In Memoriam: Mya

Last night a friend called.  She and her husband had to put their lovely young dog to Doberman Pinscher Myasleep.  Mya, a beautiful Doberman Pinscher.  On Saturday, she was ill and her vet diagnosed her with Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

They were familiar with this heart disease, a congestive failure too common in Dobermans.  They knew it meant probably only months left of life.  But with Mya it went blazingly fast.  By Tuesday, she was so sick and tests showed nothing could be done.  So they did the only humane thing they could.

The Doberman they’d had before, Sasha, also developed it.  They took her to the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph and found out that it’s a common congenital problem for several breeds of large dogs, but especially prevalent in Dobermans.  It usually hits anywhere between 2 and 6 years of age.  Perhaps Dobes are more prone to it because of their huge chests and huge hearts.  Both Sasha and Mya had big hearts and loved their people and their friends, both dog and human, deeply.

Doberman research at U of Guelph

The disease progressed in Sasha quite rapidly, but slowly compared to Mya.  Sasha became part of a research experiment at the OVC in Guelph.  A doctor wanted to find out why this disease is so prevalent in Dobes and can it be eradicated.  After a few months of living with it, Sasha succumbed to it.

My dog Jack missed Sasha; they were best friends.  We’d go to the park he usually met her at, and he’d watch the road.  Every truck that sounded like hers would cause him to run to the fence, looking and hoping.  Jack never got to know Mya.  He was getting old and sick himself, and Mya was a very rambunctious puppy.

My new dogs, after Jack passed away, became friends with the young adult Mya.  She was much bigger than either of them, but they played and chased each other.  They’d just hang out together and go to whomever they thought might have treats and mooch.  Mya’s long, pointed nose would push into your pocket to see what you had.

We ran into her just last Friday evening, along with several others of Mya’s good friends.  So she had a fine time, running and wrestling.  That was her last run, but it was a good one.

When your house is too quiet

Last night, petting the cats lying beside me, I thought of how quiet Mya’s house must dogs wearing poppiesseem without her there.  She was an only pet.  It would be different for me, I thought, if one died there are others.  There still would be the life sounds of 4-footed creatures.  But then I remembered when Jack died and, soon after, a cat Henry.  With both of them, there was a huge hole in the house.  A void felt by humans and other cats alike.  New ones come along and make their own place in heart and household, but the memory and loss of the ones who are gone remain.

You will be remembered, Mya, and you are loved.  Rest in peace, beautiful girl. Feb. 6, 2007 – June 28, 2011

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (June 26/11)

Lancashire Fusilier

Ches and Roy beside lancashire fusilierThat was the most fabulous wedding I’ve ever seen on Corrie or any other show.  Roy and Hayley on a Lancashire Fusilier. I can’t possibly pick one scene – every one was great.

The singalong on the bus: evocative of old Corrie episodes where they’d rent a bus to go to Blackpool or somewhere.  Those participating in the moment, and those sniping.  Norris grizzling about everyone being so silly. Sally at Claire about everything, and Rosie getting digs in at John the tour leader.

Roy as John and Ches blindfolded him to take him to the train.  Roy obviously never played any trust games – he did not take well to being blindfolded and relying on others.  But his pleasure at seeing the train and learning he’d be riding shotgun in the engine – wonderful.

Faster, faster

Roy shovelling coal inRoy and Ches in overalls in the engine, Roy shoveling coal into the burner and Ches saying “faster, faster”.  They both were having so much fun.

Mary, not a guest at the wedding although her dress was there, stole every scene she was in.  Her good wishes to Hayley when the bridal party was leaving the Street was frightening, guilt-producing, yet touching.  Double-meaning in everything she said so you felt both fear and sympathy for her.  Hayley conveyed that confusion of reaction beautifully.

Mary at tracks, hand on the lever Mary’s motorhome following the wedding bus was ominous.  Mary sitting by the tracks waving, hand on a train lever was not a good sign.  Later, in the Rovers, worried about the wedding, her comment to Ciaran about what her mother always said was heartbreaking:  “our Mary will never even make bridesmaid.”

