Monday, April 16, 2012

To pack or not to pack...

For the past week, I have been sick. (Insert feeling sorry for me here).

Being sick sucks a lot. It sucks for me because, well, I feel like shit. It sucks for hubby because I whine more than any man I know (and because I snore louder than my grandfather - the world's worst snorer - when my sinuses are blocked). And it sucks for the Beast because it means that he and I can't go for our morning runs. (Which in turn sucks for hubby and I because it means that the wee Beastie has a te-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ny bit more energy to burn off at the end of the day).

It's a vicious cycle, really...

Anyway, because the pooch is going on day 8 of no running with mommy, I decided that I would take him out for a nice long afternoon stroll to the Arboretum. That way, I could at least let him off leash and let him run around like a deranged monkey for a little while. And I've been cooped up for a week too, so a little fresh air can't hurt, right?

Due to unseasonably warm temperatures (+30C with the humidex), I knew that I would need to load up on water (some for him and some for me). After all, he does run around a lot when he's there, peeing on every single tree he can find. And I get hoarse from yelling out "Hustle!!!" whenever he wanders off a little too far. Then there are his toys to bring, at least two of them: one for him to play with, and another in case one of his puppy friends decides to steal the original toy, an all-too-regular occurrence in any dog park. Then I had to make sure we had poop bags. And my blackberry because I'm dealing with something rather urgent at work and was expecting a few messages. And my personal cell phone in case my husband had to get a hold of me. And of course, my house keys.

Now carrying all of this is a serious pain in the ass, especially when your preferred dog park attire is a pair of pocketless Joe Fresh yoga pants and a Bruce Springsteen concert t-shirt. I suppose I could buy one of those dog walking utility belts that has room for your poop bags, your keys, a tennis ball, and a water bottle:

But that just looks like a fancy fanny pack to me (no matter how stylish you try to make it by putting it on a skinny model and getting her to strike a pose for the picture). And I don't wear fanny packs. What am I, an eighty-five year old tourist?

No, instead I bought myself one of these little sling packs from Mountain Equipment Co-op, and carry this around with me on almost every dog walk:

Admittedly, it's not that much better than a fanny pack. Except that it's not a fanny pack, which makes me feel slightly superiour. (Only slightly). And it does the job of carrying poop bags, balls, a ball chucker, water, mobile phones, and yadda yadda yadda.

Today, however, I couldn't even be bothered to carry this tiny little sling pack, because, well, whatever illness this is that has taken over my body, I get absolutely winded at the slightest little exertion. Standing up leaves me gasping for air. So a 5k walk to the Arboretum, through the Arboretum, and back from the Arboretum was going to be challenging enough without having to lug all of the the Beast's (and my own) junk around with me. Water gets heavy, you know!

Luckily for me, the Beast has a doggy backpack. So I strapped that sucker on him and decided to let him do the heavy lifting!

I should pause here and admit that the doggy backpack was perhaps not one of my most brilliant purchases. I bought it because of The Dog Whisperer. There was an episode where this family had three deranged border collies, and one of them was a disaster on a walk, and Cesar put him in a backpack and POW!! he walked like an angel. Of course, this is the problem with a show like The Dog Whisperer. You don't actually see how long it takes behind the scenes to capture those three minutes of perfect dog walking that end up making the cut. So you end up believing that a backpack has some magical kind of power that will stop your dog from pulling you around the minute you strap it on him. And when you are desperately trying to teach your brand new dog how to walk nice on a leash, you say to yourself, "Self, let's go down to the pet store and buy us a doggy backpack so that this damn dog doesn't wrench my arm out of the socket!"

Which is exactly what I did. And you probably will not be surprised to learn that it doesn't stop the Beast from pulling. And it doesn't calm him down and get him focused on walking either, which is what it is supposed to do. Nope - when the Beast feels like being a gong show on four legs, it is not a backpack that is going to fix that. It's a horse tranquilizer. And I don't think I'm allowed to give him one of those...

What a backpack does do, however, is give me a place to put my things (and his, of course) when my dog park pants don't have pockets or when I don't want to carry that ugly MEC sling pack. And come to think of it, each pouch on his backpack could easily hold a bottle of wine, so I could probably take him on an LCBO run with me some day and carry back twice as much as I could on my own!  Sweet!

