Thursday, January 31, 2008


As most of you know, Tex and Maggie have been a little under the weather lately. Here’s a quick update:

Maggie – aka FrankenPug
Around 6 months ago Maggie developed a tiny bump on the side of her torso. Dr. Clark, our wonderful vet, didn’t seem terribly alarmed. To be honest, even in the best of times baby girl tends to be a little lumpy. This is where it gets a little freaky, as Tex became obsessed with Maggie’s bump. He wouldn’t leave it alone – all of his attention was directed at that one little lump – he relentlessly licked, sniffed or scratched the damn thing. It was exhausting, even poor Maggie was sick of his constant attention. In desperation Tom and I started spraying Maggie with a “bitter apple" concoction, with the hope that Tex would finally leave her alone. Tex just developed a taste for Granny Smith apples.

Around a month ago we saw a news segment on 60 Minutes, about doctors who are using dogs to sniff out cancer. It made us pause and think – was it possible that Tex was trying to tell us something? Just to be on the safe side, we asked our vet to do a biopsy. Imagine our surprise when Maggie was diagnosed with a stage one mast cell tumour. The good news – Dr. Clark assures us that we caught it early and Maggie is expected to make a full recovery. The bad news - every time Tex sniffs at Tom, he freaks out!

Tex / aka The Dali Pug
A few months ago Tex hurt his back – we aren’t sure what happened – he could have jumped off the couch and landed funny – or maybe it was all of that damn scratching at Maggie’s lump. Over the past few weeks he has been slowly losing strength in his back legs – the poor guy is walking around like a little old man. We are in the process of seeing a canine neurologist, who is trying to determine what is causing this problem. The good news is that Tex isn’t in pain and all of his internal organs are very healthy. Worse case scenario - he may have to undergo back surgery -but we will know more next week.

Thanks to all of you have called and emailed Tex and Mags over the past few weeks. We really appreciate the love and support, and the dogs send good Pug karma your way.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In a Sydney Frame of Mind

When I was a child - there was a song I used to love singing – it told the story of a Kookaburra, laughing from an old gum tree. Not to mention that in my adolescence I was a big fan of Australian novels, the words of Colleen McCullough, Kate Orman and Garth Nix, created a vivid image of a country that I longed to visit. My recent trip to Sydney did not disappoint, here are a few of the highlights:

What’s Not To Love
The things I love about Vancouver hold true for Sydney – beautiful scenery, the Pacific Ocean, nature within an urban environment and laid back, funny people with a liberal view of the world. I loved it so much in fact, that it is easy to imagine my little family living there someday.

Real Women have Curves
After the trauma of shopping in Asia –a place where most North American woman are considered to be size XXXL – Sydney is a breath of fresh air. While you may run into the odd, skinny fashionista - most of the Sheila’s here are beautiful, athletic, healthy women with real curves.

Flora and Fauna
I spent several hours laying under a big fig tree in the Sydney Botanical Gardens, just taking it all in. Flying Foxes, White Ibis, Cockatoos, Lorikeets - wild animals and birds that I’ve only seen on the Discovery channel - it is thrilling to see them in real life. The only problem is no Kookaburra. I think I hear one laughing, but I can’t be sure. The locals are amused to hear that North American children actually sing the “Kookaburra Song” - their equivalent of “The Wheels on the Bus” - and they seem to think it is hilarious that I can’t find one. Apparently they are everywhere.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Notes on Beijing

I am currently in Sydney, a place that I am crazy in love with. But before I tell you about this new affair, a few notes on Beijing.

Extreme Shopping
This business trip has been a little unusual for me – as I tend to work in an industry that is dominated by women – on this trip my travel companions are 4 men. Great guys, who seem to spend most of their time talking about hockey. But what really took me off guard, was how excited they were about shopping in China. It actually started to worry me – it would take an 80% off sale at my favourite store to get me that worked up. It wasn’t until we arrived that I started to understand the hype. You can buy anything – and I mean anything - in China for pennies. I admit that it’s all fake, but the Chinese are so good at manufacturing knock offs, that even the Rolex's look real. At one point I hit the wall – and found myself haggling over a $5 dollar watch – and I haven’t worn a watch for years! (I refuse to wear one, as I want to really live in the moment. Which makes me a very big hypocrite, as I am always checking the time on my blackberry).

We are totally screwed
I don’t care how prepared you are for China – you really don’t get it until you go there. It has a huge population and a very serious problem with pollution. The World Health organization advises that if the air quality index hits 300, you should stay inside and wear a face mask. It isn’t unusual for the index to hit 450 in Beijing. It is so polluted, that the sun looks like something out of one of those “morning after” movies. On one hand I get it, these people have been poor for so long that it’s hard to judge – not to mention all of the damage we have done in our own industrial revolutions. But when you take into account that this is also happening in Russia and India, you start to think of a coming apocalypse.

Due to gendercide, China is now facing a future where there are far more men than women. You would think in this new world, women would become a commodity – valued and fought over. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. China continues to be a male dominated society, a place where most women are second class citizens.

China now has a free market economy, so it’s easy to forget where you’re at. So I was surprised to find that blogging in China is not allowed – in fact, all social networks are banned by the government. A big reminder that you are in Communist country.

Architectural wonder

Aside from a long history and interesting culture, the most exciting thing about Beijing is the serious investment they are making in new, modern design. The buildings are amazing and well worth the visit.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lost in Translation

One thing about jet lag – it doesn’t hit you immediately - you’re more likely to feel it on the third or fourth day of a trip – just when you think you’ve found your groove.

Fortunately today was a travel day, which started with an early morning flight from Tokyo to Seoul. When the plane flew over beautiful Mount Fuji – I had one of those “it” moments - very exciting for a girl who comes from a small town in West Texas.

