Christmas 2010

This year my friend and her son came to visit for the holidays. Caleb came on the 17th and is staying until after new Years, but his mom arrived on the 23rd and left on Monday. It was an eventful few days, full of memories and first time experiences.

Here are some pictures of Caleb posing in different kid’s rides during our visit to the North Bay mall for some last minute gifts.

Taz isn’t much into the whole Christmas thing so instead of buying her a gift we took her and Caleb dog sledding near Timmins. Dog Sledding Adventures is run by a man named Shane who has about 21 greyhound like huskies. I cannot totally remember the breed or if they are actually husky greyhound crosses, but if anyone knows from the pictures please let me know. Shane started his dog sledding career in Whistler as a guide and instantly fell in love with the sport. When he decided to move from Whistler back to the Timmins area where he grew up, he made an agreement with the company owner and brought about 6-10 dogs back. The snow conditions on Friday were on the faster side so Shane only hooked up 7 dogs to our sled. We had – coconut (leader), Shooter, Mr. Penguin, Dora, Doughnut, Madison, and Mr. Deeds – most of our team were from his Adam Sandler crew. The dogs were extremely excited about the upcoming run so barked and whined constantly until they were hooked up and told to go. It was amazing to see how focused they get and then as the run goes on how tired they become from the concentration. Each of us got a chance to ride in the sled while Shane directed the dogs and taught us all the necessary commands and features of the sled itself. Then Shane stood off to the side and let us take one another for rides during the next 45 minutes. In total we spent 2 hours with the dogs and it was amazing! Shane told me that the next time I came to bring Cessna and Canyon and he would hook them up with his dogs to the sled and I’d see how well they took to the exercise. It wasn’t overly expensive and I had so much fun that I will for sure be returning later in the winter.

My sister and step-dad came over that evening and we had dinner and opened presents. Brandi had to work all weekend so we had our Christmas get together a little early. At first Brandi wasn’t in a great mood, but as the evening progressed her mood improved. Dinner was delicious and dessert was even better – Caleb and I made both a plain and a toffee chip cheesecake.

This year for Christmas from Brandi I got a Tassimo coffee maker, season four of Dexter, a Glee calendar, Starbucks coffee, and an I.O.U. for pajamas. I absolutely love my coffee maker and can’t wait until we get some cappuccino, hot chocolate, and latte pods for it. Dad gave both Huib and I a hundred dollars and Taz bought us the game Rock Star Life. Huib and I decided not to buy one another gifts since there tends to be more sales during the weeks after Christmas and it’s more fun to go on shopping sprees.

We didn’t do too much during the weekend, but enjoyed one another’s company and exercised the dogs. On Saturday we took everyone for an hour and fifteen minute walk and then yesterday went for a two mile walk in the opposite direction. Taz really enjoyed seeing our home and the areas around where we live. Right now it’s beautiful up here – tons of snow and animal tracks everywhere.

We really enjoyed having Taz and Caleb here for Christmas and hope they’ll join us again next year.

My 31st Birthday

On Monday, (the 29th) I turned 31. A lot of my friends and even my sister complain about getting older, but I don’t see a problem with it. I’ve had an interesting life so far and am excited to see what the future holds.

A week before my birthday Huib and I went shopping in timmins and he bought me a new white winter vest along with four long-sleeved shirts – poppy red, dark brown, plum & teal. My sister knew I needed a new watch so when we went to Toronto during our trip to take Phoenix to the vet she bought me one from the cnib – where we had stopped to look around and buy some Braille playing cards & a slate with stylus. This year for Christmas I want to Braille a message in our cards along with the print above it (which will of course be done by Huib).

On Friday, (the 26th) we piled Cessna, Canyon and our stuff into the truck for a trip “down south” as my sister likes to say. Phoenix and Aspen stayed home with my step-dad and the cats. We did tons of shopping and visiting with friends. On my birthday we attended a puppy potluck – a bunch of friends got together with each of our respective dogs for a play & social gathering. We were responsible for bringing dessert so Huib agreed on a chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard cake from Dairy Queen. I don’t think anyone actually knew until just before that it was my birthday so it kinda just worked out that we were able to bring a cake of my choice to celebrate. When we arrived everyone acted as though nothing was special, but when it was dessert time they gave me a cool homemade sailor’s hat to wear and sang Happy Birthday to me – it was so unexpected! I absolutely loved the blizzard cake and am delighted to share that this year I actually didn’t have to pretend to like a cake I didn’t!!

Overall my 31st birthday was a great one and now I can’t wait for Christmas to come!

Phoenix, the Miracle

On Thursday night we got home from a week in Waterloo to find Phoenix in terrible shape. Dad was watching him and Aspen, since they don’t enjoy the traveling and aren’t a huge fan of my friend’s current foster puppy. Huib carried him out to greet me and I was in shock to see how immobile he was. We worried all night and had him sleep with us so we could monitor his health and help him when needed. He could not sleep well on his right side, finding it hard to move and find a comfortable head position, but on his left he was a bit more settled. We set off for Guelph around 9am and called the vet from North Bay.

