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.

Faith + Love

On December 28, I received a call from a nurse at the long term care facility where my father had been a resident since August 2008, telling me that she had just started her rounds and found my father to have no vital signs. That she had called the Doctor who would pronounce him Dead. On January o3 family and friends bade him a found farewell at the church at which he had worshiped for over 45 years since coming to Canada. I was, as my wife puts it, point man, orchestrating many of the things that enabled today's memorial service to take place. One of them was asking a lady that Charlie greets in the park every morning to care for him while my wife and I attended my father's service.
I took Charlie to the park, as usual, and went for a long walk with him, as usual. But when it was time for me to leave, I handed Charlie off to Danielle. While Charlie initially went willingly with Danielle, he got pretty concerned when he heard me start the car and drive away without him. I could see him straining at his lead through the rear-view mirror.
And that's where faith entered the picture.
At that point I needed to have faith that Danielle's love for Charlie as well as her experience with her own dog would ensure Charlie's safety.
I had to have faith that somehow Charlie would understand that I loved him and that I would return for him just as soon as possible. That he was not being abandoned (again).
And at a higher level, I had to have faith that my love for my father was guiding my hands, head and heart appropriately.
The resident Pastor, and my brother (who is also a Minister) shared the leadership of the memorial service. Together they spoke of his love of God and for his family. Of the faith required to immigrate to Canada with a wife and five children, to start anew, to work things out, and the courage that's fueled by genuine faith - deep and abiding faith that enables us to believe that we have made good, sound decisions and that all will be well through-out and all the way to the end.
And so it was for my father.
My father taught us all to love one another - to be kind and considerate, to respect and care for others - and to have faith in God, in his guidance and importantly that the combination of love, faith and our daily best is enough.
Thanks to my father and Charlie I now understand that much better.
When my wife and I picked up Charlie we found a happy dog who had not only enjoyed his visit with Danielle - but with her husband Paul as well. Danielle and Paul lost their dog a few months ago and found Charlie to be a kind, considerate, bundle of unconditional love who was more than happy to spend his day playing with them.
As I write this blog I am reminded of how blessed I am. To have had a wise father to support and guide me well into my mature years. To have a strong spiritual foundation to build on to see me through and pull me through the tough times and the good times. And to have Charlie to remind my of how love and faith combine to give us the courage to face today and tomorrow with the confidence that comes from knowing that today our best was good enough.

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.