Dog Walking For The Soul

My husband David walking our dogs last Monday

Stumbling out of bed, I wonder ‘how can it already be morning?’

As I move through our home I notice the sun isn’t awake. Hints of mauve & pink in the sky hint at what’s to come.

I dress in autopilot, unaware of temperature or weather conditions.

Stepping outside I can barely make out the stairs leading from the verandah to the back yard.
‘Are we really doing this?’ It seems we are.

Zena & Cadel sir, patiently impatient, desperate to begin their morning walk yet knowing that it cannot begin until their leads are on.

I marvel at how awake & present they are & envy them a little.

As we walk I feel the fog of sleep slowly lifting. I may not have boundless energy like they do but I’m beginning to feel alive.

The chatter from a pair of small grass parrots is drowned out by a flock of galahs flying overhead. Their screech pierces the air & im surprised to not hear the sound of something shattering as they pass.

When we’re done, when I’m sitting inside eating breakfast, I feel gratitude for these two dogs. They are teaching me to be in the moment, even if that moment is too early in the morning for my liking. I’m honoured to have them in my life & hope to continue learning from them every day we have together.

Yes, I Celebrate My Dogs Birthdays

Zena, as captured on her birthday

Yesterday was Zena’s 11th birthday. Zena is the eldest of my two dogs. It almost feels impossible that she is already 11 years old. I remember vividly the day we met her, as if it happened only moments ago. Even then as a small eight week old puppy she was full of sass. We took with us our dog Zeus to meet her because we wanted to make sure that the two of them would get along. Meeting a fully grown adult male Rottweilor did not phase Zena. She ran to him at full pace, her chest out and tail up, daring him not to be impressed by her tiny presence. There was no fear; instead she was curious and determined to follow him everywhere. She was already aware of her place in the world & expected everyone – animal or human – to be impressed by her.

In the ensuring years Zena has become a crucial part of my life. In recent years she has become incredibly in tune with my mental state; it was because of her actions that I realised I needed to seek help for my anxiety. I became aware that Zena was anxious every time I was anxious; or actually she would become anxious before my anxiety hit. She was aware that I was becoming anxious before I was & at the time I wasn’t aware that she was trying to calm me but I wasn’t recognising her cues. As she became more anxious as my daily anxiety grew I decided I had to do something about my mental health, in the hope that improving my mental health would improve hers. Thankfully as my anxiety treatments began to work my improvements were reflected in Zena. She hasn’t lost her ability to recognise an anxiety or panic attack before I do however now I recognise her cues and act on them. I allow her to calm me if needed or simply to shadow me as she makes sure that I’m going to be ok.

Despite the positive impact Zena has in my life (and also Cadel, my second, younger dog) I have always felt uncomfortable publicly recognising the importance of my dogs. I’ve often felt ashamed that I am the owner of dogs, or to put it in popular parlance, a dog mum. Almost everyone I know, particularly those of my age or older, are mothers or fathers of children. You know, humans. They’ve done what society expects and what people have done for millennia which, at its core is to reproduce in order to maintain the existence of humans on Earth. For reasons I’m not yet ready to share here, having children was not and is not for me. But having pets, especially dogs? Well of course I had to. My life would be bereft without them.

So now, I’m willing to own my reality. I am a dog owner. No I’m not going to call myself a dog mother. I honestly hate the description although I’m happy for others to refer to themselves as that if it truely makes them happy. And in that owning of reality I will happily confess to celebrating my dogs birthdays. I haven’t actually made a birthday cake or cupcake for either Zena or Cadel yet, but its on my to do list for a future birthday. Instead I give them some kind of food treat (which they both get because you can’t spoil one dog without spoiling the other!). For Zena’s birthday I shared my souvlaki with them. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it all so Zena & Cadel got to enjoy my leftovers. They were thrilled to eat something different and tasty and I was thrilled not to throw away food.

So this is me, stating to the world that I’m a proud dog owner and I’m never going to not bring it up. Its a major part of my life and I’m happy with this fact.

Oh, one more thing. I’m also a dog owner who runs an Instagram account for her dogs. Yep, I’m one of those! If you’d like to check it out search zenacadel on Instagram. Hopefully you’ll enjoy their page.

Daily Dog Walking

Zena sitting in the hallway enjoying the morning sun

A little over a year ago I decided to start walking my dogs Zena & Cadel every day. I had been walking them about three times a week even though I knew they would benefit from daily walks. So propelled by the fact that I’d stepped away from the workforce I decided to begin daily walks. It’s safe to say Zena & Cadel adjusted to this new routine a lot quicker than I! Whilst I had always enjoyed walking my dogs I don’t experience the same exercise highs I get from riding my bike. There is always a moment when I’m riding my bike that I realise my mind is empty of all thoughts. There is no anxiety, no stress, not even happiness. Just simply a mind hearing my feet push pedals & the sound of bike tyres on the road. That emptiness does not come with dog walking. And daily dog walking meant I had little spare time or energy to ride my bike.

