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Archive for February, 2007

Step One: Get a dog.

Step Two: Walk the dog.

We moved in to this house 4.5 years ago. We immediately made friends with the across-the-road neighbours, whose kids are the same age as ours and go to the same school. We are casually friendly with the old guy to the left who lives with his mom and another couple across the road who recently started reproducing. That’s about it. They all seem friendly enough – they slow down when our kids are outside, at least – but we never end up doing more than nodding. Most of them aren’t around much, it seems.

Since I got Jasper and started walking him, I’ve had lovely chats with all sorts of people, and not just others out walking their dogs. Everyone we pass has to stop and meet Jasper, admire his handsomeness and tell me about the dogs they have, or their kids have. Suddenly, it is the friendliest neighbourhood.

Not only is Jasper leading me to meet all sorts of new people, he’s getting me out a lot more. For example, it used to be that after I picked up Boo from her all-day pre-school days at 3:30 (sometimes she goes half a day, sometimes all day), I’d just sit in the car with her for 20 minutes in the parking lot waiting for the older two to get out of school, knitting and reading or writing in my journal while she had a snack or played around.

Now, I bring Jasper (because he appears to hate being left alone worse than he hates the car. He’s getting used to the latter) and let Boo play on the play structure while I walk him around. Granted, that is only 20 minutes, but I find that sort of thing happening a lot, and it sure can’t be bad for me.

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Sock joy, friend joy

I am loving the sock knitting. Small, portable, fast. I kept sticking the half-made part on my foot to admire it. I finished the first one last night. This is what it looks like:

sock11.jpg

Of course, I promptly put it on and took it for a test drive (test walk?). It wasn’t comfortable. Despite using soft merino wool, it wasn’t good. I felt every purled stitch poking into the bottom of my foot. What to do? I turned it inside out. Now it looks like this:

sock2.jpg

It is really comfortable now – soft and warm. It still looks nice, just not quite as nice.

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Turns out Jasper adores carrots as much as bananas, so on his walks, we carry a baggie of cut-up baby carrots as training incentives. It is amazing what the right incentive can do. I decided yesterday to start working on getting him to come on command. By the end of the day, he would reliably charge right over to me when I ordered, “Jasper, come!” even if he had his nose buried in some lovely rabbit poop.

I was very proud of myself until a friend of mine popped my bubble, asking me if he’d come if anyone else called. I sincerely doubt it. But listening to me is a start, right?

I was telling her these stories of my marvelous dog at ‘girl’s night out.’ Every month or so, I get together with several friends of mine for a pot-luck dinner – no husbands or kids allowed. It’s like a book-club, without the facade of a book. The best part is that we never do any food planning ahead of time, just trusting in the fates, and always managed to have a delicious, well-balanced meal. Last night, we had hors d’oeuvres of crackers, cheese, pate, cheese sticks and little cranberry pastries. Dinner was risotto, broccoli and tofu in a delicious sauce, mashed potatoes with carrots, and bean salad. Desert was a baked pear pastry and s’mores pie. Two deserts – it doesn’t get better than that.

Besides the eating, we talk. And talk and talk. While kid talk does slip in there (three of us have three kids each), we try to keep it to a minimum. That isn’t just for the sake of the non-kid people present, but because the kids take up so much of our lives anyway, we like to get away and talk about other stuff. It is nice to count on at least one evening a month of chocolate and laughing until I fear I’m going to pee my pants.

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but at least it’ll have a nice sock in it!*

Jasper is showing his true doggy colours. He’s turned into a barky dog. He also loves to chew wood and paper. He has gone through a few toilet paper rolls already. I’ve had to spray bitter apple on the legs of our tables and the corner of the coffee table to stop him from gnawing on them.

He demonstrated that he loves apple almost as much as banana by putting his front paws up on the counter to reach some I’d cut up for Boo. I figure by the time he’s his full size, he’ll be able to reach up on top of the fridge.

He likes to dig and he’s a dirt-eater. Good thing my back lawn is already dead so when he starts digging holes in it when the snow melts, it won’t bother me so much.

He cannot accept that he isn’t supposed to be on the bed with us. I was lying on our bed with the kids, reading bedtime stories, when he popped up and then lay flat down, smushing his head into the duvet and looking up at me with the most innocent eyes, so I didn’t have the heart to throw him off. He just can’t see why he has to be way down there on the floor when everyone he loves is up on the bed together.

Of course, we all love him madly now, so he’s timed his personality revelations well. Didn’t I say he was brilliant?

