64. Pig in the Python

More humanoids in the house as well.  They’re back – the three females who form Lily’s pack.  They were our houseguests last winter.  Lily has continued to spend her days and most of her nights with us, but the comings and goings of the rest of her pack were less predictable. But now they seem to have established themselves.  Their scents are everywhere.  The daily routines have altered – sometimes to the benefit of Lily and myself. 

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62. Limping Along Together

I keep trying to warn him about these things.  He never listens, of course.  As a species, humanoids tend to be somewhat obtuse, and my Alpha is one of the more preoccupied of the bunch. Usually you see him striding down the sidewalk, his steps full of purpose, even if his head seems to be lost in thought.  He’s a humanoid with places to go, things to do.  His sternest taskmaster is that metal band that he wears on his left wrist, which he consults frequently, often with a hissed whisper to yours truly, “Come on, Zoscha.  Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.”

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58. Snow Time Like the Present

It’s that wonderful time of year once more.  That time when the humanoids bring trees into the house.  That time when stockings are hung by the chimney with care.  That time when the fire flickers and glows in the hearth.  It’s a time of dog treats and toboggan runs, when there’s almost as many humanoid pups in the park as there are doggies.  That time when you can tell where our friends have been by the yellow stains in the snow, the yellum.

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56. Art Bark in the Park

My favourite spot, of course, was the food stand where the girl guides were cooking hot dogs.  Alpha seemed to understand that, anytime he needed to check up on where I was, all he needed to do was mosey over to the barbecue. The girls who handled the frankfurters and the cash box were all very nice.  But between you and me, they did not seem to understand that it is always a good idea to give a nice, well-behaved dog something to eat every couple of sales transactions.  It placates the gods of commerce – or so we’d like the girls to believe.

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54. I Shall Not Want

The Alpha is my master.  I shall not want.  He makes me lie down and sit.  He leads me beside the river where I can chase ducks.  He restores my water dish.  He guides me on the sidewalks where there are no cars.  Even though I walk though the valley of the shadow of humanoids who don’t like dogs, I fear no evil for he is with me. 

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52. Snowball Fights

These are days of bright sunlight, and all kinds of grit to be tracked into the house.  Days when winter turns to water and gurgles along the gutters and disappears down the drains.  Days when the hillsides begin to smell of earth once again, and there’s all kinds of mud and long-buried debris to roll in.  But mostly it’s a time for snowball fights. The winter begins with snowball fights, and it ends with snowball fights.

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51. Shoveling Snow

Dear Tera,

These are the times that try dogs’ souls.  The winter powder hound and the snow-field scamperer will, in the crisis, shrink from going outside.  But he that goes for walks now deserves the admiration of alpha and pup, and a special treat after having his paws and the wet fur on his belly dried as he sits obediently in a pool of repper.

It’s not just the sleem floating on the puddles, of course.  It’s the gloog B the snow that has been softened and turned mushy by road salt.  It’s the salt itself, where it lies on the sidewalks in little hard nuggets that prick at your paws.  And it’s the clambering over the crimnods, now that the road ploughs have been breaking up the ice over the storm drains.  Altogether, a difficult time to be a dog on the street.

Alpha seems to understand this.  When he can, he avoids the busy sidewalks on the main streets, where the snow has all turned to slush.  We take the backroads where the crimna is still packed hard on the concrete, or he lets me walk along the snowbanks along the side of the street, or the pand at the edge of somebody’s front yard.  If you’re careful, you can keep the walking on the cold, slushy concrete to a minimum.

But the park is still a good place to run.  Still lots of snow there -- even crump, when the temperature drops at night -- and of course, lots of yellum to investigate.  The snow is starting to recede with the stronger sun, however, and so some of the droppings we’ve left in the darkest months of winter are now exposed.  They remind the humanoids that, in just a few months, we’ll all be out for the annual pick-a-poo harvest.

I think Alpha likes the snow almost as much as I do.  A few weeks back, when the warm weather melted the hockey rink, he seemed actually sad.  But he was back to his old jolly wintery self when the temperature dropped again. 

The other day we played a very curious game B and we spent hours at it, which is truly a treat.  He pushed one of those big shovels back and forth across the rink to clear off the ice. 

