Saturday, 4 April 2015

We're baaaaaack ....

... but not in this blog!

Walking With Freddie will remain in retirement (for now), BUT Freddie and I have a brand-new blog for you to check out:

Restaurant adventures in the company of Type 1 diabetes (whose table manners can be atrocious), a Labradoodle alert dog (whose idea of haute cuisine is raw chicken gizzards & tripe), and a charming human companion, who happily shares whatever's on his plate! Part restaurant review compendium, part dog-blog, part "My Dinner With André" lite ... Dining With Freddie won't replace Zagat or Michelin, but it promises to have more cute dog photos. Bon appétit!

So what qualifies yours truly to be writing restaurant reviews, you may ask? Not much, other than an appreciation for "shot-worthy" food, born of the need to jab myself most every time I eat! I'm sure I'll learn things along the way ... and, with luck, enjoy a few good meals. 

Oh, and speaking of qualifications, I'm pleased to say that Freddie is no longer "In Training" as a service dog. Since my last WWF post, he has passed all his public access tests and received official certification from the BC Ministry of Justice. Here is the card that gives him legal access to any restaurant on the continent, among other places (home address blotted out to ward off the paparazzi ;-)) ...

 And here is the Nose That Knows, after his first set of tests ...

Anyhoo, we'd love for you to check out the new blog (which, given our dining-out budget, will progress at a more leisurely pace than WWF). Just click on the link above, or this one:

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Au revoir ... hasta la próxima!

Autumnal freshness (ie. rain) has returned. A new non-teaching term has begun. My "midlife passage" has (thanks, in part, to the Jungians) become surprisingly enjoyable/interesting. There are books to be read (and at least one to be written), trails to be hiked, wines to be tasted, friends to catch up with, canine public access tests to prepare for ... and Christmas shopping to watch Paul do. Walking With Freddie is approaching its one-year anniversary, and while there is material aplenty to photograph and comment on (picket lines, railway lines, Sunday morning line-ups outside Sophie's Cosmic Café ...), I think this is a good time to write finis, for this particular version of Heather-does-blogging.

It has been a blast (thanks, in huge part, to my faithful WWF readers). WWF2, whenever it might appear, will likely be a different breed of blog. Until then, Freddie and I wish you wonderful adventures on the high seas of life ... and if you're in our neighbourhood, please join us for a walk!

Play bows to all ... :)

Friday, 22 August 2014


That letter I sent to Modo the Car Co-op two days ago? It worked! This morning I received a phone call from Nicole, the boss of customer service. She offered a sincere apology (along with a $25 credit for car time) and assured me that they would certainly make an exception to the crate policy in Freddie's case.

When I wrote my letter, I was kicking myself for failing to get the name of the snarky rep I'd spoken to, but now I'm thinking it doesn't really matter. Who knows what was going in her head/life? If all Modo's phone staff get a message informing them about service dog exceptions*, then the important goal will have been achieved.

*While it's true that many service dog handlers don't drive, I suspect there are increasing numbers who do (people with autism, PTSD, T1 diabetes ...).

 Eastern Sky at Sunset

So there we go. I'm now a Modo member.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

How to Run a Successful Business

It's people skills, is it not? OK, granted I know next to nothing about the money side of running a business — or about the money side of my own life, for that matter — but I'd still bet big bucks that the ability to interact with people in a positive, respectful manner and to manage conflicts effectively is at least as important as balancing the books, knowing your stuff, and delivering a quality product. I wouldn't be shocked if people skills trump those other things, but I'll leave it to the bonafide entrepreneurs to weigh in on that topic.

And what, you might ask, brings me to this particular topic? Well, this past week, I've had exchanges with representatives from two different Vancouver businesses occupying, respectively, the extreme ends of the people skills continuum. Both experiences have a dog connection. Let's start with the You-really-need-to-find-another-job end: customer "service" at Modo the Car Co-op.

