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.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

How I Spent My Morning

How I Spent My Morning

Before I begin I need to let you all know that there won't be any photos in this post.  Recently we had three weeks of over 40 degree Celsius (that's over 107 degrees Fahrenheit) days in a row.  Aslan was feeling the heat more than most members of the menagerie so Graeme and I clipped his fur as short as we could get it.  It was a very unprofessional hair cut, and Aslan looked decidedly moth eaten, but he was a lot cooler and as I told him, that was the main thing.  I also solemnly promised not to take any photos until he was back to his magnificent self with a full coat of hair.  So, a promise being a promise, no photos today.

As I've mentioned previously Aslan has perfect knees but wonky elbows.  I mention the knees because Aslan might feel self-conscious about the amount of attention his wonky elbows attracts otherwise.  Aslan is on twice daily medication and I have been working away at getting the money together for a rather expensive operation to fix his problem.  It's taken a while, but I now have the money ready to spend on my beautiful boy’s elbows.  It's taken me nearly a year to get the money since Aslan's diagnosis and I'm worried that his hips are now failing as well.  There is no way I can come up with the money to have both his elbows and both his knees fixed, so Aslan and I are off to confer with John, our vet, to see what he thinks of Aslan's hips.

Aslan was booked in to see John today but he, John, had a family emergency and had to postpone the appointment until tomorrow.  So, seeing I had the time and it's a nice warm morning here, I decided to wash both the puppies so they'd be a pleasure to have in the car on their trip to the vets' tomorrow.  We are taking both Aslan and Cleo because Graeme got a ramp for the dogs as a Christmas present from the kids and now that it's easy to load and unload two Saint Bernards (Graeme had to lift each heavy weight puppy into the back of the car before he got the ramp) Graeme is happy for Cleo to come out for a drive too.  Cleo loves car rides, regardless of where she ends up on the journey.  Aslan loves the vet and all his fans at the surgery so he too is always happy to get in the car in case that's where we're going.

So, on to washing two large dogs, neither of whom is a fan of baths.  The first job is to gather all items necessary for the ablutions.  One hose with gentle shower nozzle attached, one bottle of dog shampoo, one bottle of dog conditioner (Aslan's fur is usually so long he needs the conditioner, and despite his recent hair cut, his fur is growing back quickly), one bag of beef liver treats - very important or it will be almost impossible to gather in the last essential component of dog washing – Cleo and Aslan.  

Both Aslan and Cleo are very suspicious when I call them over to the clothes line, where the chain is kept.  Nothing good ever comes of being within snapping on to collar distance of the end of the chain.  Indignities ranging from being given a time out to being made to throw up (because Cleo and Aslan happened to get to a mouse bait that was supposed to be well out of their reach), to being bathed.  Not one of these pastimes is to their liking so treats and plenty of them are needed to entice them to the chain.  Thankfully Cleo and Aslan will do almost anything for beef liver treats and so far they have never failed to work.

One hint I can share with anyone attempting to wash two large dogs outside – before you begin the dog washing process take off any make-up you have applied because you thought you were going into town that day.  By the time I had two Saint Bernards in pristine condition, with bright white and beautiful deep red coats, my condition was drastically short of pristine.  I was soaked from head to foot from a combination of a faulty hose nozzle and big, hairy puppies having a shake mid bath -usually while I was bent over close to them washing some part of the dog.  The cuffs and half way up the legs of my pants were flecked with mud splashed up from the hose and my make-up, put on before the vets' surgery rang to reschedule the appointment, was now in a very sorry state.  My mascara was running down around my cheeks and the eye shadow smeared around a bit, giving me the appearance of someone stepping ashore after a particularly harrowing dunk in the ocean.  Yes, the mascara is waterproof but apparently I rub my face a lot when washing the dogs - whether in despair of ever getting clean puppies out of this mess or simply to wipe of excess water I can't say.

