Thursday, December 29, 2016

Little Dog, Lost - Crofton style

While many were celebrating the holiday, or searching for the best sales of the season, a community was out searching for a dog - my community, and a stranger's dog:

It was late on December 23rd when a message popped up on our community facebook page - a little dog was lost.  This is her story. Some names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Caramela is a little four year old min pin cross, a timid little thing.  No wonder - she'd experienced many upheavals in her short life.  A rescue dog from Mexico, transported to southern Vancouver Island, she had first been fostered, then adopted.  That adoption failed and she was returned to the rescue group.  Another foster home - and this time her foster mom, who we shall call 'Essie', fell in love with her and adopted her.  But about a year later, in the fall of 2016,  Essie died, and her good friend  - we'll call her 'Bee' - welcomed Caramela into her home.

Three months later, just before Christmas, Bee's daughter and son-in-law asked to take Caramela on a short adventure up island.  It was a long drive, and on the afternoon or early evening of December 23rd enroute back home, the couple stopped to pay a brief visit to another relative who lives between Crofton and Duncan. Caramela wasn't crazy about other dogs, so she remained in the car, her leash attached to her collar. During the visit, someone went out to check on Caramela and as soon as the car door was opened, Caramela fled.

She may have been small, but she was fast.

Super fast.

And she headed straight down the middle of the busy, winding, very dark road with forest on either side, towards Crofton.

A woman driving the road noticed the man chasing the dog with a flashlight and offered to help, but "No, I've got this!" he said.  She - and others who saw them - worried for the safety of the little dog and of the man as the road is notorious for speeders, visibility was poor, and the pavement icy with frost.

Before long, the man was knocking on doors along the first side road he came to - and someone in one of those houses posted on Facebook to share the news of the Little Lost Dog.

A little dog, lost, in unfamiliar territory, in very cold weather, in the dark.

And as readers of my blog know, one of my greatest frustrations is the number of dogs who go missing in unfamiliar surroundings - new fosters, dogs being transported, new adoptions, dogs on vacation. I feel so strongly about their safety, that I wrote an article about it which has been pinned to the side of this blog for some time now. So you can bet my antennae were waving, and my heart was in my mouth. And here it was, almost Christmas, when people had commitments, and search parties would be hard to come by.

The next morning, the morning of Christmas Eve, someone reported to the Facebook group that he thought he had spotted the little dog on a trail near the base of Maple Mountain, but she had taken off as soon as she saw him and his dog. The owner, 'Bee',  drove up over the icy, snowy Malahat to look for the dog, heartbroken and frightened for this little min pin who would surely be cold and scared, and was skirting areas where cougars and bears could be found.  There were no more sightings that day.  People started to spread the word, and several went out to walk about the town and the trails in the hopes of spotting her.

Christmas morning, another sighting - right by the post office in the centre of town.  Then another - out by the gas station, then the water station at the mill, then the hydro station north of town - all confirmed sightings as our little adventurer was running fast and dragging her leash.  She had traveled from south of town to north of town - a distance of  over five kilometers by main road, not counting diversions she may have taken. And every time she was seen, she took off.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, some of us with a history of involvement with rescues were trying to organize as best we could - liaising with the family, posting on other facebook sites, following comments to get the latest sightings, coordinating information, contacting lost dog organizations, providing information to community members on what to do and not do if they saw her.  ROAM (Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing), one Victoria-based organization that coordinates searches for lost dogs, very quickly made up posters that we could download, and community members printed them off and put them up.

The temperature was cold.  Light snow was falling.  The dog was small, with short hair, and not used to cold climates.  Time was of the essence.

And it was Christmas.  We needed a miracle.

I took the afternoon to have Christmas dinner with friends, and came home hoping I would read she had been found.  But such was not the case. No more sightings since morning.

Boxing Day.  Caramela has now spent three nights in the cold.  And there is another dusting of cold, frosty snow on the ground.  Bee braved the icy Malahat once again to come back up for another day's search, and I called her at the contact number I'd been given.  I had a sore back and a bum knee, so I wasn't sure how much actual searching I could do, but I had winter tires and I knew the area well, so when she asked if I could drive her around to show her the places where Caramela had been sighted (she didn't know the town at all), I was happy to do so.

