A freelance writer is born….

Just under a year ago, I started this Blog as my first endeavour as a non-academic author. Since then, I’ve had an article published in an online forum and a poem selected for inclusion in an anthology; both under my pseudonym. The first was unpaid and the second payment is on a royalty basis and as one author among many royalties will be minimal and a long way off.

However, today I can count another milestone: My first article published as a paid freelance author. Yesterday I attended the Sault Ste. Marie Annual Dog Show. I then wrote about it for SooToday. Today, that article was published as “Dispatch from a dog show“. At the end of the month I’ll submit my invoice and I’ll be paid for what I wrote. Not it’s not going to get me out of debt in a hurry but it’ll certainly buy me a soy white-hot chocolate at Starbucks now and then and help me complete my bucket list.

Unfortunately with summer on its way I may need to stop them soon as fruit smoothies will start ruling the day and exposure to citrus becomes more problematic. However, I have enjoyed the occasional ones that I have managed. So whatever you drink, raise a glass with me, to me – Nikki Shaw – freelance writer!

Photograph courtesy of Kirsten Wilson.

The first cut of the year….

Kai 17th May 2017

Yesterday my garden go its first cut of the year. That to me is the first step towards summer. When the snow has been gone long enough that the grass is long enough to need cutting.

I’m fortunate in that a teenage neighbour cuts my grass for me, as needed, each summer. He earns some money and I don’t have to manage the equipment which in the past, has been known to shred my hands as I didn’t feel how badly the vibration was blistering my palms.

The only time I’ve enjoyed cutting the grass was the year I lived on a small-holding and we have a ride-on lawn mower. Then I was quite happy to cut the grass!!

Maybe that’s what I’ll invest in when my teenage neighbour grows up and leaves home; a little ride-on mower so that I can do my own grass.

Anyway, Kai and Molly loved the cut grass and brought lots in on their paws for me to see for myself!!

The theory is that by not raking and bagging the cut grass mulches back into the ground and helps the bald patches cover back over with grass once more. I’ll just have to see if it works!

At least we got this cut in between the thunderstorms!!

What’s the first thing that signals the beginning of summer for you?

Just for one day I started to feel like myself again….

Yesterday I felt like myself again, just for a day. It was wonderful. I packed up snacks and emergency survival equipment, loaded up the dogs and hit the road. It was wonderful to feel well enough to just drive….

So Molly, Kai and I went to visit the home of Winnie-the-Pooh, White River, Ontario.

The day was mostly spent driving as it’s a good 4 1/2 hours from Sault Ste. Marie. However, it was a nice sunny day for the most part. Though I drove through two storms on the way home just in time to beat the massive thunderstorm that hit last night.

Some gorgeous views and amazing sights. I saw moose and birds of prey. The lakes were starting to unfreeze so the edges were mixed between waves and open water and icebergs. Some of the waterfalls were just flourishing with the snowmelt.

I loved the sense of humour of whoever was naming some of the lakes. At one point there was ‘Mom Lake’ and ‘Dad Lake’ just next to it. Just as I was wondering what you’d call a third lake I came upon ‘Orphan Lake’ just far enough from Mom and Dad to be orphaned!

It was a lovely day out and the dogs loved the ride and the walk by the Winnie-the-Pooh memorial. Next time we’ll have to go when the museum is actually open and see if I can handle the scents.

However, for right now just getting out for the day was such a huge step for me after almost a year of being mostly housebound. I’m only extending my limits to my vehicle but now that I’m well enough to drive like that again…. it’s wonderful!!

Even with the thunderstorm last night all three of us slept well last night!!

If it’s not dog poop, it’s mud! Spring seems to be here….

This is my back garden right now. Though you should replace the toddlers with an elderly female shepherd/husky mix and an 18 month standard poodle. They seem to love the mud just the same.

So trips outside now include wiping 8 paws! Which usually means that one dog spreads as much mud around the floors as they possibly can while I wipe the other dog’s paws. Then the first dog gets in the way of the second dog having their paws wiped as they’re jealous of the attention. It’s an experience!

It’s a good job I’m working from home and nobody can see me from the waist down on any of the WebEx meetings that I attend. I’m usually covered in mud too by the time all 8 paws are wiped off.

BIzarrely both dogs are trained to wipe their feet but neither seem to be able to remember the concept! At least most of the time it’s just the floor which wipes clean pretty easily.

Then last night I got quite the surprise. Rather than making my bed yesterday I’d pulled all the covers back to air out the bedding. Apparently at some point I forgot to shut the bedroom door for in a perfectly straight line, right across my king size bed, were two lines of 4 prints. It almost seems a shame to wash the sheets they did such a great job of getting such perfect prints!

I will be glad when this specific part of spring is done with and the flowers start to come up and I can let the dogs out without being ready for the mud tussle on their return!!

Oh, and I’m still battling the spring poop…. but I think it’s winning 🙁

Spring = dog poop season!

It’s that time of year when I regret not going out in -10 with my dogs to pick up their poop as it appears in vast quantities as the snow melts. Every spring I promise myself that this year I’ll pick it up all winter and every spring I regret not keeping that promise.

Two dogs equal a lot of poop!

Especially as one likes to share her treasures with as much of the garden as possible by walking around as she poops. The other is easier to deal with. His treasures tend to all be exactly where you’d walk as you step outside the door on the deck so much of his has been cleared up already as I don’t have to stand in ankle-deep bog to find it!

