Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Allie, in fields of catnip

Yesterday, Allie made her final meow and headed off to the Rainbow Bridge.  A few days ago, she took to staying hidden under her blanket, occasionally eating or drinking a little if I took it to her, and seldom using her litter box.  I suspected she had slipped into the fourth and final stage of the kidney disease with which she was diagnosed well over a year ago.

Our mobile vet, who has looked after all my animals for most of my time on the island, sedated my Wild Child in order to examine her, and determined that her kidneys had atrophied to the size of peas and, of great significance, her temperature was well below normal.  The conclusion was that her organs were shutting down and at most she had a few more days.  As she was already sedated, I chose to have the vet help her pass right then.   She slipped away without stirring.

I adopted Allie from the Abbotsford SPCA back in 2001.  She wasn't much more than a kitten at that time - perhaps five or six months old - but she soon let the dogs know who was boss.  Her favourite trick throughout her lifetime (and the lifetimes of at least a dozen or more adopted and fostered dogs with whom she shared our house) was to hide behind a piece of furniture or crouch on the arm of the sofa and wait for a dog to nonchalantly saunter past, then - whooop - swat said dog right on the rump with her not-so-gentle paws!

We all know who's the boss around here!

When we first adopted her, we lived on acreage where field mice occasionally found there way into the house.  Allie liked mice - she liked to play with them, swatting them this way and that.  But she never killed them.  It would be up to me to try to get them away from Allie and banish them from our residence.  One time, she chased a mouse up onto the washer, then swatted it down to my dog Charley who was standing below.  Charley promptly plopped her furry collie cross body down right on top of the terrified mouse and held it there while I reached under to grab it.  Great tag team those two made!

Caleb, my pitty cross, almost got the better of Allie, as his strong prey drive and her rather slight size were not a good match.  Adding a door to the foot of the stairs, and a cat door in the people door, allowed Allie to race up to the attic where she had a huge area to run and play and a chair to scratch and toys to toss.  Caleb sometimes stuck his head in the cat door, looking miserably up the stairs, and willing her to walk right into his mouth.  It took three months of constant management before the two could safely be in the same room without Caleb being off leash or out of his crate. A few sharp swats of Allie's claws on Caleb's butt or face, and he eventually learned to give her space.  They were never left together when I wasn't right there with them, but they did learn to have a healthy respect for each other. 
Respect me, or else! 

Allie could never be described as a 'sweet' cat - she was a petite and pretty torti with a lovely peach patch under her chin which she liked me to stroke (on her own terms, of course), but she was not a warm-and-fuzzy lapcat by any means.  Fifteen minutes of lap time in the morning, possibly a bit more at night and that was quite enough for her thank you.  Oh....except for when I was at my computer.  Then she was on my lap constantly - blocking my view, stepping on keys, 'helping' compose blogs.

Hey mom, let's write about how stoopid dogs are!

An inside-only cat all her life, she didn't seem to mind at all.  She had lots of interactive toys,  interesting birds to watch through the window, and, of course, dogs to torment.  One of the very few times she slipped out - shortly after we moved to the island - she hopped over the fence and right into the yard of a neighbour's three barking, cat-chasing dachshunds.  Never have I seen a cat fly back over a five foot fence and in through the patio door so quickly!  I think that cured her of any wanderlust. 

Oh, look, a birdie! 

She had a big personality, a powerful self-confidence, an unpredictable response to those who might try to befriend her - or to examine her.  She drew blood from more than one veterinarian or vet tech.  The critters at the Rainbow Bridge won't know what hit them!

As long as they don't try to dress me up in silly costumes - and remember that cats rule -
we'll get along fine! 

But perhaps the Bridge will mellow her.  I hope she is, as a friend wrote on my facebook page,  "in sunlit meadows of catnip, with dancing butterflies to caper after."

Run free, Allie.  You kept me on my toes for nigh on 18 years.  My home won't be the same without you.

Aren't I sweet?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Just putting these here.... you don't think I've moved to another planet.  I haven't finished selecting and editing the Saratoga photos (though I've whittled the 400 or so down to about 40), and I've been busy getting ready for the move (9 more sleeps), and Allie is not doing well right now (kidney failure, may be in final stage now), but I did pop over to a friend's place for a Thanksgiving lunch (Pat and the Poms - they served a stew baked inside a pumpkin that was both seasonal and delicious!) and spent an hour photographing Parker, the newest addition to their family.  Since those photos weren't as numerous and really didn't need any editing, I'll post them here to give you something to look at while you have your morning coffee. 

