Sunday, October 15, 2017

Autumn days at Swallowfield

I'm no longer going to apologize for lengthy gaps between posts.  I do post regularly on facebook, which is quicker and easier, and most of my blog readers are there.  But I do appreciate my small, but often silent, faithful following on the blog, so for the three or four of you reading this who are not on facebook, I promise to throw you a bone now and then.

Not one of MY bones, I hope!

Autumn is the best season for vacations and hikes - not too hot, not too wet, not to cold, just perfect.  In September I went to the Sunshine Coast with my sister-in-law  for a week, where we enjoyed amazing sunsets, gorgeous ocean views, great parks, and wonderful food.  I haven't finished editing those photos yet, but it does explain a small part of my absence.

Other than that, I really have no excuse.  Oh, well, I do hike Mondays and Fridays, swim 3-4 days a week, walk Maggie twice a day, take way too many photos, and find ways to fritter away the hours without blogging. But enough of the excuses.....Let's talk about those hikes.  Last Friday's hike in particularly.  My friend Pat (she's the one with the two black-and-white poms, you may recall) and I headed out to Swallowfield with the dogs.

The fall colours are not at their peak yet, though some trees are more dressed for the part than others:

The bullrushes have formed their brown furry heads, and the autumn crocuses poke up through the fallen leaves:

Along the way, the dogs stop to sniff and rest and pose for photos:

We reach the little hump on the trail, from which we can see out over the estuary to the ocean.  Lexi and Cosmo stop to admire the view:

Then down the hill to the Chemainus River, where the water colour is always gorgeous and the reflections plentiful:

After a brief rest to take photos and enjoy the tranquility, we find the overgrown path through tall grasses to wend our way across the estuary.  A slight detour to avoid wading through deep water, and we are out on the gravel beds where the river and the smaller streams all fan out on their way to the ocean.  The shallow waters allow water-baby Cosmo to go for a swim despite the chill - he gets the zoomies and races back and forth as far as his long leash will let him:

Maggie thinks water is evil, but Lexi shows a little spirit by wading right in - and right back out again:

Blech! No one warned me it was salty! 

I spot something in the tall grass - a snake in the grass?  No, a tail in the grass!  A dog tail, wagging happily!

Two friendly big dogs and their equally-friendly owner come join us on the estuary, and I have fun watching the big dogs race through the water to little islands then bounce their way back again:

Soon it was time to head back.  Ms. Maggie was very tired, but she is becoming a great hiking buddy.  While still scared of strangers (and particularly people who come to the house or yard, or children, or groups of more than four), she has come a looooong way from the terrified girl she used to be, and loves meeting other dogs.  On the walk back, we ran into a group with six large dogs, all of whom came up to meet Mags, and she didn't bat an eye.  She also took treats from Pat and went to her when Pat called, and approached the owner of the two dogs above in order to sniff his hand - huge steps forward for Ms. Maggie.  She was calm and relaxed on the hike, and this photo of her taken out on the estuary with the stranger sitting nearby and four dogs and her 'Auntie Pat' in the area, reflects her comfort level. Her head is turned because she's watching the other dogs in the water, no doubt thinking "Are they crazy?  Get wet voluntarily? Not Me!"   It was my very favourite photo of the day:

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Thinking About Emma

Last May, my trip to the mainland to bring Maggie home was a bittersweet one. Sweet because I was adopting Maggie, but sad because I was seeing Emma (the yellow lab who stayed with my ex when we split more than ten years ago) for very likely the last time. Emma and her dad were moving 800 km further away, or about 900 km from where I live.

Emma, May 2017

When Emma's dad and I split up, Charley (the border collie cross) came with me and Emma stayed with him. We came to an agreement, with the help of our lawyers, regarding my visitation rights. The first couple of years were tough -  for me, for her dad, and quite probably for Emma. But over time it became clear to me that the bond between Emma and her dad was deep, and while she still greeted me enthusiastically on each and every visit, I had no doubt she had become her dad's heartdog, and he was her heartperson. I continued to see Emma - monthly when I lived on the mainland, and several times a year after I moved to the island - but no longer needed that reassurance that she was loved and well taken care of. She was - and is - the apple of her dad's eye.


Last fall, her dad talked with me of his desire to semi-retire and move to the place he and Emma have spent their last several summers, in eastern BC.  Emma loves it there, and each summer her dad sent me photos of  Emma swimming in the river, lazing around with many good friends including her best doggy friend Abby, soaking up the sun and the attention.