Just as I was leaving to meet up with her, I checked Facebook one last time - in time to see that someone had just found fresh little dog tracks with a distinct trail of a leash being dragged, just a few blocks up my street where a trail heads up to Crofton Lake.

Footprints and leash trail in the snow
(Photograph posted to Facebook, used with permission of Lisa Gallant-Horvath)

It was good news and bad - good that she was still alive, that she had headed back south instead of continuing north of town, but bad that she was heading into the forest, into a network of trails where even I have managed to get lost.

I took Bee to the trailhead, and she practically ran along the trail following the paw prints and leash marks until it forked and the fresh snow became bare under the canopy of trees.

She returned to the car, and my intuition kicked in - if, IF as many lost dogs do, Caramela was circling back toward the place she'd become lost, then she might just come out on the Richard's Mountain trail a couple of kilometers down the road.  We drove to that trailhead, and together walked in a short distance to another fork - and there we saw it.  Distinct little paw prints and leash marks, coming down from the Crofton Lake trail, a short hesitation as it head back up the wrong fork, and then a quick loop back to head out towards the main road - immediately across from the very spot where she'd been sighted that first morning, and the very road on which she'd first made her escape.

She was one smart dog - she reached the main road and turned south again toward the point of her escape - running along the shoulder of the road, her paw prints and leash marks showing up each time there was a frosty or snowy area.

We knew we were getting close,  as the tracks were fresh and not diminished by the wind from passing cars or the light sleet that was falling. But would she come, even if we caught up to her?  A dog in survival mode often will not heed even an owner's call;  they operate on instinct, which is to run away, hide, run some more.

As we alternately drove and walked the shoulder of the road, another car slowed down - another searcher, Shannon, the same person who had seen the man chasing Caramela down the road three nights before, and who (coincidentally) had a dog adopted from the same rescue.  And she had a smartphone, which neither Bee nor I had.  There were more reports - people who had seen the dog up at the lake, down along the road, running up a driveway, back down, along the road,  and - less than twenty minutes ago - over by the mailboxes at Escarpment Way which was the road just beyond the house where her adventure began.

Bee and I headed to the mailboxes, while Shannon continued along the shoulder on foot, following the footprints, her dog Dolly following the scent.

And then Dolly the Dog pulled toward a driveway.  She was insistent - go here, go here.  Shannon called to us - we were just meters away - "Here!  She's gone this way!", and disappeared up the driveway.  Seconds later, she came running back to the road - SHE'S SAFE!  We've got her!"

And as Bee and I ran back along the road, I realized the driveway was that of the one where the car had been parked when Caramela escaped.  We learned shortly after, that Caramela  had run up the driveway, a woman in the house had opened the door just then, and Caramela had run right inside. Ironically, the woman did not know this was the missing dog, as there were several dogs living or visiting there and she thought this one must just belong.

So in the end, we did not find the Little Lost Dog -  she found herself.  She traveled at least 10 km in total, was on the run for almost three days, in an area that was totally unfamiliar to her, and found her way back to the spot from which she had fled, dragging her leash the whole time.  And the only sign of being any the worse for her adventure were some sores on her feet and lower legs.  

I'm not sure if she would have found her way back had the community not given up their precious family time at Christmas, given up Boxing Day sales, left their homes to go and search, reported sightings, posted signs, and  - yes  - sent positive thoughts and prayers for her safety.  Perhaps she would still have made it back.

But I would like to think that some of what we did kept her safe.  Or, perhaps, it was her former owner, the one who had so recently passed away,  whose spirit watched over her and guided her home.

Either way, Caramela has a Guardian Angel.  Or a whole community of them.

And if not that, then she is - as one of her family members said - a dog "with horseshoes up her ass".

Have a great life, Caramela.  We're all so glad you are home.

