Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Driving Ms. Jemmi

Today I transported a young mixed breed dog from the animal control facility in Chilliwack to a vet in the big city, where she will be spayed, vet checked, and microchipped before heading to a foster home. In her foster home Jemmi will learn some social manners and get some much needed loving while Bully Buddies search for a forever home for her.

Jemmi is a sweetheart, an absolutely beautiful chocolate brown girl with a white chest and some white tippy toes, about five months old. I don’t know her story, but she is no doubt another product of unplanned breeding or a backyard breeder, likely sold to the first person who showed the breeder the money, a person who knew nothing about raising a pup and didn’t care enough to search for it when it wandered off or who surrendered it because they didn’t realize it would be such a handful.

Jems rode calmly behind the barrier in the car, looking out inquisitively but making no noises. I forgot puppies need to chew and I left the rope toys at home, so she decided chewing on her leash was a good alternative. That leash won’t be much good any more. Silly dog!

There are times when I look into a dog’s eyes and wish so much that I could offer it a home. But part of being an effective animal advocate is recognizing one’s limitations, knowing one’s strengths, and knowing when to say “no” and when to say “I can help with that”. Rescuers do the animals in their care no favour when they take on more than they can physically or financially or emotionally handle.

Yet every time I transport a dog from one place to another, or do a homecheck, or help with a fundraiser, or support a rescue with a donation, I know that it is just a tiny drop of help in an endless waterfall of need.

The need is threefold – a need for many, many volunteers to help with the care of these great animals who have been tossed aside by those who should be responsible for them, a need for donations to pay for the vet care and feed and other expenses accrued by those who rescue and shelter unwanted animals, and a need for an educated population that not only spay and neuter their own pets and make a lifetime commitment to them, but also challenge others to do the same. As the old saying goes, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Chilliwack Animal Control could tell you about that endless waterfall – they are chock full almost constantly, located in an area where the population seems to think it is okay to let dogs run loose, to let them breed indiscriminately, to give them up when they don’t feel like looking after them. And the problems are exacerbated by city folk who figure if they dump their dogs by the highway out in the country, some good hearted farmer will take them in.

Tonight there is a little three legged poodle at CAC, wondering what he did wrong. And there is a lab/chow pup named Dozer who has been there a long time and is growing up in a place that was never meant for raising pups. And there are fifteen others, all sizes, all ages, waiting for their homes. All dogs that someone once thought were cute and sweet and loveable, and then threw away.

For every Jemmi sitting in a shelter, for every old dog abandoned by her people, for every young pup dumped by the side of the road, for every cat and rabbit and bird and llama and pig and reptile whose owners reneged on their commitment – please find a way to help. No matter how small a part you can play, every bit helps. These living, feeling, thinking critters are all part of our world. We humans are stewards of the earth and as such, we have an obligation to protect and help those in need. Just look into Jemmi’s eyes and tell me any differently.

And Jemmi is one of the lucky ones.

The Great Peanut Scramble

When the weather is cold, damp and drizzly, the piggies like to stay huddled in their stall in the barn and sleep all day and all night. I’m a little obsessive about making sure they all get outside and walk around a bit at least once a day, so routinely feed their greens outside no matter what the weather.

But day before yesterday was torrential rain, and yesterday was cold and damp, and so they had pretty much just gone out to eat and headed right back to bed.

I recently switched their bedding from the warmer straw I use in winter to the lighter hay for summer, as straw became harder and harder to find and rose to $18 a bale. I did give them extra wool blankets (donations of old wool blankets gratefully accepted!!! Or straw, for that matter!), but I’m quite sure they were sulking heartily and muttering to each other: "What's up with this hay in our bed? Where is our nice soft, warm straw?" "Mumble, mumble, I'm cold." "Papa, doesn't Foster Mama love us any more?""Quit hogging the blankets, you pig!"

So this morning, another rainy cold morning, I decided to force the issue of getting outside. This served a twofold purpose: it gave them some much-needed exercise and gave me time to refresh the hay and fluff the blankets (while my own bed remained unmade, I might add).

