Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Waiting for news.....

Charley is at the animal hospital in Chemainus. She became ill after a hike on Sunday, and despite fasting her, is still ill. This morning she started vomiting blood and passing black tarry loose stools - signs of internal bleeding.

They are going to squeeze her in between patients. So for now I am waiting, waiting, waiting.

Please keep all fingers and paws crossed for my girl.

You'd think.....

You’d think now that I’m retired I’d have MORE time to write and photograph and blog. Ha!

Maybe it’s just that I’m still unpacking, still hanging pictures and rearranging furniture and shopping for those little things one always seems to need when one moves to a new place.

Maybe it’s just that I’m exploring new trails and making new friends and greeting old friends and getting into a new routine (or, rather, a new lack-of-routine).

Maybe it’s just that I’m busy finding new health care professionals (canine and human), getting involved in a local movement to end the use of the gas box in this area for the euthanization of cats (more on that in another post), and checking out B&Bs for an overflow of visitors this summer.

Maybe it’s just that I’m still closely watching the critters as they adjust to a new environment – especially Oliver, little lost soul, who is finally settling in as long as I don’t rearrange or change anything, and Charley, who got very very sick after (I think) injesting something she shouldn’t while the other dogs were swimming and playing at Swallowfield.

Whatever the reason, I touch base with my computer about twice a day now – in the morning when I have four furry faces watching me, waiting for their walks, and in the evening when I’m too pooped to ponder and again have four furry faces watching me, waiting for their walks.

In between, it is go, go, go. The dozens of photos from a hike with friends and dogs (including Ellen and the whippet boyz) at Crofton Lake, and of flowers and dogs at Swallowfield, and of sunsets and sunrises and funny cats and silly dogs.....well, they are waiting on my computer to be woven together into a more interesting and entertaining post than this one. Stay tuned.

Retirement – when you finally get to do all the things you’ve always wanted to do, and discover there still just aren’t enough hours in the day!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cryptorchid piggies - and a shameful event

Recently an intact male potbellied pig came into the care of a well respected shelter, a shelter which does a splendid job with dogs but with no piggy experience. The shelter contacted Janice at Hearts on Noses Potbellied Pig Sanctuary, who (as those of you following my blog and hers already know, is pushed to the limits both financially and physically right now) said she couldn’t take on an unneutered pig, and gave the shelter the name of a pig-experienced vet to do the neutering.

The shelter chose to ignore the recommendation of the internationally recognized pig expert, and selected a different vet. That vet discovered the pig was cryptorchid (undescended testes) and recommended euthanizing him, with tales of aggressive male pigs, arguments that pigs with undescended testes cannot be neutered, and other ill-informed and downright incorrect information. Instead of checking back with piggy expert Janice Gillett, the shelter approved the euth and the piggy was put down.

When I first accepted Scotch and Soda as foster pigs, Scotch was not neutered. And yet he was one of the most gentle, soft piggies you can imagine. Personable, funny, sometimes a little pushy but certainly never aggressive, he communicated with sounds and body language that were easily understandable and very manageable.

And he was cryptorchid.

When we took him for neutering, the vet was able to retrieve only one testes – the other had adhered to the bladder, but was shriveled and “almost certainly” nonproductive. Likely still producing testosterone, but not producing viable sperm, Scotch continues his life as a partially-neutered pig. And he continues to be mellow, funny, sometimes pushy, but always manageable and very loving.

Similarly, of the nine male piglets who were born from Soda (pregnant when seized in an animal abuse case and giving birth just a couple of weeks after arriving at my farm), seven were cryptorchid. All were neutered successfully by a vet experienced in potbellied pigs.

There are legitimate reasons for euthanizing an animal, the most pressing being severe, untreatable injury/pain. But euthanizing a pig for being cryptorchid is like euthanizing a human for being mentally or physically disabled. It is immoral, unethical, and downright inhumane.

