Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Waterlog dog

When I was a kid, I loved, and I mean L-O-V-E-D, to swim. My parents told everyone I was part fish. Which I guess makes me a mermaid... But I digress...

The point is that swimming was one of my all-time favourite past-times. I harassed my parents every single summer day to take me to the beach. I harassed my parents to put me in swimming lessons. I harassed my parents to get us a pool. When they finally got us a pool, I spent hours and hours and hours and hours and hours a day in it. I never obeyed the "wait one hour after eating before you swim" rule - as long as I wasn't eating or sleeping, I was swimming. I would come out of that pool every single day with hands so pruney and wrinkly that my grandmother looked younger than me...

Even as a teenager, my obsession with water continued. While all the other girls my age were more interested in purchasing teeny little bikinis, slathering on sun tan oil, and baking themselves in the sun, I would climb into my one piece sport suit, slather on SPF 45 sunblock, and spend the day jumping off the dock in the middle of the lake with the boys. Or I would (badly, oh so very badly) water ski. Or I would swim laps across the lake. Anything other than waste time sunning myself on the sand.

So when my family adopted a Labrador retriever/German shepherd cross, I was ecstatic! I imagined spending long days down by the lake with my dog, me swimming to my heart's content, and the dog retrieving various toys and sticks that I would throw from off the dock.

But alas, despite the infamous water-loving Labrador retriever heritage, this dog despised water. She was so petrified of water, that the minute the car pulled into the parking lot down by the lake, she would practically screech (if dogs can even do that...). The one and only time I succeeded in leading her down to the shore (admittedly with brute force), she escaped my clutches and it took me an hour of driving around, calling out her name, to find her. No water-filled dog days of summer for me and this pooch...

And then I moved away from home, went to university, and stopped swimming (having found new favourite activities like beer drinking and card playing). These days, I am one of those girls who is much more interested in shopping for bikinis and laying on the beach soaking up sun rather than doing laps in a pool or at the lake. (Although I still wear high SPF sun block because my freckles and blue eyes don't mix so well with the hot sun...).

All this to say that "water-loving" was not a required selection criteria when choosing a dog. Especially since I'd made up my mind that I wanted an Aussie - not exactly a breed known for aquatic prowess...

Still, in my never-ending quest to exhaust the Beast and drain his energy, and because I saw an episode of The Dog Whisperer once where Cesar talked about how swimming is one of the best ways to tire out a high energy dog, I thought I would introduce the Beast to the water to see how things would go. And low and behold, just 2k from my place is a local doggy watering hole, where downtown dog owners take their mutts to cool off on uber-hot and sticky days. So off we went on our bikes, Beast running alongside, to check it out on one exceedingly warm summer afternoon.

If dogs bred to work in water were planning to band together and take over canine-dom, this is their headquarters. The place is crawling with water dogs! Labrador and golden retrievers jumping off the shore and into the river to retrieve tossed balls. Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers chasing after errant sticks floating down stream. Portuguese water dogs splashing around, possibly in search of fishing nets. Even mighty Newfoundlands patrol the shores of this dog park. Although from an equally esteemed - albeit land-loving - working background, the Beast stuck out a little like a sore thumb among this sea-faring crew!

But he wasn't about to let all that water get in the way of his favourite game in the whole wide world. Chase! Whether he is doing the chasing, or whether he is the one being chased, there is no game that he would rather play.

Now since the park was full of Labs, I should back up a bit and talk about the Beast's relationship with this favoured breed. He has tried to make friends with many a retriever in his short life. But he finds it supremely challenging. This is because the vast majority of retrievers that he has met are singularly focused on the object being thrown to them by their owners, and not on him. And in his little mind, he is the party dog, and they should want to hang out with him and chase him around. When they inevitably don't listen to his commands to chase, the Beast gets frustrated, which is expressed through very loud and very repeated barking. The only reason the Beast tolerates retrievers, I believe, is because eventually, an object gets thrown and the retriever takes off after it, finally giving the Beast an opportunity to gallop after him across the park, if only for a fleeting moment.

So surrounded by Labs and other ball - and now water - obsessed pups, I wasn't sure how the Beast would react. But I could see his little eyes fill with excitement as he watched Lab after Lab after Lab make mad dashes and running leaps off the rock face and into the river in pursuit of their balls. So I said a little prayer, told him to behave, and let him off his leash.