(I apologize for the scarcity of photos with this post. During this adventure, the furthest thing from my mind was capturing it on camera for a future blog post.  But I thought the story, even without pictures, was worth the share.  I hope you agree). 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Dinner Hosts

I have another blog post ready to go - just waiting for permission to use one of the photos in it. Meanwhile, so you don't think I've disappeared, here's a few shots of my hosts for Christmas dinner. Or perhaps they were the entertainment. Thanks, Pat and Guy, for sharing your table and your critters with me.


Lexi and Beamer

Okay, enough already!
Quit pestering us, Auntie Jean! 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Twas the night before Christmas at our house

Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house
Ms. Allie was playing
With her new catnip mouse.

"Go to bed!" yelled your scribe,
Who was trying to sleep.
"It's one a.m.,  Allie!
Now QUIET!  Not a peep!"

Ms. Mitzi was sleeping
All snug in her crate,
With visions of stealing
Some food from mom's plate.

The fridge, it was full,
And the tree was so pretty,
The house was quite quiet
(Well, except for the kitty).

The computer was off,
Facebook was dead,
Though some music played softly
From a CD by the bed.

The stockings were filled -
Santa was smart.
Canada Post is much safer
Than a flight in the dark.

As I drift off to sleep,
Cat now on my chest,
I wish friends and family
Only the best:

A day full of joy,
A year full of peace,
Good friends and good health -
May these gifts never cease!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sometimes you just need a little magic.....

One of the perks of volunteering at RASTA (Rescue And Sanctuary for Threatened Animals) is the opportunity to engage in one of my favourite hobbies - photographing animals.  Whenever the weather is appropriate, the camera is in my pocket as I scoop poop or fluff straw or clean the barn or fill the waters,  ready to appear when something - or someone - catches my eye.

Whose snout is that?

While I usually take the photos for my own pleasure, sometimes Lucie assigns me a task - preparing some images for a presentation, or capturing some pleading faces that we can use to promote our fundraisers, or - as was the case the past few weeks - taking a photo of a particular animal to give as a thank you to a local business who has taken on sponsorship of said critter.

Sanctuaries aim to find sponsors for their animals as a way to ensure the basic needs for care are met - the donation of a set amount monthly,  based on the species, to help cover  routine expenses related to food and shelter.  Most animals become sponsored by individuals, but some - like Harvie who is sponsored by Impulse Pizza in Chemainus, and Pirate, sponsored by Cafe la Vie in Duncan - are sponsored by local businesses. For those, we try to provide a framed and signed photo that they can display so their customers see how they give back to the community.  Good business for them, good exposure for us.

And most animals at the sanctuary are pretty easy to  capture on camera.  Harvie was:

The equines are:

Hai!  Wanna take my picture?

Theo isn't camera shy in the least.

Here, let me clean the lens for you!

Ducks and geese and turkeys and chickens and roosters have all cooperated when I wanted to take their photos.

Is this my best side?

 And most of the pigs are quite happy to play along.

Even Jacob, one of our most senior pigs, comes strolling out to say hello.

Except Pirate - our orthotic-wearing, quickly growing, full of mischief, Berkshire-Tamsworth farm pig who may one day weigh 700 pounds or more. You briefly met him, and his brother Prince, in this post back in September.  Pirate came to us as a babe, one rear leg far shorter than the other, with the joint fused at a 90 degree angle.  His spine was twisting as he attempted to move about on three and a half legs - and unlike dogs, pigs are not well-structured for life as a tripod.  Back then, when he first arrived, he was very timid.  He backed away from me, ever watchful, and this allowed me to get a few good shots.

Stranger danger! Stranger danger!

But now - now, he knows that people are his friends and often have food or at least an ear scritch or a bale of hay. And he was my assignment for the past several weeks.  Pointing the camera at him, especially if the photographer is squatting down to get a nicely framed shot, merely invites him to barrel toward the camera in the hopes that it is edible. Taking photos from further away, or while hidden behind the side of a building, means getting a shot with his snout doing what hungry piggy snouts do - rooting in the mud, rooting in the straw, munching the hay,  - but never looking at the camera.

