Tuesday, January 24, 2023

It's Been A While


It’s been a while since my last post.  Marlowe is now nine months old and has settled in as a beloved part of the menagerie.  We had some fraught times with him in the early months.  

Our doggy medical adventures began with Cleo.  She was losing weight at an alarming rate, had developed a large number of bare, sore and itchy areas on her skin and was basically miserable.  Our vets are wonderful and it's difficult to get an appointment under two weeks away.  While I waited for the appointment day I treated Cleo with various potions to help with the itch, tried various foods to tempt her appetite (tinned puppy food was the only thing she'd eat) and generally spent my days trying to stop her scratching her skin raw.

The vet appointment day finally arrived and Cleo and Marlowe visited the vet.  Marlowe was due for his next booster injection.  The vet blamed Marlowe for Cleo's hot spots and steroid tablets, antibiotics and various other remedies were prescribed.  The medication schedule for the menagerie was both extensive and confusing. Tristan has a daily arthritis medication to add to the extensive range of medicines, but it's still difficult to believe all the medicines were for just two dogs and one old cat.  I ended up writing up a table to help me sort it out.  Here is a photo of what the pet medication hub looked like back then.

The medical adventures continued the next day.

We have two feral, half-grown cats who visit our back porch at night to help themselves to the dog food.  Marlowe has become good friends with Venus, our ex-feral cat, although she still prefers Cleo, who Venus considers to be her dog.   It looks like Marlowe tried to befriend the feral cats.  One Wednesday morning I noticed a large swelling under Marlowe’s chin.  We’d only been to the vets’ the day before as a follow up for Cleo’s hot spots (they weren’t hot spots, but mites, most likely brought into our back yard by some of the rabbits on the farm).  After an ultrasound Jen, the vet, said the abscess on Marlowe’s neck wasn’t ready for lancing and she booked Marlowe in for surgery on the following Monday.  By Thursday night Marlowe was miserable.  He couldn’t swallow and was in so much pain, we decided to take him back to the vets’ on Friday in case the abscess was ready for surgery.

It was a good thing we did because Jen said it would have burst on Saturday night.  Marlowe had the surgery and came home with the cone of shame around his neck and a drain tube in the abscess.  Jen said the abscess had been a lot worse than she expected and went in quite deep – the reason poor Marlowe couldn’t swallow.  Jen said there was still a bit of a lump there but that would disappear over the next few days.  Antibiotic tablets were to be given twice a day. 

 Marlowe after his first abscess surgery

All was well until the following Tuesday when Marlowe was looking down in the dumps that morning.  By lunchtime he couldn’t stand up.  I rang the vets’ saying I was bringing Marlowe straight in.  We couldn’t fit Cleo in the back this time because the car fridge was still in there and there was no time to remove it.  Graeme carried a very sick little Marlowe into the surgery for me, because despite Marlowe still being a little Saint Bernard, he was now too big a Saint Bernard for me to carry.  We were shown into a room immediately and a vet nurse checked Marlowe while we waited for a vet to arrive. 

Amber was our vet this time and couldn’t find a reason for Marlowe’s collapse.  He was running a high temperature, but the abscess lump didn’t feel that bad to her.  We left Marlowe there for a range of tests and wandered around a park in Wagga to kill time before we could pick our little fellow up.  Amber rang to say she’d like to keep Marlowe in for the night and was getting one of the senior vets to consult with her once Rose, the senior vet, returned to the surgery.  The upshot was that the abscess had re-emerged and was in deep once more. 

We returned home without Marlowe and Cleo, who had up until this time tried to convince us she was not smitten with the puppy, went looking for him at the back of the car.  When Marlowe didn’t emerge she went to find her squeaky toy, whined, and mourned him the way she’d mourned the loss of Aslan.  I told her that she couldn’t convince us she didn’t love Marlowe after all, but Cleo was too busy feeling sad.  She remained attached to her squeaky toy until Marlowe returned from the vets’ later the next day.

