Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas to All

Everyone at Sprint Rock is ready for Christmas.  The decorations are up, the cakes, puddings and fruit mince pies are made.  The ham is in the refrigerator ready to cook tomorrow and I've moved into my Christmas tee shirts and earrings.

The big news here is that Cleopatra has arrived.  We visited two friends' homes while we were so close to where they live.  Cleo soaked up the hugs and love, fell asleep soon after we arrived at our first friend's home for morning tea and didn't wake until it was time to go.  She was more awake for her visit to our second friend and, apart from disgracing herself on the carpet there she managed to win hearts wherever she went (she was even immediately forgiven for the carpet incident).   She had fun and experienced a lot of new things to see and taste (she tried a rose leaf but spat it out and decided that meat or bones were much better).  Cleo travelled the six hour trip home with a few stops, lots of sleeps and little fussing.  She had her blanket I'd sent the breeder with all her family's smells on them and found comfort in that whenever she started to fuss a bit.  We stopped at McDonald's for an early dinner and I bought a meat patty for her.  I'm afraid to say Cleo has become a McDonald's adict and can't get enough meat patties in her opinion.  I only fed her a quarter at a time with at least an hour in between and she gobbled each portion up and looked for more.  
The cats are less than impressed with the arrival of Cleo, the chooks confused each time she and I visit to collect the eggs.  They stand back and discuss the matter amongst themselves and Eros, the rooster, just waits for this ridiculous ball of fluff to start something.  She never does.  The most Cleo does is snag a piece of the food scraps thrown out for the chooks and hunkers down to have a chew.  She shows no interest in the chooks at all.

Cleo has tried to befriend the cats but they won't have anything to do with her.  They stand back on the other side of the barricade set up to keep Cleo on the kitchen floor and off the carpet (we don't want a repeat carpet incident here) and make rude comments about little St Bernard pups.  Cleo has learned to rise above it and dream of the day she's bigger than the cats.  I keep telling the cats that day is not far off and now is the time to forge a friendship where they have the upper paw.  I'm ignored as only a cat can ignore a human.

The shocking news is that a firm friendship is being forged between Cleo and the ferrets!  I know!  It's got to be breaking all sorts of laws of nature, but the fact is Cleo loves the ferrets and they are prepared to put all their negative St Bernard thoughts behind them and give the fluff ball a chance to redeem the breeds reputation.  Each morning I let the ferrets out of the inside cage before putting them out so they can have some Cleo time.  Cleo and the Gang of Three romp around the kitchen floor and have a great time playing together.  Today Cleo got a little rough and I had to intervene to save a ferret.  Why Jocie didn't just bite Cleo I  have no idea.  Perhaps she realises the fluff ball is only a baby and she was trying for that rare commodity, ferret patience.  What ever the reason, poor Jocie was coming off second best in the game.  I put out a couple of eggs that Cleo had helped collect yesterday for Cleo and the ferrets in an effort to calm the pup and get the friendship back on track.  It worked a treat.   Here is the evidence.  Jocie isn't in the photo but she did join in at the beginning then decided the opportunity for a cuddle with me was better than communal egg eating.

So, cats aside, the Christmas spirit is alive and well in the Spring Rock menagerie.   Graeme is tolerating it all as usual and knowing that "This too will pass".  The family arrives this afternoon with Justin and Savannah coming here for Christmas lunch tomorrow.  I love having them all here and enjoy just sitting back and watching all my kids joking and chatting with each other while the grandchildren play one and other.  Don't get me wrong though, I get very little sitting back and watching time.  My seven grandchildren don't believe an activity is complete unless I'm there in the thick of it too and love that more than anything.

From everyone here - the chooks and Eros, Teddy the horse, Hedwig and Hermes the galahs, Byron, Cecilia and Jocie  the ferrets, Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti the cats, Cleo the baby St Bernard, all the ewes, lambs and rams, Graeme the poor fellow sharing a home with them all, and me - we hope you all have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by those you love and that you have a fantastic New Year.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Introducing Cleopatra

 Cleo was born one week ago today.  Here is a photo of her having breakfast with her siblings.  As you can see Mum has her paws full with this lot.  In case you can't identify each little body there are ten pups tucking in there.

