More Voting! Dogs of Blogville Calendar Contest

More Soapbox calls for civic engagement!  But this time it’s a more light-hearted vote in the name of charity.

The Daily Dog Blog and Heart Like a Dog are hosting the 2nd Annual Dogs of Blogville Contest.

Voting is ongoing until noon EST Sunday, September 1, and each IP address can vote once every 24 hours.  Click here to vote.

Funds raised by sales of the finished product will go to benefit Benny the Frenchie and support care and treatment for his liver cancer.

And while the most important thing is to boost calendar sales to raise funds for Benny, Alma and Moses sure would appreciate voters throwing a ballot or two in their direction – there’s some stiff competition!

The colour version

The colour version of one from last Sunday.

Black & White Sunday 9: A little bit of everything

A miscellaneous photo dump:

Glenbow Ranch


McDougall United Church

McDougall church again


Check out everyone else’s photos and the blog hop hosts herehere and/or here.


Look alive, Calgary! It’s time to vote!

I’ve written before about the importance of voting, and I’m doing it again.

Calgary heads to the polls on Monday, October 21 to elect city council and school board trustees.

Moses has civil pride; he's a proud Calgarian

Moses has civil pride; he’s a proud Calgarian

The last Calgary election was in 2010 where we elected our famous Mayor Nenshi (full disclosure: I’ve always been a fan of the Purple Wave).


The 2010 municipal election had an interesting race for the Mayor’s seat and voter turnout was 53%, which sounds sad, but is actually a huge improvement.  In 2007 voter turnout was 33%.  In 2004 it was 18%.  EIGHTEEN PERCENT.  Pathetic.

Pollsters say that voter turnout plummets when there isn’t an interesting race for mayor, which may turn out to be the case this year, since no one has decided to challenge Mayor Nenshi (yet – the deadline for nominations isn’t until September 23, though, so that could still change).

But in Calgary, that lack of attention just silly.  There are 15 seats on city council – the Mayor is one of 15 votes.  To get something done, 7 other city councillors would need to agree with him.  Or any group of 8 councillors can get something passed (or stalled).  So even if the mayoral race isn’t interesting, Calgarians need to pay close attention to their Ward races, too, especially noting the Ward 1 and 2 Aldermen are retiring.  (Click here for Ward information.)

Federal and provincial elections often get much more attention from voters, but I think it’s downright stupid to forego the municipal election.  I’ve heard people say they don’t notice much change in their lives as the Prime Minister’s office changes between parties, but that’s not the case with city government.  Municipal politics directly affect everyone’s day to day lives, including things like:

  • snow ploughs (very important in Calgary and a common thing to complain about!)
  • transit: routes, budgets, infrastructure maintenance
  • property taxes and budget surplusses
  • essential services (police, fire)
  • school board governance
  • emergency response, like when a giant flood takes your city by surprise, for example
  • garbage and recycling pick up and curb-side composting
  • residential speed limits, school zones, playground zones
  • city parks, their maintenance, locations, and rules
  • even the placement of crosswalks and the repair of streetlights
  • business and construction licences
  • social issues like shark fin and retail pet sale bans, smoking bylaws
  • hot button issues like bridges, secondary suites, airport tunnels and ring roads
  • animal bylaws: from dog and cat licenses, to impounded and adoptable animals, to dangerous dog assessments
  • other bylaws: neighbours annoying you with their noise/messy lawn/grow-op?  The city helps you with that.
  • city festivals like Canada Day fireworks and the Stampede Parade
  • road building and maintenance: if someone wants to bulldoze your house to put in an overpass, your city councillor is your representative for that
  • lots of other things not listed here

So from your daily commute to taking out the garbage to building a new garage on your property, you can see how city government impacts day to day life.

Which is why it’s important to vote!

You have 65 days, Calgary, to research your candidates and make a decision.

Full election information can be found on the city’s website here.

All candidate information will be official after Nomination Day, on September 24, but you can already see candidates getting their names out there and knocking on doors.  Put them to the test!  Tweet them, Facebook them, call them up, get involved and tell them what’s important to you! Find out whose platform you agree with and throw up a lawn sign if you want!