The number of potbellied pigs abandoned and neglected continues to grow (and in fact some reports state that potbellied pigs, first made popular in Canada in the 1980s, are experiencing a comeback as a “trendy” pet – a thought which alarms me no end, given how many are homeless by the time they are full grown). Shame on the people who bred Freddy the pig in the first place and sold him, unneutered, to the first hand holding money. And shame on the people who took responsibility for Freddy and then abandoned him so he ended up in a shelter.

Shame on the shelter that didn’t acknowledge its own limitations and failed to rely on the expert advice available to them. And most of all, shame on the vet who failed to uphold the ethical standards of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and who likewise failed to acknowledge his own limitations – both his limited knowledge of the species and his lack of surgical skills.

A piggy named Freddy was killed the other day, murdered by a man who believed that having an undescended testes was an incurable disease that would lead to others being harmed. His murder was condoned by a shelter who would, I am sure, have never approved the euthanization of a dog on the basis of an undescended testes.

Freddy, I am so sorry. Run free, piggyboy, in a field full of licorice and marshmallows and watermelon, playmates and cosy straw and sunshine, and all the other wonderful things you might have lived to enjoy had humankind not let you down.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Whippets are coming, the whippets are coming!

Early tomorrow morning Ellen and the whippet boyz will be on the ferry, coming to visit for a few days. We have a hike with some of the walking group planned for tomorrow afternoon (today's Wednesday walk was rained out, though Else and I took Tess, Sadie and Charley for a run in the offleash park near here in the afternoon), and the whippet boyz are invited.

Allie, of course, is not excited about their visit as they seem to think she is some kind of lure to be chased and captured - we will be taking all possible precautions to keep whippets and kitty separated or supervised!

Meanwhile, here's a potpourri of pictures from the last week or so:

Charley and Tess (Else's one year old dog) playing together.

Swim time!

Tides in!

Daisies in the field

Apples on our tree

Sunset on the water

Gulls on the wharf

High tide - steps to beach under water

Dusk on the sea wall

A wall of wild roses on a hike at Swallowfield

More wild roses

Multi-coloured berries

Serenity at Swallowfield
(if you click to enlarge, you will see a wild swan floating in the water just past the sand)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Oliver Tours the Town

Oliver has made great strides since our first pre-move trip to this community, when he wouldn't even go to the end of the driveway on leash. I know he was leash trained before coming to live with me, but since then he was always off leash in the pasture. His reaction to being leashed again was humourous if not downright frustrating at times. And so we were taking things one step - or four paws - at a time. First the end of the driveway and back. Then past the neighbour's house and back. Next, the end of the block and back. On a good day, he would go a block and a half.

All of a sudden, three nights ago, a lightbulb went off in that tired little brain of his and he "got it". In fact, he didn't just "get it", he reverted to the behaviours he exhibited when I first adopted him, expecting to go for a walk each evening. On Thursday night, around 8:00 pm, he began pacing back and forth between me and the door; we had gone for a little walk to the end of the block and back earlier in the day, and so I assumed he just needed to go out in the yard. But no, he didn't need to pee. He didn't need to poop. He just kept looking at me expectantly, whether he was outside or in.

And so I grabbed his leash and took him for a walk, hoping to settle him down. WELL!!! Off he went, down the block, happy as a clam in sand. I confess, he wasn't "leading" me, or even heeling at my side, but he trotted along behind (okay, "trot" is an exageration - he is almost as good at dawdling as Princess Belle is), and any time I went to turn around he sat down and refused to head back. He went to the park and back again, a total of about seven blocks round trip.

Friday, same thing. And last night.....well, there was no stopping him. He not only went to the park, he happily introduced himself to some boys skateboarding, some seniors out for a stroll, other dog walkers, and anyone who chanced to look his way and say hello. He proceeded past the park, down to the sea walk, and did the whole route the big dogs usually do, except we reversed direction for the return trip rather than doing a loop that involves climbing 52 stairs.

