Thursday, December 30, 2010

house tour, part one

Welcome to our home.  Built in 1947, our little house is sweet, warm and peaceful.  It features awesome things like the original fir floors and glass doorknobs.  It is our first house, and we love it.  After years of renting, it feels good to have our own walls to live behind.  Walls where a 6 year old can experiment with being older.  Here, I found that he had taped a Star Wars poster (handmade, of course) to his wall...

But no matter how "big boy" he acts, I take delight in the fact that every night since he was 4 months old, he's cuddled with the same bunny stuffy, who he named Happy Bunny.  Once, he forgot Happy at his dad's house in another town.  Happy needed to be sent priority post back to us, where he could be cuddled once again...

Ever since he was 3, or maybe younger, he started wanting to bring home items, usually natural bits and pieces for his "collection".  This was his own idea but one that must be from his ancestral memory.  This sort of curating runs in the family.  Chloe, at a year and a half, already has her own type set tray filled with wonderful bits and pieces.  Here's Aethan's, complete with coral, curly bark, a meteorite and carved sticks...

And of course, on top of the collection, the old Death Star and Vader Pez dispensers.  A prize possession...

I found this old Avon light house bottle at the thrift.  I couldn't pass it up...

We do weekly library trips.  Here, a stack waits to go back.  I didn't get a chance to read the Extreme Vinyl Cafe, and there was a request.  I'll have to wait until next time...

It is a constant battle to keep Aethan's room clean.  Lego playing requires little piles here and there, and he's not entirely committed to putting them back where they came from...

My stack of bird books (and an old bible that I can't get rid of), including my Grandad's well used copy.  It is truly one of my favorite items in the house, complete with handwritten notes in the margins....

My other Grandad sits in a frame, I love this photo of the man I never met, but love to pieces...

A stone with a naturally worn hole from the beach near where I grew up.  I'd like to go back to that beach to find more stones with holes...

The Christmas tree is down now, but I loved it while it was up...

The fridge wouldn't be complete without Aethan's art and school photo.  Yes, he's wearing his Empire Strikes Back shirt.  He went to school and secretly took off his nice sweater before the shot was taken.  He's serious about his love for Star Wars, that's for sure...

My office, with post office receipts and my saved tomato seeds...

I hope you liked what you saw of our little house.  We love it here in the Alberni Valley.  And next time, I'll show you around the garden, okay?  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

meet the dogs: Tiloup

Tiloup, sweet, gentle, comical and intelligent.  This dog has a long story, so I'll try to do this as quickly as possible.  Here goes!  We moved here last January, into our wonderful first home (which I LOVE and will post about soon).  Our street is nice and quiet and we have wonderful neighbours.  Except at one house.  The house next door is one of the only rentals on the street, and it just so happens that when we moved in, it was rented by a crack dealer or meth dealer or maker or just all around bad guy.  Bad Guy owned 2 dogs, a small, yappy white thing and a little mutty dog.  Mutty Dog ran loose and Yappy Dog was tied up most often. Then, one day last spring, Yappy Dog and Mutty Dog are gone and running around the neighbour's yard is a young pup, who I instantly fall in love with.

I ask Bad Guy where the other dogs went.  He laughs and says "I got rid of them".  Nice.  So, the new dog is like a trade in, I guess.  Old ones weren't working out, so reasonable solution for Bad Guy is to get a new pup.  Now, I start thinking about the old dogs.  I'm imagining that they were let loose out along some logging road somewhere, as is standard practice around here for unwanted pets.

As time goes on, the new pup looses appeal to Bad Guy.  He lets her run loose all of the time, and when she's not running loose, she's tied up in the yard, like in this video below.  I know its only a matter of time until she is either hit by a car or ends up pregnant, still just a pup herself.  For the record, I did phone the SPCA, but there isn't much that they can do in situations like this.  Their hands are tied by messed up laws.

One day, I get a phone call from a friend who lives about a block from here that the pup (who Bad Guy named Patches) was hit by a car in front of her house.  I hear yelping and look out in time to see Bad Guy carrying Patches up the stairs into his house, only to come back out a minute later.  My friend calls again to tell me that he's gone back to hang out at his friend's house.  Patches is now hurt, alone at home.  

