Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How the piggies got their names

Photo by Red Dog Photography
A reader asked me to tell the story of how the piggies got their names. And so, for Lynda, here it is:

When the SPCA contacted us about taking two piggies from a large multi-species seizure further up the valley, Janice of Hearts on Noses Sanctuary, for whom I am fostering, told me I could choose names for them. Her one recommendation was that I choose two words that go together.

I happen to be a Scotch drinker. And what goes better with Scotch than Soda? (Well, truth be told, I drink my Scotch neat, or on the rocks, but NEVER with soda. But somehow Scotch and Ice just didn’t have the same ring!). I had a list of other possibilities, but as soon as the pigs were unloaded from the trailer onto my front lawn, it was quite clear that Scotch and Soda were the right names for them.

Scotch is mellow, smooth, and leaves the mouth with an mmmmmmmmm smile. Soda is effervescent – I wouldn’t say bubbly but certainly she has “oomph” and attitude, with that sharp little edge of an unsweetened drink.

When the babies arrived a few weeks later, I asked some animal-loving internet friends for ideas, and many people listed or gave me links for drinks made with Scotch and/or Soda. And so my piggies became the Beverage Gang. Each of their names is the name of (or part of the name of) a drink which can be made with Scotch, or Soda, or both.

Tom: (Scotch Tom Collins: 5-6 dashes of lemon., a generous amount of Scotch, 2-3 lumps of ice, in a large glass filled with Soda)

Whisper: (Equal parts Scotch, French Vermouth, and Italian Vermouth, poured over cracked ice)

Fizzy: (Scotch Fizz: 1 oz. Scotch in a champagne glass, top with chilled champagne and decorate with a strawberry)

Rob Roy: (Equal parts Italian Vermouth and Scotch, and a dash of Angostura)

Rickey: (Scotch Rickey: ice, juices of half a lime and a quarter lemon, Scotch, fill with Soda)

Derby: (Derby Fizz: 5 dashes lemon juice, 1 tsp powdered sugar, 1 egg, 3 dashes Curacao, Scotch, Soda)

Toddy: (Scotch Whisky Toddy: 1 tsp sugar, lemon juice, Scotch, boiling water)

Lizzy: ( Scotch Dizzy Lizzy: Equal parts Scotch and sherry, a little lemon juice, crushed ice, top with soda)

Swizzle: (Tartan Swizzle: 1.5 oz lime juice, 1 tsp superfine sugar, 2 oz Scotch, 1 dash bitters, 3 oz soda, pour over crushed ice)

Spritzer: (I did find a recipe for a Scotch Spritzer but now I can’t locate it; however typically a spritzer is soda and wine).

And there you have it – Some very happy pigs who will, with care, age well. And, like a very good single malt scotch, they never fail to bring a smile to my lips.

(For the story of Scotch and Soda's arrival and first year, click here, and for highlights of the babies' first year click here. )

Monday, December 29, 2008

Unexpected Gifts

One of the best gifts on Christmas morning was heralded by my daughter's voice calling to me from the back door: "Mom, come quick, there's a pileated woodpecker out here!"

And sure enough......there he was in the old cedar tree, the prototype for Woody Woodpecker -- tall, dark, with bright red head and long tuxedo tail feathers. He visits here only a couple of times a year, usually in spring. To see him Christmas morning was an unexpected and very special gift for both my daughter and me.

And then..... today after sloshing through knee deep slush, today after watching a blizzard move in and dump more heavy wet snow, today after seeing Scotch poop in the sleeping section of the barn due to the chaos of eleven other pigs in the potty area and a week of snow-imposed barn restriction, today after having to rescue Oliver three times from being trapped in snow banks that weren't quite crusty enough to hold him, today after twice picking up Belle and carrying her back to the house to save her from her Bambi-on-ice routine, today after repeatedly yelling at the dogs for eating the salt and the bird seed and the frozen poops and a ton of dirty snow......today, just as I slumped back toward the house from hauling yet another five gallons of water to the barn, I saw this:

A ball of fire, the setting sun, emerging from the snow-filled, grey skies. And yet, as I turned to face the other direction, I watched the clouds departing and the sun lighting up the trees on the hills as the sky became a brilliant blue. Sunset in one direction, daylight in the other:

And turning to the west again, I stood leaning against the fence surrounded by mounds of snow for half an hour as I watched the sinking sun perform its magic:

A golden ending to a somewhat tarnished day. It is these unexpected gifts, these take-my-breath-away moments, that make life so worth the living. I never know when such memorable gifts will appear, and yet I know they will be there when I need them most. Nature reminds us that the everyday world, for all its frustrations, is still a beautiful place to be.

The Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly

Good: The weather is milder and the precipitation is rain, not snow.

Bad: All the snow slid off the barn roof last night, forming a four foot high pile around the barn and effectively blocking ALL entrances. That meant shoveling a tunnel through it in order to access the pigs this morning. And today I need to move some of the snow from the big barn door and the pig yard so the pigs can get outside for a little exercise, light, and fresh air. They have been cooped up for too long.

Good: My house is almost back to normal, save a few Christmassy things to be carried up to the attic, and the outdoor lights which will have to wait until the snow is gone.

Bad: The knee high slush everywhere makes feeding Martin the alpaca even more difficult, especially since he refuses to move off the path into the deeper snow so I can get by with his food and water. He kicks out with his wicked back feet whenever I try to shoo him over or slip past him to reach the stable. Today I just dumped his straw and grain on the path in front of him and told him to get a life! Bad alpaca! Bad mama!

Good: I have the most awesome slip-on boot treads from Lee Valley that prevent slipping and make it easier to walk on the frozen slush leading to the barn.

Bad: The boot treads only fit my SHORT bog boots, which are not sufficient for the deeper areas of snow. My tall, winter farm boots are great for the snow but a lot larger even though, technically, they are the same foot size as my bog boots.

Good: The milder weather means the animals, all the animals, are breathing easier. Birds are hovering around, the coyote is back to his hunting, the dogs are chomping at the bit to get back into the field.

Bad: The cold and snow and now flooding have driven the rodent types into the dirt crawl space beneath the house – I can hear them chewing in the walls at night. I can’t reach the access, which is outside and buried under a ton of wet, heavy snow, and even if I could I’m not sure what I will do. Poisonous bait, while a sure fire way to resolve the problem, is a cruel way to die and dangerous for the other animals who might eat the carcass.

Downright Ugly: Dead rats/squirrels/mice in the crawlspace or walls ummm…well……to put it politely…..STINK! Which means I need to get the rodents out of the crawlspace before they die - or multiply, for that matter, which will cause a bigger problem.

Good: The university is closed this week, which means I don’t have to leave home if I don’t want to.

Bad: Classes start in one week, and I have a course I haven’t taught for a few years, and which now has a new text with quite a different focus. I better get busy researching and rewriting my lecture material.

Good: I am in my usual “start the new year off by simplifying” mode – seems like this time every year I get really ruthless with reducing and recycling stuff that I don’t really need/don’t use/don’t want/doesn’t fit/ etc. I have a real boost of high energy and just want to clean, sort, sort, clean, reorganize, sort, run to thrift store, clean…..

Bad: Repeat: Classes start in one week, and I have a course I haven’t taught for a few years, and which now has a new text with quite a different focus. Forget the reducing and recycling and get on with the rewriting!

Good: Christmas is over and life gets back to normal.

Bad: Christmas is over and life gets back to normal.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I dearly love my family but oh, it is so nice to have my space back, to be back to my familiar routines, to see life get back to normal! Another six inches of fresh snow last night, followed by rain and a marked absence of snow plows or sanding trucks this morning, left the road in front of my house impassable for my daughter's rental car even though the roads down in the valley and the freeway home were bare though soggy.

With more snow in the forecast for the next several days for this region, we decided it was now or never. My daughter arranged for a flat-deck tow truck to load up her vehicle and take it to the bottom of the hill, where she could get onto the highway and head home. Becky, my granddog, hopped up into the cab of the big truck like she'd been doing it all her life! Their trip home was uneventful and life on the farm resumes its leisurely, orderly pace.