Election Day is October 21.

Or, if you’re a keener like me, the advance polls are October 9-13, 15, and 16 (I always go to advance polls – the lines are shorter).   You can also mail in your ballot if needed.

Alma is all about civic engagement; she even walked to polls with me for the last provincial election.

Alma is all about civic engagement – she even walked to polls with me for the last provincial election.

Get on it, Calgary!  This is important!

And if you need a little extra help, Mayor Nenshi has set up a Vote Pledge – just sign up and get emailed election information and reminders.

Nenshi's Vote Pledge

35 Kinds of Restaurant Patrons

I was in University for 6 years, working on two degrees and doing my damnest to delay entry into the “real world”. During that time, I served people just like you food and drink. Prior to that, I even worked at McDonald’s all throughout highschool. So I’ve put in my time – nearly a decade – when it comes to food service.

And, in fact, I am a firm believer that everyone should have some food service time on their resumes. The experience provides some life lessons about humanity that you can’t really get anywhere else.

Previously, I’ve brought you other itemized (non-dog-related) musings on procreation, Facebook, renters, and weddings, so, in honour of those days that ended many years ago now, I present you with another list:

35 Kinds of Restaurant Patrons

The Unable to Find a Sitters: The generally nice couple who usually come in alone, but not tonight. They stick their kids at a nearby table, give you explicit instructions on what they are and are not allowed to eat, and proceed to ignore their offspring and any accompanying noise/mess for the duration of the meal. Usually come with empty promises about discipline and control.

The Verbal Tipper: Tells you – and maybe even your boss – how amazing the food and service was and how they had such a great time. Leaves less than 10%.

The Old-Timey Tipper: Is convinced that 5-10% is still reflective of good service, unaware that market inflation and minimum wage have not increased at the same rate over the last 40 years, or that many servers also have to tip out bartenders, hostesses, and kitchen staff.

The Unexpected Surprise: Curmudgeonly and curt, but not overly unpleasant. Somehow leaves >18% tip; the best kind of customer.

The Personal Trainers: The group of six or more – any combination of men and women – who can’t get their poop in a group long enough to make collective requests. For example: one asks for a glass of water. You canvass the group to see if anyone else needs anything. No reply. You come back moments later with the water, and just before you’re out of earshot, another request is made. These repeated trips continue throughout the duration of their meal. Your pedometer thanks you, and you are thankful for mandatory group tip amounts.

The Hot Water with Lemon: Seriously? All the effort – and dishes – for something free that requires constant topping up? And the water isn’t hot enough, requiring an apologetic trip to the Forbidden Kitchen Area to use the microwave?  Oh, and you’ll split a scone? Wonderful. This will make a huge dent in my accumulating $20,000+ student loan debt.

The Former Servers: The double-edged sword: they are sympathetic to your plight and handsomely reward good service; however they will punish poor service and poor excuses swiftly. They know just how taxing the job is, but also just how easy it is to get it right. They have been known to literally count your tables to estimate competence when quality of service appears to slip.

The 2005 movie Waiting is a crass -  yet accurate - look into the food service biz.

The 2005 movie Waiting is a crass – yet accurate – look into the food service biz.

The Girls’ Night Out: They will probably socialize for 90 minutes before even looking at the menu, but as long as you keep everyone hydrated and don’t screw anything up, it’ll pay off.

The Guys’ Night Out: Just as much maintenance as the girls’ night out, but don’t tell them that. As long as you keep smiling, it’ll pay off.

The Fake Foodie: Easy to spot by the way they drown their venison in ketchup or order their tuna steak well done. If you help them keep up the charade, it could pay off.

The Fake Wino: Sniffs the cork and refuses to order anything with a screw top. Add as much pomp to the wine-serving ritual as your stomach can stand, and ask them later how they felt about the “notes of leather” for your own entertainment.

Honesty is refreshing.

Honesty is refreshing.

The Third Degree: Eats out for the social interaction, questioning you on your day, your other job/school studies/kids/significant other/travel plans/you name it, oblivious to the fact that you probably have other tables to get to. Not necessarily a lone diner.

