Sunday, April 10, 2016

King's Final Journey



Back in 2008, when the blog was young, I posted a story of a dog who had been waiting for his very own home for many months.  King had a memorable story - an injured and starving homeless dog in northern BC, trying to look after a small pack of other homeless dogs, picked up by a pair of Good Samaritans, who went seven hours out of their way to take the dogs to the nearest rescue, Turtle Gardens.  You'll find that story here:  Needed: One Happily Ever After Ending.

A very special couple read that blog story, and felt their hearts respond.  And so King got his Happily Ever After Ending with my blog readers Del and Mark.  We met up with them twice over the years - once while camping at Emory Creek and again last year when Mitzi and I traveled to their home.  

On April 8th, King ended his earthly journey.   He was one of the sweetest, kindest, most benevolent dogs I have ever met, and I know he was one of the most loved.  He passed away with Del and Mark by his side, arms around him, fur sisters nearby.  And as he left, he let out one last howl, perhaps to let the Spirit World know he was on his way.  I can tell his story no better than this very wonderful tribute to him which Del wrote on King's own blog:  http://kingsurvives.blogspot.ca/2016/04/april-28-2002-april-8-2016.html. Please take a moment to read it, kleenex in hand. 

King, you will be sorely missed.  If I could have had only one dog in my lifetime, I would have wanted him to be just like you. 

Gentle hugs, Del and Mark.  King will forever be in our hearts. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

This is not my swan song....

But it is about swans - and herons - and pileated woodpeckers - but mostly about swans. Today my friend and I went exploring, taking with us a list of small parks between Duncan and Mill Bay to check out. According to my book, the three parks and one view trail would have netted us a total of six kilometers of trail walking and stair climbing, plus however much additional beach walking the tides would allow.  We only did two parks and the view trail as we ran out of time. There were, quite simply, so many little branch trails to explore, so much shoreline to wander,  and most of all, so many amazing birds to photograph.  We saw herons and eagles, pileated woodpeckers,  Northern flickers, kingfishers, many species of ducks,  a seal (okay, that's not a bird), and mute swans. Beautiful, photogenic mute swans.





Our first stop was Mill Bay Nature Park - a small community park nicely developed to preserve the west coast forest and shoreline.  Trails are well maintained, with a few stairs, sturdy wooden bridges, a viewing platform, a couple of picnic tables, and a small gravel parking lot.



The trails are only a little over a kilometer in length, but numerous options and loops, as well as some shore time, kept us busy for almost two hours. It was here that we saw many pileated woodpeckers, though they were somewhat camera-shy:



Down on the beach we watched two mute swans swim from one side of the bay to the other, crossing near an eagle who was perched on some deadfall in the water.  They were some distance away, and I was facing into the sun, so it's not the best photo - but the sight was so awe inspiring, it's worth mentioning here.



We also watched as a seal put on a show, chasing what appeared to be a school of fish - resulting in much splashing and slapping and sparkling water. Near enough to see, but too far and too fast to capture with the camera.

View from Mill Bay Nature Park.  

Leaving the Nature Park, we headed to Manley Creek Park, and the adjacent Patsy Granfield Memorial Trail.  My recently purchased guide book suggested we could do a loop down through the park via several flights of wooden stairs, adjoining trails,  and three bridges, then walk along the shoreline for a while, up some stairs, along a short section of road, and back to the park via the Granfield Trail, a distance of about 2.5 km.   The signboard in the park also showed this route, with five options for stairs from the shore to the road. More on that later.



When we reached the shoreline, we once again saw mute swans - three of them - much closer and less concerned with our presence than those at the previous park.  This allowed me an excellent opportunity to take some photos of them with the new little point-and-swear-shoot camera and its fairly good zoom lens.







We decided this was as good a time and place as any to enjoy our brown-bag lunches and thermos of tea. While sitting on a log, a heron and some kingfishers entertained us.  The same heron decided to play peek-a-boo with us a short while later:

The heron kept sticking his head up every few minutes to check us out...

