Tag Archives: birthday

A Perfect 10!

Today, my boy, Henry, turned 10.   For his birthday, he was gifted with this year’s first real sprinkling of snow, a new bone, and the annual five minutes of humiliation (the time it takes to get the hats on, light the candles, and take some pictures).

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The birthday boy. While I do detect a hint of shame in his demeanor, I’m willing to live with the guilt because he’s too damned cute. Turns out the cat does not like peanut butter… but, he did try to make off with the bone….

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Such focus! (And yes, the floors need refinishing. Until such a time, however, I’m just going to call this look, “It’s not as bad as… a Medieval barn.”)

 

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Apple and peanut butter to celebrate his big day. The natural peanut butter is very runny compared to the ones with sugars. (NB: never give your dogs peanut butter with the artificial sweetener, xylitol…)

 

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A dog and his bone – simple contentment.

 

 

No doubt, this is one of the countless reasons I’m single… but, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Open Letter to Sasha, My Dog

Happy 13th birthday, Sasha!   

 

 

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I know you’re disappointed that I took the day off to be with you today because you hate it when I’m all over you.  But I’m a selfish person, and I don’t know if this is the last time I’ll be able to put a party hat on you.   So when the Doodle was sent last week to schedule a meeting, and today was the day when everyone else could make it, I said, fuck it, no.  

Because you’re not ‘just a dog’ to me.  

From the moment I held you, and you nibbled my ear, I was in love.  I had read that puppies that struggle when you hold them will grow up to be stubborn and dominant, and that they are likely to give you grief.   You struggled.  But it was too late.  I got your Ex-Daddy (henceforth: Mindf*cker) to call the landlord to see if he could make an exception on the lease, so that I could bring you home.  That was on Friday, June 11th, 2004.   We waited and waited and waited, and finally, we had to go home.  Because, at that point, we were technically loitering.

The landlord finally got back to him late in the night, and I could hear Mindf*cker say, “listen, Brian… if you don’t let her get this puppy, she’s going to start talking about babies….”  I could have taken that as an insult, but I didn’t care…. as long as that lame joke between men meant that Brian would waive the no-pets clause in the lease.  

It worked.

Saturday morning, I was up bright and early and made the coffee.  I was giving Mindf*cker the evil eye because he was being sloth-like (but not cute), and told him to hustle it.  We arrived early and my heart soared when I saw that you were still there, that nobody had taken you home already.  You were loose and following one of the guys around as he prepared to open up, and it was as if time had slowed down.  But you were there, and I would soon be bringing you home, so all was well with the world at that moment.  

When we got you home, you were a little explorer, into everything.  I remember the sun shining through onto the hardwood floors, and you just lay down and fell asleep.  So I lay down next to you for a cuddle.  And then you got up and moved away.   I was crushed.  That was the first indicator of just how independent you were.  

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First week at home

You were my first little girl; all my other dogs had been boys.   I naively thought that we would somehow be even closer because of it, but you had your own personality and your own ideas.  Mindf*cker cruelly exploited this, knowing how much I loved you, teasing me by saying that you liked him more than me, knowing that would hurt me.  He said that maybe if I tied a porkchop around my neck, you’d come to me.  Jerk.  He was the more ‘fun’ human (mostly because I’m pretty sure he had ADHD), I get that.  

Soon, I learned to respect your space and let you come to me.  And when I would scold you for being naughty, I’d threaten to hug and kiss you if you didn’t stop.  You were so naughty!  Despite telling Mindf*cker not to leave important things lying around on low surfaces, he did.  And then he’d lose his shit because you chewed it.  Like the $150 SD card (when SD cards were the new, revolutionary technology), the arm on his glasses, etc….  What I hadn’t counted on was that you’d chew the corners of walls. :/   Hiding that from the landlord was trickier than when you peed on the floor just as he was walking into the flat to check on something – that fleece toy I bought you really came in handy that day.  

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The Toy That Soaked The Pee

For a couple of months, after you were able to jump on the bed, you would try to wake me up by nudging my head with your wet nose, and, when that didn’t work, you’d sit on my face.  On.  My.  Face.    It was quite a surprise at first, but it soon turned out to be my favourite way of waking up – because you made me laugh.   As you started to get bigger and heavier, it suddenly stopped – maybe you instinctively knew not to smother the face of the hand that feeds you.  

