Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Updating the experiment

Okay. So after 3 days of sleeping in the same bed as Hubby and I, it was time to take Monkey out of hiding and present him to the Beast.

Quick refresher. Monkey is a stuffed, green... er... monkey. We bought him for Fergus, to replace his beloved Henrietta Hedgehog, who recently met her demise after a particularly rousing game of tug. Before handing Monkey over to the Beast, we stuffed him in our bed and under piles of our clothes so that he would take on our scent. The premise being that if Monkey smells like Hubby and I, Fergus will be less inclined to destroy him, as he has disposed of every other toy before this one. Because of course, he would not want to, say, rip our arms off.

Well, this is what happened.

First, I presented Monkey to Fergus.

Look at that smile of utter excitement....


 And how much he just wants to caress his new best friend...


And how patient he is being while he waits for me to relinquish Monkey into his tender, loving care...


And so, after a few minutes of introduction, it was finally time to put Monkey's fate in Fergus' paws.

And this is what happened...

video

I don't quite know what to say... Does this mean that Fergus shows his love and affection through destructive behaviour? Or does it mean that he really wants to take me by the arm and whip me around too until all of my stuffing falls out?

I don't know. But I do know that I don't give Monkey very good odds. I'll keep you posted on how long it takes before he joins the others in Dog Toy Heaven. For now, after an hour of play, this is what he looks like. No seams ripped open yet...


Oh, and yes, I am trying to evolve this blog into non-dog things, and no, I have not posted anything non-dog since saying that I would do so. But I will get there, curious reader(s). I promise.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An experiment

This is Monkey.


You might be asking yourself a couple of questions. Like, "Can't you come up with a better name for a stuffed monkey?" Or "Why is he sticking his hands up?" Or most likely, "What the hell is a grown woman doing with a stuffed, green monkey in her bed?" (Yes, that is my unmade bed. Nice sheet set, n'est-ce pas?)

All perfectly reasonable questions. With answers.
- No, I can not come up with a better name than Monkey, but feel free to give me some suggestions.
- Perhaps he is trying to jump out at me in surprise. Or he is dancing. Or he is being robbed.
- I am conducting an experiment.

Let me elaborate on this final point lest you think that it is a little weird for a grown woman to have a stuffed, green monkey in her bed for the purposes of conducting an experiment...

Monkey is not mine. He belongs to Fergus. Or at least he will once I take those pesky price tags off of him, take him out of the bed, and give him to the dog.

You see, Fergus LOVES his toys. A little too much. You may remember the tragic demise of his beloved Rochester Q. Squirrel. More recently, I bought him what I thought would be the ultimate, indestructible, stuffed dog bone, with a so-called "Tuffy rating" of 9 out of 10. Which he promptly destroyed in less than 4 hours. After tiring of tossing it around and playing tug, he attacked the corner seam with meticulous precision until he could wriggle his snout all the way inside, pulling out reams and reams of stuffing. Which he then ate. Which led to some, er, unpleasant digestive issues...

So I was a little nervous when, after spending the day with Auntie K, he came home with...


...Ms. Hedgehog. Also known as Henrietta. A stuffed animal with lots and lots of vulnerable seams to rip open, felt toes to rip off, and chalk full of stuffing. This could not end well - not for Henrietta, and certainly not for the Beast's digestive system...

But oh my how he loved Henrietta... I mean, I know I said that about the squirrel, but this was different. His eyes lit up with excitement every time he heard "Where's Hedgehog?" We'd hide her in every closet and under every pile of clothes in the house, and he would sniff his way all over the place until he rescued her. We would throw her up and down the stairs and down the hall, and he would chase after her like an Olympic sprinter. When we would tire of playing with her, we would put her on a shelf just above his reach, and he would whine until we would take her down again. He carried her everywhere around the house with him. Whenever it was time to have a rest, he'd lie down with her. I even caught him carrying her upstairs for bedtime, and found him using her as a pillow when I woke up the next morning. No toy has ever captured his heart like Henrietta did.

I started to think that maybe he was over his need to destroy his toys at all cost. Maybe the promise of stuffing was nothing compared to the love and companionship of this squeaky hedgehog. I mean, it had been two weeks, and she was still in tact. Not once did he try to rip off a limb or go after a seam. Maybe he was finally learning to be gentle with the things that he loves!

And then, one morning, while my father was visiting, he and Fergus were playing fetch with Henrietta. Fetch turned into a particularly rousing game of tug. And then we all heard it.  RRR-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-PPPPPPPPP!

Followed by a collective "GGG-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-S-S-S-S-S-PPPPP!!!"

I rushed to the scene to survey the damage. And there it was. Just behind Henrietta's hind left leg. A small hole. And a clear path to fluffy white stuffing.