And eventually stepped out from behind the rock
to get a better view of us, and we of him. 
We never did find the stairs that should have led us from shore to road to the far end of the Granfield Trail. Guess the park maps need some updating - we tried two long, somewhat precarious sets of stairs, both of which ended in people's private back yards (one with a locked gate, the other with no exit to the front), and ended up returning the way we came.  It was pretty enough to be worth making the trip twice:

A waterfall tumbles down beside one of the three bridges. 

On our way back all those stairs and trails, we found a side trail leading to the Granfield Trail, so decided to walk the trail to its other end just to appease our curiousity about those elusive stairs (thereby adding a couple of kilometers to our anticipated total).  We hadn't missed finding them - they were no more.  All that remained, from the top looking down to the shore, were a few old tire steps ending in a long drop off over which water spilled.  (Apparently there are some stairs further along, but those would mean a long walk on pavement to hook back up to the trail.) .  The Patsy Granfield Memorial Trail was a pleasant enough walk, though tall trees on the far side of the meadow, and a few low clouds on the horizon, obstructed the promised 'amazing' views of Mount Baker.


View from the trail - No Mt. Baker in sight! 

By the time we got back to the car, it was late afternoon and time to hightail it back home.  The third park on our list will wait for another day. Maybe there won't be as many swans there!




Tuesday, March 22, 2016

RASTA on television

I'm hoping this works - that you can see it.  It's a link to a You Tube video posted by Shaw Nanaimo, who all this week have been airing on their local television channel a five minute clip of  RASTA, the animal sanctuary where I volunteer.   I happened to be at the sanctuary the day they were filming - a wet, muddy day. And you can sure see in the video why working on the drainage issue is our top priority this summer, as far as sanctuary improvements go.
About an hour of filming and interviewing edits down to five minutes for television - but they did an awesome job of it, showcasing both the sanctuary and the reason so many piggies end up in rescue.  Enjoy!



Friday, March 18, 2016

A walk in the park


This afternoon, I headed out to Bright Angel Park, just south of Duncan, with Pat and the poms.  We were joined by Linda, Teddy and Beamer from the Small Dog Walking group (Beamer's mom wasn't available, but Teddy said Beamer could catch a ride with him).

Mom, we can take her, can't we?

Thank you, Teddy's Mom.
I wuv you. 

It was a lovely day and though the trails are not very long, it was a good place for a mid-afternoon walk.

The river was high and fast


Too fast for certain water-obsessed poms to go swimming.
(I'm looking at YOU, Cosmo)


Teddy didn't mind, because Teddy did what Teddy does best -
digging for sticks!

M o m !  Teddy kicked sand in my face! 


Oh brother.  Get over it, you big baby. 

We walked away from the river, and found a little pond with lush spring growth

But not before Teddy found another stick he wanted to bring along.

Wait for me, mom! 

Another beautiful spot in the forest for a few more photos,
and then it was back to the cars.

Lexi:  Well that sucks.  No pictures of me with funny little captions under them.
(Sorry Lexi - next time!) 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Blue skies and happy critters

It was a beautiful day today, so all the animals at RASTA were out enjoying the sun and the new spring growth.

Three seniors enjoying a nap in the back yard

Athena, whose favourite hangout is a piggy shelter with six or more pigs, enjoys a little solitary time.

Garfunkel soaks up some sun atop a shelter roof

Houdini supervises the volunteers at their tasks

Maggie May checks out what I'm up to in the pasture

Simon has something to say - I'm not sure what!
(Captions, anyone?)

The donkeys are enjoying the new spring shoots of grass.
I think this is Romeo, but can't tell them apart unless they are together!  

Lucie and Nancy brush Theo the steer,
while Benson the dog gives Theo a bath with his tongue!

Three friends hangin' out together -
Theo, Benson and Nibbles.
Lucie and I gave a powerpoint presentation (my first - the job I've been so busy with this past week or so) for a service organization last night, and now that is finished perhaps I can get back to my regularly scheduled programming blogging - well, in between hiking, gardening, and finishing up a few grant applications.  Come back soon! :)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Monday morning laugh

I've been super busy with computer stuff for RASTA the past several days - grant proposals with deadlines looming, and building a power point slide show (my first ever) for a presentation Lucie and I will be giving to a service organization this week, so blogging, photography, and hiking have all gone by the boards.