Korea took me by surprise and is very different than I had imagined. Maybe is seems so exotic - as I’ve just come from Japan, where everything is so organized and clean that it sparkles like a shiny new penny.

After checking into my hotel, I headed out with a map of the city to explore Seoul. My destination was the Imperial Palace, but due to a minor flaw with the map I never made it there. Note to self: Remember to tell the hotel concierge she may want to let her guests know the city map is not to scale..... like, really not to scale.

A wise friend once advised me that getting lost is a good thing, as that’s when you really get to know a place. This afternoon I proved her theory. While trying to find my way, I ended up in an outdoor market – one of those places that is frequented only by the locals - who all seem surprised to see a tourist there. It was so amazing – a mass of humanity, vendors selling vegetables and fruits that I had never seen before, woman carrying huge baskets on their heads, the pungent aroma of the street food. I bought a ceramic Buddha for my collection at home – maybe it was the jet lag, but I’m not sure if I paid $40 or $400 for it.

Instead of relying on the map to find my way back to the hotel, I decided to flag down a taxi. I’ve always prided myself of being able to communicate with the locals, even when I don’t speak their language. This isn’t a strategy that works here. I had to flag down five cabs before I could find a driver who could understand where I wanted to go. I tried everything – speaking in a clear voice, speaking in a loud clear voice, charades (it’s not easy to act out Westin Hotel), pointing to the map – nothing worked.

When I did finally get back to my hotel room, I couldn’t help but compare my luxurious surroundings to the marketplace I had just come from. It made me feel decadent to know that I am staying here, which is little disconcerting as I’m not used to feeling like I'm part of the establishment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Five Things I Love About Japan

Dog Culture
Next time someone gives me the look – an expression that says “oh yea, you’re the crazy pug lady” – I’m going to suggest they visit Japan. These people really love their dogs. In fact, most canines living in Tokyo are better dressed than I am. Since being here I’ve seen dogs in biker jackets, dogs wearing jeans, and yesterday I even saw a bulldog wearing a tutu. While this might be over the top back home, it seems to work here.

Corporate Culture
In Japan, people are expected to go drinking with their colleagues, as companies feel it’s a good way to build strong human connections. So for any of you who are shaking your head - remembering the company Christmas party that got way out of hand - you’ll appreciate the fact that this experience comes with one very important ground rule. Anything you say to a superior while under the influence can not be held against you…..seriously.

Germ Phobic
People here are very concerned about germs – visit the local supermarket and you’ll find an antibacterial product to clean just about anything. You’ll also see quite a few people wearing face masks – when I asked about them, a local explained that the people wearing them had colds – after all, it is considered very rude to expose the world to your germs. I just have to say……these are Tom’s people! He’d fit right in here, as he also has “germ issues”.

Youth Culture
There’s a very cool thing happening with Tokyo’s young people, which reminds me of North America in the 60’s. I would go so far as to say it’s a movement – expressed with fashion and music – the start of a whole new generation.

Japanese Food
Japanese food is all about presentation and texture. While here I’ve eaten fresh rice crackers and sweet bean cakes from street vendors - enjoyed dinner in a traditional Japanese restaurant - it has all been sublime. I have also noticed that there are no over weight people living here – a result of small portions and taking the time to really taste and enjoy your food.

Monday, January 14, 2008


The Tokyo government recently surveyed 10 million of its residents, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of their religious beliefs. If you live in North America - you may be surprised to find out that they had over 22 million responses – and are probably asking yourself how they did the math. It seems that most Japanese people do not limit themselves to one religion; it isn’t unusual for them to be part of the Shinto, Buddhist, and Christian faiths.

I personally think they are on to something and believe that we can learn a great deal by their example. If there is one thing I have discovered from my travels, it’s that we are all seeking the same truth. Is it arrogant to think that one religion has a monopoly on god? Could it be possible that we are all talking to the same Great Spirit, just in different languages, with an outcome that reflects our culture and different histories?

Inspired by the Japanese example, I made a pilgrimage to Meiji Jingu, a local Shinto shrine. I purified myself with water - saying prayers for my family and friends – especially for little Tex, who hasn’t been doing very well lately. As I was leaving a large black bird started to sing, leaving me with a feeling of great joy and peace.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Going Japanese

I am currently in Tokyo - my first business trip of 2008 – a journey which will also take me to Seoul, Beijing and Sydney. Even though it sounds glamorous - in reality I’ll be spending hours in airports, logging some serious air miles, clearing customs in four very different countries with a bag full of stuffed 2010 mascots, attending back to back meetings, forced to sing karaoke (not easy when you can’t carry a tune) - all the while feeling guilty that I’m leaving Tom to deal with a sick little pug.

This is my first trip to Japan and I was a little worried, as so many people had warned me that Tokyo is a very difficult city to navigate. So far no problems, I’ve been able to move around relatively easy on the subway without getting lost. My biggest challenge has been figuring out how to use the high tech toilet in my hotel room. It has a whole keyboard of options – I can heat the seat, wash my privates, blow myself dry – yet it took me over an hour to figure out how to flush the damn thing!

Tokyo is the world's largest urban agglomeration – there are as many people living in the Tokyo area as in all of Canada. I find this amazing, and yet everything is so clean and organized. It’s a little disconcerting as my image of Tokyo was formed in my youth - when I was a big fan of Godzilla movies – I keep expecting to catch a glimpse of him above the skyline.

Japan has a very fascinating culture. My son is a huge fan of contemporary Japanese movies and books - which tend to be dark - bordering on the bizarre. I find it hard to reconcile those images with the people I have met here, who are lovely and gentle. I feel like I am only scratching the surface, and wonder if a tourist can ever know the real Japan?