Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Big Boy II

Chris pointed out to me the other day that Big Boy II, my guard magpie, the one who directed traffic in the food give-away-stakes, had hurt one of his legs, and was definitely favouring it and limping. That made me worry. What does a bird do when it is injured? What may be a small injury to us could be life threatening to a wild creature in its natural habitat.

This is an update on BBII - yesterday, as I looked out on my front deck, I noticed that BBII was nibbling at some food that I had thrown down on the ground for the birds- some of it had made its way back onto the deck, and while he hobbled around after his nibbles, another magpie was standing guard, and chasing away a voracious honeyeater, (if one could consider a honeyeater veracious and yes, ferocious), who was determined to have a go at these scraps.

Don't know if BBII will recover and go on to live a full life, but his 'friend' is certainly determined enough for him. Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jock and Strap

OK! It's their turn! (I've promised them I would give them equal time--I also know that if I sit with them, they will sit patiently and listen while I read this to them--that's the kind of great guys they are!) I'm of course talking about Jock and Strap, our two border collies. (I promise to attach photos to these blogs--they are just on another computer--long story..)

Anyway, Jock entered our life first- we went to pick him up from his family's property, a working property where his grandfather, his father and his mother were all registered and great working dogs. We chose Jock, because he basically chose us--He was a ball of black and white fur and gave great kisses. So we paid our money, were promised our registration papers, and took him home.

We chose the name Jock, as this had been a name linked to his grandfather's lineage. We could picture ourselves walking across the paddocks with our great border collie, Jock, a massive, strong, brave border collie, running in front of us, the fresh air blowing and all would be right with the world. Yeah, well...Jock is handsome--very handsome. We think now that his good looks may have been the downfall of him...perhaps he looked in his water dish one day and realised that with his looks, he should never have to work too hard! So, he didn't.

It's not that we wanted a working dog--but a physically active dog would have been good - in his early days he humoured us, and besides being somewhat obedient, he also allowed us to play with him, and would occasionally fake us out, and let us think he would play catch...he would excitedly chase the ball or the empty plastic bottle (one of his favourite toys), but would return it to a point where we would also have to fetch--Jock wasn't raised a dumb lineage animal--he knew his place in society, we just couldn't figure out where we fit in!

We shared a few 'fitting-in' problems with Jock initially, including teaching him not to eat the plants in the 'botannical' gardens surrounding our home, and especially not to eat the Jacaranda trees- but eventually a healthy respect and love developed between Jock and our family. He is a very gentle and loving dog. (He knows he's on a good thing, and will never have to chase or round up anything, unless he really wants to--and he would much rather relax, and be pampered by his humans, than physically achieve anything.)

Well, about this time, Maddie and I introduced Strap - first to Chris, (This little border collie at the pet store had won the hearts of Maddie and I, and we sure did hope that Chris would crumble too when he saw him). Chris didn't crumble much, but just enough, so we brought Strap home--(I'll let you work out how he got his name--didn't have much to do with his lineage, as in Jock's case..more with humour I think!)

Now about this time Jock was about 4 years old- 28 years old in human years--he had been a much pampered and looked after young gentleman dog, who suddenly was introduced to a responsibility. The first and most important responsibility of his life - a puppy! We have never seen an animal adjust so quickly to the task, but who also matured at an amazing pace--Jock exchanged his virginal playboy ways for that of (somewhat enforced) but patient maturity. He became a great role model, a teacher, and a scolder---Strap both feared and loved him...we interfered with Jock's training mechanisms, when we had to, but watched with great interest as Jock showed Strap how to behave. How to sit before eating, how to obey commands, and how to try to understand the humans and be gentle with them at all times.