I knew immediately that it was over for Henrietta. As soon as Fergus got a whiff of her insides, he would not be able to control himself. Still, I held out a faint hope that he would not destroy his beloved hedgehog. And so, I tossed her up the stairs, and he ran after her as fast as he could. He brought her back to me, lay down at my feet, and began to gnaw on her injured leg.

I took her away from him, and threw her again. Like a lightening bolt, he flashed across the hallway to retrieve her. He brought her back to me, dropped her at my feet, and just as I bent down to throw her again, he picked her up and trotted off to his favourite spot on the stairs, and proceeded to work at undoing the seams.

It was a solemn affair, having to take her away from him, but I knew that it had to be done. And so I walked over to him, picked her up, and carried her away to her resting place... in the garbage under our kitchen sink. Confused and hurt, the Beast looked up at me with his saddest brown eyes, whined sullenly a few times, then let out a great big sigh of despair.

It was terribly sad.

We tried enticing him to play with other, unstuffed toys. Like his squeaky rubber ball or his braided tug rope. But they could not hold his attention for very long. Hide and seek just isn't the same without Henrietta.

Which brings us back to Monkey. Hubby and I were visiting our favourite pet food store to replenish the Beast's food stocks over the weekend, when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the stuffed animal section. "Do you really think that is a good idea, Jay?" Hubby asked. "He's just going to destroy it anyway. Maybe it's time we gave up on stuffed animals."

"But they make him so happy!" I exclaimed! "I want to see him having fun with his toys again. He's been so pathetic since Henrietta has been gone. It's breaking my heart!"

As we argued back and forth about whether or not to replace dear Ms. Hedgehog, a store attendant overheard us and stepped forward. First, she pointed out the "more durable" (a term I use rather loosely given our track record) stuffed toys. Then she offered this advice: "If you take this toy home right now and give it to your dog right away, all it will represent to him is excitement. But if you hang on to it for a couple of days, and bury it in your bed or your clothes hamper, so that it picks up your smell, your dog will associate it with you. And he wouldn't want to rip your arms off, would he? I bet you he will be more gentle with it once he picks up your scent all over it."

Politely, I nodded my head and gave her a heartfelt, "Wow, what a great idea! I can't believe I didn't think about that!" But in reality, my inside voice was saying, "Yeah right, lady. You've never met my dog. Jaws-'o-death over there is not likely to stop himself from destroying something that smells like me...." Still, I figured it was worth a try. I am, after all, a trained social scientist, and I can't resist this opportunity to decipher the behaviour of another sentient being.

So, we brought Monkey home. And since Sunday, he has been hidden in our bed, or underneath that big pile of clothes that always seems to be on my bedroom floor. And in a few more days, when he is doused in "eau-de-Jay-and-Hubby", we'll give him to Fergus.

...And see just how long it takes for him to destroy something that reminds him of his two favourite people on earth....

Why do I have a feeling that this will not end well...

Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Evolution

Do you know what is missing on the Internet?

Blogs about couples who don't have kids. And by this, I don't mean couples who have tried unsuccessfully to have children. I mean couples who have made the conscious choice not to have kids. Couples who are happy in a family that does not include little people. Couples who enjoy doing lots of fun stuff with other adults. Couples like Hubby and me.

I never really realized it until I ended up a passenger in the same car as Erica Ehm (yeah, that's right... I hang out with B-List Canadian celebrities.... You know you are jealous!). And what does a former MuchMusic V.J. do now, you ask? Well, click on her name and find out for yourself! She writes a blog about being a Mom. A "yummy mummy", no less! Offering piles and piles of advice to women who raise children. If you're a mom, you should check it out! It's a pretty good website!

And it is far from being the only one. Go ahead and Google any derivative of the word "mom" and "blog" and you will be bombarded with hits from almost every corner of the globe. Even dads are active in the blogosphere. Parents the world over want to talk to each other - and to the rest of us - about how wonderful it is to raise children. They give advice. They tell funny/sad/happy/infuriating stories. They give product reviews. They solve one another's child-rearing dilemmas. They debate issues like private vs. public education. They share pictures. They... Well, you get the point. There is no lack of blog authors out there talking about parenthood.

Which is totally great! If you are a parent and you are looking for advice, stories, debates, pictures, product reviews, etc... on kid stuff.

But what if you are, say, a couple like Hubby and I who choose not to have children? You might not care so much about where to find the most stylish maternity clothes. Or what the best running stroller is. Or that toys made from recycled materials instill social responsibility in children at a young age. Instead, you might want to share experiences with other like-minded people. For instance, you might want to chat with other people who spent the summer travelling across the northeastern US to see Springsteen in concert because they don't have to sock money away for their children's university education. Or you might want to post photos of your not-one-Disney-character-in-sight family vacation through the wineries of Provence and Bordeaux. Or maybe the words "mini" and "van" don't exist in your vocabulary, and you would rather read about how the sporty BMW Z4 Roadster handles on the highway.

