Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My family and other animals

Well, Apart from Kitty Boo Boo (and my lengthy absence!) There have recently been some other furry visitors around. At Easter (ok, not so recently, but mentally I'm only just getting to Easter ok?) We had some dear little foster dogs to stay for a few weeks.

I don't usually do fostering, not because I don't want to, but between the three dogs, cat, kid, husband, house, work etc, I usually have enough going on. However, I am listed as a foster with the SPCA in Santa Cruz, so I get copied the occasional email asking for help when they really need it. Anyway, around that time, up popped on of those emails, with a hoarding situation with well over 100 dogs that needed emergency foster care. I made the call and before I knew it I was at the shelter, waiting to see who had been assigned to me.

Around 15 puppies (the older dogs were being managed elsewhere) were being sorted into crates and pens. Before long there were several batches of clear litters, and 3 left over little guys who didn't really fit anywhere else. These were the ones I would bring home.
One larger boy, probably around 10lbs and 10 weeks old, and two tiny 1lb girls around 4-5 weeks old, who did look like sisters. I was given some instruction, and off home we went.

My first job was to bath them, as the were covered in urine and poop from living in difficult circumstances. The little two were not too bad, as they were small, but one of them felt hot and had a hugely distended belly (thought to be worms). The poor big guy was simply terrified, having had no socialization in his short life, and he pooped, peed and bit throughout our attempts. Next, of course, they were starving. I couldn't seem to give them enough food, and the poor little guys had to manage with wet kibble as the SPCA didn't have any wet puppy food on hand and neither did I until later.

Over the next few days we started to realize just how traumatized the boy was, as he was pretty much catatonic with fear. The tiny girls were doing better, at least for a day or two until the one with the huge belly started to show signs of fatigue. At first I put it down to stress, but by late Sunday night her breathing seemed labored, and she was reluctant to eat or move. I decided to call it in to the SPCA first thing Monday morning, but sadly, when I came to check on her early Monday morning, she had clearly died in the night.

Here are the three pups. The little dark faced one didn't make it.

I felt sad and awful. Wondering if I should have done something different. I took her little body back to the SPCA, and they arranged for an autopsy that day. They thought it may have been a worm blockage caused by having so many worms and then taking worming medication. They called me later to say she actually had peritonitis, probably caused from being bitten at some point in the past couple weeks, so she had become septic.

We sadly said our goodbyes to the little girl pup, and returned to focus on the others. We decided to give the remaining guys temporary names, so we could interact with them better. The little girl became Taffy, or Taf Taf, and we called the big boy Dexter.

They stayed with us for several weeks continuing medications and socializing, until they were ready to return to the SPCA for adoption. I am thrilled to report that both dogs were adopted in the following weeks, and through the ASPCA Facebook page I found the new owner of Dexter (now Theodore) and am so happy to know he really does have a wonderful new home. His new owner is still working with him to be less scared, and a little bit more socially comfortable, but He really should have a wonderful life now.

It was a tiring experience. Suddenly having 6 dogs, 1 cat, 1 kid, husband, house, work etc, but an incredibly rewarding one. I'm glad I could help them on their way, and I'm glad I was able to give the tiny girl who didn't make it some genuine love and attention before she passed.

Here are a couple pics of the pups. This is Dexter (Theo) and Taf Taf

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

End note

Well, I said there would likely be an end note. In this case - better late than never! So, Kitty Boo Boo is turning out to be rather a spectacular cat. She loves to sleep on my daughters bed (see photo) and is happy playing and relaxing outside. She spends all night quietly indoors in her own bedroom (our closet - sleeping on my pair of winter boots) And never uses a litter tray! She prefers to wait until morning and go out quietly then. So much like a dog!

Happy to report that the dogs have accepted her as one of the family, except if they spy her outside, and then they believe its a fair chase, but she of course has the kitty sense to climb up high away from them.

Whilst all the moving drama was still ongoing, and we were still to-ing and fro-ing from our rental property, a neighbor stopped me one day, asking if I realized we had a swarm of bees on a shrub in the front of the house. 

