A Trip to Gibsons


Tierce:  Another boat?

Me:  We’re going to an event in Gibsons.

Tierce:  This place smells like diesel.

Me:  That’s because this is the vehicle deck.

Tierce:  What’s that?

Me:  The ocean.

Tierce:  It looks wet. And cold.

Me:  Yeah. I’d take it as a kindness if you didn’t attempt a flying leap off the bow.


Me:  That’s the ship’s radar.

Tierce:  That’s the signal of the Hellmouth. They’re sailing us into the jaws of the Kraken!

Me:  Would you shut up?  Look, we’re under the roof again. It’s gone.

Tierce:  ALL HANDS ABANDON SHI- oh, okay. Hey, look, a tug toy!

Me:  No!  That’s a life preserver!

Tierce:  I bet I could run off with it and sever the rope in three places before you can reach the opposite end of the ship.

Me:  I’m not taking those odds.

Tierce: Spoilsport. What’s this?

Me:  This is the pet area.

Tierce:  The pet area?  It looks like a big crate. A Dane couldn’t even turn around in here.

Me:  Well, when they designed the ferry, pet areas weren’t a big consideration.

Tierce:  Now you know why their revenue’s dropping.



Me:  Well, here’s Horseshoe Bay.

Tierce:  Shall we celebrate by sharing your ice cream?

Me:  No.

Tierce:  Explain.

Me:  Well, it’s chocolate.  Chocolate is bad for dogs.  I don’t want you getting sick.

Tierce:  You love the fact that chocolate is bad for dogs, don’t you?

Me:  Pretty much, yeah.

Tierce:  I’m pretty sure you’d come up with some other bullshit excuse if you were eating vanilla, say, or strawberry.

Me:  Oh, no, I’d make it sound plausible.

Tierce:  Such as…?

Me:  You can’t have it because I say you can’t and I’m bigger than you, with opposable thumbs.

Tierce:  There you go, throwing that in my face again.



Me:  Here we are!

Tierce: Where?

Me:  At our friends’ in Gibsons.

Tierce:  Is ‘Gibsons’ short for ‘Ferry Forever?’ Because it sure seems like it.

Me:  Well we’re here now.

Tierce:  Meh. Whatever.

Friends:  Can Tierce have the ends of the ham we cooked for tomorrow’s event? Oh, and there’s some turkey skin he can have.

Tierce:  This is the greatest day of my life. Let’s stay here forever.


Me: Okay, we’re off. We’ll be back in a few hours.

Tierce:  Why can’t I come?

Me:  Dogs aren’t allowed in the curling club. Sorry.

Tierce:  That’s not fair. I eat really well at events.

Me:  Alas, these things sometimes happen.

Tierce:  I think this is a plot to keep the turkey from me.

Me:  Could be.  In fact, it probably is.  The people of Fjordland are just against Shibas having turkey.  Sorry.

Tierce:  I’m sure there’s some kind of medieval hospitality law against this.

Me:  Well, you see, that’s the awesome thing about the SCA.  We can pick and choose.

Tierce:  A Shiba is without honour in his own Principality.


Me:  Oh, come on.  Stop looking all depressed.

Tierce:  I can’t help it.  All is dead.  I’m trapped.  The walls are closing in.

Me:  I came back in the middle of the event to let you out to pee.  You were just on an hour walk through the forest.  I didn’t even let a coyote eat you.  Still, you complain.

Tierce:  No will to live.

Me:  Okay, enough of that.  Come up on the bed here.  Look out the window.

Tierce:  I’m in the pit of despai- HEY THERE WAS A BIRD. DID YOU SEE THAT? A BIRD JUST FLEW BY.

Me:  That’s right, a bird.

Tierce:  Hey, a car.

Me:  Great.

Tierce:  ‘Nother car.

Me:  Thanks for sharing.

Tierce:  You’ll never guess what’s coming up the road.

Me:  A coyote?

Tierce:  No!  A woman with a SCHNAUZER!

Me:  This is news?

Tierce:  Another bird!

Me:  I’m just going to leave you to, uh, enjoy the sights.

Tierce:  No kidding, it’s like Wild Kingdom out here.



Me:  What are you doing?

Tierce:  Getting ready for bed.

Me:  Well, most dogs get ready for bed at the end of the bed.  Not the pillows.  The pillows are for people.  Like me.

Tierce:  If pillows were meant for people, then why are they sized for me?

Allergy Panel of the Damned


“I’m watching you take out your credit card. Hurts, don’t it?”

Me: Well, that was expensive.

Tierce:  You paid to have me tortured?