Where do you go?

Sadly, there are very little places. I know. I Googled. And I found very few. And I don't even really follow any because they are, well, really bitter. Bitter because of all the moms and dads out there and the pressure that they feel to, well, breed.

The fact of the matter is that, although the concept of family continues to evolve, our collective psyche cannot shake the image of children standing at its centre. Take Modern Family (hilarious - I know. Who doesn't LOVE Phil!!!!) as an example. Three very different families, all of them with... yep... kids. Paunchy, middle-aged man marries a smokin' hot wife a couple of years younger than his own kids, and finds himself raising a step-son. His gay son is in a loving partnership, where something was missing until they adopted a child. And his daughter goes the more traditional route, marrying her high-school sweetheart and becoming a stay-at-home mom to 3 children.

... Maybe Modern Family would be more modern if there was a third adult child who gets a dog instead of a kid, and who travels across the continent with her husband - who she waited 7 years to marry - watching football games and Springsteen concerts...

Anyway, you are probably asking yourselves what this has to do with, well, anything. More importantly, what does it have to do Mr. Fergus.

Well, nothing, actually. And that is the point. I have decided that, as inspiring of a muse as Mr. Fergus has turned out to be, I have other, non-dog experiences that I want to share. And the monologue about family is because I realize that many of these experiences and stories are shaped by the life that I have chosen to live. And a key feature of that life is my family. Which includes no children. And which, quite frankly, allows me to do a whole bunch of fun things that would lead to hilarious stories if my blog wasn't entirely devoted to my furriest friend.

So it is time for the blog to evolve. I am carving out a space for other stories that I want to share. Some stories will involve the Beast. Others will not. But dog lovers, fear not. If you are only interested in puppy antics, look for the label "Fergus". If you don't find it, read anyway. You might be presently surprised that funny things happen to me when the Beast isn't around.

But be warned. The chances are good that I will be talking about Bruce Springsteen. Or football.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanks

I left work after 6:00 pm the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend feeling more than a little bruised and battered. It's been a tough week at work. Hell, it's been a tough month at work. I'm stressed. Too stressed. And I'm not sleeping enough... Life never feels quite right when you aren't sleeping enough. Worse of all, I'm not spending enough time with my family and friends.

And so, on this Thanksgiving weekend, I was bound and determined to right this wrong. No working this weekend (aside from the casual monitoring of my berry). Just time well spent with myself, with my friends, and of course, with my family.

Hubby was out at his weekend French class, leaving Saturday morning to me. I don't usually run on weekends, but in this case, I knew I was going to pig out on a Thanksgiving feast later on - to which I would be contributing more than a few calories in the form of homemade ice cream, sausage and sage stuffing, and cranberry sauce. So, despite the rainy and wet climate, preemptive guilt took over. Besides, I had to take Fergus to the groomer's anyway. I leashed him up and took off for a run along the canal, where 6k later, I dropped him off at the puppy salon for a 3 hour pampering session. This left me all by myself - frankly, a glorious feeling. I decided to run another 3k to Starbucks, grab the biggest no-room Americano I could get my sleep-deprived hands on, and walk the last 1.5k home while sipping on my fuel. By this time, the clouds were clearing away just enough to let the sun poke through, and my stress headache, which has been a feature of daily life for the past 10 days, was finally starting to ease.

For the rest of the morning, I had the house entirely to myself. I must admit that it feels a little odd when Hubby and the Beast are not around. Particularly in the case of the latter, I have grown very used to the sound of his nails on our hardwood floors, his big brown eyes looking up at me whenever I go near the kitchen, and more or less just constantly having him under my feet. The house feels empty when he is not following me everywhere. Still, I enjoy these precious moments of alone time. So I changed out of my sweaty run clothes, cranked some Springsteen tunes, and went to work on my Thanksgiving stuffing, dancing around the kitchen and singing at the top of my lungs, occasionally using my knife as a microphone without fear that Hubby would walk in and catch me pretending to be a member of the E-Street Band.

Around noon, Hubby came home with a resplendent Mr. Fergus, who always looks so handsome after a morning at the groomer's. See for yourself!

I am so handsome when I am clean!

My boys came home just in time for me to hit the shower so that I could get over to my friend's house to finish putting together our Thanksgiving feast. And when I came out of the shower, this is what was waiting for me:

Just chillin'

Smiling for the camera

I LOVE belly rubs!!!!

Yep. This is the same husband who resisted getting a dog for 9 years. The one who told me that he doesn't like dogs. That one....