And in case you wondered what that stew-in-a-pumpkin looked like, here it is:

I'm very thankful for friends like Pat, who make me laugh, listen to me babble on about moving, come on mini vacations with me, hike with me, and share my love of dogs.....oh, and feed me great food and send me home with leftovers!  Thanks, Pat.

And I'm thankful for my blog readers, who tolerate my long absences and who give me a welcoming audience for my stories and photos.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Flying through the sunrise

I had a lovely mini-vacation at Saratoga Beach here on Vancouver Island last week.  Maggie and I were up early to walk the beach at sunrise each day.  With the upcoming move, I've had little time to edit the several hundred photos I took, so here is a little teaser of our mornings watching birds fly through the sunrise.  Will try to post more in a few days:

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Never too old for a walk on the beach

I've loved the beach since the time I was small.  Beaches have always been a part of my life, and to this day remain my favourite place to be.  Not the hot and crowded beaches that require an airplane trip to a fancy resort, nor even the popular beaches in cities in this southwestern corner of BC.  I like the empty beaches, the interesting beaches, the rocky and squishy and barnacled beaches with tidal pools and sudden stretches of sand and washed up logs and sea life.

Beaches were as much a part of my childhood as digital technology is for kids today.  First there were the beach holidays with my grandparents, parents and siblings in England when I was a wee one:

Mom and me, many years ago

Me, about age four

Then, the move to Canada to a small seaside town brought beaches into my daily life - the beach became my adventure playground.  Riding bikes to the beach, walking through woods to the beach, stopping to spend allowance on a rainbow popsicle at the corner store, or splurging on a portion of fresh fish and chips, eaten to the accompaniment of a throng of seagulls while sitting on a log or a sand-covered towel on the beach. Picnics on the beach with my mom, siblings, and sometimes my dad, or sharing secrets and laughter with friends, first kisses, silly games.  Beaches were, and remain, my favourite place to be.

For a few years of my adulthood I lived in Alberta and then the Northwest Territories, but always the ocean called me home. 

Beaches are to me what comfort food is to many - they bring back the best of memories, of family and friends, of love and peace and tranquility.  If I have one wish for my senior years, it is that I never grow too old for a walk on the beach, preferably with a dog by my side and a camera in my hand.

Maggie and me, Crofton Beach

One month today, I move from this small beachside village to a somewhat bigger beachside city.  But before I get serious about packing, Maggie and I (and Pat and the poms) are taking a little vacation - to a beach, of course - the one Maggie fell in love with last spring.  See you in a few days!

Beach time! 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Still here....

I don't remember moving ever requiring so much work to organize - and I'm not even doing my own packing!  Stuff to sell, stuff to buy, movers to arrange (done), painters to hire (done), appointments to keep, hydro, phone, water meter, post office, friends, medical people, etc etc etc. 

But amidst it all, I still find time to hike, and walk, and to enjoy beautiful sunrises - like this one, taken from my back door as I let the dog out the other morning. 

I will miss seeing those sunrises before the coffee has even finished brewing.  Have to walk a block or two at the new place to see them.

Enjoy the day!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Some people buy shoes....

September is here, and that means it's my birthday.  Some people buy themselves a little gift - a pair of shoes, a new shirt or maybe just some chocolates.  Me? I go big!  I bought myself a new home! 

Yesterday, we removed the last of the subjects from both the sale of this home and the purchase of my new one, so I start this month with a long, long list of things to do.  The whole process - from listing to selling to buying to clearing subjects - took just ten days.  It is a hot market here. Moving day is just six weeks away.

I highly recommend this young man if you are thinking of
buying or selling on the island.
Motivated, great marketing skills, stays calm under pressure
(even when his client isn't!) 

I'll explain more about why and where in another post, but Maggie will give you this hint for now - no, it's not Saratoga (her all-time favourite beach where we went last spring), but it's only an hour from there, and our new home is just two blocks from her second favourite beach.

This was two weeks ago, at the peak of vacation season -
lots of space on the beach!

Some people buy shoes for their birthday, I buy myself a home near a big sandy beach for my dog.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Frog friends and their habitat

Maggie and I have been very, very busy this week, and will have Big News to share with you very soon. But while you are waiting, here are some more of our froggy friends at Hemer Park, and a waterlily flower that decorates their home:

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Remembering Soda

Back in June 2007, when I was renting a very old farm house with a dilapidated  old barn on 5 acres of land, my friend Janice asked if I could foster two potbellied pigs that her sanctuary, Hearts on Noses, had been asked to take in.  The sanctuary was full, but my barn wasn't  - I had four dogs, a cat, and an alpaca, none of whom lived in the barn.  And I had grown to love piggies from my work at her sanctuary and another. So I said yes.

