Monday, June 30, 2008

Meeting blog dogs face to face

Today Sheena of Red Dog Photography came out to do a photoshoot of my dogs. I have long been addicted to her blog (Three Woofs and a Woo; same link as above) and I love her close-up shots of her three dogs doing just what dogs do. So when I emailed her the other day to see if this Vancouver-based photographer ever came out to my area, I was delighted when she not only said she did but confessed that she would also love to shoot some pics of the piggies and alpaca.

Since my three canines tend to be couch potatoes unless there are others to play with, and since my place is a great place for city slicker canines to shake, shake, shake the willies out, I suggested Sheena feel free to bring her three buddies along for the shoot.

OMG THAT WAS SOOOOOOO MUCH FUN!!! I heard Woo long before I saw him ...he was in the van and I discovered his screaming "I want out" sound is almost identical to screaming piglets - and at least as loud. Woo and Piper were much smaller than I expected, but every bit as lively and funny and sweet. But the one who stole my heart was Tweed. And although this shy boy apparently doesn't usually make friends with humans that readily, in no time at all he was lying on the grass beside me and giving me the occasional little licky kiss or two. Aw, Tweed, you are a dog after my own heart!

Sheena meanwhile went to work taking shot after shot after shot of my three running, barking, sleeping, looking pensive, being coy, being brave, being silly. Later we took all the dogs up to the top of the pasture, photographing Martin enroute. When we returned to the yard, I put the barrier in place and let the piggies into the pasture.

One of the things I love about fostering pigs is watching others fall head over heels for them. My little piggies "hammed" it up for all it was worth - running, ears wiggling, snouties snuffling, caked in mud, getting belly rubs, going bonkers for watermelon, and being as cute as they could possibly be (well, except for Scotch who decided it was all too much for him, and took himself off for a nap in the long grasses until the whole to-do was over). Sheena was hooked - I think if we could persuade her to leave the city, she would adopt the whole bunch!

The funniest, funniest, funniest part was when we gave peanut butter to the dogs (for those peanut butter face pictures); the piggies must have smelled the peanuts and so they came running to the gate squealing for their share. So.... I fed them peanut butter too, and we got piggy peanut butter face pictures galore, until one pulled the end right off the spatula and ran away with it! Game over.

Hundreds and hundreds of shots later, Sheena was on her way. I can't wait to receive my disk of her selection of the best of the day, all to use however I wish as long as I give credit to her. Needless to say, you can expect to see many of them posted here!

Sheena is awesome, her dogs are awesome, my animals were awesome.....what a great day!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Animals or Humans: Who's Smarter?

On a very hot summer’s day, companion animals....

Lie on the cool kitchen floor, directly in front of a fan

Sit in the pool in the shade of an umbrella

Take a looong cooool drink of water

Make like an ostrich and shut out the world

Find a soft bed of straw amidst lots of green foliage

Play in the dirt with their brothers while mom sleeps nearby

Show curiousity about cool things

Make themselves a grass skirt

Walk among the daisies

Treat themselves to a mud bath and then have a snack

Chill out with their friends

Sit in cool water and chomp on a straw

Find the coolest, dampest, yummiest section of pasture and lie down for a belly rub

Have an afternoon nap in a favourite chair.....

Or a favourite bed:

Sit under a tree

Lose themselves in work they enjoy

Or take a leisurely, solitary stroll

But people? People, on the other hand....

Wrestle with heavy, rusty metal farm stuff, grind it apart to cram it all into the car, and haul it off to the recycling bins at the hot, smelly dump;

Haul uncooperative hoses around in the hot, dry pig yard filling water bowls and pools and creating mud holes for piggies;

Weed whack the never-ending, always-growing green stuff growing where it’s not supposed to grow;

Stand in a scorching hot pasture trying to capture pictures of piggies;

Run around the neighbourhood searching for a neighbour’s llama which broke loose last night when confronted with a bear;

Hang up laundry and take it down, in the heat of the day, in the middle of the back yard;

Re-sand a picnic table they stained yesterday because they didn't like how it turned out;

Nearly give themselves heat stroke because they hate wearing hats, didn’t stay in the shade, and forgot to drink lots of water.

