Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Becky visits the farm

My granddog Becky has been staying with me the last few days while my daughter and son-in-law take visiting relatives to the beautiful beaches of Tofino. Becky is a senior border collie/australian shepherd cross who was adopted this past April from Vancouver Animal Shelter.

Like any new parent, my daughter fretted about her baby and gave me a list of instructions for her care. Becky came with her vet records, her bed and blankie and favourite toy, her brush, her leash, her car seatbelt, a good supply of her food and treats, and her own set of "house rules" - the behaviours they expect of her and the commands she understands. Becky had visited me a few times already and so was familiar with the sights and sounds and smells of life on the farm and with my three dogs, and she settled right in.

Becky is such a great dog - more proof that rescue and shelter dogs, when carefully matched with potential applicants, are absolutely the best, best, best companion animals imaginable. And she is a wonderful house guest - she doesn't bark or whine, she comes when called, she only gets up on the couch or bed by invitation, she is respectful of the other animals (though the cat needs to learn not to race down the hall if she doesn't want to attract Becky's attention!), she loves a good game of fetch and she enjoys a cuddle.

She would like Grandma Jean to learn how to throw a frisbee properly (sorry Becks!) and Grandma Jean would like her to learn not to pull on the leash so much (ouch, my shoulder!).

Here's pics of my granddog during her visit this week:

Becky and Charley in the pasture

Martin's not the least perturbed by the quiet, sweet Becky

"I see you there, Grandma!"

"I'm ignoring yoouuuuuu!"

Happy Becky

Monday, July 28, 2008


One year ago today, I was on the phone to Janice from Hearts on Noses, saying "It's time! Number one....number two....number three......". My ten strong, healthy, cute little piglets were soon to take over my life. I'd never even seen ANYTHING being born before (even my own child was born by C-section back in the days when moms were put completely under for the surgery), and here I was at fifty-something years of age, a midwife, nurse, doctor, foster mama, and handmaiden to a litter of teeny, tiny babies.

And now it is one year later. The piglets are still strong, still healthy, still cute as can be. No longer babies, they are now officially youngsters - so instead of piglets I'll have to refer to them as "pigsters". We had a fun party today - just me and my piggies. The cuddly ones cuddled, the noisy ones squealed, the greedy ones pigged out, and they all had a great time.

Happy birthday Whisper, Toddy, Derby, Rickey, Swizzle, Spritzer, RobRoy, Lizzie, Fizz, and Tom. I love you all.

Then: Newborn piggies, July 28, 2007

Now: Family portrait, July 28, 2008

[Note: I challenge anyone to try to get a herd of 12 pigs to all sit together for a picture! Oh, and they look rather scruffy as they are shedding their coats, something pigs do once every year or so. Some are sporting red polka dots - the remains of livestock paint from their annual deworming session last week. As they get their dose, they are marked so we know who has been done and who hasn't.]

Then: Baby goes solo, July 29, 2007

Now: Looking for more cake! July 28,2007

Then: "I likes pablum!"

Now: "I likes ice cream!"

And some more shots from today:

The cake: Twelve single angel food cakes, with meringue "candles", held together with icecream and sprinkled with fresh local blueberries and raspberries.

Cleaning off the tray (my attempts to film the actual feasting was rather like filming in the middle of a tornado....the action was just too darn fast!)

Checking out the hat (That's Whisper, in the very first picture of this entry - hat perched firmly on his happily upraised bristles!)

Soda models the hat.

My sweet, sweet Whisper

Whisper gets a birthday kiss.

Father and son

Mother and daughter

"Thanks Foster Mama, that was fun!"

All tuckered out

G'nite, little pigsters. Sleep tight.

[For those who don't know the story of Scotch and Soda and their family, you can read about it here and here].

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Many Faces of Charley: My Laughing Girl

Laughing Girl Charley
Photo by Red Dog Photography

For the first nine or ten years of her life, I called Charley my "Eeyore Dog" because she most often plodded along with her head down, tail down, a sad "woe is me" expression on her face - so very reminiscent of my favourite A. A. Milne character, Eeyore, the donkey befriended by Winnie-the-Pooh.

The past couple of years, since moving to the farm, she has blossomed. In the past five months, since Sadie joined us, the change has been remarkable. Nearly every photo shows a happy, laughing girl with her ears up, head up, eyes bright. This is especially evident in the wonderful photos taken recently by Red Dog Photography. She is Eeyore Dog no more.