Dad told us that on Wednesday morning around 10:30 he came out of the bedroom and stopped in the doorway. He said he all of a sudden began to tremble and fought to stay on his feet, but eventually fell over to the right and couldn’t get up. Dad didn’t have a phone or car so cared for him the best he could. He said it looked like a stroke and he was so worried.

When we first arrived, Phoenix couldn’t stand and didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything. He was drooling excessively and his nose ran. His head was at a tilt to the right and his eyes twitched. I was so upset, but knew we had to take him to his vet in Guelph because I knew she would do everything possible and be honest with us regarding his prognosis. We decided to stop at his foster family’s house before the vet just in case the worst was to happen, we knew he needed to see them and they needed the visit. After visiting for 10 minutes we set off to Guelph (they live in Etobicoke). It was the longest hour I’ve ever spent in a car and couldn’t stop crying and thinking that this could be the last drive we sat together.

We arrived at the office around 6:00pm and were greeted by Dr. b and one of her assistants, who just happened to attend the University of Guelph when Phoenix and I were there. Huib carried him into the examination room and placed him on the table which was covered with a blanket and towel for comfort. Dr. b asked us questions and then began examining him. After a few heart wrenching minutes she looked up and I said “it’s bad, isn’t it?”. She said it actually wasn’t as bad as we’d thought and that dogs do not really have strokes, but that they are more common in cats. She diagnosed Phoenix with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease and said that he should almost fully recover, but that I had to be willing to put in the time and effort to get him back to “normal”. I told her I’d do anything necessary and asked what was needed. She explained that there aren’t any treatments, it just takes time and patience since this condition seems to appear all of a sudden and then go away within a week or month’s time. She said there shouldn’t be any ill effects, but that he may have a permanent head tilt and his eyes may not completely stop twitching, but that he can see perfectly fine and will slowly get used to all of this. She explained that the reason he cannot walk on his own and tends to fall to the right is because IVD effects his balance and causes dizziness – I guess sort of like Vertigo in humans. Dr. B went to prepare a homeopathic remedy while her assistant and I stayed with Phoenix. He didn’t like being up on the table so Huib picked him up and put him onto the blanket on the floor where he felt more comfortable. After giving Phoenix the remedy, Dr. b assessed him further and asked that we call her on Saturday with an update and then set up a phone consult for Tuesday or Wednesday. She asked that we put him onto a mixture of mushy kibble and canned food so he won’t inhale his food and aspirate – this was her biggest worry since he could get pneumonia. After picking out some gluten-free food and paying the bill, we set off for home. It was a long day, we barely slept Thursday night and couldn’t relax in the truck on the way so slept off and on during the drive home – thankfully Dad came and drove most of the way home.

On Saturday, Phoenix woke me up around 8:30am wanting to go out and eat breakfast. I put one of our doggie life jackets on him so we could use the handle to support him as he tried to walk. I found improvements in the way he held himself, standing straighter and actually weight baring, rather than needing assistance to both stand and walk. When in a down in the kitchen – while I ate breakfast – he was able to lie semi-normally and look around at all the action. At one point he even got up on his own and walked over to the water bowl for a drink before I noticed. I put him on the couch for the afternoon while I surfed the internet and watched some television. Whenever I got up and he was still asleep I attached a bear bell to the back of the life jacket so I’d know when he was awake. Dad and Huib carried Phoenix inside the last two times he went out for relief because he seemed to freeze in one spot and refuse to move any further – guessing the outdoors got a little overwhelming at night for him. The other times Dad or I took him out during the day he seemed willing to help as much as possible as long as we were patient enough to wait for him to try a step. Huib and I slept with him between us last night and once he was put onto his left side he fell asleep and didn’t stir until about 7.5 hours later.

Today he seems a little stronger on his feet and actually wanted to stand while eating breakfast. Huib tried to get him to lie down, but he refused, so we just held his bowl up and watched to make sure he didn’t lose his balance. I took him out around 10 this morning and he tried to walk further than yesterday, but it is sort of a blizzard out there so I convinced him to go back inside. I have to almost carry him down the stairs, but he tries to help on the way up. He’s been sleeping on the couch beside me this afternoon, but I’ll probably take him out for relief soon and see how he does.

From the research I’ve done on IVD Phoenix should continue to improve and like Dr. B said not have any real side effects other than the slight head tilt. I’m so blessed to still have Phoenix and am relieved to know that he will soon make a full recovery.

Our Step-Dad

Dad entered our lives when I was 4 ½ and Brandi was 18 months. Both our sperm donors weren’t “ready” to be fathers so it was up to mom to raise us. She worked as an RNA (now called an RPN) at a local long-term care home and found it hard to meet people with her two young children following behind. She met Dad at a neighbour’s New Year’s Eve party and I guess that’s where it all began.

