Fox and hound


Is it not amazing that, so very often, animals act in ways best described as “the change we want to see in the world”?

(and yes, I would like a fox cub, please!)


A stroll with Goethe

“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” 

Recently, I was reminded of the fact that not everyone I love supports my vision, dreams and aspirations. For me, this summer has been one of great joy, filled with horses, children, friendship, learning and the tremendous sense of contentment that only the pursuit of knowledge, skill and a goal, combined with physical labour, can produce. There have been challenges, sacrifices and dramas (many of them I suspect self-inflicted), and it has been worth every moment. 

It’s a summer that I have worked hard to sustain, committed to fully; and I am blessed with wonderful friends, coaches and mentors who have appeared to help make it so. It is a summer filled with joy and learning, and it is the first steps toward a realizing a dream. 

Written on the walls of my bedroom are the words “magic”, “joy”, “believe” and “bliss”. When the kids and I first put those letters up, we talked about the meaning of those words. We agreed that, as Goethe suggested, magic is the act of believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen. The joy is in the journey; the journey’s conclusion? Bliss.

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.  The joys of the summer are a both an acknowledgement of and a headfirst plunge into a strong current. I am deeply grateful for it, and I very much hope it will carry me to places I have not yet dreamed of.  


Pets are not until – they deserve forever

People forget that animals are a commitment, a valuable member of the family, and that they deserve to have the respect, loyalty and love we ask of them returned. There are always unfortunate circumstances when the most loving thing to do is surrender a friend, but there is never a need to abandon them because they are no longer convenient… This fantastic poster from the Calgary Humane Society says it all.

In the United States, 500 animals die every day from abuse – 300,000 die a year.  Every year, between 6 and 8 million cats and dogs enter animal shelters, and only about half of them make it out alive. The rest are unceremoniously euthanized.

EVERY animal has its own uniqueness and value, and every animal deserves love, respect and to be treated with dignity. Practice responsible breeding. Spay or neuter your pets. Take the time to train your animal so that it is a constructive member of your family, and of society. And please, take this to heart if you are considering adopting a pet.

You are not an “until” person. You do not want to be abandoned or unloved. You deserve a forever relationship. So do pets.

All that barking! What does it mean?

Every now and then, my GSD Lady will bark. Not a “dammit what was that for, Joy” kind of bark (always the result of aggressive behaviour on Joy’s part, which takes Lady by surprise. Really, Joy can be such a bitch!). Or the RaRaRa “we’re going for a walk” bark. But just a bark. At nothing. For no reason.

It makes me wonder what goes on inside that crazy doggle head of hers, and I have boiled it down to the following:

1. The continuous rapid barking is all guard dog. It means: “Call the pack! Danger Danger. The perimeter may be breached!” This can be followed by the raising of hackels and/or a slower,lower pitched growl or bark, meaning “the perimeter has been breached. Prepare to defend” or a higher, insane bark of frustration “the mail carrier has arrived. Dammit! the door is in the way. Why do I not have opposable thumbs! Aaarrghh!.”

2. Three or four barks in rapid succession, followed by a break, then another staccato outburst usually indicates there is a level of discomfort or distrust with a situation: “There may be a problem. I am not sure of this situation.” Lady does this incessantly in the car, and it can be quite melodic if you just let go, relax and let the noise of it all surround you – Ruh Ruh RuhRuhRuh. Repeat. I’m thinking of turning it into some kind of a GSD rap. Stay tuned!

3. Prolonged or incessant barking, with a break between each woof, usually indicates some displeasure. This is the bark I’ve noticed the neighbours complain most about, and it means “Hey, where are you? Is there anybody here? Pay attention to me.” In our house, this bark is usually done while perched over the back of the couch, staring out the window. It can occasionally and without warning escalate into continuous rapid barking (see #1) if another dog has the temerity to pass by the fence.

4. One or two sharp short barks usually means “Hello there!”  I’ve noticed many bigger dogs eschew this type of behaviour, leaving it to their small, toy and miniature counterparts. Some, like Joy, prefer to do this with the support of some kind of prop (a shoe carelessly left around, socks, or a stuffed toy are prefered) for a more muffled, smiley effect. I believe she feels it makes her more endearing.

5. A single sharp bark or yelp can mean “Stop that!”, “WTF?” or “Emergency! Emergency! Must go.Out. NOW!”  If this escalates into a series of yelps or whimpers, it is an indicator of real pain or fear, and should be handled immediately, gently and appropriately. If it stops suddenly (particularly in the middle of the night), it means “oh, ok, no worries. I did it on the floor”.

6. The gruff stuttering bark, usually accompanied by a “head and front down, the back end tail up” posture, is the universal dog language for “Come on! Let’s play!” and can be followed by an excited or demanding bark, a play bark, meaning “this is fun” or “hurry up and throw it again!” Incidentally, this excited barking can be just as annoying and poorly received as the loney bark (see #3).

There are other barks that seem to be more individual to the dog. Joy has a low growly rolling bark that starts in the back of her throat when you ask her to speak. I’m convinced she is trying to mimic actual words when doing this.  Lady makes a “face-rub howl” like a wookie when her face is rubbed that tells me “oooo. That’s the spot!” And of course, there is the emergency services vehicle howl.

Dogs are animals capable of communicating a wealth of meaning with few words. Barking is not only effective and efficient, it translates across barriers. And, under certain circumstances, can produce almost immediate results! Listen to what your dog is telling you – you’ll enjoy each other’s company and spirit that much more.