Things I learned this weekend

  • Nellie’s vacations are always bittersweet for me. As an introvert I love the alone time, but I always miss her too.
  • Two years after I saw Once for the first time, I watched it again. Still just as amazing. The scene in the music store where he teaches her “Falling Slowly” gave me chills, just like it did the first time.
  • The city of Toronto is holding a design contest for a revamped north building at St. Lawrence Market. Good. I love the farmer’s market on Saturdays, but that building is both hideous and a logistical nightmare.
  • Eighteen pound cats do not enjoy falling into bathtubs full of water. They enjoy it even less when their owner takes too long drying them off because he’s nearly strained a rib muscle from laughing.
  • The Santa Claus parade seems ridiculously out of place when it’s foggy and 14 degrees. Oh, and fucking November.
  • That said, I’m excited that Swiss Chalet has the festive special up and running already.
  • There are few three-word sentences in moviedom as cool as “Gregor fucked us.”
  • If I ever own a house I’m going to make my living room into a replica of Cumbrae’s, complete with butchers and bags — bags, people — of pulled pork.
  • My team was teh suck last night (except for Carey Price) and hasn’t been very good at all this year.

Night night, circle-dog

A little over thirteen years ago my mother picked up Nellie (my girlfriend of one year!) and I after university ended for the summer. Our job that day was to help her pick out a puppy to bring home to the farm. My parents had been without a dog for a year, ever since our good old pup Asterix passed away the summer before. My dad wanted a big dog, so my mom had an appointment to see some Rough Collie puppies. We saw a few but she developed a soft spot for the oldest one there. He’d been passed over a few times as he was the runt of the litter, and was now a few months older and a little bigger than the other puppies. Honestly, he seemed a little stunned. But mom liked him, and he was undeniably cute, so we put him in a cage, stuck him in the car and headed for home.

stryder

His first night on the farm was a little rough…he’d never been away from the other puppies, so he whined in his cage non-stop until I went downstairs and turned on the radio. That seemed to calm him down, but that scaredy dog streak never left him…he always snuck upstairs to my parents’ room during thunderstorms. His courage didn’t seem to fit his name — we’d named him Stryder, a variant on the ranger Strider from Lord Of The Rings, so we pretended it had something to do with his long, spindly legs.

After some awkward initial meetings Stryder eventually befriended Tigger, the house cat. With his best friend away at school and then moved to Toronto, and his mother gone for a year (she died the same summer that Asterix did), Tigger was lonely. This excitable puppy, now grown into a giraffe-like (and no less excitable) dog, lavished all the attention on him that a cat could want.

stryder-and-tigger-2

It wasn’t at all uncommon to see them sleeping like this, or sharing a basket. Stryder would often chew on Tigger, or occasionally chomp down on his head and fling him across the kitchen floor. Tigger, in return, would catch mice for the dog and expect him to come eat them, the way his mother had caught mice for him. It was an odd relationship, but cute. Except for all the dead mice in the driveway.

Eventually Tigger passed away too, but Stryder still had my mom and dad around. He would follow Dad everywhere around the farm while he worked, and would follow mom on walks. He would whip himself into a frenzy when my brothers or I came home, running endless circles around the kitchen table and knocking over chairs, and garnering the unofficial nickname you see above. He eventually found new friends, especially when my brother moved back to the farm and there were kids around, and other dogs like Riley and Ayce. But he was getting older, and couldn’t off the floor very easily. Collies like Stryder often have hip problems, and in the last few years his had gotten worse and worse. He couldn’t bark much any more, and he was pretty much deaf, but he still recognized us and enjoyed our visits, using what little energy he had to thump down at our feet at night. For the last two years or so, Nellie and I would always say an extra farewell to Stryder when we visited, knowing it might be the last time we’d see him.

As it turns out, our visit eight weeks ago was our last goodbye. Stryder passed away this morning. Rest in peace, circle-dog. We’ll miss you.

image003

"Give them the safe home they deserve."

