09 September, 2011

Wine and I: A Relationship Made on the Rocks

A guest article for my friend Allie who is the creator behind Winegloss. You can find my article on her blog here.

My relationship with wine started when I was just a wee lass. As most European descending families my family is a very large, and very loud Irish one. Beer, spirits, wine, and booze of all kinds was present in every aspect of my life growing up.

At the dinner table for fancy occasions when the family sipped an array of differently coloured liquids in glasses with fancy stems, I drank water from a wine glass. This glass – unique in shape and size – somehow made me feel like I was part of the group, and that I was older and more mature. And for years I sipped that wine, laughing and pretending I was part of the elite group of people who were allowed to drink from the long necked bottles.

As I grew I took a shining to wine from day one. Sometimes my Irish grandmother would pour wine into my glass cup when no one was looking and give me a wink. Or my Aunt would fill my glass with a knowing smile not knowing herself my grandmother had just done so. I spent many family gatherings falling asleep early on account of my new taste for wine, and little did I know that was just the beginning in my long line of wine-loving nights.

My first bad experience was when I drank too much wine at a party when I was 22 years old - needless to say someone should not be drinking a 2L bottle of pinot grigio to themselves. From that moment on, I felt like wine and myself were in for a very long relationship filled with fill-ups, fall-downs, and lots in-between.

I eventually (questionably to some) grew into somewhat of a young lady; attending banquets, fancy dinner parties, and seasonal holiday gatherings where the ‘boissons de la journée’ would be my arch nemesis: wine. If a drink could wear a mask, tight leggings, and laugh evily, wine would have. Due to the circumstances I began to sample more wines as I was out and about, learning that if I had a glass or two it really was a rather enjoyable experience. Pretty soon I was trying new bottles, staying away from mixed drinks at parties, and even ordering a glass of wine with dinner instead of beer. And as somewhat of a self (and publically) proclaimed ‘geek’, this was a big deal for me not to be parked in front of a computer or video game with a beer and Clark Kent’s glasses. Instead wine made me feel less like nerdy Clark Kent, and more like iconic and suave Superman.

Now working downtown Toronto, seemingly the classy capital of Canada, wine is apparent in all major restaurants. From $10 bottles, house wines, to fancy wines that I can’t pronounce; wine is running rampant and people are eating- excuse me- drinking it up. It’s one of those things you can give as a gift, a thank you, housewarming, “I-heard-you-left-what’s-his-name”, promotions, job loss, new friends, new babies, new family, corporate or colloquial; wine is a jack of all trades. What else can you give to someone to celebrate a new home, and to cry with your girlfriends over a relationship wrought with pain? A puppy just won’t do.

So over the course of my young (and not as young) adulthood, meandering from jeans-and-tee video game geek to heels and gloss gal, trying to class it up is something that is becoming more natural to me. With wine at my side I am eager to see where my new love affair will take me.

Of course, there is always too much of a good thing in large doses, I’ve learned.

01 September, 2011

Story a Day #5 - Pooch

September 1st
Story a Day


When we got Pooch he was only a pound, the runt of the litter, with a small chance in hell to be adopted by Mr. Yary’s show dog snob friends.

“Alice?” Mr. Yary was on our porch, talking through the screen to my mum; only his nose showing from where I was hidden peeking over the catwalk of the upstairs of our house. “Snowflake Madonna Cher had 6 pups, all excellent promising candidates for show. There’s one runt, and I know Keaton wanted one from the last litter. She can have it if she wants, it’s not my taste. Otherwise I will send it to the kennel, there is no room in my home for failure - only winners.” Little did I know then that Mr. Yary’s nose was the only thing I could see on account of how high in the air it was.

So a small ball of fluff was delivered to me in a towel by my mom the following weekend. The instant I held the swaddled infant I knew I would never be the same again, and I didn’t even know what breed it was.

I didn’t care.

All I saw were sleepy blue eyes and a pink nose, black hair poked out of the towel. It was so small – I had G.I. Joe’s that weighed more than him.

So Pooch grew up with me: following me to the mailbox, trotting along on a walk to the park, trying to sneak on my school bus, and sniffing all the dates that came home with me to meet my folks.

I went off to university, and every time I came home Pooch was there waiting for me, blue eyes sparkling, tail knocking things off the shelf. Pooch would sleep on my bed, stay with me while I was sick, and I even took him to stay with me in my new apartment after I got my first real job.

When I looked at pooch, I saw the 1 pound, fluffy blue eyed pup that I fell in love with. And I would do anything for him, he was my best friend.

Last winter I went to the bar in the middle of winter and forwent a coat; because you don’t want to pay for coat check and chances are you will never see that coat again. I drank a bit too much, and ended up waiting outside for over an hour for a cab. Needless to say I caught the flu.