Er, no, I hadn't.

He informed me that if they were still there the next day, they would likely stay, and I would need to get them dealt with. He recommended the exterminator. I thought this was odd, as bees are rather special and surely there aren't really enough of them? I didn't want to be single handedly responsible for contributing to another 3000 odd deaths. It was a large swarm! Being as crazy busy as I was at the time, I left the matter for the day, and went off to the new house.

That night, when I returned, I hoped they may have left, but no, they were clearly settling in for the night, snuggling closely to one another in perfect formation.

I went on the internet, and with a few pertinent keyword searches and a couple of calls, and, I might add, the wonders of Craigslist, I found myself on a call with someone called 'The Bee Whisperer'. With my descriptions, he decided it was indeed a large swarm, and informed me he would arrive an hour later to collect them, as night time was a good time as they are cold and quiet. OK then!

I was wondering quiet how one collects a swarm of bees, but my question was answered an hour later as I watched the young man vacuum them up into a five gallon water bottle, with a piece of foam at the bottom for them to bounce off of. Fascinating!

What will you do with them? I asked, curious and hopeful.
"I will turn them into little honey slaves," He said. Of course. Hopefully that is something they will enjoy.

I did try to take a picture of said swarm, but it was with my iphone and I wasn't prepared to get any closer, so you may just see the brownish area in the center of the bush picture?

Finally, I picture of the new trailer in situ - or some of it anyway. And that's my daughter outside the front door.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chapter 3 (part 3!)

Husband had arranged to rent a big truck to go and get the new Airstream trailer, as it needed something meaty, being 32ft long. He left on a monday morning, to get down and back when the roads were quiet, and planned the route he would take. I would have loved to have gone with him. If anything, for moral support, but there was just too much prep work needed at the new cottage for that, so we just kept working away, hoping to here from him soon.

You may remember back a couple posts, I mentioned the pretty kitty hanging around when we went to see the trailer? Well, the first news I got from husband that day was when he texted me this picture:

He took it with his phone camera as he was preparing to leave San Juan Bautista with the Airstream for the drive home.

Oh lord, I thought. Looks like we now have a cat.

He told me later that when he arrived at the trailer, the mournful kitty had been hanging around begging for a kind hand and some food. He asked the seller if she had been joking about the cat being abandoned. She said, sadly no, it was true, and asked him if we could possibly take her with the trailer. By that time, the cat had already jumped into the big truck, and made a comfy spot on the passenger seat, looking at Husband as if to say 'I'm ready! When do we go?' So she sat next to him purring all the way home. Well, what was he going to do?

I took this picture as he pulled into the driveway:

After some careful maneuvering, it looked great in its new spot.
I dashed to the store for cat food and a litter box. Then I shut the dogs away so I could greet the new family member. At this point I was seriously wondering how this was all going to work, as the dogs are horrible about cats, and chase them whenever they get the chance.

The poor cat was desperately thin, and so, so hungry. I fed her bowl after bowl of food, watching her finish and then ask for more. I believe she cleared five bowls before I thought I'd better be the one to stop as it didn't look like she would. It was decided that she should live in my work studio for the time being, until we could figure out the relationship with the dogs, so we closed her in that night with a dog bed shoved in a cardboard box. Five bowls of food resulted in five poops in the litter tray the next morning, and Trailer Kitty (as we were temporarily calling her) was hungry again and ready for more food.

Here is a picture of Skinny Trailer Kitty when she arrived:

More about Trailer Kitty and the Airstream next time!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chapter 3 (part 2)

Where was I?

Oh, 102 emails about the trailer by 8am. 

148 by 10am...

I started to go through the mails in the order that they came in, but given there were so many, decided to pass on any that hadn't left a phone number.

By noon that day, 'Mary' had come to see the trailer and by that evening, her and her husband were figuring out how to remove it from it's spot. They agreed to pick it up in two days, which instantly shot a job to the top of my 'To-Do' list: clearing everything in it's path.