Now, Alpha can be a bit obtuse at times.  He forgets that I would prefer to run across the pluff than across the ice below.  But if he wants to spend two hours pushing pluff and tossing punder, I’m all for it.  It’s a wonderful game.  Alpha tosses a shovel-full of snow as high in the air as he can, and I scamper to get right under the avalanche B head up, mouth wide open.  Maybe we should call this game punder-ball.

He was trying to wear me out, I know.  But I think I won the game.  Throughout the tournament, he would pause and talk to his humanoid friends about how he was looking forward to playing hockey with them later that night B once the ice was cleared.  Now, hockey is a spectator game that humanoids play but dogs can only watch.  I usually prowl along the piles of snow along the hockey boards and whimper and whine to express my disapproval that dogs aren’t allowed to chase that funny black thing they hit with their sticks.

Snow shoveling, on the other hand, is a truly interactive sport in which we both participate.  So, when after two hours of Alpha tossing punder for me to catch, we finally staggered home, cold, exhausted and deliriously happy.  And when he decided to get warm and rest his weary muscles by soaking in a hot tub, I knew that we were not likely to go out again that night B hockey game or no hockey game.  But given the choice, I’ll take punder-ball over hockey any day.

Not too many nights left in the season for either.  Enjoy it while you can, but stay away from the trech the sleem and the gloog.

Your winter-dog friend


P.S.  In case you’ve forgotten my new words for snow, here’s a shortened list.  Write to the OSCAR editor if you have any to add.

       Crimna: the combination of snow and grit created by the snow ploughs and road sanders. 

       Crimnods: the mounds of snow, ice and crimna that the snow ploughs pile up on the side of the road. 

        Gloog: snow that has been softened and turned mushy by road salt;

        Pand: the snow that is firm enough to carry the weight of a squirrel, but not to carry a dog. 

        Pluff: the snow that lies like fine powder on top of a hidden crust of closely packed snow. 

        Punder: snow that humanoids toss up into the air with their snow shovels, so we can catch it on the way down.

        Repper:  snow that humanoids track in on their boots and parkas, that leaves puddles of water on the floor.

        Sleem: snow that floats in the puddles of ice water on the low spots of the roads.

        Trech: a layer of deceptive snow that hides a puddle of ice water.

        Yellum: snow on which a dog has left a news bulletin.

        Yellumoids: snow that packs and freezes around the central yellow ice core of yellum.  

50. Icy Sidewalks

Dear Tera,

Some days, the superiority of quadrapeds is so evident that I’m amazed that humanoids don’t get down on their hands and knees and enjoy the world with the rest of us.

Sure, they would lose some of their height advantage.  But height is only an advantage for those poor creatures who must rely upon sight for their information.  Being closer to the ground is much better for those of us who are blessed with long noses and big ears.

Who knows?  Maybe after a thousand years or ten crawling on their hands and knees, humanoids would start to develop the kinds of olfactory and aural senses that the rest of us take for granted.

But if they became four-legged creatures, humanoids would definitely lose their ungainliness on ice.  What silly creatures they are, negotiating their way over the sidewalks these days.  They step so tentatively.  They flail so desperately.  They fall so hard.

And then, of course, their height becomes a disadvantage.  You and I fall B which could happen, in theory, I suppose B and no damage done.  There’s not enough distance between us and the ground to work up any momentum.  When Alpha takes a tumble, you can feel the ice tremble beneath your feet.

With the Pup, it’s different.  He’s much more adventurous, sliding across the ice when it’s smooth enough for sliding, tramping through the snow drifts if he finds the uneven ice tough going.  Something about young humanoids that keeps them in touch with their inner canine.  Maybe it’s because they’re still closer to the ground.  Maybe it’s because they don’t feel it’s a loss of dignity to roll around with us in the snow.

But adult humanoids venture on the sidewalks with this anxious look of trepidation, as if every ridge and slick of ice hides a hungry predator crouching in wait to bring them down.

From their perspective, the sidewalks have been a real mess these past weeks.  Something about all the street cleaners being off on holiday during the ice storms.  When humanoids take us for a walk, either they stick to the centre of the well-salted roads, or they labour their way over the mountains and valleys of frozen footprints, slick ice puddles, and miniature mountains and moraines of hard-frozen slush. 

