Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hot nights, warm tomatoes, and a cool but troublesome computer

For the third or fourth day in a row, the temperature is in the mid to high 30s Celsius (100+ F). It cools down very little at night. The dogs are bored, I am cranky, and the few flowers in my garden are parched.

I spent last night sleeping on the couch – well, for the first couple of hours – as the living room is much cooler than my west-south-west facing bedroom. Around 1:00 a.m., just as I was finally drifting off to sleep, the sirens began. Fire trucks racing down the road in front and the lane behind, police cars, ambulances, and looky-loos following close behind. A couple of blocks over, a house on fire – the smoke and flames reaching high into the night. Each time I drifted back to sleep, more sirens as trucks from other jurisdictions arrived. By 2:30, I had given up all hopes of sleep and decided to take Sadie for a walk in the finally-cool-enough night air. Apparently half the town had the same idea, as I bumped into new friends and neighbours on every block, some unable to sleep and wanting fresh air, some checking the location and status of the fire. Word spread quickly – a couple, their son and their dog escaped without harm, but the house was completely gutted by the blaze. Nothing remains this morning but a few charred uprights and a pile of burnt rubble.

By the time I returned to my house some time around 3:30, it seemed pointless to try to sleep, and so I took advantage of the cooler air to make jello, fresh fruit salad, and two kinds of homemade iced tea (one mint, the other chai) to keep me refueled without cooking for the next couple of days. I have still not given in to buying an air conditioner – it seems like such an extravagance for the couple of weeks each year that we really need it. And in this heat, who wants to lug it home and set it all up??? And so I spend my days sitting strategically in front of high-powered fans, reading a book or watching tv, and working my way through boxes of old photos and other memorabilia. It’s not a bad way to while away the day.

This evening I took the overheated dogs into the back yard for a quick piss-and-dump. They do little more than run out, do their business, and head back inside to plonk their furry bodies in front of the nearest fan. Before I could head back to the house, however, a neighbour’s head popped up over the fence that separates our yards and our dogs. In her hand, three large, just-picked-that-moment red tomatoes, warm from the sun and smelling sweetly with the scent that only fresh-picked tomatoes have. “Would you like these?” she asked. Would I! Tomatoes, good ones, are one of my favourite veggies – er, fruits. And it had been a long time since I had eaten a truly fresh-from-the-vine tomato. Not one of them made it as far as the kitchen counter. It was the Best Dinner Ever on a hot, hot day. Next year, I’m growing a garden!

As for the computer, I’m writing this blog on my old one. Why? Because I can’t get the new one to work. It may have all the bells and whistles, including wireless technology, built in web cam, lots of memory, but it is not user friendly. And the one thing I very much dislike about my new geographic location is that SERVICE SUCKS! I don’t know where local businesses learned their rules for customer service, but they all need refresher courses. So far, I have had run-ins or at least annoying encounters with the garage who outright cheated me by filling my radiator with water and charging me for antifreeze (something I found out at another garage a couple of weeks later), a wellknown chain store that uses "rollback" as their slogan but doesn't tell you they rolled back service, a furniture store that delivered the totally wrong sofa rather than telling me the one I ordered was discontinued, and now the computer store.

I was assured the computer would be ready for me to just “plug in and go”. I was assured my files would all be “transferred over, and show up just as they do on your present computer”. I was assured that they would come out next week to set up the wireless modem and walk me through the new technology. Of course, that was before they got my money. Now they tell me they can’t transfer some stuff because the software has to be loaded in first (but they didn’t have time to do it there even though I had taken the disks in), and they won’t be able to get out to the house until mid to late August. But still, says they, just plug it in and you can start using it for most things.

Right. Plug it in. Done. A thousand messages I don’t understand start popping up. A thousand icons I don’t recognize appear on the desktop. A thousand questions that I have no idea how to answer. And my attempt to get onto the internet tells me that the computer cannot connect with the server.

Don’t know why. Of course, the user manual and the “help” site are both available only online. And I can’t get online. And the computer store is closed and I now find out they won’t be open tomorrow or, in fact, all next week. So the cool computer is back in the box, the old computer is hooked back up, and I am steaming mad on an already hot enough day.

Thank goodness for neighbours with warm ripe tomatoes, and for dogs who like walking with me in the wee small hours. Such gifts can make up for a multitude of aggravations.

If any computer gurus want to visit the island, there’s a comfortable spare room, five critters to entertain you, and lots of icy cold beer in the fridge.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The birthday report, a visit to Martin, and a new computer

This may be the last you hear from me for a few days. I am getting - gulp...terror....panic..... A NEW COMPUTER. It arrives this morning, and who knows how long it will take me to learn. I hope to be able to keep this one up and running as I will go into computer withdrawal without it, but I am certainly not known for my intuitive sense of technology, so who knows how long it will be before I manage to screw up both machines trying to transfer programs and files.