The Bridge at Bridgman Park, North Vancouver

(This is an outing we normally do with Leah & pups, but poor Kali-bear 
cut her paw on a broken beer bottle and is thus out of commission. :-( )

Most of the photos in this post come from a Car2Go outing that I tracked, cost-wise, in order to figure out whether or not it would be more economical to use Modo (whose vehicles, unlike C2G's, need to be returned to their home base at the end of trip) for certain excursions with Freddie. I worked out that a Modo "casual membership" would indeed be cheaper (so I guess my math skills aren't completely hopeless), not to mention more flexible for trips outside of C2G's city limits. I went to their website, where I discovered, among other things, that pets need to be crated while inside Modo vehicles.

 OK, Freddie, stay there 
and we'll pose for a photo.

Now, C2G doesn't allow pets in their cars at all (though I frequently notice fur in the back hatch!), but when I asked them about service dogs, they said No problem. Freddie could ride either in the hatch or in the passenger seat. With this bit of context in mind, I called up Modo, anticipating a similar response — or perhaps some version of "Oh, this is the first time I've had that question; let me check with my supervisor," which would have been fine.

Freddie ... can't you wait to say hi? Paul hasn't taken the picture yet.

What I did get was the snarkiest customer service I've had in a long time ... maybe ever. I don't know if the person I spoke to ever registered the fact that I was asking about a service dog. She just kept repeating the crate policy (reading from a cheat sheet?) and became more and more testy with each repetition.

When she started not-so-subtly implying that I was failing to respect their current members (I pictured her with clenched teeth and bulging eyes at this point), I ended the call and said I'd be taking my concerns to the Modo management.

OK, all three of you come over here and sit pretty ... Good dogs.

And that's what I did. A letter to the CEO is on its way (and, yeah, my own teeth were clenched while I wrote it). In it I gave the details of the exchange and asked for a reply, as well as a statement of Modo's service dog policy. We'll see what happens. It wouldn't take a whole lot to win me back over — maybe that particular rep was having a particularly bad day/week/life — but just now I'm not feeling especially keen to give Modo my business!

Freddie! Paul hasn't taken the picture yet!

And now for the other end of the continuum ...

Remember the bite on the bum that Freddie received and that I wrote about here? Well, after we got home, I thought it might be a good idea — since there had been blood involved — to let the dog-walking company know what had happened. So I sent an email to the folks at Release the Hounds, the business in question. Nothing grouchy or accusatory — just an FYI kind of thing. (And I'm really not a chronic letter writer; two in one week is a record for me!)

Down to the River ...

Very soon after, I received a very gracious reply from RTH President, James. He thanked me for my message, enquired after the state of Freddie's backside, and asked me to please let them know how he was doing. He said the walker who'd been with the dogs was very concerned. Later, I received an equally solicitous follow-up message from their Customer Care guy. In short, Release the Hounds done good with their business communications, and if ever I'm in need of walking assistance for Freddie, I won't hesitate to call them up!

The River

Stick Fetching

Flip-flop Fetching

Riverbank Shrine to Pups Who've Loved This Place
(a little creepy but also kind of groovy)

Textural Camouflage!

Driving Home (in a Car2Go!), Terminal Avenue

I suspect running a successful business is a complex and difficult balancing act. To all the customer/eco/community/pet-friendly ventures out there, especially the little ones ... this chair's for you!

Happy Weekend, Everyone!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Summer Staycation and a Bite on the Bum

Car2Go must be going through an end-of-summer slump. Late last week I got an email saying they were offering a hot deal on a full-day rental, so Paul and I decided to take advantage and go on a couple of outings of the sort that would be expensive and/or logistically challenging without a vehicle. Our main excursion was over to the North Shore to hike the Brothers Creek loop trail ... with Freddie, bien sûr. It was cool and misty — good weather for hiking, and for catching some nifty photos (for which you'll need to scroll down a bit) ...