Any why am I singling out just one of the ten gorgeous little blobs?  Cleo is mine!  I've put the deposit on her and will pick her up as soon as she is old enough or as soon as harvest is over - sometime around Christmas hopefully.

Cleo's first close up - aged four days old - with a sibling offering advice - "Make sure the camera gets your best angle."

A morning of drinking breakfast followed by a photo shoot is just exhausting.  Especially when your eyes aren't even open yet!!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Spring Is Here

 It's been a while since I wrote anything about the Spring Rock Menagerie.  I just haven't felt like writing since the loss of my two gorgeous pups.  It's time to move on and get back to letting you all know what is happening here.

The three cats, Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti are all well and enjoying life now that the weather is warming up.  Don't get me wrong, they enjoyed life during winter, but rarely left the immediate vicinity of the heater or their snuggle beds in the bathroom.  Tristan is going down rabbit holes again and returning home at night with his ears full of rabbit fleas.  Rabbit fleas are more like ticks than fleas in that they burrow in to his ears (they don't go to any other part of his body) and Graeme and I are able to remove them all by using tweezers.

The ferrets are well and enjoying their new hammock I made for them.  It's a hard life when you wear out your hammock.  They too are enjoying warmer weather and sunbathe - either in their hammock on lying on their sleeping bag on the cage floor.  I've pulled back the weather protection so the sun can get in and the ferrets are in heaven.  Life for them in the house is much as it always is - sleeping in their inside cage each night and having a run around the house after Graeme has left it, honouring the Graeme/Ferret Treaty of 2003.

Hedwig and Hermes, the galahs are getting into the whole Spring is the time for love mood and galah hormones are strong in the air.   They build and rebuild their nest on an almost daily basis.  It's never up to Hedwig's high standards so it's pulled apart despite Hermes' protests and work in begun once more.  Hedwig has taken a severe dislike to my pink garden clogs and attacks them every time I go in to feed them.  She still loves the rest of me so I think she thinks the clogs are another female galah come to steal her mate from her.

We've had some major drama in the chook pen.  A fox visited late one night last week.  Thankfully I was awake and went out to deal with the matter.  I couldn't see because I didn't think to take a torch with me in my mad dash for the chookpen, but Graeme, the more clear thinking of the two of us, arrived with not one, but two torches for us shortly after I scared the fox off.  The fox had caught one of the girls but she was only injured.  I placed her in the nesting box for the night and checked her out in the light of day.  I think she'll make it.  She's the boss hen and loves to sit on my lap when I feed the chooks.  From that vantage point she lords it over the lesser hens while she nibbles on whatever offering I've brought the chooks that day.

Once the chooks were calmed down that night, I lectured the girls on the advisability of sleeping in the protected nesting box instead of over near the gate but sadly one of the girls didn't listen and the fox came back later that night.  He/she dug under the gate (the only unreinforced area of the chookpen) and grabbed the hen who liked to sleep there.  We've now placed bricks under the gate opening and the fox can no longer find a way in through there.  We know this because he/she came back the next night with thoughts of another easy chook dinner on its mind and after scratching around trying to dig under the bricks, gave up and went off to find some other sort of dinner.

I take advantage of the milder weather most days and let the chooks out for a scratch around the yard.  I sit on my garden seat under the old apricot tree and guard my gardens from marauding chooks in search of worms. I place the injured hen near my seat on the best bit of chickweed and she and I pass the time of day while the other girls and Eros forage for treats.  Eros, ever the protector of his girls, never eats a tasty treat he finds.  He makes a little "brook, brook" noise and the girls come running from all points of the compass to devour whatever it is he's found for them to devour. 

Spring also means our Blue Wren family are out and about.  This morning was the first time I've seen the new crop of babies out and about with mum and dad.  Three babies were hopping around under the protective eyes of both parents this morning, tasting the delights of the mulch heap, the spring grasses and generally enjoying life out and about on a fine Spring morning.

I never have my camera with me when I see the Blue Wren or his family so I've turned to Google to find some photos of other Blue Wrens for you all.

Male Blue Wren
Female Blue Wren (should I call her a Blue Wren when she's not blue?)   