And Sophie and Sian

Sean looks at Sophie in surpriseSophie was obviously tormented by the denial by her and Sian of their relationship, and that she was allowing Claire to be called “mad” and a child abuser.  And the cock crowed three times.

Later that night Sophie told her father that what Claire said was true, that she and Sian were together.  Good for you Sophie.  Sean’s reactions were great too, first when Claire made her announcement his sidelong surprised look at Sophie.  Then later, when Sally was going on about her daughter being “normal”, Sean’s questioning of her definition of normality.

Bridesmaids pumping handcar along trackAnd, after the bride and bridesmaids realized they were stranded in the countryside, no longer with the rest of the train!  Hayley, gown blowing behind her, standing on the handcar as her bridesmaids pumped the handles – priceless.  They sped along the track, getting Hayley “to the church on time”

Head table, as Roy finishes his speechThe scene that made me cry, though, was Roy’s speech.  With Sophie and Sian in the background, denying the ‘outing’ of them that Claire did, Roy talked about the world catching up to him and Hayley.

Eleven years earlier, he Sophie listens to Roy's speechsaid, he and Hayley wanted to legally commit to each other but the law did not allow it.  “We have remained still and the world has turned to meet us… The world can change its rules, its laws and its opinions as frequently as it chooses but I will remain standing beside you.  That will not change.”  Perfect.


rhubarb in garden photo D StewartIf, like me, you’ve been watching your rhubarb plant get bigger and bigger but you don’t feel like making a pie or jam, here’s what you can do. Just cook the rhubarb. The resulting stewed fruit can be eaten as is, as a topping for ice cream or with granola and yoghurt.

rhubarb pieces in pot ready to cookWash the cut rhubarb stalks and chop into 1½ inch pieces.  The following are two ways to cook it. The first is how my mother and I have done it, to eat or freeze. The second is from a recipe for canned rhubarb that I tried, with success, this year.

Important: Rhubarb reacts with aluminum, iron and copper and darkens both rhubarb and utensil.  Stainless steel, Teflon and enamel pots, strainers and spoons are fine to use.

Two methods for cooked rhubarb

stewed rhubarb in potNo. 1: Put rhubarb in a pot with just a bit of water so it doesn’t burn on the bottom before it starts making its own juice. Cook on low heat until it’s soft – half an hour? Depends on the amount and the consistency you want.

Add sugar to taste. The amount you add depends on what your eventual use for it is. If you plan for it only to be in sweets, add more. If you might use it in a tart chutney or cooked rhubarb in container for freezer (photo D Stewart)something, add less or none.

When it’s cooked, you can just put it in a bowl in the refrigerator right away or in plastic containers for the freezer.

No. 2:  To each quart (approx. 4 cups) of chopped rhubarb, add ½ cup sugar. Let stand in pot about half an hour to draw out juice. Cook until tender. Have your jars and lids ready in boiling water. Pack rhubarb with juice in jars, leaving ½ inch headspace in jar. Put on lids and screw tops, then process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. If you have never done canning before, read up on how to sterilize June-Rhubarband fill jars. In canning, it’s best to add the sugar in order to help with preserving.

You can also extract the juice. See my posts below:

Freeze and postpone

If you really don’t want to do anything with it but hate seeing it go to seed, just cut it up as in the top photo, put the uncooked pieces in a freezer bag or container (don’t overcrowd) and freeze. Worry about it later. You can make pies, jams, chutneys or just cooked fruit from it whenever you want. For baking, follow recipe instructions for frozen fruit.

Circus Cirque

circus cirque Quidam poster, from Cirque du Soleil siteWe went to see Cirque du Soleil at London’s John Labatt Centre recently. The show, Quidam, was fabulous. Also the first circus I’ve been to at the JLC with no protestors outside. When my husband said he’d bought tickets, I said “but they don’t have animals!”

Yes, I’ve been to other circuses at the JLC. Took the protestors’ pamphlets, walked on into the show and enjoyed it. I listened to the ring master talk about the protestors and about how the circus looks after their animals.