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After you were ‘fixed’ – despite being the responsible thing to do, you would have been an amazing mother

The mischief you got into!

There was the time we were moving into a new flat so that you could have a yard and you bolted up the back stairs into the landlady’s open kitchen, eating the hamburger out of the pan and  the guest soaps in her bathroom.  You stole her tomatoes and ran off with an adolescent pumpkin, small enough for you to run off with, yet heavy enough that it meant you were dragging it as you ran.  You stole an entire quiche off the kitchen counter as it was cooling off… which resulted in having to clean projectile diarrhea at the end of the day.  When we brought you to a lake in Magog to let you experience swimming, you went after the ball, dropped it at our feet, then bolted into someone’s cabin, stealing freshly made cookies off the counter – the wife found it funny, the husband… not so much.  

And how can we forget the time that I thought you had escaped out the yard when the absent-minded landlady left the gate open, and I ran through the entire neighbourhood in tears, shaking a bag of baby carrots, shouting, “Bunny Luv! Sasha, come get your Bunny Luv!”… because that was the brand, and that’s what you usually responded to… only to come back, exhausted and red-eyed, to find that you had been hiding in the landlady’s compost box the entire time, eating fermented crap… which resulted in more projectile diarrhea.  

There was one time when I let you down.  We were invited to Mindf*cker’s father’s farm to see his dog’s new puppies.  We only found out after getting there, that his dad said you couldn’t come into the house because his dog might see you as a threat to her pups and get aggressive.  So Mindf*cker tied you outside.  And then it started to rain.  There was nothing more heartbreaking than seeing you sitting in the rain and having a house full of people say you were fine, that Labs are made for water.  Eventually, Mindf*cker saw that I was really upset and he put you into the barn/garage to appease me.  What I should have done was grab his car keys, and sit in the car with you until it was time to go.   But I knew the grief I’d get for doing that – because he cared more about what his family would think, than about how I felt.  So, I didn’t make a fuss… but the guilt of not having stood by you that day has stayed with me all these years.   

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A rare, precious cuddle

Despite the fact that you’re not exceptionally cuddly with me, you’ve always been there for me when I’m upset.  Always.  While Henry runs away, uncomfortable (men, am I right?), you make a beeline towards me.   You won’t necessarily let me hold you around your shoulders, but you will direct your bum towards me and let me cuddle and/or cry on it.  A lot of tears have been shed on your bum, haven’t they little girl?  

Even when you had your cancerous tumours removed, two years in a row, and you came back all stapled up, like Frankenpuppy, it was you who comforted me because the shock of seeing you like that made me weep.  While Mindf*cker was freaking out about the vet bill, we were busy taking care of each other.  And this time, I stood by you when Mindf*cker tried to bully me into going upstairs to bed, knowing full well that you’d try to follow despite the surgeon saying you shouldn’t climb or try to jump for a while.   So we slept on the floor together – at a comfortable distance for you.  And when he dumped me on the love seat, two days later, two days before Valentine’s Day, 2012, my first thought was:  is he going to try to take the dogs away from me?  That was mixed in with a lot of other toxic emotions that had built up over the nine years we were together, but the thought of losing you and Henry scared me (he never cared about the cat, so I knew I’d be keeping him).    He ended up leaving to stay at a friend’s before he moved his stuff out because things were just really awkward.  Once the agreement to transfer the deed of the house completely to me had been signed, and the cheque I cut to him to get him the fuck out was handed over… I was safe.  I could fight back.  

And then the conversation about you and Henry came up.  He wanted shared custody.  He wanted you on the weekends.  Except for when he wanted to go away or something came up, then I could keep you.  So, you know, he wanted you… when it suited him.  I refused.  He said he’d sue me.  I called my notary and he said that because animals in this province were (at that time) still considered property, by leaving the dwelling, he abandoned his ‘property’, so he had no legal claim.  And, legally,  I could also throw all of his belongings to the curb, since that was now considered abandoned property as well.  When I told him to go ahead and sue me for his ‘abandoned property’, he realized that maybe he hadn’t been dealing with a dumb woman all along, that maybe he just treated me like one.  So you were mine.  All mine.  Still, the day he and his friends came to collect his things (I didn’t toss them, as much as he deserved it),  I boarded you at the veterinarian’s – that’s how scared I was that he would just take you.  Not because he really wanted you, but because he knew that that would be the one thing that would devastate me, one last kick while I was already down.  