We stood for a while watching the boats in the bay:

Boats in Osbourne Bay at sunset

He stopped at the park to watch a family with five boys under the age of ten (!!!) blowing bubbles, and a five year old was tickled to find out he shared the same name as the dog.

Bubbles in the park

Because Oliver is a slow walker (ssslllllooooooooowwwwwwwwww walker), we were gone an hour, and the big dogs ended up having their evening walk in the "almost dark".

Charley on the sea walk at dusk

The harbour at dusk

The big dogs didn't mind the late night walk, but tonight I will have to start a wee bit earlier if Oliver is going to take me on another snail's pace tour of the town.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

For Hire: One Feline House Inspector

Hmmm...what's that hole in the wall? Laundry hookup?

Better climb up to have a closer look at the plumbing.

Those pipes seem to go behind this cupboard

Maybe I can access them from here.

There we are - it looks a-okay; no drips or signs of water damage.

She also does redecorating:

This folk-artsy fish doesn't look right here.

That's better!

(Note: Allie purposely bats the fish off the windowsill every single time I place it there !)

And these doors should all be OPEN - much more efficient!

(Note: This is a nightly occurance - Allie opens all the kitchen cupboard doors while I sleep.)

Ah well, time to take a break to watch the sun rise.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Coming home: The good, the bad and the just plain frustrating

The good:

• The light ocean breeze that freshens the air and keeps warm temperatures bearable
• The ease with which most of the critters have adjusted to their new surroundings now that the furniture is in place and familiar smells surround them
• The peacefulness of a sleepy community, where the sounds of songbirds are more evident than the sounds of traffic
• The pleasure of watching Charley play – yes, PLAY – with Else’s three dogs and Sadie on a walk through the beautiful Swallowfield delta area
• The antics of Allie who stands up to open each kitchen and bathroom cupboard, paws on the top, walking backwards, then pops in to see what is inside and pops out the next cupboard door - over and over and over again!
• The incredible friendship of Ellen, who took care of ensuring the housecleaners and carpet cleaners did their job at the rental house in Mission and in doing so, had to deal with foul-mouthed disrespect from the next tenant who had chosen to break into the house (damaging a window) in order to start moving in two days early. Above and beyond, Ellen, thanks so much.
• The wonderful friendship of Ann and Ken, who loaded their pickup to the gills with the items which movers don’t take or which were needed immediately, followed me over here, and stayed for three days feeding me, helping me unpack and organize and set up, breaking down all the boxes and rolling all the newsprint, and all they got in return was one fast-food meal out! Friends like that are more precious than gold.
• The amazing welcome from my new dog-loving friends and neighbours, who presented me with a huge hamper of an unending selection of local products from blackberry wine to chocolate bars, goat cheeses and free range eggs and apple butter and honey, a book on local history and a plant and some treats for the critters, a cloth embroidered with a pot bellied piggy, and even a beautifully framed painting that looks like Crofton Lake, and a bottle of Scotch (which wasn’t locally produced but which a certain someone knows is “my drink”!), and even more items too numerous to mention. Oh my doG, what a welcome!
• The never-ending support of Else and Bjorn who helped get the house ready, took care of furniture deliveries, arranged for some of the renos, introduced me to people and places, and continue to help orient me to the community
• The relief at looking around me and seeing I have only SIX more boxes to unpack and a little bit of re-organizing to do, just three days after the moving truck arrived! (WHEW!!!!)
• The joy of sitting in my own backyard, watching the family of birds in the birdhouse someone has hung under the roof of the shed, looking at the dozens of apples growing on my tree, seeing the blue of the water over the fence, hearing the barking of seals down by the dock.

The bad:

• The laminate flooring, recently installed by the seller, that causes Belle and especially Oliver no end of grief as they become spread-eagled on it and unable to move. Even area rugs and runners are not sufficient to stop poor Oli from becoming stranded and panicky. Looks like the new carpet I put in the bedroom will have to be extended to the hallway, living and dining rooms. $$$$$ - Le Sigh.