Our SPCA was closed that day, and it took 3 1/2 hours on the phone before I finally found an SPCA constable who was willing to make the drive to our town to help, and she managed to convince the RCMP to drive by the house.  There, the officer found Patches lying on the couch with ice packs on her broken femur.  

Bad Guy surrendered the pup to him, and she was taken to the vet.  She almost lost her leg, but they were able to raise enough money to fix her leg.  You can see below the scar running along her back leg...

It is at this time that she came to us through the SPCA as a foster.  Timid, frightfully skinny and on major crate rest for her leg, she barked at everyone new, cowered at anything scary and needed to learn to trust something.  Anything.  She was alone and she knew it, but didn't know where to start.  We gave her the time. She began to heal.

By the grace of God, Bad Guy moved out from next door (and yes, cleaned up that mess of a yard) and Patches began to come into her own.  

Her eyes are like supernovas, her spirit is goofy and bright.  She understands how to make people laugh.  And, she isn't "patchy" so a new name was needed for a new life.  Tiloup is French slang and a term of endearment for "little wolf".  It seemed to fit...

She learned to trust humans, and although she's not 100% sure all of the time, especially with men, we understand why.  But the safest place for her soul is with her kid.  She loves a 6 year old boy.  Anything that he does, she does.  She follows him EVERYWHERE, stares at him and wags her tail when he talks (she thinks his stories are the BEST).  She sleeps in his room and comes whenever he calls.  When he leaves on the school bus she cries, and although she's afraid of the giant yellow monster that comes, she barks when it swallows her child and drives away.  Then, she waits until 3 when it returns him and the world becomes right again.

Once he's home, she can resume following.  If he digs in the snow, she digs in the snow....

He is most amazing!  He can make snow fall from the sky!  To her, anyone who controls the weather like this is remarkable and should be held in the highest regard...

We've since learned that Tiloup is a Weimaraner crossed with a Black and Tan Coonhound (small towns are a great way to learn information, everyone knows everyone and someone knows the guy that bred a pup).  She's proof of why you should always fight for the welfare of all animals.  Many people turn a blind eye towards the way the neighbour treats the pets, for fear of rocking the boat.  But in the end, it is the animals like Patches who suffer.  I'm not sure how this sweet soul survived living with a man like that, but if you know that an animal is being neglected or mistreated, please call someone.  You can make an anonymous tip if you have to, but in the end, you'll be glad you did something.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

meet the dogs: Daisy

I think that it is important for you to know the dogs.  This blog is named "five dog house" and while it isn't a strict "dog blog", these animals are a major part of my life, and will show up around here quite a bit.  I thought i'd introduce them so that you know who is who, and what they are like, if you don't know them already.  We'll start with Dasiy. 

Daisy is a pit bull/border collie cross who came to us 3 years ago.  We found her at the SPCA and I knew from the moment I saw her listing on the internet that she was my dog.  How, I don't know.  But it was one of the only clear "messages" I've ever had in my life.  I saw her there on the website and instantly I knew.  I didn't know how it would go over when I mentioned it to Adam though, because we certainly were NOT looking for another dog.

But, there she was, and something in me knew that there was more to the story for me and her.  So, we went to meet her.  Right away, we made it official and sprang her from the big house and didn't look back.  She fit in from the moment we came home, taking on a roll as a family dog and being perfectly faithful.  She is the dog lying at your feet when you do the dishes, and sleeping on the cold, wet bathmat when you shower because she'd rather be with you than curled up in front of the fire.  Faithful Dog sacrifices her own comfort for your safety, and being with you at all times insures she can watch over you like her ancestors watched over the sheep.

On top of being faithful, Daisy is smart and incredibly active.  She can crash through the bush after any small rodent or bird, leaping fallen trees and streams with ease.  While she's never actually caught anything (the jingle in her tags gives the woodland creatures fair warning) her heaven would be populated with many squirrels and cats.  As you can see below, she isn't afraid to get muddy in pursuit of her catch!

She loves other dogs, and is a great judge of dog character.  On the trails she knows what new dogs to approach and what ones to avoid.  While she used to love to run and play, now she just tends to like to be around the others in the backyard, sniffing and poking through the grass, leaving the rough and tumble stuff to the youngsters.