We first met the male Blue Wren a few years back when he moved into our garden.  The first year he seemed to be all by himself.  We didn't see any signs of little brown mates for him.  The next Spring we noticed he had a mate and before long a family to show off to us.  He adopted us as his family that first year and now most mornings he arrives at the kitchen window to say hello.  He taps on the window and flutter about while we exchanged morning news.  If he doesn't find us at the kitchen window he'd fly to the lounge room or family room windows to check on our whereabouts.  It drives the cats mad.  Only the male is brave enough to come close while we are near the windows.  One year his son seemed to be building up confidence to come look at us too, but once his blue colours came in he left the area in search of his own mate I suppose.

The little male follows Graeme around the farm yard near the house and just likes to know what's going on.  If I am out in the garden and near the wormwood bush they call home he and his mate take up spots on the lilac shrubs where they can see what I'm doing.  The male is brave enough to get quite close, but his more timid mate fusses and worries so much he soon returns to her.

He's a good husband and father.  I've noticed that each morning he flies out of the wormwood and lands on our tall potted jade plant in the front garden.  He sits at the top and waits.  Next his mate appears and flies down to the garden and has breakfast while the little boy stands guard.  When she's finished and returned to the wormwood and her babies, the male Blue Wren then has his breakfast.

Last year there was a minor skirmish for the ownership of the wormwood bush.  It seems to be a prime piece of real estate as far as small birds are concerned.  It's very dense and covers a large area of our front fence, so whoever owns the title deeds to the bush has a commanding view of the front garden.  A Willy Wag Tail moved in and tried to take over the ownership of the wormwood.  At first the little male stood up to him all by himself and I was worried he was outgunned.  The Wag Tail was a larger bird and the Blue Wren looked to be fighting above his weight.  I was just about to go out there and explain the rights of ownership to the Wag Tail when the Blue Wren's family came out of the bush and lined up on the fence against the Wag Tail.  It was a short, noisy battle after that and the Wag Tail conceded defeat and went off in search of an easier won home.  There are other wormwood bushes in the garden so I wasn't worried about him finding shelter elsewhere.
Willy Wag Tail   

 Spring is a great time of year at Spring Rock. The canola is in flower, my garden is starting to look more like a garden and less like a wasteland and my menagerie goes a little do-lally with the warmer weather and spring induced hormones.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

So Sad

It's been four weeks now and this post is still difficult to write.

Four weeks ago both my beautiful dogs died.  I can't go into the details without bursting into tears again - it's enough to say they are gone and my heart is broken.

I miss my beautiful girls and still find going out the back door difficult.  It feels empty on the back porch without my dogs to greet me and wait somewhat impatiently for me to give them pats and/or belly rubs.  Visiting the toilet unaccompanied hasn't happened to me since we moved here sixteen and a half years ago.  Now I just feel lonely while I'm in there.  I no longer like to wander around my garden because I don't have my furry entourage with me, making suggestions for improvements (usually the need for more holes they'd be happy to dig for me) and smelling all the interesting smells.  

I miss their antics and their beautiful faces.  The look Athena would give me when she thought I'd lost the plot (usually when I tried to get her to fetch a ball or rowsed on her for some misdemeanour).  I miss Demeter's frenetic personality - always on the go and always into mischief.  I even miss the mess she'd create in the laundry each night if I forgot to hide the toilet paper before we went to bed.  The laundry floor stays clean and tidy and I hate it.  The dog blankets are clean and folded, sitting on top of the dryer - a constant reminder that they aren't in use anymore to provide a bed for tired dogs.  I wish I had room to store them out of sight.

I've put everything of the dogs' I can out of sight, but occasionally I'll come across a chewed bone or toy that was hidden away.  I can't bare to go near their little treasure troves where they stored any treat or plastic object they'd stolen.  They thought their treasure troves were such a secret and were always suprised when I went straight to them when looking for a lost item.  They'd rush after me and then fuss around their beloved possessions while trying to deny any responsibility for whatever I found there.  Our shoes always ended up there while both dogs assumed an air of innocence and denied all knowledge of how they'd got there.

They were so young and had so much potential.  They were already wonderful pets and time would only improve them even more.  They tried their best to please despite their tendency to break the rules.  When they did they were always very sorry.