WHEEEE!  I'm a happy stick-fetching water dog! 
(Photo by Emma's dad, a couple of summers ago)

Her dad's intention had been to stay on the coast until after Emma passed, giving me continued access to her.  But for personal and familial reasons, he didn't want to delay the move any longer.  And I fully and unhesitatingly supported that decision.  I know only too well that our future and that of our loved ones is never guaranteed.  Sometimes you just have to grab life and run with it.

Or grab a stick and throw it!

And so in May, with his house about to go on the market and his annual summertime migration fast approaching, I went for one last visit.

Over the course of the last year or two, Emma's health and vitality had been declining. She is nearly 13 now,  old for a dog as large as she. At the May visit, the change in her was remarkable since the previous one a few months before - for the first time she did not bounce up to greet me, for the first time she did not wish to run through her paces in exchange for pieces of her kibble, for the first time she did not pester me for attention but simply lay quietly on the grass as her dad and I talked.

I can still hear everything you say, y'know!
One ear up! 

Her happy lab get-up-and-go often got up and went, her dad reported, and even that insatiable lab appetite had dissipated to the extent that sometimes she didn't want to eat at all. She still has her moments of happy lab silliness, of course, but we both agree that she is in God's Waiting Room.

I'm not tired - I'm just resting my eyeballs.  

And so it is only right that both she and her dad should be in the place they love most, sharing some summer and fall splashes in the river, being among friends and family doing all the memorable things that friends and family do.

Emma is living the good life, for whatever length of time she has left.  But between my health, Maggie's anxiety issues,  Emma's health, and the geographic distance, the chances are very slim that I will see her again.  At least, not on this side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Until then, she is in good hands. Thank you, Emma's dad, for loving her as you do.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Plethora of Pigs

Last May,  I mentioned the huge intake of potbellied pigs our local SPCA had received - over two dozen,  mostly very young, of which  two were nursing mamas, and 8 or 9 more were pregnant.

Just one of many since born to the young pregnant mamas

I've posted various photos and updates on Facebook since that time but neglected to update my "blog-only" readers. Busy, tired, and dealing with the heat, I feel like this piggy looks:

One of the pregnant young pigs enjoys
a rest in the sun.
But that doesn't mean all those pigs suddenly went away. Some did - to other homes, sanctuaries and rescues. Many are still in need of adoption.

Yes we are!  We's waitin' fer you! 

Hearts on Noses Sanctuary in Mission BC took on one nursing mama and her babies. I transported them over there and follow along on their progress through photos Janice, the sanctuary owner,  posts on Facebook.    Rainbow, Plumb, and Tierra will live out their lives at the sanctuary, loved and cared for by Janice and her volunteers:
Top:  Transport Day - arrival at Hearts on Noses
Bottom:  Rainbow, Plumb and Tierra enjoying their new life
(Thanks to Janice Gillett for the lower photo)

Two pregnant mamas were fostered and later adopted by RASTA sanctuary in Chemainus BC.  They each had their babies there, and both families will live out their lives at that sanctuary, loved and cared for by Lucie and her volunteers.

Mama Sophie nursing her babes at RASTA,
where they will live out their lives.

Piglets are so cute and photogenic.
But these babes will grow to be 120-200 pounds, on average.
They, with their mama Emma, have a permanent home at RASTA. 

Another mama, who gave birth the morning after arriving at the SPCA shelter, went with her babies to Broken Promises Rescue in Victoria BC.  Broken Promises carefully screens potential adopters before placing the animals in forever homes.
Mama with babes, one day after arriving at the SPCA.
Care and rehoming taken on by Broken Promises Rescue

Piglets and mama pig at Broken Promises Rescue
this July.  

The four  adult and young male pigs in the original group immediately went to Nanaimo SPCA. Pigs become sexually mature at 3-4 months, and no way were they taking chances on any more pregnancies! The remaining pigs, mostly pregnant ones who at about six months old were themselves little more than babies, went into foster care on the properties of generous and caring local residents. Babies were born,  and once spayed or neutered, are being put up for adoption. I got to transport six babies from a foster home to one of the few island vet clinics that performs this surgery on potbellied pigs.

Mama Barbara leads the babies to the barn

They weren't too keen on being crated for transport

In fact, they were darn hard to corral.