The pigs were part of an SPCA seizure, and they were in pretty bad shape - vastly overweight, living knee deep in filth in a crate barely large enough for two small dogs.  I have never forgotten the moment they waddled out of the trailer onto the green grass of my farm, and immediately began stretching and bowing and oofing (their happy noise) and kneading the lawn as they experienced freedom for what may have been the first time: 

First day at the farm

I named them Scotch and Soda.  Scotch was mellow, smooth, and leaves the mouth with an mmmmmmmmm smile. Soda was effervescent – I wouldn’t say bubbly but certainly she had “oomph” and attitude, with that sharp little edge of an unsweetened drink.  

Unbeknownst to us - or the the SPCA - Soda was already pregnant, and within just a few weeks she gave birth to twelve babies.  Sadly, one was stillborn and one died within a day or two, but the remaining ten were healthy and strong and so my two foster piggies became twelve foster piggies.  They lived with me for nearly two years, until I retired and moved away (as Janice had known I was going to do), and then the whole family moved to the sanctuary.

Newborn piglets

This Monday evening, Janice contacted me with the sad news that Soda had suddenly passed away.  She had been off her food a few days earlier, but seemed to bounce back, and then suddenly she was gone. Scotch and Soda were full grown when they came to us, which means they were likely 5 years old or more.  That would make Soda at least 16 at her passing . Her piggy family were with her in their cosy cabin at her passing, then they came outside. But when two of the volunteers went  into her pighouse to say their goodbyes, they found Scotch back  in there with her, straw on his nose where he had been rooting at her side, giving those nudges he was so prone to give to those he loved most.

Scotch and Soda 2007

Scotch and Soda were a truly bonded couple.  On the night that I separated Scotch and Soda for what was likely the first time in their lives – the separation being necessitated by Soda’s imminent piggybirth – I sat in the stall with Scotch and watched big wet tears silently slide down his cheeks. I sang him his favourite song and slowly the tears stopped and he lay there not understanding why his bunkmate wasn’t at his side. He was lonely and very sad. 

The next day I bought him a Soda-sized teddy bear and tucked it along side him, and he slept that way for several nights. One morning, I came in to find Teddy lying with his face in the water dish on the other side of the stall, nose and mouth immersed in water. To this day, I’m not sure if Scotch thought Teddy might be thirsty, or if he was trying to tell me a stuffed bear was no subsitute for his Soda.  Fortunately it wasn’t long before I was able to integrate Soda and the babies back into the main stall.

Scotch, Soda, and one of the kids.

Soda was a character - I'm quite sure Ms Piggy was her hero, and those that created the Muppet's character certainly captured the personality of a female pig, especially a female pig at that time of her cycle (which is every 21 days).  PMS is not just confined to humans!

Soda was bossy, pushy, funny,  sweet, bitchy, and one cool pig. In describing porcine communication, I once said:
Soda is the queen of the nasty noises: “arf, arf, arf” means “I’m pissed off,” and a very loud, very deep, very rude sound that is reminiscent of what happens when some people eat too many beans. It clearly means “I’m really, really mad at you, now BACK OFF YOU *&%%%”. This is accompanied by a facing off and a hard shove on the leg with the snout. It isn’t just [pig] verbal communication that amazes me but also the nonverbal communication of their emotions. Scotch arches his back downward, stretches out full length, raises his snoutie, and kneads the ground in pleasure every time he is let out into the big yard. Soda, I swear, tosses her head in the classic Ms Piggy move and with an exaggerated swivel of the hips, saunters past me with the message “I am QUEEN. Out of my way, peon!”. 

Soda loved food (okay, what pig doesn't) - but she had a knack for helping herself that surpassed all the others.  I still suspect her of instigating the Great Barn Raid back when the piggies were just little ones, though the piglets wrote the apology letter.  You can read it here.  Even after she moved to the sanctuary, she still found ways to steal a snack:

Soda helping herself from the feed bucket
as it was being prepared for the dinner rounds

And she was also the best mudwallow builder.  While Scotch would knock over water bowls, Soda would heave herself underneath the side of their kiddy pool and dump the whole thing onto the ground. She loved her mudbaths! 

Queen of the mudpacks

In recent years, when I visited Scotch and Soda and family at the sanctuary, I found it hard to tell Soda apart from her only daughter, Lizzie.  Soda never looked like an old pig (must be all those mudpacks!), and her daughter, now eleven years old, looks a lot like her.  It was a lot easier to tell them apart when I was fostering! 