They agonize in their efforts to remain upright.  You can tell this is a real workout for them.  And they complain about it.  Yet, they spend hundreds of dollars on health clubs, taking pilates lessons to develop their core body strength, when all they really need to do is take a dog for a walk on today’s sidewalks.

And meanwhile, we trot along, happy to be out in the snow, thankful that the slush ponds have frozen into something less chilly on the paws, and glad to be alive and a dog of the world.  Yes, humanoids have much to learn.  And they can start by getting down on all fours.

Loving this weather,


43. Cleaning Up the Park

Dear Tera,

            Question: when are humanoids not humanoids?  When they act like dung beetles.

            That’s one conclusion I’ve reached following the 11th annual pick-a-poo harvest.[1] I suppose this year was your first harvest.  One morning every year, our humanoids gather in the park to clean it up. 

            The stated reason for the harvest is to recover any of the deposits we may have left over the winter, when often it is more difficult in the shorter daylight to keep track of a dog’s perambulations and pauses.  Our humanoids make up for any oversight by devoting a Saturday morning to generally sprucing up the park.

            Sure, there’s some of our droppings that may have been missed in the snow some months back.  But the biggest job seems to be picking up humanoid waste – plastic bags, coffee cups, discarded newspapers, cigarette packages, fast food clamshells, gum dispensers, butane lighters, pop bottles.

            It becomes very clear that many humanoids are much less fastidious about cleaning up their own garbage as they are about cleaning up after us. 

            In fact, this morning, just 24 hours after we cleaned up every bit of paper and debris from the little park at the corner of Riverdale and Bank, Alpha and I went back to retrieve a Tim Horton’s cup, a McDonald’s wrapper, and two discarded cigarette packages that humanoids had tossed aside in the interim.

            All this I have come to expect in my years working with Alpha and all our other friends on the pick-a-pooh harvest.  But this year, there’s been a disturbing new trend, and I can tell it has Alpha and the other humanoids very annoyed.

            It seems that some humanoids are using our parks to dump their yard and garden waste.  Go figure.  These humanoids take the time to nurture and care for their own property, and then dump barrels full of hedge clippings, dead cedars, dried-out house plants, rock garden stones, and tree prunings into a public park.

            Yesterday it took Alpha three hours to gather eight bags full of someone’s discarded yard waste that had been dumped into Linda Thom Park as though the area between the bicycle path and the river was their own personal compost heap. 

            He and I hauled these bags in the pouring rain to the garbage bins on Bank Street, where the City will pick them up.  Why the garden owners didn’t bag this stuff and leave it for the City in the first place is a mystery.

            Further down the path, at the parking lot, another team spent their three hours clearing away piles of brush and stones that someone had dumped in the woods.  Can you imagine how our park will deteriorate if more humanoids get the idea that our park is their waste disposal site?  Not much room left for romping and chasing balls.

            Sorry to rant on like this, but it’s a real burr under my tail.  You’re a young pup and idealistic.  You’ve yet to learn that humanoids can be capable of such selfish behaviour.  But maybe if we all work on it together, we can put a stop to it and save our park.

            If ever you see someone dumping their yard waste in our park, growl, bark, snap, and bite if necessary.  We have to tell these humanoids that such behaviour is not appropriate – not to their species, and not to ours.[2]

                                                                        Protecting our parks,


 [1] Every year, Zoscha made a point of reporting on the annual pick-a-poo harvest at Windsor and Linda Thom parks.  Most years she described the work songs the workers sang as they cleaned up the winter debris.  The first time was Part 3, “Poop Picking Harvest,” April 2000.  The last was Part 83, “No Country for Old Dogs,” May 2008.

[2] Callista Wise, “Zoscha’s World, Then and Now,” Carleton U Canine Review, October 2012, points out that in recent years the incidence of yard waste being dumped in the parks has dropped off almost entirely.  Instead, the residents along the parks’ perimeters have tended some of the most beautiful flower gardens in the neighbourhood.


41. Champion

Dear Boomer,

            Just got back from the amusement park with Alpha.[1]  We’re very fortunate to have such a world class amusement centre within easy walking distance. I hear adult humanoids talking with their pups about traveling long distances to visit such places.  We get to trot around the precincts several times a day.