Last week the Globe and Mail broke a story about the Toronto Humane Society, and about the conditions some of the animals are kept in. Since then the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has suspended the THS’ affiliate status. I’m not entirely sure what that means. I’m also not sure how bad the pictures that accompany the Globe story are; I can’t bring myself to look at them. Hurt and sick animals distress me, and if I looked at the pictures I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

I’m conflicted about this story. The descriptions of the conditions in the shelter sound awful, but I know the entire truth rarely gets reported in the media. Animal protection & care is a big issue for me, and both Nellie and I make monthly donations to the THS. It also hits home for me because of these guys:

Just over six years ago Nellie and I went to the Humane Society and adopted dumbass and dumbass jr. up there. We saw no evidence of mistreatment, but we weren’t back in the cages, just in the visitor section. We were interviewed extensively before being allowed to adopt. We literally got cheers from the staff and some visitors when we came into the room to take them home. They were microchipped and given shots. Michael (the sit-ee in the picture) was quite healthy, but Sonny (the sitter) was a little sick. A vet visit, some rest and he was good as new. Cranky at first, but over the six years he’s become highly affectionate, especially right after he wakes up from a nap. They were abandoned twice before we got them, and I wonder if every time he goes to sleep he wonders if he’ll be abandoned again when he wakes up. He never is, and we get ten minutes of (rather smothering) affection every time. Michael’s a different story: he is perpetually the most affectionate cat I’ve ever seen, and will follow us around the apartment until we sit down and he can climb on us and purr. He likes us a lot, and he’s clearly glad that we adopted him. He may be an idiot, but he knows that he lucked out.

Who knows what would have happened with these guys if they hadn’t arrived at the Humane Society, and then come back again? Maybe they would’ve been ok. Maybe they would’ve been given to a family that didn’t take care of them. Maybe they would have died of exposure in the winter. They’re just one case, but put together all the abandoned and mistreated animals in this city and I’d have to think the Humane Society’s helped far more animals than it’s harmed. In fact, most of the allegations of abuse seem to stem from the fact that a) they’re too slow to euthanize animals which would be put down elsewhere, and b) they’re overcrowded, probably due in part to their policy of not euthanizing.

However, I urge you to read the lone comment at the bottom of the Globe story, posted by a former OSPCA affiliate. I’ve pasted most of it here:

Ultimately, the responsibility for the welfare of our pets falls on the shoulders of the owners. Pets need to be kept safely within the home, not allowed to wander. They need to be spayed or neutered to avoid unwanted offspring. They need medical attention and love.

With the housing boom over the last years in the GTA, shelters are bursting with animals that have been rescued off the street or worse. They often come in injured, and usually have picked up colds or viruses.

This puts a huge burden on the shelters, financially and in terms of space and manpower. It also is very difficult for workers to watch day by day the number of incoming animals (particularly cats) that nobody comes looking for. It’s as if these poor, frightened creatures were trash, not loving companions.If shelter workers lose patience with people, it’s understandable.

Well said, and I hope that resonates. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need a Humane Society, and in a better world than this they wouldn’t be nearly this busy or crowded. Hopefully whatever problems they’re having can be straightened out and they can get back to sacrificing their time and energy on saving animals from our collective neglect.

Paging Jack Byrnes.

Sonny pinning Michael for the 3-count

I like cats. A lot of people don’t. I feel sorry for those people.

See, cats by and large are introverts. They’re quiet, they keep to themselves and they don’t shower people with attention the way that dogs (extroverts, to be sure) do. They have a few people for whom they feel genuine affection; the rest are looked on with more or less genial indifference. Extroverts look at introverts, whether in human or cat form, and think they’re broken. They misread introversion as shyness, antisocial behaviour or rudeness. In my experience extroverts have a hard time recognizing affection or happiness if it’s not delivered in an extroverted (read: obvious) way. That’s why people think that cats (and, um, me a lot of the time) are cranky or stuck-up.

Don’t get me wrong, I like extroverts just fine. Especially dogs…if I had the space for one to live with me, and I could just let it outside to shit, I’d have one…but I don’t have it, and I can’t do that, so no puppy. It’s just that as an introvert I can identify with cats a little better, and a lifetime of chuckling at perplexed extroverts has given me some insight on why cats get a bad rap.