• The difficulty Oliver is having, possibly with his vision and/or with Canine Cognitive Disorder (doggy alzheimers), as he runs blindly into fences and walls, gets stuck in closets and bathrooms, and wanders about like a little lost soul. On the day we moved, when the dogs were released from the room where they’d been waiting while the movers filled the truck, Oliver had a full-out panic attack tearing around in distress for 45 minutes, unable to be restrained or consoled until all the critters were in the car and we were on our way. If he doesn’t show improvement in a few days, we shall have our first introductions to the local vets. Meanwhile, he is happy to sleep in the crate by my bed and I keep him by my side as much as possible. And, trooper that he is, he has learned EXACTLY where the treats are kept!

• The heat. Even though it is pleasant outside, the house is like an oven! This may be the year I buy my very first air conditioner – to keep the critters comfortable, of course.

The frustrating:

• Having missed the ferry by ONE car length, despite arriving at the terminal a good hour in advance on a Thursday afternoon, and having to wait three hours with four dogs and a cat in the car! It took us eight and a half hours to get from Mission to Crofton – not a pleasant trip!

• Having Shaw forget to transfer my email service when they transferred my account, and then spending over an hour and a half being transferred, put on hold, transferred again, put on hold again, trying to get the problem corrected.

• Having the furniture company neglect to let me know the couch I ordered was discontinued, and having them send a completely different couch (but covered with the fabric I ordered) in its place. And then having to wait five days for the unsatisfactory couch to be picked up, go to their store to get the refund, and start couch shopping all over again. (And meanwhile, trying to keep Allie from clawing the one they did deliver).

• Having the appliance company deliver the washer and dryer that replaces the wrong one they sent three weeks ago, only to discover the side of the washer is all bashed in and has to be returned......so I wait another couple of weeks to be able to wash my clothes at home.

Conclusions: The good far outweigh the bad and frustrating. Soon I shall pull out the camera and begin to capture some of Charley’s, Sadie’s, Belle’s, Oliver’s, and Allie’s marvelous adventures.

We are home.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Just a quick update

We have arrived, we are surrounded by boxes, the critters are adjusting, and I will blog about our adventure when I am less exhausted.
However, for my friends or family who are wondering why I'm not responding to emails......when Shaw closed off my account at the old house, they also cancelled my email account, even though I have Shaw internet at the new house. So...until I get this resolved, please use the email contact on the side of this blog (it is a hotmail account and unaffected by the problem).


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From Fraser Valley to Cowichan Valley

This will be my last entry from the beautiful Fraser Valley, on the mainland of southwestern BC. Although the Big Move is not until Thursday, the cable people will be here early tomorrow morning to pick up the digital phone box and disconnect the cable and internet. And so, my next blog entry will be from our new home on Vancouver Island.

I have moved often in my life. The longest move, in terms of distance, was when I was five and my family moved from England to the west coast of Canada. The shortest move, in terms of distance, was when I was 19, and I moved from one apartment in New Westminster to another just a few blocks away. I’ve lived in Alberta, and in the Northwest Territories. I’ve lived in several communities in southwestern BC. I’ve lived in apartments and houses in big cities and small towns. I’ve lived in old homes and newer ones in suburbs and on acreages. And if one considers my summertime explorations, I’ve even lived with nothing but the stars for my ceiling and the forest for my walls.

But of all the places I’ve lived, none have delighted me as much as this five acres of heaven, with its views of mountains and valley, its trees and flowers and wildlife, its delicious sense of freedom for the dogs and myself. Here I had the opportunity to foster potbellied pigs and care for an abandoned alpaca; here I fostered a palliative old shepherd cross named Isaac, and here I helped my sweet, sweet Caleb to pass. Here I watched bears from my window, and coyotes from my pasture gate. And here I saw my Charley become a free spirit, and I welcomed Sadie and Oliver and Belle into my life and my heart.

And yet, on Thursday I shall trade the pasture walks for seawalks, the sounds of coyotes ki-yi-yi-ing for the sounds of seals barking, the cries of Northern flickers and pileated woodpeckers for the cawing and calling of seagulls.

