Category Archives: Animals

Challenging behaviour

I walk the puppy in the park for at least an hour every day as well as for little 15 minute strolls along the road.  Mr PinQ takes her for a longer walk down to the beach but at 33 weeks pregnant, that’s a bit much for me to manage so we go out with a flinger, a ball and a bottle of iced water.

To get there, I have to cross the bridge over the Creek and from our house, the best way is via a little pedestrian cut through.  Not 10 metres past said cut through is a path that is split half and half pedestrian and cycle path.  Both ends of the cut through has a no cycling sign:

No Cycling

The cycle path entrances on the other hand, have signs showing that it is a cycle path:

Cycle Lane

There is a clear white line separating the pedestrian and cycle lanes, painted bicycles at each end of the cycle path itself and along the route, several signs to show that there is a split:

Cycling and Pedestrians

Now, as a cyclist AND a pedestrian (and a driver but obviously not along there!) I frequently use said cycle lanes and pedestrian lanes as appropriate – even though it means cycling that extra 10 metres or so *tongue firmly in cheek*.

Today, Puppy and I had just stopped to watch the young foxes play and were proceeding along the cut through when I heard a shout behind me.  I turned around to find a man in his forties on what was clearly a ladies bike, hollering at me to get out of the way.  I refused, turned to face him and stood my ground.

N.B.  I ALWAYS challenge anyone who cycles up there, there are mums with babies and toddlers, elderly people and dogs (with their owners) who use that cut through and are all less able to get out of the way of bikes quickly in a such a narrow space.

I said very plainly: “No.  There is a cycle path less than 10 metres away and this path is clearly signposted as No Cycling.”

And thus began his torrent of abuse.  I can swear with the best of them but it really isn’t a good way to get your point across.  He was calling me a f***ing a***hole and other choice phrases and shouting that if I hadn’t been there, he would have just gone through.  To which I replied quietly, “I know.”

At that, he realised that he had lost and he turned around and went up the cycle path, still shouting abuse.

We met again at the junction of the two paths and in reply to his barrage of swearing and insults I said simply, “Well, maybe you didn’t understand the signs because maybe you just aren’t bright enough.”

He obviously didn’t like that because he stopped on the bridge, got off the bike and leaned it against the ironwork and turned to face me.

I remember my Tai Chi Instructor once telling me about her ‘elephant arm’, where her body took over when she sensed trouble one night.  Mine did.  I got ready for the fight that he wanted.  After all, stopping on the bridge demonstrates premeditation on his part and as a heavily pregnant woman, no-one would have blamed me for kicking seven shades out of him.  Those of you who know me know that I am an absolute puss-cat but you also know me well enough to know that it takes a hell of a lot to make me lose my temper and an awful lot more to make me violent but I would have happily wiped the floor with the little ****.

He squared up to me and began to swear at me again but when he saw my body language and expression and heard me mutter, “come on then” he couldn’t get away fast enough.  It was quite comical.

Puppy and I were then able to have a lovely walk and play in the sun.

The Foxes & The Locals

I love foxes.

I love animals in general.

I spent a little time today watching a vixen and her cubs playing by the creek and a couple of years ago, sat out in the cold for several hours from midnight to watch them play.

I don’t like the over-population locally.

When we moved into this house, it was evident that there were too many foxes.  Their territories are so small and we regularly see them facing off against each other in the road around the corner.

There are no natural predators and the only thing that would keep the population down would be competition for food but that has largely been removed by The Locals.  A woman across the road makes them a fresh sandwich every night, cuts it into triangles, puts it on a plate and places it in the middle of the lawn.  Another person on the same block has a take-away every night and puts the half that they don’t eat out for the foxes.  A lady on our side goes out in the dark specifically to feed them because she likes them.

The constant human interaction has made them completely fearless.  A couple of weeks ago, a fox wandered past me in the garden just giving me a cursory glance.  A gentleman that I regularly see on my puppy walk was telling me that one had gone into his house (before he got his beagle puppy) , eaten a pair of his wife’s shoes and then appeared at his feet in the lounge!

I’m used to rural foxes where a family group can have a territory of up to 40 square kilometres.  Urban foxes can be limited to just 0.2 square kilometres.  Tell me how that is right.