So, for the last ten years we have had the pleasure of constantly sharing our lives with these two very different characters--Jock is still a gentelman's gentleman. He still loves smelling my flower bouquets, and checking out my latest purchases before I can get them into the house, and Strap would rather play soccer with you than breathe--they are so opposite--but love each other dearly--and of course, we don't know what we would do without them. Our boys!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I recently received a post on Facebook about an elephant on a special reserve who had made life friends with, of all things, a small white dog! Most of the elephants bonded with another elephant either as girlfriends or mates, so this was an unusual yet very strong bond. This video clip made me reminisce.

About 16 years ago, a small black and white fox terrier showed up at our home. I met him for the first time when I had parked my car in our 4 bay shed - he was quivering behind one of the other cars. I said hello to him, but he was very jittery and timid. I decided to leave him alone. This went on for about a week. Little by little, he became a bit more brave and I became very curious. He was very thin, looking under-nourished, and acting as though he had been mistreated.

After about a week of this behaviour, it became obvious that he did not want to go away, so we placed little bits of food and water out for him by our parking shed. After we left, he would venture out, and eat it frantically. Time passed, and one day I came home from work to find this little black and white dog actually sitting there, waiting for me. I got out of the car, and quietly put my hand out with palm exposed, to let him know I meant no harm. I spoke quietly, and asked how he was doing. He stood and looked at me, as though he was sizing me up--I waited. I invited him to come with me into our backyard, and to my surprise, he followed me. I was astonished! We had obviouly won his confidence.

As time went by, we eventually adopted him, and he became a wondrous part of our family. We named him 'Rex - The Wonder Dog', and he was! There are so many stories about him I could tell, most of them detailing how really wondrous he was, but this story is about Rex and Georgie!

Georgie was our Australian Terrier, a beautiful wiggly body of black and brown fur. She had been sad lately, as her yard-mate, Kurt, our rottweiler had recently passed away. Well, when this little fox terrier came through the shed door into our backyard, and Georgie saw him, there was a bit of sizing up and territory claiming stuff going on - nothing loud or violent, (as our Georgie was a gentle creature)--but she sized him up all the same, just as he had me.

Life went on and Rex stayed with us. As the days and eventually months passed, Rex and Georgie had the most glorious love affair. I feel lucky to this day to have been a part of it. (The whole episode of them needs to written into a much larger story, but I will edit it for this blog.) I would watch them sitting on the driveway in the sun in the late afternoon, and Rex would have his left front paw wrapped around Georgie's shoulders as they watched the end of the day together. He often would lean in and it would look as though he was whispering something quietly into her ear, or just give her a lick on her cheek, smoothing her whiskers. She would just smile back a him. Honestly- I am not exaggerating. They were inseparable. As time went on, Georgie gave birth to 4 of the cutest puppies. Rex was so excited he called out to me in frantic yelps, and as I came running, we saw the last puppy arrive. He was so proud!

Well, a few years passed, and as happens in life at times, we experienced some sad times. My husband John had just died from cancer, and on our return from Melbourne, we found Georgie and Rex waiting for us. It was a sad, but happy homecoming. The next morning, while the girls were still asleep, I noticed that Georgie was acting funny, and I knew I had to get her to the vet as soon as I could. I came inside the house to tell the girls what I was going to do, then grabbed my car keys and headed out towards Georgie. Rex was fretting, and running around, and I called out to him. We both stood side by side and looked down at Georgie, who lay still on the ground. She was dead. We don't know what happenend, maybe a snake bite....but she was gone. Rex was inconsolable.

Later that morning the girls and I dug a grave for Georgie next to Kurt's grave, under the trees in the lower paddock, and buried her. We had a ceremony in respect for her, covered her grave with soil and rocks for protection, and covered that with flowers. Rex stood next to us the entire time. A very quiet dog. As we left her gravesite, we called to Rex to follow us home, as it was getting towards evening, but he just layed on her grave. We left him alone. We knew he would come home when he wanted to.

He never did. Georgie had been his home. Now she was gone. He was too. We never saw Rex again.

"Is there anyone out there?"

This is just a short one---just wanted to see if anyone is really reading my blogs. I hope so...otherwise, I guess I am just talking to myself, which my family tells me I do quite often!

