Sunday, December 20, 2009

and, in a whisper, he was gone

I lost someone today. We were not close on a day to day basis...but we were cousins...we were family. And he was young. With a wife and with daughters. And with much life ahead of him. And he is gone...and it is hard to know what to do with that...

coda...his dog

He is the first person I have lost where I can not make some kind of sense of it...he was not elderly, a person who had lived their life...he should not have had his time cut short. And, at this point, I struggle to wrap my mind around it...

He is the first person to make me really feel the difference between losing pets and losing people, because as much as have I felt and do acknowlege the pain of losing pets, this is a different grief. I miss knowing that he is on this earth and I know that what I feel is only a fragment of what his wife and children and parents must be feeling...because he left far too soon. And as long as I am in this world, I will never understand why the universe felt that he had to go.

his daughter and coda

So here's to vintage sportscars and 21 year-old scotch and to our dogs (coda) and fresh sushi and to family and to the simple joys that can be found in this's to some of the things that I know he loved. And here's to the next will be missed and you will always be loved, Gord.

Friday, December 11, 2009

constants and change

I think one of the best parts of life is our ability to evolve. Even as a small child, I loved change. We moved a few times around the country in my early years...and my mother has often told me how I excited I was each was something new, a chance to re-invent myself.

Over the last couple months, I feel like my life has gotten away from me a little bit. I want to fix that...and it will require change. More to come on that....I will say for now that the only way to embrace change, to thrive on it, is to continue to have constants in life...and for me that will always be Sophie...and that will always be Elora.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

a moment with sophie

There is something about sitting in the sun on a warm afternoon in the fall and feeling the weight of your dog leaning against you as she sits beside you. About the tenderness of her paw on your leg...about the sincerity in her eyes when she looks up at you.

I don't know whether it's the genuine nature of a dog....the fact that you know she has no hidden agenda, no other reason for loving that moment except that it was a moment in her world with one of the people she loves the most...or whether it's the knowledge that I know those times with her are finite, that a day will come where the only weight of hers that I will feel is her memory in my heart. But there is something about those moments that make the world glow. That make me pay attention. That touch my soul and that I know, even now, will stay with me always. A moment with will last forever.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


A good friend and I were having a conversation recently about life and he used the word "fulfillment". I tossed that word around for days afterwards...thinking about the role that fulfillment has in our lives. There are so many different aspects to one's life...areas that matter, that affect our well being, that help us determine whether or not we are living the best version of our life: our work, our relationships, our children, our health, our hobbies, our financial stability, our faith and so on. In each of those areas we have a set of ideals, of expectations, of how we want that part of our life to be...what we need it to be in order to feel fulfilled.

I look around me and I see, more often than I would have expected, that people use the fulfillment they may be getting from one aspect of their life to make up for a lack of it in another. The fulfillment from having children makes up for the void left by a mediocre marriage. Or financial stability makes up for the monotony of a job that one has no passion for. Can one strive for fulfillment in every area of their life?

Finding fulfillment is hard, hard work. Things that are worth doing are usually hard. Sophie taught me about what true fulfillment really feels like....I had never really experienced that until she came into my life. I have written before that I had never felt as proud or as accomplished than when people would comment on how well we worked together or how well trained she was. Once you taste that kind of joy, you begin to seek it out in other areas of your life. But that kind of fulfillment does not come is a journey, and it is usually found by making tough decisions, by having courage, by having perseverance. I have found more fulfillment in the last year than I have known in my lifetime...but I have a long way to go still. I guarantee you will know two things for sure on your journey to fulfillment: will know when you have found it, because it will feel like your soul has grown wings.

And will know that it was worth every second of that journey.

So is it possible to find fulfillment in every aspect of your life.? My answer is I don't know...but I intend to spend most of my time on this earth trying to find out.

Friday, October 9, 2009

a real dog

I received a pet industry research report at work this week that used the phrase "a real dog" in it at a few points. The phrase stuck in my thoughts for the next few days as I dared to ponder how does one define "a real dog"?