The Beast was off like a flash! He had spotted a beautiful chocolate brown lab who, over and over and over and over again, was retrieving balls from the river for her owner. He would throw a ball, and within a couple of seconds there would be this huge SPLASH. The Lab would gracefully and easily swim out to the middle of the river, snatch the ball in her teeth, swim back to shore, hop out, shake herself off, and trot back to her owner, where she would gently lay the ball at his feet and then eagerly await the next throw.

When the next throw came, off she went, and like a bolt of lightening, the Beast, who was a good 15 metres away, took off. He was closing in on her fast as his long legs moved into full out sprint mode. And he just about caught her two when she lifted herself into the air and threw herself into the river.

All of a sudden, with a look on his face that can only be described as the doggy version of "What the f@$k!!!", he slammed on the brakes and teetered on the edge of the rock face, with nothing but more rocks and water below him. Desperately, he kept looking out to the water, whining and barking at the Lab - whom he hadn't even yet greeted with a butt sniff - as though saying to her, "No fair!!!  You can't just escape me by jumping into the water! Get back here right now and let me chase you on land right now!

And sure enough, as she made her way back to the shore, the Beast got more and more excited, audibly panting and excitedly wagging his entire bum. Then she got out of the water, and without even a glance in his direction, shook herself off and headed back to her owner to await another throw. The Beast was a little stunned.

But it didn't take long for the Beast to figure out that if he wanted to play with this dog, he was simply going to have to dip a toe in. Which is exactly what he did on the very next throw. This time, he watched from the shoreline as the Lab went leaping into the air and splashing into the river. And then, he dipped in one front paw. And then the other. Very tentatively and slowly making his way into the water, small step by small step, until there was no more rock underneath him and he had no choice but to swim.

I nearly peed my pants laughing.

First of all, by the time the Beast finally took the full plunge and began to do what I guess can be called swimming, the Lab was already back on shore shaking herself off. Second of all, compared to the powerful and graceful Lab, which is truly a site to see when in full stride in the water, the Beast was the goofiest, clumsiest dog I have ever seen. The Lab takes long, quick and steady strokes, propelling herself gracefully through the water with her tail, making her way out to the middle of the river and back to the shore easily and without wasting any time. The Beast, on the other hand, kind of bobs along in this aquatic lope, with his head moving slowly up and down, side to side. All he could manage to do was a very small yet very slowly swum circle, having absolutely no chance of successfully chasing the Lab all the way out to her ball.

Yet, he kept going in. And he clearly was having the time of his life. I've learned to read his body language; when his ears are back alongside his head, he is relaxed and calm. And in the water, his ears were all the way back and he had a side-to-side Aussie grin pasted on his freckled face.

So as I watched him take his first foray into aquatic sports, I was actually feeling kind of proud. Proud of myself for opening up his world to new and exciting activities. Proud of hubby (who does not swim and does not exactly like water) for letting go of his own nervousness and enjoying watching the Beast play in the water. But most of all proud of the Beast himself, for taking that plunge - albeit toe by toe - into the water and for figuring out so quickly how to swim. I was like a mom watching her kid put on skates for the first time and take to the ice. And no matter how clumsy and awkward my guy was in the water, I was damn proud of him!

So add swimming to the Beast's ever-growing list of awesome things to do on a summer day. Or on a fall day, as we recently discovered on a Thanksgiving stroll through the arboretum when he dove into the duck pond - with his backpack on - and came out covered in mud and algae. And let me tell you - as gross as that pond is and as bad as he smells when he comes out of it, nothing beats the grin on the Beast's face as he slowly and clumsily makes his way from one end of the pond to the other.

I just better stock up on that waterless shampoo spray and few more towels...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go...

I have known that I wanted an Australian shepherd from the first time that I took my brother's Aussie out for a run. Since that day, and before making the move to adopt one of my own, I have spent countless hours on the Internet researching the breed so that I knew what I would be getting myself into.

I have to be honest - the Australian shepherd is a bit of an intimidating breed (which may explain why it took me so long to actually adopt one...). Here are just some of the traits that describe the esteemed Aussie, according to any number Google hits:
  • Aussies are dominant and pushy, necessary characteristics for a dog bred to control livestock;
  • Aussies require constant, lifelong training and discipline - not just a six week obedience class - because of their more dominant personalities;
  • Aussies are highly energetic and need lots of exercise. Rigorous exercise. Strolling is not enough;
  • Aussies are reserved and may develop behavioural issues (such as aggression) if not properly socialized;
  • Aussies are intense and hyper-focused;
  • Aussies bark. Sometimes a lot. It's a herding thing;
  • Aussies shed. And not just a little. So you'd better get a damn good vacuum cleaner if you don't already have one, or just learn to live with dog hair EVERYWHERE. IN. THE. HOUSE. (including places you didn't even think your dog could get into...)