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*I tried, I really did, but I couldn’t help myself:

sock1.jpg

It actually knits up quite quickly, given that I’m using 2.5 mm needles. Knitting at red lights helps.

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Jasper really is brilliant. He learned his name in about a day, and it took three runs of holding a treat over his head until he sat while saying “Sit” to teach him to sit on command. Last weekend, we went for a nice long snowshoe through the woods and he came along off-leash. We’d had him one week at that point, and he stuck with us faithfully, clearly having a lovely time. When we returned and got to the end of the road our cottage is on, he then started trotting ahead. He stayed politely on the side of the road, turned into our driveway and was waiting at the door when we got there. See – brilliant!

But only yesterday did I realize just how brilliant he is, when J came home and told me that a co-worker of his was telling him about her Bernese Mountain dog. These are gorgeous dogs and had been on my list of dogs I like, but I’m sure glad we didn’t get one, because this co-worker told J that they have to give this dog at least an hour’s walk, preferably two, every single day and if they don’t, the dog doesn’t sleep at night. It keeps them up.

Jasper not only sleeps from about 9 pm on, moving only to make sure he stays on my feet until we put him in his crate, but after his morning walk with J, he goes back to sleep with me if I am sleeping in. Yesterday, I had an unpleasant bought of insomnia in the middle of the night, so I took a snooze for an hour or so after everyone had left the house, with the dog faithfully sleeping by my bed. When I woke, I was concerned about his need to pee and popped right downstairs to take him outside. He followed me down, then lay down on the rug in front of the door and refused to move. He just stared at me, bleary-eyed, as I stood on the front step and tried to coax him out, clearly saying, “Look lady, I just woke up. What’s the rush?”

How brilliant is that?

Also, he hates walking in the cold. He goes out, pees at the end of the driveway, then bolts for the house. In milder winter weather he’s fine, but refuses to walk in the really cold stuff, and still sleeps all night and more. Brilliant.

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I’ve been reading the Yarn Harlot‘s books. My mother lent me them and I’ve been loving them. She writes knitting humour. Those who don’t knit probably can’t imagine knitting being funny, but it is, or at least, she is. She also fits in a fair amount of practical information. She also loves socks.

I don’t really knit socks. I have knit 2 pairs – one for my brother and a matching pair for my niece several Christmases ago. I liked it, but there were just so many other things to knit that I’ve never done more. That, and I used to think wool was itchy so I saw no point in knitting myself any socks.

Last winter, I had a wool sock epiphany, thanks to a friend who lent me a pair of her’s in a moment of desperation. The socks were warm and soft. I always have cold feet. Actually, I always had cold feet. Now I have wool socks. No more crappy, damp cotton socks for me. Wool socks aren’t cheap, but they are worth it.

Anyway, I finally realized, thanks to the Yarn Harlot, that I can combine my love of warm socks with my love of knitting. I actually didn’t know that there exists yarn intended especially for socks. How convenient! I don’t have to buy wool socks, I can make them! Inspired, I popped out to the knitting store yesterday and was shown an entire aisle of sock yarn. Lovely, soft, colourful. And in some cases, pretty darn cheap. Cheaper than buying pre-made socks.

I was restrained and only bought enough for two pairs – one a remarkably inexpensive alpaca in purply-blue, and one an expensive merino that, while expensive, wasn’t much more expensive than the actual socks would be. I took a picture, but it doesn’t completely do the wool justice. The colour looks a bit washed out here, but you get the idea.

sock-yarn.jpg

Now comes the really difficult part: I haven’t quite finished the sweater I’m making for my friends’ impending new arrival, nor the one I’m making for Asher (good thing I’m knitting that one big), so I must be strong and not start knitting the socks. I must at least finish the baby sweater first. (It isn’t a teeny tiny baby sweater either. It is sized about 3 years.) I want the socks. I’m bad with delayed gratification – not a good trait for a knitter to have. Maybe I’ll just go look for the sock needles, just to make sure I have the right sizes …

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Doggy bloggy

Because I don’t seem to be talking about anything else. It really is like having another child.

We’ve discovered Jasper adores bananas. He went nuts (bananas?) over Boo while she was eating one, so we gave him a taste. He has never shown such excitement. I’ll have to try to find dried banana chips – might be a good training tool.

Since Jasper is too young to be left alone for extended period, I added him to my chaotic Monday routine (pick up Boo, pick up Boo’s friend Z, take them to gymnastics, take them to Z’s house, pick up Maya and Asher, take Asher to tutor, pick up Boo from Z’s, pick up Asher, go home). He’s afraid of the car, so I had to lift him in and out. While the kids were in gymnastics, I took him for a decent walk. I’d definitely say I’m getting more exercise now, out of sheer necessity.

