Friday, December 31, 2010

A sunrise walk and a bittersweet farewell

Crofton sunrise

I lie awake in the early morning, the crisp cold dawn slipping through the slightly open window. I snuggle further under the blanket, spooning around Lucy as she sleeps on, oblivious to what lies ahead. Soon, I feel her nudge my arm and start to lick my hand. I stroke her soft fur and she wiggles up the bed to cover my face with her morning doggy kisses. It is time to get up, though today my heart is heavy.

In just a few short hours, Lucy’s world is about to be turned upside down. This is the last time she will sleep on my bed, the last morning she will wake me with her kisses. For Lucy Lou has found a home.

She came to me a scared, anxious, sad, and very pregnant girl. Slowly she learned to love car rides and walks about town, to crawl up on my lap and sneak into my bed. She gave wonderful kisses – timid at first, and then more generously washing my face and hands with her tongue. And she grew to trust me – to trust that when I left the house without her, I would return, and when I took her places where she had to stay without me, I would come back for her.

Today I am going to break that trust. Today she is moving on – to join the family who has pledged to love her forever, her adoptive family. In time she will learn to trust them, in time she will love them as she does me. Friends tell me dogs are very adaptable. And I know that is true. But I know before her trust and love will be freely given again, there will be a time of sadness and confusion, a painful time for Lucy – and how I wish I could protect her from that pain.

I get out of bed and go to the back door. I pull on my boots and warm jacket and step outside with Lucy. The sky is orange and red with the glow of sunrise, and I impulsively forgo our morning routines and grab the camera and Lucy’s leash. We head down to the beach and watch the sunrise, sitting side by side in the frosty morning air. It is a perfect way to spend our very last morning together. A perfect time for a final walk.

Boat leaves the marina

Sunrise from the seawalk

Sunrise and reflections

I have always known this day would come. And for nearly a week, I have known it would be today. The family came to meet her last Sunday, and I took her to their place for the homecheck on Tuesday, and then I recommended the SPCA approve the application. And they did. It has been my secret, one that I didn’t want to share on the blog until all was complete.

By noon she seems to know something is up. Perhaps she senses my emotions, perhaps she makes sense of the things I am packing for her. She sits by the window and watches and waits.

Are they here yet?

I'm tired of waiting

I am going to miss her terribly. I will miss her enthusiastic greetings when I’ve been gone, whether for five minutes or five hours. I will miss her climbing onto my lap and pushing me out of my chair. I will miss her running to her crate and sitting up tall as can be as she waits for her meal. I will miss her wonderful silly grin, her willingness to dress up and her excitement as soon as I pick up her leash or the car keys. But most of all, I shall miss her climbing up onto my bed and snuggling up to me, licking my hands and covering my face with her kisses as we wake up in the early morning hours and head out for a walk in the sunrise.

It is always good news when a shelter dog finds a family. She joins a mom and dad, and a boy and girl. The girl, Kaia, shall be her special pal, and it is on her bed that Lucy shall likely sleep. Her new family also has two cats, and she’ll have doggy friends to play with regularly as her at-home mom walks neighbourhood dogs each weekday, walks our Lucy will now enjoy too. Oh, and Lucy will have a gramma just down the road, whose two dogs she met and liked on Tuesday.

She will live in a lovely comfortable home with a nice yard to play in, protected by a solid six foot fence, though it will be awhile before she can be out there unattended for even a minute, as we all know about her invisible pogo stick and superpower flying abilities! Her new family has been well versed in the rules of keeping Lucy safe.

And so Lucy rides off, not into the sunset, but into the sunrise of her life – into the promise of a brand new day, a brand new life. With her she takes her martingale collar and a new id tag, her sweater, a few favourite toys, some dog food and some treats......and a very large piece of my heart.

My sorrow is a little girl’s joy. My pain is a family’s excitement. Such is the role of fostering – to nurse back to health, to teach some manners, to care, to love, to let go. Lucy Lou is going home.

Heading home

A Poem for Lucy

It is perhaps the hardest thing that I have ever done,
To love a dog and earn her trust, and then to send her on.
In fostering, the joy I feel at seeing safely placed
A homeless dog, is bittersweet; with sorrow it is laced.
A young girl's gain will be my loss; my mind has but one thought:
That I will truly miss this dog and all the love she brought.

Have a great life, Lucy Lou.

© 2010 JFB

Lucy's morning sunrise, December 31, 2010

Viewed with her foster mama the day she begins her new life

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A fun day, and a gift to treasure

Lucy and I headed up island early this morning, amid sunshine, blue sky, and occasional surreal patches of fog hovering just above the water. Lucy travelled well, and once again proved her dexterity by somehow squeezing through the bars of the dog barrier to sit in the driver's seat when I popped into a store. Silly girl!

We had a nice visit with some new friends, and she met two little dogs who were both named Ginger (both rescued dogs), and once again did me proud with her nice doggy manners.

On the way home, we popped into The Village Puppy, a wonderful dog boutique owned by our friend Kelly in Qualicum Beach. Lucy even tried on a few coats in the store, said hello to customers, and showed off what a great dog she is! She has come such a long way - no longer nervous in new situations, happy to meet everyone and explore new places.

Kelly wasn't there, but a quick phone call and she came over to say hi - and brought me a wonderful gift. Kelly had arranged for an artist friend of hers, Vicki (Kelly, please email me with Vicki's full name so I can give proper credit!), to do a portrait of our dear Oliver who passed away this past June. It is absolutely beautiful and I shall treasure it. I love how Vicki captured Oliver's happy smile - he was always such happy dog, such a ray of sunshine in my life. Thank you Kelly, and thank you Vicki!