As you can see, it's a l-l-l-l-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-n-g-g-g-g list. Some on-line Aussie enthusiasts have even stated that they spend more time trying to talk people out of getting an Aussie then they do trying to convince them to adopt one. Rescuers repeat story after story of the Aussies in their care, adopted by families who fell in love with this gorgeous breed but who soon found that they could not keep up with their new high-energy and super smart dog. Which explains why rescue organizations ask for a very detailed and full accounting of your lifestyle before you can adopt an abandoned Aussie.

Well, hey. What can I say. I like a challenge. And since the Beast demonstrates every single trait listed above - and a few more for good measure - I have my work cut out for me (as chronicled in this very blog).

The good news is that these many intimidating and challenging Aussie traits can be tamed. The trick, according to many experts - breeders, rescue organizations, and trainers or behaviourists who specialize in Australian shepherds - is to give the dog a "job" to do. It took me a while to understand what was meant by this. Indeed, I had to Google "what does it mean to give an Australian Shepherd a job?" because I couldn't stop thinking that I had to buy a flock of sheep and let them graze in the backyard (which is a problem since I have no grass back there...). Thankfully, I discovered that "job" need not be so literal. It is merely anything that will appeal to the Aussie's strong work ethic, that will focus his attention on one specific task, and that will stimulate his uber-intelligent mind. Examples range from the obvious (sheep-herding, which this dog was bred for) to the fun (agility training or fly-ball) to the more mundane (following simple rules and commands).

And so, hubby and I have found ourselves searching for the perfect "job" to give our Beast, to help quiet his hyper-focused and slightly obsessive compulsive mind. So far, we've come up with a few:
  • He must sit before he exits or enters the house, whether its to go outside for a bathroom break or to go for a long stroll;
  • He must lie on his bed while we eat;
  • He must sit and stay when I let him off the leash at the dog park, until I say "break";
  • He must walk (or run) nicely beside me, focused on me and the direction that I want to lead him in. He is not to be out front, sniffing everywhere he wants to sniff, impolitely shoving his nose at every doggy or human passer-by;
  • On days when he is particularly jacked up, he must carry a backpack which is stuffed with his portable water dish and his own water bottles.

But by far, his most favourite job is on garbage day.

In our neighbourhood, garbage day is on Mondays, which is also one of our morning jog days. So every Monday morning, the Beast and I set off in whichever of the four directions strikes our fancy and put a few kilometres under our leash. Then we head off to the dog park to run around with other neighbourhood dogs or to play fetch. And then we get to work. Taking out the garbage.

First we go through the house together and collect all of the garbage bags - from the bathrooms, the kitchen and the backyard. Then we go outside to the carport, throw the bags into the large garbage bin, and we take it to the curb. We then go back inside and grab the wet recycling from the kitchen, which we deposit in the green bin and drag to the curb. Finally, we go back into the house together to sort the recycling, bring the appropriate batch outside to the appropriately coloured recycle bin, and carry the recycling to the curb. At the end of the day, when I get home from work, I bring the Beast outside with me and we collect the bins together and bring them back to the carport.

I have never seen the Beast so focused on one single task as he is when he helps me take the garbage out and bring the bins back in. He focuses solely on me and on the task at hand, happily prancing by my side with his head up, his ears back, and a big, proud smile on his muzzle. It is the one time that he does not get distracted by every single thing that is happening around him. Kids can be playing outside, other dogs can be running around, and my neighbour - who he adores and who he will never pass by without an enthusiastic greeting (usually in the form of a loud bark and vigorous bum wiggle) - can be out on her morning jog, but he notices none of them. All he seems to care about is escorting me back and forth from the carport to the curb as we put out or bring in each of the garbage bins, one-by-one. It is a sight to see.

Garbage day is not something that most people look forward to. Indeed, I used to happily sit back and let hubby take care of this task pre-Beast. But I gotta admit that I kind of enjoy taking the garbage out now. Silly, I know, but if you could see the absolute pride on the Beast's face when he helps me, you'd understand. Heck, he makes it look so fun that you might even like to take my garbage out!

But you can't. That job is taken. By the best worker in town.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Weekends

I have a tough job. I work hard during the week. I feel a lot of stress. Which means that on weekends, I want nothing more than to relax. I don't want to have to think. I don't want to have to do. I just kind of want to be. Weekends, for me, should be all about lounging around.