She's 7 years old, full of life and amazingly beautiful.  I don't like watching her black patch turn grey, which seems to be happening much too fast, but she's young in spirit and energy.  There hasn't been a day that I regret finding her and adopting her.  She's my dog, and I love her.

Friday, December 24, 2010

merry christmas to all, and to all, a goodnight!


He knew they would agree... - Archival Signed Print
by Elly MacKay- available on Etsy here

Have a warm, safe Christmas surrounded by friends, family and animal companions. Think not of the gifts that you want to receive, but rather of the things you are fortunate to have and the gifts that you are able to give.

Eat, drink and be merry, but be sure to have a safe ride home. If Christmas isn't your thing, curl up with a good book and enjoy the silence that the holiday brings. Stoke the fire, warm the rum and find peace.

To all of the homeless pets and the broken human souls, hold tight. Christmas will pass and you can savor the hope that a new year brings. For all mankind, my wish for the holidays is this; treat yourself and your peers with kindness, treat the Earth with the respect that she deserves and treat our four legged friends as if they were your brothers and sisters.

home for the holidays, a recap of my old friend

Perhaps you've heard of Stanley, the big white pit bull pulled from an LA shelter a year ago today.  If you haven't, you can see the start of the story by watching the video that started the whole thing.  This video went viral, with over 500,000 people watching it.  This was a Christmas story, it started exactly a year ago...

I was lucky enough to open my home to Stanley and foster him upon his arrival in Canada.  Back then he was a ragged, skinny, mangey mutt, but lovable all the same.  From the moment I met him, I knew, like everyone else, that he was special.  Not in the sense that he KNEW he was special or that he was any different or better than any other dog.  He was special in the sense that this boy carried hope on his shoulders for other dogs just like him.  While he learned to navigate in our home, great things were happening in his wake.  People inspired by his video began to email their stories about how Stanley had changed their lives and inspired them.  People adopted dogs in his honour, seeing the value in a diamond in the rough.

I wonder what Cathy Stanley thought the day that she found that run down white pit bull covered in mange at a Californian shelter?  I wonder if she knew what she was getting into by deciding to pull him that day, hours before he would be put to sleep?  I wonder if she imagined him, months later, eyes healed, mange improving, weight put on, happy, running around a backyard in British Columbia, Canada?  I wonder if she had any idea that his story would touch the hearts of THOUSANDS of people around the world.  I wonder if she realized that Stanley would become the poster boy for shelter dogs?  That he would inspire many people to adopt dogs just like him? 

I don't think her vision was quite that broad.  I think that Cathy did what she did based out of the desire to help just one dog, regardless of the attention or spotlight it would bring.  I think that she pulled that sick dog that day because it was the RIGHT thing to do.  I think that she did it because she believed in him, she believed that people would come together to help, that the worth of a dog isn't in his pedigree or the shine of his coat.  She believed that sometimes, dogs like Stanley are diamonds in the rough.   

Whatever the reason, she made a huge impact the day that she sprung that poor boy from the shelter.  What was about to happen was enormous.  So many people from all over the world worked together, donating and praying, to help Stanley.  On Christmas 2009, people all around the world sat at their computer, crying for this broken soul.  Many of those people, unable to donate, went to their local shelter and adopted a dog because of Stanley's story.  Those who couldn't adopt sent us stories about the shelter dogs they'd walked in Stanley's honour or the blankets that they'd donated to their local SPCA.  Whatever they did to help, however small or great, Stanley inspired them and their actions had an impact. 

While all of this was happening, Stanley was healing.  He recovered from his mange, he had surgery for his eyes and he's gaining weight.  There was never any doubt that his body would heal.  But, after his rough start, being a stray, with his unknown past, what would his spirit be like?  How would that heal?   

Within days at my home, everyone realized that wouldn't be an issue.  Stanley's spirit was going to be ok.  He lived each day like a happy puppy trapped in a giant pit bull body.  He snuggled with other dogs, ran around the yard, licked faces and wagged his tail hard and sure.  His physical body was carrying the evidence of his past, telling the story of it in his mange and eye infections, but his mind wasn't listening.  "This too shall pass" Stanley seemed to say. 

Stanley has gone on to be adopted, and he's living happily with a loving family and another dog.  It was an honour to be a part of his story and I thank Cathy from the bottom of our hearts for bringing him into our lives.  