This isn't the best photo as the lighting isn't right and it is full of reflections, but I wanted to post it tonight as I'll be away all day tomorrow.

When Lucy and I arrived home, Charley and Sadie were happy to see her, and all three of them ran and played and acted goofy in the backyard - how I love to see my old girls join in the fun of zooomies with young Lucy.

It was a very good day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hey, Time, could you stand still for a moment?

I honestly don't know where the days go - they just fly by. I still haven't finished that post on crating that a couple of people asked for.....will get back to it soon.

Christmas day was peaceful and pleasant. The rain stopped long enough for Lucy and I to go for an hour long walk around town. I made her dress for the occasion :

Aarggh - you expect me to wear this????

I'll never be able to show my face around town again!

She was such a good sport, wearing her reindeer antlers all over town. She certainly got lots of comments from the other people we met! And when we got home, she was rewarded with a bully stick in her crate while I took the other two for a walk:

Well, that certainly made it all worthwhile!

It was starting to rain by the time I took Charley and Sadie out, so we mostly just wandered down by the seawalk watching the ducks and gulls and people. These cats were hanging about the empty house near the start of the seawalk:

Cats by a vacant house

Boxing Day, some visitors came to meet Lucy, who took a particular liking to the little girl and gave her a very thorough face and ear wash! Lucy is such a very good dog with everyone, two legged and four legged. Today she spent a few hours with Cheryl, owner of U-Dog dog care services, as she is going to have a sleep-over there later this week while I dash over to the mainland for a day. Cheryl commented on how nicely she got along with all the other dogs even though she was nervous being in a new place. Whether it was the nervous energy or the fresh air, Lucy was a tired puppy when she got home:


Lucy loves to ride in the car now, so tomorrow she is coming up island with me while I do a homecheck. Then Wednesday I'm off to the mainland, and on the weekend my daughter will likely come for a visit (barring ice and snow on the roads).

Hopefully sometime late Thursday or Friday I shall get that post about crates up!

I'll end with this photo, which I took just to make Big Sis drool - our family's traditional Christmas dessert, an English trifle. This year I soaked the bottom sponge cake layer in Cointreau and used mandarins for the fruit instead of strawberry - it was yummy (and yes, I ate the whole thing myself over the last two days!).

Drool, Big Sis, drool!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Morning, 2010

Six o'clock Christmas morning. It is quiet in the house, and dark in the village. I turn on the Christmas lights as I step outside, and I watch their many colours sparkling in the light rain that falls. It is a blustery day, but a warm one, a beautiful morning in its own West Coast way. Lucy is bouncing around my feet, childlike in her happiness, while Sadie and Charley slowly plod around the yard before heading back to the shelter of the house. I smile, and I gaze to the heavens as I whisper a heartfelt thank you to the Great Spirit that guides my life. I am richly blessed.

Christmas has always been a special time of year for me. When I was a child, no matter how tight things were financially, or how rough the year had been, my family always celebrated with music and worship, with overflowing stockings and presents under the tree, with turkey and Christmas pudding and mince tarts and trifle, with silly paper hats pulled from Christmas crackers, and funny party games like Squeak Piggy Squeak. But most of all we celebrated with love, with joy, and with togetherness.

Over the years, my Christmases have changed in form, but never in feeling. As we children grew and scattered across the country, family gatherings became less frequent, new traditions emerged, and the Christmases of my childhood became a memory. And I made a conscious choice to keep my Christmases simple.

And yet December 25th remains my favourite day of the year. It is a time when, no matter if I am with family or not, I feel a great sense of joy and love, a sense of belonging – to the people whom I love and who love me, to the Spirit which nurtures me, to the earth which sustains me in so many ways.

This Christmas day, as others frantically prepare their feasts and tear wrappings off presents, the dogs and I shall go for a walk along the beach, breathe in the salt air, watch the birds overhead and admire the shells at our feet. Then we shall return home, curl up in our favourite spots, and I shall listen to music, read a good book, cuddle my dogs, and graze my way through the day. It is how I wish to spend this Christmas. Simple, peaceful, cosy.

May you celebrate your day in the way that pleases you most.

Merry Christmas, everyone, from all of us to all of you.

Jean, Charley, Sadie, Allie, and the irrepressible Ms. Lucy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Surprise

Tonight, as I sat sipping some hot chocolate and watching the evening news, I heard sirens and yelling, and saw flashing lights through the living room blinds. Rushing outside, fearing a neighbour’s house on fire or a bad accident down the block, I was surprised to see a rather impromptu parade of fire engines, and a flatdeck truck decorated in lights and loaded with happy children, touring the town.

We already held our village Santa Claus parade a few weeks back - with emergency service providers and private businesses and community groups flashing lights and playing music and singing songs and handing out candy canes. It was followed by a community sing-a-long in a small parking lot, and it was fun.

So tonight's parade was a bonus - a fun, noisy, joyous occasion that drew all the neighbours out from their houses and afforded the opportunity to shout "Merry Christmas" to the children of Crofton.

I expect it was arranged by the only church group in town, a group whose Christmas Eve service begins at the local community centre shortly, and whose community spirit is remarkable. And though I do not subscribe to their religious beliefs, I do subscribe to their spirit and I thank them for bringing smiles to many faces, including mine.

