So that’s what “dark of moon” means


Yes, it was cold enough for a hat. And yes, I wore it to bed. Sexy, I know.

While we’re on the subject of relieving one’s self in the woods, I should mention an important thing I learned on this trip: before venturing out of the tent to take care of business in the middle of the night, it’s wise to check and see whether the moon has set.

What? The moon can set?!?

Yes, indeedy. And when it does, I am here to tell you that the Great Outdoors gets very, very dark indeed. So dark, in fact, that finding one’s way to a suitable place for conducting the business at hand can get extremely complicated. Basically, you can’t see your own feet, which is a disadvantage when you’re trying to feel your way around rocks and trees and suchlike.

Suddenly, thoughts of bears and raccoons start crowding into the mind. I’m not sure why these critters would be more likely to come out when the moon is absent, but the intense quiet and dark can do odd things to the mind.

Also, finding the tent again when you’re done? Good luck with that.

Pro tip: take your headlamp next time.

But in the morning…

But back to the happier side of the ledger: in the morning, you can actually have a hot shower (if you’re willing to walk a ways to get it).


Canada: Trees, and rocks, and lakes, and sky. And one strange little cedar, growing from a tiny crevice.

And at night, you can sit near a blazing campfire, staring up at the darkness, and watch the stars pop out one at a time, until suddenly you just cannot believe how many there are.


You can stare at a campfire for hours and never get bored.

And you can sit quietly with your partner, watching the stars and the fire and the dog sleeping at your feet, and think about how lucky you are.

It was a good weekend. Chilly at times, and dark. But good.




Mitchell in his camp chair–a lot more comfortable than they look.

Good dog, bad dog: Tales of a Criminal Mastermind

Dear Wendy,

We talk a lot about our cats here, which I suppose makes sense since we have four between us. So maybe it’s because she feels left out that our dog has begun to develop criminal tendencies.


I’m a good dog! Can’t you tell by my sweet expression and pretty ruff? Those cats, though. They’re bad to the bone. Wait, did someone say bone? BRB.

It’s hard to believe, I know. Maydeleh (Yiddish for “little girl,” in case anyone was wondering) looks so sweet natured and unassuming, so earnest and well-behaved, that few can credit my stories of her daring exploits. But she does have a history.

We began to suspect that she was a Good Dog by day and a Very Bad Dog by night, when she started rummaging through the garbage can in the family room, pilfering edibles while we slept.

We’d discover a trail of wrappers, empty food containers, used tissues (did I mention dogs are disgusting?) and the like, leading all the way to Maydeleh’s lair. She’d look at us, her earnest brown Sheltie eyes saying, “But it wasn’t me! Honest! The cats did it, and I tried to stop them!”

(Hint to dog: it’s a little hard to pin your crimes on the cats when you have evidence all over your snout. And in your bed. First rule of crime: delete the evidence.)

A few holiday seasons back, we bought a gingerbread house kit, intending to spend a pleasant afternoon decorating it with Rachel. It didn’t occur to any of us that several large slabs of gingerbread, packed in a sturdy cardboard box that was in turn encased in plastic wrap, could be a recipe for disaster.

It did occur to Maydeleh, though.

Overnight, while we slept, she tore away the cardboard, chewed through the plastic, and managed to eat the entire roof and three of the four walls, before she collapsed into a satiated sleep. She was still on her side, snoring, when we found her.

For several days after this misadventure, Maydeleh’s outdoor excursions took on a certain air of urgency, as most of a gingerbread house worked its way through her system.

Maybe we’re slow learners, because a few days later we bought another gingerbread kit. This time we stored it in a cupboard, out of the dog’s reach. Rachel got to build her house, squirting icing, sticking candies to it, and generally enjoying the seasonal tradition.


Success! The one the dog didn’t eat.

The house, thus decorated, was given a place of honour in the dining room, well away from the dog. For extra insurance, we placed a fruit bowl in front of it.

But that night, as we were snug in our beds, something went thump downstairs, followed by a rolling sound, and a scuttling of claws on hardwood. Not good.

We hauled ourselves downstairs with despatch. Sure enough, a chair had been pulled away from the side table; a bowl of fruit lay overturned. The rolling sound was the apples scattering across the floor. The gingerbread house was untouched, but not through lack of trying.

And the dog was pacing around, all innocent-like:  “Gee, I wonder what terrible person could have broken into our house and pulled that chair out and overturned the fruit bowl? Or maybe it was the cats. I bet that’s who did it. The cats.” Her face said “innocent,” but the evidence said “guilty.”

So. I told you that story so I can tell you what happened just the other night.

We’d had guests over, and had put out bowls of appetizers, as one does. After they’d left, we tidied up, did some dishes, set the rest to run in the dishwasher, and headed for bed.

Apparently Maydeleh had figured out that “immediately after they go upstairs” is not really prime time for crime, so she laid low. For several hours, in fact.

Which is why, when something woke me at 5:30 a.m., I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. I thought I heard a distant thump, then a light clatter, and then the unmistakeable “jingle-clink, jingle-clink, jingle-clink” of the dog’s tags. I knew that sound. She was licking something.

I stumbled downstairs in the dark.

Checked the kitchen. Clear.

Dining room? Clear.

Living room? Mostly clear. Except for the exceptionally clean plate on the floor. And the telltale signs of chips and salsa on the dog’s nose.

I didn’t get a chance to examine the forensic evidence too closely, though, because the perp high-tailed it to the basement before I could do more than inform her she was a very, very bad dog.

Clearly, renewed vigilance is called for. Maydeleh the Criminal Mastermind likes to operate under cover of dark, and she’s unbelievably sneaky, but we have one important advantage: we possess somewhat larger cerebral cortices than she does. While we don’t always take advantage of them (see earlier remarks about leaving edibles within doggy reach), we can outsmart her when necessary.


I am not a crook. Most of the time.

But really—looking at our canine friend today, would you have suspected? Me neither.





Best Friends come in all shapes, sizes and species…

This Sunday, don’t bother going outside.  It’s too cold/hot, the best place for you is sitting in your heated/air-conditioned home, drinking hot/iced coffee and watching a selection of videos, guaranteed to take your mind off the weather.

First up, if cats and dogs were human…

After the Golden Globes, Tina and Amy want to go home with Jodie Foster…

To end the week with a little whimsy, a toddler, a patient dog…and a puddle

Karen and Wendy

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