Thursday, October 23, 2008

A "Ruff" Reality Check

Quite an elaborate event it was, this party for Winston, my sister's baby. Let me give you the highlights.

The house was decorated with balloons, banners, and streamers. My sister had made individual cakes for every guest, sparing no expense and leaving out no detail. The guests arrived with their gifts in tow, the girls dressed in pretty pink dresses and the boys donning special birthday hats, and they all played together and posed for pictures. By all accounts, this birthday extravaganza was a great success.

Due to a prior engagement, my MacDonald clan was unable to attend Winston's first birthday celebration, but fortunately for everyone, pictures of the entire grand affair were posted on Facebook within hours.

At this point I'll mention, Winston is a dog.

The extent of this insanity almost has me at a loss for words. Almost.

I''m not a dog-hater. When I was about a year old, my parents got me a dog, a Retriever-Collie mix, who was the most gentle and mild-mannered pet in the world. Poor old Sherry lived until I was 12, and when she got sick and we had to put her down, I remember being upset that whole day. I don't recall needing Ativan or therapy, though.

Now our family has a medium-sized white dog named Bear MacDonald (not just Bear, but Bear MacDonald, as my youngest is quick to point out in any discussion). We're not sure exactly what kind of dog he is, but for reasons it would take too long to explain, we call him a Glace Bay Shih-Tzu. He's generally well behaved, and definitely a great dog to have with kids. I like our dog for the most part, although I could do without the shedding and necessity of hiring a dog-sitter every time we go away for the night. I mean really, a dog-sitter? One of the annoyances of pet ownership, I guess.

Would I be sad if something bad happened to Bear MacDonald? Yes, I would. I'd probably miss the sight of him playing with the kids and how happy he looks when we pull up in the car.

But would I need to be hospitalized to deal with my grief? Probably not.

What is it with people and their dogs? I'm not trying to generate nasty e-mails for myself, because I know a lot of people have great affection for their pets, but somewhere along the line people have forgotten that there is a difference between dogs and humans.

My sister is a maniacal example. She takes Winston for manicures and pedicures and fluffing and quaffing appointments on a very regular basis, and considers this pampering to be just a regular budgetary expense. Are you kidding me? I haven't had a manicure in years! When I have the extra money and time set aside, you can be sure I won't pile Bear MacDonald into the car to make sure he gets the royal treatment first. Dogs lived for thousands of years without esthetic services; I doubt this generation of pooches would be any worse off without them.

Now let's move on to clothes. "Dog" does not belong in the same sentence as the word "sweater", people. It just doesn't, period. It's always the people who claim to love their dog the most, who insist on dressing it up as a witch for Halloween, or something just as cruel and ridiculous, all for the sake of laughing at it and taking a picture. Animals aren't meant to wear clothes, and certainly not any that cost more than the ones I'm wearing right now. Sheesh.

Lastly, I'll tell you about the experience that led up to me writing this article. The whole buy-a-small-dog-and-carry-it-around-like-a-purse thing, and every Paris Hilton-esque habit that goes along with that, has been annoying me for quite some time, but recently one of these delusional dog-people said something that really insulted me. This person actually sat in my living room, tickling her pooch's belly and coochie-coochi-coo-ing with such obliviousness and ignorance that only a young 20-something could muster, and told me that my kids were no more special than her dog. And she meant it sincerely. Imagine.

To those people, I can only say: wake up. Your dog is cute. Your DOG. That you bought. That can't speak to you. That licks his privates when he's bored. That sniffs other dog's bums.

Sorry to all the dog lovers, but I'm hoping most of you realize that children are in a different league. If you disagree, please never have children. Just get another dog - a small one named Daughter of Nutcase with red-painted claws and wearing a Burberry jacket.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where Were You?

In the fall of 2001, I was sent to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories for a work conference. The prospect of traffic and crowds and noise, after being stuck in Nunavut for over a year with none of those things, was exciting indeed.

Meetings and training occupied most of my days over the course of the week-long conference. My evenings were spent shopping, dining, and walking around the city. I bought almost an entire new wardrobe, I ate at beautiful restaurants, I saw trees, and I acted every bit the tourist that I was.

After full days of working and spending money, I'd retire to my plush hotel room to watch television and get a good night's sleep. The hotel, meals, cabs - the whole shot - was paid by my employer, and I was loving every minute of my all-expense-paid vacation.

The night before I was scheduled to leave, I was in my room, packing and organizing my things, eating Chinese take-out, and watching music videos. I considered how lucky I was to be laying on a king-size bed in a terry bathrobe and slippers, with nothing to do but relax. Though I could have used a few more days of civilization, I was satisfied with my trip and anxious to return to Iqaluit. The time away had done me plenty of good, but now it was time to head back to the real world. I re-checked my plane ticket, ordered a wake-up call, and fell asleep soundly. Life was good.

My flight was scheduled to leave at 8:40am on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

I woke up early that morning, at around 5:30am, so I'd have plenty of time to check out and get to the airport. After my shower, I turned on the television for some background noise and began getting ready. I barely noticed that the music videos had stopped and two people were speaking live, but a few unusual words caught my attention. Events in New York...urging everyone to turn on the news...pray for us all...what? What are they talking about?

I flipped through the channels without knowing what I was looking for, unaware of how many thoughts could swirl around in a person's head in just a few seconds. It didn't take me long to find live feed of the Twin Towers. Had I not received that ominous forewarning, I'd have thought I was watching a movie.

Two planes? That can't be a coincidence, can it? Wait, what time is it in New York? 9:20am. Wouldn't most people have been at work when this happened? How many people work in those buildings? How many per floor? How many floors would be taken out by a direct hit from a commercial airline? Were there passengers on these planes? How many people are already dead?

There were so many questions and so many frightening possible answers.

At some point, a room service lady had come into the room with my breakfast and noticed what was on the television. She sat beside me at the end of the bed and we both watched in silent astonishment. I doubt it was common for hotel staff to invite themselves into an occupied room, or for the occupant to not notice or care, but it was a unique circumstance. We never even spoke to each other.

And then the Pentagon.

What's going on here? Was it another plane? Isn't the Pentagon one of the most secure buildings in the world? There were already two crashes, why isn't anyone stopping these people? For God's sake, who are these people? Who would do something like this?

I was informed by someone that all flights in North America, mine included, had been grounded, so I was glued to the television without distraction. Maybe I was just too terrified to move. After the Pentagon, I watched news unfold of the other plane crashing in Pennsylvania. I watched the towers fall, two iconic pieces of New York landscape reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds. I heard panic and fear in the voices of firefighters, news anchors and families missing loved ones. Was this attack over? Or is this the beginning of Armageddon?

Many questions from that day remain unanswered more than seven years later. We can put the memory of that day behind us, but only until we relive the panic of the early hours, and our pulse starts to increase. And why shouldn't it? That's the morning the world, our lives, changed forever.

I don't why it's so important for people to share their story, but it seems to be important to just about everyone. Feel free to tell me yours.