In the place of three feet of snow, there is now two feet ten inches of slush. I am hoping, hoping, hoping that the rain will continue, the slush will not freeze, and I will be able to get the piggies out of the barn for some fresh air and exercise within a couple of days. I didn't even take any pictures of the snow at its worst, but here are a few taken about half way through the biggest dump.

Pig yard and pasture

Early Christmas Eve morning

Oliver in snow

Martin in snow

Granddog Becky having fun

And some other Christmas pictures:

Wall to wall dogs

Allie checking out the tree

Princess Belle in Christmas collar

Oliver and Belle in Christmas duds

Like any doting grandma, I had to take tons of pictures of my granddog Becky. Santa brought her a duck for Christmas, and she loved it. She carried it around, lay down beside it, possessively put her paw over it, mouthed it:

As I took down the tree today, and carefully wrapped each treasure in tissue for another year, I smiled thinking of how each ornament on my tree represented a part of my life, a love in my life. Here are just a few of those most precious to me:

My daughter made these when she was 2 - 3 years old:

My friend of more than fifty years made this for me in 1994:

My mom made this a number of years ago. It bears a little sign that says "Squeeze my cheeks and I'll give you a kiss". Squeeze the cheeks, and there is a Hershey's kiss inside. My ex's little niece, Vanessa, thought it was magic as she never saw us put the kisses inside, yet there was always one there when she squeezed the cheeks! I had such fun with Vanessa - she was the very best part of a bad relationship. I suspect she'll always remember me as the auntie who taught her to fish!

And my daughter made this for me when she was living on her own and going to university - it is a replica of my favourite teddy bear, and the back is signed with my daughter's name and the year.

Memories of Christmases past and present, images forever etched in my mind, document the passing years. For all the hoopla and rich foods and travel and stress, it is still one of the very best times of the year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

And still it snows!

I am hoping we are getting all of winter's worst weather in a short period of time, and the weather gods and goddesses will look favourably upon us for the remainder of the winter. I have to keep reminding myself that in just eight more weeks I should be able to write about crocuses and daffodils and cherry blossoms emerging. That sure beats the winters in the north - when I lived in the Northwest Territories, I remember someone referring to February as "that four month period between January and March."

Late Christmas Eve our road was plowed and sanded, and my neighbour came and cleared out the driveway once again. Around midday Christmas Day, guilty thoughts of my ninety year old mother not having family with her for what might end up being her last Christmas drove me to make the run out to her place and bring her back here for a modified Christmas Dinner (my free range, organic turkey was still sitting in my butcher's fridge since I could not get out to pick it up before Christmas!), and a pleasant evening of gift giving and gabbing. Because my place is not equipped for her needs, I booked her into the handicapped suite at the Best Western down the bottom of the hill for the night.

This morning, daughter was just packing up to go home, and I had just driven down the hill to pick up mom for brunch before taking her back to her seniors' residence, when Winter Storm Number - what, 5? 6? 7? - hit southwestern BC.

Daughter got stuck trying to get up the relatively slight but curved incline of my driveway, and by the time we got her out, and the neighbour again plowed out the drive, reports of deteriorating road conditions to the west were coming in.

Chatting with several people, including the tow truck driver, I made the call - I have excellent, top of the line winter tires and a four wheel drive, so decided I could get mom home to White Rock as long as I left right away.

My guardian angel must have been with me, because we were half way there when the storm hit with full force, and we were left driving in white-out conditions on snowy roads. I called home to my daughter and was relieved to hear she had decided to stay put at my place, other than moving her rental car (equipped only with poor quality all season tires) to the neighbour's flat driveway in anticipation that she "might" be able to leave tomorrow without having to call a tow truck to get her out of my driveway again. Smart kid. Nice neighbour.

Mom safely home, I began the treacherous drive back - my vehicle handled it well, though many others were sliding off into the ditches and blocking the hills. In fact, the hills up to my place were all either blocked by cars with spinning tires or were completely closed off, so I ended up having to drive east and zig zag my way up through country roads to make it back to my place.