Despite this I pushed on with our new routine. I’d fall out of bed, barely awake as I dressed then I’d walk outside, dogs shadowing my every step to make sure I didn’t forget them. As if I would! They were the only reason I was bleary eyed & walking. Gradually I came to appreciate our walks. Expending energy first thing in the morning left Zena & Cadel happy & settled for the rest of the day. I’ve come to the realisation that the saying shouldn’t be ‘happy wife happy life’ but instead ‘happy dogs happy life!’ Sure it doesn’t have the same ring to it but it’s certainly true.

Twelve months on & I’ve returned to the workforce. With this has come a lot of adjustments for me as well as Zena & Cadel. I found myself unable to walk them daily; my body had fallen out of the rhythm of being at work. After a few weeks of this I’ve realised that I can’t continue not walking them daily. It’s become a much loved routine that has benefits for the three of us. I might not get the empty mind that comes from bike riding but I have benefitted from a mind that wanders. Suddenly a problem is solved without my conscious mind thinking about it. Or a photographic or writing idea will come to me.

I’ve missed not having these moments. So I’m happy to report we’re back at it. I’m again falling out of bed, finding some clothes to wear & getting the dogs. Then the three of us are off, walking, strengthening our bond & enjoying each others company.

If you could ask them in that moment both Zena & Cadel would say everything is right in their world. I’d agree with them. Things are certainly better when we’re walking together.

A foggy winters morning in 2019

Taking Stock #1

This is my favourite tree to photograph

How is it already October? Where has the year gone? I find it hard to believe that my husband & I will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary next Wednesday. 15 years! WTF? Two days after that & I’ll be performing in the 3rd Pole Fit Mildura Showcase. Yet again, WTF? It only feels like moments ago that I was doped on painkillers due to injury so I could participate in the 2nd Showcase. And it does not feel like I’ve been married for 15 years. What the actual fuck?

So considering all that I thought it a good idea to write my first Taking Stock post. As a way to feel like I’ve got some hold on life, sure, but also to take a micro look at my life & appreciate what I have. You probably don’t need me to tell you, but Pip from MeetMeAtMikes writes the best Taking Stock posts. She encourages others to take stock & kindly provides her taking stock list on her blog. Thanks Pip, I love the idea of doing this every now & again.

Here’s my list; perhaps you’d like to make one yourself?

Making Art gifts for two friends. I can’t say more, in case they read this post!

Photographing My dogs, my friends at pole fitness, the setting sun. These are my go to things to photograph at the moment.

Cooking a cake to enjoy on our wedding anniversary. Well, ok I haven’t baked it yet, but I’m going to next week.

Reading True Stories by Helen Garner. If you don’t know it, it’s her collected works of non-fiction. I’m really enjoying it. I’m also reading the latest issue of Flow magazine. It’s always an enjoyable read.

Sipping Japanese Sencha tea from T2. It ties for my favourite tea, along with their Melbourne Breakfast.

Looking into buying a new washing machine. Ours is 10 years old. It’s not working very well anymore. I have no idea what I want, other than a machine that actually works. So I’ll be doing lots of online research before laying down any cash.

Listening to Garbage, Amanda Palmer, Florence & The Machine and Lorde. I can’t get enough of these women lately. They’re all my favourites & I love listening to them nice & loud.

Wishing that we were living in our new home. Not long now, hopefully.

Black & White double exposure photo

Enjoying eating meals that I made in bulk & froze into servings for two. Makes life easy, although I don’t seem to always be organised enough to cook this way.

Waiting for daylight savings to start. Extra daylight in the evening is great, it always feels like I get a lot more done. I’m more productive of an afternoon & evening which is probably also why I like daylight savings so much.

Loving my A5 Cahier notebook from Pebble Stationery Co. It uses 52gsm Tamoe River paper which is so beautiful to write on. Pebble is an Australian company & I have the pleasure of interviewing the founder Lois Ho for an episode of the Art Supply Posse podcast. Which I am going to encourage you to listen & subscribe to 😉

The aforementioned Pebble Stationery Co notebook

Liking making the incredibly indulgent XXL Death by Chocolate Cookie by Sally’s Baking Addiction. I make these when I’m craving chocolate. Really craving it, but don’t actually want chocolate. Which seems like a misnomer I know. I make them as two larger cookies; the first time I baked this recipe I made it as one but couldn’t eat it in one sitting. It could probably be made into smaller cookies, but where’s the fun in that?

Buying a beautiful teapot from a store from a store on the Japanese website Rakuten. I accidentally broke my favourite teapot on the weekend. It’s no longer available, of course, so I spent way too long looking for a replacement. Warning: if you’re as in love with all things Japanese like I am, you’ll be tempted to buy all the things. You have been warned 🙂

Watching series 11 of Gruen, by the ABC. I love Wil Anderson. He’s one of my favourite comedians. This show never disappoints. I’m also loving the comedy panel show Insert Name Here, with comedian Sue Perkins. She’s great & so is this show.

