Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just a link

This morning I am just going to post a link to the Turtle Garden's website and their pictures of what happens when you chain a dog or even just when you fail to check your growing dog's chain collar regularly. (Warning: the pictures are graphic).

I think the series of pictures should be posted next to the chain display at every petstore.

If you have a dog, please go and check his/her collar is appropriately sized right now.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Heart-stopping moment!

This morning, I took the dogs out in the pasture as always. Just as I passed the creek (about 1/4 of the way down the 5 acre field), a coyote awoke from where he had been sleeping in Martin’s old hole under a tree a hundred feet or so further on. The dogs were busy at the creek and didn’t notice, and I was able to distract them long enough for the coyote to make it up the hill and through the fence into the woods at the back of my property.

I thought it was safe to continue our walk, so I did....but as soon as we neared the hole, Sadie caught the scent and TORE off up the pasture....AND RIGHT THROUGH THE FENCE INTO THE TREES BEYOND!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I could hear her bark getting fainter and fainter as she got further away, and my heart sank. I would have to take all the others back to the house (time consuming with slow poke Belle and Oliver), get the car, and go around to the next rural road where she might exit the woods, and hope I could find her. This, of course, happened on a morning when I had to leave extra early to give my university students their final exam. Not an option to call in sick - though sick is what I felt.

I had been calling her from the moment she took off.....and tried one last call from the fence, just as I was about to head for the car. Miraculously, I suddenly heard thrashing around in the trees and – voila – one furry bad-dog-for-taking-off, good-dog-for-coming-back Sadie pops up out of the trees, big grin on her face.

“See, mom, I protect our property real good, don’t I? That coyote ain’t nevah comin back!!!”

Of course, she couldn’t get back in through the wire fence the way she got out (coyote is slimmer than she, and the broken wires point away from our pasture), so it took a bit of finagling to find a place to lift up the fence and haul her 70 pound ass through without her taking off again.

Blood pressure back to normal. Tomorrow morning (when I also have to leave extra early to give another class their final) I shall have her on the long lead for the pasture walk. I don’t want to block the hole in the fence because the coyotes come in by the creek and could get cornered (and subsequently will attack) if they ran up the hill and found themselves blocked.

Scary, scary, scary. Hmmmm.....I could fatten Sadie up so she can't get through there any more (she would like to be fattened up!); I could keep her on leash at all times (she wouldn't like that); I could make her a "daisy collar" as I once did for another perpetual slip-through-the-fence dog (she'd probably be fine with that, but it takes a lot of work, time and materials which I don't have right now); or I could put an end to the pasture walks (NONE of them would like that!). So we'll take some basic precautions and just continue to work really hard on her recall, since next time she takes to the chase it could be on a hike on an unfamiliar island trail.

I think this dog should have joined search and rescue in her younger years - she picks up a scent and there's no stopping her! Must have been a hound dog in the woodshed when that one was conceived!

(Oh, and for those who are wondering: I haven't forgotten about the pics and stories of the piggies' moving day - just haven't had time to download and sort through the 60 or 70 pics I took! Soon...I promise....soon. Fifteen term papers to go, and a hundred and something final exams)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mama, Where ARE weeeee??????

Whisper: What is this place, Mama Soda? This isn’t my barn. This isn’t my yard. This isn’t my foster mama.

Soda: I know, little boy pig. We are on a new adventure now with new responsibilities. We must be brave. Foster Mama said we will be safe and loved and well fed here. Trust her.

Whisper: New res-pons-i-bilities? Whatz them?

Soda: Foster mama said we are now V.I.P.s – Very Important Pigs. We are the very first piggies people coming to the sanctuary will meet. People walking by who don’t even know about potbellied pigs will also see us. Our job is to be ambassadors and greeters, so everyone will know how wonderful potbellied pigs are.

Whisper: Ohhhhhhh.... I'm a GREETER!!! Is this place Walmart????????? I heard about Walmart when I snuck in Foster Mama’s house to watch the telebishon.

Soda: No, not Walmart. This is more special than Walmart. This is Hearts on Noses Pig Sanctuary.

Ohhhh....Now I ‘member. Foster Mama told us all about this place, and this is where the Piggy Lady lives.

Soda: That’s right. And a sanctuary needs lots of volunteers, and it needs financial support to pay for our grains and our produce and our medicines and our houses and our hay. So you have to look your very cutest and be your very most social, friendly self so lots of people who come here or pass by will want to help all our new piggy friends here.

Whisper: Ha ha ha I’m real good at being friendly. Especially if the people bring strawberries or peanuts or vegetetables. If they sit quietly, I’ll even let them rubs my tummy!

Soda: That’s a good boy, Whisper. Now you and RobRoy and Fizzy go play until your work begins.

Whisper: Okay, Mama Soda. But mama? I miss Foster Mama. She better come visits us!