And so now daughter and I, both used to our own space, and with very different preferences and personalities - she a big city kid and me a country bumpkin - are hoping we will make it through another day without throttling each other. Rain is predicted for tomorrow, but that could just as easily be another mountain of snow up here.

The pigs are stuck in the barn, as the door cannot be opened against three feet of snow, but as long as they get their food and water and a bit of company every day they seem quite content to stay put. It is I who fusses about them not getting fresh air and exercise and mental stimulation.

Martin the alpaca is sticking very close to his stable, though did wander part way down the pasture today, snow up to his belly and more. The dogs are restless, needing a good run and their own spaces back - we had to move some dog beds and crates to accomodate our visitors.

And we will all be grateful when order is restored and life returns to normal.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From my house to yours, Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve, 2008. As the falling snow finally eases to a few drifting flakes, the noises of the everyday world are buffered by the eiderdown of white draped across the landscape. I trek out to the barn to check on the animals one last time this Christmas Eve, dogs by my side. The snow is well over their heads now, but the kindly neighbour has once again plowed out the drive so we can move with some freedom if we stay on the path. But of course, as dogs are wont to do, the three larger ones - Charley, Sadie, and my granddog Becky, bound off into the deepest parts and surface with frosty, happy faces.

I step into the dark interior of the barn. The snow reflects through the many windows, casting a soft light over the old wood. The piggies are nestled deep in the straw and blankets; they raise their snouties as I peer over the stall gate to see all are warm and safe. I breathe in the scent of straw and shavings and piggy smells, loving the feel of the barn and the silence of the night and the magic that is Christmas. As I tuck one more blanket over Scotch and feed the pigsters a flake or two of hay, I softly sing Silent Night to them, recalling childhood memories of midnight services and the magic of that favourite hymn, always sung just as the hands of time heralded in another Christmas Day.

I whisper goodnight to the piggies, close up the barn, and make my way around to Martin's stable. He is bedded down on his straw, well protected from the weather. In the dark of night, with only my small flashlight to provide a warm glow, I see before me an image of a long-ago nativity scene: Martin, so like his camel kin who carried the three wise men to Bethlehem; the manger filled with soft hay, such as provided a crib for the child born this special night; and the snow sparkling like the brilliant star that shone that night. I hear Martin softly acknowledge my presence with his low uhn-uhn-uhn, and smile as I think of how those sounds would have filled the stable that first Chrsitmas.

I am not a religious person, and I identify with no single religion (though I am a spiritual person) but I do celebrate Christmas as a time of great joy and an honouring of an historical figure who lived his life in a way that respected the dignity of all. And so, this moment with the animals on this cold snowy Christmas Eve is magical, a spiritual moment, a moment in which the world is at peace at least in my soul.

My dogs at my side, I head back to the house, back to the modern world. Within me I carry a sense of calm and reverance and awe, the Christmas spirit, found where Christmas first began - outdoors, in crude and humble surroundings, surrounded by animals on a dark silent night.

I believe there is a reason why the animals figures so prominently in the Christmas story - the unconditional love, the sense of purpose, the courage to go on, the faith in tomorrow - the lessons that the person called Jesus taught in his lifetime -are modeled for us best by the animals around us. It is from living with and working with those animals that I am growing into the sort of person I was meant to be.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I am forever thankful for your friendship, your support, your words of encouragement, your laughter. I thank you for sharing my joys and my sorrows, my frustrations and my celebrations. My critters and I wish you and yours the very, very best of the holiday season.

Jean, Charley, Sadie, Belle, Oliver, Martin, Allie, Scotch, Soda, Derby, Whisper, Rickey, RobRoy, Swizzle, Spritzer, Lizzie, Fizz, Tom, and Toddy.


