Monday, June 27, 2016

Cleo Loves Loki

Loki enjoying diving into some packing pebbles.

It seems that so many of my stories about life here on Spring Rock with The Menagerie descend into slap stick almost as soon as I begin relating the latest events.  Sadly, this one is no different.

I'm just back from a tussle with Cleo, Aslan and Loki, my albino male ferret.  it began when I was bringing the ferrets inside for the night so they didn't freeze their tiny toes off.  Loki and Pandora begin to panic as the afternoon wears on, convinced that I've forgotten them and they are doomed to enduring a freezing night under the stars.  I think I forgot them once a few years back and I've never been forgiven.  Their outdoor cage is equipped with a sleeping bag made from two layers of polofleece with two layers of wool batting in between besides a number of baby blankets and a piece of old woollen blanket.  I should think they'd be warmer in there than I am inside under my doona, but the ferrets don't like being out at night regardless of the season.  In summer they complain that event he balmiest night is too hot for their delicate little bodies.  Loki begins running up and down in front of the cage door as soon as he sees me coming out to collect the eggs each afternoon.  I can almost hear him shouting, "Don't forget we're here!  Don't forget we're here!".  I always reassure him that I haven't forgotten about him, but he knows how easily distracted I am so he's not convinced until I actually open the cage door and pick him up.

Getting the ferrets out of the cage and into the house entails putting said ferrets up on top of the cage to scamper about and investigate the countryside from their raised position while I get their bedding out to bring in for the night - otherwise fog or rain make their bedding damp overnight.  I wasn't paying enough attention to the ferrets while pulling the bedding out their little cage door - the bulky sleeping bag was resisting coming out through the small opening - and Loki took the opportunity while my attention was fixed on tugging at the sleeping bag to to  expand his area of exploration to the ground below his cage.  He was just mooching around under the cage seeing what might come up on his expedition when a huge black nose came up.  Loki isn't scared of the dogs (actually they are just a little scared of him), so he must have moved closer to the nose to see what transpired, with high hopes that a nipping opportunity would arise.  Loki and Pandora never turn down a nipping opportunity whenever a bit of Saint Bernard presents itself.  What transpired was Cleo thinking a great game was on.  I looked down to find her trying to rub her head up against any part of Loki she could reach.  Poor little Loki was being rolled around like a bit of pastry all the time trying to get his mouth wrapped around a bit of Cleo.  Unfortunately Cleo managed to flip him closer to her and then nothing would suffice than Cleo tuck the little ferret under her and lie down on him!  Loki wasn't keen.  Each time he managed to move out from under the great bulk Cleo would scoop him back in with her nose and try to lie on him again.  I have no idea what was in Cleo's mind.  Most of the time I have no idea what's in Cleo's mind so this was nothing new.  She wasn't trying to hurt him, I'm sure of that because at no time did she try to bite him.  Possibly she likes ferret smell and was trying to get some of that unique scent on her coat.  Possibly she thought Loki would make a comfortable bed.  Your guess is as good as mine.

I abandoned my bedding removal, told Pandora to stay where she was, and tried to retrieve Loki.  Cleo kept placing her body between me and Loki while plonking down on him every chance she got.  I think he may have been biting her tummy when it got close enough because Cleo kept popping up and trying again. As soon as she popped up Loki would move out of being squished proximity only to have Cleo follow him.  This made it difficult for me to grab either ferret or Saint Bernard but eventually I managed to grab Cleo by the collar but couldn't reach Loki with my other hand while clutching Cleo's collar.  I did what I always do in these sorts of emergencies (you may have noticed if you've been following my blog for a while that I often face these sorts of emergencies).  I yelled for Graeme to come help. 

Aslan, who had been sitting quietly on the back porch during all this excitement,  thought this all sounded like good fun and came down to join the game trying to head Loki off while Loki tried to make as speedy and exit as possible while he sought another, St Bernard free, part of the garden he'd rather explore.  I made a grab of Aslan when he got within grabbing distance, latching on to his tail and eventually working my way up to his collar.  I ended up with two dogs in my firm grip watching Loki move further and further from my range, while Graeme wandered out to see what the fuss was about.  I asked him to pick up the ferret while I held the dogs,. There was no point in asking him to pick up Loki, I know that Graeme's response would have been, "Who's Loki?" as the little ferret scurried past him.   