Now I can't say that the Beast loves being my pack mule carrying all of that stuff around. I kind of have to coax him into the backpack by bribing him with dog treats and slipping the harness over his head while he's distracted by liver. But once he has the backpack on, he is perfectly fine. See how carefree he looks? (Not to mention freakishly long... What is he, part wiener dog?)

Ears back = stress free!
Despite the Beast's relaxed backpack-toting demeanor, there are some in my neighbourhood who think that it is downright cruel to be getting my dog to do all of this "work" for me. Even though I don't make him wear it very often, I have received more than one comment about his pack. Like the short, fat dude who was hanging out on the corner outside the convenience store today. When the Beast and I walked by, he started flailing his hands in the air and screaming,"What's the matter with you, making your dog carry stuff. That's cruel!" I felt like saying, "Yeah, you're right, dude. Taking my dog for a 5+km walk when I'm sick and bringing him to his favourite place in the whole wide world is really, really mean of me. Maybe I should just turn around and bring him back home so he can sit around and feel sorry for himself for ending up with such a shitty owner."

Instead I ignored him and kept walking. And kept thinking about how I could spin this into some deep fable-esque story with a moral and a happy ending for my blog.

But there isn't really a moral to a story about a girl who is sick so she makes her dog wear a not-oft-worn backpack so that she doesn't have to carry his stuff and who gets yelled at by some short, fat stranger on the street.

So instead, I took another picture:

This one is of the Beast, wearing his backpack, with the wind blowing through his ear fur. (It was really windy on our way to the Arboretum).

And just as I was snapping the picture, some super cute couple looked over at me and said, "Ahhhh! He's so cute with his little backpack!"

Damn right he is! I should make him wear it every day! Especially since he has been in this position ever since we got back from our walk:

Which means that sick mommy can lie around on the couch feeling sorry for herself guilt free for the rest of the night.

I love that backpack!


Friday, April 13, 2012

I'm holding out for a hero

When flying home from New York City last week, Hubby and I were stranded in Reagan International for 4.5 hours. So we did what any tired, cranky, tired-of-waiting-around-all-freaking-afternoon traveler does. We went to the bar and proceeded to get sloshed.

Okay, so maybe we didn't get sloshed. Hubby is far too responsible for that. But we did each have a couple of beers. And he watched CNN go on and on about Mitt Romney being far too rich to be in touch with average Americans. And I read my Modern Dog magazine.

It's pretty lame, I know, but Modern Dog is the only magazine that I really read anymore. Not only because I have a dog and like to stay up to date on the goings-on in the canine world. But because it only comes out four times a year. Which means that I can keep up. I've tried subscribing to monthly magazines in the past, but I just can't commit. The magazines pile up in front of my fireplace, and with each dust mite that they collect, they silently accuse me of neglect. I can't deal with the guilt. So I cancelled every subscription I had and signed on to receive the quarterly Modern Dog instead. I figured it was a light enough commitment, even for me.

Anyway, as I was nearing the end of the Spring edition while downing my second beer at the Sam Adams bar, I stumbled upon an add for the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. Maybe it was the weak American beer, but I started fantasizing about winning an all-expenses paid trip to Hollywood so that the Beast and I could be presented with an award, me wearing one of the fancy new outfits I bought in New York, and him dawning a fresh new bath and haircut from his favourite groomer. Wouldn't that be fun? I should totally nominate him, right?

So I went online to figure out how to nominate my dog, and saw that the nominations are now closed.  Boo.  (Well, what did I expect?!? The magazine has been sitting there, collecting dust, for at least two months now...) Regardless, I have decided that the Beast is worthy of a Hero Dog Award from his own fan base. So I am gratuitously using this blog to nominate him in every category. The question for you, dear readers, is which category is most appropriate for our favourite fuzzy terrorist.

Vote often. He'll get more treats that way!

Law enforcement/arson dogs:
It is true that my dog does not have any official training to be a law enforcement dog. Nor has he ever saved me from a fire. Nonetheless, the Beast displays some serious law enforcement skills, especially in the dog park, where he puts his life on the line to keep the park crime free each and every day. Ball thieves, beware! Because Beasty will chase you down! And he is fast so he always gets his man! And no assault and battery takes place on his watch. No sir. Because the Beast will fearlessly put himself between two wrestling mutts to break them up before things get out of control! And nothing clears an area to keep it crime free like that dog's bark, which is surely the same frequency as a police siren, and certainly has the same effect; that is to say that when dogs and people hear him coming, they get the 'eff out of the way and let him through! I should get this boy a badge!

