Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Walk on the Wild Side

Wild flowers, that is!
(Camas lily) 

It is much too quiet in my house and my days are too empty and unstructured without Eddie and Shiloh to boss me around.  So in the absence of needy dogs (Mitzi is more like a cat - very independent and aloof, and with a very capable bladder), I signed up for some Elder College outdoor activities.  This week I went on a Spring Wildflowers Walk with them, at the  Somenos Garry Oaks Reserve  and then the Ecological Reserve on Mt. Tzouhalem. We saw dozens of kinds of flowers, and saw or heard many birds (heron, red winged blackbird, quail, ducks and geese, pileated woodpecker, and the usual assortment of sparrows, swallows, juncos, and chickadees) and a couple of bunnies.  

While the flowers were not as plentiful at the Somenos reserve,  that park had many other interesting features.  This post will focus on the Somenos Garry Oaks Reserve, and I'll do a separate one on the amazing Mt. Tzouhalem reserve in the next couple of days.  

The Somenos Garry Oaks Reserve is located just behind a residential area off Lakes Road and Trillium, in North Cowichan.  It is an 8-hectare park, where dogs on leash are welcome, and visitors are requested to stay on the trails.  It includes meadows, forest, and bog ecosystems.  

Entering the park

There are several information boards at the park entrance

Second largest Garry Oaks in BC

Because garry oaks are late coming into leaf,
they provide an excellent canopy of sunlight
for spring flowers. 

Camas lilies under garry oaks.
Camas lilies.
Camas bulbs were collected by First Nations,
the edible bulbs valued as a source of  food which tastes somewhat like sweet potato and
can also be ground into flour.
The First Nations people often burned off the underbrush on camus fields to encourage
the growth of the lilies, but the very thick bark of the garry oaks was resistant to
fire and thus the oaks survived.

When this tree was cut down, the core revealed old
surveyors marks from many, many years ago.  After the marks were made,
the tree continued to grow around the marks, and it was only when the newer growth
fell away under the saw that its secret was revealed. 

Old Surveyor's Marks

This tree bears permanent damage around its trunk, where
long ago someone had attached a barbed wire fence to it.
(Note the newer fence, with its own posts, in the background)

Sedge in the bog.  Sedge has triangular stems,
which differentiate it from grasses (round, notched stems) and
reeds (round smooth stems). 

More colourful sedges

A stump with bark growing over the top.
The garry oaks are often nourished underground by a beneficial fungus
which travels from tree to tree via the roots and allows the
bark to keep growing even after the tree has been cut down.

On the edge of the Garry Oak meadows,
we found these chocolate lilies in bloom

Lovely yellow sepals inside
the chocolate lily. 

Wild mustard growing near the bog

Wild red currant,
native to our region

Fawn lilies amid the garry oaks -
but too far away for my lens.
Splashes of white amid the green.

Further resources on the history and preservation of this beautiful area: 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bird on a Wire

I was doing some gardening yesterday when I heard the familiar sound of a hawk who, with a partner, is nesting in our neighbourhood.  I'm not sure if they are Merlins, Coopers Hawks, or young adult Sharp-Shinned Hawks, and my birding friends have mixed opinions.  But the larger of the two is quite fearless, and carried on a running patter of bird small talk while I circled right below to capture these shots:

I see you!

What do you want?

Get outta my face, lady!

Oh, really?  You're a bird lover?

Hey, everyone!
We got a live one here!
Says she's a "b i r d  l o v e r." 

So if you love birds so much,
where's our free lunch, eh?
Don't think I'm gonna share
with YOU! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Two Word Tuesday

Sunset Tonight
(c) Jean Ballard 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Eddie hikes to the Rainbow Bridge

August 24, 2003 - April 6, 2015

Last Monday,  just four days after we lost Sweet Shiloh, Eddie followed her to the Rainbow Bridge.  Cluster seizures – seven or eight within 36 hours - were doing permanent damage;  once the meds kicked in he had respite from them but quickly developed an adverse reaction to the medication.  Frenetic agitation and hyperactivity were too much for his already compromised heart, and he kept losing consciousness.   In consultation with my vet, and keeping his quality of life foremost in mind,  I made the heartbreaking decision to let him go.  Bless his vet for coming out Easter Monday morning – Eddie was able to leave this world in the safety of our home, in the comfort of my arms, and his leaving was quick and peaceful.  

Eddie, dear boy, you were not the easiest dog to love – which is, I suppose, a strange way to begin my tribute to you.  Your over-the-top food obsession, your barking, and your many anxieties earned you the nicknames of Annoying Eddie, Excitable Eddie, and Anxious Eddie.  But your good points redeemed you and you wormed your way into the hearts of all who knew you. You were a good companion in so many ways.

Of course I was!
I graduated from school!

You were a friend to everyone - human, canine and even feline.  You loved picnics on the beach, especially if egg salad sandwiches were involved, and parties in the back yard.  You heard the sound of the cookie jar from three houses away, and no crumb on the floor escaped your attention.  You had a big personality yet you could settle down quietly when your needs for food, exercise, and attention had all been met.  And you were unique - there was no other dog quite like you!

Didya remember the
egg salad sandwiches, mom?

Eddie and a few of his
many friends and family
Party Animal!

We had such great times hiking – your very favourite activity next to eating – and you quickly earned the privilege of being off leash.  Liver treats sure helped with reliable recall.  This week as I went through the thousands of photos of our hikes together, one image occurred over and over and over – a very happy dog running back to mama!

I'm coming, mama, I'm coming!

Travelling to visit friends and family was another matter.  The journey was great;  going into unfamiliar buildings not so much.  Still, you wanted to please me and you wanted to be with me, and so you braved trips to the lower mainland and the Okanagan, put up with being carried up and down stairs, hesitantly slunk down apartment hallways or into strange houses.