I just want them back.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Tale From My Childhood

I was admiring my teapot collection with my family when most of them visited on Mothers' Day last Sunday and my newest daughter in law Savannah hadn't met my prize possession in the collection - my snail teapot.  I told her I had a real love of snails when I was young and my mother bought this teapot, a creamer, sugar bowl and salt and pepper set, although only the snail teapot survived. I used to keep snails as "pets", putting grass and leaves in a cardboard box and collecting snails from the ever abundant source of the agapanthas hedge at the side of the house.  I'd often leave the top open so they had plenty of air or close part of the box up, but every morning my pets had scampered back to the agapanthas hoping like anything they'd be undisturbed from now on.  If they had any sense they would have moved to the very back of the plants where my little arms couldn't reach, but who knows if snails have any sense.  Savannah hadn't heard about this childhood love of snails so I realised she wouldn't have heard about my associated childhood sins where snails were concerned.  I thought I'd share the story with you too.

My grandfather was a prisoner of war during World War II and due to poor hygiene at the prison camp, later had to have his legs amputated.  He had one leg for a while and used crutches to get about. Although I was too young to clearly remember him at this stage very vague memories exist, but they are like old silent movie snippets - silent, grainy, short and disjointed.  He lived with us and was a keen gardener as much as his abilities allowed.  One of the things he could do was crush my beloved snails with his crutches.  As I say, I don't remember him or the following story.  I was regaled with it regularly in later years by my mother, who didn't get on well with my grandfather when he lived with us.  I sometimes think she bought the snail set more as a memento of my poor grandfather's torment by a snail loving granddaughter.

As the story goes my grandfather went on one of his snail eradication programs one morning, killing a number of poor innocent snails.  Whether I protested at the time is lost in history, but I can't imagine I just stood there and let it happen.  I was as great an animal lover from early childhood as I am today and I'm sure I would have tried to protect the beleaguered snails.  I do have a very faint memory of standing by my grandfather, who towered over me leaning on his crutches.  My little hands are on my hips and we are in the front yard near the bountiful agapanthus.  I am looking way up at him and having my say as he looks down at me. What was said between us is a mystery, but I was clearly not happy.  As my mother told the story, I was more than not happy and decided to take what revenge I could.

I must have been an enterprising little thing.  While my grandfather was sleeping I sneaked into his bedroom and stole his crutches left lying on the floor in easy reach.  I then hid them somewhere very clever for a small child, because no-one could find them.  I, of course, was the only likely suspect, and caved under interrogation.  The crutches were returned and my grandfather resumed his snail eradication program.

I obviously then settled down to give the problem some thought and the solution I came up with was diabolical.  I imagine my thought process went like this - my grandfather killed snails because he didn't understand what innocent creatures they were, not to mention what great pets they made.  How to get him and snails together on a social basis rather than a murdering one was probably a big stumbling block for me.  My solution?  The story that has come down through history is that I made my usual collection of a box full of snails, marched into my grandfather's bedroom when no-one was looking and filled his bed with snails.  I carefully pulled up the sheets and let things develop on their own accord.

My grandfather's reaction and subsequent retribution against me (and I'm sure there was some punishment attached just as there must have been after the crutches incident), are also lost to history.  My mother tended to gloss over that part of the story.  The punishment must have been effective though.  There are no further stories of my grandfather being harassed by one very small, very determined granddaughter.

Of course, soon after these events, my poor grandfather had his second leg amputated so his snail crushing days were over and I was left to fill my boxes with snails.  They were of course free to return to their lush green home in the agapanthus and make many more little snails for my future enjoyment.

Many years later I discovered my mother in law teaching a very young Rebecca to step on any snail she found.  I protested that we didn't kill snails.  My mother in law looked exasperated and said, "Well someone has to teach her!"  I decided not to argue - my mother in law wasn't the sort of woman where you could win an argument anyway, but once we got home I simply told Rebecca that snails had the right to live to and WE didn't kill snails in our family.  Rebecca nodded wisely and eschewed any further snail carnage.

