Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Goddess smiled!

Well, actually I think She was laughing at me. As usual, when things really need to turn out a certain way, they do.......and we humans worry, worry, worry, when in reality the universe is going to unfold as it should.

And so, it has become a beautiful day and all the worries of yesterday were for naught.

I slept well for a change, and awoke at 5:30 refreshed. In short spurts, I shovelled out enough of the driveway to open the gates and get my 4x4 out to the road and down the icy hill to the lawyer's office. The papers are signed, the cheque is turned over, and the house shall be mine.

I returned to the house to find - SURPRISE! - Rob the Plowman had returned from Thailand yesterday and was busy shovelling out the rest of the drive and clearing the path to the pasture and barn. Now Ellen will be able to come piggysit and dogsit this weekend while I go to the island to claim my housekeys.

I went back into town for the cash to pay Rob, and discovered the warm, brilliant sunlight and the efficient city crews had turned the roads to wet, bare thoroughfares - and so I will head off to class and torture - er, test - my students with their midterm exam. And then go visit my Emma.

It is Christmas-card-perfect out there right now - brilliant blue sky on smooth sparkling snow. It is a beautiful world indeed. The Goddess has smiled.

(For best viewing of these photos, click to enlarge, then use back browser to return to blog)

Morning light


Silly Sadie

Charley in snow

Catkins in ice

Belle in snow

A wee little rant....

..... or This is why I'm retiring early!

Totally not critter related, but I just have to share this before my voiceless scream reverberates across the valley.

One of the reasons I want out of my job is because of the increasing sense of entitlement which so many youth seem to hold today. Somehow their lives are so much busier than ours and so much more stressful and WE, the instructors, are supposed to bend over backwards to accomodate them.

In severe weather conditions, students can find out if classes are cancelled from several sources, the most obvious one being the radio. At the beginning of term, students are told which radio stations will carry an announcement if my institution is closed due to weather. Today I received this email:

"...If the school is closed, not all of us listen to
the radio so I'm not sure how to find out unless you email us."

EXCUSE ME???????? I should email a class full of students because you are too friggin' lazy to turn a radio dial????????????

That takes the cake.

Okay, rant over. I will go back to staring at the phenomenally beautiful but really irritating sunshine-on-a-foot-of-snow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009



I left for work amid a few wet sloppy flakes; by 2:30 I had a lot of nervous students worrying about driving home. The road report wasn't good, and as I still don't have my voice they were just watching a video and discussing it among themselves, so I let them out early. Turned out to be the right choice - the campus announced it was shutting down and cancelling classes shortly thereafter. There was only a few inches of slippy slidey stuff over at the campus, but by the time I reached my driveway across the river and up the side of the valley, I was greeted with eight inches of snow and a miserably cold blizzard-like wind.

Even the dogs were not impressed (though perhaps that had something to do with the fact I forgot to put their warm, dry coats on them!). This is what they looked like after just two minutes outside:

They tried to follow me down the drive to check the mailbox, but their show of enthusiasm left something to be desired.

I think Oliver had the right idea - he just stood at the back door and barked. LET ME IN! I don't know if he didn't realize I was still outside, or if he really thought Allie the cat had developed opposable door-knob-turning thumbs.

I hope this latest snowfall goes as quickly as it came. Robb the Plowman is away, and this is far too heavy and wet for my arthritic spine to manage even when I am healthy, let alone with this dratted flu hanging on. I have to have a bank draft to the lawyers in the morning so the final papers on the house can be signed. And my first year students have a midterm tomorrow afternoon. And I have an appointment to see my Emma for my 30 minutes, once a month visit tomorrow evening (which I forfeit if I don't show at the appointed time). And I'm supposed to head for the island Friday to pick up the house keys and drink a celebratory glass of champagne with my friends.


HUMPH! Grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble......

Monday, February 23, 2009

A pot pourri of images

Today's entry is a bit of this and a bit of that - some miscellaneous, unrelated images taken over the past few days. I am still under the weather (will this cough EVER go away? Will I EVER get a normal night's sleep again?????), so any attempt at literary cohesiveness is beyond me. But, for what it is worth, welcome to my world:

Looking out the window very early this morning, I noticed a beautiful sunrise.

Unfortunately, the old saying of "red in the morning, sailors take warning" was true - it was raining a couple of hours later.