Googling circus and anti-circus sites didn’t help clarify my thoughts on animal acts. I hate the thought of any animal being mistreated in training or living conditions. I also love seeing the animals in circuses. I’ve hung out on as many circus back lots as I could before, during and after shows. Whether they were rehearsing, feeding or relaxing, I never saw anything between people and animals that looked bad.

All bad or all good?

horses, Kelly Miller CircusI’ve thought a lot about this – am I contravening my beliefs by attending every circus I can? I don’t know. If I knew that a particular circus, or trainer, was truly known to abuse their animals, then I would want to see them stopped. But are they all bad? I can’t just agree, yes they are, without knowing from independent sources. The anti-circus, animal rights people say all circuses are bad. Circuses say they treat their animals well and that they’re doing great things for animal protection. What do non-biased, non-involved sources say? Those are thin on the ground.

elephant pulling up tent peg, Kelly Miller CircusAnimal lovers are animal lovers, and animal abusers are animal abusers. Both will be found in any animal-related endeavour. So stop having performance and entertainment that involves animals, you say. Ok, what happens then to those animals?

The elephants, big cats and bears could go to a zoo. Oh that will be a nice life for them. Day in, day out in an enclosure, eating, standing, sleeping. Go back to “the wild.” Is that workable for domesticated creatures? And what wild? Poachers, loss of territory and human encroachment have decimated elephant and big cat populations. There ain’t no viable “wild” for them to return to, even if they could fend for themselves.

Circus Life

And the circus people – what would they do? There’s a vibrant culture in circus life that Kelly Miller Circus reptile display, elephant ridesshould be esteemed as a national treasure. These are multi-generational families of skilled artists whose talents should be lauded. Troupes like Cirque du Soleil are probably not the answer for them. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that Cirque du Soleil has a different ethos, traveling manner, history and way of life than that of the long-standing circuses. Traditional circus people winter in Florida, not Las Vegas.

I remember 1999, the last visit of the Kelly Miller big top circus to St. Thomas. I had never seen a circus in an actual tent. They erected it on vacant land at Centre and Moore Streets. It was magical inside the tent and, outside, barkers called you to see the snakes and games of chance.Tent down, ready to fold, Kelly Miller Circus

This was the final performance at this stop, and we watched them pack up. The elephants pulled the tent down and the roustabouts folded it and packed it in the trucks. When animals and people were all loaded into their vehicles, the long caravan pulled out for the next town. All I wanted to do was follow them.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (June 19/11)


This week, Mary. She is wonderful. Scary and wonderful. Coronation Street has a treasure in her. I keep wishing she’d go away because she frightens me. But every scene she does is superb.

Mary, watching the partygoersShe’s a very economical actor. She can create a whole scene with one look or one action. Perhaps because she’s established her character as a woman clearly on the edge so well, she really doesn’t need to give anything more than that first visual trigger. You, the viewer, can fill in the rest. On Thursday, we had four moments of pure Mary-ness.

The first: her look of longing and animosity at the ladies getting ready for Hayley’s hen party. Who hasn’t felt that when other people were having a good time and excluding you?

What is she going to do to them?

I felt Mary ordering dry sherrysorry for her, and I also felt fear – what is she going to do to them? So, the second: her clearing a path like the Queen Mary steaming into port, through the hen party attendees, to the bar to order her dry sherry. “I don’t want to interrupt…”

Mary declines invitationAt Hayley’s urging, Becky reluctantly invites her along for the hen party. Mary refuses, saying that on the last Friday of every month, she dines only on fish. So while the revelers are out condemning their souls to eternal damnation, she “will be tucking into a veritable feast of aquatic life”. Pity the poor fish.

Mary chugs her sherryShe takes her drink back to the safety of Norris and Emily’s table. There the third moment: she chugs her sherry in one spectacular gulp. Norris and Emily watch with looks of shock and awe.

Mary in the motorhomeThen the final one, the one that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Mary behind the wheel of the motorhome, eating candy, watching the hen partyers spilling out into the roadway from Roy’s Rolls. You could feel her tension, wanting to start the engine and mow them down. But the moment passes and her eyes Hayley, in salsa dress, with Javierregain a semblance of sanity. For tonight, they will live.