If you would like to donate to Cathy so that she can continue her work, PLEASE visit .  Even $5 helps, vet bills are amazingly high and Cathy runs solely on donations.  This is a global problem and it is all of our responsibility to pitch in where we can to help stop this epidemic.  

To Stanley I say, Merry Christmas, old friend!  xo

*although he has already been adopted, Stanley is featured on the last xmas "home for the holidays" post to remind us that there are MILLIONS of unwanted pets at shelters and rescue organizations across North America.  PLEASE, if you are considering getting a dog, cat or something else, visit your local shelter and do not support pet shops, puppy mills and backyard breeders.*

Stanley today in his adoptive home- photo by his owner, Teresa.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

who am i

Thanks for the questions!  I can't answer them all, because there were too many.  But here's the start!

what inspires you?  My son is my biggest life inspiration.  He is kind, loving and empathetic.  He doesn't realize the scope of how large his heart is because he doesn't yet realize that there are bad things out in the world.  I am so inspired by the way he chooses to treat others.  I'm inspired by my husband, my dogs and my family and friends also.  And memories...growing up with antique dealing parents in beautiful homes from the 1800's, I learned to appreciate the beauty in classic shapes and designs.

how did you learn to knit?  My sister showed me the basics and I've used books and youtube (believe it or not) to carry on learning.  I started a sock last night but ripped it out after messing up the heel, I have more to learn for sure!

what's your favourite yarn to work with?  I love natural, beautiful wools but often stick to acrylics because I can't afford the best.  While I'd love to buy hand spun wool every time, it is amazing what you can find out there that is synthetic but looks organic.

are you on ravelry? I am!  But I'm just learning to use it.  I'm emilykp if anyone can add me, please do, as I don't know how to add you yet!

do you have a favourite time of year? This is my favorite.  I LOVE Christmas.  I love everything about it.  However, I love everything that each season brings.  The best part about the summer is the garden, which is just as great as Christmas!  time of day? Love it all really.  I used to be a morning person but now I find I'm a bit of a morning person and a night owl.

what is your favorite food of all time?  pizza.  for sure.  in fact, just thinking about it made me hungry.

if you won a million bucks what would you do with it?  Buy acreage and pay off my sister and brother's mortgages.  Buy my mom whatever home she wanted.  Pay off my aunt's mortgage.  Buy a car with heat.  Start a dog sanctuary and sustainable farm.  Invest for my son and my niece.

what's your favorite book and movie of all time? My favorite book, thats a tough one.  To be perfectly honest, probably my copy of Cesar's Way.  Because he is an inspiration, my hero and the book sums it all up for me.  I know that he's controversial, but he opened up for me my only real passion.  For that, I am forever grateful.  Favorite movie...hard one also, how do you pick just one???  I will say that my favorite genre is by far documentaries.

were you named after anyone?  Nope.  I think that mom just liked the name.  I like it too, actually.  Sometimes I wish that my middle name, Katherine, was my first.

if you could travel anywhere for free where would you go and why?  Ontario, because I miss my dad and I want Aethan to see where I grew up.  I want to go to Cuba, Spain, Italy, Costa Rica and New Zealand.  I also mostly want to go to England because I want to see where my dad is from.  But I feel very fourtunate that we can drive to amazing is that?  We live in a beautiful part of the world.  Oh, and I want to go to India, mostly to eat.

why is the sky blue? actually, it is colourless, it just appears blue due to the way that the sunlight and Earth's atmosphere behave!

what got you into making dog scarves and babushkas?  It was my sister's suggestion, and it seemed like a great idea, so Earth Walkers was born!  I'm so glad it was, because it has been my job as of late.

who is this secret agent five dog house?  The only secret agents here are the dogs themselves.  Secret agent Bez Begbie the Boston Terror is a wily, grumpy agent who is close to retirement.  Secret Agent Daisy is faithful and will do anything to protect her fellow agents.  Secret Agent Olive is not the smartest, but she's very cute.  Secret Agents Casha and Tiloup are on a top secret mission called Operation Don't Ask Don't Tell.  They came as fosters but seem to think if they pretend that they are supposed to be here, no one will suggest otherwise.  Agents Casha and Olive are also undercovers (get it, like, in bed) for Operation Snore Fest.