They did laps around the barn for awhile!
Once pigs are scared, sometimes all you can do is sit quietly and wait.
Good thing we allowed lots of time. Eventually they all made it into the two crates for transport.

Three of the six on the way back to foster care post surgery

Some pigs and their litters have since returned from other foster homes to the shelter, and some of those have found their forever homes too. ALL of the pigs who came into the SPCA's care at the start, as well as those born since arrival, will be spayed and neutered - those living out their lives at sanctuaries, and those going on to forever homes. Pigs are prolific breeders, with females cycling every 21 days, and piglets reaching sexual maturity at 2-4 months of age. That so many six month old piglets were pregnant - all inbred -  with a typical litter size of 5-7, meant that the 28 or so pigs that came into the SPCA's care had the potential to become 50-70 within weeks of their arrival.  I'm not sure what the final tally was  but I do know the SPCA still has many to be be placed.

We can be kinda timid at first.....

But the kind volunteers at the SPCA are helping us become brave! 

There are challenges to finding forever homes for companion potbellied pigs. Firstly, many municipalities have zoning bylaws that forbid keeping them in cities, or that limit them to acreages of a certain size.  This is not a bad thing - pigs need lots of outdoor space to root around, and can become quite destructive when this need is not met.

Pssst!  Wanna go root up the garden?

Secondly, the massively misleading and unethical marketing of so called micro or teacup pigs has led to so much misinformation that many potential adopters have very unrealistic ideas of what  a pet pig's needs and behaviours will be like. Stories and images of the mythical 'micro' or 'teacup' pig, with claims it will only reach 20 -30 pounds,  have already led to hundreds of pigs being abandoned or surrendered in this province - and thousands across North America - when they outgrew the size the breeder claimed it would reach, were less suitable to an indoor existence than the buyer presumed, or simply lost their appeal to someone who simply wanted the latest in trendy pets and didn't bother to do any research.

I'll get big!

Us too!

I'm gonna get soooooo big!

Let's just get one thing straight: there is no such thing as a micro or teacup pig.  Mini pigs - potbellied pigs and a few other breeds of small pigs - are called mini because over the 4-5 years that it takes to grow to their full size, they will reach, on average, about 120-200 pounds. This is very small compared to their commercially raised farm cousins who, if allowed to fully mature (most are slaughtered young), grow to 700-1000 pounds.  Breeders sometimes mislead prospective buyers by showing off the parent pigs along with the babies and leading the buyer to believe that is as big as they will get.  In human society, we equate 'parent' with 'adult'. In reality, those parent pigs may only be 6 -9 months old themselves, and nearly always are under two years old - not even half their adult size yet.

I'm only six months old and pregnant!
I won't be full grown for another 4 or more years!

So.....if you or someone you know is considering a pig as a companion animal, and if you have the zoning, space, shelter, fencing, time, and other resources necessary......

I'm waiting for you!  Or one or more of my many siblings and half-siblings are!

If you have done your homework by learning from reliable sources such as sanctuaries and rescues rather than from breeders with only cutesy photos accompanied by ridiculous claims on their websites.....

We is cute....but we is challenging!
We is very different from dogs and cats!

If you are prepared to meet their needs for an appropriate mini-pig diet which may need to be specially ordered, their need to root, their need for protection from predators, their need for companionship, their need for hoof trims and tusk trims, their need for a mud wallow to keep cool (pigs don't sweat, despite the old saying 'sweating like a pig' and need mud or water to cool their bodies).....

I won't be able to use this dishpan fer a bath much longer!

If you are prepared for their incredible intelligence which enables them to figure out how to open fridges, escape poorly designed pens, empty cupboards, turn over garbage cans, and get into all sorts of mischief......

Are you sayin' we can be brats?

Ha ha ha!  That's silly!  We are angels!

Okay we might help ourselves to food sometimes....

If you are prepared for all these things, and have a loving heart and a strong sense of commitment, then please adopt .... and hang on for the ride of your life!

We can be taught manners - we're very food motivated!
(Okay, sometimes we forgets our manners too. We can be pushy. Very pushy.  Ms Piggy Pushy). 

They are fun, loving, and very loyal animals who do best with another pig or five for companionship.

We're happy and easier to manage with a piggy friend or two or five. 

Sibling love

For further information on adoption, contact the Cowichan and District Branch of the BC SPCA. 

For further reading, check out this comprehensive and well-balanced source of further information on mini-pigs and their care, including videos on how to trim hooves:
They also have a facebook page which is well worth following: .