Of course, in May, that spells danger for our hens and rabbits – a rabbit can die of shock just because a fox is sat outside the hutch watching it all night and many foxes will try their damndest to get into coops and hutches.  The hutches and coop that I have built over the last few years are well and truly fox proof (although I was told that wasn’t possible) and there are additional floors and hiding places so that my feathered and furry babies have somewhere to hide if they feel threatened.  I also made sure that there is much more space than they need because I can’t let them all out to play every day but on a nice day, when we are going to be in, the rabbits (and guinea pigs) go out in the run and the chooks have the run of the garden.

Last week, the chickens were out playing and pregnant-tired, I nodded off but awoke as soon as heard them calling an alarm.  I left the puppy in the cage and shot outside to find a fox in the garden, as brazen as you like.  I managed to get a couple of the girls to go into their house where they would be safe but three wouldn’t budge, so I made the decision to run and get the puppy.  By the time I got back outside, the fox (a vixen) had come back into the garden and had Lucinda in its mouth.  I made it drop her and between us, puppy and I scared her off.  I picked Lucinda up and although she was uninjured, she was in severe shock and died in my arms within minutes.

Now, people say, “They only kill for food.”

They don’t.  When I lived in the countryside, I would walk the dog over the hills every day and in the Spring, seen every lamb in a field slaughtered overnight.  Lambs that I had fed just the day before.  The fox only took the one to feed the family.  It’s a pretty stupid animal if you think about it – why kill off an entire food source in one night?!  I’m not even going to go down the road of the plight of farmers with only a small, family farm and the ridiculously small amount of money that they get per lamb at market.

I grew up as a Townie living on the edge of the countryside and didn’t know much about foxes, agriculture etc so it was years before I could make a genuinely informed decision about my feelings on hunting and despite everything, I still don’t believe in the whole fox and hounds hunt.  That is purely for the “amusement” of certain humans.  However, when I lived in the country, I was offered the opportunity to accompany “dog men” (as I call them) when they were asked by farmers to “take care” of a fox problem.

They went out lamping at night, calling in the foxes by making the sound of an injured rabbit, identifying the fox by the colour of its eyes reflected in the lamp light and shooting it.  One, single shot.  In the day, they would go to the fox hole with a bag full of nets and a Terrier, net the small holes and put the Terrier in the main entrance.  The dog can’t get to the fox, a dog fox is about 6 – 7 kg and a vixen about 5 – 6 kg, the Terrier over 8 kilos and all shoulder – it is simply too big to get down the hole.  The key is the nets over the smaller holes; the fox runs out through one of the other exits, gets caught in the net and again, a single shot dispatches it.

The “dog men” love and respect the foxes and can happily sit and watch them play but when they need to, they will kill them but as humanely as they possible can – obviously they can’t go out with a Terrier any more but I’m sure that lamping still goes on when required.  I’ve known dog men get angry when someone who doesn’t know what they are doing decides to get a gun licence and go out lamping – possibly for sport but no doubt to look big and hard – and they wound foxes but don’t kill them outright, leaving them to die slow and painful deaths because they can’t hunt any more and are more susceptible to things like mange.  The dog men genuinely respect the foxes and care for their welfare and won’t dream of killing them if they are not causing any problems.

I was raised to respect the countryside but I learned more about conservation and respect for nature from those hunters than I could have from reading, television or just living in the country.

Even if I had access to a rifle nowadays, I wouldn’t be able to reduce the numbers locally because there are regulations about the distance that you have to be from houses before you can shoot.  I also wouldn’t dream of setting traps or laying down poison, they would suffer slow and painful deaths and I expect a few domestic animals would suffer the same fate but I really do wish that there was something that I could do to reduce the numbers, give them back their fear of humans and stop The Locals from feeding them.

My beloved did try to engage in conversation with the freshly-made-sandwich-lady one night, explaining the issues but she just muttered that it was nature.  She couldn’t grasp the fact that it is _not_ natural for a fox to have a freshly made sandwich served up on a plate every night.

Although I must confess that I am tempted to hang the dead Lucinda on her front door with a little note to say that it’s just nature…

 

Time to melt t’interwebs

So, the big hutch Spring clean had to happen yesterday when Raisin (guinea pig) came home from the vets with his bits chopped off.