Me:  I paid to have an allergy panel done on you.  Inhalant and insect.  You could be allergic to dust mites.  Mould.  People.

Tierce:  I could definitely see being allergic to you and your oppressive regime.

Me:  This is not a regime.  This is ointment.

Tierce: Ahuh.  Sure.  So if you’re looking for allergies, why did you pay the vet to steal my blood for their demonic rituals?

Me:  The vet is going to send it away for testing and in a week or so, we should have an idea of what you’re allergic to.

Tierce:  I think the vet is going to use it to bind me to your will.  Make me like a Lab or something.

Me:  Oh, believe me, if that could be done…

Tierce:  I registered my objections, though.

Me:  I heard.

Tierce:  I screamed, “THE POWER OF ME COMPELS YOU!”

Me:  Did it work?

Tierce: No.

Me:  Might have to do with the fact that you’re not a god and the vet isn’t a demon.

Tierce:  So you say.  Wait- what are you doing with that devil’s brew?

Me:  The ointment?  I’m spreading it over the place that you licked raw.

Tierce:  Hey, hey now.

Me:  Look, would you stop struggling?

Tierce:  It feels weird!

Me:  Look, this isn’t fun for me either, you know.  The last thing I really wanted to do tonight is put ointment anywhere near your junk.

Tierce:  How would I know?  You have all sorts of fucked-up hobbies.  Putting hats on me, harnesses, putting me in the kayak, in the bike trailer…  Pervert.

Me:  That’s what is known as ‘life experience’- stop kicking me!

Tierce:  Stop putting gooey crap on me!  Look, I’ll lick it myself and it’ll all be good.  Dogs have healing powers.

Me:  Forget it!  That’s what got you into this mess and don’t wriggle.  This cost me 20 bucks and you’re not wasting it.

Tierce:  You spent 20 bucks on Satan’s potion?  Now who’s wasting things?

Me:  There.  You’re done.  DO NOT LICK IT OFF.

Tierce:  Why not?

Me:  That stuff is to help you heal.

Tierce:  Why not?

Me:  I’ll be displeased.

Tierce:  Why not?


Tierce:  All right, fine.

Boot List


Me:  The Boxer on the Mainland* who had the bucket list has died.

Tierce:  Huh?

Me:  Boxer.  Bucket list.  Dead.

Tierce:  What’s a bucket list?

Me:  It’s a collection of things you want to do before dying.

Tierce:  What’s ‘dying’.

Me:  We’ve had this discussion before.  Never mind.

Tierce: Well, I’ve got a lot of things I want to do.

Me:  Like what?

Tierce:  Run loose.

Me:  You’ve done that.  In fact, we let you run loose for your birthday.

Tierce:  Run loose again.

Me:  Uh, sure.  Anything else?

Tierce:  Cheese.

Me:  You had some cheese.  We gave you some for deigning to come back from the yard.

Tierce:  More cheese.

Me:  Right.  Any other ideas?

Tierce:  Stinky fish**

Me:  You’ve had stinky fish.

Tierce:  More stinky fish.

Me:  This is getting a little repetitive.  Let’s see what we’ve experienced together.  In no particular order.

  • Bicycling
  • Bicycling in a trailer
  • Kayaking
  • Travelling in a big ferry
  • Travelling in a small ferry
  • Driving in a car
  • SCA events
  • Farmers markets
  • Local fairs
  • Downtown Nanaimo, Victoria
  • The Richmond Night Market
  • The vet
  • The groomer
  • The dog park
  • Doggy daycare
  • Dog expos
  • Swimming pools
  • The ocean
  • Lakes
  • Rivers
  • Hiked up a mountain
  • Conformation dog shows
  • Agility
  • Clicker training
  • Trick training
  • Lure coursing
  • Go-to-ground fun matches
  • Obedience training
  • Canada day celebrations
  • Geocaching
  • Zombie walks
  • Visiting other people’s houses

Tierce:  Some of those were fun.  Some really sucked.

Me:  Yeah, but that’s life, in all its glory.

Tierce:  Life should include more cheese and off-leash running.

Me:  Would that it did.

Tierce:  Want to see my boot list?

Me: Your what?

Tierce:  Boot list.  Boots smell better than buckets and you can put things in them.

Me:  Like the time you dropped your biscuit in my shoe?

Tierce:  Yeah.  Like that.  It’s ideal for hiding things.

Me:  Uh, sure.

Tierce: Okay, here goes:

  • Run off leash
  • Find another bacon wrapper in the garbage
  • Eat cheese
  • Get the rest of the stinky fish
  • Run off leash
  • Get my equal share of pizza
  • Eat cheese
  • Have more friends on Facebook than you
  • Figure out how to open the door myself
  • Eat the cat crunchies at the side of the house
  • Be able to go up on the landlord’s deck whenever I want
  • Eat cheese

Me:  Well, that was interesting.  You repeated yourself.  Several times.