Next life, I'm coming back as a companion animal.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Help! I've created a monster....

...or twelve. Now that I have started letting the piggies into the big pasture for part of the day, they have learned to anticipate my actions. Before I even reach the gate from the pigyard to the pasture, they have raced to it, like a herd of screaming elephants, wanting to be let out.

This, in itself, might not seem like much of a problem were it not for two things. Firstly, they do scream. Loudly. Some more than others, but all of them joining in. Think of a whole schoolyard of unruly kids receiving their very, most-hoped-for gift on Christmas morning. I'm sure the Noise-Bylaw-Control-People must receive complaints from all over the city.

Secondly, the gate opens into the pen. This is, of course, a security precaution since piggies can be pretty hard pushers and who wants to come home to find their piggy prisoners busted out of jail? But when a two-legged critter needs to open the gate to let out twelve screaming, shoving, muddy, squeally, happy, foaming-at-the-mouth (which they do when they are excited and hungry) four-legged critters who are inconveniently blocking the direction in which the gate needs to open.....well, that creates a challenge.

Add to that three dogs barking at the other pasture gate because they think THEY should get to join in the fun, and one on-edge alpaca staring from beyond the temporary gate over the creek because he knows full well those pigs are about to charge into HIS pasture and just might eat some little tidbit that he was saving for a Very Special Occasion, and there's a recipe for chaos.

But the chaos that occurs when I AM letting the piggies into the pasture is nothing compared to what happens when the piggies see me working outside when I have no intention of letting them into the pasture. Seems like every time I venture into the pasture to scoop alpaca poop or run the dogs or fill Martin's water bucket, twelve piggies assume I'm there to open their gate for them. Remember that screaming I mentioned? Yesterday, it was so loud that one of my neighbours from three rural-sized yards away came running over thinking something was terribly wrong.

Nice to know I have neighbours who care. Not so nice to know certain piggies are disturbing our pastoral ambiance.

I wonder if one can train a pig to respond to "Quiet!" ????

Monday, June 23, 2008

More photos from yesterday

These photos of our dogs at play were taken by my very talented daughter, and are posted here with permission. More of her photography, along with her writing, can be seen on her blog:

Becky and ball

Becky and ball, black and white


Belle sticking out tongue

Becky and Charley

Belle giggling

Martin and shed

Martin close up

Happy Becky

Four Dogs and a Flying Squirrel

Yesterday my daughter and son-in-law and their dog Becky came over for dinner. I dug out the Flying Squirrel, a frisbee-type toy made by "Chuckit!", which was a huge hit with my granddog.
My dogs don't usually chase toys, but seeing Becky have so much fun motivated them to join in.

"C'mon, Becky, tell your mom to throw it!"



And Becky takes the lead!

Belle brings up the rear

"Let's play 'Keep Away'"

""I win!""

An appalling lack of discretion: Update on Mayor James Valley

Will Mayor James Valley never learn? First he illegally “releases” (abandons) dogs in or near a national forest, and then he legally but unethically sends an email to all who put their protest in writing, accusing us of being racist and using offensive language. In his email, which did not use the "bcc" format to keep recipients' email addresses private, he sent a compilation of some of the correspondence he has received – lumping those that were blunt but polite (like mine) in with those that were, indeed, horribly racist and full of foul language. Moreover, for those of us who chose to use a formal letter-writing approach, he left our names, addresses and phone numbers intact.

He defends this latest action by stating that letters sent to public officials are public property according to the laws of his state. Technically, he is correct. But anonymous letters have less credibility than those in which the author provides her or his name and contact information. Therefore, on the rare occasions that I do write a letter to a public official, I use my real name and location. It is the courteous and ethical thing to do. Attacking someone’s actions without identifying yourself is the act of a coward.

And on the rare occasions when public officials wish to use my letter for other purposes, such as forwarding it to a more public forum or including it in a newsletter, they have always contacted me for permission to do so.

Mayor Valley, however, fails to understand these basic courtesies and ethics. To him, I respond with the words of Paul Quinnett (1998. Pavlov’s Trout: The Incompleat Psychology of Everyday Fishing, Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing; page 94):

“Being legal is not the same thing as being ethical. To equate ethics with legality is to adopt the morals of a swindler.”