The salt and pepper snails we used to have.  These ones are at http://www.sandyshores.net/

The lost creamer and sugar bowls also found at http://www.sandyshores.net/

Monday, March 11, 2013

Happy Birthday Athena

Last Thursday Athena turned one year old.  I made a big fuss of her, gave her a couple of extra Smackos (Athena and Demeter are seriously addicted to chicken Smackos) while singing Happy Birthday to her.  I know I'm no singer but Athena actually stopped eating to look at me.  She cocked her head to one side, lifted her ears and gave me a look that asked what I thought I was doing.  I offered another piece of Smackos as I finished the song and Athena decided her priority was scarfing down the treat no the dreadful noise I was making while feeding it to her.

Today is set aside for bath day.  Actually each day this week has been set aside as bath day and I've chickened out.  Athena has been swimming a number of times a day every day for a while now and her coat is looking less than pristine.  She upped the anti yesterday by rolling in something dreadful.  She took Demeter along with her, but Demeter seems to have only paddled around the edges (most likely with Athena rolling in it there wasn't enough room for her too), so Demeter is also scheduled for a bath. 

No photos I'm sorry.  I can't get the photo part of Blogger to work at the moment.  The page just won't load.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Puppy Update

I've had a few people write and ask me for an update of the pups.  They are both doing well and quickly finding there own special places in the family and in my heart.

Athena and Demeter are the best of friends. Seeing the two dogs roaming around the back yard looks quite comical considering the size difference.  Athena lopes along at a normal St Bernard pace and Demeter scampers along at a very non normal Border Collie pup pace, but has not trouble keeping up.  She does seem to need more sleep than Athena though and I wonder whether it's not all because she is so much younger and her faster pace in life has something to do with it.

 Athena is very concerned about the size difference and is very careful not to hurt Demeter.  This has resulted in Demeter taking unfair advantage and we often have to rescue Athena from the tiny pup.  It seems Athena has very tasty ears and it has to be said, a temptingly large area of  them.  She is so patient with Demeter.  A few days ago I was in the kitchen watching them through the window as they played.  Demeter was trying to jump up to attack Athena's ears as usual.  She was getting frustrated with not being able to reach.  While I stood at the window and watched, Athena lowered her front end, in the classic downward dog yoga pose, to get down to Demeter's level so the game could continue.  It quickly turned into a wrestling match with Athena lying on her back while the little black and white ball of energy attacked various parts of her body.  At one stage Demeter attached herself to Athena's ear and Athena couldn't do anything to dislodge the pup. She tried moving her head from side to side, but Demeter hung on tightly.  Athena tried batting the pup off and despite the huge paw brushing at her gently, Demeter continued to hang on tightly. Of course there was lots Athena could do if she lost her temper or hurt Demeter but Athena never has so far.  I tapped on the kitchen window until Demeter realised she'd be in trouble if she didn't let go of Athena's ear.  I'm pretty sure she was hurting Athena, because when they got back to their game Athena wouldn't bend down to Demeter's height again, although she was happy to keep playing as long as her ears were a safe distance from sharp puppy teeth.  Still, the little episode didn't damage the friendship at all.

They are a force to be reckoned with in the back yard and are always extremely excited when I go outside.  I spend quite a while fending off bouncing puppies and leaning St Bernards before I can move a few feet away from the house. I am always escorted wherever I want to go outside.  If I manage to sneak out without them seeing me, there is a mad scramble to get to me as quickly as possible once they notice I'm outside.  It's nice to be loved.  

Both girls continue to steal boots and anything made of plastic including my gardening clogs.  Thankfully they have the three treasure trove spots in the garden and it's usually a matter of checking these out to find the missing items. Strangely, Graeme's work boots rate their own, fourth spot in the yard, well hidden among a little bushy area in the corner of the front garden. Boots they don't chew thankfully, just steal and drool on.   I've had one pair of gardening clogs ruined and the second pair (bought to replace the first) severely chewed.  We try to keep them up out of reach but old habits on our part die hard.  We are used to being able to leave our shoes on the bottom of the shoe rack and have them remain there unmolested.  This is no longer the case.  Plastic on the other hand is destroyed if we don't rescue it quickly enough.  The kitchen hand broom is the latest casualty.  Graeme used it outside on the porch when moving the back door for our kitchen renovations.  He turned around and couldn't find the hand broom anywhere.  I found it up near the chook pen.  Suffice to say I've put a new hand broom on the shopping list. 

