And now for something completely different.
I'm in my fifth month of John Mutford's Great Canadian Book Challenge. My own personal challenge has been to read and review 13 Canadian books about dogs over the course of a year. Erika Ritter's The Hidden Live of Humans is my most recent read, and clocks in as book #7 of my 13.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I read the Emblem edition (pictured above) which was published in 2009.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
John Mutford's The Real Canadian Book Challenge on his The Book Mine Set blog motivated me to set a goal: read 13 Canadian books about dogs within the next year, and review them here at Gabe n Arch. The second book I've read is Polly Evans's Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman: Travels with Sled Dogs in Canada's Frozen North.
Polly Evans is a British travel writer, and one who combines travel with a challenge. In Mad Dogs, Evans writes about 10 weeks spent in the Yukon, learning to run sled dogs. Her base is Muktuk, Frank Turner's home near Whitehorse. Turner competed in 22 Yukon Quests and operates Muktuk both a tourist operation and the home base for his son Saul, who is now running in the Quests.
Evans learns about sled dogs from the ground up, literally, beginning with scooping the poop of Muktuk's 108 dogs and learning how to properly fit dog booties. Her first excursion (or two) with a sled is somewhat hapless, but she hangs in there 'til the bitterly cold end, when she spends 6 days covering part of the Yukon Quest trail in -44 degree weather. Brrrrrr.
The book contains mini-lessons on history and geography, which, while interesting, are somewhat distracting. The tone is different in these sections and feel wedged into the main narrative. And, speaking of the main narrative, I was surprised that there wasn't more about the dogs! Now, of course, that's coming from someone who is writing a dog blog and who set out to read books about dogs. Still the title contains the word "Dogs" twice so I expected a lot of canine confidential. I was also surprised that as an urban-dwelling Brit, Evans doesn't note a reaction to the dogs' living conditions or the controversy over sled racing. Evans has an extensive photo gallery online from her time in the Yukon, and I'm glad I checked that out. The many photos of Muktuk's dogs add a dimension to her story that I was looking for.
That said, if you approach this book as a travel narrative that takes place in the Yukon, I think you will walk away as a happy camper. Evans is an engaging writer and she is not above laughing at herself. She is awestruck by the beauty of our far north and she inspires a similar awe in her readers. And I certainly admire her spirit in tackling such an adventure.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Posted by Jacki at 6:47 PM
Archie came to live with me and Gabe on 15 August 2006. Since it was the start of a new life for Archie, we decided to keep that day as his birthday. We celebrated this year's occasion with a beef pattie with melted cheese for lunch, new bowls, and a very special once-a-year treat - a popsicle!
Archie is now (about) 4 years old. I am blessed he found me.
Happy Birthday Boo!
Posted by Jacki at 6:39 PM
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Last week, I wrote about how Archie stole my saskatoon berries right out of the bowl I was using while pick them.
A few days later, I was watching Gabe pick his own berries, and inspiration stuck.
Posted by Jacki at 1:14 PM
Friday, July 31, 2009
At first I wondered if that was an achievable goal - are there really that many Canadian books about dogs worth reading? A quick scan of amazon.ca and suggestions from John himself quickly assured me that yes, indeed, there should be an ample selection to choose from.
I started with Roy MacGregor's The Dog and I, which was first published in 2006. It is a physically small book - about 5-1/2 x 7", with 182 pages including the acknowledgements.
MacGregor is a well-known columnist (The Globe and Mail) and author, having written about things central to the Canadian psyche: hockey, canoes, cottage life, cold weather, and that ever-elusive "Canadian identity." Oh, yes, and dogs. MacGregor has been the proud guardian of five mutts throughout his life - and he does stress that these dogs are mutts, no pedigrees, no papers, most hawked out of little red wagons pulled around by different generations of neighbourhood children.
The Dog and I is a collection of previously written columns and new material, all drawing on MacGregor's own experiences with his dogs. Dog owners will chuckle or nod with recognition over many of the stories. I had to smile over MacGregor's description of his dog Willow's fetch obsession. Yep, been there, done that. But, be prepared for some sadness. Personally, I have not yet run across a dog "memoir" that doesn't include the death of a beloved dog. If you are like me, keep tissues nearby when reading this. A wad may be sufficient; or you may need a box.
I thoroughly enjoyed MacGregor's discussion of the differences in how dogs live now, compared with 50ish years ago. This is something I often ponder myself. I wonder what my parents - born and raised in rural Saskatchewan at a time when electricity on farms was still a novelty - would think about Gabe's weekly swim at the canine pool, Archie's regular acupuncture treatments, and the homecooked food (with added natural supplements) both enjoy. Even more interesting is - how did we arrive at this point? What cultural shift precipitated this change in doggie lifestyles? I'm not sure MacGregor has the answer, but he is not above poking fun of his own forays into big box pet stores to pick up some salmon sushi dog treats.
