Sunday, April 28, 2013


Yesterday, Mr. K and I took a train out to see a potential new living space. It's a semi-detached house in a really nice residential neighbourhood. It has a fenced in patio off of the back as well as a fully enclosed yard. Mr. K is excited by the patio because that means he can barbecue. I think that excites me too. I can always get down on some grilled steak. The yard has a  fairly steep slope down, but that won't really be an issue. It is over two stories and has a recently renovated kitchen with a normal sized fridge/freezer. The fridge we have now is what we North Americans call a  bar fridge. It's about the size of a mini bar fridge in a hotel room. It's been a bit ridiculous to fit all of our food into it. The area is very quiet and there were quite a few people out gardening. Everyone we passed seemed friendly as well which was nice. We both really liked the place so we'll call tomorrow to see if we can put a deposit on it. I think my nesting instincts are kicking in because I put a dishes set, garden decorations and bathroom set on Mr. K's Amazon wish list.
When we first arrived, I was a bit hesitant. I didn't realise just how residential the area was and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get out of the house and just grab a cup of coffee. We did find one restaurant with a nice bar and there is apparently another pub down the road. There are also two grocery stores and a sport/leisure centre. So, that would be good. It takes about 25 minutes on the train to get into the city centre, but it's a pleasant trip and I wouldn't mind having to do that to get into town. I didn't see any off leash places for the dogs to run, but I've been told there are places so I'll have to investigate that further.
For me, I was surprised that I was so hesitant about the place. I was the one who found it and I'm the one who has been saying I want to move further out of the city into a more residential area. Mr. K likes the city and so I was surprised that he was the one who was all about it. I guess I was a bit concerned that I would lose my independence after just getting it back again. What I mean is: Nala and I would have to learn a new place again and we would be limited in getting around for a while until our new routes solidified with both of us. I had been six months without a guide dog and was incredibly restricted in the places I could go on my own. I didn't want to feel like that again. That said, I think we'd learn the new routes quite quickly and be fine.
Our other surprise has nothing to do with the house move-well, in a sort of unrelated way they sort of go together, but you'll see what I mean once I explain.
I've always wanted to get into dog breeding. It's not an easy thing to get into as you need a mentor and it takes years to build up relationships, customer bases and good litters. You have to do a lot of leg work to meet the right people and it was something Mr. K and I had talked about doing in the future once my MSc was finished. That way, I could focus on school. We also discussed showing our chosen breed as well and that also takes time. In the mean time, we've been looking into a low allergen cat breed. We settled on the Siberian, since they are supposedly one of the best breeds for this, and started contacting breeders. We made a lot of enquiries and finally settled on one breeder who had three litters planned for 2013. One litter was born by the time we had contacted her, so we went on the waiting list for the next litter. Me being the person I am, read her website from start to finish and saw somewhere along the way that she may be interested in mentoring the right person who wanted to show/breed the Siberian. I thought this was interesting and told Mr. K about it who said I should get more information. To make a very long story short, after a whole ton of questions on my part and a whole ton more emails back and forth, she has become my mentor. I thought that I could start with the cats and take the knowledge I learn from that to dog breeding.
Initially, we had planned on buying a pet cat from her first in order to get to know the breed. We also thought this would give me time to ask a million more questions, attend some cat shows and finish my degree. When we got home from our house viewing yesterday afternoon though, plans began to change.
The breeder had sent me an email asking if I wanted one of her kittens from the earlier litter who is show quality. She also said she has a proven breeding female (or queen as they are called) that we could bring home around October of this year. Come early 2014, we could breed the pair and have our first litter. There are so many reasons why this is an amazing offer. I feel incredibly honoured that she would consider us to take two of her high quality cats. Starting with such a strong foundational pair is beyond my expectations. I thought we would have to wait years to really have our feet under us with this project and wouldn't have a litter until at least 2015, but this offer has changed everything.
Of course there are a few things Mr. K and I have to take into consideration, but the pros far outweigh the cons. And with the possibility of having larger living accommodations with a direct train line into the town, we would be in a good position to start our own, small, cattery

I just have to say that we have had a few surprises in the last 24 hours, but I feel incredibly lucky. So, basically, watch this space: we may be entering our first cat show in mid-August. I may be dog lover converted to cat fancier. :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Full House

We've always had a full house. In fact, when we lived in SC we had five dogs, but the difference was that we had room for five dogs. Not to mention, three of the five were technically classified as "miniatures." So, we had more like 3 and a half. Now, we have one less dog, but are struggling with the space and it's not just that: taking four dogs out to the bathroom each morning takes me half an hour. We don't have a yard so I go down to the cycling trail every morning and relieve everyone. Thankfully, I can take Hermione and Otis together which cuts down on the time, but this has become a bit much. I love my dogs and love spending time with them, but it makes it difficult to get anything done when I'm taking dogs out four to five times a day at half an hour every time. That adds up. That doesn't even include the walks that I take them on.