Now if I could just toilet-train them…

Things I've learned in the past 24 hours

  • I’m getting sick. Not enough to make me feel like I need to stay in bed, but enough to drain me of all energy and motivation to, you know, move.
  • The Rob Zombie remake of Halloween (imdb | rotten tomatoes) started off better than I expected, in that it gave us a Michael Myers preview, but the remake part was just standard slasher fare. The only thing I liked better about it than the original was that Myers moved like a normal guy…fast sometimes, normal speed the rest of the time, instead of at a slow zombie pace.
  • Sometimes our cats will sleep quietly through the night. Other times they will stage a Bob Fosse revival on our bed at 3AM. Last night was the latter.
  • We need a new coffee table and over-sized (but not too over-sized) chair, but aren’t having much luck finding them. Lo and behold, I read this in Thursday’s issue of Now, and figure we should give it a try.
  • Even when the Canadiens are down 4-1 going into the third period, I should still finish watching the game, especially when it’s against a soft team like the Islanders. The Habs scored 4 goals in the third period and won. They’re playing .850 hockey so far this season, the best of any team in the NHL.
  • The Raptors look pretty good, having won their third in a row to remain perfect in this young season. Bosh looks better with O’Neal there to take the pressure off, Bargnani looks better coming off the bench than he does starting, Calderon looks better without the T.J. Ford of Damocles hanging over his head, and Kapono just looks better. But the defense is what seemed different last night…not all the time, but a lot of the time. Players like Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson have carved through the Raptors like butter in recent years, but last night, the Raps seemed to challenge more. Anyway, we’ll see how they fare against real competition like the Celtics or Lakers.
  • John McCain isn’t funny.

I realized two minutes later that it was "balcon"

The warm (and by warm I mean screaming hot) weather has made for a very fun 18 hours. After leaving work yesterday I arrived home to a barbeque in progress with Nellie and CBGB. We made veggie burgers and drank (among others) Bavarian Weissbier and took solace in the cool breeze on our balcony. Sometimes that breeze was almost too much; at one point it blew some Tostitos out of the bowl and sent them skittering across the balcony. After our guests left we cleaned up (barely) and watched Battlestar Galactica. Getting! So! Good!

Nellie had to get up early for a hair appointment, so I used the morning to clean up (read: recycle the beer bottles), catch up on my news addiction, run some errands, buy more of that weissbier and take some pictures of all the puppies down the street at Woofstock.

Playing with dogs is good for the soul, even if my cats did look at me askance when I got home. Now I’ve finished off the list of little things that I need to get done before settling in for a long afternoon of MBA and Euro. Life could certainly be worse.

[tags]weihenstephaner hefeweissbier, battlestar galactica, woofstock, euro 2008[/tags]

With my feet in the air and my head on the ground

Sorry internet, I’ve been too busy to blog lately. Work is devouring most of my time, so it’s probably a good thing I’ve dropped any pretense of putting effort into the MBA. Also, daylight saving time is wreaking havoc on my brain-clock, making it hard to keep up with my usual distractions.  Thus, you shall get brief notes instead of piercing insights.*

  • I don’t really know how two Kara Keith songs ended up in my inbox, but I like the songs I’ve heard so far. I suspect I downloaded them via Chromewaves.
  • The last time Montreal was first in their conference this late in the season was 1993, which was also the last year they won the cup. I’m just sayin’. Weird thing about that year, though; they wound up finishing third in their division (let alone conference) behind Quebec and Boston, both of whom were powerhouses, and then won the cup.
  • Last night we took the cats to the vet (which I kind of enjoyed, ’cause it gave me an excuse to leave work at 5) and found out that Sonny, the one we refer to as “fatty”, “fat boy”, “sir fatness”, etc. has lost weight. He’s now a sleek, slim 17 lbs. I guess all those nights of threatening to kill him as he howled for food have paid off.
  • Thanks to ModernMod for sending me the Frames‘ cover of “Where Is My Mind.” I’ve been listening to it constantly.
  • My toe is…well, weird. It’s still the color of violent rage, but it’s not hurting. I ran two miles on it this morning, in brand new shoes, and hardly felt anything. This is my first broken pinky toe so I’m not really sure whether this is standard, and just ask me if I can be arsed to look anything up on WebMD.

* as if you ever get piercing insights here.

[tags]kara keith, montreal canadiens, fat cats, the frames, where is my mind, broken pinky toe[/tags]