Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Crazy times... and a lovely hike

It's been crazy times around here, with a massive intake of more than two dozen pot bellied pigs by our local (Cowichan and District) SPCA.  With the Cowichan SPCA not set up for farm animals, and with all the female pigs (including a number of six month old babes) being pregnant or nursing, a scramble to find appropriate foster homes ensued.  Hearts on Noses offered to take one of the nursing moms with two babies permanently into their care, so I transported those from the island to the mainland.  I'll be blogging more about this shortly, including info on the fundraisers for their eventual spays.
Because of this, and other things going on in my life,  photos are piling up, with no time to edit the larger pool of photos taken on a recent camping trip - but I shall get there! Meanwhile, I offer you this set of photos which I posted on Facebook last night - taken yesterday on my customary Monday hike with my friend Sally, this hike at Colliery Dam Park in Nanaimo.  Enjoy!

There are two lakes at Colliery Dam Park, with easy paths around them, each with a loop trail around them.  There are also many other trails made by mountain bikes, and a somewhat misleading map at the trail head, so for the second time we missed the unmarked trail head for the second lake and spent some time on mountain bike trails before redirected by a friendly hiker.  Though the day was wet, it was still a very pleasant hike.  

This interesting combination of ramp, bridge and stairs
crosses a narrow chasm at one end of the second lake.

Dogwood - BC's provincial flower - were in bloom around the lakes

An angler's gear on the lake shore.  

There were many colourful fungi in the almost rainforest habitat

This paved path is part of  Nanaimo's extensive Parkway Trail
system, which passes through this park.

While a hiker mentioned a cougar in the area, and an angler/photographer showed
us photos of an owl and her babies and pointed out their tree, the only wildlife we
saw was this squirrel. 

My favourite photo of the day was this one - an elderly angler sits fishing,
amid reflections and raindrops.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

While you are waiting.....

I'm still sorting and editing the hundreds of photos I took on a short camping trip on the southern end of Vancouver Island.  But just so my faithful followers don't think I have dropped off the face of the earth again, here's a few photos from a hike Pat and the poms did with me at Swallowfield (between Chemainus and Crofton on the island) last week. Though it's less than ten minutes from home, I hadn't been there for quite a while - and it was just as beautiful as ever.

Chemainus River near the estuary

Channels of water running into the sea

Cosmo loves to swim - though in this photo
he might be watching for fish! 

Lexi isn't as keen on swimming as Cosmo, but will
paddle out  chest deep.

Tranquility, reflections, and beauty on the estuary

Naked trees dancing on the bluff.
Surely it is spring time by now?

There was birdsong all around us, including the distinctive call of the
red-winged blackbird.

Pat wanted some new photos of the dogs in bluebells
(we last took some here two years ago).
Lexi was quite cooperative, Cosmo not so much.

I think the dogs have been looking at
Norman Rockwell paintings.
Cosmo needs a pitchfork beside him.

Finally got one of the two of them that isn't
quite so stern! 

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). 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Happy National Puppy Day!

Apparently today is National Puppy Day, and on facebook many of my friends are posting photos of their dogs when the dogs were just pups.

I haven't had a pup for eons, as I have adopted only older dogs for the past eleven years.  Some blog readers will remember two dogs I had as pups:  Charley, the border collie/rough collie cross who passed away in 2011; and Emma, a yellow lab who is still going strong at 12 years of age and who lives with my ex.

Charley, age 3 months, 1997-2011

Emma, age 3 months, born 2004

But since all the dogs I've adopted since then have been older (Caleb, Eddie, Sadie, Belle, Shyloh, Oliver and Mitzi - have I forgotten anyone?),  and since this is -in Bloggerland - also called "Throwback Thursday", it seems appropriate to post a photo of a large crew of puppies with whom some readers will be familiar - The Butternut Squash Gang.  I fostered them, along with their mama Lucy Loo (who looked just like a butternut squash when she was pregnant)  for the Cowichan and District SPCA.  They became the focus of this blog, and of my life, for four months back in the fall of 2010.  Enjoy the memories!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Welcome Spring!

It has been a long winter here on my beautiful island.  The snowdrops and crocuses that usually appear in January or early February were a good month late, and other spring flowers as well as green leaves on trees are also well behind schedule.  But finally, both according to the calendar and according to my garden, spring has arrived.  It was solace to the soul to be out in the sunshine clearing up the winter detritus and discovering the first of the flowers in the garden yesterday.  It is a good reminder that life - all life - is a circle.  We are born, we live, we die, and life starts anew.  It is true for us humans, it is true for our beloved dogs, and it is true for the flowers and trees in our natural world.

Today, the first day of spring, began with a beautiful sunrise - the start of a new day, the start of a new season:

In  my garden, flowers from early, middle, and late spring are all blooming at once - just a few, here and there, but enough to give me a sense of renewal.  Crocuses and tulips, daffodils and hyacinth, and the tiny blue flowers of periwinkle are found in the beds around my yard and the pots on my patios.