Despite my back screaming not to do it, I then cleaned the laundry of all dirty patches where the puppies rub up against the walls and cupboards.  I swept the floor and put their bedding in the washing machine.  It's no use washing dogs if you don't wash their bedding as well.  I kept the cleanest cotton blanket out so Aslan and Cleo could lie on it while they dried out.  I then transferred Aslan and Cleo to the laundry, one at a time, by the simple expedient of holding the treat bag in one hand and grasping his or her collar in the other hand.  As I mentioned earlier Cleo will do anything for the beef flakes treats and Aslan is just a good, obedient boy who would have come with me anyway.  Both puppies were given a share of the treats along with my heartfelt apology for the indignities they'd suffered.  The latter fell on deaf ears (or maybe they couldn't hear me over the crunching of the beef flakes) and the puppies were left in the laundry to dry off.  Drying off in the laundry is a slow process I'm afraid, but with this drought my front and back yards are just dust bowls where there is no garden - not a blade of grass for the wet pooches to lie on.  When Cleo and Aslan are wet and have access to dirt they quickly take advantage of it and roll around in the dust until they are well and truly coated, so the laundry it had to be.  

The state of the nation at the moment is - two well washed and pleasant smelling puppies locked in the laundry drying off, digesting a large helping of beef liver treats and muttering unpleasant thoughts about me (despite my attempts at bribery with said liver treats), one worn out human who needs to lie down to recover and one temporarily clean laundry.  Graeme remained blissfully detached from the whole thing, but will appreciate two clean Saint Bernards on the trip to the vets' tomorrow.  

Update:  We saw John the next day.  Aslan arrived at the vets’ in his new bib, which attracted many compliments from his adoring fans (I’ve included a photo, sans Aslan and Cleo of the new bibs).  Sadly, he agreed with me that Aslan’s hips are now deteriorating too.  John will ring the orthopaedic vet in Canberra to discuss this latest development and ask if it’s worthwhile to operate on Aslan’s elbows. John had two thoughts about this operation – 1.  There most likely was no point now as his hips will get worse to the point that Aslan will be suffering badly or 2. Fixing the elbows may put off the worsening of the hips as his front legs will be able to take more of Aslan’s weight and thus increase Aslan’s life expectancy. 

You can guess which option I’m hoping for.
Aslan's bib is on the left. 

Friday, December 07, 2018

George Is A Mother

I know when you look closely at the photo above you'll want to point out the major differences between George and her baby.  Shhh!  We aren't going to mention it to either George or Aunty Brown, her co-mother.

If you haven't been keeping up with events at Spring Rock or have forgotten who George is, you can read about her early months of life and her camping adventures here.

When Aunty Brown, our aged Chinese Silky became broody yet again I took pity on her and placed some of Isis' duck eggs under her.  Isis isn't showing any signs of being brood, and even when she does, I have plenty of eligible eggs to put under her too.  Aunty Brown has had so many broody times with no fertile eggs under her, that I felt sorry for her and decided she deserved at least one go at motherhood.  She and the other Silkies live in a male free part of the chook yard.  The two Silky roosters, now confined to the aviary because of bad behaviour only managed to upset the Silkies and had them hiding under the nesting boxes  to get away from them.  So with no fertile Silky eggs, and to tell the truth, not wanting any more roosters causing strife in my life (and roosters nearly always do) I decided duck eggs were the way to go.  All three drakes live in harmony with Isis.  There is one dominant drake, Adonis, the lucky fellow developed the neck ring decoration and became top drake, while the other two boys are happy as the beta drakes. I'm hoping any more drakes to come along will also be able to fit in happily.  Time will tell. 

Aunty Brown protected the eggs from all comers for the first few days and was then joined by George (who is only into her second or third broody session).  The two shared the egg incubation duties and day after day sat in companionable silence working away at growing babies.  The fact that I'm sure they thought they were growing little, fluffy chickens may come back to bite us all, but at the moment the little and fluffy boxes have been ticked and the  babies are too little to turn their thoughts to swimming.  

