Monday, January 31, 2011

For my friend

Crofton Sunrise, January 31, 2011

She knows who, and she knows why.

The rest of you will have to wait for the story and more photos!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Take a Walk with Me!

By Sagacious Sadie

My mama is busy tonight, so she said I could use the computer. Yesterday was a beautiful spring day so we went to Osborne Bay Park, our favourite offleash area. We haven't been there for a while, what with puppies and winter rains and all. Charley and me, we can't do the trail all the way down to the beach at the bottom of the park anymore (well, we could get down there, but climbing back up is another matter), so we just do the fields and trails at the top. The park is 65 acres, so there's lots to explore! Wanna come along?

This path looks good!

It's such a nice day for a walk in the park.....

Lots of good things to sniff!

Now, where'd Charley get to?

Here she comes!

Would you like to sit a spell? Here's a nice bench for you.....

And I'll keep you company.

NOW where'd Charley get to? Is she over there?

Or maybe over there?

Ha ha - there you are, Charley!

Shall we move on?

Lots of interesting sniffing....

Whose been here?

Look, here's a little stream...

Of course, Charley has to go paddling in it.

Ohhh, look at this hollow log!

Well, we should probably head back home now....

That was fun. Thanks for coming along! Maybe next week we'll go to another park?

Love, Sadie

Monday, January 24, 2011

A gloomy, grey Monday with a splash or two of colour

It was one of those mornings - grey, dark, wet, cold. Did I mention wet? The dogs had no interests in going outside, and I had no interest in doing much of anything either. I frittered away the day reading, watching tv, snoozing, and surfing the net while my "to do" list (which has plenty of tasks on it!) sat ignored. Dark gloomy days do that to me. Inertia extraordinaire.

By mid afternoon, the rain had slowed to a drizzle and I hauled my sorry butt out of the recliner to take the dogs for a long, slow walk - not much exercise, perhaps, but at least some fresh air.

The shoreline matched the day - grey, muddy, drab - but a hint of light in the sky gave promise to a brighter hour or two.

Grey skies and glassy waters make for good reflections at the marina.

I was trying to snap a row of seagulls on a rail without much success (a truck drove back and forth disturbing them repeatedly), but when I downloaded the photos, I had to laugh at what I'd captured. Look closely at the bird on the ground (you can click on any picture to enlarge it, then use your back browser to return to the blog) - I can't decide if this is a naughty boy seagull looking up the ladies' skirts, or if he is saying "Hey, up there! Don't poop on me!"

One of the cats at the empty house decided to let me know just how boring people with cameras have become.

The seagulls on the beach were busy scavenging as the tide went out. This one's eyes were bigger than his belly - or his throat - as he struggled repeatedly to swallow a small starfish. He didn't let me close enough for a good photo, but you can just see one starfish tentacle sticking out the beak.

Another shot of the boats, as we headed back home.

No gloomy Monday walk in January on the island is complete without looking for signs of spring - I forgot to photograph the pussywillows and snowdrops we saw on our walk, but just to torment my readers from central and eastern Canada and US, (and especially from Ontario where the temperatures are among the coldest in thirty years), here are a couple of photos taken in my yard when we returned from the walk:

And one last splash of colour with an interesting story behind it:

A couple of days ago, a reader contacted me via the link on the side of this blog, and shared with me a watercolour she had done in the summer of 1969 when she visited the island, sleeping in her little MG with her dog (!!!!!) as she travelled around painting. It is with her permission that I post the picture here. Thank you Cathy, for sharing your gift and adding such colour and beauty to a gloomy, grey Monday.

Watercolour, Saltspring Island from Mill Bay

(c) 2011 Catherine McNaughton

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A dirty secret and an update on Martin

There is an unwritten code of ethics among responsible rescuers, and part of this code says that having rescued an animal, you have lifelong responsibility for that animal. If you place the animal, it must be a home which you are certain will give it a forever commitment. If it doesn't work out, you must take the animal back.

And so, for the past six months, I have had a dirty secret. Martin, the alpaca, is no longer where I placed him. And when I heard he was about to be moved again, I did not take him back.

Sh*t happens. Lives fall apart. Situations change. And so it was with Martin.