Athena has taught Demeter the joys of swimming in the dam.  It's usually just a wade out until Athena's tummy gets wet, but that relatively shallow depth is a full on swim for Demeter to keep up with her much larger best friend.  Most mornings I am greeted by two thoroughly wet and happy pups.  Now remember what I said about how glad they are when I go outside?  Add that exuberance to the muddiness and sogginess of the pups in the early morning and you can see that mornings are fraught with problems.  Our toilet is in the laundry outside the back door so there's no avoiding the muddy paws first thing in the morning.  

Yesterday Athena and Demeter seemed to spend most of the day in dam.  It wasn't a particularly warm day and actually rained from time to time, so what the attraction was I can't tell you.  It seemed every time I saw the girls yesterday they were happy and soggy, wanting to share the wetness with me.  Demeter went one better than Athena at one stage.  It looks like they came out of the dam in a particularly silty area.  Athena's huge feet were coated in grey, slimy dam silt.  Demeter on the other hand was covered from the tips of her paws to the top of her tummy in the slimy, mucky stuff and she couldn't have been happier.  She had the hide to rush up to me, yucky tail wagging furiously, and throw herself down at my feet, exposing the disgustingly filthy tummy and requested a tummy rub. I told her there was no way that was happening despite her hopeful looks and furiously wagging tail.  Demeter couldn't believe that her cuteness didn't outweigh the yuckiness, but no amount of cuteness, and there was plenty of that, would have had me touch that tummy!

I'm going to have to try and get some photos to share with you all.  Photo taking is difficult to almost impossible because as soon as they see me they stop doing whatever it is I want to photograph and come over to bounce or lean all over me.  I don't seem to be able to sneak up on them.  They must be constantly on the watch for one of us to come out and play with them.  I will persevere though, so stand by for some less than pristine, but extremely happy pup photos in the future.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Introducing Demeter

I have been trying to convince Graeme we need a second dog ever since our lovely Dione succumbed to old age shortly after Christmas.  Graeme has of course resisted.  A few days ago he mentioned going away for a few days and I pointed out either Athena would have to come with us or she'd need a friend to keep her company.  After just a little thought Graeme opted for the Get Athena A Friend option.  I threw myself into action before he could change his mind and searched the agricultural newspaper for Border Collie pups.

I have wanted a working dog for myself when I help in the sheep yards.  With my back injury I'm severely limited in how much I can help, but with a four legged assistant I should find it a much easier and less painful job.

Yesterday I rang the dog owners from the first ad I found but all four male long haired Border Collies were sold. I looked in the Rural and found another lot of Border Collies - these ones smooth coated. They had two females and four males for sale and were in Wagga. Yesterday was the best day for the owners for us to go see them so we headed off straight after lunch.  After a short discussion before we left we decided there were more advantages to a female pup than a male pup.  Females, in our experience, tend to be a bit more sensible.

Choosing between the two cute female pups was difficult but eventually one pup seemed to show a bit more independence and interest in her surroundings.  The owner told us she also had the best voice (important when working sheep) so she was our choice.  I apologised to the other pup for slighting her and told her I hope she found a good home with someone else (earning a strange look from the owner).

We are now the proud owners of Demeter (Greek goddess of crops and harvest - very appropriate huh?). She and Athena made instant friends. Demeter was glad to see another dog and Athena has wanted a doggy friend ever since Dione died. Demeter has no problems with being followed around by a giant puppy and Athena is besotted and gob smacked that dogs come in such small packages. She met a whippet yesterday when the people came to buy a ram and thought that was on the small size for a dog, but Demeter is tiny!

Speaking of the whippet - the poor little girl got a grass seed in her side a while back. She's had five operations to remove it as it travelled under her skin. She now has to see a specialist vet at Charles Sturt University Veterinary School because the seed germinated inside her and she has multiple lumps and infections in her little body. She looks healthy and happy, but of course the germinated seed has to be located by ultrasound and removed. Her owner told me the total surgery bill (counting the previous operations) will come to over $2,000.00.

It's been 15 years since I've had a tiny pup and that was Dione and Juno who had their mum with them all through their growing years. It's ages since I've had to look after a sad little pup who misses its mother, but Athena is doing a good job in keeping Demeter company and making her happier to be here. Last night they curled up on Athena's rug together and slept the night away without so much as a whimper from Demeter.

