Sunday, December 08, 2019

She's Back!

This is the echidna's first visit.  She's in the top right of the photo.  That's a wire garden ornament in the bottom left.

Our echidna put in a late night appearance last night. This is her third visit to my garden, but there are no new photos of her because she chose to visit around 9.30 and I didn't have my phone with me.  

Cleo, who usually has a quick word or two to say to visiting kangaroos, was barking non-stop for quite a while so I went out to investigate and found her and Aslan looking very intently at something in the very top corner of our backyard.  Aslan looked a little embarrassed to be caught out harassing a little defenseless (if you didn't count the spikes - and both he and Cleo counted the spikes) creature.  The poor little echidna, who most likely had a major headache after having Cleo's booming bark go off in her ear for a good solid ten minutes, had dug herself into the very corner of our back yard.  She had a large rock on one side of the huge hole she'd dug, the corrugated iron fence on another and Cleo barking at her on the third side of the triangle.  Aslan was acting as back up behind Cleo.  He wasn't barking or trying to get close to the pointy end of the echidna (which makes me think he has a good deal more intelligence than Cleo who was trying to find a way around those spikes), but he was there for moral support.  Why the echidna keeps coming back I don't know.  Maybe she keeps hoping I'll see the light and get rid of the puppies so she can make her home in our back yard.  

I did suggest to Graeme that as the echidna could be considered a regular visitor now we should name her and adopt her as a new member of the menagerie, but not surprisingly, Graeme disagreed rather strongly.  

Graeme got the spade and dug out the rock so the echidna could leave via the small gap that made between the two fences.  I called the puppies to follow me with the intention of locking them up in the laundry for the night.  Aslan came along quietly doing his usual follow from the front causing me to almost trip over him when he stopped from time to time to check I was still with him.  It took a lot of encouragement and finally threats to get Cleo to come with me.  She kept veering off in the direction of the echidna every time I took my eyes off her. When caught heading the wrong way to the back door, Cleo tried to explain it was dark and she'd lost her way, but I was having none of that.  I finally got both puppies onto the back porch and then Aslan into the laundry, but Cleo said she wasn't going any further.  She thought if she looked innocent enough I'd believe that she intended to stay put and wouldn't dream of going back to harass our spiky visitor.  Sadly for Cleo I'm not that gullible.  I showered Aslan with liver flake treats (their favourite treat in  the entire world) and told him he was a good boy while he sat on his bed in the laundry enjoying every morsel of liver treat offered to him.  I called Cleo multiple times and even showed her the bucket of treats, waving it right under her nose, but Cleo was struck with selective deafness.  She knew she couldn't make a break for the back corner of the yard while I was outside, but she also knew if she put one foot in the laundry I'd close the door and that would be the end of her defending the garden against marauding echidnas.

Our echidna's second visit.  I'm grateful that she didn't dig herself into one of my gardens this time and only dug up a bit of dirt near the back fence.

Cleo and I have an understanding that if she comes when I call her into the laundry she gets liver treats if they are being handed out to Aslan, but if I have to haul her into the laundry no liver treats will be forthcoming.  It's been a while since the liver treats haven't worked.  Cleo just can't seem to resist them.  She did resist them this time though.  It seems the lure of a night barking at the spiny side of an echidna far outweighed the delicious taste of liver treats. In the end I dragged Cleo into the laundry, making uncomplimentary comments on over grown dogs who can't obey a simple command.  Aslan was given a last liver treat just to rub it in with Cleo that she was missing out, and the laundry door was shut for the night.

While this tussle of wills between Cleo and me was taking place Graeme was still outside making arrangements for the echidna's departure.  He tried lifting it up with the shovel but she had dug in well and truly, so all he could do was leave her there.   Echidnas have an amazing ability to hold onto the ground underneath them when predators (or well meaning farmers in Graeme's case) try to move them.  It's like they are cemented in.  Graeme wanted to take her down to the Possum Paddock which is about a kilometre from our house.  Just as an aside, the Possum Paddock is named that because when Graeme and Justin were cutting wood for our fuel stove, when we first moved here, Graeme cut a branch into fuel stove fire box lengths, only to find a few bits of fur on the chain saw after the last cut.  He looked into to hollow branch to find two possums squashed up in there avoiding the blades.  Graeme picked up that bit of branch and wedged it into a tree so the very-lucky-not-to-be-cut-by-the-blades possums could recover from their trauma. Now, back to the echidna - I wasn't in favour of her being moved to the Possum Paddock because I was worried she might have a den of puggles (baby echidnas) somewhere near the house and it would be too far for an echidna's little stumpy legs to walk back in a short time. 

