So, Ellie finally went under the knife last weekor, to be more precise, an arthroscope rather than a knife as her elbow joint was surgically navigated and repaired via a keyhole procedure. When Peter dropped her off in Halifax early Tuesday morning, the wonderful vet, Dr. Eamon Draper, communicated the worst case scenario given the damage he’d seen in her x-rays, but thankfully his post-surgical prognosis was very optimistic having also explored inside the joint endoscopically. The bone fragment he’d seen on the x-ray had turned into several fragments, some as small as a grain of sand, but the cartilage in the joint was otherwise healthy – an important distinction as the growth plates continue to close. He also found a hairline crack in her humerus, less than 1mm wide, that could have also been contributing to her lameness, but would repair itself over time. Otherwise, there was no sign of OCD in her shoulder joints, which was a great relief. The vet was able to confirm, however, that her joint issues were 90% genetic, so I’ve finally abandoned the faint hope of Ellie becoming a mother. Que sera!
Our current focus is maintaining the prescribed program of medication and rehab that will carry her through the next two months – although we’ll likely need a vacay by the end. We have a week-by-week progression of walking, passive range of motion (i.e. while Ellie’s laying down) and stretching exercises, massage therapy, heat and cold therapy, three or four times a day. Okay! Four or five different therapies, each for five to 10 minutes (longer as the weeks pass), three or four times a day…. Yikes! It’s tiring just thinking about it, but it’ll get done. Combined with no playing, no stairs, no running, no jumping, we’ll be turning ourselves into control freaks – and the vet did warn us that as Ellie’s still a puppy, it’s going to be difficult! Ya think? As it happens, one of her medications is the canine equivalent of valium, to help keep her quiet. DOESN’T WORK!
In adapting to the ‘no stairs’ policy, we’d already bought a sling that we practiced using with Ellie before her surgery, and she was quite happy to be carried up and down the stairs, but this won’t happen for a couple of weeks until the staples closing two very small wounds have been removed. In the meantime, Peter’s sleeping in the spare downstairs bedroom with her, which is conveniently on the ground floor, while I’m two levels higher in the master bedroom on the top floor with Pip and Jenny – who, of course, know Ellie’s in the house and can’t understand why their paths aren’t allowed to cross. But avoiding meet-and-greet mayhem is non debatable at this point in her recovery. As it happens, our office is also at ground level, so Ellie has day-long company in shifts as we try to maintain a human routine that’s as normal as possible – for us, as well as her. Which sometimes means creating time where it doesn’t exist!
While I think of it, I must relate a story from the vet tech who assisted with Ellie’s surgery and was waiting with her until she woke up from the anesthetic. Apparently, Ellie was still blotto, eyes closed, tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth, when the vet put his head in the door to ask how she was doing. The vet tech said she was being a ‘good girl’ – at which words Ellie’s tail suddenly started to wag, although it was still some time before she was completely awake. Ah! Just shows how an audible signal travels to the brain and causes a reaction. At that point, everyone at the surgery fell in love with her.
The upside of all the foregoing is that at the end of two months, Ellie’s prognosis for living a normal healthy, bouncy life, is quite good. Yes, it’s likely that some of her joints will be predisposed to arthritis later in life – well it happens to us all, eventually. But her surgeon told Peter the story of his own dog, a similar age to Ellie, that escaped from his backyard during his vet school days. He scooped her off the road after she was hit by a car, having sustained pelvic and leg fractures. What better owner could she have hoped for than a vet. At the time, he was a marathon runner, so once her bones had healed he started a training regime that would allow her to run with him. Although she didn’t make it to full marathons, she was capable of running with him for half the distance, then for a couple of days he gave her anti-inflammatory to counteract any soreness or stiffness. So, although Peter and I won’t be running any half marathons, our longer-term planning for Ellie is that she’ll be able to come with us on day-long hikes, and we’ll always keep a supply of the doggy equivalent of Ibuprofen handy. Which conveniently segues into another chapter to this story….
On the road again…. Ha!
Meanwhile, mindful of the warning from our brilliant regular vet that stairs would always be Ellie’s enemy in terms of long-term joint management, it started us thinking. Our current home is on three levels!!! Yep! Not one, but two long flights of stairs. So, many hours during the weeks preceding Ellie’s surgery were spent pondering the future, and in doing so, we’ve decided to move! It’s by no means an impulsive decision and took a great many lists of pros and cons, lifestyle prioritizing, etc. etc., but as we’ve been in this house less than a year, we don’t yet feel any sentimental attachment, although I’ll be rather sorry to leave my own-designed cook’s kitchen. But, it’s just ‘stuff’, and unimportant in the overall scheme of things. Gratifyingly, given the work we’ve done, three valuations from different realtors came as a pleasant surprise, so we listed this week and have already had viewings.
Given that we’ve moved quite a few times, including internationally, the actual moving doesn’t hold any fears, it’s the selling that’s a total pain in the posterior! However, over the years, I’ve created a theory in terms of prospective buyers and viewing times: Less than 15 minutes – not interested; 15 to 30 minutes – hmmm! – a remote possibility; 30 to 45 minutes – yep, a definite maybe; 45 to 60 minutes – yay, love the house and will be making an offer; 60+ minutes – yay, love the house, but then started nit picking and talked themselves out of it having already gone through the underwear drawers and explored every nook and cranny of our dietary preferences in the kitchen cupboards. At least, this has been our perceived experiences with selling past homes, and also recognizing the lookie-loos and tire kickers the minute they park and step out of their vehicles. So, we start the clock when people arrive, and keep our fingers crossed for the 45- to 60-minute viewings.
Of course, the decision to sell posed another critical question – where do we move to? It would be easy to say, ‘just down the road to a single-level home’ – but since when have we ever made life easy? We have, of course, been trolling the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) – a database used by realtors and accessible to buyers where you can find over 90% of homes that have been listed ‘for sale’. But after several weeks of viewing homes online, Nova Scotia is offering extremely slim to non-existent pickings. Any single-level properties tend to be ancient and need extreme intervention to prevent them from falling down, or newer places are now being sold leasehold, so you own your own home, but pay (upwards of $300 per month), for the pleasure of ‘parking’ on someone else’s land for the rest of your life, with no amenities, which doesn’t seem to be altogether unusual with new developments in NS, and other provinces we’ve since discovered.
Another factor in our decision to leave NS, and featuring strongly on the list of cons, is the serious deficiencies in the healthcare system that people are predicting will only get worse. In trying to find a family doctor, we were told there was a minimum four-year waiting list, so the only option until then is to use a walk-in clinic, of which there is only one within 100 kms of where we currently live. Of course, you arrive – as Peter experienced one time when he had a concerning pain in his left arm – and wait six hours to see a doctor, whose diagnosis was inconclusive so, ‘come back another day’. Yeah, right! Thankfully, his arm resolved itself, and we’re fortunately both in good health, but you never know how long that will last.
Okay – so what about selling up, buying an RV, and spending the rest of our lives dossing around North America! Ha! Mightily tempting, but unrealistic in terms of financial survival as we plan to live until our nineties. Also, who knows when one or both of us might be incapable of driving a 40-foot motorhome. (But it might remain at the back of our minds as a future Plan B!)
Which turned our attention to the age-old debate that seems to be gaining in popularity and momentum for the baby-boomer generation: Owning vs. renting? Yep – you’re always paying someone else for where you live, but maintenance costs are zero, windows are regularly cleaned, and realtors’ fees are non-existent if/when we decide to move again in the future for whatever reason. Plus you can choose somewhere that offers useable amenities such as fitness rooms, swimming pools, etc. One added bonus is not being at the mercy of a real-estate market that may or may not provide an appreciable return on a substantial investment. Having suffered through the property-market crash in the States in 2007, we’ve already been there, done that, and don’t want another t-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘ROBBED’!
