When Fancy is Turning

March 29, 2008

cowbird courting
I read someplace once that February 14 was chosen as a celebratory day for lovers because it was observed that in mid-February, songbirds start exhibiting mating behaviour. And indeed, on February 11 I saw, on one end of the fallen log that lies just inside the fence on the far side of the parkette in front of our building to the north, a bird. A male house sparrow he was, looking pretty small on that log, but proudly shaking his fanned tailfeathers like a peacock on espresso. “Here I am, ladies! Your chick magnet has arrived! Take a number!” I can vouch that in mid-February, the sight of that much cheery sex appeal brought a smile to more than one species.

Six weeks later, the filthy old snow is still ebbing from parks and soccer fields and front yards. The sidewalks are mostly clear, though, and poggles — oops, I mean Cai — and I can go walkies at a good clip now.

Since his leg owie, when he was limping from a pulled ligament, Cai has been learning to walk nicely on leash. That’s because Mummy dislikes pratfalls. So we’ve been going up street and through alley and along river, noting gradual changes as Spring comes to the city.

Some of these changes are happening throughout the province: the Red-winged Blackbirds, for example, are returning to the still-frozen ponds. (And now, thanks to the March 12 and March 24 entries of The Marvellous in Nature, I know what they’re eating!)

Other changes are distinctly urban. We’ve seen people hacking at the ice in their backyards and banishing winter over the fence. The other day, the storm sewers were full, flowing merrily merrily down the street. Bundle-buggies are out again in  full force.

Finally, there are changes  that belong to the Little World — the world of little creatures, or personal significance, or both. For instance, earlier this week, I went out for walkies without needing either mittens or four layers of shirt-and-sweater under my parka. On the way back, Cai and I surprised a female sparrow bathing in a real live puddle. (Maybe she was getting ready for a date with Mr. Espresso Peacock, who knows?) Today, I saw a baby’s mitten placed on a fence picket, resembling a tiny pink cactus, and it looked out of place.

And yesterday, fresh in from walkies, we heard a familiar yipping in the back field. Cai looked up in barklove (thanks for the phrase, Aged Cat!), and I said sure, we’d go out again. It was his best friend, the little Jack Russell from the next building. With the combination of lousy weather and his play restrictions, Cai hadn’t seen her for a few weeks. We went out to say hello, and there was the JR, racing around all nudie, freed at last from her faux-sheepskin jacket.


Cardigan may help alleviate symptoms of menopause

February 29, 2008

where's the ball?

My brother and his wife live on a hundred acres of scrubland with four or five dogs. One night, my partner and I stayed over, sharing the pullout couch with a midsized Jack Russell cross. Since we were in fact sleeping in the doggie’s bed, she naturally stayed the night.

I didn’t toss and turn — there wasn’t enough room — but I did awake several times. Not once, however, did I have a hot flash. I found this lack of torment nothing short of miraculous, and attributed it to the serene snoring of our canine companion. I had heard that pets can lower blood pressure; maybe they can ease menopause symptoms as well, I reasoned.

Turns out my assumption was a false one, but the thought of getting a dog of our own was a graspable straw that took the fancy of both my partner and me. We discussed it with friends, researched the various breeds, and on Remembrance Day 2006 we drove out 60 miles to pick up our little Cardigan Welsh Corgi pup.

I still get hot flashes. They’re lovely things, filling me with self-loathing and shame, simply because their heat mimics the physiological symptoms that occurred in childhood whenever I was embarrassed or a parent scolded me. They will end someday, and I would rather have them than breast cancer (a possible side effect of HRT meds).

Meanwhile, my dog helps alleviate my feelings of shame and worthlessness. Dogs are much more childlike than cats. I fill my cat’s kibble dish twice a week, scoop the litterbox about as often, occasionally leave him for a long weekend, and he’s fine. But my little Cardi needs more of my help. He can’t use a litterbox, and he doesn’t sporadically nibble on kibble the way cats do, needing instead two prepared meals daily. My dog gets me outside of myself.

In fact, my dog gets me outside, at least three times a day: morning potty, and two half-hour-plus play sessions (my partner oversees the before-bedtime potty). This season has been the snowiest we’ve had in ten years; I never would have gotten all this daily exercise if I didn’t have my sturdy little Cardi. And I never would have been forced to live winter the way I have this year, studying the changes in the snow, and spying the local kestrels and the wintering red-tailed hawks soaring over the high-rises.

I also wouldn’t have met so many other people. It’s a real sanity saver for me, an introvert, to have made so many acquaintances. Just when I’m feeling blue, one neighbour or another is waving hello and tacitly affirming my right to share the planet. Dog parents are like any other parents, happy to meet and chat while their little ones play together. We compare notes, share a laugh, and delight in the special friendships that develop between our own dog and that of our neighbour.

Come to think of it, two of my dog’s favourite playmates are Jack Russells. Poetic justice?