It is funny how a little thing like an impromptu parade weaving its way up and down the streets of town can make the evening seem "just perfect". It helped clarify for me something I had been struggling to put into words.

A few years ago, I began to feel annoyance in the days leading up to Christmas. So many people getting so stressed out, spending so much money, on so many gifts that were not needed, not wanted, or just not right. So much chaos and strife as families tried to juggle all the responsibilities of every day life with the added burden of shopping, mailing, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, partying, and meeting all those yuletide obligations.

I watched as my own family had Christmas morning “paper explosions” from the abundance of gifts that took all morning to open. I watched as the children of friends and relatives received so many gifts that they had to be parceled out over the day and on into the next day, children accumulating “thing” after “thing” after “thing”, children tossing aside gifts they didn’t want and screaming in joy at those they did.

I watched as commercials on TV urged buyers to get that perfect $1000 stocking stuffer or $10,000 gift. I watched as frustrated travelers fought lineups and lost luggage and battled traffic. I watched as the stress took its toll on friends, family and coworkers. And I decided to follow my own path at Christmastime, one of calm and simplicity, of peace and joy.

And so my Christmases now are simple. I put up few decorations, selecting just a handful each year from my box of Christmas treasures. I seldom mail out cards and I buy very few gifts – just one small simple gift for each of my immediate family members, nothing much more than a symbol of caring, for the four most important people in my life – my mom, my brother, my sister and my daughter.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas this year, I received the only gifts I need, gifts of infinite value - gifts of companionship and laughter, storytelling and reminiscing, breaking bread and singing songs. A trip on the Carol Boat, singing carols in the pouring rain without a miserable face among us; dinner with one old friend at the local pup; the community parade and sing-a-long; a Christmas dinner with several of my dogwalking friends, served at a highschool and prepared by culinary arts students; high tea at a little cafĂ© with members of my book club; an afternoon potluck with my writers’ group; a finger-food dinner and drink with a friend at my home – all simple, all with little fuss, all stress free. And all wonderful. All priceless.

And now, tonight, an unexpected parade in this, my adopted community. It is people, not presents, not food, not traditions, that make the season special. It is the laughter, the smiles, the sense of belonging, a sharing of joy, a sharing of Christmas. It is an impromptu parade on a dark rainy Christmas Eve in a small island community.

It is the perfect Christmas Eve, a wonderful gift from neighbours to neighbours.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where did the week go?

Hmmmmm....... guess you're looking for a blog entry, eh? I had a couple of entries half written but nothing ready to post, so I decided to just blather away about nothing and give a couple of updates. I typed it out. I uploaded the photos. I clicked on "publish post". And the screen went dead. That was yesterday afternoon.

The computer is fine, but for some reason I have been unable to log into blogger. This morning I cleared all my cookies (I hate doing that - now I have to try to recall my passwords for a dozen or more accounts, none of which have the same rules about password length or format and therefore none of which have the same password). Then, after several futile attempts to log on, and a request for a new password, I finally got back on to find the post I was working on had also disappeared into cyberspace. I hope I am not being visited by the ghost of things yet to come!

Lucy is doing fine. She did give me a heart attack the day after her surgery, when she was lying on the couch watching me work in the kitchen, and suddenly decided to take a flying leap over the back of the couch and over her flippin' crate (!!!) to reach me instead of taking the short, gentle drop to the floor in front of the couch. She also gave herself a scare, judging from the yelp she emitted on landing. Fortunately, nothing seems damaged. I have moved the crate away from the couch.

The first pup to be adopted, Deli, stopped by the SPCA today to say hi - her family is absolutely in love with her and she is doing very well. Major/Bo also continues to do well and is learning all about crates which will help keep him out of trouble and give him a safe "den" for those times he's not sitting on Don or Gerri's lap or following them around. (I am working on a blog entry on crates/crate training, as I've had questions from several people about this topic in the past couple of weeks).

Major Bo in his crate, sleeping on the magical quilt
(Photo courtesy of Gerri and Don)

And, remember that patio I worked so hard on last spring with my very brown thumb? Well, given Lucy's and Allie's tendency to get into anything Christmassy and see how fast they can destroy it, I opted to keep the vast majority of my Christmas decor out on the patio. Some greenery, red bows, and pine cones in the long planters,

some garland and holly and fake poinsettas in the pots,

and some lights and weather-safe ornaments on the big potted tree (the one I call Oliver's tree), and - voila - a very Christmassy scene to enjoy through the glass of my patio doors.

And - bonus - no evergreen needles all over the house!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lucy sings the blues

Poor Lucy Lou is feelin’ blue.
She doesn’t know quite what to do.
She thinks that foster mama’s sad.
Did Lucy Lou do something bad?

She missed her bedtime snack last night,
And then this morn, no treat in sight!
No breakfast either - that’s not good!
She really, really wants some food!

No treats for her, not even kibble,
She doesn’t get a single nibble.
She doesn’t know what she’s done wrong;
She just wants food – it’s been so long.

What did she do? Why no food?
She thought that she’d been really good.
But she did bark and she jumped too high
And chased the cat ----that must be why!

Poor Lucy Lou is feelin’ blue.
She’s starving now, and lonely too.
With foster mom she took a ride
And at the vet's they went inside,

And then.....her foster mama LEFT!
And now she’s feelin’ so bereft.
“Please, foster mama, I need you!
I’m oh so sad!” says Lucy Lou.