Num num num num num...
I can't hear you!
Trying to capture a frame-worthy image of Pirate was difficult enough, but Lucie had specifically asked not only that Pirate's cute little face be looking at the camera, but that the orthotic on his hind leg be visible too - a good discussion starter in a photo, as fundraising for the $2000 orthotic will be an ongoing extraordinary expense for the next several years as he outgrows one and needs another, possibly six or more times.

And now you can't see me!

Any attempt to redirect his attention, by gently calling his name, either results in being ignored, or in being run over, or a combination - Pirate ignoring me while others, at the sound of my voice, rush over to see if they can help.  Or if I might be offering treats.  Most likely the latter.

Excuse me, Maggie May - since when has your name been 'Pirate'?

I tried.  I really tried.  For weeks I tried.  But every photo either showed the face head on but not the leg, or the leg and not the face, or the whole piggy but with snout buried in mud or straw or hay.

What?  Don't you think customers would like to see
this photo of me drinking from a mud puddle
while they sip their coffee?

Finally, the other night, I'd had enough.  And that's when I resorted to magic - digital magic.  I used that earlier photo of Pirate looking at the camera, back in the days when he didn't think it was something to eat, and with a bit of cloning, some overlays, some erasing, some frosting, and some colour touch ups, I added his orthotic from a more recent photo.  It's not perfect, but it's good enough.

I matted and framed it today and delivered it to Cafe la Vie, a wonderful vegan restaurant in downtown Duncan.  And now that's finally off my 'to-do' list.

Photographer: 1  Piglet:  0

But I'm quite sure Pirate will outsmart me and even the score sometime in the near future.  And let's face it, any sponsored piggy is a winner.

If you or your business are interested in sponsoring an animal at RASTA, please check out their website at  You'll find the information on sponsorships here .

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Rising moon

My friend a block over started a tradition a few years back in which she invites several of us "Christmas orphans" (people with no family nearby) for a pre-Christmas feast of turkey and all the trimmings, finished off with pie and goodies and a Christmas Carol sing-a-long.  Always, we are sent home with leftovers, a hug, a full tummy, and a big smile.  This year was no different.

At least, it was no different until I rounded the corner to my house and caught a glimpse of a huge orb of brilliant orange and red low over the bay, just rising above Salt Spring Island.

I dashed into my house, grabbed the camera, and almost shaking with the thrill of such beauty (or maybe it was with cold - we are having exceptionally cold weather for this area) I snapped as many shots as I could from my back yard.  I knew I had no time to get down to the sea walk for a better shot a, during the 30 seconds it took me to unlock my door and grab my camera, the colour had already started to change, and clouds were drifting across its surface with thicker, darker clouds moving in fast.

And so - a bit blurry and a bit less brilliant than my first look at it - this was the best I could do.  Not perfect, but the image is still embedded in my memory.  Good friends, good food, good music, and a jaw-dropping beautiful moon made for a Very Good Night.

Moon on Fire
Dec 16, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pretty as an old colourized picture

I was going to do a blog post tonight about a hike I did a couple of weeks ago around Hemer Park. But by the time I caught up on email and checked into facebook, I was too tired to edit and watermark and resize the photos, and it was already past my bedtime.  However, one photo in particular caught my eye - a small pond we passed, thick with iridescent green algae, pinkish-red twigs of leafless shrubs in the background:

For some reason, it reminded me of my parent's wedding photo - back in the days when colour photography was in its infancy and talented wedding photographers either used colour additives to provide some semblance of basic colour, or used the newly marketed 'tripak' with blue, yellow and red emulsions or layered filters.  Effective, yes, though often not quite accurate.

Mom and Dad, 1941

The photo of the pond at Hemer park,  while having more intense colour, seemed just as strangely colourized with not-quite-accurate hues of nature.   It appears that life does, indeed, imitate art.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Rudolph? Is that you?

Saturday, as I puttered in the kitchen putting groceries away, I suddenly had the feeling I was being watched.  Glancing at the living room windows, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a face disappearing from view.  I ran over to the window to try to grab a description, and saw a furry brown coat just below the sill.

Sneaking around the side of the house, camera in hand, I startled the Peeping Tom - or Tilly - whose head rose up for a clear mug shot:

Shucks - caught me! 