And the last five years we have spent, just the four of us, have been amazing.  You’ve been there when I started dating again and making mistakes, you were there for me when mum died and I had to take care of everything myself because my sister is a self-absorbed, lazy coward.  You’ve helped me to keep my shit together and, more importantly, you’ve helped me to FEEL something on those days when I sometimes feel dead inside.  

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Is there anything cuter than a puppy’s belly?

You’ve made me laugh so much over the years, and you’ve recalibrated my priorities and my perspective in life.  Because of you, I’m less selfish.  Because of you, I have more courage. Because of you, my darling little scavenger, I see how much garbage people toss on the ground.   And I’m writing this today because I know there will come a day when I won’t have you in my life- and I want to preserve this now, because I might not be able to later.  I can never adequately express what you mean to me, and, there are so many more stories that I’ll remember later on that I wish I would have mentioned here. 

When I think about not seeing your sweet face and wiggly bum when I come home from work, I feel a hollowness inside that echoes with sorrow.  So I try not to think about it.  Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and find you cold; maybe it will be when I come home from work.  I’m hoping you’ll go on your own terms, peacefully.  But I’m prepared to do the right thing by you if I have to, at home, where you can be in your familiar surroundings.  Where Henry and Harley can also say good-bye.  Where I can wail freely, and loudly.  I’ll stay with you until the end, just as you’ve stayed with me all these years.  You won’t be able to see me because of your failing eyesight, but you’ll sense me.  And I hope that, as you drift away, you’ll somehow know that you were the first greatest joy of my adult life, that you have made my life so much better because you were in it.  

 

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Love you forever, my beautiful girl….

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Mayday, May Days…

Birthday-Girl-Cake-Vintage1Born three years apart, my sister and I share the same birthday.  Today is that day.  As is the case 9 times out of 10, it is raining, damp, and icky.  The timing must have been great for my parents since they could then take advantage of 2-for-1 sales and just buy two of the same thing for birthday gifts – easy! As it happens, every seven years or so ( barring leapyear interruptus), our birthday also lands on Mother’s Day.

The path to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. And I vividly recall the first Mother’s Day after my nephew was born – which also coincidentally landed on our birthday. Einstein here had the brilliant (and supremely naive/stupid) idea that my mum and I should fly to Toronto and celebrate this momentous event of motherhood and sisterhood together. My mum and sister could celebrate Mother’s Day together and my sister and I could celebrate our birthday.

family get-togethersIn a normal, emotionally and psychologically functional family, this would have been a touching, beautiful day. The reality of my family history is that it is rife with resentment, anger, denial and levels of toxicity that rival thallium or sodium chloride. So what could have been a delightful visit turned into an episode of Jerry Springer with yelling, cold shoulders, and tip-toeing on eggshells. And given that my father had long since died, I had no one to cling to, no one to turn to for civility and calm, no one to help me mediate this verbal, suburban UFC match. I remember sitting on the front steps of my sister’s house, chain-smoking, wondering how I ended up being genetically related to those two women, and why the only other family member I could relate to was dead. I often quip that my father died because it was the only way to get far enough away from this mess. That Mother’s/Birth Day was 18 years ago and it was the last time we ever spent celebrating anything all together – I decided it was probably best to just keep the two of them apart and not make any more suggestions.

This year (yesterday) was the first Mother’s Day without my mum. Despite the toxic relationship that we had, I was sad. Over the last two years of her life, Alzheimer’s took away her machiavellian tendencies, the narcissistic nature of her personality. People would often say how terrible it was that she had such a destructive disease, and they would look shocked when I told them that, for me, Alzheimer’s was a gift. They didn’t understand.  It gave me the opportunity to experience my mum in a gentler, kinder way. I would joke with her, tease her. I learned that I wasn’t named after two random nurses at the hospital where I was born*, but rather, after my grandfather’s favourite sister, who died young of reasons that were never discussed.  (*: clearly, this woman wanted to make sure that I felt insignificant, random, unloved – who tells their kid they chose the names of two strangers?)  It gave me the chance to see what she must have been like as a child, before life and people hardened her. It gave me the chance to understand her and to make up for the years when I wished she wasn’t my mother. It wasn’t that she was ‘always’ a horrible person, she could sometimes be quite kind. But when she was mean and/or drunk (which was about 3-4 days a week for about 15 years), she was bad – and her kindness sometimes came at an emotional or psychological price.