This morning the echidna was gone.  She's left a deep hole in the back corner of my garden, but for once no plants suffered from her visit.  After Graeme checked to see if she was gone he let the puppies out and Cleo made a beeline for the back corner.  She was very disappointed that her semi-regular sparring partner wasn't there to be barked at so she returned to the house deflated but hopeful there would be more opportunities in the future to finally defeat the pointy little creature.  

Graeme filled in the hole and I now await the next visit from the newest member of the Spring Rock menagerie (I'm counting her as part of the gang even if Graeme isn't).

 This photo was taken after the echidna's first visit when I carried her over to a paddock behind our shearing shed.  She seemed to enjoy the ride, not struggling, but lifting her head from time to time to admire the elevated view.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Domestication Of Venus

 Venus has been one of the family for about two months now.  She has spent most of this time as an outside cat.  The main reasons for this is the holiday Graeme and I had at the end of October and the decidedly anti-Venus attitude expressed by the three inside cats, Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti (now known as The Gang Of Three).  When they first encountered Venus she was in the grip of being in season and the extra hormones made her quite tetchy.  If she managed to get face to face with one of the Gang of Three she tried to take it off, the face I mean.  

One of the many times that Venus managed to get into the house by the simple expedient of rushing in around my legs and I tried to get inside the doorway without her, Tristan met her at the door.  This was before the spaying I might add, so we aren't talking about the friendly, calm. cat of peace Venus, but the bad tempered monster where all other cats were concerned, still acting like a feral cat, Venus.  Tristan, in his wisdom, decided to give the poor new girl a break and bumped noses with her and generally began to talk peace and friendship.  Venus, lulled him into a false sense of security by seeming to listen to the polite things Tristan was saying, while in fact she was just biding her time.  When Tristan started to walk away Venus jumped him, literally, she dived onto his back and started biting the poor ginger fellow.  I rushed to Tristan's aid and banished Venus to the front porch once more where she immediately assumed an innocent expression and tried to deny the whole attacking Tristan thing.  This, needless to say, confirmed Tristan's former opinion of the need to rid Spring Rock of young tortoiseshell cats.  

To say Venus was far from pleased to find three cats resident in the house she'd set her sights on moving into would be putting it mildly.  The only acceptable outcome as far as Venus was concerned was for me to clear the house of excess cats and make way for her to move in.  She was generous enough to offer to do it for me if I was too tender hearted.  The Gang of Three had the completely opposite solution to the problem.  All it would take for peace to reign supreme once more was for one excess tortoiseshell cat to make tracks and find another person to listen to her sob stories.  "After all," I could hear them saying, "we already have a perfectly working tortoiseshell in the family.  There's no need to clutter up the house with excess tortoiseshells."  Graeme was set firmly on the side of the Gang of Three.

My stance was of course that an extra tortoiseshell was exactly what we needed to round out the numbers and give a poor, homeless waif a good home.  All this time Venus was living on the front porch.  I'd made up a bed for her, provided food and water and went out multiple times a day to let her know I was working on the Venus Is Now An Inside Cat program.

Once she was spayed Venus underwent a major tolerance to other cats adjustment.  Now she wanted to be friends with the Gang of Three.  She pressed her nose against the front screen door, made little welcoming mews at the other cats and generally tried to erase any unfortunate memories they might have had concerning the old Venus.   Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti were having none of it.  They continued to spit, hiss and swear at Venus whenever they passed by the hall and saw the sad little face looking in.  Graeme was adamant that the status quo remained and three was the maximum number for inside cats.  He even tried denial when pet shop employees asked how many cats I had.  I'd say four just as Graeme would firmly say three.  This caused some confusion for the poor shop assistant who was just asking to be friendly, so I had to give her the whole long story.   I think she enjoyed it because the next time I bought cat food she asked, "How many cats do you have again?"  Now clearly she was just asking for the moment's entertainment Graeme and provided discussing our cat situation.

Tristan climbs onto my bed first thing in the morning and stays there all day if I let him.  His new mantra is, "There's no such cat as a Venus, there's no such cat as  a Venus."

Nefertiti and Ambrosia have joined Tristan on the bed today.  I will get them all out to the lounge room soon so they know they are still loved even if I have brought an unwelcome fourth to the cat population of Spring Rock.

With Graeme's Three Cat Policy firmly in place he made the tactical error of planning a two week four wheel driving trip with some friends, leaving me at home with the menagerie.  The last thing I said to him as I kissed him goodbye was, "Venus will be a fully integrated inside cat by the time you get home.  I love you."  Graeme, ever the realist replied that he thought Venus was already part way there so he expected it.