But....I took this photo a couple of weeks back, when Simon the goat was frolicking about behind Lucie's back.  Fans of old movies will appreciate the humour - the rest of you might want to check out the history of Simon's line.  Simon cracks me up.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Keeping Dogs Safe in New Surroundings - A Repost

In the past month I have seen at least eight lost dog ads on my facebook newsfeed for dogs who have been with their families or foster families for less than two weeks - in three cases, just one or two days. Add to that another two or three dogs who were visiting friends or travelling with their families and took off in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. These are just dogs on Vancouver Island, and just those who have come to my attention via two or three specific facebook pages. Who knows how many more have gone missing?

Spring weather means more people walk or hike with their dog, travel, or simply decide to buy or adopt a dog. Sadly, they don't always take sufficient precautions to ensure the dog's safety. 

So, I'm once again posting an article I wrote about five years back - Feel free to share.

Keeping Dogs Safe in New Surroundings
© Jean Ballard, 2011
These guidelines apply to the first several weeks of the dog’s relocation, and are specific to preventing lost dogs. They do not deal with other dog safety issues such as introductions to other animals, aggression or training. The timelines are minimum recommendations - very nervous dogs may need the process stretched out more slowly. I am not a dog trainer – just a person who has spent too many hours looking for too many lost dogs, many of whom have been lost within hours, days or weeks of arriving at a new home. The same safety precautions should also be applied when taking your dog on vacation or visiting with friends.

A change of home or circumstances is stressful for any dog, and even a dog with a wonderfully calm temperament may suddenly bolt. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind whenever a dog is being moved to a new location:
1. Use a Martingale or Silverfoot training collar, or a harness with a double safety connection, properly fitted. Use it for life, not just for a week. Inspect it regularly for signs of damage, especially checking all clips, rings and fasteners. Make sure the leash is attached to the correct ring.  Many dogs can back out of a flat collar in the blink of an eye. Do not use a metal choke chain or prong collar as these can damage the trachea of a strong puller and can cause permanent neck problems. And before you put that collar or harness on for the first time, attach an ID tag with a current phone number.  That means you need to purchase a tag before your dog arrives at your home.

2. Keep BOTH hands firmly on the leasha safety collar or harness are useless if there isn’t a firm hand holding onto the other end of the leash;  two hands are even better.  While some trainers tell you not to wrap the leash around your wrist in case the dog bolts and breaks your wrist, it is better for a person to break their wrist than a dog become lost or killed. A wrist mends; a dead dog doesn’t.
3. For at least the first month, assume that the dog IS going to bolt, given the chance - no matter how nicely your new dog walks on leash. Make sure you have both hands on the leash before opening a car door or opening a house door.

4. Do not let children walk the dog for the first several weeks. A dog who tries to bolt is STRONG and QUICK.

5. Make it clear to everybody in the house that they must put the leash or securely confine the dog before they answer a knock at the door or open it to grab the paper from the porch. Put signs on the doors to remind them, and hang spare collars and leashes near every door. Keep the doors locked to help prevent people from coming in without first having someone inside confine the dog. Where possible, put up a secondary barrier, like a baby gate, to prevent the dog accessing the door. 
6. Spend the first 24-48 hours in your home with the dog. Your dog needs to become familiar with the smells of the house and the people in it. Your dog needs to start to figure out that this is his or her new pack. Take the dog for very short outings at quiet times of the day or evening – first just into your yard (on leash, even if you have a high fence!) or, if you don’t have a yard, just a couple of hundred feet in each direction from your apartment building.*
*Note: While this is a time for you and your dog to bond, you also need to help the dog know you are going to be reliable. From the first day home, begin doing graduated leaves - leaving the dog in the house for five minutes, five times on the first day, then ten minutes five times on the second day, then slowly increasing the time and decreasing the frequency until the dog is comfortable being left alone, secure in the knowledge that you will return. Confine the dog to a secure area such as a crate or xpen or babygated room during this time – you don’t want them to slip through your legs and bolt when you re-enter the house!

