Sunday, April 23, 2017

Exploring Vancouver Island

I've been away camping for a few days, with a friend who owns a very nice camper van - while I don't mind tenting sometimes, an RV certainly has the advantage of keeping one dry and warm when the weather is so unpredictable.  It's going to take me awhile to edit over 700 photos and select some for blog posts (not to mention that I still have many recent hikes and some older sets of photos that I've never blogged about!), but I thought I'd start with just one. Next post I'll tell you more about this amazing National Historic Site where we spent our first afternoon.

Fisgard Lighthouse
Built 1860

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Sanctuary is Not a Petting Zoo!

As warmer weather approaches, sanctuaries that provide a permanent refuge for rescued farm animals are inundated with requests from people wishing to bring their young animal-loving children for a visit. Many envision taking their wide-eyed, excited child into a pen of loving, friendly animals who will let themselves be endlessly petted and cuddled and hand fed. This is, after all, the image they have seen in advertisements for commercial petting zoos. But a sanctuary is not a petting zoo. 

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a sanctuary is a place of “refuge or safety from pursuit, persecution, or other danger”, and “a place where injured or unwanted animals of a specified kind are cared for”. 

A petting zoo, on the other hand, usually buys young adult animals in the late winter or early spring, often from questionable sources with little regard to genetics or potential health issues. Then the petting zoo breeds them, puts them on display almost immediately, and lets excited kids with grabby hands stress both the babes and the mamas. Visitors are usually allowed – or encouraged – to feed them as well, regardless of how much the animals may have already eaten that day. Often the babes will be weaned and separated from the mother at the earliest possible age, in hopes that a second birthing will be possible before the end of summer, ready for the popular harvest money-makers like hay rides and corn mazes and pumpkin patches. 

Pumpkin patch?  I wouldn't mind visiting a pumpkin patch! 

And when the season is over and the money is no longer rolling in? The animals at most petting zoos are then sent to slaughter or sold - after all, by next tourist season they will no longer be babies that draw in the crowds, and feeding adults or youngsters through the winter months in order to breed them in the spring costs money. It's cheaper to dispose of the animals and buy new breeders the next year.  

Does that sound like a sanctuary to you?

Don't be a turkey!  That ain't no sanctuary!

At animal sanctuaries such as RASTA (Rescue And Sanctuary for Threatened Animals) in nearby Chemainus, the animals are residents who will live out their lives at a place that treats them with dignity and respect. It is a place that will not exploit or sell them, that will not breed them, and it is a place that will provide them with a safe haven for life.  

Garfunkel:  I hear strangers nearby - let's circle the wagon!

Tango and Romeo:  Why?  Is there food in it? 

Most of the animals have arrived at the sanctuary after pretty horrible lives – passed from home to home, or abused, or abandoned, deprived of appropriate veterinary care, and/or confined without companionship of their own kind or others. Many have significant health issues that require special diets and medications. Their food intake is carefully managed, in both quality and quantity, to ensure their nutritional needs are being met appropriately. This is not to say they don’t get regular treats – they certainly do – but not every time someone walks nearby. 

Excuse us!  We're having a snack!

Because of their varied and unfortunate backgrounds, some might bite or shove humans, some might have poor eyesight that mistakes a child’s hand for a treat, some might not have the dexterity to ‘take gently’ when food is offered. Even the scent of an unfamiliar human can make some animals who are normally friendly and even playful with regular volunteers retreat and/or become anxious.   

Help! Help!    There's a stranger in our house!

Oops, sorry, was that your finger I just chomped?

See these horns?  I'm really a gentle giant but if a fly tickles my tummy
and I swing my big head around to shoo it, you better shoo too! 

To be sure, many sanctuaries do offer tours at set times and days, nearly always by appointment only.  At RASTA, these educational tours (which include a presentation on factory farming) are restricted to very small groups on only one or two days a week so every person can be closely supervised and so the animals are not overwhelmed. 

Because sanctuaries give as much freedom as possible to their animals by allowing them to roam around with their animal friends in pastures or extra large fenced pens, safety – for visitors as well as for the animals - can be a challenge. Sanctuary volunteers have to make sure all visitors stay together, ensure no one sticks out a hand to an animal that might mistake it for a carrot, see that no one gets knocked down or left behind or wanders off, no one leaves a gate open or drops an inedible item in a pen. There can be no lollygagging to send a selfie to your friends while your group moves on to the next pen!