I've mentioned before that Graeme is very anti-ferret.  He's so anti-ferret he is unable to remember their names despite having shared a home with these particular two for about three years now.  While I was asking Graeme to retrieve the ferret Cleo saw Loki heading for pastures new.  She tried bounding under the garden bench we were standing beside, in pursuit of the little white fellow scurrying away from the game.  The fact that she took my  my left hand with her and dragged my poor thumb under the metal support for the wooden seat was not her fault according to Cleo.  I could have let go instead of trying to pull her back. I was beginning to feel like I was being stretched apart with Cleo heading to the left under the seat and Aslan pulling to the right. The result was a very sore thumb for me, a ferret with a fluffed out tail taking a U turn towards the house and Graeme standing, looking down at said ferret trying to find the best way to pick up the fluffed up creature without getting near the sharp end.  Finally I had to hand over the two dogs to Graeme - he's much more comfortable holding dogs or cats while I pick up ferrets - and go get Loki myself.  Loki made it to the back steps and tried ducking behind a pot  but I simply grabbed the fluffed up tail and told him he was under arrest.  Once in custody Loki came quietly, although protesting that he was the victim, not the perpetrator.  My augment was that if he hadn't climbed down in the first place we'd all be inside in the warmth and not nursing a sore thumb or a fluffed up tail.  He stopped protesting his arrest after that.  Cleo on the other hand wanted the game to continue and told Graeme so by jerking on her collar. Graeme demanded that I just get those "damned ferrets" into the house so he could let the dogs go.  It wasn't as if I was taking the scenic route of anything, but I know how hard it is to hang on to Cleo when she wants to be playing with something so I took his demand graciously and went inside after retrieving Pandora and the bedding.   

Which brought me to my next worry - had Pandora had climbed down during all this excitement and I hadn't noticed?  Thankfully she had simply moved to the edge of the cage roof to get a better view of the fun and games going on down below.  I could have kissed her for making my job that much easier.  In fact she did get a kiss on the top of her head for good behaviour.  Pandora preferred to give my neck a little nip to say hello and what took me so long?  Pandora's other name is The Vampire because she always greets me with a friendly, pain free thankfully, nip on my neck when I pick her up.

Loki is now inside his indoors cage in his sleeping bag, snuggled up with Pandora, sleeping the sleep of the exhausted.  Cleo is at the back door hoping against hope that a little white ferret will make his appearance once more and the games can resume. I am taking a well earned rest and nursing a sore thumb.  

Pretty much par for the course at Spring Rock you might say.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lions and Meerkats and Saint Bernards! Oh My!

Once again I've allowed a long time to pass between posts.  Life has been busy here but the menagerie has been surprisingly well behaved.  I think it's just been too hot to get up to much mischief.  I did have a wonderful experience for my 60th birthday (albeit seven months late) when my children and Graeme sent me on a Dubbo Zoo Safari early in February.  Graeme and I spent two very happy days exploring the zoo after hours on one day and before it opened on the next while our group went behind the scenes on guided tours.   I fed giraffes carrots, watched an elephant have a bath, had a lovely chat with a lioness about the difficulties of raising teenagers (she had three teenage cubs to wrangle and boy did they they need a mum who was on top of things), watched hippopotomus eating lettuce heads (they make very quick work of a lettuce), stalked black rhinos in the twilight without success (they were being very shy), but managed to get very close to a white rhino the next morning in a holding yard (he was in the holding yard, we were a very safe distance from the fence) and enjoyed the company of many other African animals.

The lioness chatting with me about the joys of being the mum of teenagers.

To top it all off went into the meerkat enclosure and made friends with some very cute little creatures.  I'm sure they smelled ingrain ferret smells on me and recognised me as a kindred spirit.  One little fellow who the keeper told me was usually very greedy and fixated on getting his meal-worms just sat on my lap looking at me while I talked to him.  Another little girl buried herself inside my shirt and got comfortable for the duration.  The ones who amused me the most were the meerkats who too nervous to sit on people's laps but wanted the reward for doing so.  They snuggled up close to my hip and watched the keeper of the meal-worms closely.  They got their rewards and felt they'd done a good job.

Me and the meerkats.  Note the little girl just heading behind my shirt for a private moment (something very hard to find in the meerkat community).

We came home to more days of super hot weather and have been enduring it ever since.  Thankfully the last few days have been more bearable, but this too lead to problems.  

