Tuesday, 20 August 2013

In the 80's when I was growing up in Scotland I don't remember too many reality tv programs being on the box. Back them there were no shows depicting the lives of rich American housewives or shows that locked up a dozen strangers a house, but there was One Man And His Dog. The concept was as real as it gets. You take a group of sheep, one smart border collie, and a man (usually older) with a long staff (stick) and a whistle who stands in the distance as the dog brings the sheep into the pen within a given time slot (hopefully). As a young, young boy I was glued to the tv. I was amazed at what those dogs could do, from afar, just from a few whistling calls of control from their handler. The older I got though the more I started to think that it was nerdy and wanted nothing to do with watching it.

Now though that I am about to take my wife to the Soldier Hollow Classic here in Utah on her return from California at the beginning of September, I have a a whole new respect for those dogs and handlers. Especially now that I have a border collie of my own who doesn't like to stick around when on a walk and instead likes to run off the beaten path and meet the neighbouring dogs and will not respond to any of my calls or whistles and I have to go scampering off in 100 degree weather to fetch him.

I might have to get myself some tips.

Monday, 19 August 2013

If You Love Someone, Set Them Free

Sometimes I can be selfish. I admit it, this not too long ago loner, has grown up, settled down, and become a family man. A man who values his time with his family. I've become a man who holds that time dear. Who doesn't want to give up too much of that precious time for others.

The best of times for me are simple moments. The time I roll over in bed - just before I fall asleep - spoon my wife and feel her fingers instinctively entwining mine just as she drifts off to dreamland. I live for her smiles, her touch, her warmth, the laughs.

The best of times don't involve going places, or buying things. If I had been a single guy the last 4 plus years I would have probably spent a lot more on books, on clothes, and kitted my camera out with more lenses but none of that I've missed. Some of the best times that we've had is when we've had no money. Just simple time together has been enough to make it great. We have something special going. In the same way that magnets do, or the tide and the moon.

Next week though I have to learn to be a little bit less selfish. I have to learn to share her with the world for 10 days. 

Have a wonderful time my dear.

Friday, 16 August 2013

One of the things I didn't want to talk about was getting that big scary C. It wasn't the cancer itself that was scary. I had learned to live with it for 18 months or so. When you have something visually growing in your body that shouldn't be there, you just kind of know. Even if you do hope for the best. And I was hoping that it would be something else. Every time I looked online for the symptoms the diagnosis was that it wasn't. So I would be like 'thats good, I can save up then'. Then that hot summer of last year came and passed, work dried up just when I needed it most and and spare money went on childcare, going to a clinic for diagnosis was put to the side.Without insurance it just didn't seem like an option that could be affordable. I knew if I went to a clinic and the diagnosis wasn't good and it was there in black ink that I wouldn't be able to shrug it off to the wife as nothing. At the same time if it was something big, and expensive I couldn't see how the wife could pay for those medical bills in the winter months when we would be relying on the one wage coming in. Besides the growth was only painful one or two days a month. The rest of the time it could be managed, with baggy pants, and sleeping in bed in some funky positions.

Eventually of course your body goes 'Hey, Stoopid! Why you no listening!?! You really that stupid, well I'll make you listen!'

Inevitably it did so right after Christmas, when I was hoping to hold off to Spring - when we might actually have money. No money, no insurance meant a trip to a clinic that deals with mostly immigrants in similar situations. By then the pain and resultant swelling was so severe, the doctor wasn't sure that he wanted to see or not see it. Had me confused at the 'let me see, no put it back', but nonetheless he was able to say that it wasn't Cancer. So those online diagnosis sites must be right after all. Money however was wasted on a scan that showed nothing due to the swelling. A shot leading to a sore bum with a 4 hour trip in the car later and two weeks of antibiotics should be the answer for that. No follow up by the doctor and his words ringing in my ears "its not cancer', a bank balance that allowed us to pay the bills and nothing but that month, and I use the excuse not to find out any more until I see some more money coming our way. For a while the pain subsided, and I could put the worry aside, then it returned.

By now I wasn't so good at hiding the pain. Hadn't been for a few weeks now. I'm sure I wasn't much fun to live with. I can be shrek like at the best of times, but the pain and worry was probably making life living with me extra unpleasant. Thankfully I have a wife that loves me through my unpleasantness, who despite my outrageous pride and for reasons unknown wants to save my anus, if not my ball.

She was able to find another clinic, who referred me to a specialist within a few days after yet more tests. Who then told me there was no time to waste and I had to come in again tomorrow.

Cue - the shakes.