            And in fact, this is my favourite time of year for amusements in Windsor Park.  Let the humanoids travel south in search of rides, and giant mice in bow ties and white gloves.[2]  I’ll stay right here with the old reliable sights and sounds, and the ceaseless entertainment of balls and squirrels.

            I find it hard to decide just which feature of the amusement park I find most entertaining.  At this time of year, the slick ice near the play structures is always a fun ride – especially when Alpha and the Pup are not preoccupied with chasing that black rubber thing with their sticks and the knife-boots.[3] 

            Throw a ball across the ice, and it will bounce forever.  Skitter after it, and you’re just as likely to overshoot and land in the snow drift.  This is not conducive to one’s dignity, but always provides a great source of amusement for humanoids, which means they throw the ball more.

            At this time of year, they discourage us from leaping over the boards.  And with the ice so hard upon landing, I’m just as glad.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m willing to chase any ball thrown any direction at any time.  But leaping over boards does get a bit hard on the bones at our age, doesn’t it old girl.

            Then there’s the game of throw-the-stick-onto-the-river.  The wonder of this amusement is the depth of the snow along the riverbank.  We need to leap like deer to get through the snow and onto the ice. 

            My favourite amusement of all in a park full of games is to stand on the top of the hill where the humanoids gather to slide down.  They slide on various contraptions -- each year brings a new way to slide.  I prefer to simply run in pursuit of a ball, of course.[4] 

            The joy of this location is that the contraptions pack down the snow so the ball bounces better.  And of course, there are always many humanoids, both adult and pup, who would enjoy nothing better than to throw a ball down the hill for a handsome and enthusiastic dog.

            But just when I think I’ve savoured all the joys of our amusement park, the humanoids come up with something different.  What did you make of it a few weeks back?  So many humanoids all at one time.  Horses too.  Smells of hot dogs and chile, and of course the frequent bounty of a wiener accidently dropped into the snow.[5]

            And there, in the area with the big fence where, in the summer, the humanoids hit our balls back and forth without letting us chase them, they set up an obstacle course for us.  You’re not yet recovered from that bad spell you went through last month, so maybe you weren’t up to trying it.  But the course was challenging, I can assure you. 

            We had to sit.  Twice.  Within the circumference of two plastic hoops.  Then we had to wheel our way in and out of a row of pylons.  Then the biggest challenge of all:  walking along an elevated board.  And finally the last dash for the finish line, with two low fences to jump along the way.[6]

            But I love a good challenge that engages the mind and the body, and the discipline to marshal the skills of a humanoid.  I must say, I was very proud of both Alpha and the Pup.  I put them through this drill several times, and they were able to keep up with me as I mastered each task.  I even trained them sufficiently so that they gave me treats after they had completed the course to my satisfaction.

            And the lovely lady who seemed to be organizing the whole thing seemed happy with Alpha and the Pup’s performance as well.  She sent them home with a bag of doggie treats as a prize.  And of course, I’ve trained them to share their bounty generously with me.

                                                            Feeling like the champion I am,


[1] Obviously a reference to Windsor Park.  The editor knows of no other instance where Zoscha referred to her favourite haunt as an “amusement park,” although it is clear that she found many amusements there.

[2] Cassandra Wise, Tail to Thee Blythe Spirit, suggests that Zoscha may have seen advertisements for Disney World on television.  The Chronicles offer no evidence she actually met Mickey Mouse in person.

[3] Zoscha often referred to the skating rink at Windsor Park.  See, for example, “Limping Along Together,” Part 60, March 2006.

[4] The toboggan hill at Windsor Park is popularly known as “Brody’s Hill,” after one of Zoscha’s companions who could spend hours fetching balls at this location.

[5] Probably a reference to the annual winter carnival at Windsor Park.

[6] Among the events at the Windsor Park winter carnival is an obstacle course for dogs at the tennis courts.

42. Mourning

Dear Tera,[1]

            Hello little pup.  I missed seeing you in the park today.  I tried to get Alpha and the Pup out the door in time to meet you and the others at the usual time, but my humanoids apparently had an agenda of their own. 

            Humanoids can be so irresponsible at times.  They watch that noisy box in the corner of the living room when, as we all know, they should be out getting their exercise.