Here, then, are the many faces of Charley, my sweet Laughing Girl:

Happy Charley

Photo by Red Dog Photography

Relaxed Charley
Photo by Red Dog Photography

Adventuresome Charley

Photo by Red Dog Photography

Resting Charley

Photo by Red Dog Photography

Black and White Charley

Photo by Red Dog Photography

Observant Charley

Photo by Red Dog Photography

Coy Charley

Photo by Red Dog Photography

Pensive Charley

Photo by Red Dog Photography

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

'Bye, Tina, I'm gonna miss you!

Well, Tina the lab pup has gone home. The time went soooo fast! Puppies are rather like young grandkids, I expect - their boundless energy requires constant mental alertness and physical activity, and as much as they are loveable and bring joy and laughter to the household, it is somewhat of a relief to send them home to their parents. The silence in the house tonight - or rather, the stillness - is amazing.

Tina, you were a hoot. Anything you did "wrong" was all my fault - for leaving a sock where you could get it, or forgetting to close the bedroom door, or being so focused on my computer that I forgot you were in the house looking for things to do. Damage: one de-threaded carpet, two chewed up socks, one missing drawer knob, one chewed up bra, one trashed mini-blind, one leash chewed into two pieces...... and one broken heart as I say goodbye.

And what were the rewards? Ten days of fun, ten days of laughter and puppy cuddles and humungous paws thwacking at my arm, ten days of soft labby ears to stroke and big brown labby eyes to fall in love with, ten days of remembering the fun I had raising Emma....and a lifetime of warm fuzzies from a relationship forged with a pup.

For a five month old pup, Tina, you were a wonderful guest. I loved having you here. Come again soon.

Toddy's Tail, by Toddy

I is the only piggy in the herd who has a white tip on his tail. This is me wagging it in the water!

And THIS is my other tale:

Piggy Ponderings, by Toddy

Yeserday, we waz unner howz awwest!!! We didn’t gets to go in the pastooor alllll day. Foster Mama sez it is cuz SOMEPIGGY (wazn’t ME!!!) openeded the gate on Sunday. We jest went fru to clean ups the cherry pitz on the gwass. We waz bein’ helpfuls.

But Foster Mama was buzy doin’ papery work all day so didn’t fix the gate until de afernoon, when the big wite ‘paca named Martin waz already back in our pastooor. So then we hadta go to bed wivout any playtime in de big gween field. An’ we waz STARVIN’ cuz we didn’t get no gweens from out there, jest our boring ol’ piggy grains.

We skweemed and skweemed at Foster Mama evy time she came outdoors, but she just laffed at us an’ told us it served us rite an’ to stop bein’ so noisy. She waz not vewy nice yeserday.

We wrote to the Piggy Lady at Hearts on Noses and asked her to pwease tell Foster Mama she shud always, always, always, always lets us out in the pastoor and maybe in de back yard tooooooooo. Who else is gonna clean up those cherry pitz?

So today Foster Mama not only let us out inna pastoor but also brought us a big big box of mushy stwabewwies from the pwoduce peoples. We gobbleded them up. But SOMEPIGGY (not ME!!!!!) gobbleded too fast an' then he got sickies. Groooosssss!

An’ the dogs told us the pwoduce pwace also gaves us some peas in de pods an some sweet taters an some peppers an some cawwots an a GWEAT BIG WATERMELON!! We luvs watermelon. But the pwoduce pwace didn’t haz no lettuces leaves or beet tops or spinaches an’ we really like those so we hope maybe someone will find us some fer our BIRFDAYS WHICH IS COMIN’ UP REAL SOOOOON!!!!!! Peanuts an cookies an cake n icecweam an licorise an pasta an uver nummy stuff wud be goods too.

Luv, Toddy

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Who Let the Dogs Out?

I either have pigs that know how to open gates, a dog that knows how to open gates, or a gate/fencepost that has dried in the sun enough to change the fit between the bolt and post. The latter problem I can fix, the first two would be more challenging.

My daughter and son-in-law were here with their dog Becky for a while this afternoon. At one point, my daughter mentioned the gate to the pasture was open (the piggies were in the pasture, the dogs in the back yard) and she had closed it. I knew it HAD been closed as I’d been looking at the pigs over the gate just minutes before. But I thought perhaps as we leaned against the gate I had accidentally knocked the bolt loose.

I checked the gate again after they left - firmly shut. Then I went in the house with Belle, Sadie and (thank goodness!) our visiting lab pup Tina. Charley opted to stay outside a while longer, as she so often does.

About an hour later I figured it was time to go call the pigs back into their yard and feed them their dinner. As I opened the back door of the house imagine my amazement to see ….THIS:

Charley and the pigs, in the back yard, pasture gate wide open, pigs snacking on fallen cherries from the old tree by the gate, dog snuffling around trying to determine what they find so appetizing.

