Monday, December 30, 2013



On Friday, Draeanne wasn't the only dog in my life to go to the Rainbow Bridge.  Shasta, a big, furry, sweet, loveable seventeen year old dog belonging to my neighbours, decided it was time to go.  I don't have many photos of Shasta, yet I saw him almost every day.  His dad, Dave, would be walking slowly along the pavement, often with his two children, and there would be Shasta plodding along with them - checking out the sniffs and smells along the way, stopping to gaze at who knows what, saying hello to other dogs and their owners.
Shasta always made me laugh - I once, ONCE, gave him a treat when I stopped to chat and he never forgot it - forever after he would come up to me and stick his big nose in my hand or check out my pocket.  Usually they were empty, but every so often I would have some treats in there, and he and whatever dog I was walking would each get one.
Shasta was a full-fledged family member - a couple of years ago, at age fifteen,  he even went on a three month camping trip across the continent with them, sleeping in the trailer, seeing the world. When his back end began to fail him last year, they built him a long ramp from their second-floor living quarters to enable him to still come and go. The night before he passed away, he could no longer get up and so Dave slept on the floor beside him all night.
I shall miss seeing him plodding down the street.  I shall miss saying hi to him as he lies in the sun in his front yard, watching the world go by.  But I know his own family will miss him more than any words on this blog can express.
Dave, Jen, Finlay and Pippa, I am so sorry for your loss.
Shasta was a wonderful dog and you gave him A Wonderful Life. No dog could ask for more.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Kiss Goodbye

Draeanne gives Bonnie a kiss
November 29, 2013

It is with great sadness that I write this post.  Draeanne, the elder of Bonnie's two wolfhounds, unexpectedly passed away on Friday, the result of  a tumor that was silently lurking inside.

On Christmas Day, she had a little episode that was easily mistaken for indigestion or even anxiety due to the excitement of visiting dogs.  She seemed to recover just fine, but the next day had a recurrance which knocked her for a loop and signalled something was seriously wrong.  A trip to the vet located a large tumour for which there was no viable treatment and which had become critical.  Bonnie made the very difficult decision to help her to pass.

I first met Draeanne back in 2009, when she was one of a trio of wolfhounds who shared their lives with Bonnie and Bob.  Blue and Mara, the other two of that trio, passed away a couple of years ago.  Last year, Bob and Bonnie brought Keaghan into their circle, and he and Draeanne became great friends.

Keaghan, Draeanne and Bonnie lost Bob to a heart attack suddenly this fall, and my heart goes out to my friend whose world has been shattered again so soon.

Hugs, my friend.  I am so very sorry for yet another loss in your life.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Morning Sunrise

As the dogs and I opened our gifts Christmas morning, I noticed a rosy glow through the living room blinds.  Looking outside, I saw dawn breaking beautifully:

Sunrise, Christmas morning

We get such amazing sunrises in Crofton.  Pulling on my sweatpants and jacket, I put the leash on Shiloh and headed to the beach. By the time we got there, the rosy glow was more a yellow light, but reflecting on the water it was still breathtaking:

Christmas morning in Osborne Bay

We spent an hour down there, until day was fully broken, and then went home to enjoy the rest of the day. A couple more walks, a delicious dinner with friends, a good book and some quiet music and it was time for bed.

It has been an emotional week -  memories of Christmases past and the newness of Christmases present, reconnecting with someone from my past life who is now battling cancer, forgiving old wounds and sharing new joys.  Then, today,  two friends both said the final farewell to their beloved dogs.   How life changes, how precious each moment is.  Hug your friends, hug your family, hug your hounds.  You never know what the year, the month, the week, the day will bring.

But we always know that the sun will rise again.  And in Crofton that sunrise is beautiful.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from our house to yours

The stockings were hung by the....
winerack with care?
Santa came!

December 25th has arrived once more.  It is my first year without either parent alive (Dad died just before Christmas in 1977, and my mom this fall), and I can’t help but reflect on the wonderful Christmases past.  Mom and Dad always made Christmas very special for us, and I have nothing but great memories of them – memories of family and laughter and singing, of feasting and going to church and going for walks on the pier, of stockings bulging with gifts and a tree magical in its beauty. 

I miss those days in many ways, and yet I also love the simpler, quieter Christmases I have now.  It is a season of joy and friendship and music and magic – the lights around the town, meals shared with friends,  singing songs old and new, walking on the sea walk.  Times change, and in change there is both sorrow and joy – grief for what is no more, and hopeful anticipation for what lies ahead.

I know there are some readers for whom this Christmas is difficult. To those who have lost loved ones, I wish you comfort in grieving and joy in remembering.  To those who are far from home, I wish you safe travelling, great new adventures, and delightful new friendships. To those who are facing challenging health issues, I wish you the best possible outcomes, strength for the road ahead, and support from family and friends. 