The Dog and I is a great little book. Even though each chapter is essentially a short story, there is flow and continuity throughout (which is great, because I am generally not a fan of short stories). However, this format does work well if you are the kind of reader that goes in fits and starts - if you only have time for a few pages as you take public transit, wait in line, or squeeze in a few minutes of reading time before bed. If you take it to the beach or cottage, make sure you take a backup - this one will only take a couple of hours to get through. But, they're hours enjoyably spent.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Posted by Jacki at 9:16 PM
Thursday, July 23, 2009
While Archie is happily baking in the sun, Gabe and I retreat to the shade. If it starts to feel a bit cool, we may stick an appendage - such as a nose - out, but just a little bit. It's a whole new meaning to Snoopy's "Joe Cool."
Posted by Jacki at 6:33 PM
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Archie is my heat baby. He will seek out the hottest, sunniest spot, so I gave him a little help over the weekend and set up a bed for him in the garden. Don't worry - he gets tossed in the pool every once in awhile by yours truly, to cool him off a bit.
Posted by Jacki at 7:01 PM
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
We are celebrating here at Gabe n Arch today.
I opened my "Daily Mutts" this morning and caught the words "Gabe n Arch" in the body of the email. I was momentarily disoriented. Did I accidentally flip to a different email? Did I not read correctly?
Nope, there is was, plain as day. muttscomics.com published an excerpt from the review I wrote of Patrick McDonnell's The Gift of Nothing. In the email, below the daily strip, it said: "Gabe n Arch: The Beagle Boys Review MUTTS Books We couldn't resist posting this great review from the Beagle Boys (pictured above). From the review: I am not particularly ... MORE >>>"
How exciting! I had to share the news so I forwarded the email to Chloe, my long-time friend and coworker. Chloe is pretty web-savvy and was most likely to understand the blogging-about-another-blog concept (as compared to, say, Maxine). I ran to Chloe's office, which is in a different building. Yes, I ran through the student reception area and past all the administrative people in their pods. I ran carefully, wearing my clunky thick-soled Skechers flip flops. I arrived breathless and unable to speak coherently. Unfortunately, I also somehow messed up on forwarding the email, so I ran back, past all the students and administrative people, re-sent the email, and yes ran back again, clunking my way past people too polite to stare.
Hours later, I am still beaming. I admire Patrick McDonnell for his work with promoting shelter adoptions; and I do very much enjoy Mutts the comic strip as well as his books. It was an awesome surprise.
It just made my day :-)
Maxine and Jane later visited my office and started joking about how Gabe and Arch are superstars. Arch in the Beagle Paws calendar; Gabe n Arch on muttscomics.com. They suggested a line of "Gabe n Arch" merch. I think we'll start with the whole cabana boy joke Gabe's swim instructor and I have - tiki water bowls with little umbrellas, inflatable rafts patterned with dogs in Hawaiian swim shorts, Hawaiian swim shorts, doggie flip flops, and an inflatable palm tree (aka restroom facility).
Saturday, July 11, 2009
However, we had to make modifications to the recipe due to Archie's allergies. The biggest change is that there are no carbs in my food. Based on what I've read, I actually think no carbs (or low carbs) is the way to go with dog food. Dogs in the wild would eat few carbs, mostly in the form fruits, and most likely would never eat grains or potatoes. (If you're questioning whether wild dogs would eat fruits, I'll let Gabe answer that - he forages for berries in my yard, happily consuming all the raspberries and saskatoon berries he can reach.)
Each week I make a batch of dog food that contains:
(2) - Pick your veggies carefully. The precut coleslaw mix costs a bit more than a head of cabbage, but saves a lot of time. Most veggies (excepting potatoes) do not need to be peeled.
(3) - Drain the hamburger first (by lifting it out of the roaster with a spatula or slotted spoon) and THEN mash. Don't mash first - it will take a long time to drain 6lb of hamburger in a colander.
(4) - If you have access to a second oven or a very large slow cooker, you can cook the hamburger and the veggies at the same time. I actually have a huge slow cooker (a BBQ Pit) that fits 6kg of raw hamburger. There's a lot of cleanup to do all at once when you do it that way, though, so I only use the BBQ Pit when I'm short of time.
(5) - If you wanted to, there's no reason why you couldn't do up and freeze a huge batch of food all at once, so that it lasts weeks or months at a time. When I know ahead of time that I not be able to make food one weekend, I usually make a 9lb meat/13-1/2lb veggie batch for the 2-3 weeks preceeding.
Monday, July 6, 2009
John Mutford has posited a challenge on his The Book Mine Set blog: Take part in his Canadian Book Challenge 3 by reading and reviewing 13 Canadian books between 1 July 2009 and 1 July 2010. That should be easy enough; but since this is a blog about dogs I'm going to set a theme for myself: 13 books about dogs. I would see a lot of Stanley Coren in my future, except I have already read most of his books. Hmmm .... thankfully the author of the Stanley books (Stanley's Party, Stanley's Beauty Contest, Stanley's Wild Ride, etc.) is Canadian. Whew! That should cover about a third of my 13. And then of course there is Farley Mowat's The Dog Who Wouldn't Be.
Got any suggestions for me?
Posted by Jacki at 1:14 PM