Road Trip!!

Eddie on the shores of
Okanagan Lake

But if there were bumper stickers for dogs, yours would read “I’d rather be camping!”   If you had to sleep away from home, a tent was your shelter of choice.  I wish we’d done more camping together.  You owned the tent from the moment it was set up, slept happily in your crate, paid no heed to the sounds of the forest. By day we hiked, or lazed around the fire visiting with friends.  If you’d had access to the food supplies, I’m sure you’d have been roasting hotdogs and making s’mores.

Camping out at Emory Creek, BC
and visiting with
King, Molly Dawg, and Lady May

But hiking?  That was what you lived for.  It was as if you wanted to cram into the short time you had with me all the fun you missed out on during your first eight years.  So hike we did.  Maple Mountain and Mt. Richards, Grace Road Park and Swallowfield, Chemainus Lake and Crofton Lake,  Osborne Bay Park and Mt. Tzouhalem,  so many walks and hikes with so many good friends. Those places won't be quite the same without you.  Your friends and I will miss you.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Happy trails, my little hiking buddy.  Happy trails.

Love, Mom. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

What is it about long weekends......?

I think every time one of my dogs has had a major health issue requiring a vet, it has either been on a long weekend or heading into a long weekend.  Eddie has had two more grand mal seizures in less than twenty-four hours - one just before dinner yesterday and one just after lunch today.  My vet is starting him on phenobarbital (which might make some matters, like his food obsession, worse) in the hopes that we can put a stop to them.
But, realistically?  This is very, very bad news.  And I won't prolong the situation if it worsens, or even if it doesn't improve.  Quality of life is far more important than quantity.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sweet Shiloh, My Sunrise Sheltie

May 11, 1998 - April 2, 2015
This morning my sweet Shiloh, lover of sunrise walks, left this earth for the Rainbow Bridge.  She was just shy of her 17th birthday,  and she had lived with me for just 17 months. We know only that the months of her life immediately before rescue were pure hell, and I am so grateful that I had the honour of turning that around and loving her to the end.

To my sweet Shiloh, my sunrise sheltie,

You came to us thin and weak, with matted and flea-ridden fur and a broken spirit.  With Sheltie Rescue’s help, you began your new life. And then I adopted you, and  I fed you and walked you and most of all loved you, and soon you were whole again.  

People sometimes thought you still looked sad, because your tail was always down and your head seldom up, due to neurological damage from your former home.  But I knew differently – you just showed joy in other ways.  A sparkle in the eyes, a slightly open mouth, a mischievous prance with the paws, and I knew you were enjoying yourself.

There were three things that gave you great pleasure: food, comfy beds, and walks.

You loved your food.  In your previous life you had sometimes been left for days without food, and your appreciation of regular meal times was apparent.  Your old dog soprano joined in with Eddie’s and Mitzi’s meal time chorus as soon as the food bowls came out.

My funniest memory of you was on your sixteenth birthday, when you had dozed off by the time we served the frozen yogurt and dog biscuit birthday cake.  I place it on your bed by your sleeping face, and slowly you awoke, saw it, and jumped up with the biggest smile on your face I’ve ever seen! 

Yes, you loved your food. Until a week ago.  And then food ceased to have meaning for you.

You loved your beds.  You had more beds than any other critter in the house – baskets and crates, xpens and foam mattresses and soft round plush beds – though sometimes you rolled right out of them. Perhaps that’s why the raised beds were your favourites.  First you chose Charley’s old raised bed, but it was a bit high for you so I bought you another.  You’d jump up into that bed and stretch out and watch the world go by.

You loved your raised bed best.   Until a week ago.  And then you could no longer get in unassisted.

But most of all, you loved your walks.  Twice a day, you paced the hall and ran to the back door, in and out and in and out until I got the message – Walk Time!  It didn’t matter if my breakfast eggs were just at the perfect consistency, or my dinner had just come out of the oven, or my favourite TV show was ten minutes from the end of the season finale – when you said it was time to walk, it was time to walk.  Every Single Day.  A couple of kilometers in the morning, another kilometer at night.

Sunrise walks were the best – you’d drag me out of bed by ringing the little bell on your xpen, enthusiastically eat your breakfast, and tell me Let’s Go!  I’d grab the camera, gulp a few sips of coffee, pull on some jeans and a jacket over my pjs, and we’d be on our way to the waterfront to watch the fishing boats go out and the sun spill pots of  reds and yellows and purples across the bay.

You loved your walks.  Until a week ago, when you could no longer even walk across the street and the sunrise strolls ceased.

You had a Swan Song Monday, but Tuesday your body and spirit began to ease their grasp on each other. And so for most of the past two days, we cuddled, you and I – your head against my shoulder, your breath soft on my face, you sound asleep in the safety of my arms, me half awake stroking your soft fur. 

I was not ready to lose you, but you were ready to go.  Thank you for being a part of my life.  I love you more than these words can express, more than all the sunrises the world has ever seen.  And I shall never watch another sunrise without thinking of you, my sweet sunrise sheltie. 

To those involved in Shiloh’s rescue:  Katie, Wendy, Joanne and Julie – thank you.  Without your help and love, Shiloh and I would not have had those 17 wonderful months together.  I am forever in your debt. Just as she touched my heart, I know she touched yours too.   

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

They Know

I have never had dogs who were best buddies in the sense of playing together or sleeping together.  But in the last waning days of one of their lives, the other dogs (and even the cat) have always watched over them and lain close by.  Charley watched over Caleb, Sadie watched over Charley and Belle and Oliver, Eddie watched over Sadie....and now Mitzi and Eddie are watching over Shiloh.  She has not awakened for the past twelve hours.