To those that are today with family, cherish the moment, treasure the love.   The years pass in a flash, and we know not what lies ahead. 

Christmas is a time of hope, of joy, of faith, of generosity.  May each of you experience Christmas each day of your life. 

Merry Christmas, everyone. 

Jean, Eddie, Mitzi, Shiloh and Allie.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A little chuckle for Christmas Eve

By last Christmas, my cousin Anita knew  that the end of her life was near, and plans were already in place for Mitzi to come live with me.  Anita was still well enough, however, to read my blog daily, and apparently to help Mitzi master the keyboard.  When I posted my usual Christmastime pictures of dogs in Santa hats and reindeer antlers, I received a comment from Mitzi:  That comment (in this post), made me laugh:
PLEASE Mama Jean, don't do this to me next Christmas!!! 


In fact, Anita had already told me "Mitzi doesn't wear clothes!  If it is really raining hard, she has a light little jacket to keep her dry, but otherwise she isn't a dress-up dog."   

Well, I made no promises, though I did consider that I might feel guilty dressing her up when I knew Anita wasn't crazy about the idea. 

That guilt was dissipated when Mitzi's Auntie Susan cleaned up Anita's computer after her death.  She found a photo she thought I should definitely keep just for this year's blog.  And so here it is:  

Mitzi - Christmas at her Mama Anita's

You've been busted, Anita (thanks, Susan!) -  I feel no guilt at dressing up Mitzi this year.    

You could've at least washed an' brushed me first,
Mama Jean!

Are you kiddin' me?
Shirt, vest and....SHOES?

Good thing I'm an angel
or I'd bite the hand that feeds dresses me!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Critters' letters to Santa.

Dear Santa.
I haz been a good cat.  Well, except for that corner of the couch I 
destroyed. And the times I thwacked the dogs as they wandered 
by.  And bit the pet sitter. I promise to try harder next year.  
Please bring Shiloh her own cat so she will  leave me alone. 
Love, Allie

Dear Santa,  I has been a good dog this year.  
Well, except for when I chase the cat.  Mama sez that will 
get me on the 'Naughty' list.  But I is trying.  
Please bring Mitzi another bed so I can haz hers. 
I like it better, and she won't trade wiv me. 
Love, Shiloh. xxoooxx

Dear Santa,
I haz been a good dog this year. 
I haz been an angel!  My Mama Jean says I 
should definitely be on the 'Nice' list.  
Please bring Eddie lots and lots of food 
so he won't steal mine.  
Love, Mitzi.  

Dear Santa,
I'll just skip the part about what a good dog I've been. 
I try, but it is just So Hard! Life is just soooo exciting.  
Especially meal times. And snack times.  
And any time mom is in the kitchen.  Or going out.  
Or coming in.  Exciting, exciting, exciting!  
Please bring my mom some nerves - I know she needs more cuz she 
always says I'm getting on hers, so I think I must be wearing them out.  
Oh, and bring her some straw too - she has used up what she had.  
She said "That's the last straw" just before she tossed me outside this morning.  
Oh, and please don't bring the kinda straw that broke the camel's back. 
I don't think that's the kind she likes. 
Yer pal, Eddie

(PS, I'll leave some scotch out for you.  But I'm not sure I can keep myself from 
eating the cookies. Eddie)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy moments for a Happy Solstice

The Winter Solstice always makes me happy, as the days will be not so dark soon and spring is just around the bend.  But the past few weeks, pre-solstice, have had happy moments too.  Like last week, when fifteen year old Shiloh got the zoomies.  Never mind that it was in the house and that she was soaking wet and muddy.  She zoomed.  Happy zooms. It was a dark, wet evening and  I had put her outside in the rainy, muddy back yard so she could have a pee.  Then I got sidetracked with other dogs.  It was several minutes later when I heard a bark - followed by Mitzi running back and forth excitedly ("Mama Jean, Mama Jean, didn't you forget somethin'?) - which reminded me she was out there.  The moment I opened the door, she flew in, and before I could grab a towel or say "I'm sorry", she was flying around the house, leaping and twirling and barking and expressing great joy.  Unfortunately, the moment I grabbed the camera to try to catch it on video, she stopped. But oh how it made me smile.

Ha ha, good thing Mama Jean, because that
was my Christmas present to you!