Life is an adventure, and as the critters and I bid farewell to this precious piece of land, we step boldly and happily into a future of new sights and new sounds, of new places to explore, new discoveries to make, new friends to meet. Memories of our life here on the farm will always be cherished, old friendships will continue even though the frequency of getting together will change, and all the experiences that I have had these past few years – both those that have brought joy and those that have brought pain – are tucked away in my heart and have shaped the woman I am now and the woman I am still becoming.

And so, as I start yet another chapter of my life, I feel much like I did when I was fourteen years old backpacking the McAlester Pass in the North Cascades of Washington State, or in my mid-forties hiking the amazing mountain crest trails of Cathedral Provincial Park in BC – I am loving the experience and can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Life is good.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Help Find Daniel Hughes

One of my blog readers, dp, has asked for help finding the brother of one of her best friends. Daniel Hughes went missing in Vancouver on June 5th.

Here are two links to news items about Daniel, with clear pictures of him and of the bike he was riding, and further information regarding likely cycling routes.

Click on this link or copy and paste this into your browser: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/06/08/bc-missing-daniel-hughes.html

And this one or copy and paste this into your browser: http://www.nsmb.com/3088-missing-rider-daniel-hughes

If you are a Vancouverite and live near these areas, please keep your eyes open while walking your dogs, cycling, or just enjoying the great outdoors, and contact the police if you have any information on Daniel's whereabouts.

Three more sleeps

With just three more sleeps until the big day (the final move to the island, with all critters and household effects), things are somewhat chaotic as I try to pack, repair, clean, tend the lawn, and keep the critters' routines as normal as possible.

The weather is cooperating - touch wood - with cooler temperatures than last week, but no rain (again, touch wood). It is near perfect weather for me - fairly sunny with a light breeze, warm enough for short sleeves but not so hot to make me lethargic.

Our main event around here has been the bears - they are plentiful this year, and very visible. I think something may have happened to the mama of triplets, spotted with the cubs a few weeks ago; we now see one or more of the cubs frolicking in the fields and gorging on the skunk cabbage and other delicacies, but no sign of mama. One of the cubs, either a large one from this year or a small one from last, appears injured - he is limping, and falls over frequently. We are trying to get help for him, but apparently the sole conservation officer responsible for checking it out is too busy elsewhere. It is worrisome.

I have not seen the three cubs together, nor even in twos, though a difference in the size of the injured one and the playful one assures me I am not just seeing the same single bear. I see one or another of the cubs at least twice a day, and the huge papa bear pays a visit every few days.

Yesterday morning, this cutie greeted me as I opened the drapes on the patio doors:

The dogs and I are enjoying halcyon days in the pasture, the dogs running and playing and rolling (and trying to reach the bear and coyote scat before I do), and I am taking pleasure in watching them. Birds are everywhere - hawks and eagles and woodpeckers, sparrows and swallows and robins and wrens. One new songster has joined us, in the trees at the top of the hill - with a clear, sweet, melodic song that I don't recognize. I have only caught a glimpse of him - smaller than a sparrow, larger than a chickadee - but was unable to identify his colours or silhouette from his perch at the very tip of a tall tree.

I saw Brazen Coyote with a female a few weeks ago, and have not seen them since, but I think they have produced kits as there is lots of coyote scat, in adult and kit sizes, on the path through the pasture.

And the pasture grasses and flowers are growing exponentially. Some days, keeping track of the dogs is a game of "Where's Waldo?"

Daisies are appearing in profusion - white in the pasture, deep yellow by the sides of the road:

The llamas next door watch us closely - I think they still search for signs of Martin. Sorry, llamas, Martin finally has a herd of his own.

