Saturday, December 9, 2017

Foggy days

We've been fogged in for a three days now.  Two days ago it was so thick, we couldn't see the old RV park wharf from 20 feet away - just a solid wall of white.  This morning was a little better:

I don't mind the fog - I find it restful, providing tranquility and solitude - though I prefer not to drive in it, especially at night time.  But for morning and afternoon walks with Maggie, it is quite lovely - the deep bellow of the ferry's horn as it slips unseen through the waters, the shadows and shapes that emerge as we walk along the seawalk, the haunting sounds of  a myriad of waterbirds calling to each other in the bay.  Mags and I often spend a good hour down there, just listening and watching and dreaming.

Quite the contrast from the amazingly rich fall colours of the photos I've been working on for another post - but just as beautiful in its own comforting way.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Happy 13th Birthday, Emma!

Thirteen years ago today, a wiggly, happy yellow lab was born, and a few weeks later she came to live with my then-spouse and me.  She still lives a joyful and well-loved life with my ex.  The first photo was taken at about three months, shortly after she came to us;  the second photo was taken on my last visit with her in May of this year.

Emma, early 2005

Emma, May 2017

And, since it is the first day of December, which in my household officially marks the start of the holiday season (decorations come out, Christmas music is played), here are a few photos of her on her second Christmas (her first with us), December 2005.

She knew exactly which stocking was hers!
(The other dog one was Charley's)

Her new Christmas toy

Whaddaya mean, there's no more cookies?

Emma, exxhausted, at the end of her first real Christmas

Happy December, and Happy 13th Birthday Emma!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Maggie, Six Months Later

A letter from Maggie (formerly Allie-the-dog) to Langley Animal Protection Society

Dear LAPS,

Hi! Remember me?  I was Allie and you took me in last spring.  It's been six months since my Mama Jean adopted me, and she said I should tell you how I'm doing.

It was pretty scary coming to a new home, but I soon learned to trust my new mama, and liked being in the house and garden with her. But other people scared me and new places made me nervous and  I was still a bit confused about why I wasn't going back to my old home where I used to live with my other mama.

Mama Jean says during the first four months she seldom saw a sheltie sparkle in my eye or a sheltie prance in my step except for rare moments when I got silly in the privacy of my home. Most of the time I was really quiet and reserved and hid away in Mama's bedroom as much as possible. On walks, I froze like a statue or hid behind mama whenever people approached.   If they had a dog, I would cautiously let the dog approach to say hi to me, as long as the human didn't look at me or bend down or talk to me.  I didn't play, I didn't run, I didn't bark (unless someone was coming into my house or yard and then I became frantic with barking and running).

I waz tryin' to figure out my new world
and wonderin' where my old mama was.
In the fall,  this began to change.  In September we went away to the Sunshine Coast for a week.  At first I was afraid I was losing my home again. The cottage we stayed at was nice enough, but it wasn't home and nothing smelled familiar. It was by the ocean though, so I got lots of walks on the beach just like I do at home.'s a beach, but it's not MY beach! 
Then one day we got in the car again, and on a ferry again, and I could tell we were heading home. I was so exhausted from having to be hyper-alert all week that I fell fast asleep on the ferry and when I woke up - I was home! Back at my new home, with my Mama Jean. And I never looked back.

From there, Mama says I grew by leaps and bounds - I guess that means I leapt and bounded a lot.  I started voluntarily approaching dogs on our walks - now they are all my  friends.  And I started walking right past strangers without stopping or hiding or even hesitating most times. On my Friday hikes with mom and our friends Pat and the poms, I began approaching Pat all by myself - especially when I saw her hand go to the treat bag!  I do love my treats!

Whatcha got there, Auntie Pat?

In the house now I always bug mom to play with me.  I bark at mom to get her to chase me - I fly around, onto the couch, onto the bed, through the kitchen, back to the much fun!  Play, play, play! Now we're talking!

Speaking of talking, I know how to talk.  Mama says I must have some northern dog in my ancestry, because she's never heard a dog talk as much as I do except for northern breeds.  We have long conversations about life and why I mustn't chase the cat and which species is the smartest - dogs, cats, or humans?  Oh, and Mama taught me to play with my treat ball and my wobble treat tower - did I mention I love treats?

Sometimes I use mah nose....

And sometimes I use mah paw!

Oh, and the C.A.T.  - the one that has my old name, Allie.  I am still learning not to chase her, at least not too much or too seriously - mostly I just herd her now. We actually get along pretty good, though mama doesn't leave us alone together 'just in case'.  I have been known to nip a few mouthfuls of fur from her hind quarters if given the chance.  Oops.

See?  I'm not chasin' her at all!
I'm just looking.
Mama says I am a really good-natured sheltie, and I even let her put silly costumes on me - like this frog one she made me wear for a Hallowe'en photo.


And in the last couple of weeks?  I am happy happy happy!  You can see it in my face in these pictures mom took on our hikes.  We go on lots of hikes.