And so, armed with a container full of peanuts in the shell and small biscuits, I traipsed through the lower field of winter grass and mud and piggy-excavated caves, and scattered goodies for them to find. I felt rather like the Easter bunny hiding eggs for little children – not so hard that they can’t find them, but hard enough to present a challenge and keep them out of my hair for a while.

And then I let the piggies out of the barn, tossing a few more peanuts across the field to get them started. What a hoot!!! As soon as they realized that the field had grown peanuts and biscuits overnight they were quivering with excitement as they tore around to see who could find the most. Even Mama Soda and Papa Scotch got into the game. Nearly an hour later, they are still all outside, checking to see if there are any more hidden treasures to be found. I think I better search for a good deal on bulk peanuts!

Great little hunters!

"I gots it!!!"

"It's mine!" "No, it's mine!"

"Foster Mama, can you help me????"

Persistence pays off

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rainy Day Blahs

My good intentions to finish off a garden area and to thoroughly rake and clean the pigs yard today flew out the window when I woke up to pouring (and I mean pouring!) rain this morning.

You'd think I would easily just move on to one of the other tasks either inside the barn or in the house. But no, it is just that sort of day when nothing much gets done and my body and brain seem too tired to function.

Of course, that could be attributed to a poor night's sleep because a certain cat kept trying to sleep wherever my lower back or knees wanted to be, and a certain sheltie kept getting up and sighing and hawwing and humming as she tried to make up her mind which of the many beds and crates to sleep in. Sometimes there is more activity in this house at night than in a shopping mall the day before Christmas.

I did attempt to make some cookies today. I'm sure the piggies will be happy because they will be the beneficiaries of my not-so-successful attempt. I have been craving peanut butter cookies for a few weeks now and have a ton of peanut butter to use up; peanut butter is not something I eat often, and when I do want it, it has to be FRESH - so I end up with a lot of half-full jars in the cupboard.

So today I decided to make peanut butter cookies. I found a recipe which made use of a lot of bits and pieces in my cupboard (molasses, peanut butter, seeds and nuts, unbleached flour) and didn't require anything I didn't already have. Problem is, I think the recipe called for 'way too much molasses, because that is the ONLY thing I can taste - it is overpowering. And not very pleasant. And there's no flavour of peanut butter at all. But I know a dozen piggies that love molasses and love cookies so they won't go to waste.

Meanwhile, I'm invited out for dinner tonight and have nothing to take for the hosts since I was going to take a container of fresh homemade cookies. And I'm too lazy today to go find anything original or to make some other cookies. And I still have to clean up the dishes and messy kitchen, the result of making "molasses-with-untasteable-peanut-butter" cookies.

So instead I'll post a picture I took in my garden yesterday, cheer everyone up with these beautiful blossoms on old wood, and dedicate it to my dinner hosts.

For you, Ann and Ken:

(And the blossoms are a lot less fattening than the cookies would be!)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sadie in the City

Sadie had her first visit to downtown Vancouver today, and met her ..cousin? niece? .....well, my daughter's newly-adopted dog, Becky. Becky is a very active senior, a beautiful girl who has a great big doggy smile.

Happy Becky

Sadie was on her best behaviour - I was so proud of her as she dealt with noisy traffic, tons of dogs and people, pavement and traffic signals and all the hustle and bustle of city living as if she'd been doing it all her life. She heeled beautifully on our walk, greeted dogs and adults and kids nicely. She is one rock solid dog and I am very blessed to have her in my life.
On the seawall

Becky seems much younger than her estimated 10-12 years. Age estimates for dogs in rescue/shelters are generally made on the basis of the condition of the teeth. But the amount of tartar and plaque can also be due to poor nutrition, so it's not a perfect measure. She certainly has lots of drive and energy and enthusiasm - reminded me a lot of Caleb's personality. Like Sadie, she also has a rock solid temperment and happily greeted other dogs and humans. She will be starting obedience classes on Wednesday, but she's already coming along nicely.

Sadie and Becky

We had a lovely walk through parks and along the seawall, and stopped for a latte at the outdoor tables that scattered the sidewalks. Shop owners had large stainless steel dishes of water conveniently placed for the canine customers.

