Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013!

Whoa, where did the year go and what did we do?  Well, let's see:  we welcomed Eddie, said goodbye to Sadie and Petey, went on a road trip, welcomed visitors (both canine and human), underwent kitchen and back yard renos and a new roof, explored many parks and hiked many trails, worked on photography, mourned the loss of good people and good dogs , wrote,  volunteered, went to doggy school,  made new friends and deepened friendships with old ones, got published in Reader’s Digest and continued to co-write a column  for the Chemainus Valley Courier,  won several awards in photography at the Cowichan Exhibition,  laughed with family and friends.  All in all, I'd have to say we had a pretty good year.

Boat by a Foggy Pier
(c) 2012 Jean Ballard

Eddie ended the year on a high note:  During our walk this afternoon, the last day of the year, he fearlessly trotted all the way across the new sea walk extension and back again!!!  Yay – just two weeks ago he belly-crawled the first four feet before trying to bolt back to solid ground.  I am so proud of you, Eddie!  Stairs and elevators in 2013?

The big scary sea walk extension
Conquered by Eddie December 31, 2012
Ah is so clever!

I can’t get over how many wonderful places there are to hike with dogs within a ten minute drive of my adopted home town. We chose this community partly because of its dog-friendliness – walking and hiking the trails of Osborne Bay Park, Crofton Lake, Swallowfield, Maple Mountain, Richards Mountain, Escarpment Way Pond walk, and of course our beautiful Sea Walk.  I am still discovering more great places nearby to hike. 

In 2012, my third year on the island, I made my first visits to Eves Park and Grace Park, both within ten minute drives of Crofton.  On December 30th of 2012, we discovered yet another treasure only ten or fifteen  minutes away – the trails extending from Fuller Lake in Chemainus to the turquoise bridge near Russell’s Market in Crofton.   (My friend Barbara had told me about these trails some time ago  - thanks Barb! - but this was my first time there).  Eddie and I, with our friends Margaret and Rajah, explored them for well over two hours yesterday morning – miles of lovely wide trails through first and second growth municipal forest. We did make a wrong turn or two on the many, many forks - next time we will take along some wool or survey tape to mark our way!

Two floofy tails swagger down the trails

Rajah and Eddie pause to take
a snack from Margaret

Happy Rajah bounces down the trail,
delighted with a stick he found

And with all those great places to walk with dogs, it’s no wonder some of the best dogs in Canada live here too.  Yesterday afternoon Else came over with one of her four dogs, Tanner.  I have a cute photo story to edit about that visit, which I will post in a day or two.  Today I met a five month old Irish Wolfhound who has joined the family of my friend Bonnie.  Keegan is all legs (he's already taller than Riley, our visiting collie!), and  has a unique colour pattern: blonde on one side, brindle on the other -  What a hoot! 

Keegan - age five months
and cute as a button

Keegan and his big (BIG) sister Dreanne
sucking up raindrops from a patio table

Keegan shows off his blonde side
and six miles of legs

Keegan's brindle side

And his adorable grey face

We look forward to watching you grow, Keegan!

And Eddie, Allie and I look forward to what 2013 may bring – more trails to discover, more friends to make, new faces and places to blog about,  and who knows  - maybe a little surprise for our readers (insert wicked laugh here.....Eddie, Allie and I aren't sayin' nuthin' yet!)  

Happy New Year to all our readers.  Thank you for following along on our journey, for your comments and support, for your friendship, and most of all, for loving your critters and mine.  

May 2013 bring you peace, joy, and wonderful new adventures. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Gotcha Day, Eddie!

It was one year ago today that I went up island to pick up Eddie and welcomed him to my family.

I confess, at first I wasn't sure we were a good fit.  Despite having been debarked years before, he was the barkiest dog I have ever lived with.  I felt like I was living with someone who was constantly yelling at me - not a pleasant feeling.  He earned the nickname Mr. Bossy Boots.

 I am a Superhero!
In control of the world!

But he had many great qualities as well.  He took to walking like a duck to water, despite not having been on walks for at least six years of his eight year life.  When tired from exercise, he settled well in the house, and he is an independent little guy who is happy to lie in the same room with me while I give attention to more needy dogs in my care.  He is good with the cat, and clean in the house.  And I was committed to him from the get-go.

Chilling out with his sister Sadie and foster brother Petey

Over the year, his personality has blossomed and he has become a character.  Though he still has his moments of barkiness, he knows when I mean business, and I have learned to anticipate those moments and distract him before they start.  He's a great little hiker, a quick learner (at least, when treats are involved!), and a good companion to dogs, cats, and people.

Eddie and his friend Sadie B
on West Escarpment Way trail

He's made many friends, canine and human.    He's said goodbye to Sadie (who passed away in June) and Petey (who moved to another foster home in June, and recently passed away), and welcomed visiting dogs like Georgi, Sadie B, Sasha, Noon, Riley and Taleah.   He's met pigs at the pig sanctuary, travelled to the Okanagan, gone camping, and graduated with honours from doggy school.  He's had a busy first year with me, and we both look forward to many more.

Eddie in the Okanagan
Eddie loves camping -
visiting in houses and apartments, not so much!