Once the first egg hatched Aunty Brown pulled the age and experience card and became very bossy.  True, she only had broody experience and not mothering experience to wave under George's beak, but she won the day and took control of the duckling.  The next day a little black duckling joined the family and Aunty Brown scooped that one in too, leaving George with the as yet unhatched eggs, with no promise that she wouldn't take possession of any fluffy creatures emerging from those.  George didn't feel compensated and sat quietly weaving her plans.  She came up with her cunning plan yesterday, and frankly I had no faith at all in it working.  She sat as close as she could to Aunty Brown with her wing held out ready to give shelter to one or both of her babies - and it worked!  George scooped in a duckling. When I went down to feed everyone this afternoon, after two days of offering that wing as a fluffy baby shelter she snagged a duckling.  It's very hot outside so I'm surprised her baby enticing strategy worked but the photo above shows her success.  

Aunty Brown is showing that broody experience and age do not necessarily add up to good mothering techniques.  She had her little yellow "chicken" out on the ground while she browsed this morning's sunflower seed offerings.  The duckling stuck close and I was admiring Aunty Brown enjoying motherhood.  Then, as I was about to leave the chook yard I noticed Aunty Brown had returned to the nesting box.  I wondered how the duckling had got back in as it is a fair height off the ground (something I'm going to have to address tomorrow obviously).  I lifted Aunty Brown, no duckling.  I lifted George, just the little black duckling.  I looked around the Silky yard, no yellow ball of fluff.  Then I saw it, outside the Silky pen, introducing itself to D'Artagnon, the big Faverolle rooster.  He was looking down at the yellow ball of fluff and trying to figure out exactly what it was.  I'm sure the duckling thought it had found Dad.  

After a short but spirited chase around the chook yard I managed to get hold of the duckling and return it to Aunty Brown.  Aunty Brown looked at it rather vaguely, remembered she had had a little fluffy companion and surely there was some latent instinct trying to get through that suggested she keep the fluffball close?  So she tucked the duckling under her chest and tried to look like it had always been with her and she hadn't had to be reminded of her motherly duties. 

George just tsked quietly, making comments about old age and forgetfulness under her breath, and knew she'd do better when she took her baby for its first outing.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Tristan At The Vets'

We have become regular visitors at our vets' lately.  What with Aslan's regular visits to touch base with his fans (and undergo a few medical procedures while he's there - but we all know that's not his main reason for visiting the vets') and now Tristan has made his way to the surgery to have a rather large lump under his chin investigated.

Needless to say I was a bundle of worry when I discovered the lump on Saturday a week ago.  I then had to wait until Thursday to take Tristan to the vets' because rain was on the way and Graeme had to get the wheat harvested before the rain spoiled the wheat.  I spent each and every day with Tristan on my lap delicately feeling the lump from time to time and trying to diagnose the problem myself.  With no medical training, but lots of experience with sick and injured animals, I got nowhere fast and my brain kept cycling back to cancer.  I reviewed other possibilities of course but my beloved ginger fellow is 15 years old and cancer kept coming to my thoughts.  Since Tristan has achieved old age he goes outside less and less and hadn't been outside for about a week.  I couldn't see how he could develop an abscess without the help of one of the many feral cats who travel through our farm.

Thursday arrived and Tristan was manhandled into a new, roomy, soft sided cat carrier with a soft towel for him to snuggle into.  Manhandling (or womanhanding is the more correct term - Graeme is never keen on putting cats or ferrets into carriers) was necessary because Tristan is decidedly anti-cat carrier - even new, roomier and softer cat carriers.  Once he was in Tristan didn't take things lying down.  He complained bitterly when first placed in the car and, when loud protests got him nowhere, he decided pathetic little mews would be more effective.  He was right.  His little pleas to be freed from this terrifying place tugged at my heartstrings.  So much so that when we finally arrived at the vets' I opened the top zip and put my hand in to offer comfort.  Tristan saw his chance and shot out of the top of the carrier.  I deftly caught him (years of experience with caged pets has made my reaction time rather speedy) and sat him on my lap rather than undergo the sure to be embarrassing attempts to return him to the carrier. 

