This heart warming if very American Utube clip, comes via news from one of the groups I belong to, who have been celebrating their National Dog Day!
A chorus of birds heralds a hot morning.
At the bird bath they drink and preen.
Feeding fast, before seeking shade.
A warm breeze blows from the north.
An hour more it will be hot.
The ashey memory of "Black Saturday" as near as a sniff.
Eggs fry on the road.
Dog paws burn at the whim of careless owners, themselves well shod against the heat.
Countryside kindling dry, grass high, lush pastures
On a day like this those fires began.
Poorly maintained powerlines.
One spark too deliberate.
Fueling the blackest fires in Australian History....
By evening ablaze.
Extinguishing life in its path
The news did not conclude for a fortnight,
"Victoria burns as town after town"...
Taggerty and beyond
173 lives lost
2029 homes destroyed
4,500 square kilometres of land burned
The forests and land
And the creatures.....
Few lives left untouched, my own included:
Barry, fellow activist and friend
Brian Naylor, a TV face all Victoria knew, alongside his wife, their children, best mate of a family friend
Proud King Lake Resident
Students, searching for their pets, accomodated by relatives.
"At least Dad survived"
"All the photos of my childhood burned in our house in Violet Town Miss"
"Our cat turned up, our dog didn't"...
Amidst the devastation
My Home Group collected a record $500.00 the following Tuesday, for the "VICTIMS",
Mostly we were lucky to make $3.00
State of grief
Recurring still, sixteen years on
On days such as this
Initilly we were only VICTIMS or LUCKY ONES, here in Victoria.
Amidst chaos and displacement
Then survivors heavy with guilt,
Their home did not burn
But their neighbours did.
Then just plain survivors
Organising, building and rebuilding
Still fighting the fires that fuelled a Royal Commission
As phases of grief burned hot as Black Saturday across many fronts.
The dawn chorus that began that blackest of Saturday's ended with the roar of fire.
Screams of anguish and grief.
Lives to be reclaimed, or made history,
Drawn from hell on earth
We can only ever hope that tomorrow's dawn chorus will remain loud, strong and vibrant as today.
Useful links to help remember or research.
Sam, the koala that became a symbol of survival
Meet celebrity vet Dr Harry Cooper, of Channel 7's Better Homes and Gardens, at Petstock's new Mair St store today between 10 and 2pm!
I for one, along with Whippet Boy will be lining up to meet this wonderful man who has devoted his life to animal care and welfare.
For those of you who don't know, Petstock is a Ballarat based success story, with its national head office located near Stockland in Wendouree.
Petstock, not only offers many fabulous products for your pets. Their friendly staff are devoted to animal care and welfare and their service is invariably helpful, friendly and obliging. They even carry heavy and bulky items to my car and load it into the boot for me.
Some remember Whippet Boy on his very first visit.
I love Petstock's devotion to employing both senior and junior pet lovers amongst its staff. It is great to see young employees being mentored and guided by staff skilled in genuine customer service. I have witnessed them growing in skills, confidence and a high level of knowledge of stock, on the job. Nothing is too much trouble and they genuinely enjoy my being accompanied by Whippet Boy. I only wish thier model of staff training, professional development and retention, was replicated in more stores in Ballarat. The community would enjoy plain old fashioned exemplary customer service as the norm!
I would personally say that the Petstock team are second to none in Ballarat. They have fitted Whippet Boy with doggie essentiials, such as coats, seat belts, trimmed his nails from time to time, got products in especially for my chickens and supported my care of my aging and very arthritic Moggy, up until his recent death, aged 19!
I just wish Petstock had a coffee shop, so Whippet Boy and I could indulge in an indoor coffee and treat together, instead of always having to freeze outside in the cold at non pet accessible indoor venues. We'd be regulars for sure, as would other people who enjoy dining out and meeting other pets and their humans in comfort!
I frequented a boutique pet store and cafe in London and it was one of the coolest spots to hang out and meet interesting local people and lovely dogs. If only we had more receptive health regulations that made allowances for well socialised pets to dine with us, as more flexible regulations permit in Europe and America!
At least side walk cafes give us a little more leeway to enjoy our pets these days in Australia. I guess that is a start!
Petstock does host excellent web pages on pet care!
Information here is clear and ideal for children wanting to know more about care of their pets!
Come along and meet Dr Harry today, you may even meet Whippet Boy, wearing his special London dog collar, purchased for VERY special occasions.
Maybe he will help Whippet Boy and I lobby for cafe's within their stores that are pet friendly!