Winter has hit with a vengeance! The snow started falling in the wee small hours, and this morning we have a good foot of the white stuff and it is still falling thick and furious. I shoveled a walking path to the barn and to the pasture gate in order to feed the animals, but by the time the chores were done it was well covered again. Even the dogs are not impressed. Belle took three steps into the outdoors and decided she would just hang out underneath the car while the other dogs did their business:

My daughter (who obviously inherited her mother's brains AND sense of caution!) had the foresight to change her plans yesterday - she took an extra day off work, got her rental car a day early, and high-tailed it out here ahead of the storm. She and her dog, Becky, will be here for at least a couple of days - more if the plow doesn't clear the roads. So neither she nor I will be alone for Christmas Day.

My mom, on the other hand, will remain at her seniors' residence until the weather improves. Even if the local roads were passable (which they currently are not) it is simply too risky to travel over an hour in each direction for a person with multiple handicaps. We shall have a Christmas celebration once the roads are safe for travel - hopefully some time in the next week.

My daughter and I shall read some good books, watch a movie or two, play some board games, and try to keep five bored dogs happy. It is definitely going to be a White Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pigs in snow

Yesterday, there was one magical hour where the snow was melting, the sun was shining, the air was crisp, and the time was my own. The piggies had been shut in the barn for a couple of days due to the bitterly cold weather, so I decided to open the doors as wide as the snow and ice and frozen mud would allow and tempt them outside with some local hay and slightly frozen apples.

The pigsters came out first - the bravest, friendliest, piggyest ones. Then came a few of the more timid ones, along with Mama Soda.

Is that snow I smell?

Mama, I'z freezin'!

Iz this icecweam????

Soda checks out frozen apple

A few of the little ones took one look at the snow and said "No thankyou, we'll just stay in here until you feel sorry for us and bring us some treats". Scotch was among those - he stuck his head around the corner of the door, ooffed a few times, and went back to bury himself in his straw and blankets. I'm sure I heard him say those words my mother used to say: "Would you mind closing the door - d'ya think we live in a BARN???"

No way, I'z NOT comin' out!

None of them stayed out long, and when I returned to check on them twenty minutes later, the apples were gone and the piggies were nestled all snug in their beds.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sagacious Sadie's Christmas Poem

Twas the week before Christmas and all round the farm
The critters were starting to sound the alarm.
There’s something afoot, I can tell, I just know.
'Cuz our human is fretting ‘bout a wee bit of snow!
She sez she needs bare roads for daughter to drive
And no ice on the driveway or Grandma might slide.

There’s a tree in the house and a wreath on the door
And lights on the fence and there’s even more…..
There are socks by the fireplace, and gifts ‘neath the tree
And even a wreath where the piggies go pee!

Our mama is baking – she NEVER does that! –
And the smells just distract us from chasing the cat.
Mom’s making up lists, things to do, things to buy,
She’s so busy she needs some wings so she’ll fly.

But early each day we still go on our walk,
And this morning she gave us, each one, the BIG TALK:
“Now Sadie, and Charley, and Oli and Belle,
It’s Christmas quite soon; I’ve a tale to tell.
A long time ago a child came to this earth
He taught us to love, said each critter has worth.

No matter their colour, their size, or their breed,
No matter what species, they all fill a need.
Each critter was made for a reason, you see,
We all have a purpose. Earth’s di-ver-sit-y
Is a blessing, a gift, the most special of all,
And to harm it would be our very downfall.
So send out the message to folks everywhere
That Christmas means love, and love is to share.

It’s not a new gizmo, a gadget, a toy
It’s time spent together, a dog with a boy
A girl with some piggies, a man with a cat;
We’re here for each other, ne’er forget that.

The humans that share this planet with you
Have screwed it up plenty; this makes me quite blue.
They still have to learn how to love and to play
With others no matter their kind, straight or gay
Or Black or Caucasian or differently-abled
They all need to sit ‘round the same Christmas table.

There are people all over who don’t like each other.
They scrap with their neighbour, their kid or their brother;
They try to dictate just who can love whom,
And yet in their hearts, for love there’s no room.
They fight over faith, and they kill over fuel,
And they don’t understand the true meaning of Yule.