            So we didn’t have occasion to exchange news and smell scents.  And play.  You seem to bring out the puppy in all of us.  Even Jacob-dog, with his arthritic German Shepherd hips, musters up the enthusiasm for a romp across the frozen mud when you’re around.

            I must confess that I’ve never been one for frolicking with exceedingly young dogs.  At six months, you haven’t yet reached the age where a good old rough and tumble is possible.  And I know that one of these days I’ll have to teach you a rather sharp lesson about staying away from my ball.  But you’re such a pleasant and excitable young scamp that no one seems to have the heart to remind you of your place in the Windsor Park pack. 

            And certainly you know how to treat the older dogs with respect.  Who could ever get cross with such a respectful young pup, so willing to go down on your belly and give a little yelp of submission?  You have good manners, I’ll say that for you.

            I’m writing to you now because, with all your carefree puppyhood, you may not have remarked the end of an era.  We have lost one of our most senior and most respected members – the dean of Windsor Park doggies, my old beagle buddy, Boomer.[2]

            The way you run and prance up to humanoids to greet them reminds me a lot of Boomer.  She carried that same joy of saying hello with her through all her years.  Even from a distance, you could tell it was Boomer, the way she loped toward you, all stiff in the joints, but with a spring in her legs nonetheless, and always a smile on her face.

            Her longtime companion, Jasper,[3] was a different character altogether.  Jasper waddled about like a crotchety old queen who didn’t care what anyone thought of her.  Or whether anyone was calling to her, for that matter.  Off doing her own thing, Jasper was.  But Boomer was the sociable one, and made sure everyone at the park felt welcome.

            The two of them made an excellent team – world class – in that time-honoured sport of Two Directions.  The object of the game, as you may have learned by now, is to confuse your humanoid by having two or more dogs take off in opposite directions to leave our deposits.  Humanoids can get quite flustered as a result, and you score extra points if you can interrupt your humanoid in mid-conversation with one of his or her kind.

            As I say, Boomer and Jasper were real champions at this game.  I had the honour and privilege of joining with them occasionally for a variation – Three Directions.  And one morning, when the Pup was scarcely more than a lump and had to hold on to his daddy’s hand for support, he worked with us for a true tour de force – Four Directions.  All at once.  It was a marvel to see Alpha trying to keep us all together.  He hadn’t a hope, of course.  No humanoids are given the herding skills that some of us – come on down, Wembley![4] -- have in such abundance.

            But first Jasper, and now Boomer have left us.  We’ll miss them terribly.  And we will count on you and your irrepressible puppy enthusiasm to cheer us up in the months ahead.

                                                Howling in memory of the greatest howl master of us all,


[1] This is the first reference to Tera – apparently a younger dog who frequented Windsor Park.  All of Zoscha’sremaining letters would be directed to Tera.

[2] Boomer had been the recipient of Zoscha’s letters from the time they first appeared in February, 2000. She had been ailing for some time.  See Part 41, “Champion,” February, 2004.

[3] Jasper makes her first appearance in Part 5, “The Dog Days of Summer,” August 2000.  She predeceased Boomer by several months, see Part 36, “Dog Party,” September 2003.

[4] Another dog of Windsor Park during that period. In her recent lecture at the Carleton University Institute of Interspecies Studies, Professor Glenda Carruthers has suggested that Wembley may well have been a border collie.



40. Broomball

The object seemed to be to hit the ball so that it passed between two pylons.  But for these poor ungainly two-legged creatures, the only way to accomplish this was to slide and flounder and fall flat on their backsides. Believe me, with our four legs and our tails for balance, you and I would have accomplished the task with much more elegance.  But would they let me play?  No, they would not!  I was relegated to the sidelines, watching from the boards, and whimpering whenever I thought I could do a better job.

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37. Cats

Because the end-point of our morning parade was the new place on Bank Street that may well serve as our clubhouse – our headquarters for our plans to take back more streets for dog-kind. 

It’s a wonderful place, full of the smell of dog treats and people treats.  And not only do they let dogs inside, the humanoids actually encourage us to come in.  Even Frank, our galumphing Labrador friend, whose enthusiastic black tail can wipe a counter top clean with one wag – even Frank was welcome in this place.

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