Watch this blog to see if Dr Harry meets Whippet Boy!
Do you have a child that hates reading, but loves animals?
As a classroom teacher with over 30 years experience, my best advice is to exploit your child's love of animals in encouraging them to read.
Begin with regularly taking your little one through A-Z Picture books of animals. Buy your child books about animals and read to them regularly each evening before bed.
I still have my copy of "The Go To Sleep Book" my parents read to me as a child which tells the story of a range of young animals preparing for bed and sleep, with their siblings and mothers. I can still quote lines from this book.
Don't worry if your child wants to hear the same stories over and over again. This helps children memorise the stories and begin to even recognise the words, not just the pictures.
Such simple strategies will really help with modelling a love of reading, as well as developing literacy skills. Parents who never read themselves and don't encourage their child to read are denying their offspring the best possible start in a world that very much revolves around written information and the individual's ability to understand, interpret and analyse the information it contains.
By the time I was about six, my dad read me Banjo Patterson's iconic 'Man From Snowy River' and other horse related poetry. I began to learn them and his love of these poems was passed on to me.
This process was repeated again and again, with so many books and I look back on our pre bedtime ritual of stories as amongst the fondest memories of my childhood. Both my parents, as well as family friends and relatives also partcipated in the nightly reading ritual!
As your child grows in literacy skills and begins to read independantly, you can get them to read, not just to you, but also to a pet that enjoys being by their side.
Later, I continued this evening reading ritual on as I selected novels, poetry and non fiction that largely supported my passion for animals, but eventually progressed to wider interests.
When I was in Year 6 I wrote the following poem for my beloved pet labrador Andy
Andy is my dog,
He eats like a hog.
He is very old
And hates when it's cold.
He is soft and warm to touch
And I love him very much."
This poem, though admittedly niave in its content and poetical devices, none the less illustrates that writing about my animals, was a key motivation in the development of my own literacy skills.
I continued on to read endless horse and animal novels, modelling my own writing and developing my vocabulary and ability to manipulate language in this process.
By the time I was in Year 6, I was a sufficiently confident writer to submit a horse short story to Rider Magazine. It was published, putting me into the realm of a professional author by the time I was entering my teens!
Not all children achieve that degree of literary confidence and competency so early in life, but many are just as enthusiastic and passionate about animals.
Make the most of this, or indeed any other passion to help your child develop their literacy skills. There is possibly no greater gift a parent can give to their children than this; it opens the doors for a bright future, regardless of the path your child chooses later on.
As a teacher, I have certainly encouraged many a reluctant reader to improve their skills through recognising, reinforcing and encouraging their love of animals!
Thanks to Animals Australia, of which Pets and Plants is proudly a member organisation, I am happy to forward on this heartwarming animal rescues video for you to enjoy!
Remember, like Pets and Plants, your business can join the Animals Australia campaign to commit to cage free egg workplaces, or you can join the campaign as an individual!
Visit their site to enjoy even more rescue stories; http://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/faith-in-humanity-restored.php
Yesterday I collected the ashes of my darling Mr Claude.
I chose to have him cremated following his death, partly as I am not very good at digging holes deep enough to bury him securely. I certainly was not up to the task myself, the day of his death!
Claude's ashes will serve to fertilise a new magnolia I am planting, a lovely ornamental addition to my garden.
It was weird, going in to the vets to collect an animal I loved in this new and very final form. Yet nonetheless his ashes were returned to me packed in a box labelled "Claude Ludbrook", contained inside a white tulip covered bag that read "special friends".
On picking up this sad little bag, that offered only superficial comfort, I noted Claude was even lighter than in his final months of life. It was a surreal experience.
I went to pop it in the boot of my car, like any other bag, but thought better of it and sat the bag on the passenger's seat, where Claude had always travelled, beside me, in his cat carrier!
This time there was no cat carrier, just a bag albiet a pretty one, almost like a present!
As yet I have been unable to open the cardboard box, to see if there is a tin, or vessel within, given I opted not to go through the catalogue of containers available, choosing, like my parents, the cheapest option, for funeral arrangements. This is not a sign of disrespect, rather, pragmatic practicallity. Grief cannot be measured in monetary forms.
Claude's ashes are currently on a chair in the kitchen, still in the bag.
I am planning a little memorial service for him, to help with my own grief, to which I will invite our mutual friends. That is when we will plant the shrub that will mark our life together.
Then again, if I ever move I cannot take this shrub with me. Am I better to scatter his ashes at the same wonderful, uplifting public place my parents chose for their remains?