Over the years Dad has been a sore spot for me at times – not being willing to work longer than a year at a time and often spending weeks on end lying around and making things tough for the rest of us. When mom was getting sick Dad took care of her, but he also made things harder for us as well – financially and emotionally. Dad wasn’t really into children and found it hard to be patient and caring when Brandi and I were causing trouble. I remember asking mom why she put up with him and wondered if things would have been easier if he wasn’t around. Well mom passed away in 1998 and my relationship with Dad became tougher.

When I went away to university I made sure to spend as little time as possible back home and this seemed to suit Dad fine. Our relationship became really rocky though during my second year when I decided he had used up enough of our inheritance and decided to remove it from our joint account. Over the following years we saw very little of one another, but seemed to get along fine during our occasional visits.

Last year Dad came to visit for a couple weeks in Guelph when we decided to hold a birthday party for him. This visit began our new chapter. Since April Dad has been living with Brandi and things have really seemed to improve between the two of us – with him staying here once in a while for a week or so break. I’m not sure if it is his decision to finally deal with his debilitating depression or if he’s mellowed during his older years, but I really do find myself enjoying our time together – which was not something I did as a child.

Dad and Brandi have decided to move into a 3-bedroom house together and we’ve been helping them paint when Huib isn’t working. The house is cute – 2 bedrooms upstairs along with a bathroom and downstairs a small kitchen with a large living room and a third bedroom off that which Brandi has decided to use as her office and a spare room for visitors. The painting process has been a little stressful, with Dad not taking the time he should be with preparation and more careful painting, but Huib has promised Brandi that he will help her and fix what needs to be done better. On the weekend we helped her paint the living room and the house is finally looking presentable. I wasn’t sure about Brandi’s colour choices at first, but now that they are up on the walls – I think they’re great! Tomorrow we’ll go over and finish off the living room before moving onto the sun room or dining room as they will be using it. The upstairs is where Dad is doing his work and from what Huib has said, he sure isn’t the painter he used to be.

When all is done, I will try and post some pictures.

8 Months Have Passed

I had decided to delete this blog for a while, but now I’m back. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share my life experiences without the dogs, but after months of having things to say and nowhere to say them, I’m back!

We sold our condo in Guelph a few months ago and are beginning to just now fully settle into our northern life. I guess it took having the condo sell to help us accept the changes in our lives. It’s been an interesting summer so far.

We had a bonfire with Huib’s co-workers in May when the black flies were at their worse. It was a challenge for the first few hours, but once darkness fell and the campfire was hot, the bugs didn’t seem as horrible. Everyone had a blast and wants us to do it again in the fall – stay tuned…

What else has happened during my 9 months away…. Well my step-dad was kicked out by his wife and is now living with my sister. He spends some time with us, helping out with the dogs and yard work, but still hasn’t figured out where he wants to go next. I think Brandi is beginning to find it hard sharing her little one-bedroom apartment, but I cannot have him stay with us full-time. He has severe depression and even though his medication seems to be working now, I don’t know what I’d do if he went into one of his moments and was staying here. I don’t do well with silence and I don’t think he’d be as good about putting up with the dogs wanting to constantly play. Hopefully things will work out in the end for him, but for now Brandi will just have to put up with it.

Since Dad has been staying with Brandi, we’ve all been going fishing a lot. Huib bought me and Brandi pink fishing rods so it’s been fun joining the guys. During our first trip I caught a 21 inch pike, Huib caught a 22 inch one, Brandi caught a 15 inch bass and Dad caught two bass (a 12 inch and a 17 inch). We brought them all home and Huib cleaned them with Dad in the front yard. I’ve had pike before and don’t mind it, but tried the bass for the first time and thought it was also not too terrible. I am not much of a fish eater right now, but hopefully in the future I’ll learn to like it more. We went out again a week or so later, but weren’t as successful, just a few bites here and there without much else. On our trip out two weeks ago though I caught another pike and Huib made it for his dinner to take to work. I don’t mind pulling the weeds off my rod, but I cannot handle removing the fish I catch – I know….I’m such a girl!!!

The only other interesting thing I can think of right now to blog about is our canoe. Huib and I got a red Pelican canoe a few weeks ago and are really liking our time out on the water. Huib had to work a bunch of shifts during his week off so we decided to splurge and buy ourselves a canoe. It fits 3 people and is quite sturdy. We went for an hour paddle around the lake behind our house – it was so peaceful and beautiful. Hough Lake is really small and weedy, but Huib was able to show me different things we came across – a lily pad, some blueberries growing by the water and the beaver dam where we think a lot of our trees are going. The weather hasn’t been the greatest this week, but hopefully it will clear up so we can go out for another peaceful trip.

I’ll sign off for now, but will try and post more often.