For those unfamiliar with Martin's story, I'll provide a brief summary:

In 2006, I rented some acreage in Mission, BC where Martin had been abandoned in the back field. He had been there for 6 – 8 years, all by himself. From neighbours, I learned he had been purchased as a newly-weaned cria by a former tenant, who then left him behind when they moved out a year later. Subsequently, some renters had fed him, most had not. He had no shelter except for a tree, under which he had dug a dirt hole. He lived with coyotes and bears roaming through the field, as well as the occasional pack of dogs. It was cold and snowy in winter, very wet in fall and spring, and hot in summer, yet he survived it all.

I named him Martin after Saint Martin de Porres, a Peruvian saint who was said to be able to communicate with the animals. It was a fitting name as alpacas are a Peruvian animal, and Saint Martin de Porres, from what I have read of him, embodied many of the qualities that I admire, and shared Martin the alpaca's gentle temperment.

I built Martin a good shelter, made sure he had fresh water, grains and hay all year, had him shorn (he had never been done!) and his toes and teeth done, had him gelded, and taught him to come when called and to eat from my hand. He shared the pasture with the potbellied pigs I fostered, socialized with llamas in an adjacent field, and became comfortable around me and my dogs.

I knew I would not be on that property for more than a few years – retirement was looming, and the rent was too high for me to afford on my pension. Nor would I have the finances to buy acreage of my own. But I could not, in good conscience, walk away from him at the end of my lease. I persuaded the landlord to sign him over to me so that I could find Martin a home.

When I was about to retire, in 2009, I put the word out via rescue forums and alpaca organizations to find him a new home. A kind woman on Vancouver Island, who has an assortment of rescue animals, and also a herd of alpacas from which she collects the fibre for weaving, offered to take him in - a bonus for me as the community to which I was retiring was coincidentally about twenty minutes away from her farm, allowing me to continue to see Martin. Another rescue person and I did a homecheck, talked with her about our expectations, and met her other animals. The woman came to Mission to pick up Martin, and he rode home in comfort in the back of her van. Martin had a home.

I visited him there several times. Martin had settled in well, becoming "Uncle Martin" to the crias, and learning how to truly be an alpaca. I thought my work was done.

And then, last spring, I received an email from Martin’s new mama to say that ill health was forcing her dear friend and business partner to reconsider her participation in the care of the herd, and in the final shakedown, some of the animals would have to be rehomed. While I was not happy to hear this, I did understand – and I have a huge respect for animal caregivers who recognize their own physical and financial limitations. I see and hear of so many rescues/rescuers who lack the ability to recognize when they are overextended, and ultimately it is the animals who suffer.

As the person responsible for Martin’s initial rescue, many would say I should have taken him back and found him another home. The email came right at the time that my two shelties died just a week apart, and my mom had a medical crisis, and it was simply not possible for me to house him on my small village lot. And I was confident that Martin’s new mama shared the same values as I for selecting where he should go, and had a similar access to animal-loving networks. And so I stood back.

Sure enough, a person who does horse rescue offered to take on a small herd of alpacas, including Martin, and care for them while new homes were found. I was kept in the loop. The alpacas would only be placed in homes in pairs or more - no more lonely alpacas. I sponsored Martin to ensure his needs would be met, and just before Christmas received word that Martin and his best buddy Belvedere, a chocolate coloured senior alpaca, had been adopted by one of the horse rescue's foster homes.

So Martin is back on the mainland, this time in Northern BC, where he is being spoiled rotten by Serena and her family. Within days he was eating treats from her hand, coming up to the front fence to see what was going on, hanging out with the horses and ducks, and living the easy life.

He and Belvedere have a fenced pasture on which they can roam, a barn which they can go in and out of at will (their stall heated with infrared lamps in winter), and lots of attention. They each have their own feed bucket into which yummy grains are put each day – and then they both chow down from one bucket before both moving on to the second one. Silly alpacas!

Serena, his new mama, recently sent me these photos, and gave me permission to post them here.

I chose not to tell this story as it unfolded last summer because it was my dirty secret – I had failed to home Martin in a way that would ensure he would never lose a home again. But over the past few weeks, I decided that I will share his story, because I believe it is worth the telling. I still have no patience for people who adopt animals and then decide for frivolous reasons not to keep them, who view them as property, as commodities, an inconvenience, who think that having a baby is reason enough to dump a dog. But I also recognize that sometimes in life, sh*t happens, and life turns upside down and inside out, and the four legged family members have their lives turned upside down too. Ideally, a stable life where the whole family, human and animal, remain together is usually in each member's best interest, but sometimes it cannot be.