7. Slowly increase the length of the walks over the first week or two, but always within your neighbourhood – first around the block, around two blocks, going the reverse direction, varying the route. You want the dog to become familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells of its own neighbourhood – that way if the dog should escape (because some burglar broke the window or because the dog slipped out as  paramedics came in when you had a heart attack, for example)  he/she may be able to find the way home, or at least may stay in the area. Gradually expand the dog’s horizons and exposure to new situations – new sounds, new places, new people, new surfaces like bridges, gravel, pavement.

8. As tempting as it is to want to show off your new pet or foster to all your friends, neighbours and relatives – DON’T. At least, not for the first week or so, and then  gradually introduce the dog to new people and places. No matter how wonderful your new pet is, he or she has been through a stressful time – losing a human and/or canine family,   possibly wandering loose, possibly staying in a shelter or rescue or foster home, and now another new situation and new people. Do not increase the dog's confusion and anxiety through over-stimulation – let the dog chill with you, become bonded to you, learn about his new home, and gain confidence before adding too many new events to the dog’s life.

9. Don't be lulled into complacency by the dog's good behaviour. A newly placed dog often has a honeymoon period, where he/she seems to have settled in perfectly. Then, after a few weeks or more, the dog may begin testing you, become more challenging, or simply see an opportunity to run.   The dog you have three months from the time of adoption is often quite different from  the dog you saw during the first week or two – don’t get complacent about the doors, leashes, collars, etc.

Let’s keep dogs safe in new surroundings.


The above information may be copied and/or circulated freely as long as the following is cited as the source:  (c) Jean Ballard, 2011 www.mylifewiththecritters.blogspot.com .

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mother Nature's Illusions


Reflections in Westwood Lake


Today, my friend Sally and I hiked the trail around Westwood Lake in Nanaimo, the place that was the rendevous for the Turtle Gardens dog I transported the other day.  The trail is about 6km (with a few side trails we explored enroute) and winds mostly along the edge of the lake with one fairly short but steep climb up to some bluffs - a climb well worth the view:

View from the bluffs

The morning was wet, but shortly after we started to walk,  the rain  pretty much stopped, and the lighting was near perfect for photography.  I only had the point-and-swear camera with me so I could slip it in the pocket of my Gortex jacket to keep it dry if necessary, but that was all I needed.  A mirrorlike surface to the water, a clarity that gave views well below the surface,  lighting that created near-perfect reflections, and pockets of water of indescribable colour  made for some photos that were almost surreal in quality.  As I couldn't wait to share them, I posted my favourites on facebook right away - and figured I'd post them here as well so I'm not even further behind on my blog posts than I already am.

The remarkable thing about this set of photos is that the only photo editing I needed to do was a bit of cropping and then adding my watermark.  The colours, lighting, shadows, etc. are exactly as the camera captured them.  Enjoy!

Rotten tree trunk protrudes from clear green water. 

I've seen this stump referred to on hiking sites as "The Dragon of Westwood Lake."
In this photo, it apparently is The Two-Headed Dragon of Westwood Lake! 

There were many dead trees and stumps, whose reflections tempted this photographer.

A cropped version of the previous photo.  I love the paradox of  simplicity with detail. 


The water was so still, you could almost see every needle of every branch in the reflections.

Can you figure this one out?  The shoreline is about one quarter from the top.  But all the greenery below that is reflection - in fact you can see the reflection of hydro lines in the lower quarter.  Except - wait for it - except the two tree trunks you see (larger hollow one mid photos and a small one in the lower left quadrant) are in the water - several feet  UNDER the water.  The water was so clear you can see them right through the reflections!
More reflections along the lake. 

This was at the top of the bluff, as we turned away from the view to hit the trail back down to the lakeshore.  The lighting on the arbutus trees (those are the self-peeling trees with red and yellow trunks) was just right and gave the photo almost a painting-like quality. 
I think this might possibly be my favourite - the tree stump is in the water with the trunk floating partially submerged -  but the reflection is so clear and detailed, it looks like the whole trunk is suspended above the water.

Sometimes Mother Nature's Illusions amaze me!