Thank goodness I have trained all my dogs to be calm and comfortable around pigs. And thank goodness the pigs therefore think the dogs are just funny looking pigs. And thank goodness there were cherries on the ground to keep those piggies busy or my whole back yard could have been rototilled by the time I noticed the problem.

I went through the barn, grabbing their feed dish and grain on the way, and from their own piggy yard called out “Piggypiggypiggy!” - their familiar dinnertime call. Sure enough, in one long line, they all raced back into the pasture, around the bend, through the pigyard gate and up the hill to the barn – racing stripes, goggles, and long neck scarves clearly visible to my imagination. Speedy pigs!

I counted them as they came through the gate. I always do. One, two, three, four......eleven, twelve, thirteen. Good.

Wait a minute! THIRTEEN???? What the heck? I have TEN piglets and TWO adult pigs. That's twelve!

And then I noticed…

Trotting along side the piggies, number eight or nine in the queue heading for dinner, was none other than Charley. My very own bordercollie pig.

Maybe it wasn’t a case of letting the pigs OUT. Maybe Charley just wanted to let herself IN.

Silly Charley.

Tomorrow’s agenda: fix bolt on gate. Until then, the piggies are in lockdown.

If they follow me home, can I keep them?

Yesterday, I needed to make a quick stop at the local pound to drop off some raffle tickets to a volunteer. Enroute, I found a lovely creamy coloured dog wandering down the side of the road – a golden retriever/lab cross I think. I slowed down but kept driving, and she came running after the car. After a couple of blocks, I stopped and opened the door to see if she had any tags and she literally flew right into my lap and hopped into the back of the vehicle as if she belonged to me.

I took her to the pound, where she was well known – yet another owner who would rather risk his dog becoming road kill and pay big bucks to get her out of the pound than contain his precious Peaches - GRRRR. But what a lovely girl!

The volunteer was just returning from walking Roper......flip flop goes my heart.....a senior border collie who was picked up as a stray a couple of weeks ago and no one claimed. Oh.... My....doG. What a sweet, sweet, sweet dog he is and so well behaved too! And he's good with other dogs and with cats. He’s a fairly small little guy (as border collies go), probably around 10-12 years old, with a matted coat and flaky skin that suggests the lack of a healthy diet or frequent grooming. And he has the calmest, gentlest, softest eyes that plead for some lovings. I just wanted to gather him up and bring him home!

And then there was Brazil – a Caleb look alike, not quite the same as the original but with the same basic features - muscled brindle body, eyes that melt the heart, sweet disposition but full of energy too. This beautiful girl will make someone a great pet.

The young and beautiful ones I don’t worry about – they will find homes. But Roper.....a senior......not looking his best.....oh, that one just breaks my heart. I wonder if there’s room to squeeze one more little old dog into this little old house?

I really must stop dropping by shelters!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tina's Tips for Home Management, Contemporary Decor, and Healthy Living

Tina, the neighbour's five month old lab who is staying with me while they enjoy a vacation with the grandparents, has two speeds - Fast Forward and Stop. Nothing in between.

She reminds me so much of my Emma - exact same colouring except for Tina's mascara-dark eyelashes and darker nose, same wiggle-butt happiness where everything in life is an adventure and everyone a potential friend. I'm thankful the owners crate-trained her; she is still learning that little arthritic dogs cannot be flattened with big labby paws and at least with the crate I can safely sleep at night.

Tina has a unique perspective on the world - she has very interesting ideas about what my home should look like and how one should live one's life. So here, with illustrations, are Tina's Tips:

Keep everything handy – toys, underwear, socks and teeshirts belong on the floor where you can grab them at a moment’s notice . If family members have put things in the hamper, make yourself useful by moving them closer to the washing machine:

That box that contains the new baby gate can keep the baby busy while you put the gate together:

And recycle the box! But remember, it’s best to tear the cardboard into little tiny pieces to reduce the space needed in the recycle bin:

Teeth can be used to open drawers if you lack opposable thumbs:

And the tongue is a useful tool for cleaning those tricky patio door frames:

Bathroom tissue makes an excellent floor runner. For quickest and best results, just grab one end and run with it until the roll is fully extended:

Add your personal touch to window coverings: I call these “White Trashed Mini-Blinds":

Walking on a freshly painted white picnic table with muddy paws makes for an interesting, unique, and personalized design:

Good fences make good neighbours :

Protect those things that bring you comfort:

Find a mentor to help guide your life's journey:

When life threatens to trip you up, slow down and think a bit :

Play hard:

Get plenty of rest.... matter where you are (just watch out for the wheels on the office chairs!) :

And always, always, always end the day cuddling a good friend: