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.