So, before I go, here are a couple of animal-related updates:

Yesterday I spent a wonderful day at the farm where Martin now lives. He is doing sooooo well, integrated right into the herd, acting and looking like A Real Alpaca. When I arrived he and his alpaca family were in the pasture over the hill, in the soft green grass and shady trees. But as Judy and I headed for the barn to give a somewhat wooly llama a nice new haircut, the alpacas came running up to keep a close eye on us. Some stuck their head over the gate or fence, others just milled around to make sure they weren't missing out on anything important.

The llama to be sheared didn't feel like cooperating in the barn, so we led him back towards the house where there is a special stand called a "squeeze box" (not half as scary as it sounds - simply a hitching post with timbers extending outward to keep restless llamas from doing the fox trot while you clip). All the alpacas followed, their heads swivelling this way and that, monitoring our every move. They are so very funny - like curious little aliens checking out a strange planet.

Between the heat (it was 39 degrees celsius, or about 102F for my American friends)and the work we were doing, I didn't take my camera to the fields so have no pics. Next time, it will hopefully be cooler and I will get photos of the many critters at Martin's new home.

And despite the incredible heat, it felt so very good to this country-lovin' gal to be back out in the fields, surrounded by animals, breathing in the scent of hay and dust and manure and critters. It is a good, wholesome smell, an "I was meant to be here" smell, a comfort smell, like homebaked cookies in Grandma's kitchen.

When I returned home, there was an email from Janice at Hearts on Noses , reporting on the piggies' birthday. Here, in her own words, is what happened when she went to give them their birthday treat:

"Dreading going out into the heat I started to line up all the trays on my front porch using the peanuts, marshmallows, liquorice nibs, apples and strawberries. I started to walk them all over, putting them out nicely, planning to close the gate and call them all back home [from their outing in the pastures] once the trays were lined up. FOILED!! When I looked up, I FREAKED as I saw her ROYAL self [Mama Soda]coming out of the shed. YIKESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS WHERE'S THE KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With no choice I had to open the gates and let who ever was there in before Soda ate everything!!!

And who is missing?????????????????????? I called and called and then I had to go out looking. Sweat pouring down my face into my eyes, I ran up the street, over to Mario's, around the acreage, asking the deer eating apples at the school if they had seen a little black pig. Forty-five minutes, and back to the paddock, and there is ROB ROY doing the "Scotch dilly dally" and heading for a swim. Back to the house for more nibs and strawberries to lure him back in.

Next Birthday celebration CANCELLED. LOL"

Oh cause the Piggy Lady such grief! But I'm sure there will be a birthday celebration next year too - don't you believe her when she says it is cancelled!

Here's some pictures of them enjoying their feast. Note that they are all BALDY PIGGIES now - they have shed their thick black bristles in favour of going NEKID in the heat. It will grow back next winter though, and hair or not, they are still handsome piggies! Thanks, Janice, for loving them.

Setting out the trays - one per piggy

Num, num, num, num, num....T R E A T S!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The potbellied piggies that I fostered from birth to 20 months are two years old today! From wee little critters that fit into my hand to full grown youngsters running around the sanctuary, I have watched them develop their own unique personalities; the social butterflies, the timid, the funny, the bossy, they are all sentient beings with thoughts and feelings and relationships. Just as they once awakened Mama Soda demanding to be fed, they now awaken the Piggy Lady at Hearts on Noses with a cacophony of sound; they know when it is breakfast time.

My gift to them is what piggies love best - a feast of goodies which arrived by special delivery (thanks to their Auntie Ewwen) last night, and Janice has promised to take many pictures. I suspect they will also have a good mud wallow to help them keep cool, or play "bobbing for strawberries" in one of the many pools that are spread around the sanctuary in the hot weather.

Happy birthday, Whisper, RobRoy, Rickey, Lizzie, Fizz, Spritzer, Swizzle, Derby, Toddy, and Tom.

Snouties up, little piggies, it's your day today.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Encore

A scorcher of a day led to storm clouds gathering, a light breeze whispering, and rain drops spluttering just as I headed out on the first of the evening dog walks. As Oliver and I rounded the corner at the end of the block, I stopped in my tracks and let the pleasure wash over me - a brilliant rainbow, wider than wide, embraced the bay, its end planted firmly on the sunset-drenched little white ferry just leaving the dock of the island across the waters.

It was a Kodak Moment. But I had no camera. I couldn't share it. And I was walking the Slowest Dog On Earth. Oliver takes approximately forty minutes to go around the block. Seriously. He takes dainty little steps that remind me of ancient Japanese movies when women had their feet bound and tiptoed in tiny steps behind their husband or father. Except Oliver doesn't hurry as the women in the movies did. He takes tiny steps in s l o w, s l o w motion. And stops to check out the pee-mail every few feet. Sigh.