Oh, and someone must have bought Hayley the red salsa dress she had returned in a fit of pique. The fishnet stockings too.

The MINI Wave

MINI toys on MINI roofI’ve noticed something this year, or rather the lack of something. MINI drivers in the London area are not waving at each other. Forest City MINI Club, get the word out – we wave at each other. We are MINI.

Just because MINI now has tv commercials, that does not mean that our cars are just like every other car out there. We’re still distinct. We get attention. We’re still a community within the larger sedan and minivan driving population.

MINI toys following MINI, with poodleFirst thing I discovered, after buying our 2002 MINI in 2004, was everyone waved. People walking down the street turned and waved. Other drivers smiled and waved. I thought I must know a lot more people than I thought I did. So I’d wave back, thinking ‘oh dear who are you?’ Then I realized it was the car.

Responsibility of MINI drivers

That brought another driving responsibility – you have to be nice when you’re driving a MINI. Sometimes, if someone had cut me off or done something stupid, I’d be cursing at them and wanting to make a rude gesture. Then at the next light, I might be pulled up next to them, still mad, and they’d wave and smile and point to the car and smile more. MINI pile on MINI roofHow can you then give them the finger? You can’t, so you wave and smile back.

But even when the sight of a MINI became more commonplace and passersby stopped waving their arms off at you, MINI drivers still always waved. Might be a full wave, maybe just a forefinger raised off the steering wheel, but it was an acknowledgement.

Until 2007 the closest MINI dealers to London/St. Thomas were in Waterloo and Windsor. Either way, an hour drive. So there weren’t many MINIs around here. Having Grand Touring Auto, the BMW dealer, also open as MINI London was wonderful. It made it easier to get your MINI fixed and your MINI fix. And, as it should have, it increased the number of MINIs on roads around here. Still, MINIs waved at MINIs.

Mini and me at MINI Waterloo - MINI DriversUntil this year. I’ve noticed a lot more MINIs this summer and very, very few have waved back at me. Especially in London. In St. Thomas and Aylmer, yes, there is sometimes acknowledgement. But London, no. Come on, people. We drive a car that has clubs and model toys. We drive a car that looks cute in packs. We recognize our fellow MINI drivers.

Interested in the Forest City MINI Club? Call MINI London for contact information. The book below is really good on Mini’s history.


Coronation Street Scene of the Week (June 12/11)

Baby Daddy

Nick patting Natasha's bellyNick patting Natasha’s belly and cooing to the baby inside versus a couple months ago Nick asking Leanne if she didn’t sometimes picture herself and him and little baby that might have been.  Hard to decide which is more revolting.

A power outage meant I missed Tuesday’s episode.  So Monday ended with Nick burning rubber getting away from Natasha and her announcement that she was pregnant. That was right after he’d put the moves on Leanne – yuck!.  And Wednesday opened with I’m-yer-daddy cooing and patting.  Whaatt?

When I saw Natasha was unusually reserved around him, I thought she’d come to her senses and was as disgusted by this overnight change in Nick as I was.  Good for you Natasha, I thought, you’re not believing a word of this happy families malarkey.

She wants to do what?

Doctor listening to Natasha on babiesThen she went to see new Dr. Dishy at the neighbourhood clinic.  She told him she’d just had an abortion and now she wanted to get pregnant again asap because Nick was back with her?????

When Nick decided to ‘do the right thing’, she didn’t want to tell him she’d aborted the baby.  So now she wants to get pregnant again fast enough that she can just “play fast and loose” with the dates and he’ll never know.  That was a fast abortion!  When did she have it, in a commercial break?

Clearly Dr. Dishy had some problems with her reasoning about why and why not have a baby.  I was hoping he’d suggest ‘fixing’ her so she wouldn’t be able to play silly games with unborn or born children anymore.  Neutering Nick too might not be a bad idea.

I believe strongly in a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy.  But “he isn’t happy about me being pregnant five minutes after he dumped me, so I’ll get rid of it right now”, then “oopsie, he does want the baby so I’d better replace it as soon asLeanne, in Rovers, toasts baby I can” is not a justifiable reason for either an abortion or a pregnancy.

