Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Charley, age 3 months
Thanksgiving  1997

I am on the mainland spending an extended Thanksgiving weekend away from my dogs and cat.  I don't usually travel on holiday weekends (Okay, I don't usually travel. Period.), but with an extra couple of days on one side and an extra day on the other side, I decided to take the chance on ferry travel and lunatic drivers.  It was worth it.

I am thankful that I have a great petsitter,  Barb at Cool Critters Pet Sitting, who stays at my home, keeps my critters on their usual routines, and posts updates for me via facebook.  She's the best!

I am thankful that my brother, daughter, cousin, and family friend all took time out of their busy lives to meet me in downtown Vancouver for lunch on Friday.  And as much as I hate big cities (no, I didn't drive in from the Fraser Valley where I'm staying - I took the trainbus and West Coast Express), I'm thankful for the opportunity to take some totally different photographs from my usual fare:

I had to ask Vancouverites what this was.
It's a typical West Coast Raindrop, of course!
They grow them BIG here!

 I'm thankful for municipal workers with a sense of humour.  At the West Coast Express train station there are the typical signs everywhere to stand behind the yellow line.  But the sign that drew our attention was in white just below it (I couldn't get it all in the photo - see caption):

Stand as far back as you'd stand from
your boss before their morning coffee
I'm thankful for my terrific friends Ann and Ken who turn over part of their home to me every time I visit - my own mini suite complete with a little kitchen for that midnight snack or early morning coffee.  And who feed me amazing meals that just seem to appear each time I turn around.  I sleep like a log, eat like a queen, and laugh like life is every bit as fun as it was intended to be. 

Ann beside the Raindrop

I am thankful for an afternoon spent with Emma and her dad at Albert Dyke Park, where I got to watch Emma doing what she loves best - swimming - and tossing her stick for her to retrieve.  At nearly ten, she is still going strong, albeit with a few more aches and pains.   I forgot to take my camera that day, but here's one her dad sent to me this summer of her having some water fun.

Emma having fun!

I am thankful I have enough money for some retail therapy at my favourite Abbotsford thrift store for clean quality near-new clothes (seven new-to-me  tops and a pair of pants for under $25!) and still enough money left over for the ferry ride home.  And thankful for the drop in the price of gas - $1.14/litre after months of it being in the 1.30s.    There is a Gas Goddess. 

I'm thankful for the people who have entered my life - who have mentored me, loved me, and helped me to grow - those who have passed and those who are still part of my circle of love. I would not be who I am without them.

I am thankful for reputable rescues that have helped so many local critters, like Hearts on Noses Mini Pig Sanctuary where I am headed today.  I am especially thankful for the long line of critters who found their way to my home. My life has been so much richer for it.

And yes, Excitable Anxious Annoying Eddie, I am even thankful for you.

Annoying?  Who Me?  

And, of course, I'm thankful I live in a beautiful place, in relative peace and safety,  unlike millions who live in poverty, in war, in terror.  I live in just a small part of a very big universe, but I am thankful to live in the very best part.

I am thankful.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A friend's last gift

There are some blog entries that are easier to write than others.  Some pour forth onto the screen without thought or pause.  But some come in dribs and drabs – a phrase, an emotion, an image that fills the head and laboriously makes its way to the keyboard, swimming through eyes full of tears.  This is one of the latter kind.  My dear friend Bonnie, mom to Irish Wolfhound Keaghan,  passed away this week. 

October 13, 1950 - September 30, 2014
May we meet again on the other side

I first met Bonnie and Bob and their three beautiful wolfhounds Blue, Mara and Draeanne, on a visit to Crofton about seven or eight years ago.  My friend Else invited me on a dogwalk at Swallowfield with ‘a bunch of dogs and dog people’ and how could I refuse such an invite? It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

Bonnie and Bob
on one of our first hikes together

For the next several years, we all hiked together often.  And during those years, together we grieved the deaths of dogs, friends, and family. Bonnie and Bob lost Blue and Mara.   Together, too,  we celebrated the addition of animals to our circle - of Keaghan to Bonnie and Bob's family in November 2012, and Eddie and Mitzi to mine not long after.

Bonnie's favourite photo of
a young Keaghan and his fur sister Draeanne
Bonnie, Draeanne and Keaghan
hiking Bonnie and Bob's favourite trail

Then, in September 2013, Bob died of a heart attack,  and in December Draeanne passed away.  Bonnie and I, both without human family nearby and with only a small circle of close friends, spent more and more time together. We walked Eddie and Keaghan, sharing a similar love of the outdoors, of hilly trails and valley vistas, talking quietly as we rested, or laughing loudly as pants snagged on fallen logs or boots squelched in unnoticed puddles.

Greeting riders atop Richard's Mountain
Bonnie was a fine horsewoman in the
years before I knew her.
Keaghan and Bonnie
at Swallowfield 
Swallowfield on a cold winter's day
Bonnie and Eddie enjoy a moment together
at Crofton Lake this spring
One of our last hikes together.
Bonnie on her favourite perch,
gazing over the valley below
And then this spring, Bonnie fell ill.  Hiking became harder, breathing labored, and she was diagnosed with pneumonia.  She didn’t get better, grew decidedly worse, and just a month ago that diagnosis changed to one of suspected cancer.  Two weeks ago today, I took her to the hospital in Victoria for more tests, and the results led to her immediately being admitted.  Advanced, aggressive cancer - that killer which all the medical knowledge in the world just can’t seem to beat. 

The end came quickly.  Early Tuesday morning the doctor phoned to let me know she had slipped into a coma.  I left almost immediately, yet by the time I reached the hospital, she had passed away. 

