Friday, March 23, 2012

that's just me

I'm going to a work conference in May that will be attended by people from all over the world who work for my company (as well as our parent company).  As part of the prep for this conference, we have to complete a profile that will be posted in an e-team room so that your fellow attendees can get a sense of who you are before they get there.  The profile is supposed to be more personal and fun than about who you are at fact many of the questions you are asked to answer specify that your reply should not be about work (i.e proudest accomplishment).

I love these kinds of exercises because they can force you to think about aspects of your life that you have not really contemplated before.  I found out a few things about myself, such as when it came down to who was my role model and life, not just in work.....I had one very simple Dad.  What is my go-to-song to make me happy?  For better or worse, it's Breathe by Michelle Branch...everytime.  And I found out something else too.

Because I work for a pet industry company and the profile was supposed to be about me, not my work, I tried to leave out references to pets.  And found it to be impossible.  My favourite sound...Elora purring.  One of my proudest accomplishments....running a full agility course with Sophie.  Best advice I've ever been given....follow your heart and you will find true joy....advice I "got" from Sophie.  I simply could not fill out a profile about me without including Sophie and Elora...because they are part of who I am ....a big part.  It' s funny to think that just shy of a decade ago, I had never owned a dog or cat in my life....and now, I can't imagine a life without them.  Elora is not just my cat, but my touchstone...and Sophie is not just my dog, by my muse, my true north.  If you want to know almost have to start with them....and I think that's a wonderful and amazing thing.  But that's just me.

Friday, January 20, 2012

a perfect day - happy birthday, sophie

Sophie will be five tomorrow.  Wow...five. And as much as I am "into" dogs....I have never celebrated her birthday other than a blog post or a shout out on facebook.  No party, no presents, no cake.  It's just never seemed to be mine...or Sophie's...thing.  But something has shifted this year...maybe it's because she is getting older...or because I am.

This year, I bought her some "birthday" presents...a toy, a treat, a "happy birthday" dog cookie.. But more importantly I plan to give her this "great day" tomorrow...a day full of long, off leash walks on the trails; and some crazy play time; and indulgent meals and treats; and a whole day just being together. And maybe, I realize, it's not that either of us is getting older...maybe it's that I read Jon Katz's book: Going Home. Finding Peace When Pets Die.  A wonderfully written and excellent book, that I would recommend to any pet owner, that talks, in one chapter, about giving that beloved pet a "perfect day" before they go. Maybe I wished that I could make every day in our life together perfect for Sophie. But since I can't, given all the other demands in, family, friends...the least I can do is give her that "perfect day" once a year in celebration of her birth, rather than just at the end of her life.  In celebration of a day that would forever change me -- a day that would make me better, that would make me bringing this little being into my life.  And the funny thing is....I have this strong suspicion...that it won't just be her perfect will be mine as well.  Happy Birthday, my love for you is the purest thing I have ever known....and a pefect day, once a year, is the very least I can give you in return.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

a good year

Sophie and I took what has become our annual trip up north to the cottage for a few days after Christmas. It has become one of my favourite traditions for the holidays....leaving the hustle and bustle of work and the city behind for a couple of days so my girl and I can hang out by the fire and walk on the snowy trails together. So we can just be. I don't even take my ipod on those winter walks up north. I listen to the branches of the fir trees dip and creak under the weight of the snow, I listen to my dog's paws hitting ground as she jumps over logs on the path and I listen to the quiet. And I often think about the year that has past and the one that lays before us.

2011, like most years, was filled with a few big moments and many small ones: Sophie and I ran our first 10K together; I won the Buddy award and was promoted at work; a nephew was born, a nephew started walking and a nephew started school; there was sunshine for Girl's Cottage Weekend; the whole family was together for Christmas and many of the long weekends in the summer; I watched my Sophie fly over an agility course again. It was a good year.

Like most people, I have big plans for 2012...resolutions have been made. And I will do my best to see them through so that this time next year, I am looking back, proud of what I have done. However, even if all those plans don't get accomplished...even if all I can say at the end of 2012 is that: I gave my Sophie and Elora a great year; I spent some wonderful summer weekends and the holidays with my whole family; I laughed with my very best girlfriends; I worked hard at my job, then I will be able to was a good year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

my true north

I was at a training course for work this week where I was asked about meaningful moments in my life...moments or events that have affected me and changed me. And even though I work in the pet industry, I still found myself hestitant to mention that bringing a dog into my life was one of most profound, life changing, events ever for me. I was still unsure about how people and even my colleagues would react to it might be percieved. But this course emphasized the importance of finding your true self...and how that would impact and help me as a leader. So, I got brave about the lessons my Sophie, and all the other dogs I have met along the way, have taught me, and I shared that experience with no holds barred.

And what I found was the same reaction that I find everytime that I talk about Sophie: I found comraderie...and empthay....and engagement....and that people were inspired. I found like souls. Or as Anne Shirley from Green Gables would say...I found kindred spirits. And it wasn't because I was speaking "dog" persay to group of pet was because I was being genuine...and authentic about the experiences in my life. If I had to put it in it's most basic and fundamental language...Sophie guided me to my most authentic self. And that is what has made the difference. That is where I have found joy...because that is where I have found me. And that is what truly resonates with people...authentic experiences.