Thanks for all of the questions!

home for the holidays, day 4

HugABull is one of my favorite rescue groups because of a few reasons.  One, they deal with the breed close to my heart.  Second, they strive to find GREAT homes for even better dogs.  And third, they do a lot of advocacy work also, which pit bulls need beyond measure.

This is Brody.  He's a little breed ambassador, playing with other dogs and loving people.

Truman is a gentle soul, he is looking for a relaxed home who will appreciate his sweet face...

Loki is an older boy looking for a retirement home.  Is yours it?

For more info on these dogs, please visit

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

what gives?

My friend Emma had a great "get to know me" post on her blog.  That made me want to do one here, but then I thought it would be fun if I answered your questions to me.  So, comment or tweet your questions for me and I will answer them all in a post tomorrow.  Ask me anything and I will answer.  Maybe you want to know more about me.  Maybe more about my son's obsession with Star Wars Lego.  Maybe you want to know more about my shop, my blog or my dogs.

This post will be super boring if I have no questions to answer, so go for it!  Ask away!

(by the way, Emma's shop is having a serious sale.  Check it out here)

home for the holidays, day 3

I love the rescue Furever After.  They specialize in finding homes for small breed dogs, and they are top notch as far as rescues go.  Today, lets meet 3 of their adoptable dogs.

How cute would these dogs be curled up by your Christmas tree?  SO.  CUTE.  Look at little Lily.  Who can resist that face???  She's a sweet, shy 11 year old girl looking for her own home.  CUTE!

Cooper is 2-3 and is a pretty cool little dude.  Also, he's cute!  

Cleo is a very healthy 8 years old and is good with dogs and cats.  And, keeping with the theme, she's cute!  

To find out more about these dogs and the Furever After adoption process, please visit their website at 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

going without

These days, the world is filled with grim prophecies.  Global warming, food shortages, fresh water is diminishing. We know that we are harming the planet, yet we keep doing what we will, using, abusing and taking resources like we own this Earth.

I remember the first time I watched An Inconvenient Truth.  I cried.  I cried hard, not because of what we were doing to Mother Earth, but because this was the legacy we were leaving for my son.  We are creating a planet that, in some form or another, is already in crisis.  And yet we carry on as if nothing is wrong.  We all use plastic.  Plastic pens, baby bottles, toys, utensils, phones, cameras, makeup containers...everything is plastic and it never goes away.  The plastic bag that holds the lettuce only long enough to get it home will always be on this planet in some form.  It will never fully biodegrade, but that won't stop us from using it.

What on Earth are we doing?  I'm at fault like the rest of us.  I'm better than some, but still guilty of over using, buying un-locally, driving a gas guzzler.  But surely there are some things, even a few things that each of us can do to make a difference.  One thing that I have noticed that is becoming a trend is the act of going "fridgeless".

Fridgeless households are just that.  They are homes, modern day, regular homes, without fridges.  Items are bought only on the day that they are needed, cold cellars are used, and items that we commonly refrigerate for no reason, like eggs, are kept out on the counter.  Ta da!  No fridge!  Not willing to take that leap, we did buy a newer, smaller fridge.  About 1/2 of the size of our old one, in fact.

But then, a few weeks ago, we lost an appliance.  The dryer died.  Panic set in.  We needed a dryer, like, NOW.  But, we were busy and we didn't get to it.  I started using my IKEA dryer rack placed over the floor vents.  Guess what?  I've barley noticed not having a dryer!  In the summer, I constantly used the clothesline outside.  No dryer.  So, what's the difference?  Everything I wash is dried on the rack.  In fact, it is almost convenient.  It saves me one trip to the basement!

So, think about where and what you can go without.  Maybe you could stand to have a smaller fridge.  Maybe you could go dryer-less.  Maybe you don't need to buy that new plastic such-and-such.  Even if you try and fail, at least you tried.  And who knows, you might just be starting a new enviro-fad!

home for the holidays, day 2

Shelters are over flowing, and in many cities and towns right now, dogs are being put to sleep.  These are good dogs of all different breeds, from all backgrounds.  These were dogs who had homes and lost them.  Dogs who didn't find a family fast enough and their time ran out.  

I'm not trying to be harsh, or be a downer.  I'm just pulling a Dr. Phil and telling you like it is.  As someone who works in rescue, I can tell you that the average story would make you cry, and the condition that some animals live in would be enough to make you throw up.  Seriously.  It is very important for the average person and the general public to fully realize and understand what is happening out there.  