Rose performed surgery the next day and put a super dooper drainage system in this time.  It had a little suction bulb attached and I needed to empty it a few times a day until it was removed.  This new drain warranted Marlowe wearing an old tee shirt of mine because the cone of shame didn’t work with this new system.  The tee shirt almost lasted the three days before the drain came out, but by the last day Marlowe, who was feeling a lot better, had reduced it to tatters.  Thankfully, the drain was removed and that was the last we saw of the abscess.  Our vet bill that month was eye watering!  We’d had Cleo to the vets’ twice with her mite problem; Marlowe had his final booster injection and then two surgeries, all adding up to more money than I want to think about.  They are worth it though.

 Marlowe wearing my old tee shirt to protect the high-tech drainage tube.

After recovering from their various ailments, the puppies settled down to a firm friendship together.  Soon it was harvest time on Spring Rock and what a harvest it turned out to be!  We, like everyone else on the east coast of Australia, have had a huge amount of rain this year.  This resulted in our paddocks becoming waterlogged and the springs, from which our farm gets its name, were running in all the paddocks, and for the first time, even on our farm driveway.  This necessitated us having to use firebreaks to get off the property and only then if it hadn’t actually rained within the last few hours. There were many days when we couldn't get to the outside world.

As I mentioned in a post from last year’s harvest, I drive the tractor to unbog the header when it encounters wet patches in the crops.  This year I have been called out multiple times a day to rescue Graeme and the header.  The routine is, I’d try to get things done around the house until Graeme rang to say he was bogged, I then drive the tractor out to wherever the header is and Graeme hitches it and our other tractor up and we tow the header out of the bog.  Earlier in the harvest, I would then stay out in the paddock in the tractor while Graeme continued harvesting.  It really wasn’t worth coming back to the house, because he invariably became bogged a few more times that day.  I started taking a book and a travel mug of tea out with me and read the days away.  Eventually I put together all the bits and pieces for an appliqué block for a quilt I’m working on and took an audiobook out as well and I now stitch the day away.  Harvest still isn’t over.  We are usually finished well before Christmas, but this harvest has been drawn out and horrible.  We’ll get there though.

Back to the menagerie – everyone is happy and healthy; Tristan is now 20 years old.  I realised that he’s lived with us longer than any of our children did.  I told Graeme that this gives Tristan voting rights on decisions to be made in the family, and of course, Tristan being English language (or any language for that matter) challenged, I’ll be his proxy.  Graeme is not in favour of this democratic turn of events, but Tristan and I outvoted him.  Tristan spends most of his day sleeping in wherever he feels is the most in the way spot he can find, and Graeme and I arrange ourselves around wherever Tristan has chosen to nap.

 Tristan enjoying his winter daybed.

Ambrosia, Nefertiti and Venus try to race Tristan to his personal bed on one of the lounge chairs.   I made up a little padded spot for his old bones a while ago and Tristan slept most of winter there, but he prefers different sleeping arrangements for summer so isn’t interested in the winter bed.  The other three cats haven’t realised this and I’m sure they think they have won again when they settle on Tristan’s bed while he chooses to sleep in the very middle of the lounge room floor or on my lounge chair, taking up the whole space so I have to find somewhere else to sit so I don’t wake the old gentleman.

Hedwig and Hermes have only had one visit from a snake this summer.  They are enjoying the peace and quiet of not having to call out snake alarms nearly every day as in past years.  We are enjoying not having to go out to the aviary with the snake deterrer and persuade another brown snake to leave the cage.

Freya and Charis, the ferrets are doing well.  They enjoyed the Christmas decoration time in the house.  I always decorate the top of their cage with baskets of Christmas flowers, pine-cones and other little decorations.  I then set the ferrets free each morning to romp among the decorations for a while.  They made little pathways, had competitions to see who could push the most decorations off the top of the cage and generally created mayhem – mayhem being what ferrets are best at.  When the decorations finally came down Freya and Charis were sad to see their little wonderland disappear, but they manage to find other ways to create havoc so all is not lost.

 Freyer and Charis celebrating Christmas

The inhabitants of the chook yard have been playing musical yards.  The chook yard is divided up into three yards – a large, general yard, a smaller, but still spacious yard where Phoenix used to live and the Silkies’ yard, which again, is quite spacious.  When Phoenix died, I opened the gate between his yard and the main yard giving everyone in the main yard a bigger area to use.  