Freddie checks out a culvert.
Freddie on the alert! He gets a treat for pawing me; I get to treat my lowish blood sugar.

(I'm sure Paul had an excellent reason for cutting our feet out of the picture ... possibly something to do with my shoes not matching the rest of my outfit. As we know from his appearance in my cousin May's fashion blog, he's a serious fashionista!)

Shortly after the photo above, we encountered a professional dog walker with half a dozen dogs. They wanted to say hi to Freddie, and he was fine with that (it's a regular event when we go to Pacific Spirit Park) ... but the largest of the other dogs didn't like the look of Freddie, and, before we knew it, Freddie was squealing and running away — not a normal reaction for him (if provoked, he will generally stand his ground until ordered away or physically removed).

Anyway, Freddie didn't seem traumatized. He carried on, trotting and sniffing, and it wasn't until quite a bit later that we noticed the drying blood and bite marks on his rear end (mostly hidden by his tail). Yep, one of those doggies had taken quite a chomp into our Freddie-Weddie Doodle-Head. Nothing a little Polysporin can't handle, but still.  :-(

I like the straightforwardness of this sign.

And here it is: the Big Tree!
(Note the candelabra branches near the top ... and the little people down below.)

 The nose that knows:
Nifty Misty 1

We stuck to the Brothers Creek trail, but it's good to know there are other options for future excursions.

Even though Freddie stuck close to us, I was grateful for his Stylish Canine visibility vest!
Not only do my shoes not match my outfit, they're also not the greatest footwear for navigating steep, wet, rocky, rooty trails. I'm in the market for something sturdier, so if anyone has any recommendations, send 'em my way!

 Creek Bed

Nifty Misty 2

Our second excursion would have been entirely do-able by regular Car2Go or bicycle means — just a bit more awkward and time-consuming. We picked up a Greek platter for two at Maria's Taverna and went out to the Spanish Banks dog area for a picnic.

There we encountered this quite spectacular dog, a young Komondor. It's a bit hard to tell from the photo, but this dog has started to develop the dreadlocks ("cords") that are the breed's most striking characteristic. I have no idea how these guys manage in the heat. Maybe the dreads offer some kind of cooling mechanism?

Mr. Doodle-Head, on the other hand, is hot and matted and will be getting radically shorn and tidied up next week (the earliest appointment I could get with Anna, his favourite groomer).
Spanish Banks Fisherman
(cover for a Hemingway or Steinbeck novel?)

Our little staycation concluded with coffee and pie at Aphrodite's on 4th, near Alma. I'd been wanting to try this place and can now recommend it heartily!
Coffee + organic peach pie ('cause Okanagan peaches are in season — otherwise, it would just have to be apple or pumpkin).
The Aphrodite sidewalk was dog-friendly. Freddie wasn't in his service jacket because, well, with the hack job we recently did on the mats in his fur, he just doesn't look much like a presentable service dog. Though his face is still pretty darn cute, IMO. :)
Pie and chai and, now, ...

(until the next post, that is ...)

Monday, 11 August 2014

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

I wouldn't say my midlife crisis is over. No, there's still shit to work out/on ... but in the Hollywood version of my life, the three days Freddie and I just spent with Leah and her pups at her family's cabin near Mt. Baker will quite possibly serve as the Turning Point, the Transformative Experience from which I (or, rather, the slimmer, more attractive screen star who will play me) will emerge enlightened, re-invigorated, ready to try new things and re-discover old favourites. (I'm not sure what Celluloid Paul will be doing; the real one was invigilating exams — and wants to be played by a young Alan Arkin.)

The weekend forecast was for SUN. Friday morning we filled Leah's car with food and gear and dogs and headed (a couple of degrees latitude) south for Washington State. Over the previous few days, I'd been thinking about going back to school in September 2015 — doing a PhD in Comp Lit or English or Interdisciplinary Studies (not for any career-related reason, just for the stimulation of academic pursuits) — and the idea built up some momentum as we sat roasting in the barely-moving border lineup for more than an hour.