The Over-Sharer: The other side of the coin of the Third Degree, instead telling you about their lives in intimate detail as you smile, nod, and slowly try to back away. Also oblivious to your other tables and the fact that their confession hour is detrimental to the service you can provide other customers.

The Pop Quiz: Wants to know everything about the menu, and wants to hear it from your lips, not read it on the page. “This says gluten free – is it really? What are my choices with the burger? If I ask for medium-rare, is it really going to be medium-rare? What kind of blend is the house red? Is arugula a perennial plant? How many capers on the smoked salmon – be specific.” Probably couldn’t handle this kind of interrogation about their own job, but that doesn’t matter since you don’t know where they work.

It says "free range" right there.

It says “free range” right there.

The This Is Not a Buffet: Basically wants the kitchen to revolt violently against you: “I want the burger, but instead of fries or a salad, I want fettuccini on the side, and you should be able to do that since I see fettuccini elsewhere on the menu. And can you make the paella with quinoa instead? And substitute chicken for the chorizo? I don’t see a kids’ menu here, but we’d like chicken fingers and a grilled cheese sandwich – no crust.”

The Doesn’t Understand There’s a Division of Labour: Holds you personally responsible for any error or imperfection with the food and tips (or doesn’t) accordingly.

The First Date: Uncomfortable with each other and also with you. Do them a favour and make yourself the common joke by waiting until they take a bite to go and ask them how the food is. Ensure you put the bill fold in the EXACT centre (to the millimeter!) between the couple at the end of the night – assumptions are no one’s friend.

The Last Date: Awkward City, Population: All Three of You. Efficiency is your friend and theirs – get them out of there ASAP.

The 2,000th Date: They’ll come at the same time, sit at the same table, order the same thing, and share a newspaper and not talk the entire time. Really, it’s adorable and we should all be so lucky. Don’t interrupt their peace by trying to chit-chat.

The Forgetful: “I thought I ordered another drink? I know I didn’t order fries instead of salad. Oh, didn’t we say separate cheques?” Arguing is futile – just get it done.

The Great Expectations: The. Worst. Ignorant to the fact that servers are people, too, that no one is a mind reader, doesn’t understand the distinction between servER and servANT, refers to your manager as a maître d’, and is an unapologetic douche about knowing you’re there to wait on him/her. Livid that a place they may choose to go doesn’t have high chairs, their favourite chardonnay, or some disgusting poutine-nacho hybrid they had at a pub once in another city. Unaware that most people in Canada don’t wait tables as a life-long career, and thus the commitment to the job can only be so great and only so much can be put up with. Can be passive-aggressive or downright rude, and has been known to throw a very public temper tantrum about something trivial like the free bar snacks. It is supremely satisfying seeing these people post-serving in a professional context, and regaling colleagues with survivor stories.

The Misery Loves Company: Not their usual demeanour, but had (or having) a rough day and lucky you get to be the person they take it out on, because no one ever taught them not to mess with people who touch their food. Irrational, emotional, and cannot be cheered up, so just keep your head down and do your job. If a regular, may fly off the handle simply because you ask them what they want with their beef dip, rather than knowing they always get seasoned fries with the beef dip, you insufferable moron. Silver lining: they may over-tip at the end as compensation for the emotional abuse.

The Zero Self-Awareness: Blows their nose, flosses their teeth, changes their socks, and clips their toenails at the table (true story). Basically a walking health code violation, unaware that this (a) isn’t a washroom, or (b) isn’t their own dining room where maybe that revolting behaviour is tolerated. Disgusting to you and the other customers, and is likely oblivious to your passive-aggressive comments.

The Not Actually an Employee: Will roam around the room at will and without boundaries, searching serving cupboards for extra sugar, napkins or cutlery, despite you having just asked if they needed anything. They’ll rearrange tables, swap out chairs, adjust the blinds, wrestle patio umbrellas, and try to manoeuvre and ignite propane heaters themselves. Thinking they’re being helpful rather than a public nuisance, they’ve even been known to bring their own dirty dishes back to the dish pit, entering a Narnia no customer should ever see.

The Tree-Hater: Uses literally dozens of napkins throughout a meal, often dismantles them to single-ply form, then crumples them up and leaves them strewn about the table/booth/floor/planter.