Much as I would have loved to stay and cuddle with these two goofballs, I had a day to spend in the kitchen ahead of me, so that I could honour my second weekend promise: time with friends. And not just any friends. My baseball team - the most fun-loving and non-judgemental group of people that you will ever meet. Stress is never an option when you are hanging out with this crew.  And laughter is always on the menu. Is there a better bunch of people to spend Thanksgiving dinner with? Especially when it involves copious amounts of delicious food, more than a few bottles of wine, and a dance party lasting long into the wee hours of the night?

With time for myself and friends filling up Saturday, today - Thanksgiving Sunday - was saved for my family, this year, on a smaller scale. With my parents and in-laws a province or two away in either direction, family this year equals me, Hubby and Fergus. Just the three of us. Which, as far as I am concerned, is a pretty fantastic family.

But today didn't exactly start out great. Despite honouring my promise of me-time and friend-time on Saturday, work stress still seems to creep in whenever the lights go out and my head hits the pillow, and I did not sleep very well again last night. Which means that I woke up a little grouchier than one should be on Thanksgiving Sunday, and with a headache to boot. Admittedly, as I was rolling out of bed, I noticed that Hubby was no longer there, and I thought to myself, "I would be very thankful today if Hubby has already taken the Beast out for his morning walk so that I don't have to get out of these pyjamas." But when I stumbled down the stairs, there were my boys, in the kitchen, one of them still in his own p.j.'s. At least he was making coffee, and I was thankful for that.

After a quick breakfast, I found the motivation to tell Hubby that I was going to take Fergus to the Arboretum. Normally, this is an activity that Fergus and I do together - just the two of us. But every now and then, Hubby comes with us. So I asked him if he wanted to come with us on this particular morning, half expecting him to say no, as his nose was already buried in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. But he surprised me with a "Yes! That sounds like a nice way to spend our morning!" And so, half an our later, the three of us fed and two of us caffeinated, off we went.

Having not slept very well, I was uncharacteristically quiet as we walked through the streets of Little Italy. To the point where my husband wondered aloud what was wrong with me. "Nothing," I said. "I just didn't sleep last night and I have a headache. That's all." "Is it work?" he asked. "Yes, I said. But I don't really want to talk about it. Let's just try to enjoy the day."

Not a very ringing endorsement of the day ahead, is it...

We continued on in silence until we got to the Arboretum, where we let the Beast off of his leash so that he could roam to his heart's content. Sensing that I might need a little bit of space, Hubby ran off with Fergus. The two of them found the biggest stick that they could possibly find, and spent the next 10 minutes playing fetch, tug-o-war, and the Beast's all-time favourite game, chase-me. I stood back and watched. And took some pictures.

"Give me that stick!"

Hubby dragging Fergus around by the stick...

"No, really! I said give me that stick!"

Chewing on a stick. Mmmmmmmm...

I'm not giving it back, Dad!

Want me to throw this stick?

Maybe I'll chase you instead!

Come and get me!

More chasing!

And more being chased!

Hiding from my Dad, who won't stop chasing me!

And as I watched my two crazy boys run after one another, sometimes with sticks, sometimes without, I started to feel a little bit better. My headache was dissipating. The caffeine was kicking in. And I was smiling.

And as I stood in the middle of Fergus' favourite spot in the whole wide world, I could not help but turn a little contemplative as I began to realize just how lucky I am to have this little life of mine.

I admit it. I don't usually spend a whole lot of time on Thanksgiving thinking about everything that I have to be thankful for. Mostly, I look at it as an opportunity to stuff my face with turkey. But this morning, while I watched my grown man of a husband run around the Arboretum like a kid with his dog, I made a little list in my head of all the things that I want to say thank you for:

I am thankful for this beautiful city that I call my home, where I can spend incredible mornings like this one with the people and creatures that I love most.

The most beautiful green space in the city

Beautiful Parliament Hill

My street

I am thankful for my incredible friends, who make me laugh, sometimes until I cry.

Winning the B-side trophy with the craziest bunch of people I will ever know!

I am thankful that I have the means to do fun and crazy things, like meeting CFL legends when we travel to Grey Cup every year:

Pinball Clemons

Or visiting 400 year old wine cellars in southeastern France:

A wine cave in St. Emilion, Bordeaux, France

Or following Springsteen on tour around the North-eastern U.S. and finally getting this close to him:

If only he would have picked me to dance with him...

But most of all, I am thankful for the two very special boys in my life, who make sure that I smile at least once every day, and both of whom, in their own special ways, make me feel like I am the most important person in the whole world.

Love

Watching a football game and chewing on a deer antler

Taking a coffee break

Work stress aside. I am a lucky girl. Mostly for one furry and one not-so-furry reason.