Hoping that I get through our showcase performance uninjured. Last year I had a spectacular fall at the beginning of our piece during full dress rehearsal on performance day. It meant I had to pull out of one of the pieces I was to perform in. And I performed whilst on a lot of painkillers. I won’t post a photo here of my bruised & battered knees. They took the full brunt of my fall. It’s not a pretty image.

Needing more sleep. Its the story of my life at the moment

Wearing whilst unpacking (see below for more details) I found a bikini set that I bought a couple of years ago but haven’t actually worn. I think it will be perfect for wearing to my pole fit class. I shall wear it to tomorrow nights class.

Following I interviewed Jane Mills for an episode of Art Supply Posse, during which she talked about streaming on Twitch when she makes her art. I knew little about Twitch, other than that its a platform for gamers. Turns out there’s more to it than that. That chat led me to join Twitch & I’ve watched her art streams a couple of times now. I’m really enjoying it. If that’s you thing give her a follow. You won’t regret it.

Blossom on one of my peach trees

Noticing my stone fruit trees are all in various stages of blossom. So is the lemon tree. I love this time of year, the beauty of the blossoms & the promise of fruit to come.

Sorting through the boxes that we’ve had in storage for the last four years. Almost everything we own has been in storage in our shed as we build our house. As it’s nearing completion I’ve begun unpacking. A lot of it is going to goodwill or into the bin. It turns out there’s a lot of stuff that we own that we don’t actually need.

Getting excited to see U2 next month in Adelaide. I’ve seen them every time they’ve been in Australia since Popmart & I’m excited for the Joshua Tree tour. I know it’s going to be great.

Saving offcuts & scraps of vegetables, coffee grindings, used tea leaves etc & dumping them all into my new Bokashi bin. I had a voucher for Biome Eco Store & had to buy myself one. It feels good using all that waste to create good stuff for the garden.

Bookmarking various writing websites. Both as a means to look into courses to take to improve my writing skills but also publishers so I can submit my children’s stories to the slush pile. I hope to break through the pile to become a published children’s book author.

Coveting Fujifilm’s newly announced X-Pro3 mirrorless camera. I have the original X-Pro1, bought at a terrific price once it had been on the market for 18 months or so. I love it, but its time for an upgrade. I’m hoping when the price is announced in mid October, coinciding with it becoming available to buy, that I’ll be able to afford one.

Opening a zine called Scotland On Film. I purchased it from a guy who posted a thread on Reddit. It arrived today.

Giggling when listening to comedy podcasts. Or any comedy really. But comedy podcasts are my thing. Two new episodes of The Little DumDum Club & DYKWIA are waiting in my podcast app to listen to which I’ll do once this post is finished. Give them a listen too, once you’ve listened to Art Supply Posse 😉

Feeling a sense of renewal. It’s a bloody wonderful feeling, throwing away all the unneeded stuff we own. I highly recommend it.

Hearing the gentle breathing of Zena & Cadel as they sleep. I love my dogs 🙂

Obsessing about the aforementioned X-Pro3. Yes I’ve got it bad!

Well thats my list done. I’d love to hear if any of this resonates with you. And go write your own taking stock list. It’s a fun little exercise.

Dogs In The Street Is A Genre For Me

I was lucky enough to meet with a good friend in Melbourne last Thursday. We’d decided earlier on this year that we needed a break from our lives & flying to Melbourne for a few days away seemed like a good idea. It gave us a concrete point in the future that we could work towards, coming in handy when we were wondering if we could get through what life was throwing at us at various times this year.

As I am wont to do I packed my camera into my handbag, expecting there would be opportunities to take photos of something, somewhere. Thankfully, Melbourne delivered. The weather was beautiful & the vibe in the CBD seemed to echo the weather. I had Friday to myself whilst my friend attended a conference, so I spent the the day walking with my camera.

I thought taking my time to wander the city slowly, sitting down whenever I felt like it & paying attention to the light & people within it would hopefully provide me with some opportunities to take photos that I could be happy with. As I moved through the day I found myself yet again being drawn to people with their dogs. Many were walking together, some people were carrying their dogs in their arms & others were sitting with their dog by their side.

I find dogs more interesting than their owners, although I pay attention to the owners in case it is worth focussing on the them in lieu of their dog. I want to know what the dogs are thinking & feeling & try to capture that. I like to think this guy in the photo above was watching me, making sure that I wasn’t going to be a threat to his owner & then wondering what on earth I was doing. To him I probably looked weird standing nearby, relaxed but holding a strange thing in front of my face. He relaxed once he knew I wasn’t going to be a threat & moved his attention elsewhere.

Reflecting on this moment & looking at other opportunities I’ve had trying my hand at street photography I’ve realised that the genre of street photography of dogs appeals to me. It ties together two things that I love – taking photos & dogs. It seems like a natural fit so I’ve decided to improve my skillset within the streets of where I live. It’s not enough for me to wait until I’m in Melbourne or another city. I want to take these types of photos more often so the sensible thing to do is to do it locally. If I have any luck with this project I’ll post images here.