With Graeme on his travels I have put the Venus Is Now An Inside Cat program into full swing, despite loud and repeated opposition from The Gang Of Three.  The day begins with my letting Venus inside after a night spent outside in her front porch bed.  Venus walks in to the hisses and dirty looks of the Gang Of Three.  As the days have progressed these episodes of bad language and bad behaviour are diminishing.  Now Ambrosia is the only one to voice her objection to the surplus tortoiseshell, and mostly she voices it under her breath.  Venus swaggers in (I'm sad to say she is getting a bit of a tummy to her,causing the aforementioned swagger - this food on tap business after most of her life being hungry and having to catch her own food is just too irresistible) and nods good morning to the resident felines.  She then follows me around on my daily chores and generally gets in the way of whatever I'm doing.  Tristan, who was the first to stop swearing at Venus, spends most of the day on my bed pretending she isn't in the house.  Nefertiti is slowly coming around.  She's not happy if she comes into the room and finds Venus on my lap, but as long as she gets to lie down with me at night and there's no Venus to be seen anywhere she can cope.  I hold out hope that my Venus Integration Program will work, and work before Graeme gets home.

Ambrosia is the one obstacle in the way of a quiet, happy family.   Today we had a breakthrough when she and Venus bumped noses and generally looked like peace might break out, but sadly ended with Venus taking friendship just that bit too far by trying to wash Ambrosia's face, causing Ambrosia to break out the insults and threats once more.  Venus adopted a hurt expression and slowly walked away, asking me what more she could do to be accepted by that irascible cat.  

Meanwhile Venus has discovered the delights of living indoors.  She curls up on the lounge chairs as if she was born to it.  She's even found her purr.  When I first met her she tried purring but it was a less than successful endeavour.  She sounded more like a car with a faulty starter motor than a cat purring.  Now, she has a good strong, happy purr as she lies in front of the heater, on my lap or on a warm comfy lounge chair.

Venus, enjoying the delights of being an inside cat.  It's sooo much better than being feral.

Graeme is still away for another ten days so I'm hopeful all four cats will be living peaceably before he gets home.  My expectations aren't that high really.  I'm not looking for firm friendships to be forged, all I'm hoping for is that they can spend the day in the same house without bad words or fights breaking out.  I'd also like to be able to keep Venus inside at night.  At the moment she sleeps outside because I know if I allowed her inside I wouldn't get a wink of sleep with all the refereeing I'd have to do as The Gang Of Three voiced their disapproval of the excess cat.

Ten days - it should be doable don't you think?

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

The Holiday Is Over

One of my holiday snaps.

Graeme and I have been away on a holiday for the past 12 days.  We visited Central Australia and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  I did miss the menagerie but managed to meet a feral cat and have a quick chat with him before Graeme dragged me away mumbling about enough feral cats living on our front porch.  The taming of Venus was a huge success and she now lives on the front verandah with her own bed, food and water, but I'll write more about that on another day.  I also managed to befriend a lovely red kelpie whose owners were in the caravan next to us in Alice Springs, but these two animal episodes didn't make me miss my pets less at all.  Thankfully my worries about them couldn't get off the ground because my daughter in law Savannah and five year old Elliott visited here every few days to distribute food and water, change litter trays and dispense love and hugs all around as well as send me photos of the menagerie to let me know they were all fine.  You'd think the animal population at Spring Rock would be grateful wouldn't you?  Well, apart from the cats I think they are, but the cats are another matter altogether.  

Ambrosia getting ready to air her complaints to Savannah through the window.  

Before we leave home on one of our trips we set up the menagerie to survive at least four nights of us being away.  This has resulted in spending a fair bit of money to provide automatic feeders and waterers for the cats and ferrets, a very large food container for the Saint Bernards, automatic waterers for all outside menagerie members and a huge new, four level cage for the ferrets' inside cage.  We also batten down the hatches for the lounge room, kitchen and dining room.  From previous experience we've learned not to leave anything breakable out where the cats can knock them off tables or other surfaces (including the top of the refrigerator).  For some reason when we're not here for more than a trip to Wagga our cats start practising high jumping, skidding across polished surfaces (it's even better when there's a tablecloth to improve lack of traction, causing big skids along the table) and pulling things off any flat surface that has breakables on it.  So I pack all my owls,  teapot collection, antique sewing tools and all other delicate items into washing baskets lined with quilts and lock them away in the sewing room where they'll be safe from marauding cats.  The cats are left with the bathroom, hall, kitchen dining room and lounge room, all bare of everything we can move out of the room, for the duration of our time away.

We arrived home yesterday and when I called the puppies only Aslan came to greet us.  I was immediately worried that Cleo had found a way out of the house yard, because she's usually waiting at the gate as soon as she hears our car driving along our roadway.  Thankfully she was just snoozing and didn't hear us come home.  Aslan was glad to see us in his own laid back way - he kept wandering over to see if there were any pats being offered, but he wasn't insisting on them mind you.  Cleo, once she woke up and realised we were home, was everywhere we were, tripping us up, walking so close to our legs we couldn't walk a straight line and generally making it known that we were missed.

