Every Canadian loves to talk weather. We are all experts about the weather we know. West Coasters know about rain, Westerners from the Prairies know about Chinooks and floods, Northern areas know about short/long nights, long/short days and plenty of snow and bugs and the Maritimers know about it all in a way too painful way. Its winters like this past one that has me wondering about my choices. Of course some Canadians are still being bombarded with snow, wind and ice. But I live in Toronto – not as warm as Vancouver but mostly the envy of other Canadians, weather wise. It is a trade-off for the lack of beauty and fresh air. Today I had my 1st lovely walks of the year with my Chihuahua. Not since early December have we been out for more than 15 minutes. Each occasion I had us both so wrapped up it was hardly worth the effort. Most of the winter my dog would head for her bed when the coat and boots came out.
Usually I find myself commiserating with immigrants about our weather. Toronto is full of immigrants and my area is so thick with them I often feel why bother to travel. I’m serious – my son’s grade school offered 70 language translations and support. I didn’t even know there were 70 languages spoken. I grew up in Canada when our winters were often this harsh and since the ’80’s I have felt like I was telling fairy tales to the new immigrants. We had less in common than our accents and clothes sense indicated.
This winter I can’t connect to their looks of astonishment about all the Arctic Freezes or Polar Vortexes. You get kind of racist about it – you look at certain people and you immediately judge how they are relating to the weather. Being a white Anglo-Canadian I am programed to be sensitive; to be respectful to other cultures who foolishly venture into our country. I honestly have begun to judge all people from Indian, Africa, the Caribbean and the Philippians to be ill prepared or just don’t relate. It pains me to see them walking around in the cold. Today I was talking to another small dog owner and we both were on the same page. She was a Russian immigrant. If we have anything in common – it is the weather. We both chose small dogs – we both didn’t brave the cold to take them for walks either.
I had to share my dogs’ misery – waiting to go somewhere. There is always the opportunity waiting around the corner, if you’re patient enough. ‘What’s that? Are we going? ‘
Finally – outside and she sees a friend who also likes to chill.
Weight always seems to be an issue – whether you are thin or not. When I was younger I was always too thin. I do know it changes you to be one or the other. When I reached my mid thirties I began to get heavy. Perhaps it is the foods of today or the activities. Maybe it is the nature of the animal. How many slim animals turn heavy as they age? Because I see slim and healthy older dogs and people I know we don’t have to be this way.
Pete & Me
When I was thin no one could understand my big energy and appetite. They went together is how it worked. I was burning those calories recklessly. I rarely strolled anywhere. I did however rest a lot because I’d wear myself out. Unfortunately I wasn’t immune to the trends for women in the 60’s on to be as thin as possible. I began to think I must be thinner. I became critical of myself and worked to keep my adolescent thinness. One thing that stood out from the beginning was my relationship with hunger.
I remember having food dreams. They were fantastic dreams – colourful and mouth-watering. They go back as far as I can remember. I woke up every day hungry and eager to eat. I seemed to be an anomaly. No one I knew ever wanted to eat first thing in the morning, nor did they have food dreams. As a teenager I experimented with hunger. I would eat a big breakfast and then the smallest lunch possible. I was hungry at lunch. I explored that feeling – not as an adversary but as a researcher. It was a pattern I kept for many years. I would enjoy an apple or avocado until every thing was gone – this represented a lunch. Supper was often a meal I hurried home to have but one that was late enough not to encourage snacks later on.
I don’t have those dreams any more. I think I stopped having them when I was too busy at university and started to wolf lunches and dinners and even skip breakfast because I’d sleep late after partying or study. We only had desert when I was growing up. I say this as ‘snacks’ were unheard of. Students use snacks as meals. In the working world snacks are everywhere. They were at the pub, the office, at parties and at friends homes. In the past twenty years of trying to keep my weight stable I have had to look at my beloved snacks. They have ruled me. Even when the snacks are ‘healthy’ ones. I love watching TV at night and the commercials are mostly about snacks.