The Finger-Snapper: GO TO HELL.

The Thief: If you need that cutlery so bad, just take it. But you need to work on being more stealthy about it.

The Jokester: Thinks he’s hilarious, but he isn’t and anything remotely funny is easily recognizable as a Seinfeld or Louis CK bit. Work on your fake laugh, though, or they’ll explain the punchlines to you, thinking the problem is with you, not them.

The Grab-Ass: Often a Jokester who’s had too much to drink or a lonely Over-Sharer who mistakes friendly service for something more. Can be handled with as much force as necessary.

The Flirt: Ultimately harmless and they probably can’t help it; their flirtatious nature says more about them than about you, but mind some specific boundaries when they’re with their significant others – reciprocating is still fine, but keep your hands to yourself.

The Domestic: If any group or couple asks you to settle a debate between them, even if it appears lighthearted, RUN!  There is nothing to be gained by your participation.

The Unsupervised Teenagers: Nightmares despite even the best parents’ attempts to civilize. Keep service roughly proportionate to their behaviour and wait patiently for the day they’re wearing your apron.

The Indecisive: You will come by three times to ask them what they want and they will have no idea, which isn’t usually a problem until you give them too much time on the fourth go and they’re upset you’ve neglected them and their guests are upset that the whole ordeal has taken even longer.

The Shock Factor: Forgets their glass eye and their eye patch and expects you not to stare into the void. Good luck. Also comes in the form of super baggy athletic shorts, no underpants, and feet up on the table. (Also true stories.)

Friends got it exactly right in 1997 with Phoebe's boyfriend:  "Oh God! Here we go again. Why does this keep happening to me? Is it something I'm putting out there? Is this my fault? Or am I just nuts?"

Friends got it exactly right in 1997 with Phoebe’s boyfriend: “Oh God! Here we go again. Why does this keep happening to me? Is it something I’m putting out there? Is this my fault? Or am I just nuts?”

The Genuinely Nice People: Polite, adequate tippers, and a pleasure to serve, but ultimately unremarkable and forgettable.

Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive – patrons can be multiple types at once, and I know I’ve been more than one when on the other side of the serving tray.

Can you think of any I forgot?

9 Facts About BSL

Throwback Thursday seems to be a thing for radio stations and photo blogs, but I’ve decided to dig into the archives of the Soapbox a little.

The second post ever to appear on the Soapbox, almost three years ago, was basically a long essay about breed-specific legislation (pit bull bans, to be specific).

It’s over 4,000 words and contains not a single picture.  Really setting up for blogging success, wasn’t I?

Who knew the long and detailed philosophy writing I was practiced in wouldn’t prepare me for writing for the internets?

A reader's reaction to that Great Wall of Text

A reader’s reaction to that Great Wall of Text.

So I’ve decided to revisit the subject in a (slightly) more succinct way, despite this being a no-brainer subject to most dog people and there being a myriad of other online resources for this subject.

Truth is, every time a dog bite hits the headlines here, the local papers do their polls and a disappointing 40% of Calgarians support the idea of breed bans, causing my internal rage-o-meter to flare up.

So, if I’m preaching to the choir, just be happy I included pictures this time.

9 Facts About BSL

1.  It doesn’t actually work.  Breed-specific legislation is often introduced after a cluster of fear-mongering headlines like “Pit Bull Attacks Toddler” and politicians find themselves struggling to look useful and effective (what else is new?).  This is how Ontario got its pit bull ban.  But the ridiculous part is that these bans actually do nothing to reduce dog bite incidents.  Seriously.  After 5 years, Ontario got no tangible results from their pit bull ban, yet that still hasn’t been reason enough to repeal the ridiculous legislation.  The Netherlands actually did repeal their BSL in 2008 after they found no decline in dog bites in 15 years.

Alma with Homer and Kimbo.  Chows are another "bully" breed often unduly legislated against.

Alma with friends, Homer and Kimbo. Chows are another “bully” breed often unduly legislated against.