And then there was that sudden encounter on the sea walk on a cold wintery day.  My friend Liz and I, who write a newspaper column together,  were interviewing and photographing an oldtimer who plays the zither down on the seawalk. A few people passed by, some turning  to watch for a moment.  But then something happened that made our day.  Liz described it to our writer's group in an email, and she captured the moment much better than I could:
Then another couple walked by briskly, said good morning and carried on...but then the woman stopped, turned around and said “Are you the paper ladies?” 
 We said yes. 
"OMG, you are my paper ladies. I just love you! The first thing I do when I get the paper is open to your page saying 'Where are my paper ladies?' Oh I must give you a hug.”  She hugged us both and even hugged Peter whom we were photographing.
The day instantly felt warmer as we puffed our chest in self satisfied glory.
Love small towns!
The paper ladies.
(Liz Maxwell Forbes, used with permission)
So now we are collectively known as The Paper Ladies.  Here's some of the photos we took that day.  The article about Mr. Rempel and his zither will be in the January edition of the Chemainus Valley Courier.

Peter and his zither
(c) Jean Ballard 2013

A Crofton oldtimer
with Paul Newman eyes
(c) Jean Ballard 2013

Peter and his zither
on the new bench on Crofton Seawalk
(c) Jean Ballard 2013

There have been other warm and fuzzy moments, too.  A lost local dog safely reunited with its owner; a goodbye hug from Riley who leans into me and buries her face under my chin just like my Charley used to do; neighbourhood teens dancing down the road spontaneously singing Christmas carols at the top of their lungs - with lovely voices and huge smiles on their faces; a light sprinkling of snow that for a very short while made the Christmas lights sparkle more brightly, the world look even more beautiful, a pre-Christmas dinner with good friends and neighbours.

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone.  May your winter seem a little kinder, your days a little brighter, and may you find many warm and fuzzy moments in your life.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

No! Really? It's been a week?

I can't believe how quickly time flies.  I was sure I posted the picture of  Keaghan (whose name I now know how to spell) just the other day.  But apparently it was a week ago.  As a couple of friends made sure to tell me.

Riley, our visiting collie, returned home yesterday.  It is amazing how quiet and empty the house seems without her,  even though she was the quietest, best behaved guest I've ever had.  Her mama brought me some Caribbean treats, and I gotta tell you - Coconut Coffee from the Caribbean is AMAZING!  I may have to arrange to have a case of it sent here.  Addictive.  Very.

Not much photography or creativity going on here, but I haven't posted the photos of our Christmas decorations which we put up about three weeks ago (unless you are a facebook friend, in which case you saw them there).  When you have three or four dogs and a cat in the house, the tree is best kept outside - so we decorate "Oliver's tree" (a potted tree on my patio, named in memory of my sheltie Oliver) and the patio, and enjoy the lights and colour through the patio doors.

Allie: Hey, who put all that stuff on
my patio, and where did those pigs
come from?

Oliver's tree 2013

Birds feed from the seed dishes among the decorations

I do have a few indoor decorations, too - the glass top of the wine rack is a perfect place for a little display, as Allie doesn't like the glass surface.  Each year I do a little Christmas scene with some favourite ornaments that I have collected over the years:

A little Christmas scene
 The two stars you see hanging on the wall are tree ornaments my sister-in-law Bev had made for me, in memory of my sister and my mom. They are treasured momentoes of Christmases past.

Carole and Mom
 And, in case you can't see the sign at the back of the display, the whole scene is a celebration of animals who were once homeless and are now loved:

Santa's North Pole Animal Rescue

If you haven't finished your Christmas shopping yet, a donation to your favourite animal rescue is a wonderful idea, and most can be made online!

If I get organized in the next few days, I know there are a few loose ends to tie up on the blog before the new year begins - a few stories to tell, a few things I said I'd post and haven't done so yet, more photos to share.  I'd do some of them now, but Princess Mitzi says it's Yogurt Time.  Gotta go.

Yeah, get with the program.  It's Yogurt Time!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wolfhound in the Mist

Wolfhound in the Mist
(c) Jean Ballard 2013
Best shot from today - Bonnie and I took the wolfhounds and Eddie up Richard's Mountain, from the west end of Escarpment Way.  This was taken at the crest.  It was foggy but beautiful.  Photo was taken with the little pocket camera - it just might be my entry for next year's photo exhibition.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Deck the dog..and the dog...and the dog...and the dog

A few days ago, I was reading one of my very favourite blogs in the whole wide cyberworld, The 7MSN Ranch, , when I just had to call the dogs in to look at something.

Me:  Hey, guys! Come here!  Look at this!

Dogs:  Whatd'ya want?

Me:    Smooch, the dog on 7 MSN blog, is all dressed up as a Christmas Tree!  See, here - this post called Deck the Dog!  Now doesn't that look like fun?

Riley:  Run, everyone one, run!
Head for the hills!  Or at least the back yard!

Me:  Aw c'mon.  Let's have a bit of fun.  The blog readers would enjoy it!  Now, what would you like to dress up as?