Finally, I am close to getting an acceptable picture of Oliver in flowers, to complete my set of each of my dogs in the pasture. I do love photos of dogs in fields of yellow flowers!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Tale of Ollie and Allie

Allie the Cat seems to have gotten over the loss of her ratty ol' chair, and taken up residence in the living room - either in my recliner, in her kitty condo, or on the living room floor. This is very courageous of her, as Oliver has not quite figured out what cats are all about, and follows her around like a love-sick teenager before suddenly lunging forward to get up close and personal. Often this results in a swat to the nose as Allie tells Ollie to "Back. Off. Dog! "

Last night's Allie and Ollie exchange went something like this:

Hey, there's a cat on the floor!

Whatcha doin' there, Cat?

Back off, Fuzz-Face.

The staredown

I don't think she likes me.

Get over it. Dogs drool, Cats rule!

I jest wanna be fwiends......

Poor Oliver - it's okay, buddy, one day she'll let you close without swatting at you!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Kiss

Kate and Grayce, June 1, 2009
My favourite shots are those that capture the love between human and canine.

A Bit of This, A Bit of That

Moving day is just one week away, and the moving experience is …well….let’s just say less than moving!

A last round of people-or-pet health care providers and groomers, a flurry of activity with banks and businesses, a moment of panic as I think “how will I ever manage without a garage or barn or basement or attic????”, numerous trips to thrift store and dump, and the endless job of packing, packing, packing – all tasks made more difficult by the extremely HOT weather that has arrived. Here on the hillside temperatures are about five degrees warmer than in the valley (or five degrees colder in winter), and yesterday when it was officially 31 in the valley, the thermometer showed 36 in my back yard. (For my American readers who are thinking “BRRRR” – we’re talking Celsius, not Farenheit! Thirty-six degrees Celsius is 98.6 Farenheit. And no, I don’t have air conditioning.)

But it is slowly coming together, and I am still making time for visiting with friends, walking in the pastures with the dogs, and enjoying the tremendous show of flowers in the fields and gardens.

On Monday, my friend Kate came to visit with Lady Grayce, who was adopted from Turtle Gardens. Kate’s other dogs, Finn and Lucy, are also TG alumni, but they stayed home this visit.

Last time Grayce came to visit it was raining, and I promised her sunshine and a romp in the fields. This time, we had sunshine, and so we had our romp in the fields. Grayce, for all her size, is one very active dog – getting her to stay still long enough for a photoshoot was quite the challenge.

Sadie follows Grayce up the hill

Grayce runs back to check on us

Grayce keeps an eye on Charley

Grayce and Kate

Happy Grayce

Beautiful girl

Ellen brought the dogs over Tuesday night and we filled the kiddy pool to play “bobbing for wieners” in an attempt to cool them down. Eleven year old Cisco was the only one brave enough to submerge his head for the yummy treats – once he got the knack of it he hovered them down lightening fast. Ellen, Cisco could have a great career as a pool cleaner!

This morning I awoke early to the drum-drum-drumming of a woodpecker on the tree near my bedroom window. As I got up to look, I heard the familiar hahahahahah of a pileated woodpecker (the kind Woody Woodpecker is supposed to be), and caught a glimpse of him flying across the yard. In pj’s and with dogs on my heels, I tried in vain to get a clear photo, but these are the best I could do.

You'll find a better one of the woodpecker in one of last year's blog entries here. Searching back through the entries, I realize I have seen Woody in March, December, and now June - which suggests he is here year round and not just passing through.

With the extreme heat, flowers are blooming and then dying quickly. A couple of days ago, I checked these white irises and they were but a swollen bud – today they are in full bloom, and I missed the yellow ones altogether:

These rhodos fascinate me - while not a particularly healthy bush, the one trunk has produced both pink and purple blossoms:

Some pansies have self seeded in strange spots – I found this lovely orange one under the picnic table, and others scattered along the path to the laundry stand:

And then there is the pasture, where the white blossoms of daisies and berries (black, straw, salmon and thimble) intermingle with the acres of yellow.

It is too hot to pack up the stuff in the attic or finish the garage, so I am hoping for cooler weather sometime in the next few days. Meanwhile, I'll just keep puttering around taking photos!