Tierce:  I repeated the important things as they occurred to me.

Me:  I see.  You do realize that some of these things will never come to pass if I can help it, right?

Tierce:  You’re just not supportive.

Me:  Of you getting worms from eating cat poop?  No.  Getting run over because you’re off-leash on the Parkway***?

Tierce:  YOLO.

*Vancouver, BC and its suburbs are known collectively as ‘The Mainland’ or ‘The Lower Mainland’
**Tierce means dried anchovies  
***Highway that bypasses Nanaimo


CKC-Approved Canine Nutrition Course

Tierce, attempting to supplement his diet with Shiba-appropriate nutrition.

Tierce, attempting to supplement his diet with Shiba-appropriate nutrition.

Tierce: What are you doing?

Me:  I’m studying a canine nutrition course approved by the Canadian Kennel Club.

Tierce:  Why are you wasting your time with that?  I can tell you everything you need to know.

Me:  Because I want to know what goes into providing you with an optimal diet.  You… you’re not really what I’d call a reliable resource.

Tierce:  Sure I am.  I already know what goes into an optimal diet.  It starts with ‘ch’ and ends with ‘eese’.

Me:  I beg to differ.

Tierce:  I’ll beg for it, too.  I have no pride.

Me:  Then why don’t you like your bicycling harness?

Tierce:  That’s not ‘pride’.  That’s ‘dignity’.  Also, there’s the fact that the straps sap my will to live and make cats hate me.

Me:  Cats hated you before I even bought that harness.  Anyway, this is going to give me some good basic information about what kind of nutrition you need.  That way, I can make better decisions for you and become a better resource for my customers at work.  I’d like to know what supplements would be good for you to take, for instance.

Tierce:  I occasionally supplement with dried liver and anchovies.

Me:  Not exactly.

Tierce:  What?  They’re great.

Me:  Sure.  They’re just not what you need for long-term health.

Tierce:  I also supplement with other stuff.

Me:  Sure you do.

Tierce:  Cat poop!  Full of protein, trace minerals…

Me:  Ugh.  No supplementing with cat poop.

Tierce:  What are you, a hater?  Against a natural diet?

Me:  That’s not a natural diet, that’s disgusting.

Tierce:  Of course it’s natural.  I found it in the wild.

Me:  You mean the side of the house?

Tierce:  Yeah.  It’s pretty wild there.  The grass is really tall.

Me:  You are not allowed there anymore.

Tierce:  You’re all about feeding raw and natural and you can’t let me have a diet that would be natural for me if I was running free?

Me:  Well, ‘natural’ isn’t always ‘better’.

Tierce:  Then why do you feed me raw food?

Me:  Because I believe that a properly formulated raw diet, supplemented appropriately, is a healthy choice.

Tierce:  But you don’t let me supplement my diet as I see fit.  That makes you a hypocrite.

Me:  No, it makes me a little more cognizant of the physical and social consequences of certain dietary choices.

Tierce:  But you still feed me kibble sometimes.

Me:  I don’t think kibble is ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, just that it isn’t as good as fresh, whole food.

Tierce:  And sometimes it’s just easier.

Me:  Exactly.

Tierce:  So you’re lazy, too.

Me:  Not lazy enough to stop working so I have an excuse to not pay for your food.

Tierce:  Apparently laziness has a sliding scale.

Me:  Keep talking.  That sliding scale includes generic dog food.

Tierce:  A Shiba has no honour at his own dog dish.

Parvovirus Outbreak Leads to Vaccine Backlash

Parvo vaccine spurs debate among dog-care professionals

As an advocate for human vaccines, I’m torn.  I feel that my information is desperately inadequate to make an informed decision about vaccines.  It’s been difficult for me to find an unbiased source to obtain useful statistics on vaccines and how they are really affecting pets.  SkeptVet (yes, I love SkeptVet) has a good overview of vaccines.

Tierce hasn’t had any shots since he had a reaction to his rabies booster at 7 months old.  I’m still wondering about that.  Three days after the vaccine, he started scratching at his face and, ever since, the summer is a long series of Vanectyl-P and searching on the Internet for something better.  I’ve been taking a look at Apoquel, but it isn’t cleared for pet treatment in Canada yet.  Call me a sheep, but I believe that I do pay my vet for hard-won expertise and I don’t want to merrily start dosing Tierce with something without her input.

There’s a middle ground here somewhere.  I’m just going to have to keep reading until I find it.