Graduating with Honours
from Cowichan Canine's Foundations Programme

Happy Gotcha Day, Eddie.  I'm so glad I gotcha!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

One last Christmas photo...

....before I start taking the decorations down.  I forgot to post this picture, taken Christmas night.

Riley and Eddie
Christmas 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Two dogs, two walks, two friends

Whenever time and weather permit, I like to walk whatever dogs are in my care one at a time.  It is not only easier, since no two dogs ever seem to want to go the same pace or the same direction or pause at the same time, but it also gives me one-on-one time with them.  I consider that just as important as giving one-on-one time to human siblings, and a great bonding experience.

Today was such a day.  After taking Riley for a very short morning walk, I bundled Eddie into the van and headed to Chemainus Lake, where we had arranged to walk with Gail and Sadie B.  The morning was overcast but dry, and the 2.5 km path around the lake, all offleash, turned into about 4 km for the dogs as they raced back and forth.  On the far side of the lake, the shade and the higher elevation brought us to a small section of snowy trail.  It didn't slow Eddie and Sadie B down in the least:

This is fun!

After our walk, I came home, ate lunch, took care of a few chores, and looked outside to see a beautiful sunny afternoon.  I grabbed Riley's leash, and together we headed to the beach. The new seawalk extension is now unofficially open, and this was my chance to walk the full length. (Eddie, he-who-is-scared-of-new-things, is still at the stage of being encouraged to set all four paws on the new extension.  So far, he has made it about four feet of the way across before trying to bolt back in the direction from which he came.  We make a wee bit of progress each day).

First we walked the familiar part of the sea walk.  I've shown photos of it many times,  but I  couldn't resist photographing this photographer on it today:

A popular spot for photographers!

Then we paused along the gravel berm and path that fronts the RV park.  Riley posed prettily for a photoshoot here. I love this photo of her!

Riley on the beach

We followed the path to the other side of the RV park, where the new sea walk extension begins.  Riley had no hesitation about crossing it, and we paused half way to watch some ducks.

Wigeons, I think. 

The far end of the new extension takes us to "Crofton Beach Park", with its whiter sand, where Charley and I used to go to sit quietly on the beach. Riley liked the beach as well, so we hung around for a bit enjoying the view - the ducks and geese and otters, the boats moving in and out of the harbour, the barges being towed from the mill.

North (RV park, or Glenhurst Rd) end of new Seawalk Extension

South (Crofton Beach Park, or Berridge Road) end
of new Seawalk Extension

Looking across at the marina

Riley and I returned home, and within minutes both dogs had settled for an afternoon nap.  Together.  For the first time. How sweet is that?

Two tired dogs
(Riley isn't hogging the bed - Eddie prefers the floor)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thoughtful gifts, lovely surprises, a little mystery, and a blessed passing

Christmas came and went exactly as I had wished – and with a few little surprises thrown in.

Santa forgave Eddie and Allie their recent misdeeds, and all the critters found goodies in their stockings. Riley and Eddie found chew sticks and cookies, and Allie new catnip toys.

Told ya I'd been good!

A package for me from “Santa’s Critter Helpers” (who I happen to know live in the Okanagan and not at the North Pole) produced, among other treasures, the gift that made me cry in both sorrow and pleasure  – a Christmas ornament with my late sister’s picture on it. 

She is indeed the star on my Christmas tree. 

We ended up with a white Christmas here on Vancouver Island, though Crofton didn’t get much of it and it didn’t stick around long.  Still, it afforded a Christmassy walk in the snow sharing happy greetings with others in our small town.  And when we returned, I spied a piece of Christmas wrap sticking out from under my front screen door – and discovered a mysterious package.  

Attached was a note saying “Jean – can’t replace the one someone stole, but we hope it works. One set of dog lovers to the next.  Merry Christmas”.

It was a bird feeder.  You may recall mine was stolen earlier this year - Allie's 'reality tv show' taken in the dead of night. 

I have no idea who left it there.  I have racked my brain trying to figure it out.  I think it was delivered while I was walking the dogs,  but it could have been earlier in the day when Eddie was going mad with barking in the living room and my glance out of the windows didn’t reveal anything for him to bark at (in which case, dear gifter, I hope you didn’t hear me yelling at my noisiest-ever-debarked-dog to “Shut Up!” – a not very Christmassy sentiment!). 

I hope the giver is a blog-reader and now knows how very much I was touched by this thoughtful gift.  It will soon go up where the old one was – firmly attached to a pole which shall be rooted into the ground with rapid-post cement! 

A new bird feeder for Allie and me!

Another lovely surprise was a card and plate of  goodies the two little children across the street brought to me Christmas Eve.  Theirs is my favourite card of all I received:

Card by Pippa and Finlay

My granddog, Becky, enjoyed the gifts I sent her, and I love this picture of her with her new, soft, unstuffy stuffy – a rabbit I thought she might like.  She does.
Someone loves her new rabbit from Grandma Jean
My Christmas meal was thoroughly enjoyable.  Along with a small (hormone free, humanely raised) prime rib roast, I roasted fresh vegetables and even made Yorkshire pudding for the second time in my life – which turned out perfectly! 