It took me a long time to get here...and I never saw it coming....a life found from following a dog. And the lesson, I think, is to be open to unexpected experiences because you never know where they will lead matter how small they may seem. If you are willing to throw your whole heart into those experiences they will change you....and you will never see the world the same again. I looked into the eyes of a dog one day and felt life change....I felt a shift in consciousness. From a dog, of all places. And it's a story that I tell again and again, even when I am unsure of how people might react, simply because it's the most profound truth that I's a story that has real meaning. And I am hoping that my truth not only helps other lost souls find solace , but that it will help them realize that inspiration can come from the unlikeliest of long as you are open to it. I do know that I was I was lucky...Sophie found me when I needed her the most, even though I didn't know it then. Because I never would have guessed that when I brought this tiny puppy into my life that she would end up being my true north...guiding me to the life I was meant to be living. So find your compass in this world..find your true north....because it will never fail to lead you to authentic joy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

at the heart of it

I like to believe that most of what we do in this world starts out with good intentions...and starts out being aligned with our hearts. But life has this way of running away with you. I took a job three years ago becaused I loved my dog and my cat. Which sounds like an odd reason to take a job....but at the most basic level it really is why I chose to work in the pet industry. And it has been the best decision that I have ever made.

Fast forward three years and I find myself in a more senior role in the same a role where corporate dynamics are harder at play...things like office politics have become more relevant and my day to day work feels more connected to business bottom lines than to pet owners. I was starting to wonder if I had fallen back into the same trap of being more concerned about advancing and climbing the corporate ladder rather than simply engaging in work that I was passionate about. Was I making the same bad choices all over again? And then a cowork said something this week that made me see it differently.

I was venting to this coworker about a meeting I had been at earlier in the day and was visibly frustrated. And she said to me: "Go home and walk Sophie and remember why you love what you do." And I realized she was right...the reason I loved this job and this industry was still there...still relevant. It wasn't the fact that my role at this company had was more about me. I needed to remember why I chose this job, this company in the first place...and it was never about the day to day tasks, titles or advancement. It was about my passion for pets. At the heart of that decision was my love for Sophie and Elora. And if I remember that, then it doesn't matter what my day to day to work involves....those are just tasks....that love is still at the heart of it. And I believe that if love is at the heart of what you work, on the weekends, whenever...then you are making good are living an authentic life. Even if things have changed from where they started, if you remember what's at the heart of it, you'll remember why it was the right choice for you. At the heart of my choice, I found a dog and a cat....and a love that I will have forever.

Friday, September 23, 2011

the legacy of a lifetime dog

I've spent the last four and a half years paying attention to dogs and dog owners. And I can easily spot now when the connection between that dog and that owner has developed beyond the standard "This is my pet dog and I love him". I think most dog owners would agree with me, that there are times when you see an owner and their dog and you can tell that they are completely intertwined in each other's lives...that they speak a secret language with one another. You can tell that the right owner found the right dog at the right time and that something truly magical happened. And those are the "lifetime" dogs.

After my last blog post, I received a fair bit of email regarding this notion of lifetime dogs. Just to clarify, Jon Katz, my favourite author, is the one who coined the phrase and idea...but it is a notion that has stuck with me as I believe he has articulated a very real truth within the world of pet ownership. It has also stuck with me, because I know that Sophie is my "lifetime" dog and when you know that fact and you know that you are already in the middle of your all-too-short-time together, it can start to weigh on your mind how much time you only have left together and how you will cope when she is gone.

Anytime a cherished pet is lost, owners experience loss and grief and a heavy sadness. But when an owner loses a lifetime dog, I imagine that they must feel something on a completely different level...that a piece of them has gone missing and is never coming back. Because I feel that already, when I think about a world without Sophie in it. And it's in my nature to prepare myself for the inevitable by thinking about it in advance....and it knocks the very breath out of me everytime. But I can't change the inevitable. So, even in this instance, I take a lesson from Sophie, a lesson from our dogs....focus on today. Live in the moment together and know that whatever happens in the future, she and I will face it together. Because even once she is physically gone...and my heart is broken...her lessons, her love and the changes she brought in my life will comfort me and will endure....and that is the legacy of a lifetime dog.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

a bucket list

I was editing a photo of Sophie the other day and was startled to see a bit more grey in her face than before. Just a sprinkle, where her white blaze meets black...but still a sprinkle. And it got me thinking about the time we have spent together...and about the years still ahead for us. We have spent four and a half years together. And in that time we have done a lot. She guided me to writing, to blogging, to photography, to a new career, to a new perspective in life. And together we have run agility courses, have herded sheep, have attempted dock diving, have raised funds for the Terry Fox Run, have run a 10K race, have embarked on road trips around Ontario and even into upstate New York, have camped and cottaged and hiked hundreds of kilometers of trails. And those are just the big things.

I know, without a doubt, that even though I will always have (and love) a dog in my life, that Sophie is my "lifetime" dog, to use a phrase from my favourite author, Jon Katz. She is a dog who came into my life and changed things...she changed me. So as I think about our next few years together, I think about the things I want to do with her...such as take a ten day road trip to PEI -- just Sophie, me and my camera where I can watch her dip her paws in the ocean. So, we now have a "bucket list", Sophie and I, for the next few years...and I intend to cross every single item off that list. Because that's what a lifetime dog does....they spark love and joy and change in you and show you how to soar.