Venus wanted to say hello too.  She came around the back into big dog territory and bravely walked past them to ask for some pats. She has both dogs completely cowered now.  Before we left Cleo tried to sniff Venus in a very friendly, hello manner and was rewarded with a prickly swat across the nose.  Poor Cleo was more offended than injured.  She backed up along the path and all the way around the side of the house, keeping an eye on Venus the whole time.  Venus has since claimed the front verandah as her own and occupies it unchallenged.  When she met us in the yard yesterday Venus insisted I make up for 12 days of not patting and loving her NOW!!!!  

So, our welcome home was quite touching, we were obviously missed and welcomed home with open paws - that is, until we walked into the house.  We were met by three pairs of eyes that clearly said, "And where have you been?"  The inside cats then started their usual getting even tactics.  Tristan started ignoring at me - being ignored at is more scathing than just being ignored.  If the offending party is just being ignored he or she might not notice it, so being ignored at if much more a effective way to let the offending person know they are in your bad books.  It begins with a glare and then Tristan turns his face away and refuses to talk to you.  That didn't work well last night because I was expecting it so Tristan upped the ante by coming over to where I was seated at the computer and sat on the floor near the computer and talked to the electric fan on the floor while making sure he didn't acknowledge my presence. This being ignored at can last days so I pulled out my secret weapon and whisked up a raw egg for Tristan's dining pleasure (Tristan loves eggs but will only eat them if I whisk them to combine the yolk and egg white).  I'm pleased to say that all signs of being ignored at are gone and I'm once again allowed to pat Tristan and of course feed him eggs.

Nefertiti wouldn't talk to me at all, other than to say, "You are dead to me",  she huffed out of any room I entered with a glare and twitching tail for most of the night.  Thankfully when I went to bed last night she wanted under the covers and in the crook of my arm as usual, so I was forgiven.  I'm so lucky the nights are still cool here otherwise, if it was summer, Nefertiti might go days holding her grudge.   

Ambrosia wanted to tell me everything that had happened in the last 12 days at the top of her voice.  Most of it seemed to consist of complaints that we weren't there when she needed us.  The ferrets were glad to see us and climbed their cage to get us to give them pats and love (sadly it only worked on me and Graeme walked right by without noticing the little face looking at him and asking for a pat).  

Savannah told me she spent an hour on Sunday cleaning up the mess the inside animals still managed to create with nearly everything packed away.  Now that's a real talent I think - to be able to create an hours' worth of cleaning up with barely anything in the rooms.

The Galahs and Silky roosters screeched and crowed welcome messages when they saw us (or we could have been being told off for abandoning them for so long - I don't talk Silky or Galah), and the chooks welcomed me when I went in to collect the eggs (but that might have had something to do with the sunflower seeds I was distributing around the masses).  The galahs are denying giving Savannah, Justin and Elliott a hard time while we were away, but Savannah had photographic evidence.  Hermes is still denying bad behaviour, but pictures don't tell lies.

Hermes - not very welcoming for poor Savannah but she fed him anyway.

It's hard to believe that these neglected, starved for love animals had Savannah and Elliott and sometimes Justin as well visiting every few days to feed them, change their litter and pat and love them for me, but I'm very grateful for their care of the menagerie for those 12 days.  

Justin sent this beautiful photo to assure me all was well with the puppies.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Feral Cat And Me

My new cat.  

I am working towards befriending a feral cat.  She has been on our farm for months now and is one of the prettiest tortoiseshell cats I've ever met (but please don’t tell Nefertiti I said that).  I have a feeling she hasn't always been feral, even though she looks quite young.  She seeks me out if I'm in the yard when she's around and talks to me from a safe distance, even following me for a bit if I walk away.  Today she was eyeing off the chooks and while most of them could give her a run for her money, George and Emu are tiny little Silkies and I don't think they'd be a match for her.  I ended up opening up the gate between George and Emu and their two ducks and letting the rooster have free access if he needs to chase the cat off.  I just hope she doesn't try.