Our passion for our pets has created such a range of philosophy in the dog world....everything from what they should be eating to how to train them to what they should look like to conform to breed standards. And passionate dog owners, trainers, etc are never shy about giving their opinion (with the best of intentions) on those views. It's amazing that these creatures have created such strong feelings in's one of the very reasons that our relationships with dogs has evolved in such a wonderful way. But with the sweet always comes the sour.

A real dog? Is that one of a certain size? One that wears a Halloween costume or one that doesn't? One that is purebred? One that works or one that shows? I've heard this expression,"a real dog" before...and it saddens me that some of us judge the "realness" of dog based on some pre-determined list of criteria that is agreed to upon by....who?

There are so many neglected and abused dogs...they are the ones that need our support, our intervention, our voice. The happy, go-lucky dogs of this world who have good forever families don' matter what kind of kibble they eat, or if they can't hold a sit-stay for a full minute or if they wear a different outfit every week or if the only papers to their name is a copy of the shelter adoption form. They don't need to be saved or spoken for on behalf of their well-being. Their owners don't need to be lectured. And neither the owner nor the dog needs to be judged. Do you know how you can spot a "real dog"? Because they are happy.

A real dog is a happy dog. A real dog loves to eat and sniff and bark and play. A real dog gets a chance, now and then, to run. A real dog has a warm, safe place where they love to sleep. A real dog is loved. And a real dog loves you back. Tell me how it gets any more real than that?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

fall's whisper

There is something about the fall that I find extremely peaceful. It always feels like the beginning of a quieter time....less rush, less busy...and I love that feeling. Maybe it's the holidays approaching in the distance, but it feels like a time for family. A time to slow down and just be together.

I look forward to Saturday mornings in the fall. Cozy in favorite wool sweaters with hot cups of coffee, we walk a joyous Sophie along the trails that are washed over in brilliant reds, oranges and yellows and I can hear fall's whisper.....the changing of the seasons.

And I I always do on my walks with Sophie....that life doesn't get any better than this.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

a dog year

There have been two events in my life that have left me feeling lost…left me feeling unsure of the next step to take…left me feeling a hollow sadness deep in my bones. The first event was a marriage that ended several years ago. And the second was losing my job last August. And in both cases, it was an animal that brought me back….that helped me find myself again….it was animal that saved me. Cosmo, a little stray cat, brought love back into my life again. And Sophie, well, she helped me find sirius…my dog star, my true north.

I started writing because of Sophie. She is my muse…the topic of a former monthly newspaper column, of articles in magazines, the inspiration for this blog. She touched something in me that made me want to express myself with pen and paper. I truly believe that I would not be writing today if Sophie had not come into my life. I picked up a camera a year ago, pointed it at Sophie, clicked the shutter button down once…and haven’t stopped shooting since. I started taking photos to capture memories of Sophie, which led to photographing more dogs, which led to the Charlie Project…which led to finding.sirius photography (a small weekend business). I can’t imagine a world without my camera now….a world that I found because of Sophie.

The way that Sophie has inspired both my writing and my love of photography over the last year is wonderful….but she has done something far more important than that for me. She opened my eyes. She helped me use the time I was given after losing my job to just breathe. To figure out what I really wanted to do next. To realize that I needed my work to matter to me….and that the paycheck, the title, the benefits were not part of what mattered. She led me to a job where I use my passion for pets and their bond with their owners every day. And it’s a job that leaves me with the energy, inspiration and time to pursue my other interests.

The days and weeks after I was let go from my job were hard…some of the hardest days I have known so far in life. And while the people in my life were wonderful and supportive…I was suffering a crisis of self…of knowing who I was supposed to be anymore. I was lost and embarrassed…and that made it difficult to be around those very people that were offering so much support. It made it difficult to even get up in the morning. But, being with Sophie brought me comfort. She made me smile…I would go for long walks with her and I would start to feel hopeful…feel inspired and confident again. And I began to look at my life from a different perspective and I found what was really important to me. I found photography. I found writing. I found a job that I love for the first time in my life. I found real joy. And when I looked for the reason for finding all those things….I found Sophie.