It’s Christmas, my puppers, and I wish for this earth
A lot of compassion, each life to have worth;
A deep understanding how every small critter
Is not just a thing to be tossed out like litter.
Every dog needs a home, not a life on a chain,
Not the cold ground for bedding, nor a heart full of pain;
Every human needs loving, every cat needs it too,
And on Christmas I wish that the world could see you.

They would see how forgiving four dogs can be,
How caring, how loving ‘spite a sad history.
They would look in your eyes and see just what I see –
Four dogs whom I love, and four dogs who love me.”

And that, my dear friends, is what mama told me
As we sat in the fields ‘neath a grand Christmas tree.
Please send out this message to folks everywhere:
Christmas means love, and love is to share.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Love, Sadie.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Handsome Dude

Oliver would like everyone to see how snazzy he looks in his Christmas bowtie. The girls are not being quite so cooperative with their photoshoots.

It is minus 17 outside my back door this morning, and the official temperature (taken on the other side of the valley floor) is minus twelve. I see the fast-flowing creek has completely frozen over now, and I am beginning to worry that my shallow well may freeze also though I have left the bathroom tap running in hopes of preventing the pump from icing up.

Checking the weather site, I see there is a snowfall warning of 15-20 cm for this region, plus an Arctic outflow warning - so cold, windy, blizzard conditions starting tonight if the forecasters are correct.

May Oliver's photo warm your heart, if not your hands and feet!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Global warming is an urban myth!

'Cuz there sure isn't any "warming" going on around here!!! BRRRRR! I don’t remember winters this cold when I was a kid. Maybe it is just because I was a child then with child sensibilities – the thrill of sledding on the wooden sled my dad made for me, or getting to wear long pants under my skirt to walk to school (though we had to take the pants off once we got there), or building snowforts and pelting my brother with snowballs. Now as an adult with adult responsibilities, I am far less amused.

It was minus fifteen in the barn this afternoon. It's supposed to get colder still over the next couple of days, with a wind chill factor of minus 23 tomorrow. And that's according to the weather forecast - the winter temperatures up here in the hills are usually about five degrees colder than the "official" reports.

Once again I have added more bales of straw to the piggies' stall in an effort to keep them warm. The straw breaks down quickly and piggies are very sensitive to cold. I have two bales left and so I must go on the scrounge again or fork out $12 - $16/bale from the local supplier and haul them home four at a time (which is all my vehicle will hold).

I have put a large tarp over the big double barn door to eliminate the wind, which is picking up again tonight. I hauled warm water to the barn four times today – the piggies can’t get enough of it, and it chills and freezes within a couple of hours. Even Martin the alpaca is inhaling the warm water. Next I will be making them hot chicken and dumpling soup – my personal comfort food for cold nights and winter days. I would make the pigs hot oatmeal, but oatmeal is something I have never learned to cook as it is one of the few foods I really don't like!

Even the dogs have finally started refusing their run in the pasture. Oliver is game, but Belle only leaves the house to do her business, and today Charley and Sadie were both crying and picking up their frozen feet within a few yards of the pasture gate.

So tonight we cocoon in the house and hope that this cold snap will soon end. If I wanted to live in a place with cold winters, I would have stayed in the Northwest Territories!

Stay warm, everyone.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Homecoming

I love coming home after even just a few hours away. There is something special about being greeted by happy dogs, hungry pigs, and curious alpacas.

The dogs got a reprieve from the groomer’s today. The road conditions this morning still sounded pretty dicey and while I was confident my vehicle could handle it, I didn’t want to risk having an idiot with summer tires and a summertime attitude plow into me when I was carrying my four best buddies. So instead, I left the dogs at home and decided to run some errands locally, stocking up for the next blast of winter. My drive down the hill confirmed I had made the right decision. People with mush for brains (no doubt, frozen and thawed) were going above the speed limit and hitting the brakes ten feet before the intersection – then sliding right on through.