And now the mean old people here
Are giving her a shot. That’s queer.
She’s feelin’ funny, sleepy too……
She can’t sleep now………Oh she’s so blue!!!

(Lucy is at the vet's to be spayed today. Please wish her a safe surgery and a speedy recovery)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dogs with Santa

The other day, my friend Ellen sent me an email greeting featuring her two whippets, Kinley and Logan, with Santa. I asked her permission to post it here, because - well, isn't this THE BEST 'dogs and santa' photo ever?

Logan and Kinley with Santa

The photo was taken at a recent rescue fundraiser in Maple Ridge, by a team of two wonderful, dog-rescuing photographers. One was Sheena, AKA Food Lady, AKA Three Woofs and a Woo, professionally known as Big Air Photography . Big Air Photograhy was formerly known as Red Dog Photography, who once did a photo shoot for me of Sadie, Charley, Belle, and the piggies).

The other photographer's name I cannot remember and unfortunately cannot locate the original posting about this fundraiser. (If someone can recall the name, please post it in the comments or email me so I can give credit where credit is due).

I've never taken my dogs to a photoshoot with Santa. I can't imagine that they would cooperate so well. They would all be looking in different directions, singing "lalalalalala canwegonow". In fact, I've been trying to get a Christmassy photo of Lucy with a stuffed Santa the past few days. Here's the best (ha ha ha) of the dozen or more I have taken so far:

Merry Christmas, Logan and Kinley.....I hope you got extra treats for posing so nicely!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sleeping with the Enemy

Lucy has been chasing Allie a lot lately - but not in "I'm gonna kill ya" mode. They have become playmates!! And yesterday morning, when I got out of the shower, this is what I found on my bed:

I think when we finally find that perfect home for Lucy, Allie will be the one who misses her the most!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Pupdate on Nugget/Fitz - with pictures!

Fitz and big brother Odin

Eric and Leah sent me an update on Fitz (formerly Nugget) with permission to post here. I just love the photos, especially seeing Fitz and his big brother Odin sleeping curled up together - how great that they are best buddies already!
Here's the update:

As promised, here are a few of the pictures so far. Our other dog Odin (14 months old) is constantly being confused as Fitz's mother/father. It wasn't until we got them together that we realized just HOW similar they are. Right down to the coloring on the tails. Its really quite something. Odin (another SPCA pup) is a St. Bernard/ Husky/who knows cross. Odin lost his big brother in October, and was a little bummed out. Luckily Odin (who loves everyone) and Fitz are best buddies. The play together, they sleep together, and it seems that they usually eat and drink out of the bowl at the same time.

Training Fitz has been a bit of a breeze as well. He has had no problem with his crate training. We used the same strategy that worked so well for Odin. We keep one of the food and water dishes in the crate and keep it open at all times. At night we take turns sitting/laying in the crate with him until he falls asleep. Also for the last 3 nights, he has only woken up once. He is just such a good little guy.

I luvs my new big brother!

Look how nicely we sit!

Thanks for making my day, Eric and Leah! Give both pups an extra scritch from me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I am so proud of Ms. Lucy!!!

Although I introduced Lucy to a crate right at the beginning of her stay with me, I have not actually confined her in one for more than a few minutes at a time until today, nor seriously gone about training her to think of the crate as her safe happy place. I've primarily used it to keep her confined when she's having her favourite treat - a frozen stuffed kong. No point adding mushy kibble and yogurt to the dog hair on the carpet. But that's been about the extent of her "crate training".

Last night we began crate training in earnest, as her youthful exuberance and cat-assisted mischief when I'm out of the house was getting to be a problem. Today I used an accelerated program from what I would normally do - pushing into one day crate training that I normally do over the course of five or more days.

So each meal and a series of hourly treats were given inside the crate, with the door closed, and after she finished she was left in there for increasing periods of time - a minute, two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes. She was excellent. No whining, no pawing at the crate - just sat waiting to be let out.

This afternoon I stepped it up a bit, and after taking her for her walk I put her in the crate with a bully stick* while I took my other dogs out for a twenty minute walk. She was fine - still chomping on the bully stick when we got back.

I took the remaining stick away from her as it was the only one I had and I knew I would need it later, plus I didn't want Charley and Sadie getting hold of it and starting a fight. She traded for a cookie, and made no objection when I removed the stick from her mouth. What a good dog!

This evening I had plans to go out for dinner with an old childhood friend who now lives in Chemainus. I didn't think we'd be gone more than an hour as the pub is just around the corner. I figured this was another opportunity to step up the training and I put Lucy in the crate with the bully stick** once again. Well, the pub service was a bit slow, the meal was excellent, the dessert tempted us, the conversation was great, and before we knew it, we'd been gone almost three hours.

Lucy was just fine. Her bedding wasn't destroyed, her paws and mouth didn't have sores from trying to escape, and she didn't seem distressed at all. I got my usual very enthusiastic, over-the-top welcome from her, and twenty minutes later she is back to playing pogo-stick with the cat before climbing into my favourite chair for a nap.

Big sigh of relief. Tomorrow we shall work on leaving her in there without a time-consuming treat and see how she does. Hopefully she will soon consider her crate the best place on earth - next to someone's lap. And that will make living with Lucy a whole lot easier.