This included a well used composting pile, several six foot shrubs, an arbor, birdhouse on cemented post, a mini greenhouse and a flower bed: Literally a wooden double bed with dirt as mattress and box springs, some 4 ft high. OK then. My Mom and I spent at least 12 hours solid the following day creating this path that hadn't existed before. This was back at the beginning of October, and anyone who lives near the Bay Area may remember we had a couple of incredibly hot weeks then. I think on that day it was around 102 degrees C.

The next item that had suddenly shot to second place on the 'To-Do', was to create a proper gravel pad for the new Airstream to sit on. The previous trailer had been sat on very sandy soil. So much so, that the tires we thought were flat were just, in-fact, buried up to the middle in sand! (good news for it's soon-to-be owner) The entire driveway also needed to be graveled, as it was essentially just dirt. The heat made it incredibly dusty, but we knew that any rain would turn it into a quagmire. So, after a few phone calls and a few hours sleep, Husband and I found ourselves wearing gloves, holding shovels and waving back an entire truck load of gravel. We spent the entire day prepping the site. That day was the hottest so far at 104 degrees C. That was also the first of two truck loads.

Incidentally, the cottage has a pool. On those extremely hot days, after working so hard, all I wanted to do was go jump in it, but previous lack of treatment and the heat had turned it a remarkable shade of opaque Tiffany glass green, so sadly, that was not an option.

Fast forward a few days: (not without their own incident - will need an 'end note' posting, or some-such. Fear this chapter may become a book in it's own right.) Mary and Husband came to get the trailer, and it actually rolled away (us cheering and crossing fingers) to it's new home in Boulder Creek somewhere. 

(Mary called me later: only a few bits fell off of it on the way home)

 Starting to pull 'Big Orange' out.
 Ehren (our electrician) helping to see it out.

View back up the garden (October)

Next on the list: collect the Airstream.
And that (Sorry. Can't believe it) Will have to spill over into part 3.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chapter 3 (part one)

I've mentioned the cottage is small? Well, tucked away in the garden behind a wisteria covered pagoda, was an orange trailer. I think it dated back to the 50's, and at some point had been painted orange to match the front door of the cottage.
Once upon a time it had been used as extra living space, but was a bit beyond that by the time we got the keys, and it was just described as an Artists studio, and listed as personal property on the paperwork.

Within the first week, we decided it really needed to be replaced if it was going to be useful, as it would be the only place for visiting guests. Our guests tend to stay a while, as our families are from the UK, so three to five week visits are more common than the occasional weekend visitor.

We scanned Craigslist for possible replacements, and quickly found an older 80's Airstream trailer for sale within an hours drive of the house. If you know Airstream trailers, you will know the cool aluminum appearance on the outside hasn't really changed for decades, and we felt the retro look would compliment the garden and cottage. We decided to go and check it out, and were impressed with the layout and accomodation: A bedroom, bathroom with shower, dinette, and fully equipped kitchen with stove and fridge. Even a large lounge area with sofa. Perfect for out needs. The inside was suitably dated, but that doesn't worry me. The price was good and I am the Queen of remodeling! 

A pretty little cat hung around the whole time we were looking at the trailer, desperate to get in and have some love. The seller explained that the cat had been left by it's owners when they were evicted from a nearby house. The trailer tenant had fed the cat until she left for Colorado, so now the cat was on it's own. We agreed to have the trailer, and agreed to come back the following week once we had prepared our site and organized a large truck rental, as the trailer is 32' long, and needed something pretty hefty to pull it. 

The seller said we should take the poor cat too, as no-one wanted it. Yeah right, I thought - just what I need! Something else to take care of. I have three dogs, a three and a half year old child, and a new house in need of work. I think I have enough going on.

We drove home and saw the old orange trailer smiling at us from the spot which needed to be empty for the fancy new Airstream that would be arriving in seven days. Realizing we had to get rid of it, I started to make a few enquires as I was starting to stress that it would end up costly us a bunch of money to have it disposed of. Before bed, I had the sudden thought to post it on Craigslist. 'Free - you haul' kind of thing. Couldn't hurt?

