Monthly Archives: December 2013

About Dogs

Monty, in full lap-dog position.

Monty, in full lap-dog position.

I’m sitting in my favourite position on the couch. Which is to say, with my dog, Monty, on my lap.  I’ve been observing dogs most of my life, and I have come to certain conclusions about them, which are far from absolute fact, as I’m no expert, but they seem true to me.  I have had a few dogs in my life, mostly in my early childhood, to the age of 15, then skipping about 25 years where my life was too complex and charged to contemplate dog-ownership.  Since the age of about 40 I’ve had two dogs. Abe, who was a beautiful and wonderful german shepherd/rottweiler cross who died at age 11 of an undiagnosed ailment; and the present dog, Monty, who is about as different from Abe as is possible to get.  A white, nine-pound Maltese/Bichon mix (at the vet’s best guess) who is and always was a complete lap dog.  If you think that all small dogs are programmed to be lap dogs, you’re actually wrong, because my good friend has a lap-dog-sized dog, Rosie, who has had to be coaxed into enduring sitting on laps.  Her background is known: she was born and grew up in a puppy mill, where sitting on laps was something I’m sure she never did in her life before she landed the cushy situation she’s in now. Monty, however, coolly sat on my lap from the day we met him at his foster parents’ place and has been a contented lap-dog ever since and I bet always was.  He was a stray, so we’ll never know where he got the habit.

What I’ve observed about Monty is that he is a comfort-seeking creature.  I think in his own way (and who really knows how the brain of a dog works?)  he’s somehow fond of me.  I’m his main human.  I give him most of his food, water, affection and walks; and the small amount of training and discipline he receives is also from me.  Therefore, one would assume that he’d prefer to sleep with me at night, sit with me when there’s a choice of laps to be had, etc.  However, I’ve observed that he’s quite inconsistent in his choices.  Sure, he often chooses me over others; but let’s say he’s happily ensconced with my son on the couch, preferably surrounded by fluffy cushions or a duvet, I could call him until I’m hoarse to go for a walk and he’d just look at me.  In that kind of situation he won’t move until I actually pick him up to put on his coat and leash.  This goes double when it’s cold or rainy out.

If a visitor comes to the door, Monty’ll bark his head off, scampering around, excited, madly wagging his tail, trying to both scare the person off and make him his best friend, it seems.  A few minutes later he could be sitting on this person’s lap.  A few hours later he could have decided he’d rather sleep with a person he’d only met that day, over the person who adopted him, cares for him like another son (ask my kids) and feeds him treats more often than is good for him.  Who knows why?  In order to avoid this embarrassing chain of events I have to close our bedroom door so he can’t sneak off in the middle of the night to sleep with someone else.  I try not to take it personally, however, even though it hurts me, this behaviour of his, because dogs are mysterious creatures, who don’t think the way we do and we’ll never understand about a dog’s affections or lack thereof. Loving a dog is a lesson in allowing the object of your affection be who he/she is and loving without expectations.  I will continue to care for him, whether he appears to feel the same about me or not.  In fact, when he’s old and sick or injured, he may blame me for his pain, because he doesn’t understand where it comes from.  The odd time I’ve accidentally stepped on his foot, he leaps back and looks at me as though he has no idea who I am.  “Why did you hurt me, and are you going to keep doing it??” his look seems to say. Nevertheless, when the time comes, and it will be way too soon, I will try to make his last days as comfortable as possible. It’s what I signed on for when I adopted him.  The whole way-too-short deal.

Monty, tucked in.

Monty, tucked in.

Despite the drawbacks of this somewhat lop-sided love affair, I get a lot of pleasure and comfort from Monty’s presence.  He doesn’t really have to do much of anything else but just be around and it’s enough for me.

If this post doesn’t seem to have much to do with gardening, I suppose you’re right. It has a lot to do with tranquility, however.  I love observing other species, whether animal or vegetable.  It’s endlessly fascinating.  I don’t always understand them, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying either one.



Enjoy this cute clip from “Horsefeathers” with Groucho Marx playing romantic guitar.

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Winter and Waiting

Winter Garden

Winter Garden

Despite the short days we’ll be experiencing for the next couple of months (let’s not kid ourselves), I’m encouraged just knowing the days are getting longer now.  Every day we get a few more minutes of sunlight.  For me, the worst part of winter is the lack of light. I’m pretty sure I’m not as productive in the winter time, just because I feel like, well, the day is over at 4:30.  Can’t really do anything after that, right?  Winter in Montreal, and most parts of Canada, is an endurance test.  Everyone gets an A for getting through it!

My family and I decided to take a quick drive down to New York City just before Christmas to get away from home during the holidays and take in some cultural events.  What we couldn’t count on was the weather, either on the drive down (a bit snowy and icy for the first couple of hours) or when we got there.  We were very fortunate that the weather warmed up to 19C the first full day we were there.  What a great break for us from the cold and snow!  It threatened to rain all day but didn’t and we walked around in sweaters.  It was marvellous.  It’s hard to believe that driving a mere 6 hours in a southerly direction can make such a difference.  We got back to a much different scenario: Montreal was covered in several feet of snow and the temperature was about -17C.  It took my husband and son quite awhile to dig out a parking spot for our car.  Having had a break from it, I felt much more able to regard the snow as picturesque and only a minor inconvenience, particularly perhaps because I didn’t do much of the shovelling!

While in NYC we saw a wonderful play called “Waiting for Godot”, by Samuel Beckett.  Probably everyone knows of the play but perhaps few have actually seen it.  I think I read it in high school and was thoroughly puzzled by it.  I’m very glad that we got a chance to see it with such wonderful actors in the main roles.  Patrick Stewart and Ian McEllen play two old men who meet under a dead tree (it’s unclear how often they’ve met previously at the same spot for the same purpose) to meet a third person, Godot, who never shows up.  It’s amazing that a play in which almost nothing “happens” can be so riveting.  Not only that, but the second half of the play is almost the same as the first, with slight variations.  They talk about the same issues, the two minor characters show up again and do much the same things, and both Acts of the play end the same way, with Estragon and Vladimir  discussing whether or not to come back the next day, since Godot hadn’t shown up; whether to just commit suicide by hanging themselves from the tree; deciding they didn’t have the means to do it, and announcing their intent to go, but not going, their actions frozen by the lights going out. Some people think Godot represents God, but I think he represents the inevitability of life and death.  No matter what we do, or don’t do, the world goes on.  We get many chances to decide whether to keep doing the same things day in and day out, but most of us, out of force of habit or fear, keep doing them, whether we’re miserable or not.  This play is absurd, and very funny at times, but it points out how inane, uncomfortable and repetitive our lives often are and begs the question, “Why do we go on?”

I guess the play sounds very depressing, and my husband found it so.  I didn’t find it depressing, but it definitely is thought-provoking.  We all think about these issues anyway, and here it was brought home and encapsulated very cleverly. It’s important to re-examine our lives periodically, even daily, because each day goes on, very similarly, and when the day ends once again, have we accomplished anything worthwhile?  It’s a good question to ask as the days get longer.  Oh, and happy Boxing Day, everyone!