It’s Gus’s Big 5.0!!

It’s Gus’s fifth birthday today!  Like any mom, I’m excited, proud and a bit nostalgic all at the same time.

While I can’t believe 5 whole years have passed, I also can’t seem to remember a time when Gus wasn’t part of our lives.  I am also doing my best to not focus on the down side of time marching forward.  I have vowed to keep it positive!

So we will celebrate this birthday as we always do – with some treats, some special members of the family, and with a toast to all the things that make Gus so important to us all.  I thought I would post a few pictures to help tell the story and to bring you some smiles. Happy Birthday Big Guy!

First bath

Best stick ever!

Hangin' out with the gang

Frisbee love

Mom made me wear this hat

With my brother Lucky

Life’s great!
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Who needs the gym?

Okay, so it’s the second week of January.  This is the hottest time of year for sales of gym memberships and fitness equipment.  Save your money and get a dog!

If you’re bundled up, the fresh air, sunshine and the crisp snow are more powerful stimulants than anything they’re pumping into the stale air in one of those windowless gyms.  Besides, you don’t have to listen to that droning disco music in the background!

I make a point of running around with Gus – up and down the hills, and across the snowy fields.   I get my leg exercises by kicking up clumps of snow for him to jump for.  To be honest, just tromping through the heavy snow with boots and snowpants often feels like I’m  wearing extra leg weights.

When we’re all done, I feel just as “worked out” as if I’d been at the gym.  The bonus is that it doesn’t cost anything, and I get a wonderful sloppy thank you from my workout buddy!

Don’t Be Afraid To Make The First Tracks

So here we are again.  The fields are covered in snow.  The sun is blazing, despite the -15 degree temperature.  It’s a beautiful day to be outside, as long as you’re dressed for the weather.

I love to stand at the top of the hill and look down onto the sparkling expanse of snow below.  I’m always a bit reluctant to take the plunge and begin tramping ahead with Gus.  Somehow it seems a bit sad to puncture the pristine snow with my clompy boots and his prancing paws.  Never mind.  On we go, and before long, the field is a mess of footprints and pawprints; leaving evidence of everywhere we’ve been.   For the past two mornings we have spent ages outside in the fields; running and playing in the snow, and working up a sweat despite the freezing temperatures.  We’ve had the best time.

It’s a bit like life itself, isn’t it?  When we are about to begin something fresh and new, we stand on the brink, contemplating what we are about to dive into.  It’s often a mix of excitement, wonder and trepidation all rolled together that can keep us perched there; immobilized.  As if we’re afraid of ruining that perfect image before us with our footprints and actions, as we forge ahead into new territory.

You’ll think I’m nuts, but I’m reminded of something silly from my childhood.  When we were little, my siblings and I used to argue over who got to “break the rink” on a new jar of peanut butter, by being the first one to dig a knife into it.  (Boy, were we easy to entertain!)  I guess we knew then that it was less important to gaze at the perfectly smooth surface than to get on with taking the plunge, and enjoying what would come next.

Get going!

A season for miracles and giving thanks

What a wonderful time of year.  Though it really hasn’t been a tough winter, it still always feels so good when spring finally arrives.  Over the past few weeks, Gus and I have marveled at the changes unfolding around us.

The last snowball of the season

Snow seems like a distant memory, and the fields are moving from frozen to muddy, to dry grass crunching under our feet.

First spring crocuses

The first brave flowers are poking their heads up through the hard dry ground.

Gus has been very serious about checking them out.

Snowdrops

Everywhere we walk there are new sights and smells as the earth wakes up and reveals the promise of spring once again.  It’s hard not to smile as we stretch our arms and legs  in the warm sun, without the heavy layers we have been used to wearing outdoors.

It’s no coincidence that the theme of rebirth and renewal turns up in many holidays and celebrations at this time of year.  My family observes the Jewish holiday of Passover.  In addition to commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, the symbols that we incorporate into our celebration also remind us of this wonderful season where everything is new and beginning to grow. We include eggs and fresh greens among the items we eat as part of our special Passover meals.   Eggs and bunnies as symbols of new life are part of the Easter celebrations observed by many this weekend.

It’s not hard to view the bursting forth of bright new flowers and new life as a miracle after the barren and bleak winter season we have just finished.  The theme of miracles also shows up in all of the seasonal festivals that take place at this time.  In our traditional observance, we retell the ancient story and we give thanks for the miracles that have allowed us to reach this festive season once again.

Well, as it often does, life imitates life itself.  Yesterday Gus and I lived through our own little story, complete with a small miracle at the end.

So here’s what happened:

We had a wonderful hour-long walk on the most beautiful day.  We were just heading towards home, when along came a kid sitting on his skateboard, flying towards us along the sidewalk.  He wasn’t doing anything wrong at all – just having fun at top speed.  He would’ve zoomed right by us, but something about the sight of him completely spooked Gus.  Now, let me tell you, when 80-plus pounds of Labradoodle decide to take off in the opposite direction, there really isn’t much you can do to hold onto that leash.  So, off went Gus; back in the direction we had come from -running as fast as he could and dragging his leash behind him.

