Archive for January, 2011

Getting Better

I haven’t given up on the blog – it has just taken me a long time to get better after the flu. With my second son coming down with a slightly different version of the flu yesterday, we are still not through with it in our house.

But rather than dwell on health issues, I want to talk about my dog.

Penny is an almost 7 year old yellow lab/border collie cross. We got her from a farm family south of Edmonton. She was the only blonde in a litter of 8. Dad was a purebred yellow lab who drooled buckets but was a big sweetheart. Mom was mostly border collie but had some other sides to her as well – our vet thinks Penny has some greyhound in her based on her long, thin tail.

Penny was the most rambunctious of all the pups from what we could see. She would run around knocking over her brothers and sisters when we visited to look over the puppies. My third son was very taken with a chocolate coloured puppy that was a lot more docile but the majority voted to get Penny.


Penny as a pup

Our previous dog was a golden retriever named Molly. She was a rescue dog that we picked up from the Edmonton Kennel Club’s adoption program when she was about three years old. So Penny was our first experience with a puppy.

And it was an experience. Finding those little wet spots or piles on the carpet in the morning was always entertaining. We tried to crate train Penny but her cries and whines soon got to us and we gave up on that. She went to puppy kindergarten and learned a number of commands. There is no doubt that she is a smart dog – and if there is food involved, she learns all the faster.

Someone told us that labs take a long time to mature and leave puppyhood. Penny was no exception. She has sort of a goofy side to her and even today, with a little coaxing, will play as long as you want.


Hey, Who Took the Remote?

But there is another side to Penny that didn’t emerge until a couple years ago. In mid 2008, I became ill with salmonella. I ended up in emergency after a particular difficult night in and out of the bathroom. When I returned home from emergency, I promptly went to bed. While I was in bed, it took me a while to realize that Penny was coming into the bedroom on a regular basis. She would walk to my side of the bed and stick her nose in my general direction. She would stay for a minute or two and then wander off again. I realized after a while that she was checking up on me. She didn’t want anything; she was just seeing if I was alright.

Unfortunately the salmonella led to a condition called reactive arthritis. The arthritis caused my joints to swell, especially my knees and ankles. After the first session to have my right knee drained, Penny did something she had never done before. As I went to bed after getting back from the hospital, she jumped on to the bed and lay down beside me – and she didn’t leave until the next morning. As I got better, she her stays on the bed were shorter and shorter but there is no doubt she could recognize that I was sick.

With this latest case of the flu, I was quite ill for a couple of days. I ran a temperature of close to 104oF for a while and was quite out of it (even more than normal!). And again Penny hopped onto the bed and stayed with me. However this time was even different from before. Dog owners will know that our pets are creatures of habit. Penny will normally come into the bedroom between 6:00 and 6:30 every day – knowing that eventually I will get up and feed her.

But this time she jumped up around 10:00 at night and stayed for the entire night. I recall waking up several times and finding her lying right up against me as if being in physical contact was important. I had a restless couple of nights and found I got my best sleep around 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. Penny never left my side. I know she was hungry but unless I was going to get up, she was not going to move. When I did finally get up around 9:00 she waited until I actually got into the kitchen before she came out to get fed. And for the rest of the days, she was very attentive – wherever I went in the house she was there, including staying outside the bathroom waiting for me to finish.

I appreciate that I am the “alpha dog” in our pack but I am still touched by the concern and devotion she displays. Sort of makes all the other issues of pet ownership seem small in that light. She is definitely a “good” dog.


Our Girl


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I didn’t and I am paying for it.

I have been sick since Monday night so I am into my fourth day of this. I think I am getting better (however better is a relative term). At least, as of Friday morning, I am not spiking a temperature anymore. Wednesday afternoon I managed to hit 39.7 C (or almost 104 F for us old timers).

Last night was a great example of why you want to get your shot. I wasn’t feeling too bad and even managed to get down a grilled cheese sandwich. Go to bed at 10. Wake up – middle of the night. OK, check the time. 1:30. This is good – longest uninterrupted sleep since Sunday. Next, reflect on the very strange dreams – Picasso and Sartre would be proud. And then realize I am cold – even under the blankets. This is really not good. I am obviously going hypoglycemic (blood sugars were too low). Since I was diagnosed with diabetes last year, blood sugars have taken on new meaning in my existence.

But like getting out of a sleeping bag on a cold mountain morning, I have to do something about this. I start to shiver. This is really not a good sign because I know where this is going. So get up, throw on my sweats and a fleece top. I have to wear my slippers because the floor is too cold even through my socks. It gets worse as I start to shake. I make my way to kitchen after bumping up the programmable thermostat. It is now a problem to even pour the ginger ale that will hopefully boost my blood sugar. Recalling my winter survival course, I stop and get a toque and put it on. Back to the bedroom and throw an extra comforter on the bed. So now I have the inner flannel sheet, a thermal blanket and two comforters on the bed. I climb back into bed and still can’t stop shaking. It takes about 20 minutes after first drinking the ginger ale before I can at least stop shaking for a few seconds. After 30 minutes the shakes have stopped and I am starting to feel warmer. It takes a full 90 minutes before my feet feel warm. And this is the third or fourth time this has happened since I got sick. This is not fun!


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Rural Edmonton

It was actually quite amazing around end of the December. I had this incredible compulsion to write a philosophical tome on what 2010 had meant and my resolutions for the upcoming year. Thankfully, I resisted the urge – it must be something about blogging that brings the contemplative out in people.

But back to the real world. This time Environment Canada hit it dead on – a heavy snowfall warning for the city. It started snowing around 1:00 in the afternoon on Friday and really didn’t let up until Sunday afternoon. The official stat for the downtown weather station had Saturday’s total at 4.5 mm. Now the standard conversion is 10:1 (snow:rain) so that would mean we have had over 45 cm of snow. And to make it all more pleasant, we are moving into an Arctic cold snap.

Our street is now one-lane. (click to enlarge)

So not only do we have snow and cold, the side streets are almost impassible. When I moved here in 1975, people laughed at me when I asked when we should expect the snowplow. It was quite simple, they don’t plow the side streets in Edmonton. After our first snow fall this year, a cold snap froze the base, a warm snap turned the base in mush and now 50+ cm of new snow, so every trip out of the house is an adventure.

Now not that I have an opinion on climate change, but part of adapting to a changing climate is looking ahead and recognizing this sort of weather event may become more common. This is a La Nina year which for us usually means colder and wetter and guess what?

But on the other hand there is something to be said for having to battle the elements once in a while. Not too often mind you, but I think this is almost a healthy wake-up call for us not to get complacent about our world. One of my geography professors would always remind us that we don’t live on a benign planet and while we may be better at surviving, it can still bite you.


Birdhouse Snow Gauge after 48 hours of snow

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