And as I see there are people from Helena/West Helena reading this blog, one of whom might well be the dishonorable mayor himself (Site Meter shows me the general geographic location of my readers, such as the nearest city, but does not provide names or email addresses), I hereby reiterate the copyright statement in the sidebar and at the bottom of this blogsite: "The copyright to all images and stories on this blog is held by the author of the blog. Do not copy without written permission of author."

And that is the last I will write on this subject.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ice Cweam an' Kiwis!!

By Fizzy an’ Whisper

Last nights our Auntie Ewwen came over an' she bwought us ice cweam and kiwis. YUMMMMMMMM! We loves Fwiday nights cuz our Auntie Ewwen nearly always comes for dinner and bwings something fer us. Something yummy. Foster Mama didn’t get any pictures of us eating our icecweam and kiwis cuz she waz busy fixin foods fer the hoomans or sumthin, but here’s a picture of us the last time we had icecweam:

We gots to go now. We’s not supposed to be inna houz using the ‘puter. But our Foster Mama is buzy this morning transporting a WAT fwom its rescuer to a foster home.

Fizzy: “I fink that’s s’posed to be ‘rat’, Whisper.”
Whisper: “But we is piggies an' we can’t say rrrrrrs. An' we type phonetically.”
Fizzy: Yeah, but hoomans might not know what a Wat is.
Whisper: Oh, okay, but it not the way we piggies talk! (Big sigh)

Yup. A RRRRRRRRRAT!! The only ratties we knows is the ones who sneaked in our barn once to eat our gwain or dwink our water, but Foster Mama sez these are different ratties, ones people keeps in their houses, ON PURPOSE!!

But she sez she not keeping any in her houz cuz even though she likes most animals, ratties is something she can live wivout.

Anyway, we snucked into the houz even though we not s’posed to because we knew our fwiends in cyberspace would want to know what is goin' on in our lives.

Love Fizzy an' Whisper.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pssstt.....Wanna win some GREAT prizes?????

In Northern BC there is one shelter, and only one shelter, to meet the physical, emotional and medical needs of the many homeless dogs in that area. Its name is Turtle Gardens and it is a registered charity. Friends of Turtle Gardens are about to launch a fundraising initiative – a raffle with awesome prizes – for a very important cause: the purchase of vehicle to facilitate the transport of dogs and supplies.

I have been struggling for several days now with how to impress upon readers the important work this shelter does and the urgency of supporting this initiative. I have decided to begin by quoting a recent letter:

Turtle Gardens Animal Rescue began on April 8, 1988 as a no-kill facility to address the real need for a safe haven for unwanted animals. There were no shelters of any kind for 250 miles – from Prince George to Terrace – 17 First nation Communities and 11 Villages and Towns. Twenty years later Turtle Gardens still stands alone. Since inception, they have adopted out over 4000 dogs; placing an average of 250 dogs per year.

Turtle Gardens began like any other shelter - with kennels. It has evolved to become a Group Foster Home and Rehabilitation Centre and, along the way, has undergone extensive renovations to ensure the comfort and safety of the dogs. Three generations of Labatte family members call Turtle Gardens their home, sharing their lives with the dogs so they will learn to be FAMILY companions.

Specializing in stray or feral dogs, many are first and second generation strays – they have never been in a building let alone a home. Turtle Gardens helps to heal their "inner puppy" and develop relationships of mutual respect with plenty of TLC. Positive reinforcement is used to help the dogs understand about learning so they can adapt to city life where doggie social skills are vital. Ninety percent of the dogs are adopted to more populated parts of BC, as there are not enough families in northern BC to accommodate the number of dogs passing through Turtle Gardens. All of the dogs are vet checked, vaccinated, wormed, and spayed or neutered. Turtle Gardens continues its renovations extending to build an adoption /training/internship/education centre and to upgrade the necessary fencing.

Realizing that the flow of homeless dogs is not slowing, Turtle Gardens has instituted a Low Cost Spay Neuter Voucher Program and has all four veterinary clinics in the local area participating. Turtle Gardens rounds out their busy repertoire by doing extensive outreach programs in schools, in hopes that the importance of spaying and neutering is impressed upon the next generation. In one day alone in the fall of 2007, Turtle Gardens took in 47 emaciated dogs from a desperate and despondent situation.