Service dogs:
According to Canada's guide to dogs, a service dog "provide[s] services to disabled individuals helping them function with greater self-sufficiency; prevent injuries; and summon help in a crisis." It is true that I do not suffer from any particular health condition that could benefit from the assistance of a four-legged friend, but the Beast clearly meets that definition. First of all, I am undoubtedly more self-sufficient thanks to him. I mean, whenever I try to catch a few extra zzz's on a weekend, there he is, right by my bedside at 6:00am, licking my face and reminding me that the earlier I start my day, the more fun he and I will have at the Arboretum. And when he feels that I am having a little too much trouble getting dressed to take him out in the morning, he will gladly motivate me by whining, barking, and pawing me in the face until I find the dexterity to lace up faster. As for summoning help in a crisis, he excels at that. I mean, that bark! Like the time three neighbourhood girls tried to sell me Girl Guide Cookies. He bravely leaped up into the window, barked like a maniac, and scared them away, saving my waistline from potential catastrophe. And preventing injuries, er, well, um... Okay, so maybe he causes more injuries than he prevents. Like the time that he and I went running and he got spooked out by something on the street, made a mad dash right in front of me, and we both slid about a meter across the pavement. It took 3 weeks for my scraped up knees to heal. But hey, like Meatloaf says, two out of three ain't bad!

Therapy dogs:
Therapy dogs provide physical and emotional benefit to all kinds of people. To be a good therapy dog, certain characteristics are highly sought. Like "accepting a friendly stranger, staying calm, sitting on command, and reacting well to other dogs and/or distractions."

Okay, so the Beast doesn't exactly fit the official definition of therapy dog. He can only accept a friendly stranger by barking like a maniac and jumping all over him/her, which probably creates more tension than it relieves. He is rarely ever calm, and when he is, it takes all of 0.06 seconds and one black fly buzzing around his head to get him in a state of absolute frenzy. He can sit on command, but has a tendency to choose which times he will acquiesce to said commands and which times he will give me the doggy equivalent of the finger. And other dogs or distractions don't exactly keep him calm. Quite the opposite, actually. He gets so easily overstimulated by everything around him, that observers must look at him and think, "Jesus, that dog needs a therapy human!"

Come to think of it, I think I deserve a Hero Award for being the Beast's therapy human!!!

But this isn't about me...

It's probably true that the Beast isn't going into any retirement homes anytime soon. But he is my therapy dog hero. Because even on the worst of days, nothing puts a smile on my face like coming home to the Beast's excited bark and wiggling bum. Or like seeing him sniff at and pee on every single tree in the Arboretum, with a smile pasted on his snout from ear to ear. Or like making snow angels with him after 15 cm of fresh snow have fallen. Or like seeing him work so very hard for that treat on the agility course.

Running the agility course with Dad

Making snow angels

And then, here I am today, home sick with a raging sinus infection. And writing this blog is taking my mind off the fact that with each and every breath in, I feel as though my head is being split in two. Which is more than I can say for the effect that the cold medication is having on me. So you see, the Beast and his antics are highly therapeutic!

Military dogs:
Okay, here, I got nothin'. I suppose I could throw a spiked collar on him and tell him to go and attack a cavalry horse. But there aren't a lot of those in our neighbourhood. And if we did see one, he wouldn't attack it so much as herd it into a corner somewhere, which would likely lead to him getting trampled. Nope. We respectfully bow out of this category.

Guide dogs:
Obviously, the Beast is not a guide dog in the traditional sense. I mean, it's true that I can't see far past my nose when my glasses aren't on, but, you know, that's why I wear them. Still, he displays some excellent "guiding" skills, which, I have decided, make him eligible for this category. We could be caught in the worst snowstorm, with winds blowing from all four directions and snow whipping around our heads, but I promise you that he would be able to guide me STRAIGHT to the dog park. Of course, he might not think to stop and make sure there are no snowplows coming before crossing the street, thereby leading us to certain death...

Okay. Scratch that. He couldn't ever be a hero guide dog.

Search and rescue dogs:
I've got two words for you: "find fish". I have hidden that silly stuffed fish (from dearest Auntie K) in every square inch of the second floor of this house. Inside closets, inside drawers, under beds, inside boxes that are under the bed, under blankets... You name it, that drool-covered fish has been there. And the Beast finds that fish... every... single... time. Granted, he can get a little schizophrenic while he's doing it, and it sometimes takes a little longer than it should, but within this canine beats the heart of a true search and rescue dog.

As long as once he "rescues" the victim, he can hold it between his teeth, shake it a little, and entice you to play tug 'o war with it... Or at least just lie down and chew it...

I saved your life from under that bed. Now I must eat you!

Hearing dogs:
If by "hearing dog", you mean a dog who likes to be heard, well then there is no bigger hero than the Beast. Daddy's coming home! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Mommy's coming home! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Neighbour's putting the trash out on Sunday night! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Kids in the 'hood are outside playing without me! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Doorbell rings (on t.v.)! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Mail's here! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Mommy's cheering really loudly during a football game again! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! That dog at the park won't play with me! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! I didn't say you could leave yet! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! What is that raccoon doing in my back yard! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK!

Okay, so you get the picture, right?

But if, by "hearing dog", you mean a dog that can alert you to potential dangers because he senses them before you do, well, then, I'm afraid I might be screwed. Because when the Beast is barking at any number of the above (and more), I honestly wouldn't know if he was alerting me to danger or just upset that my VISA bill came in. It's kind of like the boy who cried wolf. One day, a "wolf" really is going to show up, and I'm going to think it's a box of Girl Guide cookies, tell the Beast to shut up, and open to door to a lone gunman. And then what am I going to do?

Maybe I really should start training him to be a military dog...

Emerging hero dogs (defined as "ordinary dogs who make an extraordinary difference in your life")
Translation - the sappy category for those of us who have unskilled dogs. But hey, I'll bite...

The Beast is an emerging hero in my life because, well, look at him? What exactly is not to love about that face? He is handsome, curious, fun-loving, intelligent, and a red-head. (I've always been partial to red hair...) He's perfect!

And he provides me with endless fodder for this blog. Allowing me to rediscover just how much I love to write. Who knows when I would have started writing again if it weren't for the Beast?

But most of all, he is my hero because of this post from last September. Don't worry - I won't repeat it all here But I will say this. He makes me happy. Even with all that damn barking.

So there you have it. My humble case for why the Beast deserves many Hero Dog Awards.

But if you had to choose one, which one would it be? Tell me!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Everything is bigger...

My love for Bruce Springsteen is legendary.

How legendary, you ask?

This was my Halloween costume at last year's "Come as your favourite year" party:

That's right... 1984. The year that Born in the USA came out. I was 7. And I might have run around the school yard telling everyone that I was going to marry the Boss. And I also might have used my mother's vacuum cleaner hose as a microphone and my badminton racket as a guitar and rocked it out in my living room to every song on the album.

Other examples of my legendary love?
  • I sang a Springsteen song to my husband on our wedding day (Should I fall behind);
  • I walked down the aisle to my favourite song of all time, Thunder Road (a song older than me, I might add);
  • I have no pictures of my husband in my office but I have framed photos of Bruce; and
  • most recently, I went to see him in New York City, at Madison Square Garden.
That's right. Bruce. Springsteen. at. Madison. Square. Garden. Like in his own backyard. The only cooler show to see would have been on the Jersey side of the state line. But long before I went to my first Springsteen concert, I saw the DVD of his 1999 reunion tour with the E-Street band, which was kicked off at Madison Square Garden. And it changed my life. Ever since that day, I knew that I would one day see him perform at the fabled Gardens.

And, well, the concert blew me away. I mean, I've seen him live before but not like this. There is simply no way to put into words what a fantastic experience it was. Three solid hours of music. No. Not music. Revival. His set list told a story of love and loss, beginnings and endings, ups and downs, with the ever reverberating message that survival is the only option.

Amen.

And, well, it also brought me to New York City for a long weekend. For three and a half whole days, the streets of North America's most fabulous city belonged to Hubby and I. And we shoved in as much as we possibly could: shopping up and down (and up again) 5th Avenue; strolling (which turned into shopping) through SoHo; exploring the architecture of Greenwich Village; hitting the Chelsea Market (which also turned into shopping - but in my defense, I stumbled upon a sample sale); a 20-some block walk high above the Meatpacking district and downtown, along High Line Park; dinner in Harlem; catching up with old friends on the Upper West Side for Easter dinner; and running the south half of the beautiful Central Park.