Oooh, looky here.....someone left the door open!

A plastic bag!  I found a plastic bag in here!

On an educational tour, discussion about the animals’ backgrounds and about animal treatment in commercial industry is not always suitable for young ears and may even upset sensitive adults. It is not a 'cute-fuzzy-wuzzy-let’s-go-feed-and-pat-the-animals' experience, though you may be lucky enough to be there when some of the more social animals wish to interact with you. But the decision is up to the animals, not you, and if Sociable Suzie decides she’d rather have a nap buried in the soft straw in her shelter, then Sociable Suzie gets to do just that.

No, thank you.  Not today.
 ^What she said ^ 

If you wish to take your kids or grandkids to the local petting zoo this summer, that is your choice. If you think your children are old enough and mature enough to visit a sanctuary, by all means request (well in advance) an appointment for an educational tour. But please don’t expect the same experience at a sanctuary as at a petting zoo. 

This is the animals’ home. This is their sanctuary, their safe space, their forever home. This is not a petting zoo. 

And now you know. 

Monday, April 17, 2017


Easter Day was spent with my friend Pat and the poms.  And, of course, my camera.  This was my favourite photo of the day -  one of Pat's three poms, tiny senior Chrissy. She doesn't get to come on walks with the boisterous much younger and bigger Lexi and Cosmo, and her feisty little attitude always makes me laugh, so of course I have to give her lots of attention when I visit.  And even though she is somewhat camera shy, I think she might just possibly be the cutest, most photogenic pom ever.  I am so in love with this girl! 

Friday, April 14, 2017

It's All About Allie!

Despite Allie's comment in the above Easter card, I do have a life. Unfortunately, that life has been a bit chaotic lately, hence the lack of blog posts.  Relatives visiting, condo-hunting, and medical issues have kept me either too busy or unable to blog, though I do have a few first drafts and first photo edits done, and I hope to start posting regularly again soon.

Since Allie is a bit miffed at the bunny ears and chick-on-the-head, I'll share another photo of her with you. I took this a while ago, when I chanced to wander into the bedroom just as she was doing her cat thing - rolling upside down,  acting all cute. It was one of those lucky shots that ends up looking like it was planned.

In fact, it was so lucky that today it won a photo competition hosted by Companion Animal Psychology.  The competition was judged independently (and the photo I entered didn't have my watermark - I added it for this blog), and I was very proud to read the judge's comments:

All of the animals are a delight to see, but this photo really stood out. It captures the creature in a very 'cattish' pose and the photo is very well-composed. The colours of the background have been thoughtfully chosen to complement the colours of the cat. Most of all, the eyes have it! 

I must confess that Allie forced me to enter this photo.  When we looked at the photos others had submitted at that point in time, Allie pointed out that every single one was of a  - gasp - dog!  So she insisted I enter one of her, because, as she well knows from living with so many (shhhhhh) dogs throughout her sixteen years, CATS RULE!   And now her opinion has been validated.  

There will be no living with her now.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Dogs of the Blog

I'm still limited on the amount of time I can spend on the computer (or doing other tasks) because of my arm, so I've been choosing things I can work on a little at a time. I have a Rogues Wall in my home with photos of many of the animals who have shared their lives with me, but it was missing some of the most recent ones so I surfed through my digital photos today for suitable images. Then I became sidetracked using some of those images to create a new header for my facebook page, using a photo from a recent hike, a rainbow, and my dogs who are now at the rainbow bridge.

As you may notice, it includes just those dogs I've lived with since beginning this blog, which was shortly after I moved to acreage and took on adopting senior and special needs dogs. The picture does not include the pigs or alpaca from my farm days, nor my numerous short and long term foster dogs, nor does it include dogs who went to the bridge before I started the blog or lived at the farm (Brandy, Shamrock, McDuff, and Muffin). And it doesn't include Emma, who is still alive and thriving at her Dad's place. Allie would like to point out that it also doesn't include any cats, past or present.

I'm not sure I could make up a photo that includes all the animals that have been part of my life. But I do know that they each stole a piece of my heart - and gave me part of theirs. I miss them all.

(If you want to refresh your memory on their life stories, try clicking on the labels below. I won't guarantee it will work - it doesn't always - but worth a try).