Sunday, February 26, 2017

Westwood Lake

Last Monday, my friend Sally and I did the 6 km loop around Westwood Lake in Nanaimo.  It is an easy, well groomed trail with only one very short uphill section.  Perfect for the beginner or out of shape hiker, families with young children, or people recovering from injuries.  It takes about an hour and a half, or two hours if one of the hikers stops every few minutes to take photographs!

The trail was completely clear of snow and dry underfoot, though there were a couple of places where snow was still visible in the underbrush.  At first, we thought the lake was clear of ice, as all we could see from the parking lot was open water:

We took the trail counter-clockwise, stopping for a view at a convenient lookout, and enjoying the smell of freshly milled cedar where the trail/bridge had been newly replaced:

The reflections, both those across the lake and those close at hand, were amazing - the light was perfect, the water clear, and like so many man-made lakes, there were many stumps and logs left to protrude from the water at either end:

At the far end, we used a little bridge to cross a pretty stream, and then we were pitched into winter! The trail was still clear and dry, but the lake - parts we couldn't see before - was covered with ice, slowly melting around the protruding stumps.

Over the creek...

and through the woods.... winter!

The same was true at the other end - lots of ice, lots of almost surreal icescapes formed by the deadfall below and above the surface.

As we rounded the last corner, we were back to open water once again, a the beauty of little trees growing from nurse logs in the water, reflections of both mirrored in the lake.

A great hike any time of year, but also a popular swimming lake in summer so if you like quiet you'd be well advised to choose a weekday in the off seasons.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A drop of rain

The snow is gone, and I've been photographing raindrops and signs of spring.  My arm won't let me do more than one photo tonight, but this one caught my eye as I downloaded my images - not just because I love the drop of rain, but because when I looked at the foliage, it made me laugh.  I see a bird of leaves (with a rather featherless head and little tiny teeth), squawking as she passes a raindrop egg!  Can you see it? Or have I been taking too many painkillers?

Monday, February 13, 2017

In God's Waiting Room

The other day, as a friend and I discussed our old dogs, she mentioned that someone had once described the final stage of a dog's life as the dog being "in God's waiting room."  The image made me smile -- as an adopter of old dogs,  I know that stage only too well.

It is a time when each morning you put your hand on your still-sleeping dog to be sure she is breathing. It is a time when every sickness or stumble or refusal to eat has you questioning "Is this it?"  And sometimes it is a time,  after they stop eating and drinking and show no interest in their favourite things - maybe not even in you -  when you place that dreaded call to the vet.

And just as you hang up the phone, they bounce down the hallway and look at you as if to say "ARE YOU CRAZY?  I'm fine, feed me, play with me, let's go for a walk!"

Mama Jean, play wiv me!

When Charley was going through this final stage, back in 2011,  I called it her 'Dance with Death" - two steps forward, one step back.  Charley kept up that dance for a long time - three times I called the vet, three times I cancelled.  And then one day, she told me it was time.  She was tired of dancing. The music in God's waiting room went silent, and we said our last goodbye.

Ha ha, I really kept ya guessing! 

Some of my old dogs have barreled through the waiting room door, charged across to the inner chamber, jumped at that door with both front paws, and demanded to be let in NOW.  Others have patiently sat, neither doing the dance nor charging the door, just biding their time until they were ready - to either pass on their own or to ask me to help them.

I'm not a 'heaven or hell' sorta person, but love the imagery of God's waiting room. Even more, I love the imagery of the Rainbow Bridge beyond, a bridge where our dogs wait for us and our loved ones guide us on to the other side.  And I do believe in some sort of spiritual afterlife. So, for me, I think perhaps an image of a long rustic fence with an old gate that leads to fields of flowers, rolling hills, blue skies,  happy playing dogs, and in the distance the Rainbow Bridge, is more the image I see for my dogs.  Waiting by the gate, sometimes running back to me, sometimes pawing at the latch. But knowing their time is near as surely as I know it too.  Mitzi is now waiting by that gate.

What's on de other side?

We went through a tough time the last couple of weeks,  Mitzi and I -- a time when I thought the gate was about to open for her to prance through.  She went for days without food.  Then she stopped drinking water. She staggered, she had small seizures, she lost her sense of direction, and she developed bleeding into the anterior chamber of her eye.  So I emailed my mobile vet for an appointment.  And within fifteen minutes of  receiving a response from my vet, Ms. Mitzi got up, went to her dish, had a big drink of water, went outside to do her business, ate some food, and looked at me as if to say:

I kept the appointment time as Mitzi was due for her next check up anyway, and she was again refusing food, so we ran all the usual blood work and urine tests and other stuff that we do for very old dogs.  The results were much as I expected - her kidney failure, first diagnosed two years ago, has shown significant change since last year.  Her creatinine, urea (BUN) and SDMA are all very, very high, she has lost two of her nine pounds, and other symptoms have appeared as well, putting her into the start of the final stage of kidney failure, a stage at which her kidneys are operating at only about 10% of normal capacity.  However, she still has some good days and is not in pain - yesterday, for example, she went for a reasonably long walk (for her), ate several servings of smelly green tripe and then some other dog food, followed me around the house and came up on my lap for a cuddle (something she never used to do - one recent behavioural change among several others).  We made some changes to her medications, and we are taking it one day at a time. Most of the time she sleeps, often she doesn't eat.  It could be days, weeks, or even a few months, but it likely won't be more.