When I found her looking at the chooks from the outside fence, she was under the boughs of our huge pine tree.  I had a chat with her and she sat and enjoyed out conversation even though I was telling her she had to go find mice somewhere else.  She stayed put so I went outside and under the branches to encourage her to move off.  She headed for the dam over the back so I veered left and added a few dead branches to Graeme's bonfire.  I turned and saw that the cat had come back for me.  She was standing on top of the rise calling to me.  I walked over and of course she moved off, so I sat quietly on the bank of the dam and little by little she made her way back to me, talking all the way.  In the end she got within about two feet of me and sat and talked for a while, then headed off towards the back paddock.  I got up and went back to the fire to have a chat with Graeme and in a few minutes the tortoiseshell was back looking for me.  I walked over and had another chat with her until she decided that we were friends now and I wouldn't object to her going back to watching the chooks.  She was wrong.  The trouble was once I was inside the house yard again she just returned once more to watching the chooks.  I left some cat food out for her that night on the front porch, well away from chooks.  She paid me a visit before I went to bed and snacked on the kibble while we talked.

I finally made true friends with the "feral" cat on Wednesday.  I'm pretty sure she must have been someone's cat at sometime.  She doesn't trust Graeme and runs for cover when she hears his deep voice, but she talks to me and has been following me at a safe distance for a few days.  When I let the chooks out this afternoon I heard her talking to me.  She was under the boughs of the big pine tree, just outside the chook pen – what I’m coming to think of as her usual spot.  After I'd collected the eggs and let Phoenix, my bachelor red rooster, out with the rest of the gang, I went outside to say hello.

I stood quietly and offered her my hand to sniff.  She came right up to it and had a sniff then rubbed her head against my hand.  I gave her a little pat and she took off.  I thought that was enough progress for one day, but the tortoiseshell had different ideas.  As I walked off she called to me so I turned around and found her following me.  I stopped; she came up to me and looked up.  I bent down and gave her a good pat, scratch around the ears and a back rub.  She lapped it all up. 

Eventually my back told me I couldn't take any more leaning over so I straightened up and said goodbye.  The cat followed me and I had a go at picking her up for a pat.  She loved it, turning this way and that for a better pat, but demanded to be put down very soon.  I put her down straight away so she’d learn that I won’t do anything that makes her feel uncomfortable, had another go of picking her up and patting her until it was time to say goodbye again, only for her to follow me, talking all the way.  I began to think she was going to be a permanent shadow of mine.  She came through the gate into the house yard with me and I headed for the house.  I got her some cat kibble and went back out.  She had a nice little snack in between asking for more pats and head scratches.  When she was finished I told her I had to sit down so I went over to our outdoor furniture.  She followed warily for a while, but mentioned that she knew there were big dogs about.  I promised her they were locked up because the chooks were out and she very carefully followed me to the chair keeping an eye out for big dogs in case I had lied.  She jumped onto the table and then proceeded to lap up all the pats and scratches she could get, throwing some head-butts in herself from time to time.  While she looks to be a young cat, she has a bit of offers of affection to catch up on I think. 

Venus trying to decide if being friends with a human was a good idea

After a while she climbed down onto my lap, but couldn't really settle there and chose to socialise from the table.   She did have a few tries at my lap, but just couldn't bring herself to stay there.  At one stage she saw Ambrosia looking out the window and she then sat with her back to me so she could keep an eye on that cat, while I continued to talk to her and pat her.  I finally had to say goodbye, yet again, to get the chooks in and she followed around and watched with interest.  I told her to put her thoughts somewhere else because chicken dinner wasn't on the menu.  She was a help though.  I had one Faverolle hen who just kept going around and around the base of the plumbago bush near the aviary where I couldn't get her.  The cat bounded under the bush in the general direction of the hen and the French Girl came tearing out and headed straight for the chook pen.  I told the cat that, while I was grateful for the help, I didn't think her motives were as pure as she was trying to convince me they were.

In the end, after a very long time getting to know the tortoiseshell (who I’ve decided to name Venus) I took her around the front, told her to stay put because I was letting the dogs out and returned to the back porch to do so.  She had stayed in the front for a little while, but Graeme saw her under the car when he came in. 

We caught up again on Thursday and Friday.  On Friday night it was raining so Venus once again came to the front door to let me know she was available for snacks and also that she was getting wet so could I please turn off the rain.  I opened the door followed by Tristan and Nefertiti.  Tristan saw Venus on the other side of the door and left in a huff.  Venus was very rude to Nefertiti, using language I can only assume she’s learned from the tougher element of the feral cats around here.  Nefertiti was shocked at the language, but being brought up in a much more sheltered environment chose to look outraged rather than return fire.  I’m sure Venus was asking me to put the three house cats outside in the rain so she could come inside and dry off.

I told Graeme it looks like we might end up with an outside cat, I doubt she and my three inside cats could ever be friends, but who knows.  If that is the case I'm going to have to get her to the vets to have her spayed. 

The number of non nomadic feral cats she could contribute to the farm is a very scary idea.