A committed group of friends and supporters of Turtle Gardens have come together to raise funds in support of these efforts. Turtle Gardens relies on donated supplies, such as hundreds of pounds of dog food, to come from the lower mainland. And in return, Turtle Gardens delivers the precious cargo of soon-to-be-loved pets to the lower mainland and Vancouver Island. To meet the growing demands of pet lovers and homeless dogs, Turtle Gardens needs to have a larger, more reliable shipment vehicle. So we are raising funds to go toward the purchase of this new vehicle.

Through the generosity of many businesses and individuals, supporters of Turtle Gardens have gathered 30 prizes worth a total of nearly $6500. Tickets will go on sale in the next week or so, and the draw day is Aug 30th.

So what can you win?

How about an all-inclusive trip for two to Puerto Vallarta (transportation from Vancouver, accommodation at the Canto Del Sol Resort, meals and taxes) for seven days? Thanks to Chris and Tomoko of for providing this grand prize.

And then Daphne at Butchart Gardens has put together a wonderful prize of a weekend in Victoria, BC with transport via Harbor Air from Vancouver, and accommodation at the Executive House hotel plus vouchers for Butchart Gardens, Imax Theatre, Royal BC Museum and more.

Then there is a package of $500 worth of gas cards, followed by a $500 Home Depot card, followed by an assortment of gift cards, a pet portrait by Deb Strong who did that great portrait of my Caleb, and tons of other things. The complete list of prizes can be found in the sidebar on the Turtle Gardens website

Tickets are $5 each, 3 for $10, or a book of 25 for $75 (why not get together with friends, family, or coworkers and buy a whole book???)

The raffle has been approved by the BC Gaming Commission. In compliance with the regulations governing raffles, please note that:

Ticket purchasers must be 19 years of age or older. Chances are one in 185 to win a prize. Actual odds depend on number of tickets sold. Problem Gambling Help Line, call 1-888-795-6111 or log onto Know your limit, play within it. BC Gaming Event number 8775.

Purchase and sale of raffle tickets via the internet is not permitted by the Criminal Code of Canada (Section 9.3, page 14 of the BC Gaming Procedure Handbook) so, unfortunately, payment cannot be accepted online via Visa or PayPal. However, internet web sites may be used to receive orders to purchase tickets, and so you can email me for tickets at this account: animalsinrescue at (just substitute the word “at” with the @ sign). I will announce additional venues for ticket purchases as soon as they are available.

Please support this very worthy cause and treat yourself to the chance to win some really great prizes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pig Pen Dress Code, or Barnyard Fashions

Well, as you may have guessed from the lack of posts this week, I have been super busy and/or too tired to let the creative part of my mind do anything more than vegetate while I watch mind-numbing television or snooze on the couch with Sadie (who only wants to haul her 80 pound body onto the couch if there is a human there, especially a human who wants to stretch out).

Today I was gone from the house much longer than I anticipated, largely due to getting stuck in two tedious traffic jams in which major arteries from the city turn into giant parking lots.

So the dogs had been in the house for a horribly long nine hours, the pigs were screaming for dinner the moment my car pulled into the driveway, and Martin was giving me the evil eye as he dared me to feed the others before bringing him some grain and fresh water.

I dashed into the house to the accompaniment of loud barking, shrill yapping, and plaintive meowing. I fed the cat, let the dogs out, fed the dogs. I really did intend to change my cream coloured dress pants for dark brown cords, but what the heck - piggies wanted feeding and, after all, I wasn't about to go in the pig yard - just into the barn and the feed stall. So out I went.


The barn may not be muddy, but twelve little piggies who have had nothing to do all day but spill water from their pools onto the dirt and then root around in it with the snouties....well, picture it. And picture those twelve little piggies who KNOW Foster Mama brings food and are starving 'cuz dinner is late swarming Foster Mama when she steps into the feeding stall.

Picture twelve muddy snouties shoving up against two human legs clad in cream coloured dress pants.

Need I say more?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy Belated Gotcha Day, Scotch and Soda!!!