* A bully stick is a dried meat chew treat which, unlike rawhide, is fully digestible.
** I generally do not recommend leaving dogs alone with chew treats, as there is always the possibility of choking. Charley, for example, has been known to suck in the last two inches of stick and choke on it - she no longer gets bully sticks at all. Other dogs have been known to break off a chunk of rubber kong and swallow it. In today's scenario, I weighed the risks and benefits and opted to leave her with a braided bully stick which is less likely to be a choking hazard than the wider, cigar-shaped ones.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Doggy Dynamics and Kitty Chaos

Watching the dynamics around here is interesting, with each day, each week, each month that Lucy is with us bringing changes in both Lucy's personality and in her relationship with the other critters.

Yesterday I made another one day trip to the mainland to see how mom is doing in her new place (very well! she loves it!), and Lucy spent the day at Gail's. My neighbour, Mary, came over to let Sadie and Charley out, feed them and take them for a walk. When I brought Lucy home thirteen hours later, she went into the same over-the-top OMG-I'm-so-glad-to-be-home zoomies, bouncies, and kissies as she did the last trip. What was different this time, compared to just ten days ago, was Sadie and Charley's reaction to her - they both wanted to play with her, with their ears up and tails wagging and happy, happy faces. Now, that I did NOT expect - especially from Charley who gets incredibly upset when Lucy hogs all the attention around here, and surely would prefer that Lucy just stay away.

There's been a few other changes, too, in the past few weeks. Lucy now routinely chases the cat and tries to play with her. That's not as bad as it sounds - don't forget, Allie is a tortie cat, full of mischief herself. Allie taunts Lucy, sitting on the edge of a piece of furniture, hunched over like a vulture, ready to swat Lucy as she walks by. I have seen Allie strut up to where Lucy is sleeping and meow right in her face. And Lucy never hurts Allie, and I've never seen Allie hiss or swat at Lucy even though she has done so at other dogs (and people) we've had here. So it's all in fun.

The problem with Lucy's and Allie's fun is that it becomes messy, destructive fun. Allie tears around the house, flying from furniture to furniture. Lucy is close behind, bouncing up and down on her invisible pogo stick, trying to see the tops of the furniture to track Allie's movements. And anything loose on the top of the furniture either goes flying with Allie or gets knocked off by Lucy. Of course, once it is on the floor, it is fair game - a dog toy!

And so in the hour I spent away from the house today, they managed to drag the cover off the sofabed (again), knock the placemats off the table (again), and bring a tiny foot-high live Christmas tree to its knees. The tree was a gift from my friend Else, and came decorated with styrofoam snowballs and a comical black and white styrofoam penguin. It was placed in the very centre of the dining room table. The tree survived, the snowballs and penguin did not.

Fortunately, Lucy didn't eat the styrofoam. She just decided to scatter the little white pieces everywhere and leave the evidence for me to clean up. She and Allie also rearranged the furniture somewhat - lightweight furniture apparently slides easily on laminate flooring, and tips over where flooring meets carpet - with the help of a cat and a fifty pound pogo-sticking dog.

I finally brought in an extra crate so the serious crate training can begin. Lucy does use Charley's big crate sometimes (with the door open), but Lucy has already taken over Charley's raised bed (as well as Sadie's couch and my chair), so I decided it wouldn't be fair to Charley to lock Lucy up in Charley's crate when I'm out. From now on, all treats and meals will be fed to Lucy in what used to be Oliver's crate, and she shall learn to comfortably spend increasing lengths of time in the crate with the door shut. She did very well at dinner tonight - not a whine or a peep when she was done. She just sat at the crate door and sent me a look that clearly said "Okay, that was good, let me out now". And I did. At which she and the cat resumed their little game of indoor tag.

Lucy really needs a home of her own. Any takers out there?

(Lucy is being fostered for the Cowichan and District SPCA. She really is a wonderful dog - a cuddlebug extraordinaire, who listens well, walks nicely on leash, loves being brushed, holds up her paws to have her nails done, and is the most loyal companion imaginable. She will eventually outgrow her youthful exuberance, and no doubt if I stuck with my own motto of "A tired dog is a good dog" there would be a bit less chaos around here.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Magic of the Quilt

I believe that December, no matter what one’s spiritual or religious beliefs, is a time for stories full of love and magic. And I also believe that the universe has a way of unfolding as it should.

Yesterday, I received an update on Bo, the last of the puppies to be adopted, and the story that was told to me brought tears to my eyes. I have taken the liberty of turning it into a short story by telling it in my own words, and adding my own bit of information to it, and I hope you will enjoy it.

It is, in a way, my Christmas gift to you, though only the words are mine to give. The story itself belongs to many. It belongs to an old man who died and his brother who brought a pregnant dog named Lucy to the SPCA; it belongs to the staff and volunteers who entrusted me with Lucy’s care and who helped me with the puppies; it belongs to Lucy who gave birth to Bo and his many siblings; and it belongs to Karen and Norm who took the pups at 7 weeks and introduced them to adopters. The story especially belongs to a mother, a daughter and a granddaughter, who were part of the story long before Bo was born. But most of all, the story belongs to a little pup named Bo.

The Magic of the Quilt

Spring, 2010

The woman sighs as she tries in vain to tidy the linens tumbling out of the closet. So many she has collected over the years. Do they really need them all? Impulsively, she decides to get rid of some and begins the tedious process of separating out those she wants to keep from those she can dispose of. She will send them to the SPCA, who are always in need of towels and blankets for the constant parade of dogs and cats who come into their care.