It all began when we rescued some Guinea Pigs a couple of years ago and I came home from a little holiday to find a tiny guinea pig looking at me.

Diesel

A few weeks later, her aunt had made two little cousins.  One of those was Raisin.  Unfortunately, Raisin turned out to be a boy.  He had been so special because despite being unable to see, he was a big adventurer so we decided to keep him.

Then, just before Christmas, one of our dearest friends rescued 2 little rabbits from being turned into dog food and gave them to us as an early Christmas gift.  Beautiful though they were, the lack of appropriate housing was a massive worry.  They couldn’t be housed with any of the other rabbits as the males would fight (both of our previously rescued boys had been in scraps before we got them) and we didn’t have a spare hutch.

We put them into the “hospital hutch” as a temporary measure whilst we worked out what we were going to do with them.  It is a single occupancy, plastic and wire construction indoor hutch.  We have been wracking our brains to work out how to home them properly: Do we have enough wood in the shed to make a new hutch (that we don’t have the space for)?  Should we  re-home them?  Can they go in with the Guinea Girls?

We realised that the best possible option was to have Raisin “done” and put him back with his family.

We began by cleaning the top two floors of Chinchilla Towers (which really is as grand as it sounds!) and we moved the Girls back in.  Then we cleaned their house (an old chicken coop designed for up to 4 hens – with a little service modification) and put Dice and Domino – the two Christmas bunnies – into it.  Then we started to deep clean the hospital hutch so that Raisin could convalesce in peace, indoors.  The correx board protection was removed, bowls washed, the wire roof lifted off and the little tunnel/step taken out and put into the bath to be disinfected and Mr PinQ was ready to scoop out the old, dirty bedding ready to give me the base for cleaning.

Just before he put the shovel in, he looked and shouted to me.  The bedding was moving in one corner!  We investigated and found six tiny kits!  We’d already moved Dice and Domino and if they stayed in the temporary home, the babies would have died for sure because when it rains, the bottom of the quarantine hutch gets wet and the bedding has to be changed – as the quarantine hutch, it is normally kept indoors for good reason!  We had to move the nest into the new hutch so we picked up three each in one hand and found out that they are really wriggly, even though they are only a few days old!

I woke up early (before 05:00) but for once, not because of a kitten or a baby.  I woke up because it started chucking it down outside and I snapped awake, worried about the baby rabbits.  I threw some clothes on, legged it downstairs and went to check the hutch.  All was well.

Hours later, Mr PinQ found three of the kits out of the nest.  All three were extremely cold, one in rigor, one that didn’t appear to be alive and one that was barely moving.  I snuggled the latter two in my ample cleavage and within minutes, they were starting to wriggle.  Using a dropper bottle, we fed them a little kitten formula until they were warm and happy.  He microwaved one of the pet warming plates, wrapped it in a fleecy blankie and putting it into the nest.

We’ve been on Kit watch constantly since and I am pleased to report that all is well.

20160409-English Rose Kits_5 days old  (15)

We named the little casualty “Napkin” after I bathed him, dried him and gently wrapped him in a little face cloth ready to go to his final rest.  I’d only known him for a few hours but I was heartbroken at losing him.  He was such a beautiful tiny baby.

Raisin is doing well, happily munching kale, carrots, hay and guinea pig biskwits and snuffling around his temporary home.

Fleed Boarder Collys, Yourksher

It is now 4 years since my beautiful Border Collie died, just a few weeks from her seventeenth birthday.

Sheehan in her prime

We have since spent many happy days and weeks baby-sitting friends’ dogs; spoiling them a little with long walks, scrummy doggy dinners, cuddles and play.

Mr PinQ would have gladly had another dog several times over but it wasn’t time. Practically speaking, we couldn’t really commit to another dog because of the hours that we were working but it wasn’t that, I simply wasn’t ready.

Ironically, I am now but we can’t make the financial commitment unless I get a little more work!

Most of our animals are rescues and would take in a rescue as happily as we would a puppy so I have a look once a week but I am getting just a little annoyed at some of the adverts.

The post title is a mix of some of the dreadful spelling that I keep seeing – I can’t bring myself to trust a breeder/seller who is unable to spell “Border Collie”, especially when they could have easily looked at a few of the other adverts on the same website that they have posted on!