Like my dog I would gladly eat [almost] anything, any time. I would love to wallow in my calories and enjoy the plumpness. When I hear how big my ass is or someone says I’ve ruined my dog – I seethed. It is one thing to let yourself go and another to be admonished for it. The last time someone said my dog was fat I said. ‘I am so tired of people saying this”. It stopped them and made them think. Then we talked about perceptions. Yes my Vet has said my dog should have a waist. She has also said my dog is healthy. I want health for my dog and myself. My dog loves exercise and helps me. She also is helping me with my snacks. This is because I share. I can’t share something that will hurt her so I must not eat those things either.
It has been over twenty-five years since I have been slim. In that time I have struggled. My metabolism is very different from my youth. I notice the weight when I move my body and try to fit into my regular clothes. Weight gain is unpleasant because your body no longer seems to be you and your clothes become a big disappointment. Recently I have begun to look back at my reaction to hunger. I’m not saying I have found a perfect way to address my weight. I eat a bit less. My walks are more frequent and brisker. I try to resist snacks – even if I make 20 trips to the kitchen and visit the fridge too often. If I fail I try not to beat myself up and resolve to do better tomorrow. This goes for me when I eat too late in the day or overfed the dog the chicken scraps. My weight seems to be stable and that just doesn’t cut it – not for me or my dog.
Hunger should be your body telling you its empty. Many times I haven’t even felt when I am too full. I indulge myself when I am even a little hungry. Now I wonder at my ‘lazy’ attitude. Yes we can’t be stressing out our bodies but who says a little hunger is a bad thing? As a migraine sufferer I can’t miss meals. I am allowing hunger back in. My dog has shown the way. She kicks her food bowl when she’s ‘hungry’ – even though I know she’s eaten well. This made me question my actions. Yesterday I had corn on the cob and a bagel for lunch and was still hungry at the end. Today it was a salad and a bagel and I am satisfied. Perhaps tomorrow it will be a salad and half a bagel. I know bagels are not diet food but this is better than a burger or pasta for lunch. Now both of us are experiencing hunger and at least in my dogs’ case I am seeing results. Perhaps I am too, but being bigger it may take longer.
Dali makes a friend
My Chihuahua is enjoying the summer, now that it isn’t the heat wave we had in July, and all the rain and flooding.
Flooded creek in my area – seen from my balcony
Dali under her blanket
Dali has been making friends. As you can see she isn’t the most energetic of dogs. I find that to get her to run, I must run as well. She enjoyed meeting this cute dog. The other dog that was there was too hyper for Dali’s taste. Someone said that my dog is very serious. It is difficult to capture her silly side in a photo though.
Today my son took this photo of her – lounging on the reading chair, under her blanket. It was a present from one of my students and Dali will follow it anywhere. Right now she is under it snoring. Chihuahua’s love to burrow.
Presently we’re off to the weekly farmer’s market together. It is nice to shop with your dog. I enjoy the walk there and back. I am looking forward to the fresh local peaches. The last batch was so sweet and juicy.
Running is all about the experience. Walking is more meditative. When I walk I tend to think about things in a dream-like way. Sometimes I forget about my posture which leads to some pain or twinge. Walking allows me to reflect on my surroundings and all I see, hear and breath. Running is very different for me – although the pauses and the blood pumping do heighten the visual. When I’m running I am very focused on my form. I have weak ankles and must stay focused so as to stay upright. I also suck in my gut and hold my spine up to protect it from my not so elegant running. I hate running like a girl. I work on that too – trying to power up my stride and form. The results are all good. I am finally rediscovering my waist and a firm musculature to my legs and but.
I haven’t run in years – many years. I remember running as a youth – just for the fun of it. Surprisingly it wasn’t very fun in gym class. I can only say that gym made it a chore and I hate chores. I would run down the gravel road or the dirt lane-ways with abandon. When I lived north of San Francisco I got into running – ran for 10 then 15 minutes at a time until I built up to a 1/2 hour. I never got higher than that as it was a good amount to stick to. My son was another motivator when he was quite young – we’d run a lot. Two years ago I got a dog to get me out of the house and to be a companion. When I’m alone I tend to read or paint – neither exercises anything but my eyes and hands. It is working. Dali and I go out every day – multiple times.
I live in an urban area that can get boring after a year of walking in the same parks or streets. I have used the baseball field for running as it is kept really smooth and has a stone-chip outer edge to the field, like a lane-way. After 2 years, even the dog is not too motivated some days. Out of desperation one day I took to running in the soccer field. For some reason it is more fun – perhaps because it is full of surprises [holes] and it is something new.