I am having fun writing, which is actually the point in all of this journey. But it would be great to know that I had readers..

If you read my blogs and enjoy them, (that's the important point) please become a follower--that way I know I am writing for someone. That would be a great and wonderous thing to know.

If you don't wish to 'follow' me, I will probably just keep writing anyway, if for no other reason than to frustrate you, and urge you to finally 'follow' or at least make comment, so that you can tell me to stop this incessant writing. So, you see....it's really all up to you!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My little friends

This post will be just a silly one--but I have to talk about my little 'buddies'. For about 18 months now I have consciously been feeding the wildbirds from my front deck--very early mornng is usually a good time, but they also prefer somewhere between 2:00 - 4:00pm in the afternoon-(probably topping up for a good night's sleep.)

I vary their diet, and often provide treats, but over this time I have met some really great characters. My first character was Big Boy--he was a very large magpie, and as soon as I opened the deck door, he was on the railing waiting for me. He would then warble out to the others, and literally about 15 birds of various species would come flying in to feed. I would throw and spread these offerings onto the ground below my deck, spreading them so the area could be diverse, and not over-crowd the 'guests'.

Well, Big Boy loved his job, and I could always rely upon him to notify the others. My 'guests'usually included other magpies, some honey eaters, a couple of top-knot pigeons, some lorrikeets, and occasionally some cockatoos---what always fascinated me was they all shared, and chattered away, like at a large dining table.

Then one day Big Boy just went away. I really did miss him and his mannerisms. We were almost on very friendly terms--I could leave a treat on the deck railing, and he would brave the walk towards me to grab it--at times he almost let me touch him.

Then about 1 month ago I found Big Boy II- not sure if they are related, but sure do hold a strong family resemblance. However, BBII has an attitude problem. He thinks I am feeding just him. If other birds fly in for a treat he literally chases them away! He runs at them with his head down, and his wings spread a bit. I have tried talking to him (My family has become accustomed to the fact that I talk to animals and birds), and I have tried to explain that his life would be much happier if he learned to share. We're working on that issue. Meanwhile, I have resorted at times to feeding the others from our side deck---BBII hasn't realised this yet.

It is so much fun to watch these guys!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just Do It!

I have found that when it came to the really important decisions in my life, I have always just made them. I didn't hesitate, overly think about them, or even try to talk myself out of them--I just did it. And for the most part they have always been the best decisions I could have made. (I don't recommend this technique for the feint hearted, but I have always been willing to live with my consequences).

This prelude leads into my next story. My friends and loyal readers have been giving me thumbs up on my writing in this Blog, and I receive good comments, with 'favourite' bits picked out and talked about. Anyway...some of my stronger supporters have encouraged me to try to publish further than just my email signatures, and Facebook, which, face it--isn't really publishing!

So, last Friday, I took the plunge. I located the contact details for the "Women's Weekly" magazine and "Woman's Day", 2 leading magazines in Australia, and sent them an email, linking my blog. I told them that I was being encouraged to publish. I then went on to say that I would be more than happy to write a regular column for them. Today is Tuesday--they have not come running to me with offers. I ask myself, should I be shattered, or just realise that always following my instincts might sometimes have snags....we'll see.

Footnote: In 1974, when I first came to Australia, the Editor of my hometown newspaper, 'The Burlington Hawk-Eye', asked me to send him my 'Experiences' material for a column in his paper, detailing my adventures in Australia. But, hey! I was busy setting up my life here, teaching all of my classes, and discovering my new country. Even when he asked people from my hometown to look me up, and they did find me and contact me, I still didn't heed his plea to contribute to a column in his paper. I was young and foolish. If I had followed those instincts correctly at the time, those magazines I mentioned previously, would probably be asking me to write a column, instead of me offering to them the opportunity for me to write my 'words of wisdom' in a column for them..that'll teach me, won't it!