They should be. But they aren't. Because I live with an energetic dog...

Now I have been a morning person most of my life. With the exception of my undergrad years - when I was known to stay out until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and wake up at 2:00 p.m. - I have always been an early riser. In my books, staying in bed until 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday equals sleeping in, and spoiling myself rotten.

Still, even if I am seldom in bed past 7:00 a.m., I like to lounge around. My preferred Saturday morning ritual looks something like this:
  • Wake up sometime between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
  • Stay in my pyjamas
  • Retrieve the Saturday Globe & Mail
  • Put on a pot of coffee
  • Drink coffee and read every section of the Saturday Globe & Mail (except the business section - hubby just reads that and summarizes for me)
  • Watch TSN Sportscentre 
  • Fill out the Globe & Mail crossword
  • Eat some breakfast
  • Tell hubby to stop harassing me about getting up and doing groceries

And eventually, after what I deem to be a long enough period of lounging around (which could be from anywhere between two and four hours of good solid downtime), I hop in the shower, get dressed, and walk down to the grocery store with hubby.

Well, that is my preferred Saturday morning scenario. And I even got to put this wonderful do-nothing-plan into action on more than a few mornings in my life.

But not anymore...

Now, Saturday morning looks something like this:
  • Wake up between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
  • Immediately get dressed
  • Let the Beast out of his crate and into the backyard
  • Take the Beast out for at least an hour and a half. He gets his exercise (which can be a long walk, a bike ride or a run), followed by a drop in at one of a few doggy parks for socialization and fetch.
  • Come back home
  • Put on a pot of coffee
  • Have breakfast
  • Feed the dog
  • Get on with the rest of the day.

Aside from reading the Globe & Mail and the pyjamas, can you see what is missing there? A whole lot of lounging around is missing there, that's what!

You might be thinking to yourselves that there is plenty of time for lounging around once the Beast and I return from our morning of fun and activity. And I suppose, on the one hand, you are right. Certainly, once the Beast is well fed and well exercised, he likes nothing better than to plunk himself down on his dog bed for a good chunk of the day. I, on the other hand, now find myself incapable of doing so. You see, the secret to lounging around and doing nothing is to do so before you get dressed. At least for me. Once I'm dressed, my brain sends a signal to the rest of my body to get up and at 'em. No more time for watching Sportscentre. No more time for reading the Globe & Mail. And no more time for filling out crossword puzzles. Time to clean, go for groceries, reconcile household expenses, or even to get some work done.

And it's not just lazy mornings that are gone. It's lazy afternoons. Like days when you want to watch back-to-back football games and enjoy a couple of beers, for example. Or days after big Thanksgiving dinners where you ate way too much food and the only thing you want to do is curl up with a good book and read off your turkey coma.

Well, those days are long gone too. Because right smack dab in the middle of an exciting fourth quarter, or just at the part of the book where things are getting really interesting, the Beast starts to get restless and needs to be let out for his afternoon walk. And don't think you can ignore his restlessness either until the game is over. No freaking way. He is relentless with his whining and his barking and his dancing all over the place and his dropping toys in your lap and his.... well, you get the picture.  When it is time to go for a walk, it is time to go for a walk!

Which is how I came to find myself, over the course of this Thanksgiving long weekend, putting in a 9k run, a 10k bike ride, a 2.5 hour doggy date in the Arboretum, a 5k round trip walk to the best dog park in town, and at least a couple of other walks and a couple of other romps in the park. Who said long weekends were for relaxing...

So my days of lounging around are seemingly over.

But here's the kicker. I thought I would mind. I thought I would mind that I can no longer stay in my p.j.'s until noon if I want to, or that I can no longer sit in the basement watching non-stop football all day on Sunday, or that I had to cancel my subscription to the Globe & Mail because I found it unopened until late Sunday evening. But the truth is that I kind of don't mind. Sure, there is that split second when I am lying in bed on Saturday morning and I think to myself, "Wouldn't it be nice if I could stay in my pyjamas all day long!" But that moment truly is fleeting. There is even, I admit, a tiny moment of resentment when I am lacing up my shoes and taking off on an early-Saturday-morning run or a middle-of-an-exciting-football-game walk. But as soon as I set foot outside with the Beast, and see how absolutely happy it makes him to be out in the great outdoors, I can't help but surrender to his enthusiasm and enjoy myself. And I can't help but become a little bit more energized because of it.