Then we reached the charming little town of Glacier, WA, very near Mount Baker, and our thoughts and conversations turned to more immediate and concrete concerns ...

 "Simulated Luxury"?

Hot Dawgs Fetch 'n' Swim in the Nooksack River!

We settled in at Leah and John's (classic, woodsy) cabin, where, by design and good fortune, no WiFi waves mingled with the coffee vapours.

While not exactly traditional or rustic (we cooked with electricity, showered in hot water, lounged in the warmth of a gas fireplace in the evenings), our existence those three days was much closer to Nature, to the way things used to be, than is life in the big city.

On Saturday we did something I haven't done in far too long: a hike that involves serious climbing. OK, not the kind of climbing that requires baffling bits of equipment that hardcore outdoorsy types purchase at MEC — I mean the kind that's like going up 300 flights of stairs.

The trail we took was the "Skyline Divide" — elevation gain 457 m/1500 feet, 7.2 km/4.5 miles round trip. (The view below looks flat, but that's because we're finally nearing the mountain ridge. I was working too hard in the earlier part to think about taking pictures!)

Alpine Meadow

The biggest walk Freddie and I have ever done together!

Mi hermana

We figured out it's been more than 15 years since Leah and I last went on a getaway together. Three solid days with my best friend of ~35 years ... just what the Dogter ordered!

 The hills are aliiiiive!!!

(Note the unimpressed position of Freddie's tail and ears!)

Almost at the ridge ...

Just a few more meters, Freddie ...

Et voilà! Mount Baker!

Grassy expanses for young dawgs to roam free ...

... even patches of snow for cooling off.
A Change in Perspective
 (is good)

I'd like to spend more time in nature. Maybe go on a multi-day walking/hiking trip with Paul and Freddie. Maybe one of those deals where a vehicle transports our stuff while we walk (though maybe now that I no longer use an insulin pump and all its space-hogging equipment, I could actually pack light!). The UK ... the South of France ... somewhere closer to home?

I'd like to go away for three weeks or so sans dawg (shh ... don't tell Freddie). Maybe somewhere I've been before — Italy, Istanbul, Indochina, Île d'Orléans ... Or somewhere I've never been — Inuvik, Iran, Ireland, Israel ...

I'd like to deepen my understanding of the Earth and the Universe, of people and animals.

I'd like to do something helpful for any of the above through my words or actions.

I'd like to figure out how the buttons on my camera work.

These were some of the thoughts going through my head as we relaxed on the deck in the late afternoon.

We spent most of Sunday close to the cabin and took a couple of long walks on spectacular river trails.

The photos don't do justice.

Maybe if I knew how to operate all the buttons on my camera?

Or maybe not.


We had americanos on the deck of the Wake 'n' Bakery, which sells cheeky fridge magnets.

I was excited to find the very one I wanted (which Leah has, in button form, pinned in her car): "Drink coffee! Do stupid things faster with more energy!"

I suspect the town of Glacier is a bit more lively in winter. (And here's something else I want to do more of: x-country skiing!)

I took a dorky picture of myself on our afternoon walk ...
 ... then noticed that Freddie was waiting for me up ahead.

I'm not so sure anymore that I want to do a PhD. I haven't ditched the possibility altogether ... but there are other possibilities out there — newer/ stranger things ... ways of understanding that don't involve my trusty stand-bys (sitting in a classroom, doing research, writing papers) and that could ultimately be more beneficial (for me? for others?) ... possibilities that might just push round #2 of grad school over the horizon.

In the meantime, I have a partly finished novel manuscript that I don't intend to abandon. The 3-month teaching marathon is done (already!), and after a little bit more therapeutic R&R I shall be getting back to it.

On that note, let the movie of my life dissolve to the next scene, 
accompanied by Jimmy Buffett, hip with his hearing aid,