The clicking of the phone camera when I took these photos, disturbed Venus.  She wasn't sure if that little black rectangle was going to attack or not.  I let her sniff the phone and she settled down realising it wasn't a threat.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

A Visitor

We had a visitor at Spring Rock last week.  Graeme first noticed her in his machinery shed on Monday, hiding amongst the air seeder, header and other large farm implements.  He took a photo and left her to her own devices and told me of her visit when he came inside later that day.  Then, a day later, he met her again trying to dig her way into the house-yard by digging under a well planted gate post.  Her chances of getting in were considered slim so Graeme left her to it and came inside.  Cleo and Aslan weren't too impressed with her efforts to get into their yard and both puppies were very busy for quite some time watching her efforts and patrolling the gate area in case of invasion.  I imagine Cleo tried to introduce herself to the visitor - Cleo is that kind of dog and I did hear some yips and yaps from the general area of the gate - but with a sturdy fence and said well planted gate post between them introductions were about as far as it got.

The trouble started Wednesday afternoon.  Graeme came inside and told me if I wanted to meet our visitor in person she was just off the porch, amid a huge mess she'd made of the little garden at the bottom of the steps.  Once again Cleo was in attendance, keeping a respectful distance but not approving of this visitor at all.  Aslan felt he'd done all he could do yesterday and retired to his bed in the laundry and pretended there was no visitor at all.

I didn't blame Cleo's uncharacteristic tact with a new visitor.  Her usual technique when someone new arrives is to gallop up to this newcomer, try to jump into his or her arms and generally make herself hard to ignore.  This time Cleo was very quiet and just stood there watching the destruction of a poor, innocent garden.  I feel that my decorative, wire echidna might have been to blame.  Our visitor obviously felt she'd met a potential friend (no, not the big hairy creature she was sublimely ignoring) and had come along for a chat.

Cleo (that's her ear in the top right of the photo) carefully watching our visitor mangle my garden.

Our visitor was the largest echidna I've ever encountered (and as females tend to be larger than the males I'm reasonably sure this was a "she").  She was also the most laid back echidna I'd ever encountered.  When an echidna is discovered, no matter where it is at the time - soft earth, tar road, cement path etc - it usually tries to dig in and present only very sharp spines to whomever or whatever has discovered it.  This is a very effective tactic and has been perfected by generations of echidnas.  Once the echidna has dug itself into the ground there is no digging it out.  They get a very good hold on the earth and, with only wickedly sharp spines presented to the perceived threat (that is usually anything other than another echidna) the echidna is there for the long run.   I know this because I tried to move an obstinate echidna out of our chook pen once.  The end result was that the echidna stayed exactly where it was and I retired to the house after warning the chooks to stay away from their spiky visitor.  This little lady just kept working her way along my garden, moving soil here, uprooting a plant there, burying another plant along the way, in a very leisurely manner.  She wasn't in a hurry to hide from us, or perform the classic echidna digging in technique; she was just out for an exploration of these never before seen plants.  The large, hairy audience didn't bother her at all and she'd already met Graeme on two occasions and had no trouble with him, and if  she could cope with a large human and a large what-ever-that-overgrown-hairy-thing was another, smaller human wasn't going to faze her either.  

Our visitor, hiding behind one of my few surviving plants and having what I'm sure she thought was a well earned rest after she'd been busy remodelling my garden

Graeme arrived on the scene with a shovel ready to scoop our visitor up and carry her to pastures new anywhere else on the farm.  She wasn't too keen on leaving the comfy new spot she'd made for herself.  The remodelled garden was almost to her liking now and after all that work, not to mention the three day hike to get here, she wasn't budging.

I tried to help ease her onto the shovel, but all that happened was Graeme somehow managed to roll her onto my hand - soft side down thankfully.  I decided that as long as I had a good hold of her I may as well carry her to wherever was far enough away to hopefully prevent her from working on any more of my garden.  I balanced her on my right hand and used my left hand to very gingerly keep her in place.  Her manners were impeccable.  She didn't object to being carried, didn't struggle or scratch, she just enjoyed the ride and eventually poked her little nose out to admire the scenery as it passed her buy.  She had a lovely, warm, soft tummy and while she weighed a lot more than her size suggested, we got along very well.  I chatted to her as we walked along, Graeme close by with the shovel in case she slipped or started to object to being a few feet above the ground.  We talked about my preference for my garden they way it was before her visit, puggles she may have in the future (puggle is the name for a baby echidna) and how impressed I was with not being skewered by her spines.  Admittedly it was a one sided conversation but I'm sure she took in all I said.  Whether she agreed with my views on a neat and tidy, un-dug garden I can't say.

Our visitor and me having a chat as we walked to her new exploration area of the farm.

