Friday, December 18, 2009


Fear is real. There are many levels of fear, from the little bugaboo in the back of your mind, to the overwhelming physical reaction that makes your palms sweat and your lungs ache

Collette has a terrible fear of heights. Its a real thing, a physical thing that literally paralyzes her. I have a fear of confined spaces. I've been stuck in elevators and been ok but dark, tight places with pressure above me, makes me feel that I'm going to suffocate. We know we have these fears, we know what triggers them, but we can't control them. That's what phobia's are.

Cynophobia is the fear of dogs. Its a phobia, like Collette's fear of heights and my fear of confinement/suffocating. It's a real physical fear that you can't control. People have cynophobia and I suppose people suffer from it in my city and I suppose that I have have encountered them, when out with my girls. I strive hard to make my girls good canine "citizens". They're never walked offleash on the streets and even when offleash, they've been trained very well to be under my control. When I see situations that I know will challenge that training (like little kids running around, they look like sheep) I keep my dogs out of it. But if you have a phobia, it doesn't matter, you're just scared, you can't help it, I understand that.

Then you have a fear of dogs that isn't a phobia per se, but is still very real. People who have been attacked by dogs, no matter how long ago, have a fear of dogs that can sometimes never be conquered. A friend of mine, a client, who's name is Bill, always had a hesitant reaction to Hayley and when we got Terra, I could see he was even more leery. He told me that as a teenager, he had been attacked and badly bitten by a friend's dog, a dog whom Bill trusted. He always did very well with my dogs, he never made a big deal of it, but he was afraid.

I know I've encountered people out there with similar stories. They're strangers, not friends. They owe me nothing Even if my dogs do nothing, these people are afraid of them and they probably wish there were no dogs. I understand that. It's fear, a real fear and its often out of their control.

Where this is all coming from is the reactions I have when I'm out with the dogs. My dogs are trained, they're under control, in the streets they're always on their leads yet we encounter everything from people screaming, to freezing, to snarling at me. So a small percentage have a phobia. A slightly larger percentage have a fear based upon a past attack. But what about the rest of them? I mean, these are very common reactions. Yes, the girls bring me many compliments but I get more negative reactions. Why?

I've heard that people have grown up in cultures that have a very different views of domestic dogs. Dogs in north america, generally, especially pets (as opposed to real working/hunting dogs) are very indulged, and certainly overindulged. When we were in Costa Rica and Belize, dogs were just roaming the streets, sleeping on the beaches etc. We were told that not all these dogs are strays, they were pets but they didn't stay in the house, they weren't walked, they were maybe put in a yard at night, to offer protection. Most of these dogs were not fearful or aggressive like feral dogs, they were domesticated, but not in the way I'm used to

Then you have cultures where there are no pets, just strictly working dogs. Or countries where some people's only experience with dogs are with guard or attack dogs. I could see you would be afraid of those dogs, but that's something learned and what is learned, can be re-learned. My border collies are not a danger to you .. unless you're a tennis ball.

If you live in a new place, you have to learn the new way. I mean, really, don't you?

When you talk about culture you often have to talk about religion too, as oft time both are intermingled. I know some orthodox religions have strict guidelines about humans interacting with dogs, probably stemming from ancient concerns about safety and even hygiene but let's face it, we don't live in those times anymore. Be that as it may, that's still not a true fear of dogs. You just don't like them, as your religion decrees, and hey, you don't have to own a dog, but don't jump off the sidewalk and call me a rude name because I have one. You aren't afraid. You're brainwashed. Get over it.

You saw the rant coming, didn't you? I guess my point is this: Collette and I have worked really really hard to make our dogs disciplined and good public "citizens" We work very hard to make sure that people aren't inconvenienced by our dogs. In the street we leash them, in the parks we keep them away from situations that we know will bother people, like playgrounds, picnic areas, soccer games etc. They have manners, they're obedient, but it still isn't enough for a lot of people.

If you're afraid, truly afraid, then I do feel for you, and I know your reactions are not always under your control. But I also think that the percentage of people with a real uncontrollable fear is pretty small. For the rest of you ... I respect you, show me respect at all. You don't have to love my dogs, but we're here, we have the right to be here, and just cut us a bit of slack. And hey, you know, if you kind of drop the veil and see my girls as they really are, you're gonna love em.

I mean, who couldn't?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Toronto has Olympic fever. The torch is making its way through the city today, on its way to Vancouver. Watching the coverage has made my skin a little twitchy.

People are lined up on the sidewalks, in this burning cold, tears sticking to their faces, clutching their hearts ... why? Some of the quotes: "This is the greatest moment of my life" "I'm so glad my kids are able to witness this (isn't this a school day?)" And the torch bearers themselves are so emotional they're practically orgasmic

"I've been defined" said one torch bearer. Another: "I will remember this as long as I live"

Again: Why? People, you aren't really thinking about all this, are you

More quotes "The torch represents peace and hope" OK, well the murder of Israeli athletes and the Atlanta bombing kind of squashes that whole peace thing

"The torch is for unity among the world's peoples" Really now? With nations boycotting the games at various times, tons of official protests and the games being held in China, a non democratic country where people have no rights to govern themselves and where human rights violations are a daily occurrence

"The torch represents the beauty of competition" This one's too easy: Corrupt figure skating judges, Ben Johnson, human growth hormone, professional athletes.