Soda: She will, Whisper, she will.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's awfully quiet in the barn tonight

I went out to the barn for Martin's grain and hay, and I'm sure I heard the rustlings and soft breathing of piggies in the stall. No doubt it was just a mouse or a bird fluttering around, but I found myself having a quick look ....just to make sure. Nope, no lost little piggies - the barn is achingly empty.

The transport went well - much better than we could have ever hoped for - and the piggies are now safely settling into their new home at Hearts on Noses Sanctuary. Photos and stories are forthcoming, but for the next 24 hours or so I must devote all my time and attention to marking end-of-term papers.

Thanks, everyone, for your positive vibes and warm wishes.

The hardest part of fostering is in the goodbye

There is nothing worse than terrorizing your best friends, your animal companions who trust you implicitly, who rely on you totally, and who love you unconditionally. Whether it is putting a dog through a scary medical procedure, or corralling an alpaca for a much-needed surgery, or moving a dozen piggies to a new is upsetting for them, upsetting for us.

Today is moving day for the piggies, as they transfer to the sanctuary for whom I have been fostering them these past almost-two years. The pigsters have never known any other home; Scotch and Soda knew only a horrible, filthy, tiny crate before coming here. And today, I am doing the unthinkable – uprooting them from everything familiar and sending them away.

I have known all week that today was the day. I have felt sad, but not upset – I have always known this day would come, I have always known that the hardest part of fostering is the saying goodbye.

But it was not until this morning, as dawn broke and I stepped out of the house into the crisp morning air, that I wept. It was almost unbearable to realize that I would no longer hear their cacophony of morning squeaks and squeals and grunts and oofs, that I would no longer have their upturned snouties pushing at my legs, their sharp little trotters climbing on my thighs, to know that this chapter is over. And it was even more unbearable to know that ending this chapter is not without pain for the piggies who, no matter how calm I am or how carefully I plan it, no matter how efficient the transport driver, no matter how many treats I offer, were going to be terrified.

Ellen is arriving at 8:30, and Karen arrives with the horse trailer at 9:30. Janice is waiting at the other end for their arrival. There are 30 minutes of highway travel between here and there. Thirty long minutes for twelve terrified piggies.

And so I ask you, my readers, to think of them today – of all of us – and to hold us in your prayers as we undertake this challenge. May the Great Spirit watch over us, may the driver’s hand be steady, may the piggies know that they are loved and valued and that they are not being “sent away” but instead are being welcomed to the next chapter of their lives.

I love you, little pigs.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Little Orphan Eggy

Nestled in the grass on a warm spring morning lay a little blue robin's egg. No trees nearby, no nests for it to have been tossed from, poor little egg looked as if it had just popped out if its mama's body mid-flight and landed on the soft, dewy pasture grass.

I recall similar discoveries last year at this time, when I found at least a half dozen orphaned blue eggs in the space of about three weeks. Some were lying on the grass in the middle of nowhere, some were beneath bare, nest-less trees as if mama had stopped to rest and delivered her load.

At the time, I researched the topic on the internet. I learned that sometimes mama will come back for a lost or fallen egg. But no mama ever did.

Perhaps the crows and stellar jays stole the eggs from the nests and the smooth, oval jewels slipped from their beaks as they winged across the sky persued by angry robins. Perhaps mama robin overproduced or sensed something wrong with this one, abandoning it to become some other critter's lunch. Whatever the cause of its lonely existence, I shall leave it there for Mother Nature to do as she intended - biodiversity at its finest as nature nourishes nature.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Princess Belle - for Deb

Deb Strong of Cat and Mouse Designs, the artist who created the wonderful portrait of my Caleb, fostered Belle before I applied to adopt her. In an email the other day, she mentioned that there haven't been many photos of Belle on my blog recently. Of course, Princess Belle immediately demanded I correct that oversight.

So here, Deb, for you, is a day in the life of Princess Belle:

Hi Auntie Deb! It's me, Belle! Come along on my day!

First I have to have my breakfast:

My mama says I'm a little piggy. Now, I ask you, do I look like this?????:

After breakfast, it's time for a little stroll:

Of course, I have to take my entourage with me:

That Oliver! Sometimes I have to give him a little shove with the shoulder. Nice boy, but he doesn't know his place. Princesses walk by themselves - the guards in front, the peons behind!:

But I'm a gracious Princess. So sometimes I let the commoners play in the Royal Pasture, in my presence. They can be quite entertaining. This is Sadie doing her Houdini impression:

I have a little sitdown at the top of the hill:

And a little meditation, watching the grass grow or a leaf fall:

And finally, back to the Royal Crate for a nice little snooze.:


Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I think I have seldom met a dog who so well suited her name. Pearl is just that - a pearl, with her almost translucent colour, the soft texture of her silky hair, her classic looks, her class and grace without being ostentatious. She is one gem of a dog.

Pearl is one of the Wednesday walking group. A Borzoi, she is a sighthound - gracefully athletic, yet calm and quiet and gentle. Originally bred in Russia, the name borzoi comes from borzaya which means "quick dog".

