Friday, October 31, 2014

A Day at the Piggy Sanctuary

Open the door!  I know you put
more treats in there!
(c) Jean Ballard 2014

[It is Hallowe'en and sounds like a war zone outside.  No big deal to Mitzi and Shiloh (who doesn't understand why I'm not taking her for her evening walk), but a nightmare for Anxious Eddie.   We have been steadily bombarded by fireworks from all sides since early this evening; now, at well after ten, they have reached a frenzy.   So, with the music up and the lights dimmed, we are hunkered down in my office near the back of the house, where I have nothing much to do but edit photos and put up a rather tardy blog. ] 

'Way back around the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I spent a few days on the mainland.  One of those days was spent at Hearts on Noses Mini Pig Sanctuary, for whom I once fostered a family of twelve piggies. They still remember me.  As soon as Janice, the owner, let me through the gate and closed it firmly behind me, the first familiar face appeared:

Foster Mama!  You're here!

Followed by two more,
We know that voice!

And then the whole herd.
About time you came to see us!

My three velcro pigs, who used to follow me around the farm and always squealed their greetings when I arrived home from work, were the first to come running over. [You can read one of my tales about them here.] Fizzy, Whisper and Rob Roy knew I'd have treats - which, of course, I did.

She brought peanuts!

We luvs our ol' foster mama!
Okay, we luvs peanuts!

Soda, their mama, wasn't far behind, nor their sister Lizzy - followed by Scotch, Spritzer, Toddy, Tom, Rickey, Derby and Swizzle.  I can't tell them all apart any more - after all, ten of them were just half-grown 20-month-old piglets when they left my care, and they are now full grown seven year old pigs. But they still know me! Lizzy, the only girl of the litter, had been one of the most aloof when I fostered, but on this day she made her presence known by sticking close and smilin' pretty:

I'm happy to see you foster mama!
Remember me? I'm Lizzy!
(c) Jean Ballard 2014

I interrupted my snack for you, foster mama!
(c) Jean Ballard 2014

I spent the next several hours  rubbing bellies, doling out treats, scooping poop, and - of course - taking photos.  I won't offend them by saying they are all hams, but they sure know how to play up to the camera!
And not just my twelve, but several of the other residents at the sanctuary too:

(c) Jean Ballard 2014

(c) Jean Ballard 2014

 Rose and Roscoe, the big farm pigs, remembered me too.  Rose came running - not a common sight to me - and showed me her lovely ear feathers:

Hi Auntie Jean!
Didya bring me sumthing?
(c) Jean Ballard 2014

I'll wiggle my ear feathers for you!

After a few treats, she was ready for a nap, head resting against the gate:

Roscoe, my buddy from my pen-building days (see here for that story!), came running over too:

Hey!  Auntie Jean!
Are you here to play with me?

Roscoe:  Open this gate, willya?
Me:  Just a minute, Roscoe - there's a wire
sticking out.

Thanksf for fixin' that wire, Auntie Jean.
I might have hurt myself on it.
(c) Jean Ballard 2014

Lacey the horse surprised me the most.  In the past, it was Janice's other horse Dior who always greeted me, looking for the apple she knew I would bring.  Lacey stayed further away and had to be coaxed over.  But sadly, Dior passed away recently, and to my surprise, Lacey showed no hesitation at seeking out an apple from me:

Lacey was also in cahoots with the three little pigs - they somehow coerced her to knock the bird feeder down for them:

Pigs:  C'mon Lacey, you can do it!

Just huff and puff and
knock the house down!

Plastic houses are better than
straw, sticks or brick -
at least when they are full of seed!

A few more random photos of the critters at Hearts on Noses:

Sheer bliss!

Which of these things
is not like the others?

Janice passing out peanuts
Lying down for a belly rub.....

Lotsa belly to be rubbed!

Hey, get up, it's my turn!
I think he's comatose.
Bellyrubs will do that to ya!