So I've altered my perspective a little. Weekends - whether long or regular-sized - are still all about coming down from the stresses of the work week. It's just that now I recharge my batteries by replacing my pyjamas with running shoes, and the Globe & Mail with a furry, excitable and adorable companion.

And I think I might actually be less stressed than I ever was before.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Goodbye Dee

About 8 years ago, my brother called me to tell me that he got a dog. Let's call him Dee. Dee was a greyhound, rescued by a lovely Canadian couple from a Florida racetrack and brought to Canada to be placed in a loving home. So the story goes, my brother walked into the kennel to pick out a dog when Dee sauntered over to him and nudged at his hand for a good ear scratch.

Little is known about Dee's pre-rescue life other than that he was likely not treated very well. His sole purpose was to race, and when he stopped winning, his "owners" made plans to discard him. When he was found by this rescue organization, he was about to be put down, had a mouthful of rotten teeth, patches of fur missing (likely "bedsores" from lying in a crate the entire day), and was all skin and bones.

Yet he had the most soulful set of eyes... It is no wonder to me that my brother fell instantly in love with him, gave him a good ear rub, and immediately took him home.

The two of them were inseparable, the truest depiction of man and his best friend that I have ever seen. Rather than put Dee in a kennel when he travelled home to see our parents, my brother would load him into the back seat of his car and drive half-way across Canada rather than take a plane. When we had a family portrait done as a gift to my mother for her 50th birthday, my brother insisted that Dee be in the picture. When my brother bought brand new couches, he swore that Dee would no longer be allowed to sit on them, but that lasted about three hours until Dee snuggled up beside him and claimed half of the love seat as his very own. Dee had my brother wrapped around his paw, and my brother loved it.

Dee had a few quirks (like his fear traffic, his vile hatred of snow and cold, and his stubborn refusal to walk a step further once he had made up his mind that he had gone far enough). But all in all, you could not ask for a more well-behaved and easy-going dog. Even when my brother brought a young Aussie puppy into the mix - first as a foster but eventually as a member of his pack - Dee wasn't phased in the least. The Aussie became his younger brother and his best pal, and it even gave him some gas in his tank to have a younger, more energetic pup in his life.

But in the past year, Dee had really begun to show his age. Although greyhounds are typically known as lazy dogs (despite their racing pedigree), Dee was almost never awake, and even if he was, he would almost always be lying down. The last time I went over to my brother's house, I noticed how much trouble Dee was having getting up and lying back down. He was no longer the enthusiastic door greeter that he had once been either, as though he could no longer be troubled to expend the energy required to walk to the front door and give me his usual doggy kisses. I even mentioned to my hubby after visiting my brother a few weeks ago that I was worried about Dee, and the fact that he was perhaps not much longer among us.

And then last night, I got an e-mail from my brother.

Dee is gone. He was put down on Friday night. He was 12 years old.

I didn't realize how much I had grown to love this dog until I read and re-read my brother's email a few times, tears rolling down my face. Even now as I write this, I am still getting choked up. Obviously, I'm upset for my brother, who is hurting at the loss of his faithful companion. But I'm also upset for me, and for the fact that I won't get to see sweet Dee again. If you are a true dog lover, this is a dog that cannot but touch your heart when you meet him. It's those eyes. Even as he grew older and more frail, those eyes were still young, full of life and unconditional love.

When my nephew was about 4 years old, he looked at my brother and said, "Uncle B, Dee is the perfect height for a hug." Then he wrapped his arms around Dee and gave him a big squeeze, while the dog just stood there, perfectly calm and quiet, and let this silly little boy manhandle him a little. This is the image of Dee that I will forever have in my mind.

To a damn good dog...

I'll miss you, Dee. And so will the Beast.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night"**

As the dying days of Indian summer give way to the chilly breezes of autumn, more than just the leaves are falling. The hours of daylight are rapidly diminishing, making it more and more difficult to wake up in the morning. The mercury is beginning its slow descent towards winter, forcing me to switch out my summer and winter wardrobes. And, at least in these parts, the rain has not stopped coming down for days on end....

...Sigh... Goodbye summer...

Many things end with summer. We wrapped up our softball league a couple of weekends ago. Soon we'll dismantle the patio furniture, take down the gazebo, and move our bikes to the basement. We'll have less white wines chilling in our fridge and default more and more to reds. And the slow cooker will replace the barbeque as the cooking method of choice.