The little deer was likely an autumn baby - spots gone, yet still no taller than the bottom of the window, which is about two feet above ground. No sign of mama around, and yet he or she (the antler buds generally don't develop until about five or six months, according to my resources) seemed healthy enough - thick shiny coat, clear eyes, a bit thin perhaps for the start of winter but not alarmingly so.

Were those groceries for me?

We see many deer around here, all year around - they walk through town, across town, uptown, in front of cars, through the parks, down along the beach......they are the bane of many a gardener's life, yet I never tire of watching and photographing them.  And although I see them almost daily, they don't often show up on my lawn, let alone peering in my windows.

The snow that fell in the surrounding area this week no doubt hid some of their usual grazing lands and drove them along different streets in search of food.  Even a block or two makes a difference - this morning, for example, it was snowing on my street two block inland, while my snow was gone and the rain was washing away the last of the slush. A mile away, there were many inches of snow. Crofton is its own little micro-climate, sheltered on the south by Maple Mountain, on the west by Mt. Richards, and on the east by Salt Spring Island.  Only when arctic winds blow from the north do we feel the same cold as other nearby towns.  We have, I've been told, the most moderate climate in Canada.  Perhaps that is why deer, and even bear and cougar, can be seen all year round.  I may hibernate in winter, but the bears here do not. I have seen them wandering across the road on December 26th, perhaps looking for any cookie crumbs Santa may have left behind.

But back to the deer, who was cautiously but quite fearlessly keeping an eye on me while dining on the plants, none of which are of great interest to most deer when tastier morsels are plentiful.  Sort of like the odds of me choosing lettuce when there's a table of fancy desserts nearby.'d think she'd at least plant some tasty roses among this boring green stuff!

I took some more photos from about 10-15 feet away, then returned inside the house.  My little visitor soon continued down the road either seeking out a better buffet or looking to hitch a ride back to the North Pole with a man in red.

Don't forget to leave some carrots out for me on Christmas Eve! 

Friday, December 9, 2016

A little birdie told me.....

The hummingbirds diving around the patio early yesterday morning had every right to be cursing me under their wee little breaths - the hummingbird feeder had frozen during the night.  I hurriedly brought it inside, and grabbed an empty one to fill with fresh nectar for their dawn feeding.

The service on this patio is lousy!

Morning is the most important feeding time for these wee birds, after their bodies awaken from a pseudo-hibernation state known as torpor, in desperate need of quick energy.  Torpor, in which their body temperature temporarily drops, is a short-term survival mechanism during nights of cold temperatures and lack of food. Hibernation, on the other hand, is a longer-term survival mechanism related to the length of the days and hormonal changes.

Hummingbirds' bodies go into a state of torpor to survive cold winter nights;  bears and aging female bloggers go into hibernation to survive the whole long, dark winter season. Hummingbirds awaken each morning just before dawn and feed until dusk, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon.  Bears and aging female bloggers stir themselves from their hibernative state every once in a while to relieve themselves and have a drink - and maybe a nice high fat or sugary snack, if one can be found without too much effort.

Even aging bloggers have to come out of hibernation
for sustenance now and then.

But I digress.  The hummingbirds reminded me that those who feed them must do so consistently - they are creatures of habit once they find a good locale for their meals, and can die of starvation if a customary source suddenly dries up, freezes, or is neglected such that it develops mold and other nasties in the water or container.

It's cold out here!  I wonder if Timmies is open yet?

Finally!  I'll have one tall, non-fat, double sugar nectar to go please!

The experts are a bit at odds on the exact ratio of sugar to water to mimic the natural nectar they find in flowers in the summer.  Most say one cup granulated sugar (do not use honey or other sweeteners, which can cause great harm to the birds) to four cups water in summer, and some recommend cutting that to three cups water in winter to help prevent freezing and to compensate for the lack of natural nectars and insects which usually make up the diet of Anna's hummers, the kind that stay around all winter here on the island.   Any sweeter and you risk causing dehydration, illness, and starvation in the little buzz-bombs.  Don't use that prepared red mixture or add red dye to the water - several studies suggest it may do more harm than good.  A feeder with some nice bright colour - especially red - on it somewhere is all that is needed.