I actually don't really want to move. It seems like that's all I've done in the last four years. I can't seem to stay in one place for longer than a year; it's a bit ridiculous to be honest, but we need a bigger place with a yard. It's not just the going out that is a problem. The dogs like to have puppy battle time and our place just isn't big enough. It would be different if I could just take them out into a yard to have their royal rumble time, but I can't even do that. I certainly take them down to the trail, but the cyclists don't care if they run you or your dogs over and so I am worried that someone is going to get hurt. People have also made a habit of dumping every kind of garbage you can think of down there and half of the time I don't know if they are eating things. You should see what's down there-couch cushions, burned out scooters, rappers, alcohol containers, rotten food. Once, there was even a garbage bag full of wet, gross clothes.
Our lease is up at the end of June as well as our gym membership and so it seems like the perfect time to look for a new place.
And we've found somewhere.
Tomorrow we will be hopping a train to a little outlying area to look at a two bedroom house with a yard. Despite it being outside of the city limits, getting into the city centre will be at least the same level of difficulty or perhaps even easier. I'll know better tomorrow, but from what I can tell it will actually be easier. The place we are looking at is less than half a mile from the train station which is totally walkable. The train goes directly into the city centre which means that I am only a ten minute walk from the university campus. Since the bus takes me about half an hour and I never know if the drivers are going to let me know when my stop is, the train may be a better mode of transportation anyway. Trains always stop at the same stops which means I will always know where I am. Also, the train trip seems to be shorter than the bus ride, even though it is further out.
There are grocery stores, leisure facilities, shopping venues Etc in the new area as well. It is also a coastal town and so there are plenty of beaches for the dogs to go play on. I've talked briefly with someone who lives there and she says that it has great walks and most people are friendly and responsible dog owners. It seems like an all around good idea, but I guess we'll see tomorrow when we get there. In some ways I guess we're moving because we're crazy animal people and have quite a few, but in another I think we're moving for ourselves too.
I think it's hard moving from a place where you used to live in houses all of your life with big yards and green space that was yours to squishy tenement buildings where most people aren't very friendly. I had always thought that living in apartment style housing would be good  because you would meet people, but not so much. We're also having  problem where someone in the building smokes and tends to do it out in the hallway. The smell filters into our flat and makes both Mr. K and I very congested.
With all of that in mind, if this house doesn't work out, I think we're prepared to stay here if we have to, but we both hope that come July we'll have our own patio and yard. I also wouldn't mind getting this house because it has a fireplace which would be nice on those cold, damp Scottish evenings, but of course we wouldn't take it just because of that. :) Are we crazy? Yeah, pretty much, but if I do end up doing a PhD, living in a house with a yard, in a quieter neighbourhood wouldn't be such a bad idea. Mr. K is going to London in a year to complete his Master's degree and if I do my PhD, I'm staying here. This means that I'd like to be in a bit more of a residential area. The building we're in now has been broken into three times since we moved in and although I think we're safe, I would feel more comfortable in a more community oriented area. but, as it's all up in the air, I will leave it at that for now and fill you in on the details of our trip tomorrow.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sunshine and Puppy Dogs

Today was actually a really nice day in Scotland. Well, at least in the part I'm in. The sun made some very strong appearances with a bit of cloud cover, but it was absolutely gorgeous out. Aside from the much needed sunshine, the temperature has definitely risen as well. It was the perfect day for breakfast out with Carmen, a quick run to the mall to pick up Mr. K's birthday present-more about that to come-and then a much needed walk with the pooches.
After spending two hours in the cafe enjoying breakfast and downing our weight in coffee, a ramble outside was definitely in order. Nala did some great work today and so she came along for a free run as well. Tomorrow is supposed to be showers all day and so I thought it was best to get everyone's beans out today just in case I can't get them out tomorrow. Some people think it's horrible that I don't walk my dogs in the rain. I try to explain to them that my dogs won't walk in the rain, but they won't listen. If it's just drizzling or lightly sprinkling we are good to go. I put on my Wellies and just have the dog towel ready for our return home, but if it's a heavy rain you can forget going anywhere. Hermione will just prance along beside you, whacking you with her paws, squawking until you take her home. Otis either attempts to drink himself out of the rain or sits down, refusing to move. I'm also struggling through my final few essays and so a walk today was good for all of us.