But my favourite shot of the day was not of a pig, but of a dog.  I snapped it shortly after I arrived.  Chilko had been patiently watching me unload fruit and veggies from the car and carry them to the storage shed, pour peanuts into a bucket and start passing them out to the pigs, rub bellies and scratch piggy ears.  But the dog treats I'd brought with me were still in the car. As I handed yet another peanut to a pig, I heard a sigh and glanced over to see this:

No caption needed.  The expression says it all!
(c) Jean Ballard 2014

It was a great visit, and - yes - Chilko got his treats.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Charley, age 3 months
Thanksgiving  1997

I am on the mainland spending an extended Thanksgiving weekend away from my dogs and cat.  I don't usually travel on holiday weekends (Okay, I don't usually travel. Period.), but with an extra couple of days on one side and an extra day on the other side, I decided to take the chance on ferry travel and lunatic drivers.  It was worth it.

I am thankful that I have a great petsitter,  Barb at Cool Critters Pet Sitting, who stays at my home, keeps my critters on their usual routines, and posts updates for me via facebook.  She's the best!

I am thankful that my brother, daughter, cousin, and family friend all took time out of their busy lives to meet me in downtown Vancouver for lunch on Friday.  And as much as I hate big cities (no, I didn't drive in from the Fraser Valley where I'm staying - I took the trainbus and West Coast Express), I'm thankful for the opportunity to take some totally different photographs from my usual fare:

I had to ask Vancouverites what this was.
It's a typical West Coast Raindrop, of course!
They grow them BIG here!

 I'm thankful for municipal workers with a sense of humour.  At the West Coast Express train station there are the typical signs everywhere to stand behind the yellow line.  But the sign that drew our attention was in white just below it (I couldn't get it all in the photo - see caption):

Stand as far back as you'd stand from
your boss before their morning coffee
I'm thankful for my terrific friends Ann and Ken who turn over part of their home to me every time I visit - my own mini suite complete with a little kitchen for that midnight snack or early morning coffee.  And who feed me amazing meals that just seem to appear each time I turn around.  I sleep like a log, eat like a queen, and laugh like life is every bit as fun as it was intended to be. 

Ann beside the Raindrop

I am thankful for an afternoon spent with Emma and her dad at Albert Dyke Park, where I got to watch Emma doing what she loves best - swimming - and tossing her stick for her to retrieve.  At nearly ten, she is still going strong, albeit with a few more aches and pains.   I forgot to take my camera that day, but here's one her dad sent to me this summer of her having some water fun.

Emma having fun!

I am thankful I have enough money for some retail therapy at my favourite Abbotsford thrift store for clean quality near-new clothes (seven new-to-me  tops and a pair of pants for under $25!) and still enough money left over for the ferry ride home.  And thankful for the drop in the price of gas - $1.14/litre after months of it being in the 1.30s.    There is a Gas Goddess. 

I'm thankful for the people who have entered my life - who have mentored me, loved me, and helped me to grow - those who have passed and those who are still part of my circle of love. I would not be who I am without them.

I am thankful for reputable rescues that have helped so many local critters, like Hearts on Noses Mini Pig Sanctuary where I am headed today.  I am especially thankful for the long line of critters who found their way to my home. My life has been so much richer for it.

And yes, Excitable Anxious Annoying Eddie, I am even thankful for you.

Annoying?  Who Me?  

And, of course, I'm thankful I live in a beautiful place, in relative peace and safety,  unlike millions who live in poverty, in war, in terror.  I live in just a small part of a very big universe, but I am thankful to live in the very best part.

I am thankful.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A friend's last gift

There are some blog entries that are easier to write than others.  Some pour forth onto the screen without thought or pause.  But some come in dribs and drabs – a phrase, an emotion, an image that fills the head and laboriously makes its way to the keyboard, swimming through eyes full of tears.  This is one of the latter kind.  My dear friend Bonnie, mom to Irish Wolfhound Keaghan,  passed away this week. 