For the past several days, however, the weather has been beautiful. The pigs enjoyed rooting around in their yard, though they would have much prefered to be allowed into the pasture had I the energy to watch them and the voice to call them back. Still, they had a good time just mucking about:

The dogs got to explore the fields, hunting for field mice and following the scent of Brazen Coyote, who has once again started dropping by to say hello. I saw him lying next to my bench at the top of the hill the other day, and pouncing in the grass just a few feet away from where a totally unperturbed Martin was snoozing. He wandered by the pigs without batting an eye, took a drink from the creek, sat and watched the dogs and I in the yard, before meandering back across the pasture and under the fence. He is as beautiful as ever - his red tipped ears and legs, his frosty chest and muzzle, and his multi-coloured tan/beige/brown/autumn medley torso. Perhaps next time I shall get his picture. Sadie, however, has it imprinted in her mind as she watches him leave the property:

Oliver, on the other hand, lives in a world of his own. He is happy just to plod along today, though at other times he races in joyous abandonment back and forth on the trail. He is such a photogenic little guy!

I came across a fascinating glimpse of nature-in-action this morning. On the trail near the top of the hill, I noticed a dozen or more tiny little holes in the ground, each with the head of a beetle sticking out.

I tapped at one and it scurried out, leaving behind a little hole into which had been deposited a bright orangey yellow fluid which I assume must be eggs. Other beetles seemed to have died in their holes, or were concentrating so hard that they were able to tune out my footsteps nearby.

Here's a picture of the beetles, about which I know nothing.

Unfortunately I had no coin or watch or lens cap to put beside it for a size comparison, but it was about 3-4 cm (an inch and a half?), so no small critter in bug world. They are very similar to a large flying beetle I encountered when we lived in the Northwest Territories. My daughter referred to them as Hair Eaters as they would fly straight at us and get their long antennas tangled in our hair.

Indoors, the cat decides to torment the dogs, lashing out first at one and then at the other. Poor Oliver has come so close to getting his precious nose swiped so many times, and Allie actually left a claw in our friend Ellen's whippet, Kinley, the other day though no harm seemed to be done. Mostly, Allie likes to tease, as she does here by swishing her tail back and forth over patient Sadie's nose as Sadie tries to nap on the couch:

Or she decides to explore the cupboards, prying them open with her paws, hopping in, checking out the contents, and hopping back out:

I think Allie has spring fever - she is entranced by the birds and squirrels, and has more than once made a dash for the open door as the dogs parade through. Sorry Allie, it is not a safe world for a little kitty like you.

Janice from Hearts on Noses came over to clean the piggy stalls for me on the weekend - that is one task that is not possible with my current respiratory problems - and the piggies and I were most grateful. Of course, I think the piggies were even more grateful for the armloads of alfalfa and greens and fruits and veggies she brought! Here's Scotch and Whisper (to my surprise - it is usually Rickey who eats with Scotch) sharing a breakfast platter this morning:

And, in all the chaos that we call life, there is always time to reflect. Never a day goes by that I don't catch one or more of the dogs just standing and staring across the fields, reflecting on this wonderful world, no doubt.

Or sleeping soundly with a soft gentle smile spreading across the face:

And, on a more sombre note, I received a phone call from my daughter last night to tell me her paternal grandfather (her biological father's dad) had passed away, ending his struggle to keep a weak heart going and his battle with Alzheimer's. My favourite memory of him goes back about thirty years, when he would swing my daughter up in the air and twirl around his country kitchen singing Greek songs and dancing Greek dances, as the child in his arms giggled in delight. Ed was a good man, and I know he shall be missed. My condolences to my daughter and her father.

Life is never over, though the body may be gone. The spirits of those who loved us are no further than a song. Rest in Peace, Ed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I love happily-ever-after endings!!!!

Back in November, I wrote a story entitled "Needed: One happily-ever-after-ending" about a dog named King who was living at Turtle Gardens Animal Rescue and looking for a forever home. You'll find that story here.

Well, now check the comments on that story!!! Because today, King's new mom and dad have posted a comment and given the story its "happily-ever-after ending"!!!!!

And then check out the web pages for King and his new sister Molly:

Del and Mark, thank you thank you thank you for taking King into your home and your heart. You have made my day!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Past, Present, Future: The universe unfolds

The Seawalk

Today is one year since my beloved Caleb went to the Rainbow Bridge. Adopted from the Cowichan Valley SPCA in May 2007, he was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma in December of that same year, and died at home in my arms on Feb 20th, 2008. He was an awesome dog, who could make the grumpiest person laugh and the darkest day bright. I miss him still.

Silly Caleb

And so, it seems fitting that on this day I also announce that I have purchased a retirement home in the very area where Caleb and I first met. We will be living just a block from the oceanfront cottage where Caleb, Charley and I stayed for a few days while we got to know each other. The dogs and I will be walking that same seawalk, going to the same off leash park and beach, hiking those same trails with many of the same people and dogs that we met on that first meet-and-greet visit and the second come-to-take-Caleb-home visit.