Yes, Manhattan has left me broke, blistered, and exhausted. Not to mention dying to go back for my next trip.

Dying to go back for my next trip, yes. But living in Manhattan, I'm not so sure. I mean, there is the Beast to consider.

Now there are definitely things about Manhattan that my pooch and I would love. Starting with the obvious - Central Park. Which is, after all, the arboretum on steroids, stretched over 50+ blocks. Plenty of trees to pee on, plenty of sticks to chew, and plenty of dogs to herd. I ran through the southern half of the park twice, and both times, I could not help but smile as I imagined Beasty running alongside of me, occasionally leaving my side to sniff another dog or to explore a new patch of grass. Of course, neither of us are likely to enjoy the hoards of screaming children who descend upon the park in droves on a sunny weekend, but that's another story...

Then there is the extreme walkability of the city. Everyone walks in Manhattan. The sidewalks are wide. The grid pattern makes it easy to navigate. And there are literally thousands of different directions that you can take to explore new sights (for me) and new smells (for the Beast). Surely, he and I could burn an exorbitant amount of calories by leashing up and hitting the pavement.

But then again....

As I think about it, there are more than a few reasons why Manhattan would not be a good home for Mr. Beast. In fact, I've come up with five of them. So here they are. The top five reasons why the Beast could never be a Manhattan dog:

5 - Where are the geese? Seriously. Where are they? Despite a park that spans an area of 200 square blocks or so, I did not see one single Canada goose. Not one. Nor did I see one New York goose. A few ducks here and there, but geese are the Beast's preferred game. Seriously. He takes great pride in clearing the path of Canada geese as he and I run or bike down the river pathway. He's taken this on as his job. And absent large enough water fowl to chase off the path, I fear that the Beast would turn his attention to small children - you know, the ones who are about two or three and stand roughly as tall as a goose and kind of waddle in the same gooselike manner? And, well, we all know that this would spell disaster. With a capital D. Disaster.

4 - Apartment living just ain't for this boy. Or at least, the Beast living in an apartment would not be for his neighbours. Because every single time someone would come to our door, or walk past it, he would bark. And we've all read enough of this blog to know that the Beast's bark translates into glass shattering loudness. Which could not BUT drive all of the neighbours crazy. And likely get me kicked out by the condo board. Which would give us no choice but to move to another burrough, like Brooklyn. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but.... Brooklyn ain't no Manhattan.

3 - Just like Manhattan residents have ample opportunity to pamper themselves with designer clothing, ridiculously beautiful accessories, and a plastic surgeon on every mid-town block, so too is there an abundance of puppy paraphernalia to beautify and class up your pooch. Now don't get me wrong - if I had the money, I'd be dressed head to toe in Dolce & Gabbana or Prada, made up by Bobbi Brown, and accessorized by Coach and Tiffany's. But I'll be damned if I will buy into all of that hype for my dog. I mean really. He's a dog. Why does he need running shoes, or a stroller to be pushed around in or a diamond studded collar (just a few of the things that I witnessed in the 72-hours that I was there)? There is no dog in the world anthropomorphized as much as the Manhattan canine, and no dog needs to be that spoiled. At least mine doesn't. Which I fear would earn both him and I our fair share of ridicule.

2 - He might just have a brain aneurysm. Seriously. He is too high-strung for sooooooooo muuuuuuuuch stimulation. I can just picture him walking in midtown with me (not that I would ever be so crazy as to do such a thing, but let's just pretend), where you can see people coming at you in waves for block after block after block, and where there is barely enough room to reach your hand up to hail a cab. And thousands of people = thousands of sounds and thousands of smells = thousands of distractions = the Beast not listening to me = me becoming supremely frustrated = the Beast getting even more agitated = epic meltdown right on the streets of Manhattan. And even the "quieter" places - like Central Park - aren't actually all that quiet, because they are, well, packed. With thousands of people, and thousands of sounds, and thousands of smells, and thousands of children who are tall enough to be geese, and.... well, you get the picture. Poor high strung Beasty would end up in a straight jacket within a week. And if not him, then definitely me.

But the number one reason why the Beast could never, ever live in Manhattan...