We were gone for a good two hours. Hermione was off leash the whole time since her recall is probably the best. Otis's is non-existent, but we're working on it. Nala's is good with the whistle, but sometimes I can't get the whistle going fast enough if I need to move her out of the way of a cyclist. Cyclists on this path will run dogs over, and people too, so I would rather not risk my new guide dog being hit by a bike. Not to mention, Nala's strong affinity for stinky, stagnant water meant that she had to be on leash on certain sections of the path. I usually don't mind bathing her, but today I just didn't have the time  with having to write my papers. However, on the parts where she was freed, her and Hermione tore around like their butts were on fire.
We took an extended route to the park where Otis was finally let off leash and Carmen and I sat on a bench and shared cookies she had  brought along. We made sure to seat ourselves on the opposite end of the park from the gigantic sink hole that Nala likes to roll in and Otis likes to turn into a buffet. It was so nice to be able to sit still with my coat open and not have to immediately start moving again because I was freezing.
The dogs were really good about sticking close to us despite there being crowds of other people with kids and dogs. Hermione and Otis took the opportunity to chase one another and then Nala started chasing both of them. It was also good to see hermione  running with Nala and the two of them getting along. If one girl would go running by, you would be sure that the other would be right on her heels. Both girls wear a bell since they are the ones who are mostly off leash. The bells both sound different and I always knew, not only by the sound of the paws running by, but also by the jingling which girl was racing away. We always get comments like, "sleigh bells" or "jingle bells" or "noisy dogs" or "musical dogs." Today was no exception. They took turns leading even though Hermione is slower than Nala-only because her legs are shorter. I  think that if Hermione's legs were the same length as Nala's, Hermione would be faster. She can also jump crazy high.
After cookies, we continued on our way home. I could tell the dogs were pretty worn out because Nala walked on a very nice loose leash. Otis was still all over the place, trying to catch the still leaping/prancing/galloping Hermione, but he's still a puppy. He doesn't wear out quite the same as the girls do. He plays hard and then sleeps hard. That said, I guess Hermione didn't really slow down until we got home either. She had some water and then promptly hopped on the couch and had a nap. In fact, all of them did which meant I had about an hour and a half of peace and quiet where I attempted to get some more writing done. Then, everyone was up again, harassing me to feed them.
I'm a little worn out now, but in a good way. There's nothing like the feeling of sleepiness that comes from being in the fresh air. It's the kind of sleepiness that guarantees a good, long night's sleep. In fact, that's what I'm off to do now.
Good night, all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Back to the Basics

*****WARNING: Long ramble ahead!

This morning was one of those mornings where I realised just why I love the mornings. It was one of those mornings that reminded me that I need to slow down and "smell the roses," so to speak and that yes, school deadlines are important, but so is enjoying life. It was one of those mornings that grounded me somehow and I'm not really sure why. It really wasn't much different than the last few mornings, but something clicked in my brain that made me literally stand still for about five minutes just letting Hermione and Otis sniff about. With having my dissertation proposal due and a lot of other school related assignments, I've been in this whirlwind that may be, in part, self inflicted. It's like I saw deadlines and everything else around me ceased to exist. I was just going through the motions of taking the dogs out, feeding them, cleaning the flat, eating my own meals, without even really noticing I was even doing those things. I would time myself outside with the puppies an as soon as it hit fifteen minutes, I'd usher them back inside only to sink into the couch, Laptop on my knees, headphones on and completely deaf and blind to the world around me. Perhaps it wasn't quite that exaggerated, but something about this morning flicked a switch. I think I even enjoyed my coffee this morning, something that hasn't really been happening recently.
This morning I made my coffee, enjoying its aroma and dumped some cinnamon into the mug for some added flavor. I sat and sipped it while I slowly worked away at an assignment, but actually tasted it today. The last couple of mornings I think I've just opened my mouth and poured.
I was up early this morning, not having a full night's sleep because of my brain being on over drive. I'd sleep, but I think I was writing essays in my dreams. I woke up and laid in bed for over an hour, but realised that it was no use-I wasn't going to turn my brain off which meant I certainly wasn't going back to sleep. I roused the dogs from their sleeping positions, threw some clothes on over my jammies and leashed up Hermione and Otis. I always take them out together. It's a habit from when I was trying to house train Otis. If he watched Hermione do her business outside, then he'd get the hint. I think it worked because he's probably been the easiest puppy to house train that we've had.