Yesterday morning I watered the gardens and, as my grandfather used to say, came a-cropper.  I have a retractable hose and while it was zooming into its housing the hose managed to whip my legs out from under me.  I landed on my back, with a sickening thud, across the cement septic tank and banged my head as I landed.  I also seem to have jarred my ribs even though they didn't make contact with the cement.  Thankfully my operated on arm stayed out of trouble.  I had carpel tunnel and ulna nerve surgery on my wrist and elbow the week before. 

I called out to Graeme for help but it turned out he was down in the machinery shed, far too far away to hear. I had just decided that if Graeme didn't appear I'd  lay where I was for a little while until I could get myself up, but Cleo and Aslan had heard me call Graeme and true to their Saint Bernard instincts, came to my rescue.  There may not have been any snow and I may not have actually been skiing, but by God they were going to rescue me.  This was their moment!  This was why the monks on the Saint Bernard Pass in Switzerland had bred their ancestors all those centuries ago!  This was their calling!  Cleo arrived first and instantly went into drool mode (to make sure I remained hydrated?) while Aslan, bringing up the rear at a slower and less determined pace, after a short triage apparently didn't like the look of my neck for some reason.  I couldn't see him very well because I had Cleo's head in my face while she to get her head lower than mine (it's a Cleo thing).  While Cleo kept me distracted Aslan turned chiropractor and put his great big paw straight down on my neck and proceeded to walk over the top of me, putting his not inconsiderable weight behind that paw.  I feel very lucky he didn't snap my neck - as soon as I felt the paw on my neck alarm bells rang in my already ringing head.  I managed to grab his leg as he walked over me to reduce his weight, but a lot of Aslan's weight (and there is a lot of Aslan's weight) managed to get through anyway.  I can still feel the spot this morning where he stomped on me.  I'm sure there's a Saint Bernard paw shaped dent there. 

After the neck therapy Aslan decided his chiropractic job was done and his next responsibility in the rescue mission was to sit and guard me, sharing his body heat and shedding fur on me in case the 35 degree day wasn't warm enough for me.  He cuddled up close and settled down for a nap.  Aslan played little part in the rest of the proceedings.  He had the air of a dog who'd done all he could and having done it was exhausted.  It was now up to Cleo and the rescue victim to get the job done between them.

Of course I don't have any photos of the actual Saint Bernard rescue (I was a little preoccupied with things to think of photos) but here's my latest photo of Aslan just relaxing on the driveway.

Cleo was ready to take up to rescue baton and save me whether I wanted saving or not.  She was still drooling and trying to get her head lower than mine.  As mine was resting on the concrete this was a lost cause on her part.  In the end I wrestled her to the ground with a judo like move and I lifted my head to lay it on Cleo's neck.  She calmed down then and lay quietly under my head content that she had done her duty and shown me I was still top dog in the pack.  With Cleo as a pillow, the dogs and I communed for a while, while I dreamed of a shower to remove dog hair, drool and doggy smell.  What Cleo and Aslan were dreaming of I don't know, but I'm sure they were proud of their rescue effort.  After all my neck was dealt with, I was alive and had my head higher than Cleo's.  What more could a rescue victim want?

Nearly every photo I have of Cleo is blurry.  She was sitting quietly near Aslan and I thought I had her when she saw me with the camera.  The blurry image is because she's just rising to come over and drool on me.

Eventually I managed to use Aslan as a support to get myself up. His inert state meant he didn't offer much help, just a sturdy body for me to lean against as I rolled over and got to my feet, but that worked in my favour for a short while.  My spurt of energy galvanised Cleo into action.  She fussed and pushed and prodded in her efforts to help.  The fussing, pushing and prodding only hindered my efforts to get up, occasionally actually knocking me back down.  Again Aslan proved useful as a soft place to land.  Having only one useful arm wasn't a great help either, but I managed to get up leaning on the ever stoic Aslan and hobbled inside.  The two puppies walking close behind ready to rush to my rescue again should I need it.  Five minutes later, as I was finding clean clothes for the longed for shower, Graeme entered the house.  I gave hima short description of my trials and tribulations and a list of my aches and pains, not to mention Cleo drool and stomped on neck.  Graeme was sympathetic but of course there wasn't much he could do. 

After I showered and felt better with the world I went out and thanked the puppies for their efforts.  They sniffed me all over, adding a new layer of drool, assured themselves I wasn't likely to need rescuing again any time soon and settled down to a well earned rest.

I think they might expect bravery awards in their near future.

I thought you might like this back view of Aslan's tail.  Isn't it magnificent?  And it's his summer coat too.  Stand by for winter coat back end views later in the year.