Taking photos was an adventure in itself. Then getting the two dogs to smile at the camera at the same time took me back to my kindergarten teaching days. So photo quality isn't great. Anyway ... presenting Demeter Small aged nine weeks (that collar was the smallest size we could buy without insulting her by buying a cat collar).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Update On Athena

 Athena loves her new home.  She's settled in and established two treasure troves in the yard.  These are where she keeps things that are good to chew, like old ice cream containers, chew toys I've bought her and  and is where we go first to find out missing shoes.  One treasure trove includes and entire pelvis of one of our long dead sheep so it's clear Athena has big ambitions for her treasure troves.

I've tried to keep them a secret but Athena discovered one of our dams on Saturday. 


Of course once you've had a good swim in the muddy dam water the
thing to do is roll in the dirt to seal the water in.
Such a happy face.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Introducing Athena

For weeks the back porch has been a place that made me sad.  Whenever I opened the kitchen door and there was no Billy to greet me I felt my loss of him all over again.  It took me  a while to get used to not seeing his gorgeous face around the place but slowly I got used to it.  I still miss him dreadfully, but I don't get a shock when I open the door and he's not there anymore.

Spring Rock has added a new member to the menagerie.  After Billy's death I wrote to a number of St Bernard breeders to ask if there was any possibility of purchasing a pup in my very limited price range.  I told them a little about Billy and my sadness in losing him in an effort to show them any pup who came to live here would have a good and loving home.  Most replies said I had no chance of obtaining a pup at my price.  Two replies from two lovely breeders said the same, but offered me older female dogs they'd kept to breed with when they were old enough at a very reduced price.  I responded to the first offer as soon as I convinced Graeme that what we needed was another St Bernard.  Graeme was quickly getting used to a one (very old) dog situation and I'm sure started to think of the future with no dogs at all.  Graeme didn't take much convincing when I told him the price difference between a pup and the nine month old dog offered to me.The fact that she was an eleven hour drive away from here and that we had only two days we could spare before 2013 to pick her up presented a challenge, but after a marathon drive to South Australia in one day and a second marathon returning home the next, complete with very reluctant dog in the back of the car, Spring Rock once again is home to a St Bernard.

Athena aged six weeks.  She was known as Paris then.  I didn't know here then but these baby photos are too cute not to share.

Athena, then known as Paris,  was less than enthusiastic about accompanying us home.  It took her two owners plus Graeme to get her into our four wheel drive with Athena protesting and resisting all the way.  Once in she cast accusing looks all round and adopted the mien of  a martyr, ignoring my assurances that it would be all right and she was going to be well and truly loved in her new home.  "Sure, sure, sure," I could almost hear her say, "I'm well and truly loved here so why should I sit in this strange car?"  She didn't know what was going to happen but she knew she wasn't going to like it.  Athena stuck to her guns for about half the trip.  She refused to associate with us and took a lot of persuading (in the form of being bodily lifted into the car by Graeme)  to return to the car after comfort stops.  She refused all offers of food and water while every fibre of her being expressed a desire to be returned home.  Then, as we neared Balranald everything changed.  Athena seemed to come to the realisation that we were all she had and if we were all she had then she'd better be our best friend.  Once this decision was made she threw herself into the role of best friend with gusto.  When we stopped for comfort breaks she greeted us at the tail gate with licks and a  wagging tail.  She drank all the water we offered and even tried to eat the treats we offered.  These were new foods to her and she couldn't quite bring herself to eat them, but she took them into her mouth and held on to the pig's trotter or Smackos with good will.  She even co-operated in getting back into the car although this process still required a lot of grunt work on Graeme's behalf.
Athena aged ten weeks.

Once home there was little more to do than inspect her new back yard, briefly meet a few members of the menagerie (there was much eye rolling among the established menagerie members at the site of another large drooly dog) and settle down for the night in the laundry.  I expected whining and howling or some other evidence of not wanting to be there but thankfully Athena spent a quiet night sleeping the hours away.

In the morning she threw herself into investigating the house yard anew.  No spot went unsniffed and no menagerie member went unsiffed either, with the exception of the galahs and chooks - they wouldn't present themselves at the cage wall for sniffing.  Athena and Dione, the ancient kelpie, were undecided about being friends at first.  They'd bump noses and both jump back like they'd had an electric shock, but both were happy to express good will towards the other.