I shall ponder this a while and choose what is right for me. Perhaps I will place a little of his ashes under the tree, and scatter the bulk where I later intend being scattered myself?
My father took the best part of a year, before he found the strength to scatter my mother's ashes in the appointed spot. Meanwhile he misplaced them, having moved them from one place to another over that period. On the day he spontaeniously decided he was ready to lay her to rest, we had to search for the container. First, we found the ashes of our dog, who died a mere fortnight after my mother. However, my mum's ashes were in a bigger container and weighed considerably more, than those of dear Max.
We did both eventually see the funny side of the misplaced ashes after we found them and were reminded of the episode of 'Mother and Son', where the mother's handbag, containing her late husband's ashes gets stolen. Humour is a real tonic to grief!
I found it interesting that my dad chose to wait for such a length of time before he was ready to scatter the final remains of my mum. Only now, following the death of my beloved moggy does the depth of his bewilderment make sense to me. Grief runs its own course and you move through it, in your own time. For me too, at present, things are in slow motion.
Having Claude die in my arms and his subsequent absence in my life, after almost nineteen years, made his death very real and life changing for me. His ashes are a consequence of his passing. I will deal with their final resting place when I am a little stronger.
Options that parallel those for human passing exist for dealing with the remains and memorials to our beloved pets after their death. Everything from the low budget, to extraordinarily elaborate extravagances to mark their life.
An excellent pet cemetery and crematorium 'Bamganie' is operating at Lethbridge, serving both Geelong and Ballarat's pets and their bereaved humans. They will even conduct a funeral ceremony should you so require it. Cremation of a pet is not a cheap exercise, but it does give you a bit more time to determine their final resting place.
It is a pet-loving family owned and run business and they gaurantee the individual cremation of your pet and that your pets ashes will be returned to you.
My horse, and several of our family dogs have "passed through" the Bamganie Pet Crematorium" and now, so too my Mr Claude. Indeed, the service is utilised and recommended by Ballarat/Wendouree Vetinary Practice, along with its Equine Clinic.
I am very grateful, that our vet offered this service. It was a genuine comfort to know my beloved Claude's physical remains would be cremated, with professional care and expertise. I want nothing less for myself, when the time comes!
Some people choose to keep the ashes of those they have loved with them, pets included, on their mantel piece or some place of significance. Personally I can think of nothing worse. I want my own ashes to be liberated beyond my own life, in a place that I loved that continues to be full of life and joy.
The bag and box that currently sits in my kitchen is far removed from the live "purry furry one" I loved and who shared my life. He has truly passed on.
Returned to dust.
Meanwhile memories linger and Claude will remain part of my lfe, for as long as I live!
Over the past week, or more, during the passing of my darling cat Claude, Whippet Boy has offered me enormous comfort, strength and support and helped keep normal routines alive and well in my life.
Whilst Claude was not overly fond of his younger canine brother, and would spit, hiss and get his heckles up, should Whippet Boy intrude into his domain, Whippet Boy was eternally patient and tolerant, never once chasing him or challenging his authority.
I brought Whippet Boy into our lives at a time and place, where I was ready to embrace the company and demands of a dog.
I did have some reservations, the main one being, how would my elderly cat cope with having a young dog, wanting to share my attention?
At first Claude was not happy, and retreated to our bedroom, refusing to come out even to eat. Over the course of some weeks and with the help of a couple of drops of "rescue remedy' on his food every day, Claude slowly realised I loved him as much as ever. He returned to occupying the entire house.
Meanwhile, Whippet Boy continued his best to win Claude over, but especially loved to sneak in and steal Claude's food, along with any stray shoes of mine at any available opportunity.
The two declared a kind of truce with each other,
However, as Claude's health declined, Whippet Boy and Claude began to willingly share the same space. Whippet Boy clearly knew both Claude and I were suffering, as our time together drew to a close.
During Claude's final three days of life, Whippet Boy's behaviour was exemplary and mellow. I sent him outside when our vet arrived to assist Claude in his final passage from life, then went for brunch with a friend, for a kind of celebratory wake, for such a special and divine pussycat.
Earlier we cleared away Claude's litter tray and food and water bowls, so I would not have to face the task alone later.
Arriving home, Whippet Boy came straight to my side and snuggled up. When he snuck into the front part of the house usually reserved for Claude, he was perplexed by the lack of his food bowl and went looking for his older brother all over the house. He continued to look for him for many more days. Indeed, only today did I notice Whippet Boy no longer went straight to the place in the kitchen where I fed Claude, then up to check out his favourite snuggle spots afterwards.