Jon Katz has said it best: “If there's magic in the relationships between humans and dogs, it might be that mysterious interdependence, the way in which we sometimes need our dogs greatly, and some of them can read that and become the dogs we need. In this way, they steady us, buoy us, especially in dark times.” To the critics of my story, the ones that say Sophie is just a dog, to them I say….thank goodness she is. It is the very essence of a dog…the traits that set them apart from humans…..their wildness, their spirit, their unconditional love of life…..that helped me. Oh, the places a dog can take you….if you open your heart to the magic.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

join team sophie!

It's important to me that I maintain the integrity of this blog, Finding Sirius....that it doesn't stray too far from it's original purpose: a space to talk about my adventures in life with Sophie, about dog love and cat love, about the things that matter to me in this world. I have been approached by pet product companies to try their products and write reviews here about those products and have respectfully declined. I have been asked to link to sites that sell products and have also respectfully declined. This blog is not about generating sales, dollars or's simply a creative space that has been inspired by the love of a great dog. However....there is very worthy cause that Sophie is a champion for, so I am granting myself a bit of flexibility to reach out to all of Sophie's fans in the blogging world to inquire if they would like to support her in an upcoming event.

(Sophie at the finish line in 2007)

For the last two years, Sophie has participated in the Terry Fox Run. Most Canadians are familiar with the event...if you would like to learn more about it you can get all the information here. It's a 10k run that happens on the second Sunday in September each year across many cities in Canada to raise funds for cancer research. Jones, my significant other and his brothers run with their Dad every year. So when Sophie was just 7 months old she completed her first of many runs and raised $440 for the cure. Last year her fundraising efforts generated $650 from very generous family and friends...and this year we are hoping to raise $1000. I am proud to say that she is one of the only canine fundraisers in Canada!!

(Sophie and Jones, 2008)

I have to admit I felt a bit relunctant to embark on our normal fundraising campaign this year. I knew it would be tough....tough to ask people to part with even a small amount of their hard earned dollars in this tough economy. But I got thinking about that word "tough"...and as hard as it is to ask I know it's tougher to lose a pet to cancer. And I know its tougher to have a loved one diagnosed....or yourself diagnosed...with cancer. And I know its even tougher to lose someone to this terrible diseaase. So, you see, fundraising doesn't seem so tough anymore.

(Quotes from Terry Fox along the way, 2008)

You can join Sophie on the Marathon of Hope, no matter where you live in this big world, by sponsoring her online at the following link:


We will proudly be displaying the names of Sophie`s supporters on our sidebar (with active links where applicable) as well on a bandana that Sophie will be wearing during run day. Whether you can spare $5 or $50, every little bit helps us get one step closer to finding a cure for cancer. You can read about Sophie's first run in the article below. It ran in a local Toronto paper back in 2007...written from Sophìe's point of view, of course.

My Walk with Terry - by Sophie

On Sunday, September 16th I walked with my “mom” and “dad” in the Terry Fox Run. In this issue of SNAP North Toronto, I wanted to write about my day and why I walked with Terry. I say “with” Terry, instead of “for” because I think that every Canadian (furry and not!) who believes in finding a cure for cancer carries a piece of the Terry Fox spirit within themselves all the time and especially during the day of the Run.

It was a cool Sunday morning, but the sun was shining as we drove to the park. As we walked down to the start line, I was so excited I wanted to burst off my leash! My “dad” and his family took off running, while my “mom” and I began our walk. There was a live band sending out notes of old rock & roll dancing through the air, corn was being husked for roasting later on in the day and volunteers were handing out crisp green apples and satin soft Terry Fox ribbons to the runners. But what struck me the most were the people.