And while these harbingers of spring and summer show their pretty heads, the yellow flowers of the winter jasmine - which has been blooming since November - are still brightening my garden, are hanging on to spring's coat tails, reluctant as the morning frost on the lawn to admit it is time to exit stage left and let the next season begin.

Happy Spring, my readers, happy spring.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Coming soon to a blog near you.....

Back to blogging soon - I have lots of photos from recent hikes, and some of friends' dogs, and some of the finally emerging spring flowers.  Thank you for your patience, and for your words of kindness on Mitzi's passing.  

To tide you over, here's a shot of  a bullrush shedding its seeds,  from a hike a couple of weeks ago around Buttertubs Marsh:

Bullrush, Buttertubs Marsh, March 6, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

Forever in my heart, forever and a day.

This morning, at just over sixteen years of age, my beautiful sweet funny Mitzi left God's waiting room and entered the meadows of the Rainbow Bridge.  She went gently, resting in my arms, secure in the knowledge that she had been loved her whole life.  She spent 12 wonderful years with my late cousin, Anita, and then graced me with four more.

I never expected to love her as deeply as I do.  I'd only met her once before she came to live with me, and never felt much draw to small frou-frou dogs.  But she belonged to my cousin, whom I loved very much, and this was one last gift I could give Anita before she died - the knowledge that Mitzi would always have a home where she would be well cared for, loved, and respected for the rest of her life.

Mitzi as a young pup at her Mama Anita's home

I don't think Mitzi was in my house for more than 24 hours before I was totally besotted with her.

She wasn't crazy about having fur siblings, especially not klutzy, crazy, bowl-her-over ones like Eddie.  But she survived him and the others by trying to keep out of their way, staying quiet, and never picking any fights with them. She got her one-on-one time with me on our walks around town, and occasionally on hikes with friends, though sometimes she hitched a ride part way.

Mitzi on the Crofton Sea Walk

Mitzi and friend Keeghan at Swallowfield

Pooped Pup

She loved her daily walks, even when she could no longer go more than a few blocks around town. The best part of walking, according to Mitzi, was sniffing - she loved to follow smells from one place to another, in the garden, along the seawalk, in fields, around the block.  Her nose was always leading the way - sometimes doubling back if she lost the trail.


When she became the only dog in the house, after the others had passed away, her true spirit came out and I began to see the impish, playful, funny girl my cousin had so often told me about.  She chased me around the house, barked at me, puttered in the yard with me, accompanied me on vacations and horse-sitting jaunts.  In fact, she soon showed me that she especially loved being a farm girl, spending hours wandering the fields, checking out all the great smells.

The Li'l Cowpoke

Despite being a farm girl at heart, she also loved going to the groomers - a cowgirl luxuriating in a good massage and a pedicure. Whenever her fur became dirty, she sulked - becoming sulkier and sulkier until that magic day when we headed to her groomer for her monthly spa day. She returned a happy, lively, beautiful Princess.

She wasn't one for getting dressed up, despite being a princess, but she tolerated the occasional outfits I produced - hats and dresses and hallowe'en costumes, and came to love her red sweater which she wore constantly these past few months.

She struggled with her health for the past two years, as kidney failure took its toll and left her without appetite.  But a few days rest and a little medicine, and she would bounce back and once again run in the door from our walk, race down the hall, flip herself around and play bow to me, with a loud bark that declared "play with me, Mama Jean, play with me".  And the game would be on - around and around and around the house we would go, first one way and then the other - tiny eight pound Mitzi chasing me, and me chasing her, each hiding around corners and jumping out at the other, until she eventually stopped, panting, and headed for the water dish.

Mama, play wiv me!

Ha!  Dat waz FUN!

She was still playing her little game on her birthday mid-January, but a few days later, she stopped. In early February I called her vet and we re-ran her numbers and knew that the kidney failure had progressed to the final stage. And though she had bounced back many times before, this time she did not.  She stopped barking, she stopped chasing me, and a couple of weeks ago, she made it clear she no longer wanted to go for even short walks. Instead, she started asking for something she never in her life had been interested in - being held, cuddled, wrapped in a blanket on my lap for hours on end. She became weaker, yet every couple of days she would eat a little, or wander around the house looking for me, or sit on my lap watching me as I sang to her. She looked at me with her clouded eyes once dark black, and sank her wee head into my shoulder.

Ahm tired, Mama Jean, ahm very tired

I knew yesterday it was time.  It was in her eyes, and it was in my heart, though I did not want her to go.

I knew that she could see the Bridge, could see her Mama Anita, and my sister Carole who also loved her - they were watching for her, waiting for her, arms outstretched.

Ah think it's time for me to go now, Mama Jean.

And this morning,  surrounded with my love,  she raced across that meadow to them, barking and spinning and play bowing as she went.

Run free, my most special little girl. I'll love you and miss you forever and a day.