For example, this is Nora.  Nora came into the shelter at a 1 on the emaciated scale.  The scale starts at 1.  Or maybe its 0.  Either way, as a nursing mom, she couldn't get worse than a 1 without dying.  Nora is doing much better now and has weaned her pups, and you can apply to adopt her.

Unless you are there on the front lines, like the ladies from HugABull, it is easy to detach yourself from what you see in photos online.  But these are real cases, real dogs and real lives right here in our backyard.  This is an epidemic and the only ones to blame are ourselves.  But instead of letting this thought weigh you down and depress you, do what YOU can for the dogs that you can help.  If it is Nora, that's wonderful.  Maybe it is Tammy, the Akita Inu cross at the Victoria SPCA.  

Tammy is below.  She was found abandoned on a property with another dog and loves people.  She's also a unique and beautiful dog.

Britney is a goofy puppy trapped in a BIG dog body.  She'd like to be the only dog, but she loves people and would love someone to hike with her and train her.  Isn't she pretty?  She's at the Nanaimo SPCA.

Call me a sucker for the unique mixes, but I love this next dog.  Isn't he beautiful?  Red is a Blue Heeler mix.  He's around 2 years old and up for adoption through the Cowichan SPCA.

Jake is a little beagle mix, for those who like smaller dogs.  Isn't he something?  What a funny little nose!  He's at the Cowichan SPCA.

And if you'd rather a puppy, Cassidy is a 3 month old Shepherd/Husky mix at the Victoria SPCA with her brother...cute!

If you are interested in these dogs, or in finding out about other dogs at these shelters, please contact:

Cowichan SPCA:  250-746-4646
Victoria SPCA:  250-388-7722
Nanaimo SPCA: 250-758-8444
HugABull -

Monday, December 20, 2010


Hung out with my kid again, I love spending time with this Star Wars loving, smart, funny boy.

Finally got around to reorganizing my tiny office space.  Took down the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster and filled the spot with this vintage Toronto map.  The Keep Calm poster is headed to Adam's studio, and I enjoy having the map.  It reminds me of Ontario and is pretty cool in its own right.  Judging by the subway lines, Adam guesses the map is from the 1950's, prior to the subway extension.

I can't get over how much Aethan has grown in the last year since we've moved in.  I love having our own home to write our history on the walls...

Sales have slowed for Christmas in the shop, but a few last minute cowls went out today to warm the necks of some deserving dogs!

I played Loreena McKennitt today to boost the Christmas spirit, and our tree is still perfectly creating the mood.  I love real trees.  Especially real Charlie Brown trees.

Of course, the candles were burning today too, I love the smell of beeswax.

Christmas is coming folks!  Get in from the cold, get out of Walmart and take the season back from the imported products from China, the over produced carols and the stress.  Christmas can still be about family, friends and egg nog with rum, or whatever warms your spirit!

home for the holidays

Along with my regular daily posts, from now until Christmas Eve, I'm posting up dogs who are in need of homes.  These dogs are from local rescue groups and SPCA branches.  Please, if you are considering adding a dog, think long and hard about the benefits of a rescue dog.  Already spayed or neutered, they are loving, deserving and in need of a home.  

While there is a common "rescue dogs have issues" idea, this is entirely not the case.  Sure, SOME rescue dogs have issues, but no more than the problems that store bought or breeder bought pups end up with.  Out of all of the rescues that we live with, no one has issues outside of what the 'normal' dog would have.  Daisy likes to chase small, tasty cats.  This is not due to being a rescue dog, it is born from her belief that cats are delicious and are fun to chase.  

The SPCA's that I am posting dogs from are committed, experienced and loving in all areas.  They fight above and beyond for the animals in their care, but no matter what, they are not a home.  They provide the best they can in the shelter environment, but the goal is to find these dogs their own place.  A dog bed, a fireplace to curl up in front of or a couch to snooze on.  Is this so much to ask?  These dogs will be waiting while you eat Christmas dinner with your family.  They will be waiting while you open gifts and drink egg nog.  Shelter dogs are too often "out of sight, out of mind".  Please, give it some real thought and consider adopting today.