Yuppy puppies at the bistro

Getting luvin'

One thing that quite astounded me was the incredible number of dog owners living right in the downtown core, the number of people out walking their nicely-mannered, healthy looking on-leash dogs, and (best of all) the miles and miles of great walking trails, green space, and designated dog areas right outside my daughter's condo. And hardly a dog turd to be seen! While I wouldn't trade my country life for anything, I think there's a lot of downtown dogs living a very good life with very caring, responsible owners!

Here's a couple more pictures from today:

Beautiful Becky

Sadie, Becky and boats

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The grass is always greener......

It was a warm - in fact, darn hot at times – sunny day so I spent most of my time outside doing repairs and gardening and building a new compost bin. My work was frequently interrupted by my need to “check on” the animals. Well, to be honest, they didn’t need checking on but I did need frequent “critter breaks” to maintain my sense of humour as I battled with weeds and hoses and rocks and tools and wood.

Apparently, certain animals think that the area they are in at any given time isn’t quite as good as the area just beyond their own particular barrier.

The dogs, who would have loved to spend the whole day in the pasture, settled for hanging around with me - mostly sitting right in the flowerbeds I was trying to work on. But we did have a couple of runs in the fields, where Belle pondered the neighbour's property and wondered if the grass might be greener:

Martin, after breakfast in his pen, asked to go into the pasture and then decided the lawn would be an even better choice.
"Lemme out please!"

"Outta here too, please!"

"Thanks, Mom, this grass is much greener!"

The piggies thought they should be on the lawn or in the pasture, rather than the pig yard. The piggies have a point. It has only taken a few short weeks to turn their enlarged pigyard into a rather sparse dirt yard. Hard to believe that if the pigyard had not been expanded, the brown area in this photo would be as green as the area behind it!

Poor piggies – they know a rip off when they see it! And some of them are quite persistant in their attempts to get that nice green blade of grass growing on the other side of the fence.

Martin loves to come in the back yard, especially just after the grass has been mowed. He likes to nibble the dandelions, which is just fine with me. So for a while, I put the dogs in the house, and let Martin into the yard. He wandered around, nibbling while I worked, until he had finally had his fill of dandelions and wandered back into the pasture through the open gate – where seconds later he was sound asleep in the sun:

He had a little nap and then for the next hour or so sat up watching me build the compost bin:

The pigs were pretty quiet, so I tiptoed around to see what they were up to. They, too, had exhausted themselves and were flaked out in the dirt:

I slipped into the house where the dogs were also sleeping. But one more critter was thinking the grass was greener on the other side:

Sorry Allie, but it’s a dangerous world out there for a little itty bitty kitty. You will live much longer, healthier, and happier just where you have always lived – indoors.

Friday, April 25, 2008

We gots watermelon!!!!

Our Auntie Ewwen came today, but she didn't has no gweens for us cuz the store had alweady given thems to sum one else. So she boughted us WATERMELON!!! That is even better than gweens. We luvs watermelon!!!!

Thank you, Auntie Ewwen. You is just the best Auntie (well, just as bestest as Auntie Janice the piggy lady who rescued us in the first place!).

We saw our Foster Mama sneak a piece of watermelon for herselfs. We didn't mind sharing, cuz she only tooks a bite. We didn't share wiv the dogs though cuz they would eat the WHOLE thing, we betcha.

Thanks Auntie Ewwen for the tweat!!

"Me, me, me!!!"

Snouties in the air

"Me next!!!"

Scotch's turn

"Got any more???"

"Hey, where's ours????"

"I wuv you, Auntie Ewwen!"

An' now we gotta go to bed, 'cuz we had a looong, busy day.

Luv, Scotch, Soda, Derby, Tom, Lizzie, Rob Roy, Fizz, Swizzle, Spritzer, Rickey, Whisper and Toddy.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Three Little Pigs - the REAL story

(with apologies to James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, who wrote the original version of the famous fictional children's story in 1843)

The three little pigs

Once upon a time there were three little piggies named Whisper, Rob Roy, and Fizz.

They were very smart little piggies. They knew that if they were in the barn by themselves, while their brothers and sister were out in the field, they would get extra treats from Foster Mama.

