Posts Tagged ‘Dog’

My coach

My coach

We all know that having a great exercise partner can mean the difference between success and failure. But why not turn your BFF into a fool-proof exercise companion?

I am going to try to train Cadie to do this. I think she’d really like it, and it would be a great way to burn some extra energy on days when we can’t get out.

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English: The end of dinner

English: The end of dinner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was walking Cadie through a darkened park yesterday thinking about how sluggish, over-fed and tired I feel. Let’s be honest, this over-fed, bloated feeling as I flit from one celebration to another is the epitome of a “first world problem” so I don’t want to complain, or sound ungrateful. I know I’m very blessed, and this is my favourite time of year. Still, I miss the warmer weather, the longer days, and my solitary walks along the trails with my little girl. I miss them so much that I thought I would dedicate today’s blog post to some of our favourite places, as I dream about how the days will be a little longer starting Saturday.

1) Cherry Beach. We don’t get there often, but it is the perfect place to watch the sun rise over the city. Especially in the winter: the wind is cold and brisk and gets the blood pumping. Cherry Beach has some of the city’s best views; whether you’re looking out over the lake, or back towards the city.

The view back towards the city from Cherry Beach

The view back towards the city from Cherry Beach

2) Sherwood Park. Sherwood Park is a great place. It’s a huge park, with a long, off-leash walking trail. It’s only a thirty minute walk from our apartment, so Cadie and I tend to go a lot. Less in the winter because of the shorter days, and the sidewalks are pretty mucky with salt, but we always have a great time once we get there.

Hello old friend, nice to see you again

Hello old friend, nice to see you again

3) The Brickworks. This is one of those places that I would hear everyone talk about, but I had never been there myself. This last fall I went with my friend A. The two dogs had a great time, and I was shocked to discover that it was within 20 minutes walking distance of our apartment. Guess what our new favourite place is? That’s right, Cadie and I were there almost every night from September until the time change at the end of October. I’m hoping we can get back out there for some weekend walks in the winter.

Some places deserve to be remembered

Some places deserve to be remembered

4) Mount Pleasant Cemetery. On our way home from a walk along the Brickworks trail we would always cut through Mount Pleasant Cemetery. This fall they changed their policy, and now dogs are allowed to walk through, provided they follow certain rules. I  know it sounds macabre, but I love the cemetery, and I’m thrilled that dogs are now permitted to walk through. Every where I look I see something old and beautiful. Trees that have been there for years, and people who have done amazing things.

In Mount Pleasant you’ll pass Sir Frederick Banting, Alexander Muir and William Lyon Mackenzie King, to name only a few. I’m also told that the cemetery is the resting place for some of Canada’s top generals from WWII. But I don’t just go to gawk; Mount Pleasant is a lush “living cemetery,” full of people  jogging, reading, strolling, and looking at the same things I’m looking at. It’s also one of the few places in midtown where you cannot hear the traffic. It’s might be a cemetery, but it’s a magical place.

5) Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens. When I first came on this small park it was dark, and I was walking quickly up Yonge Street. The front gate was so imposing and stately, I was sure I’d fallen in the book The Secret Garden, except for the fact that the garden isn’t secret. So I recommend that you take in this garden, if only to see the gateway in all its splendor. It’s a highly manicured park, often with tennis players in their whites moving around the back part of the park. It is definitely a place that you should see.

Garden escape

Garden escape (Photo credit: AshtonPal)

6) Sunnybrook Park. This is a huge park, connected to Toronto’s parks and ravine system. It’s not close (it takes nearly an hour to walk there), but it’s full of nature trails, an off-leash area and even some stables. Cadie and I have been known to spend a whole morning taking various trails, just to see where they would take us. This is the park where Cadie first overcame her fear of going into the water. We usually drive, park, and walk through the park to the off-leash area. But sometimes we walk up Bayview, and get the best of an urban walk, and a nature hike.

Cadie, grabbing a quick drink.

Cadie, grabbing a quick drink.

When I find myself feeling locked in I just try to remember that soon the days will start to get longer, and Cadie and I will be back on the trails. Are there any other trails that we should get to know this winter?

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English: Meditation

I got to work a couple of weeks ago, completely flustered. It was a totally Murphy’s Law day, where almost everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, nothing was huge, but I was caught in a traffic jam—in my own parking garage, no less. This made me late for a dentist appointment, which in turn made me late for the office. Once at the office I had to scramble so that I wouldn’t be late for my flu shot appointment. But between the traffic jam before ever even leaving home, the slow pace of traffic up Yonge St. and having to deal with the computer from the movie Office Space, I was completely flustered and haggard by 10:30 in the morning. In fact, I didn’t start to relax until after my flu shot, when I said to one coworker that what I needed was to be forced to sit quietly with a cookie for 15 minutes. We laughed, because isn’t that something we could all use: 15 minutes when we’re not being pulled in every conceivable direction. Fifteen minutes to do nothing but think about breathing in and breathing out, while waiting of course to make sure the vaccine doesn’t make us sick.