Next morning, synced email to phone, wondering why it was taking so long.

Ah - 102 emails about free trailer by 8am. Maybe I won't have problems getting rid of it after all??

Here ends part one of Chapter 3. Realizing there is only so much you can put in one post.

Pictures of 'The orange one' as Posted on Craigslist. Looks rather nice when I see it now. But seriously, you wouldn't really have wanted to spend a weekend in it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chapter 2

Next came the month where days blurred into nights and into weeks. We got the keys on September 18th, the same day my Mom graciously flew in from the UK to help me out for a few weeks. I picked her up from the airport and we drove right to the new cottage, meeting husband who had collected the keys from the Realtor. 

We wandered round the now empty rooms, for the first time. Mom didn't say a word until the end, when she finally inhaled and said, "Well, it's different." (translation: 'what the hell have you done??!!'

I had that momentary thing where I was thinking the same thing. All that stress and money, and now the furniture was out, it looked filthy and tired, and small! I brushed the thought away with some of the dirt, and got down to work.

Within a week we had the floors refinished, entirely new electric, furnace and heating installed (it had no heat before) and in two weeks, it had propane installed, new wood burner stove, the interior painted, and we had cleaned it throughly enough to move in. I won't go in to extreme details, but put it this way: It took me 6 hours to clean just the bathroom. The 5ft x 7ft bathroom. No time exaggeration, no slacking, enough said.

Meanwhile, I was also trying to fix up, what would become, my working space, which needed insulation, dry-wall, electric and painting before our move in date when I would need to fill it with furniture.

This WILL be my studio (before picture)

Two weeks later! Penny and Cookie relax on the sofa.

The other end - it's a long thin room. Finished: for now anyway. Sure there will be adjustments, but at least I can work.

I don't know how, but we pretty much did it. More happened too, but I'll save that for another post, as it involves the introduction of a new animal character to the story! Next: Chapter 3!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Back to the beginning.

It's been a horribly long time since my last post. No excuses - although I have many. It's probably just easiest to go back to the beginning of September and start the story there...

Once upon a time (well, September) I was looking at local real estate listings. We'd been looking for the past five months, and visited countless open houses, and between the stained beige shag and the tiled counter tops, most of the houses were beginning to blur together. We'd carefully given our realtor a list of hopes and desires for a new house, and in spite of it allegedly being a buyers market, were not finding anything that even gave us a twinkle of excitement.

Then this little funky cottage popped up. Way too small, too much garden. Even in a town we weren't looking in. And yet, the pictures spoke to me. It had something that nothing else so far had. I marched off to find husband, to show him the photo's, declaring,

"Now that is my idea of a house."

I was joking. Or kind of.

Sure, it was cute. But we were looking for at least 2,000 sq ft, and this was 884.
We were looking for a 3/2. This was a 2/1. Husband viewed the many pictures quietly for a moment, then said,

"Let's do it." 
Just like that.

He picked up the phone and called our realtor, and before we knew it, we were walking through the house.

"Let's do it." Husband repeated after the walk through. I was torn. It was even cuter in person. Oozing with a character that had been completely missing from the other houses, but it was small and needed work.

That night we sat at the kitchen table with the numbers. We had been looking at another house, which perfectly fitted the list of our 'wants': 3/2 large garage, small garden, ranch style, room to grow etc. Then there was the cottage.

18 months before all this we had sold our house and moved to a rental. Like so many others, we lost 12 years of accumulated equity, and came away with nothing. And we knew we were the lucky ones, compared to so many. The ranch house required a huge 30 year mortgage, and the cottage was less expensive enough that we could consider a 15 year mortgage. The numbers swung it. I just turned 40, and the thought of still having a mortgage at 70 terrified both of us. 

So we made this crazy leap into something that isn't what we thought we wanted, and yet feels so right. Funny how that happens.

Well that is probably the end of chapter one, but only just the beginning of a whole new adventure! Here are a couple pictures of the house and yard as it was in September, when we got the keys. I will continue the story and try to catch up to where we are today. A lot has happened!