One morning last week we went to the beach, as we always do in the morning, and when Roly, a neighbour's dog, started running back and forth into the water for a ball, I started playing too!  I barked and barked a happy sheltie bark, and I chased Roly, and I even went into the water which I didn't do even on the hottest days of summer!  My mama was so excited to see me play with another dog - I'm not sure who had a bigger smile, me or her!

Mama didn't video that, but she did take a video a couple of days later of me.  My tummy clock was early, and I know that when the C.A.T. hops up on the buffet where she is fed and starts meowing loudly, I will get fed too.  So I tried to get the cat off the back of the loveseat (I'm talking to her, not growling at her in case you wondered).  When she said she wasn't hungry, I tried a different tactic - getting mama to take me for my afternoon walk, as I sometimes get fed right after that.  So, as you can see, I'm a pretty smart dog and a pretty normal sheltie! Here's part of the video of me manipulating Mama into feeding me early:

I'm still not happy having strangers in my space,  but I'm getting used to it. The other night we had some friends over for dinner and I hung around all evening instead of hiding in the bedroom like I usually choose to do.  Of course, this might have had something to do with my wishful thinking that I might get five plates to lick clean instead of just one - though it turned out their meal was stuff I'm allergic too so I didn't even get one plate - now how fair is that?

Oh, yeah, my allergies.  My eyes and ears are all better and my skin is a lot better now that I'm always on my special foods.  Mama even keeps a jar of my special treats in the kitchen and whenever I start barking at some noise outside, or when she wants me to take a pill, or when I'm pestering the cat, she just says "On your mat!" and I run to the mat in the kitchen and get a treat!

I still get some rashes on my belly as I'm also allergic to grasses and stuff, but my mama and my vet take good care of me and I go to the doggy spa once a month and quite like how my bath and grooming make me feel.  I'm also on special meds for my thyroid and for arthritis, and no longer tire out or get a limp on our walks.  In fact, I love, love, love my hikes with mom and our friends now.  And I love riding in the car (I always wear my seatbelt!). And I love my morning walks on the beach and my evening walks around town.  I guess you could say I love life!

And Mother Nature even made all the leaves
match my colours! 
So, I think that is about all the news.  Six months - a half a year in people time, about three and a half years in dog time.   My mama says I have gone from Velveteen Sheltie to a Real Sheltie.  I'm not sure what that means, but it has something to do with Love.

I wonder if this velveteen sheltie will
become a Real  Sheltie too?

Your friend, Maggie.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

If herons had dreams

I was sorting through some photos from the past couple of months to pull together a blog post about fall, when I came across this series of images I captured while on vacation on the Sunshine Coast in September.  The story it tells (with a little imagination) deserves its own post. 

We were staying in a cottage right on Welcome Beach, Halfmoon Bay, where the view is restful and the sunsets phenomenal.  Each evening, Maggie and I took a stroll along the beach just as the sun was slipping behind Thormanby Island, painting the sky and the bay golden yellow.

Just down the way lived a member of the BC Coast Guard, and a small inflatable boat was always at the ready, insignia visible, securely anchored near the shore.  One evening, I spied a heron on the boat:

He stared with great concentration at the line connecting boat to buoy.  I'm not sure if he was debating the merits of stealing the craft, or pondering what life would be like if he didn't have to flap his wings to move from location to location.   I'm hoping it was the latter and that the Sunshine Coast doesn't have a gang of boat-thieving herons in its midst.

Hmmm.....bowline, I think.  
Rabbit comes up the hole, round the tree, down the hole and back up again.
Yes, it's a bowline. 

After giving his attention to the anchor line, he strutted from the bow to the stern, to have a look at the motor and determine how to start it.

Looks like I need to pull that cord right there.....

I'm quite sure he envisioned his life as a sailor, proud captain of his ship, the ocean breezes ruffling his feathers as he loudly sings his favourite sea shanties:

♫ Oh blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down,
To me way-eye, blow the man down... ♫

Of course, in time he would run out of fuel.  Before long, he would himself be the object of an air-and sea search, needing rescue from a heartless sea.

Hey!  Ahoy there!  Mayday! Mayday!

Down here!  Haaalp!  

I'm pretty sure he might rethink his dreams and be content to travel with his own wingpower, sheltering where he wishes, flying when he wants. 

But even a heron can dream.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembrance Day 2017

There was never a good war, or a bad peace.
~Benjamin Franklin~

As you join in Remembrance Day ceremonies and watch images on the news of men and women in spotlessly clean uniforms marching with heads held high, take a moment to close your eyes and picture them instead in sodden, muddy, torn uniforms, limbs missing and bleeding, guts falling out, horror on their faces, the bodies of women, men, children and animals lying around them, villages demolished. 

As you honour the minute of silence at 11:00 AM, hear instead the sounds of people screaming in terror, the deafening roar of bombs exploding, the high pitched air raid sirens,  and the barely-audible sound of soldiers and civilians taking their last breath. 

As you breath in the autumn air, smell instead the stench of decomposing bodies on the battle fields and in bombed out towns, the odor of feces in the trenches and in the pants of the scared-shitless youth powerful leaders have sent into battle, the acrid gas of the Holocaust chambers that killed so many millions. 

That is the reality of war, those are the images and sounds and smells we must keep at the forefront, the memories we must share with our children, if ever we are really to honor the slogan "Never Again".