On our walk I met a man in a wheelchair with his 7 year old Border Collie/Lab mix named Oscar. I saw families with kids on bikes and their Terry Fox ribbons waving in the wind as they past by. I saw a group of women in their forties wearing hats that said: “In memory of Barbara” walking together, their cheeks stained with tears. I saw an elderly couple with walking canes in one hand and each other’s hand in the other. And in everyone’s eyes, I saw hope.

I was so tired when we finished, that I fell asleep in the car on the way home! But I had lots of important reasons for doing the run. The main reason I walked with Terry on September 16th was for my “dad”. He runs with his Dad and brothers every year, so I wanted to go too! Also, those who have met me know how much I LOVE to meet people and I had started thinking about all the people I would never get to meet because cancer had slipped in and stolen them from this world before their time. So I walked with Terry on September 16th for all of those people and their stolen time.

In my short time on the planet, I have also met many of my mom and dad’s family and friends. I realized that almost everyone I know has been affected by this terrible disease through the loss of someone dear to them. It has touched so many people and left a scar on their hearts that will stay with them forever. So I walked with Terry on September 16th to help lift the weight of those scars even if only by a little.

I am so glad that I was part of the Marathon of Hope this year. I raised $440 for the cure! Thank you to all my friends and family who were able to sponsor me. Next year I will be running…running with Terry for my “dad”, for stolen time and for those scars. Running to help find a way to rid this world of this terrible disease. Running for hope.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

magic - an interlude

I have been working on my post about my journy over the course of the last year after losing my job last August. I am late in posting it because I am struggling with articulating some of the moments, some of the key turning points that lead me to the joyful place that I find myself in today. And here is why....

I have shared parts of this story with a wide audience and find myself questioned frequently about the weight of the role that Sophie played in this journey. Some people find it troublesome that a dog had such an impact on my life course rather than people. They have percieved, mistakenly, that I do not have good human relationships in my life and, therefore, needed to turn to a dog instead. I have also struggled, sometimes, to explain exactly how Sophie enabled me to see more she showed me a path that fit with my true self. And I realized my struggle to explain stems from one simple fact: I don't know how she did it. But she did.

So as I was writing my post about our journey...and re-writing to try and explain it better....and re-writing to try and show those in doubt that I do not believe dog love replaces human love....I decided to just stop. Why does it need to be explained? I've tossed away my hours of analysis and decided to rely on my instinct (another lesson from Sophie) and summed it up to this: magic.

Not the kind of magic that makes rabbits disappear in hats or that levitates objects or that foresees the future. It was the kind of magic that happens around us everyday if we look hard enough for it: in a stranger's random act of kindness, in baby girl's wide eyes as she catches her first glimpse of the world around her, in the love of a good dog. It's the kind of magic that fills up your heart and that opens your eyes to what is good, to what is possible in this life. We shouldn't question ourselves or each other on where we find it.....whether it's in our children, in our travels to different countries, in our cameras, in our writing, in our churches or even in our dogs...we should just recognize it for the gift that it is and grab onto it with all our might.

Sophie brought that magic into my life at a time when I needed it most. So the story that I am going to post this week about our journey over the last year will not be about how and will just be about us. About us...and the magic.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

ten days

We are heading out tomorrow for our summer vacation at the cottage. Ten glorious days of northern bliss. I am so looking forward to slowing down for an extended period of time. To hanging out with Sophie. To spending time with my family. To taking some new photos. To having no demands, no deadlines, no expectations for ten days. Even Elora makes this trip to cottage with us. We are there long enough to give her a chance to settle in...and a family vacation would simply not be complete without her.

The cottage is a place of reflection for me. A place where I think about my life and about where I want it to go next. I am feeling the need to simplify these days....I have found so much in the last year that I want to spend time on (writing, photography, two blogs, my new job, and so on), but I am feeling stretched a little thin trying to keep up with everything. I will spend some time at the cottage thinking about this concept of simplicity, about what the next chapter of my life story will be, about who I am.