I set the table with the Christmas china and poured the wine, and  I even put out a Christmas cracker just like my family has done my whole life.  And yes, I even wore the stupid hat. Well, I wore it for at least two minutes, before making  Sir Eddie wear it.  

If ah wear the hat, shouldn't ah get the roast?

(Funny story here:  I was trying to get Eddie to sit still for the photo, and opened the cookie jar to get him a bribe reward.  At the sound of the jar, Riley came running, eager for a treat.  When she saw me putting the hat on Eddie, she took off in the other direction!  Guess Riley has had enough of being photographed wearing silly Christmas apparel!)

Trifle for dessert, a coffee with Baileys, and then a gentle evening listening to music and reading “Ginty’s Ghost”, a gift from my daughter – it is wilderness dweller Chris Czajkowski’s newest release and every bit as entertaining and engrossing as the author’s previous books, which all sit on my shelf.

Lastly, I found out quite by chance this morning that Petey, the little dog I fostered from December 23, 2011 to June 14, 2012 passed away on Christmas Eve.  Petey was deaf, blind, and while in my care had extreme separation anxiety and chronic bronchitis.  I questioned his quality of life back then, but he went on to live another six months with another foster home.  For me, it is a gift and a blessing to know he is finally at peace.  Run free, Petey.  

Thoughtful gifts, pleasant walks, little surprises, good food, chats with family and friends, and a precious old dog now running free at the Bridge – I am content.  It was a very good Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

From our house to yours

Belle in Snow
(c) Jean Ballard 2009

Monday, December 24, 2012

'Twas the night before Christmas 2012

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
‘cept the computer mouse.

The stockings were hung
On the winerack with care
In hopes that Saint Nicholas
Might notice them there.

With cookies for Santa
Having gone to the dog,
And the milk lapped by Allie,
That kitty cat hog,

The only way Santa might
Decide to stop by
Is to bribe him with Scotch
Or a stiff drink of rye.

The dogs are both hoping
Christmas morning they’ll see
Some biscuits for them and
A chew stick -- or three.
"Temptations" for kitty and
Catnip toys too,
And even a present for Jean,
One or two.

So with Eddie in his bow tie
And Riley in bells,
And Allie, the cat, sniffing
Kitty-nip smells,

Ah hopes I'm back on Santa's "Nice" list! 

Do I look like one of the Three Wise Dogs in this?
Or is Auntie Jean being a Wise Guy?

We’ll wish Merry Christmas
To all cyberspace,
To canines and felines and
The whole human race,
To piggies and ferrets and
Our wild friends too,
Warm beds and good food and
Merry Christmas to you!


I have five days in front of me with not a single commitment except walking the dogs.  Five days to sit around in my pj's as late as I want (or, at least, until the dogs insist we go out), to listen to music, to read for hours on end (currently finishing up Affinity by Sarah Waters, and about to start Y by Marjorie Selona), to play on the computer or watch favourite Christmas movies.

I've bought a few treats and made a few favourites - the spiced nuts are in a bowl out of Sir Eddie's extra-long reach; my Christmas trifle is in the fridge alongside mandarin oranges and fancy cheeses and thick, rich, coffee-flavored Greek yogurt.

I've done my last volunteer shift of the year at Chemainus Theatre Festival, feasted on turkey and all the trimmings at a neighbour's where we also sang Christmas carols around the tree to the accompaniment of our host's ukulele. I've boo'd the Bad Witch and cheered the Good Fairy at the pantomime at Ladysmith Little Theatre, and ridden the train round the brightly decorated 100 acres of the BC Forest Discover Centre. 

The Discovery Forest Train pulls into the station

A Christmas Tree adorns one of the forestry buildings

Lights cover the trees and buildings

I've visited my mom, and Emma, and friends on the mainland.

Mom gets ready to enjoy the Christmas buffet
at her care home.

And I've downloaded dozens of photos from that amazing sunset cruise home.  Just looking at them brings a feeling of calm to my mind and a smile to my face.

The setting sun lights up Vancouver as we leave the mainland

Cormorants line the pilings to bid us farewell

Pulling away from the dock

An incoming ferry emerges from the rosy haze of sunset

Sunset through a metal grid on the ferry
(Strangely, one of my favourite shots of the trip!)

Blue skies turn to yellow

Sunset in the Strait

Riley and Eddie and I are enjoying walks in weather that is really not too bad - a bit drizzly but with enough dry spells for some really nice walks, and mild enough temperatures that even the wet walks aren't a hardship.  Perhaps tomorrow we'll head to the park.

Or maybe I'll  just sleep late, eat well, walk the sea walk, and curl up with a good book and two good dogs. And then I'll help them hang up their stockings.  Just in case Santa drops by with treats for them. If they've been good.

Well, geez, I hope there's a stocking and some goodies fer me!
I didn't get all dressed up fer nothin' ya know!

Edited to add:  by the time I posted this, it was just past midnight, so the date shows up as Dec 24th.  But I was writing it on the 23rd.  So, no, I'm not crazy saying the dogs might hang their stockings 'tomorrow' night.  Tomorrow has become today.....