She hesitates as she reaches the pink striped crib quilt. Her mother had made this for her daughter – twenty-four years ago now – so beautifully made, hand tufted, soft and thick and warm. Lovingly sewn, by grandmother for grandchild. The woman’s hands touch the material and she gathers it close, hugging it to her heart.

Silly old fool, she thinks. Such sentimentalism. Time to let it go. Perhaps it will comfort some animal in need – perhaps some dog will feel the love that it holds.

September, 2010

“Help yourself to blankets and towels,” the SPCA manager tells me. “You’ll need lots for Lucy and for the pups' arrival.” I go into the storage room and grab a dozen or more towels and blankets from the top of the nearest pile. As I turn to leave, I notice a small, thick, pink and white striped quilt right near the bottom of a very tall pile of linens. I move the huge pile, stack by stack, until I reach the crib-sized quilt. It is perfect. Adding it to my already large armload, I head out the door.

I love this quilt – it is just the right size for the whelping box. It is thick and soft, the perfect mattress for mama and babies. But I decide not to put it in the box just yet – the blankets used for whelping will need to be thrown, and this will make a nice post-birth bed for Lucy and the pups.

December, 2010.

A husband and wife talk once again about getting a pup. They’ve been thinking about it for a long while, but the right pup never showed up at the right time. But now the husband is on medical leave as he faces the challenge of living with a chronic disorder. He will be home all day. Perhaps now is the time to look again for a pup.

At work, the woman takes a quick glance at the SPCA website, oohing and aahing at the cute pups there. Later, during a rare lull in the day, she goes back to the site for another look. Her eyes are drawn to the little tan and black pup sitting up so straight, his big round eyes looking out from the page. His name is Bo. There’s something about him -- something about that picture -- that keeps drawing her back. And then her jaw drops and her eyes widen as she realizes what she sees. The quilt! The puppy is sitting on that oh-so-familiar quilt, the one her mother made for her daughter more than two decades ago, the one she sent to the SPCA last spring.

Later she phones the SPCA to ask about Bo. The pups are going quickly, she is told. They aren’t sure which ones are left. Surely not Bo – he is handsome and outgoing and affectionate, the perfect pup to attract adopters. Mostly likely he will be gone. The staff give the woman the address where the puppies are staying – there may still be one she would like.

Next morning, the couple head over to the house where the pups have been recovering from their spays and neuters. There is one left. Just one. As they enter the room, the woman sees the quilt – freshly laundered and hanging on the line to dry. And nearby, all by himself in the puppy pen, is one lonely last little pup. It is Bo. For some unfathomable reason, no one has chosen him. He has been waiting for them. And so they take him home, safely wrapped in the quilt that had once comforted their infant daughter.

From grandmother to granddaughter…..then generously donated to an animal shelter…..given to a foster mum…..used for a pup’s website photo. And now the quilt is back home, with a new young life to comfort. The quilt has woven its magic. And the universe is unfolding as it should.

Bo is now renamed Major, as he will be a major project for Gerri and Don in the coming years. He lives on acreage, a country dog with ponds and streams to explore, butterflies to chase, flowers to smell. A little pup who was meant to be theirs, a little pup who sat on a quilt that was once their daughter's, a little pup who will receive all the love and care that their own daughter received.

Merry Christmas, Gerri and Don. Merry Christmas, Major. Yours is a story I will not forget. Thank you for letting me share it.

(c) 2010 J.F.B.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ohhhhh Lucy!

He's making a list
And checking it twice,
Gonna find out who's
Naughty or nice.......

And Ms. Lucy is going to be on the NAUGHTY list!

I usually try not to go out twice in one day. But after doing a shift at the theatre today, I had the opportunity to go on the Chemainus carol boat, singing Christmas carols as the Thetis Island Ferry took us around the bay and up towards Ladysmith, where more carol ships were circling past. I had been wanting to go, a friend had an extra ticket, and so I jumped at the chance.

I came home from the theatre, fed the dogs, took Ms. Lucy for a walk (her second of the day), played with her for a bit, and went back out. While Lucy does not care to be left at home, she generally just sits in an armchair by the window and waits for me to return, upon which she jumps and leaps and licks me to death.

Despite the torrential rain, I had a great time on the boat, and enjoyed the camaraderie of other drenched carolers as we sipped hot chocolate and sang to the words projected onto the side of the ferry. And then I returned home.

Perhaps it was the fact that it was dark out and the blinds were drawn so Lucy could not watch for my return. Perhaps it was because I had been out twice in one day, for a few hours each time. Perhaps it was just that she has truly become a mischievous, energetic, naughty young dog. But I knew I was in trouble the minute I opened the back door.

The chewed up red ribbons up and down the hallway gave her away. As did the pieces of plastic bag. And the stuffing and two ears from a Christmas teddy bear. The cards scattered on the floor, the cover dragged off the sofabed, the Christmas placemats decorating the rug, and the pieces of wrapping paper littering the floor were strategically placed to mask the pee stain on the dining room carpet.

Ohhhhh Lucy. What HAVE you been up to?????

And she didn't even have the grace to look embarrassed or sorry. She just jumped and leapt and licked me to death.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


All Lucy's puppies are now with their new families, and I've started receiving updates from some of them. Hubbard's health checked out just fine and his family is absolutely in love with him. May he enjoy many years of hiking with them! Nugget, now called Fitz, is loving his new home and his big brother. His new dad is going to send me some pictures soon.