Damn those shakes. I knew I had cancer. Despite what I had read online. Despite what I had been told earlier, I just knew. It wasn't s a surprise. I just put it to the back of my mind, and now here it was front and center. But still the shakes would not freaking stop. I hated those shakes more than the cancer itself. To me it was a relief, lets just get that thing out of there. The worst thing was the waiting, its spiritually draining just waiting, waiting, waiting some more. Its anti climatic. And yet it was nothing really, I had a great hospital care and I was in and out next day, god knows what it would have been like if I had to wait like many others before me have ad to do.

Six months on, those bills I thought I might not be able to afford 18 months ago are almost paid. Tomorrow I will see 36, and have yet another reason to love the woman in my life just a little bit more.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Dogs & Crates

I apologise, its been some time since my last confession blog post. Life has been busy, we have gone through plenty of changes, and life issues, some of which I didn't want to write about, others I did but just didn't have the time or had just plain lost the writing habit long ago and thus couldn't get it together.

Anyway lets skip over that. We have a new addition to the family and that is something that has brought up a concern to me. After two years of having a Jack Russell we decided it was time to get another dog. We've long thought there were times when she needed another dog around to help her with the separation anxiety that she seems to have suffered from since her last owners moved to Hawaii and we took her to our hearts. Unfortunately we thought our house was just too small to have two dogs running around, although the students who lived upstairs seemed to manage with four.

However when our lease was up, and the landlord gave us 8 days to make a decision whether to sign and stay for another 12 months or move, we discovered the cabin across the road was going to be available and we jumped. We were sad to move on, not least because it was the first house we got to chose together as a couple, but in exchange we gained a 3 level house with no neighbours above us, a new first for us. We may have lost a garden that took us 3 years to build but we also had new opportunities. The space that came with this new house meant that it was ripe for partying away from disturbing the neighbours too much and of course space for  a new dog.

We love having a Jack Russell, her energy is infectious, and the love that she gives us and needs from us in return has added so much to our lives the past two years, but she is, at times, willful, and the thought of having two dogs like that was too much, especially with our busy lives. Besides she always seems to do better with bigger dog. I had thought that having a medium sized dog like a Border Collie would be ideal. A collie would be smart enough not to do the things the she would likely want to teach any new additions to the house, and a collie would also be more loyal than the Jack Russell sometimes likes to be. So when we moved the wife found a 10 month old Border Collie mix available from a family that was moving to Japan, it sounded ideal. After travelling the 30 or so miles to Orem to pick him up we realised there was a bit more to the mix that we had originally thought. This dog was a big boy. But he took to us all instantly and so we took him home with us. Which brings me to concern.

I'm not sure when dog crates became so popular. I never saw dog crates being used much back in Scotland, at least I wasn't aware of it, but here in the US it seems to be routinely recommended by breeders, dog owners and veterinarians.

Carl's (that's his name, apparently the family were big on The Walking Dead)  previous owners had him sleeping in his crate at night, and had him cooped up in his crate during the day when the family were out of the house. The family clearly loved him, and the parting was hard for everyone concerned as we drove off home with him in our car. They gave the big boy a walk in the morning , and a walk in the afternoon daily but outside of walking and family time that is a long time to spend in the crate for any size dog never mind one as big as Carl.

Now I understand some of the advantages of dog crate training. It can be a useful tool for puppies to learn and keep them from mischief, and if you are going to travel a lot it can come in handy having a crate trained dog, but a a day after getting Carl home and making sure he was comfortable here I broke that crate down and put it down in the laundry room in the basement. Why? Well the poor boy must have had little more than 8 hours of freedom a day the past 10 months, if even that. After spending every night, and family work hours in the crate Carl didn't exactly have a dogs life. Just the time it took me to write this much has my legs itching to get up and walk around, I can't even imagine what Carl must have felt like unable to stretch his legs or roll over. Or what sort of thoughts he might have during that part of the day.

With this kind of restricted, impoverished environment its not surprising that he's kinda dumb. My concern is not that he's kinda stupid when it comes to being a pet, as a family we can take the time to learn how to train him in such matters but the fact that he doesn't know how to be a Collie/Shepherd saddens me and maybe I'm wrong on this but I can only put it down to him spending so much time in a crate.

By getting a slightly older dog, and a Border Collie (albeit a mix with a whole lot of Australian Shepherd thrown in) I had been hoping for a dog that was smart and to a certain extent trained. But unfortunately the poor boy had been in his crate so long that he had not learned the essence of being himself. What should have been a smart dog by default of his breed turned out to be pretty stupid boy.