I’m also struggling with the adverts for dogs that are only a year or two old but the owner clearly didn’t do any research into the breed and as a result, the dogs are displaying behaviours that they can’t cope with.  A 4 month old “not fully house trained”, a 1 year old who “reacts to other dogs when he is on the lead”, a 1 year old that “a half an hour walk is not enough”, an 18 month old that “must go to a home where there is no children” [sic] – all issues that have either been created by/made worse by the owners.  The worst of that is that they then have the audacity to charge for these dogs!  They all say that it is a difficult decision and that the dog is very loving etc. but the price is fixed, no ONO or OVNO suffix, none that are “free to good home”.  I don’t doubt that they would say that the price is to ensure that the dog does go to a good home but if that were truly the case, why are they asking for about half of the cost of a pup?

There were a few times in my life when things were very difficult and I thought that I would have to rehome my baby-girl but I wouldn’t have dreamt of asking to be paid!  She had no behavioural issues, was extremely well-trained, loving, supremely fit and a stunning example of her breed but I only considered giving her up for HER welfare.  If I had given her up, it would have been to a home where she would have been loved and cared for.

How can these people take on a dog, raise it with problems that they can’t even be bothered to find out how to fix and then try to sell it?

Grrrrr

Border Collies are great dogs but you _must_ understand them and raise them accordingly:  they need about 30 miles a day – I achieved this with my girl by walking 10 miles a day and throwing a ball/frisbee when she was a youngster, sometimes that was split into 4 separate walks, sometimes 1; they are prone to separation anxiety (and will chew your house to bits in a very short space of time or chew at themselves until they are raw) – they are a working breed and are highly intelligent, you HAVE TO keep them occupied and tire them out; as with any dog, they will pick up up on your feelings so if you are anxious, it makes them anxious which can display as nervous or nasty; they are very loving but can become possessive of you – when you come home and they jump up, ignore them, walk past, hang your coat/bag, make a cuppa, sit down and THEN give them a love on your terms.  I trained mine purely with my voice, not treats, not punishment, just MY VOICE.

They are an amazing breed: loyal, intelligent, agile, sweet, loving and everything that you could possibly want in a dog but YOU have to put the effort in.  Too many people have heard that Border Collies are a great dog to have and get one, no research.  I saw a young woman being dragged up the street by a young Border who was setting cars and choking himself on his lead.  When I guessed his age, she asked me at what age they calm down and I said, “Oh about 10”, I thought that she was going to faint.  My baby-girl challenged us intellectually every single day of her life, even after she had calmed down.  A great Border Collie is hard frippin work but worth every second!

 

Days Off

I try to always book my leave around Bank Holidays, I know that I still get the same amount of leave regardless but a week at each Bank Holiday makes it feel like I am having more full weeks off in a year.  I don’t think that I have ever been more ready for time off than I was on Maundy Thursday, 2 April 2015.  It was an early finish, 11:30 ish and I had the afternoon all planned out, including a nap.  The best laid plans… The Engines BU were working until 16:00 but all of the Team were contracted for the early finish so I stayed in the office just in case.  It did have a bonus though because the IS guys had the time to sort out the VPN on my work laptop.  Consequently, I didn’t go to rehearsal that night because I was too exhausted so the first part of my leave didn’t quite go to plan.

After a fabulously refreshing 14 hour sleep (inorite!) my break began.  Unusually for me, I managed to get loads of rest.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some mad flurries of activity but at last, I found myself able to relax.  I know that sounds daft but for so long, I have either spent holidays getting things done or just collapsing that this break has been a real treat.

Don’t get me wrong, Mr PinQ and I have done absolutely loads in the 12 days that we’ve been off but I feel great.  So great in fact that after a fab day in Bath and Brizzle yesterday before ice-skating, I was shattered this morning and really didn’t want to go back to work.

I extended my holiday by a day!

After getting up at about 10:15, we had a major housework day.  Despite it knackering me to the point of a three hour sleep in the early evening and being shattered now, I’m glad that we did, the kitchen and bathroom are gleaming.  It is more obvious there because they were the two rooms that got trashed during our gardening marathon.