What is important, I think, is to ensure that the animal - whether dog or pig or alpaca or bird or pet rat - is provided with a secure environment, with good food, with fresh water, with companionship .... and with love. And that is something Martin has. He is a content, happy alpaca who has finally found his home. Thank you, Serena, for welcoming Martin and Belvedere.

For more stories on Martin's life with me and his transition to the alpaca herd on Vancouver island, check out some of these earlier posts:

Mischievous Martin, Pesky Pigs and Three Dawdling Dogs

Hey, Who Stole Martin?

The Grass is always Greener

An Alpaca gets the Zoomies


The Odd Couple

A Herd of His Own

Martin's Big Snip - Part One

Martin's Big Snip - Part Two

Martin's Big Snip - Part Three

And then there were none

Nekid 'Pacas!

Fun at the Farm

A bit of this, a bit of that

Time for a little catch-up of the events of the past week or so. The trip to the mainland was uneventful - no whale sightings, no glorious sunrises or sunsets, and the task of clearing out mom's old suite is now complete. Mom seems content enough in her new facility. The nursing staff there is excellent, the place spotless, and there are lots of amenities and activities for the residents. It was heartwarming to hear my mom say of the place, "I feel like I'm HOME." And it is a huge relief for us "kids" to know that mom now has the 24 hour medical and personal care she needs.

Next to each resident's door, built into the wall, is a lovely glass-enclosed display cabinet, where personal items that tell the story of the resident's life can be placed. It is fascinating to see each person's memorabilia, a visible reminder to staff and visitors that these are not just patients but unique individuals with long and interesting histories.

The process of clearing out mom's suite was, in many ways, also a lesson in history. I learned things about my mother's and late father's life that I never knew. We found journals and scrapbooks that I didn't know mom had - she had kept every card her children had ever given her, and the programmes from every show we had ever taken her to. And among the programmes, we found a treasure. These photos are some of the pages from the programme for a 1923 performance of Anna Pavlova at the Royal Opera House in Covent Gardens, London, England, which my mom attended when she was five years old!

Front cover

Back cover

My mother's oldest sister took her to the ballet, and mom kept the programme all these years. It is 17 pages long, with beautiful representations of dance, interesting descriptions, and several ads for Roaring Twenties fashions. We have been in touch with the Royal Opera House, who tell us highly decorated programmes such as this are very attractive and are often used in their exhibitions. This particular one is extremely rare, and my mother has agreed to donate it to the Royal Opera House for their collection. How cool is that?

I arrived at my mainland destination before the snow flew - my timing was perfect as the next morning I received an email from my neighbour showing a foot of snow covering the neighbourhood! (Oops, I deleted the email, so can't post the pictures here!). And by the time I arrived back, five days later, the snow had all disappeared. The snow on the mainland lasted only a day or so, also. The goddess must have been smiling on me. I hate driving in snow!

Charley, Sadie and Allie were very well taken care of by their new petsitter (thanks, Barbara!). In fact, too well taken care of - Charley and Sadie didn't even bother getting up to greet me when I returned! At least Allie ran to the door when she heard my car - my nose would really have been out of joint if none of the critters missed me!

Since returning home, the weather has been a mixed bag of rain and sunshine - and lots of rainbows. The pulp mill on the edge of town must be doing well - at least, if they found the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, which shone directly on one of the ships loading at their docks.

And what are these blue and orange sausages?

Why, it's Charley and Sadie in their raincoats (it is too warm for their warmer winter coats, but their fur is so thick that some protection is needed from the rain or they take forever to dry when we get home).

They were investigating this rusty chain at the end of the boat launch dock.

No doubt it smelled of crabs or prawn - here's one of the many boats being put into the water to head out to set some traps.

Poor Charley, who doesn't have much range of motion in her hind quarters, lost her back end down the crack between two pieces of dock. She never made a sound - I suddenly realized the leash was tight and looked back to find her looking pathetic with her front legs on the dock and her back legs down in the water. Oooops.

Well, that's enough for tonight - it's past my bedtime. Tomorrow I shall post an update on Martin, the alpaca I found abandoned on the farm I rented in Mission. Stay tuned!