October 13, 1950 - September 30, 2014
May we meet again on the other side

I first met Bonnie and Bob and their three beautiful wolfhounds Blue, Mara and Draeanne, on a visit to Crofton about seven or eight years ago.  My friend Else invited me on a dogwalk at Swallowfield with ‘a bunch of dogs and dog people’ and how could I refuse such an invite? It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

Bonnie and Bob
on one of our first hikes together

For the next several years, we all hiked together often.  And during those years, together we grieved the deaths of dogs, friends, and family. Bonnie and Bob lost Blue and Mara.   Together, too,  we celebrated the addition of animals to our circle - of Keaghan to Bonnie and Bob's family in November 2012, and Eddie and Mitzi to mine not long after.

Bonnie's favourite photo of
a young Keaghan and his fur sister Draeanne
Bonnie, Draeanne and Keaghan
hiking Bonnie and Bob's favourite trail

Then, in September 2013, Bob died of a heart attack,  and in December Draeanne passed away.  Bonnie and I, both without human family nearby and with only a small circle of close friends, spent more and more time together. We walked Eddie and Keaghan, sharing a similar love of the outdoors, of hilly trails and valley vistas, talking quietly as we rested, or laughing loudly as pants snagged on fallen logs or boots squelched in unnoticed puddles.

Greeting riders atop Richard's Mountain
Bonnie was a fine horsewoman in the
years before I knew her.
Keaghan and Bonnie
at Swallowfield 
Swallowfield on a cold winter's day
Bonnie and Eddie enjoy a moment together
at Crofton Lake this spring
One of our last hikes together.
Bonnie on her favourite perch,
gazing over the valley below
And then this spring, Bonnie fell ill.  Hiking became harder, breathing labored, and she was diagnosed with pneumonia.  She didn’t get better, grew decidedly worse, and just a month ago that diagnosis changed to one of suspected cancer.  Two weeks ago today, I took her to the hospital in Victoria for more tests, and the results led to her immediately being admitted.  Advanced, aggressive cancer - that killer which all the medical knowledge in the world just can’t seem to beat. 

The end came quickly.  Early Tuesday morning the doctor phoned to let me know she had slipped into a coma.  I left almost immediately, yet by the time I reached the hospital, she had passed away. 

In less than thirteen months, two year old Keaghan lost his whole family – his dad, his fur sister, his mom. And I had lost a very dear friend.

Misty view from 'Bonnie's spot'
on the mountain.
It will always be special to me.
Bonnie gave me many priceless gifts – the gift of friendship, companionship, a listening ear, a favourite hiking spot, a love for a breed I’d never met before. 

But she gave me one other gift during these last few weeks.  She taught me about compassion and caring at the end of life.  A year ago this week, it was my mom who lay dying, and I was not able to be there for her, either physically or emotionally.  It has always bothered me that I did not make that trip, help my family and friends with those last responsibilities, hold mom’s hand those final days.   The guilt, the feeling that I let my mom down, has plagued me for a year. 

With Bonnie, I was able to do those things, to take her to appointments, to sit with her at the hospital, to help her with personal matters, to take care of the ‘business of dying’ just before and even after death. 

This whole past month, I have felt I wasn’t just doing it for Bonnie, I was also doing it for Mom.  And I found a strength I didn’t know I had.  

Thank you, Bonnie, for accepting my help graciously, for trusting me to take care of things for you, for giving me what I could not give myself - the peace that comes with letting go of guilt.  That was the greatest gift of all.  

My friend, my hiking buddy, my sharer-of-wine-and laughter-and-tears, I shall miss you so very, very much.

"The Kiss"
Bonnie and Draeanne, 2013.

Keaghan is currently being fostered by a wonderful couple up island, who have another wolfhound and decades of wolfhound experience.  His future is secure, under the terms of Bonnie's will, and I will update you on him in a later post. He is doing well, and I am sure Bonnie's spirit touched him as it flew towards Bob, Blue, Mara, Draeanne,  and a host of other dogs awaiting her at the Bridge.