When I return in August it will be almost one year to the day (August 12th, 2008) that I was laid off from my previous job. And this, without a doubt, has been the best year of my life so far. My August 12th post here on Finding Sirius will be in honour of that year long journey. A journey that I began at low point in my life when I was lost and unsure. A journey that I began by following a dog...and my heart.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

missing them

I am travelling this week for work...flying out tomorrow to Kansas and arriving back home on Friday. I am looking forward to my trip but oh, how I will miss Sophie and Elora. This is the furthest (in terms of geography) that I have ever been from them....and for one of the longest stretches of time.

It's funny how once you learn to live with animals, how quiet and empty and awkward your world becomes without them...even if it's only for a few days. I know that I will be sitting in my hotel room in the evenings this week listening for content dog sighs that never come and watching for sleek feline movement at my feet that isn't there.

And I will lie in my hotel bed, on the pristine, crisp white sheets, enveloped in peaceful quiet and I will think of my sofas covered in fur, of 2am cat "crazies", of muddy paw prints on the hardwood floors, of down-filled duvets forever tainted with the smell of wet dog.....and I will ache to be home. To be surrounded by cat love. To be encompassed by dog love.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

woman's world magazine

A few months back a research editor for Woman's World magazine emailed me regarding the article that I wrote for the Toronto Star newspaper about Sophie and I. She thought it was a story that their readers might be interested in and so: Sophie and I have a feature article about us in the issue that will be on sale this Monday, July 20th!

I have not seen the article (that will be very much based on the Star piece, although I did not author this one) nor have I seen the photos (of Sophie and I) selected from the shoot, but hopefully it turns out well and some of their readers connect with and enjoy the story.

The magazine is available in Canada and the US, but does not currently host an online presence. I will attempt to scan and post the article here for all of Sophie's international fans. :) The power of dog love....of how it touches people's lives, of how it makes this world a better place to live in...I will never get tired of being a part of that story, or of sharing that story, every chance I get.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

sunday stills - texture

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was texture. This little flower popped up unexpectedly on the side of my lawn. I initially noticed it for the colour...but as I took a closer look I saw a variety of texture's and surfaces on the delicate flower. It continues to amaze me...the things that you can see in this world through the lens of camera.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

sunday stills - wildflowers

This week's Sunday Stills Challenge was wildflowers. These wild daisies line the stone path down to the lake at our cottage.

Friday, July 3, 2009

lessons - seven

In everything that you do.... true to yourself. To your nature. To who you are.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

the ride

A good friend reminded me lately that when life is busy, even if it's busy with things that you love to do, you need to take time to just be. Time to slow down and to refresh your spirit. She reminded me that I need to take time to be with Sophie. So I did.

My best girl and I did an impromptu run up north for the weekend last Friday afternoon. I turned my back on chores that needed doing, on photos that needed editing, on work that needed finishing...on everything I should be doing and took off with my dog. On our three hour drive we had the windows wide open and country tunes blaring. We took the winding, dusty, back roads and I did not check once to see what time it was or to calculate how much further we had to go. We just enjoyed the ride.

At the cottage we swam in the cool lake water and explored the surrounding forest together. We felt the sun dip behind the horizon in the evening while nodding off together in lazy swing. I turned my Blackberry off; I did not write, I took only a few photos and I made some headway on a novel I've been meaning to read while Sophie lay at my feet enjoying a good, old fashioned beef bone.

And on our ride home on Sunday, I looked over at this happy, tired little dog riding in the passenger seat and was so glad we took off up north together for a few days. I've been thinking about Sophie a lot lately after a photo session a few weeks back with Oban. He was only a year older than Sophie and his athleticism...the ease in which he moved...made me realize how much of an effect Sophie's hip dysplasia really has on her abilities. And for a while I was feeling bad for she was missing out on not being able to jump and fly like this other Border Collie. But after this weekend, I can see again that she is a happy, energetic dog that lives her life to the fullest...she isn't missing out on a thing.