In talking to another coworker I came to understand that I do this a lot. I’m chronically over-extended. In fact, this second woman went as far as to characterize me as being over-extended. This was a real shock to me. I’ve always described myself as being laid back. How could I have missed such a crucial personality flaw? All I  can figure is that people who are over-extended have very little time for introspection. Even the time I’ve set aside for meditation is tightly planned. I have a 6-minute guided meditation with a row boat, then I do 2:30 minutes of thankful prayer, then another 6 minutes of meditation—it’s not really free-form, but it’s supposed to help me sleep, so it’s not really guided either. So then, I started to wonder, do I really have time when I can let my mind be still? When I just let myself be, and enjoy that time?

The good news is that there is. Every night after dog park I bring Cadie home, and I put her in the bath tub. She really doesn’t like the tub, but she accepts that dirty little paws have to be cleaned, so she gets in the tub, and hands me her paws one after the other until all 4 are clean.

Lounging on my impossibly formal couch–or chesterfield

Then I lift her out of the tub, sit her on my lap with her little feet sticking straight out, and I rub them dry. Then I pet her back. Cadie will lay her head against my chest, and exhale deeply, making a little sound of satisfaction. Then she snuggles the crown of her head under my chin. This is where we stay…for about 2 minutes. 120 seconds. I try to take my time saying it—One-hundred and twenty seconds. Normally this amount of time would pass in the blink of an eye, but this is when I am happiest, so I try to drag it out. This is the moment that we’ve both waited for all day, and we both do our best to make this moment last.

So there, with her little head under my big chin, her little ears twitching as my breath grazes them, we both relax, reclining into the formal chesterfield, her wrapped in a towel, me sometimes under a blanket. My mind becomes still, and I focus on how much I love her, and how grateful I am to have this happy little soul in my life. It’s the cosiest moment of my day, and like meditation I’ve been known to fall asleep like this–especially if the weather is particularly cold.

But all good things must end, and I’ll do something stupid like reach for her paw, or adjust my hold of her back slightly. Cadie will push herself up, give her head a shake, and just like that the moment has passed; now we’re back to reality. The pace picks up again as I go about getting her dinner, and of course the treat she has earned by enduring the indignity of having to go in the bathtub. I also have to clean the bathtub, get my own shower, and then make my own meal and get started on whatever chore I need to tackle after dinner.

It might not be long, but I carry that stillness with me until I can recharge myself again, until I can sit and care for Cadie. It’s nice to know that in an imperfect world we can always have at least one-hundred and twenty perfect seconds to sustain us.

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I’m grounded this week. I haven’t been feeling well, and it’s been busy at work, so I have decided to skip my workout. That means that I’m putting more energy into household chores. It’s also a good excuse to obsess about stupid things, and master some very important skills, like making the bed without making the dog move.

Step 1: Wait until the dog leaves the room and frantically start pulling the fitted sheet over the corners.

Step 2: See a black streak go by your eyes and realize that you just aren’t as fast as she is.

Step 3: Don’t be tempted to try to order the dog off the bed. She may jump down, but she’ll be back, and it’s really more of a hassle to try to move her.

Step 4: Make sure the dog is sitting right in the  middle of the bed.

Step 5: Gently pull corners over the mattress, move to the other side and do the same thing.

Step 6: Get flat sheet and find an open corner (that’s easy, since all the corners are open). Line the sheet  up on the one side of the bed, while making a small pile with the rest of the sheet.

Step 7: When the dog gets up to examine the pile, move quickly and gently pull the sheet flat under her feet, and across the other side of the bed.

Step 8: Lift the end of the mattress to tuck in your sheet, pointing and laughing at the dog when she is surprised by the sudden movement.

Step 9: Get the duvet. This is when having the dog in the middle of the bed is most helpful.

Step 10: Throw the duvet over the dog’s head in a vain attempt to try to intimidate her.

Step 11: Panic, thinking the dog will get confused under the blanket and fall off the bed, breaking her legs. Pull the covers away from her head.

Step 12: Move around the bed cooing gently and saying kind words of positive reinforcement, so that the dog gets completely mixed messages, and in her confusion refuses to move from her spot in the middle of the bed.

Step 13: Line up the duvet to any available part of the bed.

Step 14: Give up in despair as the dog moves to the biggest pile of duvet, making any further progress impossible under the current circumstances.

Step 15: Stop for a cup of tea–maybe a break will convince the dog to move.

Step 16: Come back to the bedroom to find that your “break” has had no effect on the dog’s position.

Step 17: Pick up the dog.

Step 18: Smooth out the duvet.

Step 18: Put the dog down, and realize that she has just made her way back to the bed.

Step 19: Replace pillows.

Step 20: Make sure all favourite toys are accounted for.

Step 21: Accept that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s just a bed after all.

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It’s been a long time since our last hike, so Penelope and I decided that we would take the dogs out for a nice winter hike. We decided to stay within the city’s ravine and park systems, rather than risk driving out  of the city.