So, having put ‘renting’ at the top of our list, the ‘where’ became the next important question. We looked at Halifax, the capital city of our current home province but, truthfully, the selection of rental properties was very poor, bordering on the ‘no way, José’, and with over-the-top prices to boot! Toronto? We certainly enjoyed the two years of downtown lakeside living when we worked for the Pan-Am Games in 2015-2016, and the dogs happily moved into a 500sq.ft. apartment and rode the elevators and streetcars without batting an eyelid. In fact, the urban environment was the making of Pip who saw it as quite the adventure and even enjoyed interacting with total strangers. So, although Toronto might have appeared to be a good option, with rental prices as high as they are we could only comfortably live until our mid-eighties before moving to a park bench!
Having never visited Montreal or Ottawa, and seeing that rental options are little cheaper than the big ‘T’ – our eyes started to wander west. Of course, for anyone who’s heard the Prairie saying, ‘if you lose your dog you can still see it running three days later’ we ignored the flatland provinces, until we were stopped in our tracks by the Rocky Mountains. For those of you who don’t already know, our first four glorious years in Canada were spent in Calgary – nestled in the Foothills of the mountains, and the only reason we moved from a suburban show home was to satisfy our ‘good life’ mentality with a small acreage and longer growing season where we could produce our own fruit and veggies. Hence, our years in BC. However, two decades down the road, we’re at an age where a visit to a local farmers market has more appeal than the time and effort of tending a garden, sometimes with little return, but the seed of a thought started to take root.
Of course, there are always a great many priorities to consider, in addition to good healthcare and other lifestyle necessities, and a few of ours still involve a number of activities: pickleball, cycling, hiking, a return to 10-pin bowling (pulling our balls and shoes out of mothballs), and maybe squash, good theatres, a great transit system so the car is only for out-of-city trips, to say nothing of a dog-friendly environment with off-leash parks, etc. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…. Dogs travel free of charge on all buses and C-trains (Calgary’s high-tech streetcars), the city has the largest pedestrian system in North America with 800 kms of paved walking and cycling trails linking all the parks and outdoor spaces. Oh! And I forgot to mention fly-fishing (for Peter) on the doorstep in the Bow River that runs right through downtown. (His fly-fishing rod hasn’t seen the light of day since we left Calgary at the end of 2003!) And, two other biggies: Of the 1,300 family practitioners in Calgary, 239 are currently accepting new patients; and we already know Calgary and have friends we left behind there, so we won’t be arriving in a strange city or province. Yay! A good decision made, after a great deal of consideration.
Thankfully, property development has continued apace since we left, and there’s a wealth of apartments, condos, and houses exclusively to rent, at what we consider to be reasonable prices (some including all utilities), as well as on-site amenities or other activities within walking distance. I confess that during the two years we spent in Toronto, our car only left the underground parking a handful of times, and we loved being able to walk or use the very efficient public transport system.
One final word about Nova Scotia, as I’m sure many of you will be recalling my words of enthusiasm when we arrived in Spring last year, waxing lyrical about the beaches, the sunsets, the tranquility…. Okay, so during the summer months our village is a lively hub of friendly locals, with a few tourists thrown in, but we didn’t realize how many of the ‘locals’ are temporary residents who close up their properties and migrate back to Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto immediately after Canadian Thanksgiving (the first week in October), not returning until the following May or June. So, essentially, our village and many others go into hibernation for six or seven months of the year – yet we’re still raring to go! Sad, but true! And, while I love reading, piano playing, doing jigsaws, watching the occasional TV program, etc., there’s only so much I’m prepared to do sitting down while my legs are still in good working order. So, Calgary here we come!
The fashion-forward recycling dilemma
I know I’ve mentioned some of my environmentally friendly choices in past blogs, but National Geographic recently published an interesting article about the full-circle recycling dilemma, spotlighting the fashion industry and using sustainable fabrics that can later be recycled. Wool is a good example because there are Italian factories (when they’re not all closed down due to the coronavirus!) that now have a process to tease long fibres from certain discarded garments that can then be turned into new clothing fabrics. However, one problem is, wait for it: In order to reduce costs, highly-prized Mongolian cashmere is being sent to China to be mixed with poor quality cashmere to make cheaper garments, thereby ending the recycling possibilities as the added fibres only produce short strands when teased, so are useless for future weaving. It doesn’t seem to matter where you look, sustainability is being compromised for the purpose of cheapening products in order to increase profit margins for the corporate giants and retail chains.