I cannot attend Remembrance Day services where the horrors of war are scrubbed clean, and little children go home to play with their toy solders and toy guns with no conception of what real war is like. 

War is horrific.  Lest we Forget.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Butchart Gardens in fall

Well, we have the first snow of the season tonight, so I figure I better get some of the many fall photos onto the blog before the winter photos take over.  I'm still working on a bunch of local fall ones I took over the last two weeks (it was our most colourful and prolonged fall that I can recall), but as the ones from Butchart Gardens this week are ready and the others are not, I'll do them first.

Monday was a beautiful day, and Pat and the poms and I took the Mill Bay - Brentwood Bay ferry across to the Saanich peninsula. It was a lovely way to go, and the ferry lands about 5-10 minutes from the gardens.  The gardens were ablaze with colour:

After waffling back and forth, I had decided not to take Maggie and that turned out to be the right decision.  Paths are narrow (and bordered on either side by either dense bushes and/or chain barriers on posts) and people tended to travel in large groups, leaving no way for Mags and me to step to the side to let them pass.  Additionally, many people (nine out of ten, I swear) stopped right in front of us to bend over and reach out with grabby hands to excitedly comment on the cute little poms, Cosmo and Lexi.  Grabby hands, excited people, groups front and back, and no way out is NOT a good combo for a socially-anxious dog like Maggie.

Busy paths

We did, however, see a sheltie whose name was, coincidentally, Maggie!  While her humans were oohing and aahing over the poms, I snuck this photo of eleven year old Maggie who is not my Maggie:

Another sheltie named Maggie!

I was using my no-longer-reliable point-and-shoot (about 20 or so of the 140 photos I took turned out okay - most of the rest were either unfocused or had jolly pink or red or blue circles or stripes on them), but also took along the Canon EOS with a 50 mm lens and a 12 mm extension tube to practice some macro shots (super close ups) of flowers. 

Petals on a hydrangea blossom


Possibly lipstick plant, or maybe closed hibiscus?

Late blooming Toad Lily

Close-ups of bugs were also in the mix, but this little bug was the cutest of all.  The gardens have a policy against costumes, but made an exception for her.  A ladybug in the gardens seems very apropos!
Cute as a bug ladybug!

The fountain was beautiful, shooting spouts of water high in the air, changing shapes over and over again - wide, skinny, short, tall, up, down - a wonderful sight:

Cosmo, however, was more impressed with this little fountain.  I'm not sure if he was hoping to go for a swim (he loves swimming) or making a wish on all the coins in the well:

🎵 Three coins in the fountain....🎵

The last time I visited Butchart Gardens, if I recall correctly, was with family for my mother's 80th birthday in 1998.  That was early October, with the dahlias in full bloom, creating a beautiful backdrop for some family photos.  The dahlias were a bit more scarce on this late October day, but still provided lots of colour. 

A Single Happy Romeo dahlia


We had a lovely afternoon surrounded by sunlight and colour, and decided as our Christmas gift to each other this year, Pat and I would each buy a season's pass for 2018.  They are the cost of two entry fees and give unlimited access.  My goal is to go at least once each season.

Maple leaves in fall

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Bone.....

Just teasing.  I have a blog post coming soon, just haven't had the time to pull it together - too busy enjoying the amazing fall and taking a zillion photos a day.  Sadly, I think I have worn out my little point-and-swear camera as this week it started doing crazy things - like rotating photos, adding violet and pink stripes, turning whole beautiful scenes dark blue, or telling me I took five photos and then only producing one.

So today, in preparation for a trip to Butchart Gardens tomorrow, I pulled out my sister's old Canon - the one I bounced on the patio a year or so ago.  I removed the extremely versatile but now damaged 18-255 mm lens, replaced it with a non-zooming not-so-versatile basic 50 mm lens that likely came with the camera base, and then remembered I had some extender tubes amongst my sister's stuff.

Extender tubes are a way to distance the lens from the body of the camera in order to take macro shots - that is, shots of little things really, really close up.  I'd never tried them out, but thought that might be good for photographing flowers at the gardens.  So while my garden is nothing like Butchart Gardens, I took them out back to try them out. 

I haven't quite figured out how to use the two largest ones, nor how to do stuff manually, but with the smallest extender attached to the 50 mm lens and set on autofocus, this is what I got:

Asters, aka Michaelmas daisies

Dew drops on a leaf

Bee on aster

Some kind of seed pod on a plant whose name I forget

I'm quite pleased with them, though less happy with the basic 50 mm lens as I like having a zoom.  Now my dilemma is whether to take all the camera stuff (three extender tubes, two lenses, one camera base, maybe a monopod, as well as my point-and-swear just in case it decides to work) and leave the dog at home, or take the dog and chance having no photos.  Maggie is scared of people - and there will be people there.  Possibly lots of people.  Camera parts that have to be attached and unattached, and switched back and forth for different situations,  are prone to accidents when one hand is holding a leash.  But we'll be gone about 8 hours which is longer than I've ever left her before.

Dog?  Camera?  Dog?  Camera?

You tell me.