The weather was spectacular: bright sun, blue skies, and warm temperatures. When we first arrived on the trail it was like we’d fallen into a movie. There were kids tobogganing, people skiing, and tons of dogs leaping and barking at the ends of their owners’ leashes. It was a huge party.

The only thing that went wrong was the huge patch of ice we had to cross — you can see some of it behind Penelope there. I started out going across it too quickly, and nearly fell. From that point on Penelope and I decided it would be best to support each other, so we held hands, laughing about it the whole way.

The views were spectacular. The snow was so picturesque, and the dogs had the funnest time.

As you can see, Cadie did not want to wait behind while Toby strode on ahead.

It was so nice to be able to get our exercise outside, to be out talking to people, and having a nice catch up session ourselves.

The truth is that it was a great workout. We finished this hike as tired as we were after our hike back in the fall. The best news is that there was no salt to irritate the dogs’ paws, and it’s right in the city, so it’s a quick trip.

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I don't know how much more of this I can take!?!

Since it seems that the entire northern hemisphere is snowed in, rather than stew about how inconvenient the weather’s been–how it’s kept me from getting to my cardio classes, and causes me untold stress at work–I’ve decided to dedicate a day to celebrating ways to enjoy the snow, and getting fit at the same time. After all, winter’s only just beginning.

Equipment: good boots, warm clothes.

Benefits: walking in the snow is a good way to up the ante on your walk workout. The snow provides extra resistance, so a 20 minute walk at a good pace will feel more like a 40 minute walk. I took Cadie to the park on Saturday to walk in the deep snow. She loved it, and the dog who usually needs 2 hours of exercise was ready for a nap after only an hour. Plus, the temperature is usually warmer when it snows, so it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the scenery.

Street view

As you can see my super takes good care of the building; she usually has us all dug out before 6:30 am. Still you can see the street just beyond the sidewalk; it’s not a good day for a drive, but it is a good day to go snowshoeing.

Equipment: regular boots, snowshoes, warm clothes.

If you are looking for an exercise that will really work your legs you should think about snowshoeing. The idea behind snowshoeing is that the large surface of the racquets sinks only a little, compared to the projectile shape of the foot, that will sink right through loose snow. That’s important to remember, because what it means is that snowshoeing works best on fresh, deep snow. One of my favourite memories of Cadie as a puppy was a cold winter day when she and I went snowshoeing together on the beach. She trotted along ahead of me, and I struggled to keep my feet straight, and underneath me.

The snow may not be deep enough yet for snowshoes

The real exercise comes in trying to maintain your balance, so it’s good for your thighs, butt and core, plus it’s a lot of fun to watch people fall into the snow.

Hide and Seek with the dog
Equipment boots: warm clothes, dog toy

This is a great hiding place for a dog toy

Most dogs love snow, and it’s a good way to burn a lot of energy outside the house. Cadie and I discovered Saturday that hiding her tennis ball in the snow made for an exciting tracking game. It was great; she got to use a lot of little-used natural dog skills, like sniffing, digging and barking. The combination of physical exercise combined with mental exertion tired her out super quickly, and she had a lot of fun at the same time.

This picture isn’t going on the internet is it?


Equipment: boots, warm clothes, toboggan, hill, tight, packed snow
Hiking back and forth up a hill while carrying a toboggan offers fairly obvious exercise opportunities, but they are coupled with the thrill of going down the hill. Tobogganing is a lot of fun, and no one is ever too old to enjoy it.
Equipment: nylon socks, warm clothes, skates, ice

Skating is a great activity; the only problem is that, when using an outdoor rink, you can’t skate during or right after a blizzard, when the weather is warmest, and the scenery most beautiful. Still, skating is a good, low-impact workout, and a great way to catch up with friends while staying active.

Of course there are more activities you can do, this is just a sample, and I tried to focus on activities that people can do almost anywhere. Don’t worry if you look a little silly, no one looks good during a blizzard. The most important thing to remember is that a relaxing thawing out routine is essential to enjoying winter weather. Mine involves a cup of hot chocolate and a quick nap under a warm blanket.


Are my paws dry yet?

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Flying Around…

My WikiStatus: busy

Image via Wikipedia

Every now and then I feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that has to get done in a week. This first week back to work has been pretty bad, which is only to be expected I suppose. This week the issue is that the dog, who has been spoiled by having me home and at her beck and call for the last week, is sulking that I now have to go back to work. The sulking that takes place during the day turns into a rangy temper tantrum as soon as I walk through the door. 

Last night I announced, to anyone who would listen, that I was going to “walk her until her legs fall off.” This didn’t happen; she bested me, and after nearly 2 hours of walking up and down city streets, and throwing the ball in a park, Cadie was still bouncing off the ceiling, until about 11:30 pm. It’s at these times that I ask myself how do working mothers do it all. I mean it’s one thing when it’s a dog driving you nuts, you can lock them in the bathroom for 30 minutes if you have to, but you can’t do that with kids. How do you manage rangy kids, rangy dogs, a pile of housework, and a busy work schedule, while not losing your mind, and what’s wrong with me that I can’t do it at all?

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