2.  BSL is hard to enforce.  Most people can’t even correctly identify a pit bull (you can even test your idenfication skills here), and law or by-law officers are rarely properly trained in dog breed identification to properly enforce these measures.  Sometimes, like in Ontario, owners are actually required to prove their dog is not a pit bull, rather than the government prove it is.  And when the Canadian Kennel Club doesn’t recognize pit bull terrier as an actual breed, that turns into a problematic thing to assess and enforce.

3.  The statistics used to jusitfy BSL are dubious and the definition of “pit bull” cited in dog bite stats is questionable, since often dogs involved in bites or fatalities are of a mixed or unknown breed.  In actuality, in Canada from 1990-2007 there were 28 fatal dog attacks and not one is attributed to a pit bull.

Moses relaxing with his pittie pal, Hooch on a camping trip. Not exactly a menacing pup.

Moses relaxing with his pittie pal, Hooch on a camping trip. Not exactly a menacing pup.

4.  Just like most things, the media plays a big part in the narrative.  If a pit bull is involved in an altercation, the odds breed is going to be mentioned in the headline is much greater than most other dog breeds.  Chances are the story travels further and gets more attention are also greater.  This does not at all mean that other dog breeds don’t also bite, but the media treats it differently, as studies have shown.  You can read more about this bias here and here.

5.  “Dangerous” dog breeds are a subjective classification and change over time.  In fact, did you know that at the end of the 19th century Newfoundlands were Public Enemy No. 1 for dog breeds? Newfoundlands!  But that’s because they were commonly used as guard dogs, and guard dogs are (obviously) more likely to get into altercations with people.  Now what breeds are used for this very purpose?  Or for dog fighting?  This isn’t a meaningless conicidence; if humans use dogs for aggressive purposes, they’re going to act aggressively, regardless of the breed.

Moses and Alma bully breeds?  Hardly.

Moses and Alma bully breeds? Hardly.

6.  There are more interesting statistics to pay attention to.  For example, in Calgary, most dog bites in 2012, while attributed to a variety of working, herding, and terrier breeds, overwhelmingly happened more frequently in the city’s more notorious neighbourhoods.  So when the top 5 neighbourhoods for dog bites also coincide with crime rates, we can then make some interesting correlations between dog bites and types of owners.  Those against BSL have long said how an owner treats, raises, and trains a dog has a lot more to do with its tendency to bite than its breed does.  An AVMA study of dog bites in Oregon also found a correlation between more dog bites and lower-income neighbourhoods.

7.  It’s common sense that circumstances around dog bites tell more about causation than the dog’s breed.  For example, most dog bites (77%) involve the dog’s own family or a friend of the family.  Over half occur on the owner’s property.  And the most frequent victim of dog bites are children – over 85%!  You can easily see how dogs that are protective of property, tethered, or have a high prey drive can all bite under certain circumstances.  I know just from walking my own dogs that many people – especially children – have very poor dog-interaction manners, and if not closely watched and coached, could easily get themselves bit just for not knowing any better.  A dog will basically never bite without warning, but that doesn’t mean much if kids don’t recognize the warning signals or owners aren’t educated in the basics of dog body language.


8.  If we’re going on temperament, you can do much worse than a pit bull.   The American Temperament Test Society tests dog breed personalities and the American Pitbull Terrier scores 86.8%, which is higher than many breeds, including golden retrievers, German shepherds, Maltese, sheepdogs, and corgis.  There are many studies out there showing other breeds like Dachunds, Jack Russells, and Chihuahuas are all more likely to bite than a pit bull.

9.  The vast majority of dog bites are preventable.  Preventable by owners, not legislation.  Preventable by being good, informed dog owners who know local pet bylaws and take time to walk and train their dogs.  Preventable by not leaving dogs tied up, unattended and not letting them run loose.  Preventable by getting dogs spayed/neutered and socialized.  Preventable by owners and parents who don’t let dogs and children interact without close supervision – ever!  Preventable by people knowing to ask before they approach any strange dogs and teaching their children these habits, too.


So there you have it.  BSL in under 1,000 words and now including images!

Recommended further reading:  you can download the entire text of The Pit Bull Placebo, by the National Canine Research Council in PDF here and read the Canadian Kennel Club’s official position against BSL here.