Monthly Archives: April 2014

Year of the Dog

It’s been just over a year since we welcomed Piper, our Brittany spaniel puppy, into our home. That pup has grown into a dog and become part of the family. I have become a “dog person,” that breed of human I used to look at with non-comprehension, who happily scoops fresh turds into a little baggie and who lives vicariously through her dog’s athletic accomplishments (e.g. when Piper outruns other dogs at the park I feel proud).

Piper at Tom Campbell Hill dog park.

Piper in her element at Tom Campbell Hill dog park.

And yet. Owning a sweet, smart, beautiful family companion isn’t all rainbows and puppy kisses.

Blake and I were commiserating recently with another couple about life with a dog. They, too, have two children and a spaniel. We talked about how we love our dogs, but also about all the other baggage that comes with dog ownership: the walking, dislocating of shoulders during walks (Piper’s a “puller”), never-ending training, policing of autistic son interacting inappropriately with dog (me), incessant grooming (them), veterinary visits, and the ongoing problem of finding care for the dog when we leave town.

At this point I was feeling rather beaten down by Piper. We’d been treating her for an ear infection (translation: pinning her down daily in a death vice to squirt medicine into her ear canal) and the previous month she’d contracted kennel cough from the… wait for it… kennel. It’s an infection that irritates a dog’s lungs and throat and causes her to spontaneously vomit on the floor or carpet or wherever she happens to be standing. Naturally, the kennel cough followed on the heels of Piper’s lice infestation. Yes, lice. Dogs can get a slow-moving dog lice that makes them itch uncontrollably (but which fortunately cannot be passed along to humans — that was the first thing I Googled).

On top of these health problems there was the going concern of Piper and Bennett. We have been trying to teach him how to pet Piper gently and how to play with her, but I think our son delights in bugging her. He is forever grabbing her, hauling off with her by the collar to put her in her kennel, taking her lovey and running away with it, and otherwise tormenting her. It’s kind of how a big brother would treat his little sister, in fact. But I am weary of constantly refereeing them. I also worry Piper will go snake on him one day and we’ll be that family on the news whose kid’s face got torn off by the dog.

So, when our friends asked us, “Knowing what you know now, if you could do it over, would you still get a dog?” I didn’t even hesitate.

“No,” I said. “Absolutely not.” And a month later, with a healthy dog, I stand by the no.

Some people might think this is hard-hearted — how can I say this about a creature so adored by our children, one that has become part of the family? Yes, she’s sweet. Yes, I like all the exercise I get by walking her. Yes, I enjoy cuddling with her at day’s end when she finally collapses on her dog bed. And yes, we’re keeping her. But she’s not my child. She’s a dog, and life would be just as full — and a whole lot easier and way more stress-free — if she had never arrived on an airplane from Saskatoon one snowy day last April.

Piper as a puppy at 8 weeks old.

Piper as a puppy at 8 weeks old.


“Autism-friendly” movies screen monthly at Canyon Meadows

What makes a movie “autism friendly”? To find out, we headed to Canyon Meadows Cinemas this past Saturday to watch the animated children’s movie The Nut Job.

The Nut Job is just an okay movie (Bennett much preferred Frozen), but "autism friendly" is more about the theatre environment than the show itself.

The Nut Job is just an okay movie (Bennett much preferred Frozen), but “autism friendly” is more about the theatre environment than the show itself.

Calgary’s cheap seats theatre has committed to showing one children’s movie a month in an environment that turns the notion of “blockbuster” on its head. Instead of showing a 3-D movie in a pitch-dark theatre with loud surround-sound — and expecting tots to stay glued to their seat for two hours — the cinema screens a show inside a theatre with an autism-friendly ambiance. What does that mean? This:

  • Lights are at medium-low level (dim);
  • Sound volume is low (not loud and startling);
  • Tickets can be purchased in advance at the theatre for patrons who don’t want to wait in line;
  • There isn’t 20 minute’s worth of ads and trailers at the beginning of the film (hooray!);
  • Patrons are encouraged to make noise or move around (under supervision) if they wish.

I admit I have avoided taking Bennett, my six-year-old autistic son, to the movies for years — the kid has only seen three movies in a movie theatre in his life! I stayed away because I worried he would freak out about something in the film, throw a tantrum over spilled popcorn or demand we leave half way through the show. The fact that Canyon Meadows creates an environment once a month that makes it okay for Bennett to do all these things, is awesome. No more worrying about being judged (that I’m a bad parent, or that my son is misbehaving) because the other parents in attendance get it.

Bennett enjoys popcorn before The Nut Job at Canyon Meadows Cinemas.

Bennett enjoys popcorn before The Nut Job at Canyon Meadows Cinemas.

As it turned out, Bennett didn’t take advantage of the autism-friendly perks. He ate his popcorn and sat in his chair for the movie’s duration, with nary a word of protest. Other children walked around in the front of the theatre, made noises, occasionally cried. But it wasn’t a big deal because we understood. And, if Bennett had wanted to leave half way through the movie it wouldn’t have been a big deal, either — tickets cost just $5. It’s great Canyon Meadows is doing this regularly. Keep it up!


Drink of the Week: Martinez cocktail

I am not a big fan of martinis. I find them too boozy and too dry, and for those with just a “splash” of vermouth, too Christmas tree-forward (translation: juniper-y). I do, however, like Manhattans, so just imagine if there was a gin Manhattan! Well, there is — sort of. It’s called a Martinez and this classic cocktail actually predates the traditional gin martini.

The Martinez is rather like a sweet Manhattan, with gin and a touch of maraschino liqueur.

The Martinez is rather like a sweet Manhattan, but with gin and a touch of maraschino liqueur. I tried this one at a “Three Martini Lunch” at the Yellow Door Bistro.

The Martinez is basically a martini made with sweet vermouth, a couple dashes of bitters and a splash of maraschino liqueur (a delicious, fairly dry liqueur made from sour Marasca cherries). Peter Hunt from Victoria Spirits on Vancouver Island made me one using his aged Oaken Gin at a “Three Martini Lunch” event during the Art of the Cocktail festival in Calgary. I was smitten.

As a bonus, this drink hits on three of the cocktail trends I wrote about last weekend for the Calgary Herald: gin is still in, vermouth is the latest rage, and everything is better with some bitters. A Martinez might also be just the thing to sip with your chocolate eggs on Easter morning.


  • 2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 oz maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients with ice in a Boston glass and then fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

— Recipe courtesy Peter Hunt, Victoria Spirits