Are people really thinking about this? Or are they just blithely following a pre packaged emotional construct. Who doesn't think that the Olympics are all about money and corporate greed? Who doesn't understand the subtext of national pride verging on racism? Who doesn't get that the upcoming Olympics in Rio will make a few people a ton of money but will do nothing to help the hundreds of thousands of those who live there in poverty and will, in all likelihood, make their lives even worse. What happened to all the poor people in Beijing? Do you think their lives got any better? I doubt it

Feel free to enjoy some of the athletic performances at the Olympics. Most of that leaves me cold, for a lot of these athletes, who train for monthly, yearly events of more importance, this is an artificial event, that happens every four years under a huge media spotlight and viewed by a lot of people who probably understand nothing about their sport. And its political. Way, way political, from what country hosts, to which athletes compete, to who carries a flag; you have to know it has nothing to do with individual achievement.

Can any adult with access to any kind of media not really get this? Yet here I'm watching all these people, completely overcome with emotion. Even if you can ignore all the incredible bullshit associated with the Olympics, unless you know someone involved, is it really this big a deal? At the most, its an athletic competition. But I hear all these vapid platitudes: World changing, hopefully, fulfilling, life altering ... oh people, give your head a shake

I think not enough people are thinking about this. Not enough people are thinking, period, They sit there in their living rooms and they let the SMPTE corrected colour images wash over them, soaking in this pre packaged propaganda that has nothing to do with reality but has everything to do with TV ratings and product placement .. oh, oh yeh, excuse me, the Olympics aren't about money ... cough cough.

Let's talk about the torch bearers themselves. Yes there was a school teacher, a retired athlete, but there was also an awful lot of "TV personalities" from CTV the network that is hosting (no, not hosting, but paid millions of the dollars) the games on Cdn television. Were they all there to promote amateur sports and the beauty of competition or national pride?

What really bothers me is how so many of these people are emoting and speaking as if they're following a script. They've given up their emotions to the spin doctors, and given it up easily. No wonder we can't see to be able to make critical, viable decisions when it comes to how we want to be governed. We're too fucking passive, we're too bludgeoned by marketing and politics to NOT think, to NOT be critical, to just spread our legs and take, and later, pay for the privileged.

Maybe we should use that torch to help keep warm some to the people sleeping on sewer grates in this city tonight

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Anyone remember the Disney movie Snow Dogs, starring (and helping with the career downfall of) Cuba Gooding Jr? If you don't remember that's probably a good thing, as its pretty much a piece of dreck. However, a friend gave it to us a few years back. The story involves a border collie who wants to be lead dog of an Alaskan sled dog team. Well, I briefly worked with sled dogs in northern Manitoba and we own a border collie (just the one at that time) so there are moments in the movie that I enjoyed.

But now I have my own snow dogs. One of whom, Terra, got to experience the very first snow day of her life.

Needless to say, Terra seemed to enjoy the cool air and all that frozen water. Because as I've documented in other posts, for Terra, water is border collie crack.

Of course, Miss Hayley is our original snow dog and she too, was happy to quietly express her genteel pleasure on the first snowfall of the season

Border collies love the snow. They are all weather dogs but with those big coats and high energy, they do enjoy the cooler temps. They like to run on/through it as well, I assume it feels good on their pads. And of course, a layer of snow makes them into pirates, sniffing and digging for treasure, even it said snow is covering ground they sniffed only hours before. Hey, its snow, you never know what could be hidden under there.

Above, is rookie treasure hunter Terra, making her first forays into digging. Below, is old pro Miss Hayley, going for a full fledged excavation.
Of course, the one thing snow dogs like to do even more than dig for treasure, is to run ...

Terra really needs very little motivation to run, and Miss Hayley just needs a puppy to chase but Terra is a ball dog and we had some fun with that in the snow. Usually she has launched herself to warp speed before I can even get the ball airborne, so her back is to me as the ball is flying. She usually finds it by sound but in the snow, the impact is muffled. It took her a while to figure out that the ball was on the ground, covered by a layer of snow, sometimes right under her nose. Well, border collies aren't known to be scent dogs. But eventually she got her nose working and learned how to find her ball.

And if you do lose your ball, don't fret, nature is always happy to provide you with a stick ..

And the lovely thing about sticks, they often leave you with little souvenirs you can take home

All Miss Hayley thinks is: Puppy, I don't care what you chase, just get on with it, I need something to herd

So that was our first day in the snow. A simple thing. Just two girls romping around in the white stuff. But yeh, the simple things are good. And I'll keep this post simple as well, and let my girls tell you, that this is the end ..

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