One particular fabric that was also mentioned for its toxic processing (where chemical dies are used and then discarded in wastewater that flows into rivers, lakes, and eventually oceans…), especially in countries to which so many fashion brands have outsourced their manufacturing, is denim for jeans. But, someone is already experimenting with making a type of denim using recycled fabrics, so we can but hope, as some 450 million pairs of jeans are sold in the United States alone each year.
Ironically, Levi’s have now stated that they’re saving over 90% of the water typically used to make one pair of jean – yup, one pair takes a mind-blowing 2,000 gallons of water! So, they’ve apparently focused on their processing and are using water collection whenever possible. However, it doesn’t say if or how the waste water’s being used/re-used. H&M has committed to reducing its environmental impact by using organic cotton (which still needs large amounts of water for processing), and recycled polyester for its ‘H&M Conscious’ collection, which they say is maintaining ‘affordable’ pricing. And, they’ve claimed they’ll be using 100% sustainably sourced fibres by 2030.
I think I mentioned a few blogs ago that, wherever possible, Peter and I have taken the decision to now only buy sustainable garments – perhaps one t-shirt for $30 rather than three t-shirts each costing $10 (which usually look the worse for wear after a few wash cycles), and from companies that maintain a strict recycling/repurposing policy. As our wardrobes now mostly contain very functional items, and some that are years old (and, thankfully, still fit), our clothing needs have diminished, so it’s easier to justify spending a little more and being mindful of the environment at the same time.
One other company I researched and who have some great end-of-season online sales, is Patagonia. If you go to the ‘activism’ tag on their website, it provides a comprehensive overview of the company’s environmental activities, both grassroots and global initiatives. In addition to producing ‘ethical’ garments, they will repair clothes and recycle any of their own-brand products that are returned to their stores. However, I’ve found their fit to be a little small, so up-size if you order anything. I also just recently had good reason to return an item that wasn’t fit for the purpose for which it was made – a down parka – which wasn’t cheap. But, bearing in mind that my current down jacket came from Eddie Bauer over 20 years ago, I decided to buy something that also covered my bum and thighs. However, the first time I wore it in a brisk breeze, the cold air seeped through the sleeve seams, so my arms froze! Whether this was a fault with the stitching, or some missing lining, who knows. But, even though it was purchased last August (in their sale of winter 2018-2019 clothing), and not worn until January – I returned it and was credited directly into my bank account within 24 hours of its receipt at their warehouse. So, although the parka scored a 1/10 for purpose, I awarded the company 10/10 for customer service. And I’m happy to continue wearing my old down jacket that’s never let me down in the coldest weather – even during a minus 40 cold snap in Toronto.
One last word on the Chinese, as I happened to notice a news item on the BBC website this morning about the country’s seemingly voracious appetite for anything rare or endangered – in this case, rosewood, whose trade is now restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. For some reason, high-end rosewood furniture is so highly sought after in China that it’s led to conservation worries, and also violence in wood-producing areas. So, having exhausted their own supplies (it’s a very slow-growing hardwood species), and elsewhere in Asia, they have now infiltrated West Africa where they’re illegally logging and smuggling rosewood at an alarming rate, shipping it directly from the Gambia to China – so much so, that by volume it’s the world’s most valuable wild resource, that has created a multi-million dollar industry!
If it’s not ivory, exotic fauna, drugs, or people, it’s now trafficking a resource that acts as a stabilizer to climate change: rosewood. What is the world coming to? I seem to ask myself that question every day for one reason or another.
That’s all for now – but will post regular updates regarding our next move. When I know, you’ll know.
Hugs to all – and stay safe from the coronavirus.