I wonder if there is a yard cleaning service that does a spring poop clean-up?? If not, there’s a great business for some young entrepreneur. I’ll admit – I’d pay a lot to not have this job to do!

PS I apologise for the poor grammar in the cartoon…. 🙁


I think my dogs are trying to give me a heart attack!

I moved to this home just before Christmas in 2015. Like most new homes, I had no plans for the garden beyond making it safe for the dogs by fully fencing it immediately as I like to watch for a year and see what’s there. However, there are a number of bushes and trees that don’t look so good and will probably need to come out this year. Last summer, being so sick, I didn’t really do much at all beyond trim a few bushes and climbing plants and sit out on a very rare occasion.

However, over the winter my dogs have decided to help with the pruning and have been breaking off the trees and shrubs that aren’t doing so well. I wasn’t specifically worried about until today. I kept an eye on what they had and took everything away that was at all dangerous for them.

Today I nearly had a heart attack, let alone a severe allergic reaction.

I’d forgotten that I had a rhubarb bush. As I’m allergic to all fruits my neighbours kindly cut it all and took it away last year when it was in season. I’m quite sure they enjoyed a number of pies as a result. However, I’d forgotten that the plant itself hadn’t been dug up.

Today I was reminded. Kai was outside playing with what I thought was a stick; just like he has many other times. The difference though was that he really liked this one. So much so, that he brought it in with him. As I reached to take it from him I caught the smell and threw up.

He’d got a rhubarb root. Now I’ve got to get a piece of rhubarb from a dog that loves it without being sick again, and without touching it. Oven gloves (that are now in the wash) and a sealed trash bag later, several minutes clearing up and then the thought crosses my mind ‘rhubarb leaves are poisonous to dogs’. Oh *****! Are the roots?

Thankfully Dr. Google comes to the rescue and I soon find out that the roots/stalks are not toxic for dogs. They might make Kai have a touch of diarrhea but they don’t contain the amount of crystals that the leaves do.

So nausea over, allergic reaction under control and heart attack averted! All is well except I have a lot less spoons to get through the rest of the day.

However, it did remind me that as soon as the snow is clear I must make sure to have the rest of that rhubarb dug up and gifted to my neighbour – if it’s of any use to them after the dogs have enjoyed it so much, that is!

No bad dogs, just poorly trained owners?

In the last few days I’ve come across a number of different situations with dogs and their owners.

The first is a new friend of mine with a shorty bull dog. In general, a typical family pet. He kind of behaves well but doesn’t tend to do what he’s asked straight away and can be a bit of a rambunctious pest. My youngest dog, who is also my service dog, Kai, has been off duty around him a little as we get him and this new dog used to being around each other. My older pet dog, Molly has been the gentle relaxed dog throughout. However, the new dog spending time in my ‘pack’ is just 2 and Kai is only almost 18 months, so they’re both still puppies.

The two of them can think of nothing better than playing tag with each other. Which unfortunately as they’re both heavy dogs and Kai, especially is on the larger side makes for a lot of noise and the risk of the adults getting knocked over. Not a great plan for me, given my OI. 

As a result I have gently been training my new friend in training his dog; while reminding mine of their own manners. Kai, on duty, would ignore this new dog completely even when he’s play biting at him and really egging him on to play. Off duty, he finds it harder to control himself but all the hours of work pay off and i can place both him and Molly in a down stay and both will ignore the new dog. Then we just have to get the new dog to settle as well and eventually all is peaceful.

The interesting part is that it’s all about the owner. I can have all three dogs settled and calm quickly. The new to us dog’s owner tends towards the same mistake so many of us make and repeats commands over, and over, and over again. Also, they tend to praise in the same way. Repeatedly.

So their dog has learned that sit doesn’t really mean sit until about the 10th time of asking and he only has to sit when being praised. He’s now learning, with his owner, that he only gets asked once then his butt will be gently pushed to hit the floor. Once sitting he gets praised once and is expected to stay sat until told otherwise. Having seen my two dogs obedient in this way he’s quickly joining in. So much so that when my bread-machine beeped not only did Molly follow Kai to alert, but so did this new dog!

So you can train an old dog, or in this case the ‘old’ owner, new tricks!

The second issue is more problematic. Diagonally behind me lives a family that owns 2 or 3 large dogs. It appears to me as so if the people are home, the dogs are outside unsupervised. Until recently this was just annoying due to their barking but my dogs are called off easily and come back inside. However, with the extreme amounts of snow that we’ve had recently one of them has worked out how to climb the 6′ fence and gain access.to my yard. Initially it was when my dogs were out and Molly held it at bay while Kai came and told me. That wasn’t so bad.

Now this dog has got a little more adventurous and is coming into my yard as it pleases. What concerns me is that its owner doesn’t seem to notice. Also, if it can get in my yard, it can get out of it and not necessarily into it’s own yard. Given that it’s a white husky I’m scared that this dog is going to get loose and hurt. I’ve tried to get the attention of the owners but haven’t been able to do so. So yesterday, I reported them to the Humane Society and hopefully something will be done to keep this dog safe.

So please remember that a dog should always be under your supervision. If you’re not watching it, crate train it. In a car, use dog seat belts. They exist for a reason. I literally wouldn’t be here today without one. If you love your dog, train it, for both of your sakes!