Later that day her world started exploding with people.  We celebrated Christmas the weekend before the actual day this year and the family arrived on Friday afternoon and night.  First to arrive were Frances, Joshua and our four granddaughters who, after Hannah's experience with Billy and her gumboots had vowed to keep a close eye on said gumboots this time.  Athena at first wasn't too sure about all these new people, after all she was still getting to know the two tall people who pupnapped her.  The little people gave her the most trouble.  I don't know if she'd encountered children before but while all four granddaughters were prepared to be friends and love Athena, she scampered for the hills whenever they came near.  At one point, three year old Molly came around the corner of the house and nearly bumped into Athena.  Molly yelled in fright and took off to the north, Athena yelped and took off to the south.  After that little incident Athena looked to be permanently terrified of Molly.  Whenever Molly appeared Athena made herself scarce.

Rebecca, Grant and the three boys arrived after midnight when Athena was locked in the laundry, sleeping a peaceful sleep after her hectic first day at Spring Rock, so she didn't get to meet the new lot until Saturday morning.  With lots of reminding the grandchildren that even though Athena was on the huge side she was still a puppy so they had to be quiet and gentle around her and supplying Hannah and Erin with brushes to brush Athena's coat whenever they felt like it, firm friendships with the little people were made.  In the end Athena and Molly even made peace and became good friends.

Saturday night saw two more people arrive with Savannah and Justin arriving for our Christmas dinner.  By this time Athena must have thought that people would just keep arriving every day until the farm was full.  She made friends with the two new arrivals and settled down to trying to get to know 13 new people. She was still in the process of getting everyone sorted out and processed into friends when they started disappearing again.  Saturday night Savannah and Justin gave her a pat got into on of those evil, pupnapping cars, and disappeared.  Sunday morning, Frances, Joshua and the four girls did likewise.  Athena was not sure - no good could ever come of getting into a car.  She concentrated her friendly efforts on the boys only to have them get in the last car and disappear, despite her warnings about what would happen if they sat on those car seats.

Life then settled down to a quiet, regular lifestyle.  The ferrets were traumatised by meeting a St Bernard who didn't want to annihilate them.  Where was the fun in slinging insults at a large drooly dog who just smiled at you and wished you good  morning?  The Gang of Three are still hopeful war will break out between themselves and the large dog, but they aren't really expecting it to happen.

A few lessons needed to be learned.  Lessons such as shoes are not for chewing, neither are buckets or watering cans.  One lesson that Athena found very surprising was that food that is actually in Dione's mouth belongs to Dione.  At first she'd sidle up to Dione and simply pull on the end of the bone or whatever that was hanging out of Dione's mouth and voila!  it was hers now.  Dione would object, but not very strongly.  It was my reaction that brought home the new rule and Dione was then left to full ownership of whatever she had in her mouth.  Food on the ground at Dione's feet was another matter of course.  Their friendship is progressing slowly.  I gave Dione and Athena a marrow bone each one morning.  Dione sensibly took her bone under the apricot tree only to find Athena following her with her own bone.  Athena thought this would be a good time to have a picnic with her new best friend.  It then became a game of follow the leader as Dione tried to find a private and St Bernard free spot to gnaw her bone.  I ended up having to lock Athena and her bone in the laundry so Dione could enjoy her bone in peace.

That was a week ago.  Now Dione is happy to chew her bones in sight of Athena.  Athena has accepted the what's Dione's is Dione's rule and they are becoming good friends.  Athena is proving to a gentle, loving pup and is making inroads into forging a firm friendship with Graeme.  She helps him work on the car, looking over his shoulder and offering to pass him whatever tool can fit in her mouth.  She follows him around the farm and to and from the machinery shed, always happy to receive a pat or just enjoy each others company.  Graeme is adjusting to having a constant doggy companion. Yesterday she learned that the galahs have a very noisy prejudice about St Bernards. She's decided to keep away from them at the moment, but the chooks have no objection to a large brown dog plopping down and passing the time of day with them through the wire so she visits them from time to time.

So as you see,Athena is very happy in her new home, very loved and slightly spoiled - all the things a dog should be.

Athena as she looks today.