First up, Ruby.  At almost 11, this girl is far to old to be living shelter life, especially for the holidays.  She is small and super cuddly and sweet.  She can be found at the Nanaimo SPCA.


Bella.  A medium sized working dog mix, this dog is pulling at my heart strings and if we weren't full, I wouldn't be posting her here, I'd be bringing her home.  She is my kind of dog, from the smart, active working dog mind to the adorable spots. While this girl needs to be the only dog, trust me, this kind of mix is so rewarding to work with and love.  She is also at the Nanaimo SPCA.

Josie.  For those of you who think that you can't find cute puppies through rescue, I just proved you wrong.  Josie is a perfect little muffin who is available for adoption through Bully Buddies.  You can email them using the contact info found below.

Last but certainly not least, Simba.  Why this girl hasn't been snatched up already is beyond me.  I love her tiger tail ice cream like brindle and her white face.  Don't let her grey fool you, she's only 6 years old!  She loves people and toys and deserves her own home, like, yesterday!  Simba is up for adoption through HugABull along with many others in their program on Vancouver Island, the mainland and Kelowna.  

I'll be posting new dogs all this week.  PLEASE, if you are considering a dog, arrange to meet one of these lovelies or check out the other dogs that are available.

Nanaimo SPCA is at 2200 Labieux Rd or you can call them at 250-758-8444.
Bully Buddies is online at
HugABull is found at 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

have some integrity and be unique...

Back when I first set up my Etsy shop, I had this GREAT idea about what I was going to sell.  It hit me like a ton of bricks when I was brainstorming.  Out of nowhere, this perfect idea came to me.  I was going to make dog beds like sleeping bags, with an opening for dogs like Bez who have a burrowing instinct, where they could climb in and cuddle in the folds.  I even had a name: the Burrow Bag.  Seriously perfect idea.

My enthusiasm was crushed about 5 minutes later when I typed "burrow bag" into the Etsy search.  Up popped not only a dog sleeping bag, but it was already named the Burrow Bag.  Seriously defeated.  I mean, technically to me it was an original idea, but obviously it wasn't new to the world.  I still have the goal of adding sleeping bags to my Etsy shop, but the point is this:  original is hard to come by.  The world is full of talented people, and from music to dog beds to artwork, coming up with something unique is tricky.

Selling dog cowls is great, but I can't be credited with the idea.  My sister is the mastermind behind it, and when she spoke those words "you should sell cowls for dogs", I had a similar 'hit me like a ton of bricks' experience.  It was perfect!  Upon searching, I realized that people were selling (at that time) cowl-y neck warmers, but not what I had in mind, so I set to work with enthusiasm.  I have loved selling on Etsy, and more and more cowls are popping up on there for dogs.  This doesn't bother me, I mean, it isn't my design or anything (although I'd love to have the market cornered).  However, a couple of recent listings, upon further inspection, were totally ripping off my descriptions.  This was maddening.  If you are going to try something you see from another seller's shop, please, in the name of plagiarism (and your personal integrity for crying out loud), write your OWN WORDS!

It made my blood boil.  I politely contacted one woman who was blatantly ripping off my wording and she not only denied it, but continued on a course of grade school-ish taunting about the fact that she had done it.  The second time I saw it, I decided to let sleeping dogs (cowl wearing dogs, of course) lie and walk away from it knowing that at least I had my integrity intact.

And then, I came across this blog, sent to me by my mom.  Designs copied not just once, but over and over by the same seller, and put into a catalog!  It might as well be a "look what I ripped off from Etsy sellers" catalog!  I get that the rip off-er is trying to make money here by cashing in on the designs of TRUE artists and crafters, but this is low.  Down right dirty and stinky LOW.

This happens on Etsy all of the time, and really, there is no way of you or me knowing whether we're buying an item from the original design source. However, if you are buying locally or handmade, you are increasing the odds that you are buying it from the person who deserves your $.  If you head on over to this blog you'll see even more examples, including artists with New York gallery shows ripping off smaller artists and Disney stealing a ring design from a jeweler!