Then the moment of tears Thursday, both Leanne’s and mine.  After she hears Nick announce Natasha’s pregnancy to the Rovers, she goes outside to cry and to spare herself having to explain to Natasha in Leanne's face, 'he's mine'anyone.  Natasha, not knowing that Leanne too aborted a child of Nick’s, follows and accuses her of wanting “her” man.  Oh grow up, Natasha!

leanne sad after Natasha stomps awayLeanne, hurting all over again about the pregnancy she had unwillingly ended, didn’t say that.  She said, “Drop dead, Natasha,” and Natasha stalked off.  And she still had no inkling of the real reason Leanne’s eyes were filled with such pain.

Carrot Cake

cat stealing carrot cakeMy dog Jack loved carrots. For his 7th birthday, I made him a carrot cake from my mother-in-law’s recipe. He, and we, loved it.

As you see, the cat did too. While I was giving the birthday boy his cake, she was eating mine!

(If you make it for your dog, don’t put walnuts in it. Many nuts are toxic for dogs, including walnuts, almonds and, especially, macadamias.)


Sift or stir together, then set aside:

  • dog awaiting birthday cake2 C flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Mix together in a large bowl, beating after each addition:

  • 1 1/4 C cooking oil
  • 1 3/4 C sugar
  • 4 eggs

Add dry ingredients to oil-sugar-egg mixture and mix well.

Stir into batter, without overmixing:

  • 2 C finely grated or chopped carrots (chopped in food processor is best)
  • 1 C drained crushed pineapple
  • 3/4 C chopped nuts (walnuts are good)

baked cake cooling before icingThe batter will be thin. Pour into a greased and lightly floured 14” x 18” baking pan. Bake in preheated 325˚ oven for about 35 mins. or until toothpick or sharp knife come out clean. Cool completely before icing.


  • cake with pieces cut1/2 C softened butter or margarine
  • 4-8 oz softened cream cheese (I use ‘light’, it tastes as good)
  • 1 C or more of confectioners (icing) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla (almond or walnut extract can be used instead)

Blend together. Will be firm but not stiff.  Spread on cooled cake.  Refrigerate to keep icing cool. This is a rich cake, so small servings are recommended, especially around cats. It’s very large, so you can half the recipe.

“Look at Bingy”: Alzheimer’s and Distraction

Frustration is part of Alzheimer’s and other age-related memory loss and dementia – frustration for the person themself and the people caring for or interacting with them. warning on dementia ward doorOften, an Alzheimer’s person will believe something totally contrary to “reality” – it may be a big thing or a little thing.  But explaining, usually, will get you (the non-Alzheimer’s person) nowhere. At best, your explanation will be immediately forgotten. At worst, it will create an argument and distress for both parties – really over nothing that can be resolved.

It’s very hard coping with “it’s white” statements when you know that, in fact, “it’s black”. You can reason, you can scream, but nothing is going to convince someone with dementia. It’s especially hard when the person is a parent or grandparent, an individual you respect and who expects respectful behaviour from you.

The Bingy Strategy

I’ve read that the best thing is distraction, and I find it works better than any long-winded explanation. But you can’t be obvious about it. Someone might have Alzheimer’s but that doesn’t mean they don’t pick up on patronizing behaviours. So you have to distract Bing the dog, in service stationto something equally interesting or at least off-the-wall enough to command attention. With luck, the attention paid to that new thing will last long enough for the problematic thing to be forgotten. I call it the ‘look at Bingy’ strategy. Thinking of it that way helps me as much as it does the person with whom I’m dealing.

‘Look at Bingy’ became a family catchphrase for distraction after my mother invented it out of necessity. A guy had come to my father’s business to see him, but only my mother and the dog were there.  The guy thought Mom was a fine looking woman and put the makes on her. She didn’t want to offend, but wanted to stop him.

So every time he’d start with ‘hows about it’ type things, she’d say “oh, look at Bingy!” He’d turn to see what the dog was doing. This worked for Mom at service station windowher several times, until he said “Bingy be damned!” In truth, Bing wasn’t actually doing much of anything. However, it bought Mom time and Dad soon returned. After that, whenever you were in a sticky situation and didn’t know how to get out of it, ‘look at Bingy’ was a code word for finding a distraction.