Shiloh:  I thought costumes were for Hallowe'en, not Christmas!

Me:  Aw c'mon.  P l e a s e?????  Eddie, you're a Shetland Sheepdog - maybe you could be a shepherd!

Eddie:  Last year I was one of those wiseguys.  The kings.  
Y'know, the ones with the presents!

Me:  You mean one of the three wisemen.  Or, in your case, wisedogs.  And they brought  gold, myrrh and frankincense.

Eddie:  Frankenstein and murrs?  What'er them?

Me:  That's frankincense, Eddie.  And myrrh and frankincense are aromatic resins from plants - they were thought to have special healing qualities.

Eddie:  Okay, I got it......I needs gold and smelly stuff.

Eddie:  I hazza gold piggy and sum perfumes.  Wud that do?  

Me:  You make a fine wiseass wiseman wise dog, Eddie.
        Shiloh, what about you?  You're also a Shetland Sheepdog. Do you want to be a shepherd?

Shiloh:  Well, I s'pose I cud be a shepherd.
I'z got a sheep.

But I'd rather be SANTA!

Allie:  Yeah, well hurry up and fill my stocking, Santa Shiloh!

Shiloh:  I make a great Santa!  My ruff even looks like his beard.
But I need a reindeer!

Riley:  I suppose that would be me.
Riley Reindeer, reporting for duty.

Me:  Hmmm, one dog left.  And I have the perfect costume for Mitzi.  No doubt about it...

[Scroll down]





Mitzi is an ANGEL !!!

Eddie:  Bet the readers didn't see that one coming!  Heheheheh!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Winter Wanderings

Though winter is not officially here, the weather gods disagree and have sent us an unseasonably cold blast of Arctic winds and below freezing temperatures.  It arrived early this week,  just as I was about to post a blog bragging how Vancouver Island is likely the only place in Canada where one sees Christmas lights decorating palm trees!  (Yes, there are lots of palms here - some taller than the houses - though not native to the area, of course).

It is the first time since moving here nearly five years ago that I have had to pull out the heavy winter parka and longjohns.  I knew there was a reason to hang onto them.

But the very cold weather has a positive side - lovely sunny skies and great opportunities for being outside without getting wet!  Eddie and I have been back to Swallowfield several times a week with various friends.

Walking on the Swallowfield estuary with Gail and Sadie B.
Eddie follows the Treat Lady!

Ice on Chemainus River

Wintery wonderland

Gail and Sadie B at Swallowfield

Eddie enjoys a winter's walk

Another Treat Lady!
Our friend Else. 

Friends Bonnie and Else with
Keegan, Dreyann, Hugo and Tanner

Mitzi would normally accompany us on some of these hikes, but she is recuperating from surgery to remove several growths which had become problematic - constantly breaking open and bleeding.  We will have the pathology results in another week or so.  Meanwhile, she has bounced back from her traumatic day at the vet's, and is more than making up for missing a meal or two with an insatiable taste for treats which she knows her Mama Jean will give her just because she is cute and feisty.

I''z  just fine thank you -
but if you wanna take me back to the vet,
youz gonna hafta catch me first!  

Shiloh also had a trip to the vet's this week, just for a checkup and to have a couple of large lumps on her chest aspirated.  As an unspayed ancient female, she has a higher risk of mammary cancer.  However, as I suspected, the lumps were just fatty lipomas and nothing to be concerned about.  Because of her advanced age - she will be sixteen in May - the vet advising against spaying.  I'm a little uneasy with this - not so much because of management issues when she comes into heat (though I'd much rather not have every unneutered dog in the neighbourhood beating a path to my door - and no, female dogs don't stop cycling like human females do, and then can get pregnant regardless of age!)  but because there is also a high risk of pyometria among unspayed old dogs.  When she came into rescue, having her spayed was out of the question because of the poor condition she was in. Certainly rescues do spay old dogs.  I am still thinking on this.

The good news with Shiloh is how quickly and how well her condition has improved.  She now looks to be a healthy weight for her small frame, her weak back end is strong again and she can easily walk a kilometer or more each day, she can even run and jump when excited (just ask the cat!).  Her sparse fur has thickened up beautifully and although her skin is still somewhat flaky, it is much improved and she seldom scratches or nibbles herself any more.  This week brought me a moment of intense happiness when I picked up her leash and she started jumping and twirling and barking as she raced for the gate - she sure does love her walks!

Even though my fur is getting thicker,
I still hasta wear my woolies in this weather! 

The colder weather has meant more indoor time for the dogs (except for very thick-coated Eddie), so we have been combatting boredom with some fun and games.  Stay tuned for pictures.

You wouldn't believe what she's doin' with us!

Yeah, you wouldn't believe it!!!