Pearl is perhaps one of the most photogenic dogs I have met , second only to Oliver. It's almost impossible to take a bad photo of her.

What I can't figure out is how a dog with such fine white fur stays soooo clean after a day on the estuary!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Wednesday Walk

On Wednesday afternoons in my soon-to-be new hometown, a group of dog-loving people gather at the Lito bistro, order their lattes or granola bars or reserve their take-home meals, and head off to that week's chosen hiking spot.

I first met some of this group, and joined them on a hike, two years ago when I was over there to adopt my precious Caleb. Last Wednesday, when I was in Crofton to organize some renos, I was once again invited on the hike. The week's destination was the same place I had hiked with Caleb and Charley - a beautiful estuary of rivers and creeks and meadows and mountain views, ending at the point where the rivers flow into the bay. The place is referred to as Swallowfield, a very appropriate name as swallows dive and soar among the craggy trees and rocks in the fields.

There were six humans and sixteen dogs this week - and I was not the only one who left some dogs at home! I took Charley and Sadie, but left the two shelties at the house with Bjorn, who is building my new fence and painting the place for me.

We parked the vehicles and leashed up the dogs. Once safely away from private residences, we let the dogs off leash. Thank heavens for well socialized dogs - not a single altercation the whole afternoon! The weather was near perfect - not too hot, not too cold, a bit of sun, a bit of breeze.

The flowers and blossoms are slowly awakening from their winter's rest:

Turkey vulture!

Sapsucker holes, all in a row

After a while, we reached the river where Caleb had once enjoyed swimming, retrieving his stick over and over again.

Hugo, Caleb, and Drew, May 2007.

Photo courtesy of Else G.

But before I reached the water, I heard someone shout. I couldn't catch what was being said, but soon found out - Sadie had fallen in! Not just fallen in, but fallen in where the bank is undermined and dogs can't get themselves out. And she was right under the water!

Sadie: I nearly DWOWNED!!!!!

Charley: You did NOT, you big wuss! It's the exact same spot I fell in two years ago, and it wasn't THAT bad, 'cept for the WET part.

Sadie: Well, you shuda warned me! All the uver dogs knew ya don't go in the water there! Seems like it must be an initiation rite - don't tell the new guy, let 'em dwown!!!!

Charley: You didn't dwown. That nice man, Bob, reached down and hauled you out.

Sadie: Well, I was VEWY, VEWY wet!!

Soggy Sadie

Cocky Charley

Yes, Sadie fell in at the exact same spot Charley had fallen in two years ago. They came to the end of the path, saw water, reached over for a drink, and - kersplash! But, as Sadie says, the other dogs don't try to drink there - they know you have to drink further to the left. I agree with Sadie - it's an initiation rite. Now she is officially one of the Wednesday Walking Gang.

After some play time at the river, we headed off across the meadows to the mouth, where smaller channels, low banks, gravel beaches, and driftwood logs provided lots of recreation for the dogs, whether they liked to swim or explore, or climb, or just sit in the shade or the sun.

Sadie, Charley and I made many new friends, both human and canine. And we took lots of pictures of our canine friends, who we'll introduce in another entry. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Tarben Series

This is Tarben. He is one of the many new friends that Charley and Sadie met on our Wednesday Walk with a group of dog-loving people in our soon-to-be new hometown. Tarben and his human also live just across the street from our new house so I plan to thoroughly ingratiate myself in order to get lots of Tarben time. I am madly in love with his big, happy, grinning face. Isn’t he scrumptious?
Tarben is a ball fiend. And he is bulldog-persistent.
We were standing beside a huge log – and I mean huge; it was almost as high as I am, and wide enough around for two dogs to easily walk side by side along its length. As logs are wont to do, it had little areas where it didn't settle quite flat on the ground.

Tarben was lying beside the log, mouthing his ball, when – oops – it rolled into one of those little pockets under the Big Log.

Hey, I lost my ball! Somebody? Anybody? Can you get it for me?

No one moved to retrieve it so he decided to go after it himself. But – and we’ve all had this experience – it was just out of paw’s reach, so each attempt to scrabble it closer ended up driving it deeper. (What you can't see in these next shots is his right paw outstretched as far it can possibly reach, nails just grazing the ball which spins under his attempts to fish it back out.)

Aarrghhhhh - I can feel it!

He was determined.



Maybe if I turn this way?

Or hold my tongue just so?

And, proving once again that persistence pays and patience is a virtue:

Ah, success!

Aren't I a clever boy!!????

Stayed tuned for more adventures from the Wednesday Walk

This one is for Bill

I came across this wonderful driftwood stump while on the Wednesday Walk. The part sticking up is affixed - a former root. For some strange reason, it immediately reminded me of an illustration I had once seen of Mr. Toad from Wind in the Willows, where he is standing on a hill, leaning on his cane, looking across the river.

Here's a close up:

(Black Jack's Carol will get the title to this entry! So, Carol, what does Bill see in this pic?)