Ahhhhhh!  There's nothing quite like that first sip of nectar in the morning! 

Most bird people recommend boiling the water and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved, though some say boiling is not necessary.  The important thing is to make sure all the sugar granules have dissolved and to stir well so they are dispersed throughout the mixture. In winter, change the mixture every three days or so (though in all likelihood, you'll be refilling it daily or even more often), washing out the unit carefully to ensure it is clean.  A solution of a little vinegar and water, and the use of a bottle brush and pipecleaners, will do fine - then rinse thoroughly.

I take my feeders in at night and put them back out at dawn so they won't freeze, but you can also place them near a lightbulb (the kind that gets warm, not one of those newfangled always-cool-to-the-touch ones),  such as a porch light or a suspended trouble light, or insulate the glass part with a warm sock and/or some plumbing insulation.  Depending on the material your feeder is made from, you can even tape a hot pocket (the things skiers use) to the bottom of the container.  What you do may depend how cold it is.  

Ittttssssss cccccold!  Vvverrrry ccccccold! 

And if you live somewhere where it is too cold even for Anna's hummingbirds, please remember that all birds require water to survive - so if the lakes and ponds and puddles are frozen over, put out some bowls of water for any birds in your area, near where you have placed seeds and fruits or berries natural to the area. The birds will thank you.

Hey, server, I'd like some water too please! 

What?  Huh?  Who said that?
Get over there with the suet balls, Nuthatch!
This is MY feeding station!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Distracted Gardener

Last Sunday was a beautiful crisp, sunny day - the perfect day to finally finish putting the garden to bed for the winter and planting those red-and-white tulip bulbs I bought in celebration of Canada's 150th birthday next year.

Problem is, I find it very hard to cut back plants or clean out planters when flowers are still blooming. So instead of grabbing the gardening gloves and shovel and trowel, I grabbed the camera.  And photographed every flower I could find in the garden.




Shasta Daisies

I can't remember this one and I'm too lazy to look it up.

Some were pretty much over - the fuschias and mums and hydrangea -
but still too pretty to destroy.

And the Winter Jasmine has been in full bloom since early November.
It doesn't get pruned until spring.

When I finished that, I did some pruning on a pyramid cedar by my carport - it is forever blocking out my house number on the carport post, and was also beginning to push under the soffit and to dislodge the downspout.  After a few minutes with the loppers and garden shears,  I decided 'What the heck, let's cut it back into a shrub'  - and out came the reciprocating saw and electric hedge trimmer. Bzzzzz.... in a matter of minutes I had a nicely rounded shrub and enough cedar boughs to........oh.....yes.....enough cedar boughs to make CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!

You can see where this is going, right?  The dying flowers did not get removed,  the raspberry canes did not get cut back, the leaves did not get raked, and the bulbs did not get planted.  Instead, I made two outdoor hanging baskets with cedar boughs, cones, holly and a little ribbon - one for the back porch and one for outside my kitchen window.

Why pay $30 or more at the store when I can have all this for free?

Then I decorated the newly-created cedar shrub with outdoor lights - and hung a string on the maple in the front yard for good measure.  As I was clearing up the remaining cedar boughs, to be used on my patio boxes over the holiday season, I eyed the four foot section I had lopped off the top of the pyramid cedar and thought...hmmm....Christmas TREE!

Not bad for something that would I would have just hauled to
the compost at the landfill - and now I can put it out for chipping
when the Christmas trees are picked up around town! 

So much for gardening.  I still hope to get the bulbs planted (at the very least in some pots, if not in the ground), but the rest of the cleanup may wait until spring.  Because the very next morning, Mother Nature laughed at me by sending the temperature plummeting and adding a skiff of snow.  At least it made the hanging baskets pretty.

Mother Nature finished the decorating!

We're supposed to get a much larger dump of snow tomorrow ("much larger" in Crofton means 4-5 centimeters, not enough to build an igloo or even a snowperson),  and the cold is supposed to hang around for another week or two. A good time to edit photos for the next blog entry, methinks.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Just a skiff of snow....