Tristan was happy, or at least happier, to sit on my lap and ignore these new, decidedly sinister smelling surroundings.  He actually managed a purr and won the heart of the receptionist by snuggling down on my lap and enjoying pats, back rubs and ear scratches.  Tristan was in a mellow mood by the time the vet came to fetch us.  He politely rubbed his head against Clayton's hand and a firm friendship was building nicely.

Clayton agreed that at 15 cancer was on the cards so it was a relief when Tristan proved to have a temperature.  I've never been so happy to have a pet run a temperature before.  I told Tristan this was good news, but his mellow mood had soured as soon as the thermometer was inserted.  A few scruffs and pats later and Tristan forgave the indignity only to find that a sharp needle had been stuck into his already uncomfortable lump.  When Clayton withdrew pus both Clayton and I celebrated - Tristan not so much.  An abscess was diagnosed and after a goodbye to Tristan and a warning to Clayton that if Tristan presented his gorgeous white tummy for a rub to leave it alone - it's a trap! Tristan left with Clayton bound for surgery. 

My next round of worries centred  on a 15 year old, slightly overweight ginger fellow undergoing general anaesthetic.  I've seen enough vet shows to know how often things don't turn out well for older cats and dogs.  I tried to think positive thoughts but I'm very good at worrying - it's almost my superpower - so my thoughts kept coming back to my darling cat and his surgery.  After what felt like days of waiting (but was actually just a few hours) to hear from Clayton, I finally received the phone call to say all was well and the abscess had been much larger that it appeared (and it appeared to be huge from the outside of Tristan so it must have bee really large).  Tristan was now ready to pick up and take home for further nursing, pampering and wound care.

I picked Tristan up and was run through the very little I needed to do for him.  He had a rubber tube,  threaded through two hold in the abscess area tied in a knot.  All I needed to do was clean the area with a water soaked cotton wool ball when needed, otherwise Tristan was good to go.  Clayton told me I could either remove the rubber drain myself or bring him back to the surgery.  I assured him I was well versed in removing drains, stitches and grass seeds and even lambs from pets and livestock and with a last pat for Tristan Clayton said goodbye.

Tristan has been a model patient.  He was confined to the bathroom on Clayton's advice because of the messiness of his drain, but after a full day as a prisoner amongst the tiles Tristan was stir crazy.  I made a bed for him out of soft rags on his favourite part of the lounge and Tristan settled in and barely moved for three days.  Strangely, on his third day of his recuperation Tristan removed under the Christmas tree.  I wasn't sure what he was up to back there, but with all the presents under the tree and the fact that the branches reach quite low to the floor I couldn't find him.  I found this hard to believe.  As I have said, Tristan is a rather large orange cat, finding him should have been easy amongst red wrapping, cream carpet and green tree branches, but Tristan achieved invisibility and spent the whole day in there.  The novelty wore off though and he returned to his rag bed the next day. 

I took the drain out yesterday morning and Tristan is now keen to get as many scratches on the healing wound as possible.  I know from experience how itchy healing wounds can be so I supply as many scratches and rubs as he wants, it keeps me busy, I can tell you.  He still loves his rag bed and it looks like being a fixture among my decor for a while to come.

This morning Tristan decided that he'd like to venture outside and reacquaint himself with nature.  He indicated this desire by heading me off as I walked towards the lounge room.  Once he had my attention he walked to the front door, sat down and gave me that significant look he gives when he wants to be on the other side of any particular door.  I opened the door and Tristan moved to the threshold, stopped, looked to the right and the left and decided that was enough nature for today.  He then turned around walked to the lounge room and planted himself on his rag bed.  Maybe tomorrow he'll actually put a paw outside.  If not, that's fine.  I'd rather he became a full time inside cat where he's safe from all the dangers of the great outdoors.
Tristan on his rag bed.  I've just noticed he's stolen a Christmas pillow to make his bed more comfortable.