We finally stopped on the other side of our shearing shed where there was a whole paddock she could explore and hopefully, tasty ants she could munch on.   The main feature of this spot from Graeme's and my point of view was its distance from our house yard.  I must admit that had she confined her gardening skills to areas of grass or even under shrubs I would have welcomed her as another member of the menagerie, but my garden areas just weren't going to survive a prolonged visit from this young lady so I sadly placed her on the ground as gently as I could, once again thanked her for her good manners in not spiking me and watched her amble off to explore more of Spring Rock.

I just hope for my garden's sake that she finds somewhere she likes better than at the bottom of our porch steps.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Tablet Time

Finally, after months of battling with Aslan to take his tablets for his wonky shoulders, his old style ones are back in stock.  The vets’ have been waiting for months for the arrival of these tablets.  I too have been waiting months for the tablets to arrive.  I’ve been given the same medication produced by a different pharmaceutical company in place of the Caprieve but getting these into my beautiful boy has been, as Tigger would say, fraught.

The Caprieve are very small and easily hidden in a bit of cheese.  It’s also possible they taste better than the replacement tablets, but I’m not about to test that theory out for myself.  When I first started medicating Aslan I tried various disguises for the tablets.  I tried tinned dog food – Aslan delicately ate around the tablets and left them sitting forlornly in the bottom of his food bowl.  I tried making a raw meatball with the tablets at the centre with the same results.  Then I tried two pieces of cheese with the tablets hidden in the centre and finally found the ideal delivery system to get tablets into Aslan.

From the time Aslan had his first dose of the Caprieve/cheese combination I had no problems with him gulping down the tablet loaded cheese as soon as it was in his mouth.  The replacement ones I was given are considerably larger and Aslan can tell when there are any in his cheese - damn his doggy heightened sense of smell.  He always takes the cheese (usually with a put upon look on his face) and acts as if all is going to be well this time; he adopts an innocent look on his face and awaits his chance to deposit the cheese and tablets on the floor, but I've learned my lesson. I know that it's a ruse and he will spit out the cheese as soon as I turn my back.  Some days his tongue was very dexterous and Aslan managed to spit out the cheese with the tablets embedded in them and eat the other, tablet free, piece of cheese.  So, I now pop the cheese laden tablet into his mouth, quickly put my hand under his chin and then we wait it out.  Aslan looks at me and I look at Aslan and we see who gives in first.  I'm at a disadvantage because I'm usually bent over holding Aslan's chin while he reclines gracefully on the floor.  Drool is involved of course.  Graeme told me to put my hand over his nose to make him swallow before trying to take a breath - a trick a vet showed us many years ago for another dog who resisted tablet taking.  This has worked for other dogs I’ve owned in the past but these dogs were Kelpies or Labradors or the like.  I pointed out to Graeme that with Aslan’s acres of jowls he can suck air in from the sides of his mouth for as long as he likes and it would take a larger number of hands than I have to cover the entire mouth area of a Saint Bernard.  

While holding his chin to stop him spitting the tablets and cheese on the floor I try rubbing his throat, talking encouragingly to him, pointing out he's never won a cheese and tablet battle yet and that he'll feel a lot better once the tablets are down.  Aslan just looks at me with his long suffering expression firmly in place and refuses to believe that he will never win this battle - maybe, he seems to be thinking, today could be that day.  Eventually Aslan will roll his eyes, heave a sigh of resignation and swallow the dratted tablets.  He pokes his massive tongue out as proof the tablets have gone down and I can now get back to my life. I try to be a good sport and not crow over yet another win in the Aslan/tablet battle, tell him he’s a good boy and give him a pat and a tablet free piece of cheese so he has a reward for doing the right thing.  He knows there's no tablets in this one so takes the cheese quickly and gulps it down.

All this isn't taking part in a calm and casual way.  You have to remember that I also have Cleo up close and personal and Cleo loves both cheese and attention and in her opinion, despite the fact that she's already eaten the cheese I gave her when I came out to start this whole tablet giving process, Aslan is getting far too much of both.  She buzzes around the perimeter of the battle of wills area, nudging my hand to remind me there is more cheese there and she's perfectly willing to take it off my hands or pushes her face into mine in case I haven’t noticed she’s there.  Aslan usually gets a gentle butt in the head to encourage him to get it all over with so Cleo can get her cheese and pats, and of course, more drool is involved.  Now that the smaller, Aslan acceptable, tablets are here Aslan should just go back to swallowing the cheese as soon as he's given it. 

I say “should”, but knowing my puppies I'm not that confident.

I couldn't get a decent photo of Aslan at tablet time with only one hand free so here's one of Aslan and Cleo on a recent day out. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Story From My Childhood

This story took place many, many years ago. I don't actually remember these events myself, but the story was told and retold by those who were there when the family wanted to give an example of my love of animals and championing their cause, or as an example of “don’t mess with Rosemary”.