One year ago

Oh I'm such a bad piggy mom - I forgot to celebrate Scotch and Soda's "Gotcha day" - the day they arrived at my home and started their new life! Looking back through my emails with Janice from Hearts on Noses, they arrived either June 14th or June 15th, 2007. Two sad, scared, overweight, not-very-healthy pigs, who came out of the trailer and immediately started kneading the grass in happiness and relief.

That first night, I sat on the barn floor and sang to them as they buried themselves completely in the piles of fresh straw until they were barely visible. Over the next few weeks they came to trust me. Scotch, especially, enjoyed having me sing to him. He visibly relaxed as I crooned "You are my sunshine" - the same song that had been my daughter's lullaby when she was small.

Scotch reminded me of this tonight, as he told me in no uncertain terms that he wanted my attention. He has been grouchy all week, picking on the piglets as they eat. Tonight I shoved him on the shoulder when he tried to bite one of the youngsters yet again.....and he sulked. He slunk out of the feeding area and back into the sleeping stall, and stood in the corner and pouted. It was all I could do not to laugh.

So I went over and sat on the straw beside him and put my arm round him. He lay down with his head on my knee and as I watched, a single tear rolled down his cheek. I began singing his sunshine song - something I haven't done for several weeks. And immediately, he relaxed and closed his eyes and rolled over for a bellyrub, oofing and huffing in contentment all the while.

Normally, when I sit on the ground, the piggies are all over me, but tonight they stood back and waited patiently, some watching from the door, some quietly munching straw or going back outside in the cool night air. Eventually little Whisper came up and placed his sweet head on my other knee and closed his eyes too. And as I scratched him behind the ears, he also rolled over for a belly rub.

After a while, Scotch saw that he didn't have my complete attention so he heaved a big sigh and wiggled his snoutie in thanks and wandered off to nicely munch straw alongside the rest of his family.

Good boy, Scotch. I shall try to remember to share those quiet moments with you more often. And if you ever find a forever home, be it at the sanctuary or with an adopter, your caregivers will have to promise to sing you the sunshine song.

Happy Gotcha Day, Scotch and Soda. You've come a long way.

Where they were found

Their arrival - kneading the grass in delight

A happy Scotch today

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Replenishing the soul

Sometimes it is necessary to retreat to one’s own little world and ignore the wider world with all the animals-at-risk and the idiotic people like the mayor in Arkansas who put them at risk. After the letter writing is done, expending any more energy worrying about animals I cannot personally help is (as my friend Janice from Hearts on Noses says) "crazy making".

And I’m pretty good at reading my own moods and knowing when it is time to haul on the reins and put on the blinders and replenish my soul. So today I backed away from the computer and focused on the physical tasks of caring for five acres, 17 animals, a dilapidated old barn and house, and myself.

I pulled the lawn chair up near the pasture gate, I let out the piggies (with a stern admonishment to Scotch NOT to go beyond the x-pen that serves as a temporary barrier), I made myself a coffee and some toast with marmalade, and I settled down in the sun to crack the cover on a book I bought a several weeks ago: The Good Good Pig: The extraordinary life of christopher hogwood, by Sy Montgomery.

With dogs by my side and pigs in the pasture, I spent the day reading, taking photos, gardening, doing repairs, and being thankful that I live where I live, that I have the friends that I do, and that I CAN make the world a better place one or two (or seventeen) animals at a time.

I know very little about photography - my sister is the photographer in the family. I don't know anything about composition or lighting or F-stops. One day, after I retire, perhaps I'll take time to learn. But for now, I use a simple point-and-shoot camera and I take tons of shots of things that make me smile, images that refresh my spirit and fill my heart with happiness. And today I took over three hundred shots. I think it is safe to say my sense of balance is restored.

So here is a glimpse of my own little world and just a few of the three hundred images that made me smile on this beautiful sunny day:



Pigs exiting barn


Sadie impersonating a lion

Bee on blackberry blossom

Piggy face


"You let my bruver sleep!"

Waitin' for dinner

"What's that on your face, Foster Mama?"

Belle, aka Little Ms. Diva

"MMMMMM...That's was gooood!"

Martin looking noble

Ol' Blue Eyes

Charley in grass

"Do I have dirt on my face?"

Enjoying the pool

Flaked out piggy

Happy Sadie