The Adopted Dog Reveal

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Happy Miller-versary to our beloved, curious long-low-white! He loves toys and his inner circle of select beings. He is fearful and crabby to strangers, 999/1000 dogs, scooters, skateboards, the mailman, any and everyone that squeals “He’s so cuuuute!” (I warn those that start to lean over.)

Miller was adopted 3 years ago today and we’ve learned and loved this guy so much. He is, in a word, earnest. He throws himself into the Search For The Disgusting on every walk and wander. He plays hide and seek with a smile; rips toys apart with great joy except for the first one we gave him, which he is very enamoured with, still.

If he’s curious about something he is all in. If he’s afraid, ditto. The typical reaction to stress can be fight or flight; Miller puts the fight into it with gusto, barking and lunging to distance things that alarm him. He also will fool around – the mouthy grab of a leash, for example. (Learn more about the four Fs of Fear.)

Over three years Miller has wonderfully shown what I call the Adopted Dog Reveal. Patricia McConnell talks about 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months in the settling in of a newly adopted dog (and three ways to prevent problems); in our case I’m noting 3 years. So much has happened over a slow period of time with Miller. Read more

Sunday Morning Spiritual

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There are days when I want few words and a lot of walking in nature. I’m very fortunate to live in a city that is nudged up against nature everywhere you turn: mountain trails studded with rocks that lead to spectacular views; canyons with so many shades of green they seem unreal but to the people who live here; flat river deltas with herons, eagles, ducks, geese, kingfishers, red winged blackbirds and many more. It’s as common to see an eagle soaring as it is to see a robin; something visitors find amazing.

I have lived and travelled across Canada, but the West Coast is my heartland. It was an Ontario friend who introduced that concept to me. We were looking out on a deep green lake in Southern Ontario at the end of a summer, and when she heard I grew up in Vancouver, she asked about it. She admitted she wasn’t that interested in visiting; the ocean didn’t draw her. Canadian shield country, she said, this is my heart land. I’d never heard the term before but I recognized it. The West Coast is mine. Read more

The Tired Teacher

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I bumped into my friend Lynn the other night as I was out on a walk.

“Are you just coming home now?” I asked. Lynn leaves early for work; I often see her heading off when I take out Miller around 6:30.

“Yes!” she said, obviously tired. “I don’t like to complain, but this is a busy time of the year.”

Lynn is a teacher, and as anyone who has kids in school or is in the education system themselves can attest, this is a busy and yet listless time of year. Teachers are tired; kids are tired. June can seem awfully long. Read more

Yoga Joy, Balance, and Miller Man

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I’ve learned through yoga that balance is not stillness, as I first thought. As I waver on one foot and hundreds of micro movements happen in one pose, I’m in a process, not a static pose. It was a great discovery when I learned that, and each time I hope I’ll manage a tree pose, I remind myself trees move.

I’ve come to think about this in relation to Miller too. His state of balance is constantly changing. As a dog with many fears (other dogs, strangers, skateboards, and oddly shaped mail carriers with flapping rain capes among them), his physical balance in the world shifts all the time. Read more

Words That Caught me in May

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It has been a busier month than usual with work and at home, one of those months in which the hours have been packed and yet days are short in terms of what I hoped to get done. If I apply a hashtag for the month it will be #marathon. I’m grateful that the hours have been rewarding- my brain is happily popping with work and it has been a joy to watch my youngest as he circles and strides a track, pressing for his place at the Provincial meet coming up this weekend.

Recreational reading has been minimal, but I’ve been lucky to find some gems this month. Just yesterday I read this piece from Nathaniel Fleming, a medical student reflecting on the shift from self-centered student to healthcare provider. My friend Matt told me about the medical school mantle he and his classmates were given, a speech emphasizing how important they were to get into medical school, how important they would be. Fleming acknowledges that impression too, and talks about the shift when he realizes the meaning of his role, and how it balances with others in a healthcare situation. I’m curious how this plays out in teaching in medical school- the balance between knowledge itself, and developing the wisdom of how to support people in health and illness. How do you set up medical students to be open to wisdom? Read more

Pausing for Paws

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This morning as Miller and I walked I was reminded of Beverly Cleary’s Ribsy, one of my childhood book loves. Somewhere in the lines about Henry Huggins’ scruffy mutt was a description of his nails clickety clacking on the floor. It was one of Ribsy’s characteristics in more than one of the novels, if I remember correctly. Miller was clickety clacking this morning as we walked finally sunny sidewalks on our early outing.

Miller has great paws. The front ones are larger than the back ones and look like platters in comparison to the back. He often stands with them at second position, so I tell him he has plie paws. What does he care what I say about his paws if I’m holding a toy? Read more

Lifelong Learning

Although I’m not a teacher, I follow some education blogs. I’m interested in how curriculum influences thinking on what’s important (or not) in society. In addition to the what of curriculum, I’m also interested in the how of teaching: what are educators doing to engage their students? What are they doing to inspire kids to become lifelong learners?

When I say a lifelong learner, I don’t mean someone goes to school forever, although I suppose it could include that if you had the money and life circumstances. I’m thinking more of the “I can do this” mindset. When I took training in adult education, an instructor of one of the courses said that working with adult learners requires a sensitivity to the fact that no adult likes to look stupid. Walking into an education event isn’t always easy; adults are supposed to be capable and know all. The idea of school in any form is daunting for some. Read more

Library Love and Power

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I went to one of the older branches of the city library last night to return a book, and stopped as soon as I walked in so I could breathe in deeply. What is that library smell that’s so amazing? The place was quietly bubbling with people at tables shifting to reach this book or that, someone speaking with a staff member at the checkout desk, and a few others stretching to reach up or down along the corridors of shelves.

I’ve always loved libraries and spent a lot of time in our local branch as a kid. Friday nights my mom grocery shopped and I went to check out a stack of books. Librarians were all knowing and usually friendly, except for those who shushed at any sound above a scuff of a toe. Some librarians even frowned at that. Silence was golden in those days. Read more

The Sweetness of Saturday Morning

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Early Saturday mornings can be magical. I’m an early riser, up and out with Miller before the streets are streaming with cars or pedestrians. This morning the prediction was for rain, so I got us going immediately to walk while it was merely gray. It wasn’t gray and broody but light behind the clouds; very nice.

The neighbourhood was loud with little birds and crows, all sounding busy. It was Miller, me, and the occasional cyclist or runner. Miller was very good about both cyclists and runners; we’ve worked with him a lot* and he’s come along well in his response to them. These days it’s mostly a non-reaction (he may not even look at them), whereas when we first adopted him he would lunge and bark at both. I have counter-conditioning to thank for his response these days. Changing his reaction by giving him great food when something alarming appears has worked well. See a runner? Here’s some food. See a cyclist? Here’s some food. His response has changed so much that I don’t need to reinforce with food every time anymore. Read more

Beyond Words: Imagery’s Power in Health Education

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Last week I read about a Toronto artist using comics to teach about birth control, which is pretty great. Rebecca Roher teamed up with gynecologist Dr. Aparna Sridhar to create resources that are medically accurate, something Dr. Sridhar says she sees as a needed alternate to Dr. Google and the anecdotal information often found in online forums. However convincing someone might be in a forum, they aren’t a doctor examining you and your medical history. Read more