When I was very young my paternal grandfather lived with us.  He'd lost his right leg to gangrene just after World War II.  He'd been a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp and his infected toe went untreated.  When he came to live with us in the late 1950’s he was quite proficient on his crutches.

As I'm sure no-one will be surprised to read I loved animals back then, my family had already acquired a rabbit, a cat and a dog for my sister and I to play with and love.  This collection of pets wasn't enough for me so in my quest to domesticate as many living things as possible, I'd fill a box with grass and then proceed to fill the box with creatures from the garden.  Our garden was mostly populated with snails so the population in my box consisted mostly of snails.   I took my responsibilities seriously even back then (I imagine I was somewhere around three or four). I tended the snails all day long, making sure they were getting enough to eat and dissuading any escape attempts by gently lifting the snail from the side of the box and placing it on a particularly tasty to snails leaf.  At night, the snails not being allowed past the back door of the house and thus forced to sleep outside, were left there to enjoy their grass and new home.  I could never bring myself to close the box's lid on them in case they couldn’t breathe so one by one the captive snails made a slow but determined gaol break.  I imagine now the heavy sighs emitted by the snails who were regularly caught - a "Here we go again," type of sigh.

I'd come out in the morning, discover that once again the box was snail free and empty out the old grass, line the box with new, fresh grass and go round up the former inhabitants of the box once again.  Keeping snails as pets is something I do remember, so my hobby lasted quite a number of years.  

My grandfather had a different, far less tolerant point of view on snails and used one of his crutches to crushed any poor mollusc he encountered.  He was unwise on these occasions to make sure I wasn’t anywhere nearby.  Apparently there were harsh words traded between my grandfather and me with me trying to convince him that snails were good, kind creatures who didn't deserve to be stomped on by a huge crutch and my grandfather taking the stance that snails were a pest and should be stomped on whenever encountered. Thankfully he left my box of refugees alone while he went on his snail eradication program  For a while we left each other to their opinions and actions but I can't imagine a cease fire was declared (I more than likely voiced my disapproval of my grandfather's actions concerning snails at every opportunity - I was that sort of child).

Then one day I apparently had a brainwave.  I can see myself sitting with my snails, telling them that it wasn't fair that my grandfather might crush them one day if I didn't manage to find them before he did and plotting a snails' revenge on their behalf.  How did I exact this revenge?  Simply; I removed my grandfather’s crutches from his room while he had a mid-day nap and hid them.  

This caused some consternation among the adults when my grandfather woke, ready to get back to his day, and looked to where he’d left his crutches only to find no crutches were be seen.  It didn't take long for the frown up members of my family to find the culprit; my sister would have only been about two years old at this time so carry off a pair of crutches was clearly beyond her capabilities.  There was only one suspect left and all eyes turned towards Rosemary.  I was told to return the crutches and, after pleading the snails' case and finding my pleas falling on deaf ears, I reluctantly gave back the crutches.  I'm sure there was some form of punishment meted out but that part never came into the story when my family was retelling my tale.

With crutches returned my grandfather (who I imagine was more than a little peeved with me) upped his snail crushing endeavours and really managed to annoy me.  I was raised to respect my elders and not argue with them, and while I'm sure I usually did as I was told, there were times when arguments had to be - my initial discussion with my grandfather on the rights of snails, previously mentioned here for example.  Clearly when I took those crutches I'd decided that actions speak louder than words and I wasn't above vigilante actions even at this young age. 

Now that the crutches were returned and my grandfather free to resume snail stomping, I needed to step up my guerrilla warfare if the snails in our yard were to live in peace without fear of crutches coming down on them.  It didn't take me long for my second attack.  This time I feel I must have thought along the lines that if my grandfather was to be convinced that snails were people of peace and meant him no harm he had to get close up and personal with them. 

One night when my grandfather went to bed there was a loud roar and my name was bandied about a bit.  My parents went to investigate the reason for the roar and discovered my grandfather’s bed; sheet and blankets turned back ready for him to get into and enjoy a good night's sleep.  There was a slight hitch to this plan and it had my name written all over it – when my grandfather turned back the covers he’d discovered his bed had been filled with snails. 

Once again whatever retribution was brought down on me by the adults in the house was always glossed over when the story was told, but I imagine it was pretty thorough this time.  My grandfather must have forgiven me at some stage because I remember him speaking to me and that I sat on his knees in his wheel chair when he lost his other leg to gangrene as well.  I was convinced to stop my snail rights activism and my grandfather was allowed to live in peace.  

I don't think he trusted me to have learned my lesson though, because not one of my memories of my grandfather is of him killing a snail.