Notes on Dr. Ian Dunbar

About a year ago, the Nanaimo Kennel Club hosted Dr. Ian Dunbar for a three-day seminar and hands-on workshop.  Part of that included a question-and-answer event where people who hadn’t attended the seminar (i.e. me) could come and ask questions and listen to his answers.  I intended to write a blog post with the crappy notes I took, but… yeah.  So I came across them now and decided that hey, why not just post them here so my readers can see A) my crappy note-taking skills and B) read some of the hilarious things that Dr. Dunbar said.  He really is an awesome speaker and he LIKED MY HAT.  He said that to me when I was poking around after the Q&A.

So here you go.  Notes, with commentary.

Auto shaping device (I assume this refers to a treat ball/food dispensing toy.  Why?  Educated guess.)
Food treats
Stops barking
Bark activity counter  (The first thing that came to mind was a collar that clicks in a number whenever a dog barks.  Probably not what he was talking about.  But, somewhere… probably on Amazon, there’s someone selling them.)
Food bowl – no
Don’t feed dog out of food bowl – use food dispense toys, chew toys
Intervention: take away the food bowl 
Reduce barks by 90%
Barkathon – let it out of the system
On cue. 1234
1. “Speak” Teach it to bark on command
2.  Accomplice
3. (Yeah, no number 3.  WE’LL NEVER KNOW.)
Treat add one second of silence each time
Fear based behaviour
“your dog is in pain every day. Same for the tiny dog as for the Rottweiler”  (This really resonated with me.  I had never thought of it this way, but it’s true.  Fear is not fun when you have no way of processing it like humans can.)
No treats, only kibble hand fed
Fearfulness is not funny in animals 
People ignore it
“Does anyone mind if I drink my beer?”  (Yeah, he really said that.  And had beer.)
“2 am, your dog is barking with two other dogs at the end of the yard an you’re getting laid: not such a good training scenario.”  (He said that, too.  Awesome guy.)
Dogstardaily.com puppy book for free
Biting: not appropriate 
Bite inhibition
Pain causes reaction – ow! Then walk away. 
Normal puppy behaviour 
Tie food treat holder in an open crate
Night: stuff with honey, bit of kibble
Teach dogs to want to do the behaviour. 
“Your dog doesn’t understand English”
Stop crying: jackpot. Sleep: jackpot
Bite: yelp. 
10 positive feedback to 1 negative
Puppies tugging on pant legs: play tug of war
Play rules
Dog cannot grab without requesting
Teeth touch hand game over
Instantly let go
You can let dogs win. 
Blew Cesar Milan’s mind  (I’m not sure what blew Milan’s mind… I don’t think Dr. Dunbar is a big fan of his.)
Alpha rollover: what do you want to teach the dog?  That you’re an asshole? (Like I said, awesome.)
Pay attention
Be directive and instructive
Puppy license until about 4.5 months old (Note:  This apparently does not apply to dogs like Tierce, who reserve the right to hate all puppies except the rude ones that get in his face.  Unless he decides to hate them, too.  I keep plodding along, trying to understand him.)
Don’t give up
Differential reinforcement
If this dog has blown me off, he is going to suffer. Training is the most exciting thing a dog can do – stopping training is a punishment. 
Teach the rules of the game
Make sure dog understands
Suggestion: like a stop sign in Canada (Heh.)
Reward training
You know why you have to punish the dog?  Because you were an idiot and you let him do it wrong.”
The most important pee is the one in the morning, the dark yellow one that can kill redwoods. (And how.)
Breed excuses. “You have a dog, now train it.”  (Dammit, I have a SHIBA.  That ought to count for something… anything?)
And those are my notes.  I’m just lucky that this wasn’t college, because my old notebooks have a line or two of legible text which quickly devolves into lines with intermittent breaks and the occasional squiggle.  Dogs doodled in the margins, that sort of thing.

Fallen Gods

god (ɡɒd)
— n
1. a supernatural being, who is worshipped as the controller of some part of the universe or some aspect of life in the world or is the personification of some force

A friend of mine lost her cat recently.  She’s the person who painted this awesome picture of Tierce:

Tierce painting by LJ Phillips of http://lj-phillips.deviantart.com.

Tierce painting by LJ Phillips.

Her comic, Skins, and its spin-off, Smoke, Fur and Stone are NOT safe for work or for the kiddies, just FYI.

One of the things I said to her in a reply to her post about her kitty was:

We hold so much power over our pets’ daily lives, I think it’s jarring when we realize how little power we have against the forces that take them away from us.

It resonated with me because of the parallels between humans and gods when it comes to pets.