At this point the kid with the skateboard realized what had happened, and he felt really badly.  So he started skateboarding after Gus, trying to catch him for me.  I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Thank you, but please don’t!  He’s afraid of the skateboard!”  Sure enough, Gus was running away from him even faster.  Nice kid – at this point, he heard me and dropped the skateboard and started running after Gus at top speed.   By this point I was running too, trying to catch the kid.  I finally got him to hear me yelling, “Please just stop!  He thinks you’re chasing him!!”  Finally he did.

By this point Gus was out of sight; presumably running all the way home to get away from this terrible scary creature.  Now, you have to realize that going home is great, except it was about 5 km from where we were, and it involved crossing a very busy major 4-lane road to get there.  I called Jeff on my cell phone and told him to get the car and see if he could catch up with Gus before he got to that road.  In the meantime, I ran as fast as I could, trying to find him.  All I could think of was Gus bolting out into that busy traffic. . . I was terrified.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, except for the fact that Gus did run across that busy road, and that somehow he made it across in one piece. Jeff found him panting on the other side, in the field we had crossed through a half an hour earlier.

Some miracles are huge, like the parting of the sea to let a whole nation cross safely.  Some are much smaller, involving only a frightened dog safely crossing a very busy street.  Nevertheless, a miracle is a miracle, and it is truly something to feel thankful for.  At this special time of year, I hope you can find a miracle or two in your own life, and that you can give thanks in whatever way is meaningful for you.  I certainly have.

Amen

Home safe and sound

It’s the journey itself that matters most

This morning at the end of our walk, Gus bounded up the front steps and plopped down as he always does to wait for me to toss him his cookie.  There he is in the picture, sitting and waiting for our little ritual that marks our return home.  It suddenly dawned on me that, in the four years we have spent together, Gus and I have been on more than 1200 walks!  When I think about the mileage we have covered, it is truly mind-boggling.  I have worn through several pairs of walking shoes to prove it.  As I pondered this, I was struck by an even more incredible fact.  Despite the distance we have covered together, we always end up in exactly the same place at the end of our walk:  right on our own front porch where we started!  I suppose you could say that, despite all of our walking, we haven’t really gone anywhere at all.

What a concept.  Walking and walking, yet ultimately ending up right back in the same place.  To some, it might seem crazy.  But not to me.

You see, for Gus and for me it’s the walk itself that is the whole point.

Sure, a daily walk is a great source of exercise and fresh air.  I highly recommend it for all the obvious reasons.  But, if you’ve been reading here for a while, you will know that  there is so much more that happens when we are out walking together.  Every day on our journey we meet people and dogs. We make new friends and share experiences.  We are inspired by magical sights right in our own neighbourhood.  In fact, it is while we have been out walking, ultimately going nowhere, that all the important lessons have occurred.

Today is my 49th birthday.  I’ve had a perfectly lovely day.  I got hugs and good wishes from family and friends near and far.  I had lunch with two incredibly special women. I had dinner with my wonderful family.  And I started it off with a very long walk outside with Gus on a beautiful snowy day.

I was thinking this morning that life itself is like these daily walks.  I don’t want to be morbid, but let’s face it, we are all going to end up in the same place we started out eventually.  Dust to dust, and all that stuff.  Each time we mark the passage of another year, it’s as if we are setting out on another walk – one that will end up at our next birthday.  I truly feel that the years themselves aren’t the point at all.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been hung up about revealing my age.   To me, it’s what we’re doing on that journey between the milestones that really matters in the long run.

As I look back on the past year, I am overwhelmed by all that I have seen, done and learned on my journey.  I have met and developed relationships with so many incredible people.  I have marveled at the wonders of the changing seasons and the magical sights that have been right in front of me all the time.  I have learned valuable lessons about myself and what I believe, and I have a clearer sense of who I am and what I value.  There have been high points and low points, but all in all it has been an incredible ride.

Tomorrow is February 11th once again, and I will lace up my shoes and set out off the front porch as always.  I can’t wait to see what I will discover next, as my journey continues. . .

Welcome Gracie!

Gus has a new cousin!

This is Gracie.  She joined my sister Ellen’s family last week, and we are all thrilled!  She is a lovely, mellow girl with a coat like grey velvet and soulful eyes that can melt your heart.  She has already settled in and is taking up residence in everyone’s hearts.

We can’t wait for all the fun times ahead.  That’s what family is all about, right?

Happy Birthday Gus!!

Today is Gus’s 4th birthday!

In our house we believe in celebrating everything that there is to celebrate. This morning we woke up to birthday hugs and kisses, and it has been all about Gus all day.  He had a great time outside, flying across the field and doing what he loves most – running after his ball.  He even got together with a few friends for a romp.

This afternoon, Grandma came over (as she does for all her grandchildren’s birthdays).  We had a little party, complete with presents, decorations and birthday cake.

Hey, life is short and there’s enough of the other stuff, isn’t there?  When you have something to celebrate, I believe that you should absolutely go for it!

If you’d like to post a birthday comment below for Gus, that would be great. I’ll be sure to read them all to him.

Cheers!

P.S.  I’d like to also send a  special Happy Birthday wish today to my wonderful cousins, Lesley and Michelle!  (I wrote about them in an early post, Sometimes you Just Have to Choose ).  Happy Birthday and thanks for the inspiration!