In less than thirteen months, two year old Keaghan lost his whole family – his dad, his fur sister, his mom. And I had lost a very dear friend.

Misty view from 'Bonnie's spot'
on the mountain.
It will always be special to me.
Bonnie gave me many priceless gifts – the gift of friendship, companionship, a listening ear, a favourite hiking spot, a love for a breed I’d never met before. 

But she gave me one other gift during these last few weeks.  She taught me about compassion and caring at the end of life.  A year ago this week, it was my mom who lay dying, and I was not able to be there for her, either physically or emotionally.  It has always bothered me that I did not make that trip, help my family and friends with those last responsibilities, hold mom’s hand those final days.   The guilt, the feeling that I let my mom down, has plagued me for a year. 

With Bonnie, I was able to do those things, to take her to appointments, to sit with her at the hospital, to help her with personal matters, to take care of the ‘business of dying’ just before and even after death. 

This whole past month, I have felt I wasn’t just doing it for Bonnie, I was also doing it for Mom.  And I found a strength I didn’t know I had.  

Thank you, Bonnie, for accepting my help graciously, for trusting me to take care of things for you, for giving me what I could not give myself - the peace that comes with letting go of guilt.  That was the greatest gift of all.  

My friend, my hiking buddy, my sharer-of-wine-and laughter-and-tears, I shall miss you so very, very much.

"The Kiss"
Bonnie and Draeanne, 2013.

Keaghan is currently being fostered by a wonderful couple up island, who have another wolfhound and decades of wolfhound experience.  His future is secure, under the terms of Bonnie's will, and I will update you on him in a later post. He is doing well, and I am sure Bonnie's spirit touched him as it flew towards Bob, Blue, Mara, Draeanne,  and a host of other dogs awaiting her at the Bridge. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shine on, shine on harvest moon....

The moon was just rising over the bay as Shiloh and I took our evening walk, flooding the waters with its deep orange light.  I didn't have the camera with me, so walked back to the house as quickly as is possible with a sixteen year old sheltie out for a sniffy stroll. I knew as it rose, the colour would fade.

[Shiloh:  You dragged me back to the house, mom. You dragged me!]

I grabbed both cameras, hopped in the car, raced the short distance to the beach, and began shooting.  There was a steady stream of other people arriving with the same thought in mind - to watch the moon and/or to photograph it - and the headlights of their vehicles made the lighting inconsistent.  I've never had any luck with moon shots - they are either blurry or look like a pinpoint a zillion miles away.  So I just kept changing settings, hoping to get something worth posting.  I have no idea which settings did the trick, but I'm pretty happy with the results - especially as I forgot to grab the tripod.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Come On-A My Pad

Come on-a my pad, my pad a come on,
Come on-a my pad, my pad a come on,
Come on-a my pad, my pad, I'm gonna give you tasty bugs,
Come on-a my pad, my pad, I'm gonna give you everything.
(with apologies to Ross Bagdassarian and William Saroyan, writers of
'Come on-a my house', 1939, made famous by Rosemary Clooney, 1961) 

Eddie and I hiked up to Crofton Lake early yesterday morning with our friends Liz and Sasha. A couple of months ago the lake was full of exceptionally large bullfrog tadpoles - an invasive species here - madly swimming everywhere.

Today, the shore and lily pads and reeds were covered with what I assume were baby bullfrogs.  Frogs everywhere!  When Sasha waded into the water for a drink, dozens hopped and splashed their way to safety, but within seconds began clambering back out onto their lily pads.

I only had my little pocket camera with a tired battery, so the photos aren't the best, but the combination of the yellow green of lily pads in fall, the newly refreshed reeds and flowers, and the beautiful blues and greens of the lake, made the area difficult to leave.

Frog among the reeds

Crofton Lake looking north west

Leaf us alone!

Frog on a log

Eddie declined to go in the water, but Sasha enjoyed a wade and a drink:

Across the lake, we could just see the four or five purple martin boxes that have been placed on the trees in the water by the Western Purple Martin Recovery Program, in an attempt to help revive this at-risk species.  Happily,  a pair raised four young here this year, and in the nest boxes on the marine pilings along the Crofton shoreline five more pairs successfully raised 21 young, all of which are now banded.
Purple Martin Boxes

A few more shots of frogs and scenery .... 

More aphids than frogs!

Crofton Lake looking west

Pink or Douglas Spiraea, I think, aka hardhack

Are you finished?

....and it was time to head home.  Enroute, we stopped to look at this beautiful yellow and black caterpillar - a lophocampa maculata, which will hibernate for the winter and next spring turn into a less beautiful Spotted Tussock moth .

Fuzzy lemon and black caterpillar

It was a beautiful morning for a walk to the lake - sunny but cool, a perfect fall day. 
Crofton Lake, south end.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance?

This weekend, our friend Deb (whose wonderful collie Riley spent time with us before passing away earlier this year) was on the island.  She brought with her the latest addition to her family - Lily, a four month old cocker spaniel.  Eddie and I met up with them at Transfer Beach Park in Ladysmith.  I wasn't sure how eleven year old Eddie would do with a puppy, but Lily and Eddie were quite taken with each other.  In fact, Eddie decided to teach Lily to dance - at least, that's what it looks like in the photos Deb sent me (because yours truly forgot her camera!!!  Duh!):

So, what're we gonna do?

Lily:  Do you think you could teach me to dance?

Sure!  I'm the boy and yer the girl.
So I get to lead.
Lily:  WHAT? !!! 

Or we could do some line dancing
or a jig side by side.  Put yer paws like this...

Right paw forward, step step step

Move to the left, step step step

Oops - other left!  

There!  Now we got it!

I'm pooped.
Take a bow.  

(All photos by Deb Strong.  Used with permission).