Food magically appears for them.  Doors open.  Cars whisk them away to places, good or bad.  We can just walk into a room and things happen.  No wonder they get excited when we come home; when we come home, things happen!

We are also strange and inimicable gods at times.  We yell and throw things, yank on leashes and get aggressive for reasons beyond an animal’s comprehesion.  We make noise and wield frightening objects like the vacuum.  We can leave them without food, without water, without shelter.  We can be too exacting during training, expecting too much too soon.  We are strangers with our hats and coats on.  We’re terrifying when we hold the symbols of discomfort or pain – the nail clippers, the shampoo and the stethoscope.

Yet, for all our power, we cannot turn the clock back, nor can we pluck them from the confines of a mortally wounded body.  For those of us who share our lives so intimately with our companion animals, it seems like the ultimate failure when we can do so many miraculous things in a pet’s eyes, yet we cannot simply stretch out our hand and order their lives to remain with us.

We spend their lives grandly making decisions, but when it comes to the most mortal ones, many people find themselves petitioning a higher power to intercede for them.  In my case (since I’m an atheist), I grimly assess the facts, ignoring the pleas of a desperate heart that is ever-hopeful that if we wait just one more day, Shassi or Buddi or Candy or Gremlin will magically get better.

It gets harder if there are options that might work, but finances and time curtail their viability.  Cue the guilt.  Well, do I really need to eat this month?  I’ve already spent $1500… should I just max my credit card?  Maybe there’s some cardboard boxes in an alley downtown I could fix up with some curtains.

Ultimately, I accept the need for bringing death to an ailing pet who will never get better.  I can’t say that I’ve made peace with it.  Even today, the phrase, “we had to put her down” is followed by the reasons.  It doesn’t matter that the recipient of the information knows that there is very little I would not do for my dogs.  I’m thinking that it’s not necessarily for their benefit; they know I would have chosen a different path if such was available to me.  It’s for mine, a chanted mantra to remind myself that what I did was necessary and right.

Maybe if I was a god, I would be so far removed from earthly cares that I wouldn’t even think about the suffering of those under my power.  Or, perhaps I would misinterpret it:

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic Copyright 2014 Zach Weiner SMBC is an awesome comic. Check it out!

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic Copyright 2014 Zach Weiner SMBC is an awesome comic. Check it out!

I would like to think not.  Because, fallen god I may be, but at least I’m close enough to suffering to recognize it and do my best to alleviate it.

The pain we feel when our pets pass away might be good for us in the long run, reminding us that we are only mortal.  We can only do our best for our pets and, when our best isn’t good enough, we bring them peace – even if it’s at the price of our own.

The Raw Story


Tierce’s office.

I’ve taken a position at a raw pet food store and I’m reading up everything I can about raw food, raw feeding, etc.  It’s a lot of information to take in.  I’m trusting to my considerable obsession with dogs and anything to do with dogs to carry me through.

So far, most of the studies I’ve found on raw pet food have to do with the level of Salmonella and bacteria they can carry and its transmission.  Opinions are divided, with natural feeding advocates and veterinarians butting heads.  “Raw is natural!”  “Raw is dangerous!”  “Raw is healthiest!” “Commercial dog foods have decades of science behind them!” “Natural feeding!” “Feeding based on science!”

It makes sense to me that a diet of fresh food (I view food frozen upon processing to be ‘fresh’ in terms of the nutrients that are preserved by immediate freezing) would be preferable over a diet of kibble, if circumstances allow.  I don’t eat nutrition bars at every meal.  I’m told that a diet comprised of mainly fresh food and light on the processed, refined crap that I love so well is the best way to go if I ever want to make the acquaintance of my old jeans again.  Then again, I’m not a dog.

However, these opinions are not formed on cold scientific fact; they are formed from what I’ve observed.  I’m well aware that the human mind is sometimes its own worst enemy, with confirmation bias being something that one must ever guard against if a thorough examination of the available evidence is to be successfully undertaken.

SkeptVet states that recent studies have not indicated that raw feeding is significantly better than feeding a high-quality kibble.  He does note in another blog post on raw cat diets that any diet high in moisture may be better for cats.  I like SkeptVet because he really looks at the available evidence and draws conclusions based on it.

Anecdotal evidence is shaky at best when it comes to ascertaining whether a raw diet is ‘better’ than a kibble diet.  What I’m going with right now is the evidence based on Tierce’s forays into the raw fed world: his poops are smaller and there’s less of them and his coat is looking pretty good.  As we march towards the dread month of May, which is when his allergies start to act up, I’ll be interested to see if a raw diet has any effect on them.