And so by the time we got back home and I leashed up Sadie and Charley for the next walk of the evening, dusk was falling, the rain had stopped, and the setting sun was once more hidden behind purple clouds. But I grabbed the camera anyway.

And I'm glad I did. Because even though these pictures can't capture the amazing colours and textures and scents of the evening, I hope they help relay some of the magic that was tonight. For just as we turned away from the sea wall and headed back up the hill, the sun slipped out from its curtain of cloud for an encore.

And what an encore it was!

Rainbows, double ones, spread across the bay from side to side. Golden sunset on white boats and yellow hillsides. And brilliant orange fireball clouds all around.

The dogs and I went back to the little park near the wharf to watch nature's lightshow. A crowd of people were there, ironically waiting for a movie-in-the-park night that was supposed to begin at dusk. Instead, families were treated to a show far more spectacular, far more awe-inspiring than any Hollywood-produced performance could be.

When we finally returned home, the neighbours were out on the street, watching in awe as a rainbow trailed right into a brilliant orange puff of cloud, like some multi-coloured comet hurtling to the earth.

And as I came through my gate into my back yard, the whole sky was ablaze with orange light, sunset on clouds washed with the rain.

When I lived in the Northwest Territories, I saw the most amazing displays of Northern Lights, displays I will never forget. Tonight's sky rivaled those experiences.

My photos don't do it justice. The images, however, are firmly rooted in my mind.
A lightshow like no other. An encore worthy of a standing ovation.

The Wednesday Walk

Anyone for dock diving?
(Amie, Quinn, Dolly, Luger and Pearl)

Wednesday was a hot, hot day here so Crofton Lake was the hike of choice. It is a fairly gentle grade up to the lake on a mostly well-treed trail, and although the area right around the lake has no shade, most of the dogs happily play in the water while the others paddle around the edges to keep cool. As usual, we had the place to ourselves.

Everyone into the lake!

Archie does his otter imitation

Vimy doesn't swim. He really, really wants this stick so he braves the water up to his chest - note the feet still planted on the ground, as he stands still and wills it to float toward him.

"I got it!!" Drew is a water baby - he will play 'fetch the stick from the lake' for hours - but always drops them short of shore in case any other dogs decides to steal HIS stick.

There were only three people this week, but together we had eleven dogs with us - and still some of our dogs stayed home! They are all so well behaved and get along so nicely - even Karen's most recent foster, Quinn, who is still learning "manners" before being considered adoptable did so very well. He is a lovely dog and could easily steal my heart. Here's Quinn:

Quinn looking coy

The dock is a favourite place, especially when there are treats involved:

Charley and Luger and Quinn, with Hugo walking away and Pearl's back end!

Amie (between her human's legs), Luger, Dolly, Quinn, Sadie and Charley

Soon they all spread out and do their own thing, giving me the opportunity for some solo shots:

Sadie investigates the shoreline

Charley contemplates a muddy spot. "Did I drop a treat in there?"

Vimy - the old soldier whose been through some real battles in life

Happy Sadie

Quinn, finally living the good life

Pearl - the princess who somehow keeps her coat white even on the sand

Luger - he is supposedly my Caleb's father. Taken in the same SPCA seizure, he had a broken leg that hung lifeless and had to be removed. Being a tripod hasn't slowed him down in the least.

Drew investigates an interesting old log

With the others busy exploring or swimming, Charley finds the dock a nice place to lie down and reflect:

"Ahhhhhh.....this is the life!"

Time to head home, and leave the beautiful surroundings to the birds, frogs, and fish.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I wud like ......

I wud like it not so hot

I wud like a bigger bed

I wud like a cookie, please

I wud like a fishing rod

I wud like you not to step on me

I wud like to be yer friend

I wud like the secret password

I wud like a martini, please

I wud like a nap

I wud like to get that bird on the deck

Animal communication - it's not hard to figure out!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When you know better, you do better.

Three months ago, I had not heard of a gas box, a piece of equipment used to euthanize animals. Two months ago, I knew there was an issue brewing concerning the use of CO2 gas boxes in the area I was about to move to, but did little to learn about the issue. And just over one month ago, on my fifth night in my new home, I attended a meeting of city council as a show of support for my friends who are trying to persuade council to bring an end to the use of CO2 to euthanize cats in this region. At that meeting, I heard a former animal control worker describe her experience euthanizing cats in the CO2 gas box. It was horrific.

And that was the start of an education which has left me flabbergasted.

At a follow up meeting I attended, one councilor expressed frustration at the contradictory information she was hearing from the company that operates the gas box in this area and from the delegation attempting to have it banned. She wanted to see the evidence, the facts, the professional and scientific material.