Many things also begin with the end of summer. The harvest begins in earnest, and hubby and I benefit from bountiful farmer's market stalls. New seasons of our favourite shows - this year it's The Good Wife - begin, giving our PVR a major workout. And of course, the fall coincides with the holy trifecta of sport - football, hockey and baseball - so that my t.v. is permanently bouncing between TSN and Sportsnet.

But one thing remains ever constant. The Beast's breeding demands exercise. No matter what Mother Nature is sending our way.

We take the Beast out twice a day. And not for 10 minute spins around the block either. He has way too much energy to release. He is out for about an hour in the morning and an hour in the early evening. Mornings are relegated to either a run, a bike ride (when weather permits) or a nice long romp through the arboretum, sometimes followed by a visit to the dog park. In the evening, we usually strap on his backpack and take off to discover new streets in the neighbourhood, always stopping in one of many parks for a rousing game of fetch. Our little athlete requires nothing less. The proof is in how happy, adjusted, and (for-the-most-part) well behaved he is in the home (until the doorbell rings, anyway, as evidenced by his most recent display just 10 minutes ago when a friend and her daughter stopped in for a visit...).

But back to his high exercise demands. We knew this would be the case when we chose to adopt a member of the Aussie clan, one of the more energetic dogs out there. Indeed, this is why we chose this breed, so that I could have a companion on my runs. I've also come to look very forward to our after-work walks. Hitting the road with the Beast helps me to reset my thoughts and switch from work mode to family mode, something I used to have so much trouble doing that I would find myself staying wide awake at night thinking about work. And there is nothing better than hitting a local dog park and watching the Beast having the time of his life out-pacing all of his best friends, wrestling with his favourite German shepherd, and leaping in the air to catch his ball. I really enjoy this new routine! (Of course, losing a few extra pounds as a result of my own increased activity doesn't hurt either...)

Yet...

...I can't deny that as the cold and wet autumn settles in, I am finding thoughts such as "Oh, we can take a shorter walk this morning" or "Surely if we just skip one walk it won't be the end of the world" or "We don't really have to stop in at the dog park today" creep into my head.

A big part of it is because I hate the rain. Like I mean, really, really hate the rain. Much as I love cities like Vancouver and London, I don't think I could live there without slitting my wrists. Grey skies are depressing! I hate the rain so much that I would take a day of minus 30 with clear blue skies and sunshine over a day of plus 15 with rain.

And for the last four days, it hasn't stopped raining. I have had to go for a run in the rain. I have had to go for evening walks in the rain. I have had to play fetch in the rain. I have had to do many, many things, for many, many days on end that involve standing outside in the rain getting soaked. (I've also spent a lot of time worrying about how dirty my house is as a result of wet, muddy dog...) Whereas if I didn't have a dog, I would forgo the run for another day. I would stay inside and read a book or watch t.v. after getting home from work. Or I would stay at work and get stuff done there since it wouldn't be worth being outside. In short, I would put my life on a hold for a little while and hide out.

But that's the thing. Unlike Major League Baseball, there are no rain delays when it comes to taking care of your pet. I can't just pull a tarp over our favourite walking paths in the morning and hope that the skies will clear up and the ground will be dry by the time I get home from work, with a promise that I will take the Beast for an extra long walk then. No way. He needs his twice-a-day exercise routine, and he needs his socialization. Pure and simple.

The Beast didn't have a choice in the matter of who he decided to come home with. He wasn't given a list of prospective dog owners to choose from. He couldn't interview a bunch of us and say, "Hey, I need someone who can live with a lot of erratic barking whenever someone comes near the front door, and someone who is willing to take me outside for at least two hours a day so that I can run around and burn off some craziness. No need to apply if you aren't able to deliver that, Mister!"

No, we chose him. We decided that we wanted to bring him into our home, because we felt confident that our lifestyles were suited to having a dog like him in our family. We can't renege on that promise when the skies turn a little grey, the sun hides for a little longer, or the temperature starts to drop. Having the Beast with us is a 365 day-a-year commitment, because he has 365 day-a-year (somewhat-high-maintenance-at-times) needs.   

So it's a good thing I bought those rain boots, but I'd better invest in a better rain jacket and probably a pair of rain pants, and while I'm thinking about it, a rain hat, because carrying an umbrella when walking a dog is a pain in the ass.

And I'd better brace myself for another long, dark Canadian winter, because he's gonna need his exercise then too...

... Gulp



**Inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City (and a good way to describe how I feel about my obligation to comply to the Beast's exercise regime...)