We spent three and a half back-breaking days digging up plants, weeding, re-landscaping, fencing (with wood and bamboo screen, not foils), laying anti-weed matting, re-planting, potting and covering the garden with bark chippings.  It looks beautiful.

I decided to cut back the bamboo.  Little did I know!  Oh yes, I am well aware of how tough it can be when it is well established but after ruining a garden fork and spade on the first day, I certainly wasn’t expecting to then ruin a second fork ten minutes after getting it home!  So. a few text messages later and we had a chainsaw on loan.  It failed.  Yes, that’s right, I said that it had failed.

I decided to try to undermine the bamboo’s foundations with a chisel and a lump hammer and it tried to fight back.  Battle ensued.

Over three nights, I hammered and chiseled away at the roots and got over three quarters of the way through it.  Where the spade, two forks and a chainsaw failed, my trusty lump hammer and one of my old, cheap chisels prevailed – although I think that i t is fair to say that bits of me still hurt, seven days later!  On the fourth day, whilst I was at the hairdresser’s, Mr PinQ borrowed a grub axe from the gravedigger that lives across the road and got out the final root-ball.

Boom.

20150409-Finished Garden (1) 20150409-Finished Garden (4)

Now that the garden is all pretty, we re getting four new chooks on Saturday!  Charlotte, Dorothy, Evelyn and Florence – YAY!

Incidentally, I will now be doing Gold at ice-skating on Monday nights – DOUBLE YAY!

 

Escapees!

Several of the inhabitants of Chinchilla Towers made a bid for freedom today.

I had answered a call from work and wandered outside.  As I listened to G_____, I noticed a rather bedraggled chinchilla curled up asleep (upright) under the barbecue.  It took me a moment to realise what I was looking at and then it was all I could do not to yell, “OMFG!” and leap for her.  If I had, she’d have legged it and I would never have found her.

Goodness knows how but I calmly finished the call and approached like a ninja.  Before she realised that I was there, I had scooped her up with one hand and was holding her cold, wet little form close to my heart.  I took her up to Mr PinQ, who had been sleeping after a long night at work.

When I went back down to put her away, I noticed that a length of ship lap had come loose at the back of the Towers, had a look ’round the back and spotted the other chinchilla and a rabbit.  Trust the boys to be wussy and hide behind the Towers and our tiniest girl to have had the courage to explore the garden!

That was it, no more sleeps for Mr PinQ.  I blocked off the top two floors once the other bunny and the male guinea pig were accounted for, removed the offending ship lap from behind the Towers and crawled into the opening of the first floor. At that point I was grateful for two things: 1 – Chinchilla Towers was sturdy enough to take my diminishing weight (which is still somewhat significant) and 2 – There are enough floors to make sure that the fur-babies could be locked onto two and still have enough room not to get on each others’ nerves.

I’d grabbed the cheeky chinchilla first and put him upstairs with his little girl before the rescue attempt for Rocky the Rabbit.  Mr PinQ encouraged him to come closer to me with a broom handle – no he didn’t poke him!  I grabbed him, hoicked him up and held him close.  He was freezing cold, drenched and very, very smelly.  A warm shower and a couple of thick towels sorted that problem out and lots of cuddles followed.

All were then removed from the Towers and given the run of the stairs and landing whilst the repairs took place.  We tried for over an hour to move the construct forwards to give me the room to get behind and work on the errant ship lap but to no avail.  It’s funny, just last night I had been thinking that the only way that was going to move was if a crane was involved…

Did someone call for me?

Did someone call for me?

In the end, we gave in, having tried brute strength and putting tracks under the frame.  We headed to the timber yard, bought some brackets and I crawled into each floor and secured all of the planks from inside.  I could see where the ship lap had given way.  The little terrors had had a bit of a chew, exploited one of the planks that was pinned, rather than screwed into place and just heaved! All of our efforts were watched in fascinated silence by the female guineas from their plush little pad across the way.

It got emotional, I was breathing in sawdust, hay, pollen and rabbit poo, trying to move and fit brackets with tiny screws in a very small space and in absolute agony.  Mr PinQ is so big in the shoulder that it had to be me.  I was exhausted.

However, job done, fur-babies back home in their nice, warm apartment block with fresh hay, fresh food and fresh water.  Now I just have to learn to stand up and walk again :-/