Z’s mom kindly let me bring him in while we had a visit. He is quite well behaved, but he is obsessed with dirt, and kept trying to eat from her potted plants on the floor. It was like having a child at a non-child house, following them around to make sure they don’t misbehave. On the positive side, he really is remarkably smart, and after two or three firm discussions about the naughtiness of dirt-eating, all I had to do was say in a warning voice, “Jasper, no!” as he headed for a plant and he’d head off and go sniff at some innocuous thing on the floor, as though to say, “I wasn’t going for the plant! Just this cheerio left here!”

All this healthy dog-walking has cut into my writing time, and I really must go work now. I’ll post another picture of the pretty boy to make up for my lack of fascinating conversation.

jasper3.jpg

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Turns out those pet-training manuals are as useful as the children-training ones. (Okay, ‘children-raising’ ones.) I bought that puppy several different recommended chew toys – kong-type things. He ignores them completely. I bought him a rope, which he finds mildly amusing. But all he really wants is soft things – socks, stuffed animals, mittens.

The training books say not to get him stuffed-animal sort of toys because then how will he know the difference between those and the kids’ toys? Good point. Jasper does not appreciate this point. He wants soft, damnit! So we went to the pet store today and got several soft toys that are as unlike the kids’ stuffed animals as possible, but who are we kidding, really?

He is, at the moment, leaping happily about with one of them (it squeaks – none of the kids’ toys squeak, at least). He’s been at it since we came home, about 1/2 hour ago. He’s in doggy heaven. He’s tossing it about and mouthing it, but is really being very gentle, with no actual biting.

He’s started to bark now. He barked at a repairman, which I found very interesting. I guess that means he’s decided we are his family and this is his house, and wanted it made clear that guy did not belong.

His security with his new home is expressing itself in other ways too. It is interesting to see how much the dog is like a child,. He was marvelously well-behaved when he wasn’t sure if we loved him, but as he grows more certain of our love, he becomes less well-behaved.He has started taking more of the kids’ toys and trying to eat them. He also likes toilet paper and got his paws on a whole roll earlier. Fortunately, he really is gentle and everything has been rescued intact thus far (well, not the toilet paper, but it was still mostly usable).

He hates going outside, and I don’t blame him, as it is nose-shrivellingly cold out there. I take him out by getting everything ready, propping the door open and walking out. He stands at the door looking pathetic because I am no longer near him, and then finally breaks down and comes out to me, preferring the cold over my absence. He then pees at the end of the driveway and bolts for the house.

It’s like having a canine version of Asher, who also couldn’t bear to be away from me, only Jasper sleeps through the night better than Asher did at four months. He also hates car rides, just like they did as babies.

Here’s a photo of Jasper, snoozing on my foot:

jasper-foot.jpg

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Happy Hallmark holiday

I think it was the second year together that I gave J the best Valentine’s Day gift he ever got: I told him not to worry about ever getting me a Valentine’s Day gift again. Sure, I like flowers or chocolate and expressions of affection, but I realized quickly that that just isn’t the kind of guy J is – to remember Valentine’s Day and come up with something romantic, just because it says to on the calendar.

Taking the pressure of him and the expectation off me just made life easier. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t done romantic things for me – he took me to Israel for my 40th birthday. The really good part of that gift was that he arranged the childcare himself. My friends were all wowed over that one.

On a daily basis, he comes home and does the dishes. I’ll take that over flowers on Valentine’s Day any time. Once, he brought home roses the day after Valentine’s, which I appreciated even more because I love roses, and roses at half the price are twice as good.

So, I don’t need grand romantic gestures at a Hallmark-appointed time, because I appreciate what I’ve got every day – did I mention he washes the dishes every night? And even if I did have a twinge of longing, seeing chocolates or flowers that I likely wouldn’t get today, it was completely eradicated eight years ago, when Asher was born.

Now the 14th really is no longer about me, but about the boy. It is a family day, where he gets to chose where we are going for dinner and we are having home-made chocolate cake for dessert.

I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so great for him to have his birthday on Valentine’s Day, but so far he loves it. When he turned 3-years-old, I took him to daycare for the morning with cupcakes and the entire place was decorated with hearts. He was delighted, saying, “How did they know hearts are my favourite?!” Now, when people ask him when his birthday is, he beams and says, “It’s easy to remember – Valentine’s Day!”

I hope everyone else’s Valentine’s Day is as good as mine is going to be – I’m off to make chocolate cake with my kids!

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