My new shop will feature some items already found on Etsy.  I mean, hey, if you type "cowl" into Etsy at the time of this blog posting, you'll pull up 23,152 results.  But, if you are going to sell something, at least try to not rip off someone else's design and make your item different.  By giving it your own spin, it makes it unique, upholds your integrity and even increases the chance someone will see it and want it because it is different.  Don't steal the designs of others just to increase profits, and at the very least, write your own descriptions!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

backyard breeding

It seems innocent enough. You want a puppy so you pick up the classifieds or log onto craigslist. On any given day of any given week, you'll find every breed and their designer mixes, from English bulldogs to Labradoodles, all for sale locally in the paper. The ads all say the same things, CKC registered parents, raised in a family home, first shots done. If you decide to add one of these pups to your family, the process is easy enough. Simply call the number, meet the pups, pick one and pay for it and bring it home. But what is the price beyond the money that is being paid for this market?

A "backyard breeder" is someone who breeds their dogs but who isn't an actual breeder. Reputable breeders breed a line of dogs of a certain breed for wanted characteristics, temperament and health. Females are carefully bred, and the breedings are limited in her lifetime. She'll be genetically tested, along with the father, to rule out unwanted disorders and health conditions. They are vetted and cared for throughout the whole process and when the puppies are born, they will be cared for medically as well.

When mom gives birth, she'll be in a warm, safe place set up just for her, and she'll be eating the best food money can buy. She'll raise her pups to around 12 weeks, ample time for her to teach them to be well rounded, good dogs when they leave her side. And when they do, the breeder will carefully screen the new homes, being sure that they are going to the best home possible. And finally, if at anytime the home is not working out, the breeder will take the pup back and be sure it is taken care of.

The backyard breeder breeds their dogs for any number of reasons, but their dogs are usually bred often and with no experience. Sometimes, the focus is on breeding dogs for a certain look, like trying to achieve a litter of pit bulls with large heads. Perhaps the focus is on trying to cash in on a certain fad, like designer mutts as we see with the Labradoodle craze.

With little care being placed on the temperament, health and placement of these pups, it is certainly not uncommon for them to end up in homes where they outstay their welcome. After the novelty of the puppy wears off, the couch has been chewed and the rug has been peed on, puppy ends up looking for a new home or in the shelter.

For example, meet Isis. Isis' owner has given her the best in life. She's happy, healthy and well taken care of. She lives with other dogs, eats good food, goes for walks and at the end of the day she has a warm bed to sleep in. When Isis tore her ligament in her back leg, her owner, Tammy, paid for it to be fixed, giving her proper vet care. When it happened to the other leg, Tammy fixed that as well. Isis has never known a bad day, but for her, it was luck of the draw that Tammy picked her from the litter.

This is Casha. Casha is the sister of Isis. Born on the same day, to the same mom in the same place, how different could their lives be? A lot about Casha's last 6 years are unknown. But we know for sure that about a year ago she turned up at the Victoria SPCA with a bad leg from an old, untreated injury. Scars on her face, legs and chest paint a picture of a hard life. After having her leg removed, Casha spent 6 months at the SPCA. After being bred herself and living a hard life, the shelter was possibly the first caring home Casha had, the SPCA staff her first loving family.
Casha now, the bad days behind her...

Here's another example. My friend Illona stumbled upon an ad for a worn down, dirty terrier. He was afraid, sleeping in a barn and was the cast off from a backyard breeder. For whatever reason, Merrik was no good to them now, and he was tossed aside like a bit of garbage. Thankfully for Merrik, Illona has a soft spot for the scruffy ones, and wasn't afraid of a diamond in the rough. She met him and brought him home, if for no other reason than the fear of what would become of him if she walked away without him.

It would be impossible to imagine the amount of puppies that Merrik helped produce, simply to line the pockets of the people who had him. I doubt any of the people who bought those pups asked to see him or gave him any thought when they answered ads for puppies in the paper. It is a shame, because this is an epidemic, and we are all responsible. Merrik is thriving now, thanks to the countless hours of love and patience on Illona's part to bring him out of his shell.

you can see more of Merrik and his rescued sister at Illona's photography blog, just click here

The only way to really truly save dogs like Merrik and Casha is to stop them from ending up in these situations before they become cast offs. If you purchase a dog from a backyard breeder or pet store, you are encouraging this treatment of animals. Of course, not EVERY backyard breeder is treating their animals like this, but these are not isolated cases. Please, if you are looking for a puppy, contact your local shelter or rescue group.