mapI’m convinced that living in close proximity to her fucked up, unethical, codependent, alcoholic family did not help. Because, growing up in South America, all my memories of her are good ones; it wasn’t until my parents moved back to Canada – and close to her family-  that all hell broke loose.   The truth was, she should never have had children.  I think she would have been happier like that; I know that I would have been.  (For the smart-asses who are thinking, “that doesn’t make sense – if you had never been born you wouldn’t have been able to be happy OR sad, you wouldn’t have ‘been’ at all..,” I say: have it your way.)

I’m sure she loved us in whatever dysfunctional way she was capable of, and, likewise, I loved her back in my own dysfunctional way.  How do you learn how to love properly, healthily, when you’ve never really experienced it?  It was only in the last years of her life that I learned that she never wanted to come to Canada.  That she was in love with a boy back home in Ayrshire, Jackie Martin. (This was corroborated by my Auntie Winnie, who still lives there and told me that Jackie had died several years ago, never having married.)   But, back in those days, you had to follow your parents, even at 19.  They were convinced that this country would offer greater opportunities – and given the Scottish economy, I’m sure it did.   From all accounts, my grandfather was a likable bookie and in and out of jail so often that the policemen knew him by name, and vice-versa.  He was the head ‘drinker’ of the clan.  My grandmother was a teetotalling, religious zealot who would give awkward sex-ed lessons over the phone to the effect of: “hen, it’s nine seconds of pleasure and nine months of pain….”  Apparently, Papa was a lousy lover  – and Nana did not enjoy the fruits of those seconds.  I see now how the concept of motherhood ran in that family.

smittenMy father was smitten with my mum.   Eastern Europeans have a reputation of being a bit cold, but when I found the photo albums he made when he was courting my mother, I realized that there was an immense amount of hidden passion in that man.  Maybe Czechs are the romantics of the Eastern Bloc?  Or maybe it was just him.  He once stood on the balcony, drinking his morning coffee, watching her walk to work, and thought: “there goes the girl I’m going to marry.”  But most probably in Czech.  So after 10 years and several marriage proposals that were refused, my father landed a job in South America and he left.  He then gave her an ultimatum:  I’m coming back for two weeks – either you marry me when I’m there, or you’ll never see me again.  Needless to say, her parents were like: you’d better marry the guy, he’s a catch and you’re not getting any younger!  And so, at the age of 36, my mother acquiesced and finally married a man who loved her… but for whom she probably felt little more than the love you would have for a good friend.  In that sense, I feel so sad for both of them.

I’m sure she did the best she could with the cards that were laid before her.  They both did.  And it’s only with the insight of an adult’s mind that I can understand her resentment, the drinking, and all the cruel things that came with it.  She was a very unhappy woman who drank to dull the pain and hit to have control over something, anything, in her life.  I don’t know if I can truly forgive her and I’ll probably never forget any of it, but I’ve been able to put it behind me and see her with greater compassion than I ever thought possible.  Which helps immensely.  Thank you, Alzheimer’s, for giving me two good, non-toxic years with my mum.

And so, it was bittersweet that I wasn’t looking for a Mother’s Day card this year.  In the past, I resented the mushy cards full of bullshit sentiment I couldn’t relate to.  I would spend hours pouring over cards, trying to find the most ‘neutral’ one.  I would dream up my own greeting card company for people who feel obligated to get a card, but appreciate honesty.   I had a whole series of blunt cards for all types of dysfunctional relationships and all types of occasions.   I should get back on track with that – there might be a niche market for that sort of thing.

mothersday_gibsoncards_1952But this year, I would have liked to have gotten her one of those mushy cards – because it would have been sincere.  She was virtually blind by the end, and she didn’t remember who I was, but I think she would have liked to hear that she was loved, how the memories over the last two years, although sad at times, were a gift – even if she couldn’t remember any of them.  That, before life and people prevented her from following her heart, before she became so unhappy, before regrets and obligations calcified an ugly veneer upon her, at her core, somewhere, lost, she could have been a beautiful woman.  And, despite the fact that I don’t have the rosiest of memories, that is how I will choose to remember her.