Hiking and swimming at Swallowfield, near Crofton.

(I think that's my friend Else's dog Archie in centre front)

Charley at Swallowfield

Charley at Osborne Bay off-leash park/beach

And it seems fitting, too, that one of my first commitments to my new community will be to sign on as a volunteer at the very shelter that housed and cared for my sweet boy for seven months before my friend Else talked me into coming to meet him.

Caleb, and Else's dog Hugo

And so, the big news to which Sadie recently alluded: my retirement is now definite, and I have found my retirement home!

A few weeks ago, I handed in notice to my employer and started the process of applying for my pension. Though I am not yet sixty, teaching is not what it used to be and my heart has not been in it for several years now. Financially, I will need to be frugal, but 18 years as a single parent taught me a lot about frugality. My father died in his 60th year, never getting to enjoy retirement. I have far too much living to do to want to work a day longer than necessary. And so this semester will be my last.

Then, just before getting hit by “the bug”, I made another flying trip over to Vancouver Island to have a second look at a house I had seen a couple of weeks earlier. And on second look, I liked it even more. I made a very low offer just to test the waters and even before I arrived back home, my realtor called with the news that my offer had been accepted with only the teeniest adjustment.

The last couple of weeks have entailed a flurry of activity as I made arrangements for home inspections, financing, title searches and insurance, mostly by email in my voiceless state. Subjects were removed, papers were signed, and I take possession on February 28th – in just one week’s time.

The home is a three bedroom rancher on a big-enough yard with a lovely old apple tree out back. I can see ocean and mountains from my yard, and can even fish from the dock just a block or so away. My home is located in the community of Crofton – population 2500, a few streets east and west, a few streets north and south, convenient enough to larger centres for shopping yet remote enough to meet my need for peace and solitude and small town life. Situated on the very picturesque Osborne Bay on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Crofton is only now just beginning to show signs of future expansion, making real estate there both affordable and a sound investment.

From my front yard to the ocean

A good omen?

And what of Martin and the piggies, you may ask? The physical and financial realities of my life had already led me to rule out purchasing acreage for my retirement years, and that is one of the reasons why I have never adopted the pigs that I foster despite loving them to bits. The piggies will go to the sanctuary as soon as Janice can prepare a place for them – unless one of my readers is interested in fostering a family of twelve adorable piggies????? You know you wanna…….

Martin, the alpaca who was abandoned on this property when just a cria, was sometimes fed by tenants and sometimes not, never provided with shelter, and seldom had any other needs taken care of. Because of my concern for his future welfare, I persuaded the landlord to sign him over to me (which he was only too happy to do) so I could ensure that Martin would never go through winters without food or shelter again. Before taking this step, I had carefully put backup plans in place for the time when, inevitably, I would leave this property. But time has a way of changing plans and relationships, and today that plan is no longer a viable option. Other potential homes also seem to have evaporated, but I am confident we will find exactly the right forever home for Martin. If you know of a place for a rather shy but rather nice alpaca to spend the rest of his days (he is about 9-10 years old now, and typically alpacas live to be about 20), please email me using the contact info at the side of this blog.

And so, in May, the dogs and cat and I shall begin the move to our new home. My neighbours here are not happy. My landlord will not be happy. The pigs and alpaca, while stressed initially, will adjust and will be happy because their needs will be carefully considered. And Charley, Sadie, Belle, Oliver, Allie and I shall be very happy.

I have always believed that things come together at the right time and in the right place, and not a moment before. Dissatisfaction with work, an excellent buyer’s market, great interest rates, and a desperate seller of a suitable home near the ocean in a community I have always liked, have come together to provide me with the makings of a new chapter to my life.

And now I know where I will be spreading Caleb’s ashes, which have stood in their urn in my office for so long. Some will stay here in the pasture where he spent each morning and evening with me, and some will go under the big old apple tree in the back yard of our new home to symbolize that he is with us still. He began his life of freedom and unconditional love in a little town called Crofton, and there his spirit shall rest.

Past affects future, and future reflects past. The universe is unfolding as it should.

The long road home

(Caleb, Charley, and - I think - Hugo)

Coming out from under

For the first time in ten days I am beginning to feel ever so slightly human again, albeit with cough, sore throat, and fatigue still doggin' my heels. But after many nights trying to sleep upright in a recliner, I slept in my own bed last night - or at least, I spent some time there even if not in restful sleep. Between coughing fits, dogs wanting out, Princesses wanting attention, cats checking to see if I am breathing, people using the road out front as some kind of race track, and the continual demands of weak bladders (mine and the dogs'), I probably didn't get more than three hours of sleep. But that is considerably better than my average for the past week or more, so perhaps we are turning the corner and heading back into the real world.