I betcha I last longer than this snow on mah nose!

Perhaps the gate will open by an unseen hand on the other side.  Perhaps, with the help of my vet, we shall open it for her.  I won't let her suffer -  the very end of kidney disease is often marked with vomiting, diarrhea, and pain, and the emergence of any of these symptoms beyond a short-term gastric upset will tell me it is time.   I have always said I would rather help my old dogs to pass a week too soon than an hour too late.  I do not want her to end her life in crisis. And I know my cousin, her former mama, would not want that for her either.

And so we take it one day, one hour, one moment at a time, celebrating the little things - a meal eaten, a healthy poop, a walk to the end of the block and back.  And I let her sleep, and sleep, and sleep. I reinstated baby gates and carpet runners to keep her from falling on laminate floors, I use her xpen to keep her safe when I go out.  And when she is awake, but not wanting to eat or poop or walk, I hold her.  I hold her whenever she wants to be held  - my dinner can wait, my sleep can wait, this blog can wait.  I hold her and rock her and sing to her and talk softly to her. And I tell her how much I love her.

I think she can see those meadows through the fence, and she'll tell me when she's ready.  She is standing in God's waiting room, and it has rustic fences for walls, and a wooden gate through which she looks towards fields full of flowers and a beautiful Rainbow Bridge.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Isn't it supposed to be spring?

I live in an area that has the mildest climate in Canada.  We pride ourselves on filling our social media sites with photos of spring flowers in early February while the rest of Canada is still digging out from mountains of snow.  Most winters we get no snow, or perhaps a skiff that is gone by nightfall.

This time last year

Not so this winter.  It has been unseasonably cold and we have had more snow in the past week than all the snowfalls put together since I arrived on the island back in 2009.  And tomorrow we expect another 10-15 cm.  I had to hire someone to dig out part of the back yard for Mitzi (who has been under the weather - no pun intended. More about that in a day or two), just so she could manage to do her business.

Even princesses are entitled to use some unladylike words this winter.

Some of the trees in my newly landscaped garden have lost boughs under the heavy load, and in one case the main trunk snapped.  The birds aren't impressed either - their seeds keep getting covered with more snow and ice, the hummingbird feeders freeze or their ports get covered with ice and snow in no time at all, and the robins have to wear mukluks to keep their little toes warm:

(His mukluks are hidden by the snow!)

Okay, it looks kinda pretty, but right now I'm really envious of my Ontario friends who are whining about all the rain.  That's OUR wetcoast rain, people - somehow we ended up with YOUR friggin' snow. 
Pretty, yes, but time for it to go!

Personally, I think Mitzi has the right idea:

Wake me when it's over.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Taylor Beach with Luke and the Poms

Taylor Beach is a lovely, easily accessible stretch of beach in the Metchosin/Sooke area east of Victoria on Vancouver Island. There are only a few parking spots, but midweek that is all that is needed.  It is quiet and refreshing - a long, straight strip of  pebble beach (and sand when the tide recedes) perfect for walking.   And dogs are allowed off leash there all year round.

This week, I visited Taylor Beach with my friends Pat and Lisa, and their dogs Cosmo, Lexi and Luke.  It was a perfect late winter's day - blue sky, sunshine, and a blustery, chilly wind.  The day was so clear we could see Mount Baker to the south east, and the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula across the ocean.

Hey mom, you gotz sunbursts on you!
The dogs were eager to head out despite the chilly wind, so after a couple of trips back to the car for forgotten items, we were off.  I took a moment to capture this photo of a three or four year old girl sitting on a log gazing out at the water while her playmates and parents amused themselves nearby.  I imagine this child finding serenity on the beach in 10, 20, 60 years from now.  How often I have sat just like that, finding peace in a hectic and crazy world:

Child on a beach
But dogs wait for no one, let alone a one-armed photographer fussing with her camera, so off we went.

Hurry up, Auntie Jean!

Oooh! That's a lotta water!

Luke ran and ran and ran!

And I watched the waves roll in, casting their foamy skirts upon the sand.

Luke is a social butterfly, making friends with every dog he meets.  This day, he met a chocolate lab who shared Luke's passion for sticks.  They spent a few minutes chasing sticks together and trading them back and forth, and then the lab's owner tossed a big stick into the ocean for the water loving lab.  Luke decided he'd let his new friend retrieve that one!

I'll just wait here while you get that!

But as soon as the lab was back on shore, the game resumed:

They reminded me of a caption I saw recently on a similar photo:

Branch manager Choc Lab, with assistant branch manager Luke!

After saying goodbye to  his lab friend, Luke continued down the beach with us and soon met up with a friendly German Shepherd - and off they went like old school chums from way back:

Luke and friend run off into the sunlight

By now,  Lexi was tired of walking and wanted to go home.  Cosmo was quite happy to keep walking, especially given the lovely (ahem!) snack of horse poops he found.

What?  Horse poops are da bomb!

He's disgusting!  I'm beautiful!
Boy dogs drool, girl dogs rule! 
I  CAN'T  H E A R  YOU! 
I took a few more shots of the ocean and the dogs:

Gorgeous Luke in sunshine

Hey mom, ya make a better door than a window!
Move - yer blockin' mah view!

And then it was time to go.  What a great day we'd had!

That was fun, mom.
Can we meet up with these friends again soon?