Soda chats with daughter Lizzie, age three months.

Soda and Lizzie  November 2007

Fostering Scotch and Soda and their babies was one of the highlights of my life.  There wasn't a day without laughter, a day without amazement, a day without feeling great love for those funny, oh-so-smart, somewhat cheeky pigs.  And seldom a day with challenges! But Soda was the best mama ever.

Thank you, Janice, for entrusting me with her all those years ago, and thank you for loving her for so many years. My heart goes out to Scotch, who has lost his lifelong mate, and to Whisper, Toddy, Derby, Rickey, Swizzle, Spritzer, RobRoy, Fizzy, Tom and Lizzie, who have lost their piggy mama.  I am thankful they have their human mama to help them through the grief. 

You were a good, good pig, Soda.  You'll find your two tiny lost babies at the Rainbow Bridge, as well as so many sanctuary friends to play with and to boss around until the rest of your family joins you. And I'm betting there are lots of good muddy wallows and fresh green grass at there too.   Run free, sweet funny feisty girl.  You were greatly loved. 

Foster Mama

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Spectacle Lake

Well, I have five blog posts in various stages of development and don't have the energy to complete any of them tonight, so instead I'll post some photos I just put up on facebook of today's hike around Spectacle Lake.

Spectacle Lake is near the summit of the Malahat, the highest point between the Cowichan Valley and Victoria. It is shaped like a pair of spectacles (think the clip on variety of sunglasses), and has a loop trail of around 2 km, plus several side trails.  The first half is very well groomed, easy walking;  the second half is more rugged with numerous roots and stones and a need for careful footing.  I would rate this an easy hike, but it is not for those who need walkers or wheelchairs.

We took our friend Pat with us (but no poms this time, as Cosmo had a sore leg, and Lexi doesn't like hiking). 
Auntie Pat, people will think you traded in the poms for a sheltie! 

I almost titled this post "Maggie's at the Bridge", because of this photo, but thought
some of my readers might not forgive me for scaring them! 

There is beautiful scenery, and even on this Sunday summer's day (albeit an overcast one), it was very peaceful - we saw a handful of anglers, a couple of hikers, and a couple of swimmers/waders. 

We hiked the trail counter-clockwise, starting with the well groomed side.  We took several side trails to more closely explore the shoreline and to obtain different vantage points for viewing the lake.

Though there is wildlife in these forests, the only non-human, non-insect forms of wildlife we saw was this little junco, sitting on a rocky bluff looking out over the lake.  He seemed totally unperturbed by my intrusion.

Just past the narrow section of the spectacles, we came across five or six anglers at what was clearly the preferred fishing hole.  The lake is stocked with American Brown Trout, and even after weeks of very hot weather, the anglers were still eager to catch some.  Personally, I prefer my catches to be spring or fall, unless the lake is glacial.  Summer holidays are, of course, a great time for a parent and child to bond over the art of fishing though, and I'm sure this boy and his dad are making great memories.

This next angler, though, just made me see red - fire red. 

What part of "Extreme Fire Hazard - No Smoking!" doesn't he understand? 
The park is marked with a large red and yellow "Extreme Fire Hazard" sign along with warnings that campfires and smoking are prohibited at this time.  The island, and the rest of the province, is burning up with person-caused and lightening-caused fires right now, and the forest floors are tinder dry.  Yet this guy felt the rules didn't apply to him, and calmly sat there smoking while he fished.  Sure, he's next to the lake - but that is extremely dry duff behind him, and if he grabs his pole with a thrashing fish on it, that cigarette might go flying into the duff.  Poof - in less than a second, the fire races uphill.  I think he saw me watching and photographing him, for the cigarette disappeared and he didn't light up again while we were observing.  Sadly, the shoreline in this area was littered with dozens of fresh butts (likely all from that morning, as there had been rain the day before) - showing not only an angler-induced fire hazard, but a disrespect for the environment.  The filters contain plastic which has been shown to harm fish and other water creatures.

But enough of that rant.  The angler out in a float tube made for a pretty picture, as did a young woman wading in water.

A few more stops to admire the view and take some photos,

Or rest a bit, if you're a dog:

and soon we were heading back along the top edge of the spectacles and back to the little beach area where we had our pick of the three picnic tables to eat our lunch while admiring the view.

A good hike, short but with enough variation of scenery and terrain to refresh the mind, body, and spirit.  Thanks for joining us.