And Zuke is enjoying life with three young boys. Here (with permission) is part of an email I received from Zuke's new mom:
I thought I would let you know that Zuke is in his new forever home in Cowichan Bay. We are the family that is going to be driven to distraction, perhaps we were already there. We have three boys, and so far Zuke has been the best behaved. He slept through the night last night, which I did not expect. My two year old did not. Perhaps you can give me some tips. This little tornado has been getting worn out. He is a great cuddler, the boys want him in their beds.... Maybe he will be big like Clifford the Dog. We live in a tiny two bedroom rancher, it keeps getting smaller. Cozy, chaotic, crazy, spacious compared to our boat where we will spend most of the summer. Hope Zuke likes water... As you can imagine, we spend most of our time outside. We have an acreage that stretches down to the beach where we look for buried treasure.

Karen tells me that all the pups went to absolutely wonderful families. There is already talk of a Butternut Squash Kids' reunion sometime down the road. How I would love to see what the pups look like six months from now!

Lucy is still looking for her forever home. Until then, she is safe with me and enjoying life to the fullest. She now goes many places in the van with me, and she has toured Chemainus, Crofton, and parts of Duncan. She wears her SPCA "Adopt Me" bandana when we go out, and has written her own handout so visitors to the SPCA can learn more about her and be tempted to meet her. She's become a party girl who loves toys, wrestling with other like-minded dogs, and sleeping wherever Charley, Sadie, Allie or I would like to be. She is becoming much more confident on walks and is still the escape artist she always was.

What d'ya mean, the back of the couch is the cat's snoozing spot?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A different kind of homecheck

I often do homechecks for various rescues, ensuring the applicant for a dog is as good a match in person as they appear on paper. Homechecks involve meeting with the potential caregivers/new family, having a look around the home to watch for potential safety and comfort issues, as well as finding out where the dog will sleep and where she/he will stay when caregivers are tending to other matters. Homechecks also involve having a discussion about such things as food, exercise requirements, special needs, and appropriate training methods for the particular dog the family hopes to adopt.

Some people object to the lengthy application forms and inconvenient homecheck process imposed by responsible animal rescues. They'd rather just buy a puppymill dog from a petstore – no questions asked, no information exchanged. And some unethical breeders dispose of their pups just as carelessly – selling them to the first person to reply to their newspaper ad and bring the money to the breeder. No concern for what happens to that pup, no concern for the type of care it will receive.

Yesterday, my family received a call that a 'complex care' bed was finally available for my mom who has been on the health authority’s priority wait list for six months now. Under the rules for subsidized care, the bed must be accepted and the senior moved into it within 48 hours or the person is removed from the list for a month and forfeits their place at the top of the list.

This 48 hour rule is, of course, a challenge when the adult children don't live in the same community as mom's current seniors' residence. It is even more of a challenge when one sibling is out of the country, another on an island with animals to care for, and the third has just that morning left mom's to head back to her home on the other side of the mountains, five hours away.

And the facility with the available bed is neither one that was on our preferred list, nor even in the same communities as the ones we had targeted. In fact, we'd never heard of the facility. But the goddess smiled, and we were able to catch my sister before she crossed the mountains, and send her high-tailing it back to the coast to check out the place.

It may seem like I have digressed from my original topic, but it occurred to me this morning that there are parallels between checking out a complex care facility and doing a homecheck. In both cases, we are trying to find surrogate families and safe havens for sentient beings who have been displaced for reasons beyond their control.

If, as we animal lovers claim, animals are 'family members', then why would we not want to ensure that their placement is appropriate and they will be safe and well cared for? Why would we not want to meet the potential caregivers and see the dog's potential home? Why would we not want to be just as cautious in their placement as we are in placing our moms and dads into care facilities?

Just as the relevant BC ministry or health authority sets out standards of care that seniors’ care homes must meet or exceed, and develop guidelines and procedures to match people with places, so too rescue organizations develop standards, guidelines, and procedures. When I do a homecheck for a reputable rescue, I can be confident that the place and people I am going to see have already met some of the basic criteria set out by the rescue. My job is to ensure that the home will, in fact, be the right match for this particular dog.

And so with my mom, we take a certain amount as a given - that the facility the health authority is sending us to look at meets certain standards for care. But whether this is a right match for mom is up to us to determine by a 'homecheck'. And so my sister met with the potential caregivers, saw the room mom will have, checked out other aspects that would affect mom's quality of life such as issues of physical comfort, mental stimulation, and safety. And she talked with the caregivers to reassure herself that mom will always be treated with dignity and respect.

And much to our relief, it all checked out. Tomorrow my mom moves to her new facility and begins yet another chapter of her very, very long life.

Now……if only we can find the right match for a certain foster dog named Lucy. And, yes, a homecheck will be required.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Joyous Dog

Yesterday, I needed to make a one-day trip to the mainland for the annual Christmas Dinner at my mother’s seniors' residence. As a 2.5 hour dinner/visit with mom requires being away from home for about 12 hours, I arranged for my friend Else to let Sadie and Charley out a couple of times during the day and to feed them their dinner (thanks, Else!). I knew Lucy would need more supervision than a couple of short visits, however, as she gets anxious when left alone and also gets into mischief. So Lucy went over to Gail’s for the day (thanks, Gail!).

She knows Gail. She's met her several times and Gail has looked after her and the pups at my place. And Gail is very dog savvy. So I had no qualms about leaving her there. I dropped her off at 8:15 AM and waved goodbye to Lucy's sad face peering out the window as I drove away.