And, unlike the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes too large, my mouth grew three sizes too large – and I offered to gather the material and summarize it into an information package, with the assistance of two other members of the delegation.

I will be honest here – as a retired social scientist and university faculty member who has spent the past 30 years reading and writing academic papers I knew I was up to the task, but a big part of my motivation was to check out the facts for myself. I had heard that 18 American states have banned the gas box, with more pending, but I also heard it said that the American Veterinary Medical Association approved its use. I heard that Humane societies in Canada and the US considered it unacceptable and inhumane, and that the Canadian Veterinary Medical association considered lethal injection THE most humane method. And I learned that dogs in my region were euthanized only by lethal injection, but cats were put in the gas box.

I am not particularly militant, and I veer away from animal activists who are. I prefer the gentler, more rational approach, and will rise up in anger and take more aggressive action only when really backed to the wall on issues I feel very, very strongly about. Mention “PETA” and I run for the hills.

And so I sat down with my computer and my university library access code, and I researched. With the assistance of two women who have now become my friends, I read articles in veterinary journals and conference papers, and position statements from various veterinary, professional, and humane associations. And I read. And read. And read.

And what I learned was frightening. What I learned was heart breaking. What I learned was an education in itself.

The package we produced contains a four page summary paper on the position statements of various professional and humane societies nationally and internationally, and an eight page summary paper on the scientific research, along with a reference section of works cited (and online links) should the reader wish to learn even more.

For the purposes of this blog, I will sum up the research succinctly: small animals like cats, dogs and rabbits who are euthanized by CO2 have one of two experiences:

a) Low concentrations of CO2 and/or gradually filling a chamber with CO2 after the animal has been placed in it leads to aversive reactions, panic, and slow death through asphyxia. The animal suffocates as it attempts to climb the sides of the box to escape the gas, and frantically tries to claw its way out.

b) High concentrations of CO2 and/or placing the animal in a chamber pre-filled with 70% CO2 or higher leads to more immediate loss of consciousness but with greater initial pain. The carbon dioxide instantly converts the nasal mucus to carbonic acid. Loss of consciousness using this method still typically takes 45 seconds or longer, much longer for neonate and young animals like kittens.

I cannot live with that. Can you?

So far, three communities in BC have banned its use – New Westminster, Victoria, and Nanaimo. Two others – the City of Duncan and the District of North Cowichan – are currently considering their position. But countless other communities across Canada and the United States continue to use this archaic and inhumane form of euthanasia.

Dear reader, I challenge you. Find out how animals are euthanized by animal control in YOUR area. And if the gas box is still part of their equipment, take action.

In the words of Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I only hope the councils in this region will do better, now that we know they know better.

You can obtain a free copy of the information package by emailing us at banthegasbox [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Do it for the animals.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The good life: free for the taking

Last night was a perfect evening for a walk - a light breeze, gentle swells undulating across a glassy sea, golden and pink sunset washing the landscape with colour. I grabbed the camera and the dogs and inhaled deeply as I drank in the beauty all around me.

The neighbour's Indian Bean tree has been providing me with pleasure for at least a couple of weeks now. It is a mass of beautiful flowers and large heart-shaped leaves. It will, I am told, develop long beans after the flowers have gone. Here's what it looks like from the distance:

And a closer look at a bough:

And then the beautiful white and purple flowers close up:

Further down the block, I admire a mimosa tree. I cannot get a shot of the flowers as they are high up like a pink blanket draped across the very top of the broad expanse of green foliage. I learned, as I searched for the name of the tree, that the flowers and bark of the mimosa tree are one of the most prized of Chinese botanicals, famous for relieving anxiety, stress and depression. The flowers can be seen in this link, but here is the top part of the tree, as seen from the street:

And beneath it, this cat keeps an eye on the dogs. Kitty is nearly always visible in this small garden, watching the parade of people and dogs passing by.

Splashes of colour are everywhere:

Down at the sea wall, we paused to take some shots of the water. I never tire of looking at the ocean, the boats, the islands in my little piece of the world. The evening air was so clear I could see Mt. Baker poking its summit above Salt Spring Island. (You'll need to click on the photo and peer very carefully to the right of the "hump" to see Baker in this picture - it was much more visible to the naked eye!)

More boats, more ocean, more beauty everywhere I look.

In the golden sunset, the trees along the seawall and up the hillside do a dress rehearsal for the fall performance:

In the grass by the beach, one of many feral and semi-feral cats watches us carefully before running off to the safety of the underbrush.

Back home, I stop to admire the sunset on the ripening apples on my tree.

And then I decide to have a little fun with the dogs, who cooperate by each taking a turn at modeling the visor which shades my eyes when the bright summer sun sinks low in the sky.

It was a good day. It is a beautiful world. There is so much beauty to be seen, and fun to be had. It is all there, free for the taking. A simple life, a good life.