So every morning after all the pigs had eaten their grains and greens, they watched as their siblings wandered down to the bottom of the field. If any lagged behind, they would whisper “Ooooh, there are good things in that bottom field! I hear there might be some truffles buried down there, or hazelnuts, or even BANANAS!"( piggies LOVE bananas). Sometimes they would even escort the dawdling piglet half way down the slope.

And as soon as their seven siblings had their heads buried in the dirt and roots and winter straw, digging for the imaginary truffles, the three little piggies would slip quietly back into the barn just as Foster Mama was cleaning the stalls and putting away the feeding dishes and tidying up. They would put their cute little snouties through the slats in the stall, and look at Foster Mama expectantly. And they were never disappointed – out came the very special, extra yummy, only-get-a-few, really-really-really-good biscuits.

Silently they ate their treat, so not to attract the attention of their siblings with any munching or squealing. And when it was done, they licked their lips and with a smirk on their faces scampered back out of the barn to join their family. And that is the real story of the three little pigs. The End.

Epilogue: Whisper, Rob Roy and Fizzy have been doing this ever since the pig yard was enlarged and the spring weather arrived. However, I think the gig is up. Today, perhaps because of the rain (piggies HATE rain), Derby and Toddy came back to the barn and caught them in the act.

Immediately, the intruders shouted to all the others: “HEEEYYYYYY EVERYBODY! IT’S TREAT TIME!!!” And to me they said, “No fair, Foster Mama, you’re not supposed to play favourites!” And to their three spoiled siblings, “You’ve been sucking up to Foster Mama since the day you were born!!!”

And Derby and Toddy are right – those three, Whisper, Rob Roy and Fizzy, were the first to bond with me, the first to allow belly rubs, and the first to catch on to the fact that 'Foster Mama equals food'.

But like all good parents, I mustn't play favourites. So I guess I better find a way to clean the stalls with all 10 piglets in there, ‘cuz I have a feeling my few morning moments with the sweet scheming trio are now a thing of the past.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The papers are graded, the exams are all marked, the final grades are calculated and submitted....
I am F I N I S H E D!!!!!!!! My semester is O V E R!

(And no, for those of you not familiar with academia, I don't get four months of summer holidays. The next 6-8 weeks are professional development time - to catch up on those endless professional journals, revise curriculum, review new textbooks, become familiar with new technology, etc. Our holidays run from late June to mid-August, 40 working days in total - which sounds great if you are one of those who only get 2 or 3 weeks per year. But when you go flat out for 8 months - doing marking, prep, teaching, answered endless emails from students, holding office hours, giving up many evenings and weekends - well, that 40 days seems far too short!)

What I love about May and June is that it is totally unstructured time. And that means I can read when I feel like reading (academic material or for pleasure), work outside when I feel like working outside, ruthlessly clean out my files when I feel like being ruthless, and actually eliminate the piles of work on my desk without more piles appearing. And the critters think it is pretty cool too, 'cuz their mom works from home for the next four months and if she goes to the university at all, at least one of them gets to come along.

So my friends and family can expect to see me/hear from me a wee bit more frequently now. Especially if they issue a dinner invitation...hint, hint, hint.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Piggies build a cave!

The piggies have been very industrious the last couple of days, turning the big blackberry bush in the new part of their yard into their very own outdoor shelter. Just as kids will build tree forts, or put blankets over chairs to make a house, it appears that little piglets like to build their own special hideaways also.

And, just like kids, when mom (or Foster Mama, in this case) tries to sneak close for a candid picture, their radar is on full alert and the split second opportunity for an absolutely adorable image of them peeking out of the door is gone.

But nonetheless, cute piggies are cute piggies no matter what they are up to, so here are some of the images that made me smile the past couple of days:

Room for Two

"Wanna have a look, Foster Mama?"

"I'm so proud!!"

"Foster Mama, you're too BIG - you can't come in!"

Can three piglets fit?

Piggy play time

Serious face

Napping in the Sun

Straw Pig

Look how big they are getting!

"I need brushing!"

"You okay, bro?"