Apparently just a skiff of snow can make little princesses levitate:

Dat's cold on mah paws!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Dogs, cats, pigs, and friends

A trip to the mainland always involves some of my least favourite things - like traffic, and being away from home, and traffic, and constantly figuring out changed and poorly signed routes, and traffic.  But that is balanced out by the opportunity to see some of my favourite people and pets and piggies.

A five day trip last month was no exception.  I wasn't off the ferry for more than fifteen minutes before new routes had me lost, and endless traffic had me chomping at the bit to return to my island. However, eventually I found the restaurant where my family and friends were waiting for me to join them for lunch - it has become almost a tradition for us to meet at the Riverhouse Pub near Deas Island Park on my way to or from the ferry.

After lunch, I headed out to my friends Ann and Ken in Abbotsford, who always offer Mitzi and me their self-contained lower level as a base while I take off hither and yon, and never fail to not only stock the fridge in 'my' space but also share many an amazing meal with me upstairs. In return, I let them beat me at whist at least once per visit.  They feed my stomach, I feed their egos. And we share a lot of laughs.  Mitzi isn't quite so happy about the visits - she is quite the homebody and even though our mainland space is familiar to her, she'd still much rather not travel at all:

Still, they have a big back yard that is frequently visited by cats, and there are few things that sniffer-dog Mitzi loves more than tracking the route a cat or two has taken.

Sniff sniff sniff
One grey, one orange, one black and white cat...

Which way did they go?

On Friday, I headed out to visit my friend Deb and her dog Lily and cat Hugo, at their new condo in South Surrey.
Hai!  I'm Hugo!
I hazn't seen you for a while!

You're not going to monopolize my mama, are you?

After a delicious lunch, Lily informed us it was time to go for a walk in the woods near her home:

C'mon!  Hurry up!  We've got a ball to chase!

Oops, sorry mom, I didn't mean to lose it. I know it's down there somewhere!
Find it, find it, find it! 

Dogs!  You don't see me losing my toys on some silly walk! 

Saturday saw a visit to Emma and her dad.  Emma, who turned twelve this week (Happy Birthday, Ems!), is doing well after a fun summer of swimming and lazing about in the interior.  She is a water dog through and through.  Her three favourite joys in life are food, swimming, and her dad.  I'm not sure what order she would place those in.  I'd like to think that I'm in her top ten still, and from the way she greets me, I think I am.

Emma (in front) and her best buddy Abby.
She who stares the hardest gets the first treat. 

On Sunday I spent time at Hearts on Noses Sanctuary with Janice and the piggies.  It was raining, so even the herd I fostered - Scotch and Soda and their ten 'babies' (who are now nine years old!) - was reluctant to come out of their nice cozy houses without a little added incentive.

Oh, okay, I guess we'll come say 'hi' if you're going to feed us apples.

Once they were out, they followed me around for a while - probably hoping for more apples - while I greeted my other porcine  - and canine - friends.

Who's out there?

Oh, look, someone left these apples near my door!

Did Santa Claus come early?

Whisper, one of my three velcro pigs, stayed with me the whole visit and introduced me to his new friend Sugar Ray. Sugar Ray, like a person with their head in a good book, was more interested in having his head in a good pumpkin than having his photo taken.

Pumpkinhead,,. aka Sugar Ray

Whisper doesn't mind sharing

Janice introduced me to some of the pigs who were new since my last visit, like Pete who carefully supervised Janice's apple-toss technique as we doled out treats to everyone:

Pete, not impressed with a throw where the apple doesn't land at his feet.

Chilco gets an apple too!

And what would a visit to Hearts on Noses be without a
photo of my pal Rose, with her beautiful feathery ears?

Coffee with my friend Luanne, dinner out with Ann and Ken at the Spaghetti Factory, some quiet time to read, little walks with Mitzi, and soon the five days were over and we were headed back home.  Allie greeted us with long stories of how Mary, our kind neighbour who takes care of her, was "too stingy with the Temptations and where the heck were you anyway?! ", and Mitzi bounced all over the house before running into the bedroom to snuggle down in her familiar space for a long winter's nap.

There's no place like home!