I wandered outside, still groggy and not really paying complete attention to my surroundings. It's a state I've been in for about a week now-just paying attention enough to make sure I'm safe, but my brain is  hashing out plans and figuring out problems. For some reason though, as Otis stopped to pee on the sidewalk (he must have really had to go), I sort of came out of my university paper writing induced haze and started smelling the air and actually listening to the birds singing. It was just after six so the street was absolutely quiet except for the birds and the very far off hum of traffic. When Otis had finished, instead of rushing down to the cycling trail and timing how long I was outside, I meandered slowly down the sidewalk, down the hill and on to the trail. At the bottom of the hill I stopped and extended the dogs' leashes and just stood still. A bike past me, but instead of the usual irritation that has filled me at the passing of cyclists in the last week, I hardly noticed. It was a bit cool out, but the air was fresh and clean smelling. I'm not sure if the sun was coming up, or shining, but at that moment it didn't really matter.
The birds really have been chirping away for about two weeks now, letting us know spring is here, but I've hardly noticed. This morning though, I was amazed to hear so many different songs in such a small radius. How had I missed this? I've always been a big proponent of "enjoy the small things in life," but somewhere in the last couple of weeks I have completely been oblivious.
I've been so worried about my upcoming and past deadlines, what's going to happen if the university doesn't accept my proposal, what I'm going to do with myself after graduation from the program, that I've sort of forgotten to live in the "now" of things.
Mr. K and I have had a lot of conversations as of late with regards to what my future plans are. I've been all over the place trying to figure out what I'm going to do. He keeps telling me to do what will make me happy; a very sweet and admirable thing for him to say. But, I've been torn between these two sides of myself. I have this vision of myself from when I first started university back in 2002. I was going to be some kind of successful career woman, who could support herself-I was going to make it on my own. I was going to have some kind of job where I wore professional clothes and most likely trotted around in high heels every day. (We all know about my affinity for pretty shoes right)? That was part of the reason why I never wanted children.
 Then, there's the other side of me who wears destroyed sneakers and muddy jeans to walk her dogs. The side of me who loves the country side and the outdoors. This side of me has suddenly found enjoyment in baking dog treats and now even human cakes/cookies. Don't get me wrong, I'm still definitely not good at being a "stay at home" anything-I get itchy feet too easily-but it's the side of me who doesn't need glitz and glamor  This is the side of me who thinks I want to be a dog breeder. I've known for a long time, and probably everyone else who reads this blog, that I love animals; especially dogs. As a part of my dissertation proposal I wrote an introduction based on the domesticated dog's history and its connection to humans. It was probably the easiest 1,000 words I've ever written. I've also, somehow, kept up this blog-for the most part-I love writing. I've tried to figure out some way to combine the two, but I'm stuck. Mr. K says I should write a book. I could, but about what? My life with dogs? My life as a blind swimmer/person/with dogs? Not my life at all? Life in general? And, would anyone read it?!
Mr. K says he doesn't care what I do as long as we break even and I'm happy. I think I'm a pretty lucky woman in that respect-actually, an incredibly lucky woman. But, the slightly radical, Sociology major who has a minor in Women's Studies, comes back out and I want to be a financially contributing member to my family; however small it may be. However, the birds brought me back to my "now" and I found some comfort in knowing that even if I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off, breaking glasses and cutting my hand because I'm in too much of a hurry, the birds will keep singing and my husband will keep telling me to slow down.  With all of these doubts and confusion there is one thing I know for sure: in today's society, I don't need to make it on my own. I have the support of a loving person who wants to see me happy and successful in whatever I choose to do, and for the "now" moment, that is enough.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Ever since I announced my dissertation topic to my MSc instructors back in October everyone has been commenting on feasibility. The funny thing is no one really could tell me why my idea wasn't feasible, but now I'm starting to understand. However, just because they don't think it's feasible does not mean that I'm ready to give up that easily.
I won't go into the specifics of my idea here since it's supposed to be proposed all official like in the next week or so, but I have definitely run into some problems. The first having nothing to do with my idea at all.
When I originally applied to the university, I did so already knowing what I wanted to write my dissertation on. I was so excited that I even started asking the instructors about it months before we were even supposed to be thinking about it. When January rolled around we received the description for our dissertation topic selection and I was so disappointed to see that we were assigned broad topic areas that we were supposed to fit our ideas into. To me, that is not researching. Why would we research something that has already been done over and over again and on topics that we discussed in class? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of researching? Anyway, somehow I managed to reformulate my idea and squeeze it into the prescribed topics. That said, the instructor heading the dissertation portion of the program was still skeptical.