I have three roosters – Opportunity, a beautiful little Silky rooster who was supposed to live with George and Emu, our two Silky hens, Monster, who was an egg Emu hatched (Monster is a Faverolle, Hamburg cross so a very large rooster) and Henry, our Hamburg rooster.  Henry was purchased as a hen and disagreed with the diagnosis of his gender and Opportunity came here to live because he was crowing to loudly in a back yard in my daughter in law's mother's urban home.   

Opportunity lived with the Silky girls for a few weeks and decided life was too quiet in the Silky yard (which just happens to be exactly how George and Emu like it).  He then jumped over the dividing fence, only to find Henry in residence. The fact that Henry is three times Opportunity’s size didn’t faze our intrepid little fellow.  Opportunity bashed Henry up and told him there was more of that to come if Henry still thought he was top rooster in the yard.  Henry, who is not a brave rooster at all, now keeps himself as far away from Opportunity as he can.  If he finds himself close to Opportunity accidentally, Henry will squawk in panic and run to the end of the chook yard.  I’ve tried putting Henry in with the Silkies – they were against this idea and turfed him out.  I’ve tried putting Henry in Phoenix’s old yard, but Henry hates being in there with all the action going on in the other yard, so Henry stays in the main yard and makes sure he keeps out of Opportunity’s way.

Monster began life with the Silkies when Emu hatched him, and was happy to share their yard.  One day he decided to try the main yard, just to see what the other chooks were enjoying.  He stayed there for a few weeks, being bullied by Opportunity and commiserating with Henry.  I put Monster back with the Silkies a few times when the main yard threatened to become a war zone, but the next morning would find Monster back in the main yard.  Then, one day, for no apparent reason, Monster decided he’d had enough of the exciting life and moved back in with his mum, Emu and Aunty George.  Life in the chook yard has now settled down to peace and quiet.  I wish the same could be said of the puppies.

It's all fun and games here at the moment.  Cleo, who is now an old lady, has come into season.  She is nine years old and should be thinking of a quiet retirement instead of putting romantic ideas into silly, young dog’s heads.  I've Googled to see if it existed, but found there's no such thing as doggy menopause.  Marlowe, who is nine months old and in his difficult teenage doggy years, thinks that coming into season was a very good idea of Cleo's.  He hadn’t realised she could be so interesting, but is definitely happy to take advantage of this new situation.  I, on the other hand, am very much against Marlowe taking advantage of the situation.  I have come up with a system whereby I alternate locking one of the puppies in the laundry and giving the other a couple of hours of freedom. 

Cleo is all in favour of being sequestered on whichever side of the laundry door she finds herself - she knows she's too old to consider being a first time mum.  Cleo has reached the age where lying in the sun or shade, depending on the weather, or even better, on the kitchen floor, relaxing her days away and occasionally joining in a game of tug of war with young Marlowe, is her idea of a day well spent. Cleo is looking for a peaceful, old age just whiling away the hours snoozing or eating.  Puppies would mean an end to all the peace, not to mention the dangers of an old age pregnancy.  No, Cleo feels life is good just the way it is.

Marlowe on the other hand is all in favour of teenage fatherhood.  He is full of energy, bigger than Cleo now, and feeling his wild oats – wild oats that he definitely wants to sow.   Marlowe objects strongly to being on the other side of the laundry door to Cleo.  He has stated he doesn’t mind if he’s in the laundry or outside the laundry as long as Cleo is inside or outside with him.  To express his displeasure clearly at having a door between him and his newfound love, Marlowe has nearly destroyed the laundry door, scratching and complaining that just when Cleo got to be very interesting he's no longer allowed to play with her.  Cleo, comfortable on whichever side of the door she finds herself, just rolls her eyes and goes back to sleep. 

Graeme, on the other hand, has no patience for teenage, love-struck puppies who try to tear down the barrier between himself and his true love.  Things are being said.  I'm doing my best to pretend I don't hear those things that are said and just change the dogs over and hope Marlowe learns a bit of self-control.  Thinking back to the human teenage boys I knew way back when, I'm not hopeful about the self-control bit though.

So, as you can imagine, my days have been full.  Is it any wonder it has taken me so long to write another blog post?

 Cleo and Marlowe pre Cleo's season




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