I'd say that Charlie loves routine as much as my wife hates routine. I'm more like Charlie than Michelle. For the last three months Michelle and I worked hard to get our home in Toronto ready to rent in April because we needed to move to Winnipeg. I tried my best to keep Charlie calm by respecting his routine: including feeding, down and walk times. To make a long story short we got through it all and now we're setting up a new life in Winnipeg where we'll help care for Michelle's father. And Charlie has become a different dog. In Toronto he was the cock of the walk, the dominant dog who challenged all comers. Here he's the new kid on the block, treads lightly and never strays far from my side or the house for that matter. It's been two weeks now and each day we walk the same 4 km. route to help him establish a new territory he can mark - and make his own. It's working. He's becoming more relaxed and walks with greater confidence and purpose. And we have to go around his territory counter-clockwise. Very important. Why? Please re-read the opening sentence.

Bonding with 4 winter boots

I've heard that it takes a few weeks for us to internalize change. Seems that rule applies to Charlie as well. Just before Christmas the salt trucks came round to make driving safer in our neighborhood. But Charlie hates road salt (in his paws) and refused to go on the road that leads to the park that he loves to play in. So Michelle and I bought Charlie a set of winter boots.
He hated the idea - and hid in his room (AKA the Hall Closet).
I put them on anyway and dragged him out for his walk.
1/2 way through the walk he began to trot, and by the end our the 'walk' he ran.
Here we are - three weeks later. He's wearing his boots most every day because of the road salt. When we come in from our walk I take his boots off and lay them in front of a heating vent to ensure they're warm and dry for the next walk.
In the last few days I have noticed that Charlie is going to the air vent to pick up a boot or two which he then takes to his day bed.
It seems he's learned the value of his boots and bonded with them.
A lot of the good things in my life were also rejected before they were embraced.

The Two Legged Dog . . .

Recently Charlie and I were watching that 'dog wisperer' show. You probably know the one. Most episodes are pretty much the same. Out of control dog gets put in his place and is happier for it. This show was different. It featured a little two legged Jack Russel kinda dog. He hopped around like a kangaroo and flopped onto his belly when at rest. His owners had made him a carriage that would allow him - and the rest of the pack - greater mobility. The dog whisperer was there to help the dog into the device and help him explore his new-found freedom. The show ended on a high note.

For some reason I thought of that episode last night after talking to another dog walker who was feeling melancholy.

What was moving was the happiness of the little two-legged dog and the couple who loved him - just the way he was. There was no physical disability as far as the dog was concerned. Better yet - he was part of a pack that adored him.

And that's what got me thinking. It made me think of how happy we are when we remain in the moment. When happiness comes from within. When it is not a relative thing based on me or us having more than you.
Charlie has taught me - and reminds me every day - that life is good. That I should give thanks for what I have. And that wishing for what others have destroys the happiness of the moment we're in and all of those to come.

I found this attributable quote 35 years ago: it's an integral part of my life now.

Happiness is the ability to make a bouquet out of the flowers within reach.


Where I live winter days and nights are generally overcast - hiding the sun by day and the stars and moon by night. When I take Charlie, my black poodle, for our evening walk he blends in with the night and the dark fields we walk through. To 'see' him I need to listen for the tinkling of his dog tags - and then look carefully for a place in the field that is even darker than the surrounding area: a little black hole so to speak. And when I draw close - there's Charlie laying in the grass, tail wagging.
Once the snow comes it'll get easier.
For now Charlie's lesson for me is this: that which you love and treasure most will always stand out - and can always be found (again). But not always in the manner in which we expect. My ears and 'night vision' serve me far better than the narrow beam of a flashlight.

More about apples

Winter arrived in the meadow in which Charlie and I take our morning walks. Most of the leaves are down and the tall grass that Charlie loves to jump through, like a little furry gazelle, is gone. Underfoot all is crunchy with frost, topped off with a dusting of snow. Here and there, there are bushes with bright red berries and a few old apple trees are hanging on to their fruit as well. On some trees - one red apple. On others many. On all of them - the fruit hangs between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. The windfall, the low hanging fruit and the tops are long gone. Left are the tenacious fruits coveted by many of the meadow's hungry creatures. And as they hang there, glistening in the morning sun I see something else as well. The druid's inspiration to decorate trees with bright red and yellow orbs.