Don’t argue with dementia

So, with Alzheimer’s saying “I don’t live here” or “I don’t have any food, I need to go shopping”, the ‘look at Bingy’ approach can forestall pointless argument. Saying ‘you do live here, remember when you moved in?’ or ‘you have your meals in the dining room’ means nothing to someone who can’t remember where the dining room is. Start talking about something else – the dog or cat or someplace you went on the weekend. Just pick places and people that you think might ring a bell. Dogs and cats are especially good. I’ve found pets are remembered more clearly than many people, and not being able to remember them is less upsetting.

You’re not going to cure Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia. You are not going to bring the person’s memory back. You’re not going to ‘teach’ them anything. The best you can do is listen, acknowledge and, yes, distract.

My Seeing the world the Alzheimer’s way has more. Also, a couple of excellent points I found on pages that are no longer online: 

…death of the mind… “if you argue with an Alzheimer’s patient, you get exactly what you deserve”

Alzheimer’s Assoc. Online Community, a poster (Dec. 31/10) gives this advice “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” Using Leonard Cohen’s words in this context is inspired –  so lovely, so true.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (June 5/11)

The Accumulator

A five race accumulator is a bet in which you pick the horses to win in five different races on a given race day. Your winnings compound from race to race, but if all five horses do not win, neither do you.

accumulator - Peter waving Lewis' betting slip "4 flaming grand"Lewis “won” his first ever accumulator. Not impossible but pretty hard to do, especially based on pure beginner’s luck as he so blithely told Leanne. Such a win, whether by a neophyte or a bettor with a good system for picking, is a great day for the bettor and a bad day for the bookie.

Watching the tape in the bookie shopPeter guessed Lewis must have known something he shouldn’t have known based on the winner of the fourth race. The combined odds of Allagoggin actually winning and of somebody choosing him in an accumulator were so astronomically long that Peter was suspicious, not just hopeful, that there was something wrong about Lewis’ ‘luck’. Nothing in Allagoggin’s past performance, or form, would suggest him as anything but a very long shot. Leanne didn’t catch it right off the bat because, while she may be a quick study of peoples’ form, she doesn’t know that of horses.

So the moment of watching the security camera tape! Poor Deirdre. the kiss on tapeAnd of course Ken would be there. Not that he wouldn’t have found out, but being right there watching the whole tawdry thing! As she said many times, it would have been better if there’d been sound. But, if she remembered all of what she said, it wouldn’t have improved it much.

Manchester Tart

Platts and Barlows watching the dvdThe Barlows confront Audrey at Gail’s farewell do for her and the no-show Lewis. Gail is deranged, turning on Deirdre and all the Barlows, defending all members, real or putative, of her seriously disturbed brood. Then let’s look at the tape. The battery in the remote is low so Peter can’t stop it after they’ve seen Lewis’ fingers in the till, and the kiss unfolds. Deirdre humiliated again, Audrey humiliated anew. A pastry – a Manchester tart – that Audrey had been saving for Lewis instead was thrown by Gail in Deirdre’s face. It was horrible. And Claudia enjoying the whole show. I’m so glad she was there.

Lewis meeting new woman at airport barBut Lewis, gigolo with a heart of gold as he turned out to be, didn’t rip off Audrey. He stopped the transfer from her bank account to their new joint account. He left for Greece with only Peter’s  £4,000, but accumulated a new ‘mark’ at the airport.

And Ken! During his and Deirdre’s post-mortem of the whole thing, he shows that his days of contrition about Martha and sympathy Ken and Deirdre at dining room tableabout Blanche’s death are well and truly over. “Would you mind finishing that outside?” he says as Deirdre smokes a cigarette in her house. “Why, no I wouldn’t – as I’m passing your bags to you on your way out the door” is what I’d have liked to hear Deirdre reply.

PS – I wrote this after Thursday’s episode. Friday saw Ken continue his ‘my way’ campaign. As Deirdre listens to a pop radio station, he walks past and turns the dial to a classical station. Done without a word to her.