Whippet boy continues to comfort me, doing his best, not just to be a dog, but also to assume some of the smoochy roles he once observed in Claude.He has come very close to purring in my lap, I swear.
Whippet Boy has kept me going through the loss of Claude and I think we have been an enormous comfort to each other. It was very clear he was missing and grieving Claude too. He was at least as despondant as I was for a while!
On the weekend I thanked a dear friend who advised me some time ago, to bring in a younger pet before I lost Mr Claude. Certainly, having Whippet Boy at my side and keeping to his routine has made Claude's death a little easier. It's not that I don't miss Claude. I do. But where there would have been a hole the size of a quarry after Claude's passing, there is instead just a cat sized hole for Claude. My world has not stopped. The part of my heart that is reserved for the love of my pets is still partially filled. If it were not so, I think I would struggle with keeping going at all.
As It is darling Whippet Boy remains at my side. Not Claude, of course, but a wonderful animal presence in his own right.
In time I will bring another moggy into our lives, but for now, it is enough, that Whippet Boy and I have each other!
This morning my beautiful 18 year old Mr Claude (Moggy Boy) died, extroardinarily peacefully, in my arms, at home, with the assistance of staff from the Wendouree/Ballarat Vetinary practice.
For the last 6 months Claude had been struggling with irritable bowel syndrome. We had tried so many dietary changes, but to no avail. On Thursday he had a shot for arthritis. The vet also took urine and blood samples in the hope of gaining more information about his declining condition. At the time Mr Claude, still had a good appetite, but at 18 years of age he was very much a senior gentleman!
Over the weekend, he decided to stop eating all together and tempting him even with his favourite foods was pretty much to no avail.
With a cat of such age I did not want him subjected to any invasive tests or proceedures; nothing that would cause him any prolonged suffering.
The decision for him to be euthanised was an easy one. He had indicated through his body language, eyes and lack of appetite he was ready to pass over. Over the last 6 months he had lost over a kilogram. Given we had long struggled with his waistline, watching him fade away to a shadow of his former self was incredibly difficult.
Still, he was comfortable and followed me around the house, sticking to his regular routine and sleeping at my side every evening.
I managed to tempt him with a few pieces of shaved roast lamb and a tiny taste of jarlesburg cheese between Friday evening and today. In contrast, even last week, he would be wolfing down his meals and looking for more. Normally, Claude lived to eat and nothing brought him greater joy than a very full stomach!
Even now there is a void, where his litter tray and food bowls usually stand, let alone his own magic presence that brought me so much joy over so many years.
I wonder how I will sleep tonight without his gentle purr and smooges as he cuddled up to me in bed?
Claude was dumped at the school I formerly worked at, as a five month old adolescent moggy. He chose me to adopt him and over the last 18 years, has supported me through all of life's ups and downs; a constant reassuring presence in my life.
I will miss my darling Mr Claude, with whom I shared an extraordinary interspecies bond and so much love for the rest of my life. He had long earned a place in my heart as one of the great feline characters of all time. His loyalty and zest for life, is something many humans could learn from.
Named because he stretched out his claws, then instantly velveted them the first time I held him in my arms, his namesakes' were Claude Monet and Claude Debussy; two humans who made a lasting impact on the world through art and music.
It is also fitting Claude's death should occur during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, as one of his penchants, was to sit in front of the television and follow the balls as they were hit along the court. We watched many hours of tennis together over the years.
I only wish my own death, when it comes could be so peaceful and full of love as Mr Claude's was this morning. Claude had a dignified and beautiful passing, that truly fitted his wonderful and gracious life and being.
Thank you my darling ginger and white angel!
Exciting news has just hit my email inbox.
Permaculture co founder and local Permie guru, David Holmgren is touring with financial expert Nicole Fox, speaking about Permaculture and the need to prepare before the property bubble bursts and financial markets collapse.
The nearest venues for Ballarat residents to catch them is either at Daylesford Town Hall, 7.30 on Friday July 11th, or In Melbourne, on July 15th.
Follow this link for more information!
Once again, the delightful and uplifting website, 'Paws to Talk' is providing fantastic support for anyone going through difficult times.
Margot Alcquist explores what is life support for dog lovers.
The story of how Whippet Boy, helped me and my dad through his death is something I have shared in a comment in the pet forum Pet News and Views
Fiona Ludbrook is the Client Services Director of Pets and Plants Ballarat. Now, entrepreneur and blogger, she was born and bred in Ballarat, but spent many years as a teacher in Melbourne’s