1 - He's already pushy enough thankyouverymuch.

No seriously, Manhattan is a wonderful place, and I'm sure the people are lovely, when they aren't being pushy and rude to you. Now in fairness, if I worked in midtown and had to deal with droves upon droves of tourists clogging up the sidewalks to take pictures of 30 Rockefeller Plaza every day, I'd probably be irritable too. But I get the feeling that New Yorkers are raised to be pushy. I mean, how else are you going to get a cab when you have to compete with 20 other people on the same block as you? Or when you have to catch the attention of the sales clerk at the Gucci counter in Saks ahead of the hundreds of other women ready to pounce? Really, when you think of it, it's understandable. But I am spending too much of my precious time trying to teach my puppy that it is not okay for him to get what he wants all of the time, and I just don't need for him to be around that dominant vibe! What if it rubs off on him? He'll become even more of a monster than he already is!!!

So New York City will forever be the place that I go to see a Springsteen concert and to spend all of my hard earned money. But as for home, Hubby, the Beast and I will stay put just where we are. In the sleepy, dull, and unimaginative capital of this beautiful nation of ours.

It's good to be home.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On hiatus

My ever-expanding fan base (Hi Mom! Thanks for getting Dad to start reading this blog) asked me just the other day why I have gone so long without a single blog post. Let me assure you that it's not because anything bad has happened to me or the Beast. We are still doing fine, thankyouverymuchforasking. In fact, he continues to generate exceptional blog fodder. I have soooooo many stories to tell. Like:
  • our adventures in agility class;
  • how just last week, he sent a mother and her son screaming in sheer terror from the dog bark because they thought he was attacking them when he was really only trying to engage them in a rousing game of chase;
  • the gong show that was the Beast's behaviour when I hosted a book club meeting chez moi;
  • how his "smile" - which is him showing off all of his teeth, including the really big sharp ones - scares the shit out of people; or
  • what it's like to be neutered when you are in a dog park full of bitches in heat.
No, I have a tonne more stories to get out of my brain, so be prepared to be regaled.

There is a very simple explanation for my prolonged absence.  I have been very busy.

First of all, I am under a ridiculous timeline to get a project done at work. Which means that the scales of work-life balance have tipped excessively toward work and decidedly away from life. Prime blogging time - a.k.a. evenings and weekends - is taken up by work. This shall pass (in about a year from now), but in the meantime, it is taking its toll on this creative outlet of mine.

Then tax season came along, and we had to file our taxes. Now I don't actually file our taxes. That would be ridiculous! I don't even know how to spell "T4". No no no... It was my husband who filed our taxes. But he did it on a Saturday. And it took him 6 freaking hours. (You'd think we had a series of off-shore accounts that we were trying to hide or something). And he needed to use the computer. Which means that I could not blog.

And of course, it's spring. And in the Nation's Capital, in mid-March, we had a GLORIOUS week where the temperature rose to +25. So when I was not preparing for my 32nd briefing with my boss, or trying to convince my husband that doing our taxes was far less important than telling stories about our dog, I was outside, basking in the glow of early cancerous UV rays. And now that the weather has returned to seasonal temperatures, I'm spending precious moments of my free time bitching about the fact that it's so cold. And unpacking my winter wardrobe which I had foolishly put away...

But the number one reason why I have not posted in a long time, dear readers, is because I...

...decided

...to read

...The Hunger Games.

It's hubby's fault. He and I took a day off together, and went to see a movie. Which is when I saw the trailer for The Hunger Games. Which made me want to see the movie. But you see, I have a rule. I can't watch a movie until I read the book. So I had to buy the book. Which I read voraciously. Which meant that I had to immediately read the second book. And chat about it with my 14 year old niece who assured me that I will never know what to read again because this is the best series of books in the whole wide world (which says a lot coming form the number 1 fan of the Twilight series). Which of course led to me having to read the third book right away. Which I finished this morning before I went to work. And...

...there is no fourth book to read. Alas, the adventures of Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne and Peeta Mellarck have come to an end.

And I am left feeling a little bit empty.

So I guess I will have to content myself with adventures in dog rescue, featuring the greatest hero of all time, the Beast.

(Although, fair warning, fans. I picked up the first book of the Game of Thrones series. And 10 pages in, I am already finding it pretty riveting. So I make no promises...)