After four hours of shopping, banking, and stocking up on hay, alpaca feed and shavings (FOUR HOURS???? How can anyone shop for four hours and not buy a single Christmas present? For that matter, how can anyone shop for four hours and not leave this small community???), I arrive home exhausted, back aching, feet and hands cold.

The first thing I notice as I pull into the driveway is - NO SNOW! In my absence, my neighbour from two doors down has been over with his plow. Not only was the driveway clear, but so was the parking area and the stretch from the back door to the pasture gate. Bless him! There are no neighbours like country neighbours.

I unlock the back door and four dogs come bounding out. First is Oliver. Oliver is a hoot – he races to the corner of the barn, has a loooooong pee and then he races back to me, twirling in circles, racing around and around me in joyous abandon, jumping and bouncing like the energizer bunny. What a happy dog!

Next is Sadie. She does the silent bark – snapping her teeth together as she opens and closes her mouth, which as near as I can figure is her approximation of human conversation. She does this on two occasions – when I come home after more than a couple of hours away, and when she thinks it is dinner time and I am not making any movement towards the kitchen. I am positive she is talking to me.

Third out is Charley. She wags her tail, and trots off toward the pasture gate in anticipation of a walk. If I ignore her, she comes back and tries to herd me over to the gate with her body, her head nudging repeatedly at my hand or my knee, her whole body blocking mine if I try to head in any other direction. The joys of living with border collies…..

And last out the door is Belle. Belle always tries to be first out the door, but she gets bowled over by the other three. By the time she rights herself (barking all the while, of course) the others are long gone. And so she daintly steps outside with all the poise a bowled-over Princess can muster, and quietly, unobtrusively, tiptoes along the far side of the car to do her business before joining the rest of us at the pasture gate.

Meanwhile, the piggies have heard the vehicle and ventured into their yard on the off chance that I might be about to throw something tasty over the fence. When no goodies appear, they begin their squealing and squeaking and grunting and oinking, snouties up in the air, knowing I can’t resist those little faces and will make the dogs wait while I go into the the barn to set out their feed.

By the time I return to the pasture gate, Martin is hanging his head over the fence, peering around to see if I am about to bring him some fresh hay and some grain. I am – plus a bucket of warm water, and a half an apple finely sliced. As I put his feed in his bowl, he reaches his long neck over my shoulder to make sure I do it just right – grains in the white bowl, apple pieces in the black bowl (he doesn’t like them mixed together), warm water in the pail, hay in the manger.

Finally the dogs and I head off down the field. Oliver thinks frozen poop will make a tasty appetizer before dinner; Sadie and Charley lie down flat on their bellies every ten paces whining “mommmmmmmm…there’s ice balls in our paws!!”, and Belle turns around after 20 paces to head back to the house. She would like a warm sweater for Christmas to keep her scrawny little body from feeling chilled in weather like this.

Feeding, fresh air, and foolishness finished, we all head back indoors just as the Christmas lights in the yard come on and cast their multi colours across the snow. Allie, the cat, has heard the canine commotion and comes running, checking that I have remembered to pick up the one and only treat she thinks is worthy of her attention – Temptations. I toss her a couple, and give each of the dogs their daily treat from their doggy advent calendar, before kicking off my boots and finding my warm slippers.

There’s time for a glass of single malt Scotch and a quick read before unpacking the groceries and preparing dinner.

Coming home is.....coming home. And when you have four furry canines, a feline, twelve pigs and an alpaca, coming home is a celebration. They are family. And home is, quite simply, the best place on earth.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dogs in Snow

I was taking random shots of the dogs in the pasture this afternoon during a very brief lull in the snow which has fallen steadily most of the day. Here's some of my favourites:

There is a blizzard warning out for our area tonight. The Transcanada Hwy has already been shut down in both directions due to treacherous conditions. I have put a tarp over the inside of the barn door as the snow was blowing right into the stall through the gaps and I had visions of twelve trapped piggies unable to get to their indoor potty area. Martin, the alpaca, is bedded down on the straw inside his shelter, something he only resorts to in the worst of weather. He much prefers to lie outside; I'm glad he has changed his mind tonight.

Stay safe, everyone.