I am frustrated at having spent the whole of the reading break being sick, so sick that I could not even read a book or enjoy a walk, let alone do any of the many things I had planned to accomplish this week, from visiting my mom to photographing some shelter dogs to prepping classes for the second half of the semester, to spending time with friends, and so on and so on and so on. And to add insult to injury, the weather this week has been FANTASTIC - just the sort of spring weather that calls me to get out and enjoy it!

For the first time in over a week, I finally have a wee bit of my voice back (Those who know me well will marvel "Jean didn't talk for a whole WEEK???!!!! "). It is two octaves lower than normal and I can't say more than a sentence or two without a violent coughing attack, but I can be vocal enough to say "Dogs, quiet!". (However, I still will not be answering my phone for several days yet, so please email rather than call). I must still stay away from those activities that will irritate my throat, including talking, barn cleaning, and eating anything more solid than soup.

But, hopefully, I will be back to daily blogging about the antics of the animals, the beauty of the earth awakening from winter's rest, the changes that are about to take place for the critters and I over the next few months, new adventures and old reflections and all that is my life with the critters.

Thank you, my readers, for your warm wishes this past week. Thank you, my friend Ann, for the deliveries of wonderful homemade soups. Thank you, Sadie, for maintaining the blog and thank you, Charley, for sticking your cold nose in my face a few times a day to make sure I was still alive. Thank you, Oliver, for being my little sidekick, silently following me from recliner to bathroom to microwave to recliner. And thank you, Princess Belle, for deciding that the best time of all to insist, with your demanding little bark, I get up and let you out or let you in or feed you or simply acknowledge your presence, is exactly fifteen minutes after I fall into a nice deep sleep. Heaven forbid that I sleep too deeply and lose sight of the fact that I am the servant in this household, here only to attend to the needs of sheltie royalty.

Every household needs a sheltie to keep the humans in their place.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A walk with Sadie

Well, wiv Mama being so sick, Charley and I decided to head outside wiv the camera and show you what's happenin' dude.

Hmmmm, this camera thing is not as easy as Mama makes it look. You humans should try operating one with yer feets - or two pairs of feets. Ya gotta hold the camera and look through the back part and push the little button - that's not easy when yer a dog!

But here ya go - pictures of our world:

First thing ya gotta do when yer a dog is to learn to roll around on the grass on yer back. When ya do that, look up at the sky:

And at the trees - do they look like maybe they haz a little spring colour on them already?

Then ya flip back on all fours and head over to the piggy yard. Oops - they is being lazy today cuz Mama didn't make them get up. In fact, they are sleepin' and it's the middle of the afternoon!:

Hey piggy, don't ya think you should go outside and play?

Okay, Ms. Sadie, maybe I will!

Next, ya head out into the pasture to see what's new. We found these interesting mousey tracks - at least we thinks they is mousies but maybe they is voles. Mama sez the snow was on the field for so long, and was so frozen hard, that the little critters dug their tunnels along the surface of the dirt beneath the ice. Mama sez it reminds her of the roads she and her brother used to build in the dirt beside their childhood home, roads for their matchbox cars to travel, with little tunnels and overpasses and cloverleafs.

By now, some of the pigsters have ventured out of the barn and all the way down to the bottom of the piggy yard so they can keep an eye on us.

This country bumpkin (wiv the straw in hiz mouth) is checkin' out the last of the snow wiv his big toe:

The pigsters would like us to open the gate so they can come out in the pasture wiv us, but Charley sez we might get in twouble if we do that when Mama don't have no voice to call them back again. We dogs is not very good at calling "Piggy, piggy,piggy soooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

It must be dinner time, because we notice the sun is lighting up the trees and casting shadows and changing the colours of the sky:

Back in the house, Oliver and Belle are demonstrating the latest in doggy trundle beds. Mama had to put a piece of foam in front of the Petmate bed, because Princess Belle was having problems jumping into it. But then Sir Oliver took it over, so the poor Princess has to sleep on the lower half, like some maidservant on a pallet.

Sometimes, though, the Princess gets a bed an' Oliver has to sleep on the floor if he wants to stay close to her. (He would like to cuddle up to her, but she's havin' none of that!)

And that is the end of our adventure. We is allll tired out now, so Charley takes one last picture of yours truly, Sadie, photographer and tour guide extraordinaire. I forgots to take a picture of Charley!

I hear Mama barkin' I better go see if she needs me to refill her water bowl. G'night!