I was reminded this weekend that it's not always about what you can and can't do, or what you should and shouldn't do....sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride. And, for me, the only way to really do that is with the company of a great dog.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ya ya's

So here is the thing about Ya Ya's -- girlfriends who know you inside and out, who have known you for years -- over the course of two days together you get to be thirteen again.....and twenty-two again...and thirty again. And the journey is just as wonderful, full of as much laughter and as much love, as the first time around together.

There is nothing quite like girlfriends in this world...and I think mine are some of the best ones out there. The seven of us do not get the chance to all get together as much as we would like due to busy lives and the distance between us. But for two amazing days we get to just drink up being in each others presence with no distractions.

A few people asked if Sophie came with me to the cottage for the girl's weekend and the answer is she did not. My weekend with my friends is about being able to focus just on one another for a couple of days. So no husbands, no kids, no dogs....nothing that requires us to pay attention to anyone or anything except each other and ourselves....which as working women, mothers, wives, and dog owners we don't get the chance to do very often. And we miss our husbands and our kids and our dogs....but we return after those two days feeling like we can breathe a little easier again and feeling connected to one another again.

Each one of the Ya Ya's brings something unique and wonderful to my life. Kristin is the kindest, most sincere person I have ever met....and she really listens when I talk to her. Holly is full of soul and thoughtful words of wisdom...words that I am often left thinking about for days. Being with Lynn is like throwing open the porch door and letting the glittery sunshine spill into the house....she is warm and genuine and always brightens my heart.

Nancy has the best advice and she will always stand by you, no matter what....her strength is absolutely breathtaking. Sheri is the friend I have known the longest and she can make me laugh like no one else...those rumbling-up-from-the-belly laughs that you can only have with someone with whom you have a shared a lifetime with and who knows every story, every nuance, every moment.

And Danielle....a joyful heart and my best friend. Her incredible sense of self always leaves a mark of inspiration when I spend time with her. On any given day we are a thousand miles apart....but on any given day there is no space between us. She has been....and will always touchstone in this world.

And those are the Ya Ya's. Our weekend has come and gone...but once again there were moments, conversations, and threads woven that will stay with me forever. I did miss my best girl Sophie. (I will be posting about her later this week.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

authenticity - mine and theirs

If someone were to ask me what is the biggest lesson I have learned in the last ten months, I would have to say the importance of myself and in others. I used to be a person who would see a fresh-faced young woman, toting her yoga bag from a Sunday morning class, heading into Starbucks for a hot green tea and immediately say: Yes..I want to do yoga on Sunday mornings and drink green tea and be centered!

I would attend one class, maybe two...sore and unhappy...and would also discover that I actually found green tea quite bitter and that would be the end of that. It wasn't the authentic me. I bought a designer hand bag once after working with a lovely, posh, stylish friend. It came with it's own "dust bag" to keep it in. I think I have used the dust bag more than I have carried that beautiful, soft-as-butter leather, Kate Spade bag. Again...not the authentic me.

Life is too short to do anything but be yourself. I like coffee in the mornings...with lots of cream and sugar. I never read the paper, but I will read the same book year after year and will get lost in the plot and fall in love with the characters every time. Nothing beats a cold beer after work on a matter how many calories are in the glass. I take absolutely no pleasure in all. My favorite way to spend a Sunday morning is lying in the dirt and grass, camera in hand, trying to the get best shot of some wonderful dog. If I could spend one third of my day writing, one third behind the lens and one third on the trails with Sophie, it would be heaven on earth.

I have also discovered how much I value authenticity in others. I am heading up north on Thursday for my Girl's Cottage Weekend. There are seven of us going and many of us have known one another since high school. We have been having this girl's weekend for over a decade. Each of these women is so unique and is never anything but their truest self. I always look forward to spending time with their stories, to their grace, to their laughter, to their insights. Their friendships have been some of the strongest threads of authenticity that I have woven into my life...and for that they may never know how grateful I am.

I am sure I shall return with a good story, and a photo or two, for sharing. Until then, enjoy the rest of your week and your weekend.