I was out of commission. Fever, sweats, chills, vomiting… I was weak from not eating but I had no appetite; eating was like torture because I knew it would end up in the bucket beside my bed in the middle of the night. Pooch stayed on my bed the whole time, never complaining I woke him up with my attractive vomiting sounds every 2 hours, or my incessant coughing. He’d lick my toes and lay his head on my feet.

One night my temperature was high enough that I probably should have gone to the hospital. I was too weak to stand, I barely made it to the bathroom, and I am sure I had blacked out at least once from fever. I was lying in my bed, sweating and shivering at the same time, fading in and out of consciousness when I heard a sound coming from my front door.

I live in a duplex town house on the lower level, with my own entrance. So I knew it wasn’t someone accidentally trying to open the wrong apartment after a night of binge drinking and tequila poppers. My heart started to race and I recognized the sound of metal as the lock on my front door – it sounded like someone was trying to jimmy it open. I couldn’t stand; I could barely move my head to face my bedroom door to listen.

Pooch’s head shot up, ears flexed – he knew something was wrong – he felt me tense under the blankets. The locked became louder, as someone was aggressively turning the knob back and forth trying to unstuck the pins inside the mechanism. Then I heard a click and a creak.

Someone had opened my front door and was inside my house.

Pooch swung his head to look at me – his eyes asked me what I wanted him to do. I had no idea; I could barely say a word. Then I heard the voices and I knew exactly what was going on.

“Alex, she’s home, I saw her car, her shoes are here. The bedroom is that way.” Whispers filled the hall as my heart thudded.


Alex Trechel. A boy I had met at the club one weekend. He was somewhat belligerent and after I agreed to go out with him, we had stopped on my front stoop and he tried to kiss me. I said no and I guess no means yes and he grabbed me and tried anyway. Eventually a neighbour heard me yelling at him and he stalked off.

He was now inside my house with a friend at 2am and they were looking for me. And sadly I knew exactly what he wanted this time.

I could hear them checking the family room, quietly walking down the hallway. Luckily my bedroom is at the end of the apartment.

Pooch let out a low grunt and continued to stare at me – not wanting to leave me alone.

“What was that?” The voices stopped as they picked up Pooch’s warning. “Dude that sounded like a dog.”

“Shhh shut up! You’re afraid of a little dog now? You Sally.”

I looked at Pooch. He just waited. I nodded to him and quietly whispered, “Go.” Pooch stood up on the bed and without a sound hopped off and padded silently to the bedroom door. He looked back at me and I nodded again.

Pooch nuzzled his head in between the door and the wall and managed to open it enough to squeeze out and into the hallway where I lost sight of him.


When the police came to my door the next morning they took my statement. The neighbour that caught Alex trying to assault me also had his statement taken. It turns out that Alex has had quite a long rap sheet of assault, attempted rape, and violence on his record.

An officer talked softly to the man from animal control in the kitchen, looking over at me sitting on the couch. I felt well enough to move this morning, as I got quite an adrenaline kick the night before.

The officer made his way over to me and sat down.

“Now, we spoke to your landlord and he had no idea you were housing a dog. The living agreements state that you cannot have pets in the building.” He looked at me over his glasses, wearing an expression of concern. “I spoke with animal control, and we’ve decided not to pursue the incident, as the circumstances allow me to.” He took off his glasses with one hand, folded them and put them on his clipboard and looked at me.

“I have a daughter your age. If two men broke into her house I would have wished for worse. That’s not to say what happened was good, but I'm dismissing animal control.” He put his glasses into his breast pocket and stood up, brushing his suit with one hand and looking at Pooch lying beside me.

“Please be more careful. And call 911 sooner next time.” As the people started to evacuate my apartment my landlord came over to me. She was an older lady in her 60’s and had never given me any trouble in the past.

“Keaton,” she sighed, “I had to tell the police I didn’t know you had a dog or else I would have had to pay a fine. You know I love Pooch.” She scratched his ears and he wagged his tail. I nodded,

“Of course.”

“I have never heard of an animal in all my life that did what Pooch did.”

Last night Pooch met the men in the hallway. One screamed and fled, Alex tried to but Pooch sprinted after him. Pooch grabbed Alex’s leg and clamped down, locking his jaw making escape impossible. Pooch held onto the flesh on Alex’s leg for two hours before I regained consciousness enough to call the police. He held onto it for another 40 minutes while we waited for the police to arrive. Alex screamed - hit and punched pooch in the face, kicked at him, and tried to beat him but Pooch did not let go.

I smiled as I looked down at my 1 pound, furry friend with the piercing blue eyes. He still looked like a baby to me. The landlord got up and started to head for the door.

“I took the liberty of filling out a pet ownership paper on your behalf. It costs $60. Small price to pay to keep him here, wouldn’t you agree?” She smiled and reached her hand out to turn the knob on my front door and stopped. “And don’t you think the apartment is too small for a Great Dane?”

I laughed.

Pooch snorted in agreement.

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