It was a lovely day for a ferry ride, we had a very nice dinner, it was great to see my mom again (as well as my sister, my daughter, and a long-time family friend), we exchanged gifts and our family’s traditional Christmas baking, I read a good book on the ferry ride back, and I made it safely back to Gail’s about 8:45 PM.

Lucy was happy to see me. She licked me to death and leaned against me, as Gail told me how Lucy had cried for the first hour and wouldn’t even lie down to rest until noon. I laughed when she told me her cat Molly had made sure that Lucy knew just who was boss in THAT household (I think Allie probably warned Molly to make sure she established the upper paw from the get-go), and I suspect Molly hissed in Lucy’s ear “Yer NOT welcome here ya dum dog! Don’t get any ideas ‘bout stayin’!" Lucy was very happy to see me.

But the real extent of Lucy’s joy didn’t become apparent until we got home. As I opened the van door, Lucy looked at me apprehensively, ears back, licking her lips... “Where are we now??” The minute it registered that she was back home, she went ballistic. She danced and leapt and woofed and twirled and then danced some more. It was all I could do to shepherd her into the back yard without becoming entrapped in her leash.

I let Charley and Sadie out and she KISSED them – yes she did! – right on the nose – each of them. She dashed inside, still dancing and twirling and wiggling her butt so hard it seemed disconnected from her front, and she playbowed to the cat (who gave me such a look!), then zoomied back outside to tear around and leap at Charley and Sadie some more. When I finally got all three dogs back in the house, Lucy was still leaping and barking and grinning - unfortunately, my camera was still in the car with my other gear.

And her joy was obviously contagious, because next thing I knew, eleven year old Sadie was rolling on the floor in a wrestling-kissyface-I’m-gonna-get-you play fighting match. I have never seen Sadie do that before, not in the nearly three years she has lived with me. Even Charley tried to get in on the act until she got bowled over and made the wise decision to retreat to a safer distance.

Happy Lucy bounced around the house for nearly two hours last night. She checked out every one of her favourite spots – the bed, the chair, the couch, the kitchen, each of the dog beds - and she ran back and forth to the door to repeatedly check out the back yard. She gave me a zillion kisses, she chased the cat with big bounding leaps, and she wore the biggest grin I have ever seen.

Finally, when she felt sure all was right with her world, she went to sleep.

Whoever adopts Lucy is going to have to be a very, very special person who will be willing to work with Lucy and me in ways to make the transition to a new home as comfortable as possible. But once she's made that transition, she will give her whole heart to that person. Just as she has to me.

Lucy is being fostered for the SPCA and will be available for adoption once she is spayed. If you know of a special someone who is looking for a four-legged Best Friend Forever and might consider Lucy, please direct them to this blog. I can be contacted using the "Email me" link on the right.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lucy takes a hike

Maple Mountain trail

The day was damp and chilly, but at least it wasn't raining. Lucy was full of beans, and the other dogs needed a break from her.

Iza nice day, foster mama! Lets go fer a walk!


So I thought perhaps I would try taking her on the Wednesday Walk. I had stopped participating in these group hikes, as Charley and Sadie could no longer do the distance and I was finding the sheer number of dogs running around, not always responding to voice control, overwhelming. But it was going to be a small group - just four people and eight dogs, including Lucy and me.
So I piled her into the back of the van, behind the dog barrier, to take her to the meeting place.

Huh? Bars? This ain't my idea of a walk!

She was not impressed. When I momentarily got out of the vehicle to speak to the other walkers and determine our destination for the day, she either climbed over, under, or through the dog barrier and was in the driver's seat quicker than I could say "Where are we going today?". I took her out and tied her into the back, and then sat with her while we humans talked.....she strained and pulled and whined and simply wanted OUT OF THERE.

I don't like vehicles!

We decided on the Escarpment trail up the south east side of Maple Mountain. But when we got to the parking lot, it was clear that hiking with off leash, excited, tearing around and barking dogs was going to be far more stressful than either Lucy or I could handle. And so I piled her back into the van, and took her to a different trail - the old logging road up over the middle of the mountain. There, we had the whole area to ourselves. She was still highly anxious and spent most of the 90 minute hike with her ears flattened, anxiously sniffing the ground and jumping every few minutes at strange sounds only she could hear in the bush.

Ahm part hound dog!!!

Huh? Huh? Whazzat? Bear? Cougar? Sasquatch? Danger!

But hike we did. I swear that trail becomes steeper and steeper and steeper every time I hike it. We went up and up and up and up - something I had trouble capturing with the camera.

The road ahead

Given that we began just slightly above sea level, you can see from the views that we climbed a fair bit - and this was only half way up!

Views from Maple Mountain

Views from Maple Mountain (2)

We climbed some more, to the spot where the trail begins to wind down the other side (but where the trees hide any view), and then turned around to head home.

Lucy never did relax on the hike - any attempt to get a photo of her with a view as a backdrop resulted in this:

But it was still an enjoyable hike, with interesting things to see:

Curls of bark from a long-ago cut

Orange and black feathers from an animal kill

Tree so bent it seems rooted at both ends

When we got home, the first thing she did was throw up all over the carpet. Then she slept for the rest of the day.

I realized the day likely had involved too many anxiety-producing situations: first ride in the vehicle since I brought her home, first introduction to multiple excited dogs, first time on that particular trail, first time walking with me away from the village.

So....yesterday we went back to square one. Okay, square three. We went down to the seawalk, the beach, and the long flight of stairs.....all of which she handled like a pro.