We scheduled a meeting and two weeks later we met. I started explaining what I had discovered and where I wanted to go with my chosen topic. She cut me off about three sentences in to ask me what my topic was again.
Whoa. What?
I thought that perhaps she asked for clarification, to make sure I was on track, but turns out she really didn't know. Why hadn't she even just checked our email correspondence we had been having before the meeting? At least pretend to know what I'm there for. I kind of felt like it was a huge waste of time since she had no idea what I was talking about. As I outlined some of my thoughts, some research I had found Etc, she asked me a few questions and then said,
"I guess we both have a lot more reading to do."
What had she been doing in the two weeks between our initial conversation and our actual meeting? If we were in a business meeting and she was supposed to be in charge and she said, "Oh, I need to do some reading," she'd be at risk for losing her job. If I came to an exam or a presentation I was supposed to give and was like, "I need to read more" they'd give me a failing grade. As dissertation advisors they are expected to be able to assist their students. Not be like, I don't know anything so I'll just read later. So, there lies my first feasibility problem: am I going to be able to write a dissertation when my advisor doesn't put forth an effort? She keeps talking about how she's part time-works two days of the week at the university-and so can't give me more time than those two days. Fair enough, but shouldn't the university provide advisors who are actually available? The dissertation guideline states that each student should receive eight hours a week from their advisor: I don't know about anyone else, but I'm certainly not getting eight hours.
The second problem contributing to the feasibility of my project actually has to do with the project design itself. I am struggling to get participants. Basically, my project is needing military personnel who work with military defense dogs to be interviewed.
Any takers?
 Distance doesn't matter because wonderful things like Skype an the phone can easily fix that issue, but it is proving difficult to get a hold of anyone. I've emailed the division of the UK military who deals primarily with the dogs, but have not heard back. I have also been emailing every State individually to see if anyone in the United States military would be interested in participating. The problem I'm running into there is that half of the email addresses don't work, some of the military bases don't have contact information for their Public Affairs people at all and some only have phone numbers. I'm going to have to start calling. Contacting each base individually is incredibly time consuming and that is the biggest concern with the feasibility of the project. There is not a single point of contact for the division that deals with the dogs. It's just not set up that way. So, I have been slowly moving through the alphabetical list of the States since yesterday. I haven't decided what to do with the States where the emails haven't gone through because the addresses on the sites are wrong. Hopefully, I'll get participants from the other States and won't have to worry about those I can't get a hold of.
I basically have a week to get this proposal completed so I guess that will be my first concern. I have to make sure that it's convincing so that I'm allowed to continue on with it. I just have to convince Madam "I need to read more" that it is feasible.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Essay Writing: Blarg

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Easter. To be honest, we really didn't do much in the way of Easter things. In fact, we had chicken nachos for supper instead of any kind of traditional Easter dish. With it just being the two of us, we really didn't see the point of making a gigantic meal. I suppose we could have invited Carmen over, but we all had been out the night before for her birthday and so the thought really never crossed my mind until Easter was over. Besides, as the title of this post would indicate, I'm up to my eyeballs in essays. It's the end of the term and that means everything is due. I have two 4,000 word papers from this term, my 2500 word dissertation proposal and a 3,000 word essay left over from last term all due in the next couple of weeks. I haven't been sleeping well which is counter productive. This also means that my creative juices for blog writing are all dried up.
Not only is my blogging lacking, I also feel like I'm not working Nala enough. We're so new that, for me, it's really important to get work in every day in order to solidify our working relationship. Truthfully, though, we haven't been working every day; most days, but not every day. Some days we only have short trips to the cafe down the street which I feel is kind of insufficient. However, I'm not sure what to do about it. Last night I took her out to work a circular route I made up as we went just to get us out and working. I had her find a few curbs, a pole that we use to cross the street, the entrance to the cycling path, a set of stairs, more curbs and then our door to the flat. She did some obstacle work as well because there were so many cars parked on the sidewalk. This last part was unplanned, but it threw another element of complexity into the route that I thought was good. I think she was a bit confused by the time we got home, but I really just wanted her to be taking cues from me and listening to what I had to say. So, it was all good. Today we're off to the gym and that is a good long route that really makes her work. Sitting on my couch for hours on end writing/researching for essays usually leaves me with itchy feet and so I scheduled a run in for this afternoon. That way, I kill two birds with one stone: Nala and I work together and I get the ants out of my pants. :P

Anyway, lunch time and back to essay fun.