At first my running was pretty sad. One trip from goal post to goal post just about killed me. Now in the soccer field I feel elation. I can run up and down and across many times just trying to keep my legs pumping and staying upright. A few days ago I thought I instantaneously sprained both feet when I was in a real sprint. Humbled I limped along until I could try again. There is a sort of stiffness that has settled in to my tendons as I have aged – probably due to a more sedentary lifestyle.
Naturally my dog loves the running. I trick her when she’s sniffing at something and not paying attention – I sneak away as fast as I can. Naturally she’s at my side in no time. It is fun to look around and see her ‘flying’ across the field. She loves the challenge of not losing me. Running with her off leash is best for us both. With the leash she seems to think she has to win the race so it may look pretty funny with me running behind a Chihuahua in full-out running mode. It is even better to run around in the country. My parent’s collie thinks so too.
I turned 60 recently. It has really made me think about aging and taking your body for granted. I love going to the soccer field and running around like a nut while the local kids are playing nearby. They don’t seem to take any notice of me but they love the dog. As I look around I can see that I am the only adult having fun. Perhaps I am a less mature individual – I’ve always been a bit different. It shocks me that as we age we think we can’t be exuberant. Is there a rule?
All the dog-walkers in my area stand or stroll – no power walks or running. Their dogs must be very upset. Their inactivity makes me want to scream. Any adults I’ve asked have declined the idea of running with their dogs – they say, ‘they can’t run any more’. Of course you see runners in the park – if they have dogs they seem very happy.
Posted in aging, dogs, exercise, growing up, pets, running, walking
- Tagged Chihuahua, creative animal play, Dog, exercise, health, healthy-living, Recreation, Running, walking
Toys as Mental Stimulation
How it started: My husband had a plastic blow-up base-ball at work, that she grabbed when we picked him up one day. Dali would wrestle it – hugging, rolling, pinning it down and then carry it around triumphantly, when half deflated. It had to be repaired a lot. Then Dali found a plastic bag that had held bedding – that one came from the closet. It was bigger than she is and because it has to be supervised so she wouldn’t eat the plastic, it is now history – it was fun while it lasted. Then of course on laundry day she loves to wrestle the bags I use, once they are empty. This is how we started the ‘Naughty’ game. Whenever she finds something that’s OK but wasn’t given to her – we ask her, “Are you being naughty?”. This will get her very excited and off she runs with her prize, expecting to be ‘chased’. It is a great game. When she finds something ‘bad’ it is serious and after she drops it I thank her and off we go to the garbage.
The newest find: I use a lot of rags for my art clean-up and they come from old T-shirts and Hoodies. They are kept on my art shelf. Recently my Chihuahua found them. She is always checking out my art bag and my art supplies – so training is in progress. Getting back to this new toy idea, I see that a rag about 12″x18″ is perfect wrestling material for my pup. This is a T-shirt with the sleeves and neck removed. When you cut down the sides you can make it into 2 rectangles. I think that one of the reasons this is so interesting is that the T-shirts are from our old ones and they still must smell of us, although they have been laundered.
Naughty Dog with Loose Rag
shaking that knot
Success – Undone
Put the ball inside the knot – loosely.
“There’s a ball in there!”
a big shake
ball still inside knot
The Games: Dali brings me the rag and I loosely knot it and throw it as far as I can. Off she goes to retrieve it and worry it into submission [or whatever is going on in her imagination]. She even brings it to her bed to wrestle. After it is open again she brings it back to be rebuilt. Once tired of the loose knot I add the ball. The ball is rolled inside the fabric – leave it possible for the ball to come out. Dali loves to hunt for her ball – any ball. The knot throws better too and bounces a bit, adding to the excitement. When she gets the ball out she nudges it in my direction so I know she wants me to try again. This is a good opportunity to offer praise and join her in her happiness.
Mental, creative and physical play all in one. I really like this toy – it is simple and at the same time the dog gets to use its brain to figure it out. I believe it encourages fantasy play as well. Besides the ball I have added her chew antlers, the toilet rolls and scrap paper she loves. Now I have to stop her from searching for more ‘rags’ to wrestle.