November 30, 2008

An Award!

Thank you from the One-minute Writer - I get to have a winners button on my blog :)
Was my pleasure to relive it all !
Have a nice day everyone.

November 29, 2008

As a kid, what did you want to be when you became an adult?

One of the web sites I check out is the One-minute writer.
Today's subject was about what you wanted to be when you grew up.
The One-Minute Writer: Today's Writing Prompt: Adult

This one was easy: here is what I posted:
"At six I realised I could be an animal doctor and spend all day working with animals. I went home and announced I wanted to be a vet. I pulled wishbones and cut cakes with my eyes screwed shut for all the years it took to achieve it and I have been a vet for thirty years. Great job. No regrets."

Animals do seem to be a vocation. I see it all the time in my animal care and vet nursing students. I am sure a large number of them intended to be vets, or just knew they wanted to be involved with animals from a very young age, although quite a number of them take many years of working in other areas before they step sideways and train with us.

I have vivid memories of the day I um, saw the light? I had been sent home from the farm across the road from my grandmother's house in Scotland where we were on holiday. I was always there, getting the cows, milking, separating the cream, feeding calves and helping deliver the milk each day. To be sent home was a punishment! The nice farmer said it kindly and explained the 'vitnery' was coming to sort out the cows.

Having no idea what this meant, I obediently, but tearfully, trotted off down the driveway, circled the front field, and climbed up the back of the long stone cow shed to hide in the hay in the attic. Sure enough, the great man arrived. I can remember watching him checking out the cows, and giving them injections. But the bit that made my eyes grow wide in horror, amazement, awe, and disbelief, was when he stuck his arm inside each cow. eeeeeeew! Remember I was six... but potty humour is quite strong at that age. As I watched him work his way along the aisles, I understood that he was examining the cows. The concept of pregnancy diagnosis by rectal exam was many years in my future, as was thinking about pregnancy, or its causes. What I did realise was this man was a doctor for animals. I can still feel the excitement and the glow I felt when I realised it was possible to train and do this sort of work.

Forgetting my banishment and the reason I was hiding in the hay loft, I scrambled down to talk to the man as he packed up his car. I stood by the boot, drinking in the bottles and syringes and powders and the smell... he looked at me, six, covered in hay, short hair, my brothers old t shirt and shorts. I took a deep breath and whispered, "is it very hard to be a vet?" He smiled and leaned closer.

"Yes Laddie, it is. You will have to study hard for many years."

I nodded wisely. If that is what it took, then that is what I would do. I thanked him and skipped home to announce the news.

Without understanding the power of positive thinking, I can say that I never pulled the wishbone or cut my birthday cake each year without the fervent wish, "Please make me a vet. "
After I graduated, I kept the wish going for a long time, but I added "great vet".

I don't know how people see me anymore, but the profession has been wonderful, and my sideways journey into teaching vet nursing another dream come true.

I only have one question about that day. If I had been wearing a dress, with pigtails, I wonder if the vitnerys response might have been, " Yes Lassie, and it's no job for a girl."

While writing this, I did a search for Balnadrum Farm to see if it still existed. Yes it does, and the area is steeped in history. My mother was born and grew up in Moulin, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland, here is some background to the beautiful village we went to every year. Balnadrum Farm in Moulin is where this all happened and I see it is mentioned in this article as part of the walk.

The Moulin Hotel was in the centre of the village.

I used to play nearby in the Moulin Burn and climb "Ben Y Vrackie" behind it.

More pictures of the mountain are here. Thank you to Martin Junius for these at that link.

And amazingly, my favourite spot is actually caught online by "zzathras" : the waterfall at the car park at the base of the track to the was a magical spot to a child.

My mother grew up in the big house, The Manse, opposite the Moulin Hotel. The names of Black and Robertson have long been mentioned by her, and I see them appearing regularly on searches of the history of the area.

My father was an English engineer working on the building of the Pitlochry Hydro Dam when they met, and another engineer also met and married her older sister; my aunt and uncle.

Dad used to take me to the dam, often rowing around Lake Faskelly, or checking out the Tummel, and to see the famous salmon ladder which was able to be viewed from inside through huge glass windows.

Wow - blast from the past - I found this place listed for sale -

It is the old post office cottage where we used to buy fizzy drink bottle s for threepence, and where i used to stay when my grandmothers house was overfull... and where I saw my first dead body! Then I found this - which just could be where my mother grew up - the big white house! Right area - and location on the map and an idea of beauty of the local houses!

So many memories.....

Thanks to "One Minute Writer" for reminding me of it all :)


November 27, 2008

Babies, kittens, endings and beginnings

Someone asked me for an update on the kittens.... so here 'tis.
They are now five weeks old and behaving well, even using their dirt tray and needing less baths. although the dried jellimeat and soaked biscuits does still stick to their coats.

Still feeding,

but eating solids.

There is also some video of them here :)

Managed to do a quick visit to Phoebe and family on Sunday... she was fast asleep when we arrived....

but woke up for playtime and cuddles before we left

This week has been filled with highs and lows. I have said goodbye to all of our four classes this month, three of them this week. A number of the students are returning to complete further qualifications next year, but many are leaving for good. It has been great to have last dinners and lunches with them all, give out the prizes and awards, and celebrate the end of a great year with them. But it makes for a long, sad and tiring week, with piles of paperwork, final marking and results and compliance issues piling on top of us. Still working on moderation, timetabling, budgets, ethics committees, advisory committees, review panels, promotion applications, staff appraisals and a myriad of cumulative tasks that are leaving us a bit frazzled. I have noticed we are all distracted and finding it hard to read or finish sentences coherently! This is not helped by the endless and well meant comments about the fact that we must be on holiday now that the teaching has finished. Yeah right! I can see three weeks of fairly solid work ahead before any thought of holidays!

Next week we have interviews for one of our full time classes and will be meeting with some of the returning students. I let myself have this week to grieve for the ones we won't see everyday, but know that next week things will pick up. Starting on Saturday with the Christmas party at our local vet clinic, various staff dinners and events, and best of all, the promise of the great new students wanting to come and train with us. I find knowing there is another batch of keen applicants looking forward to starting is a great boost over the summer. Certainly makes going back to work after Xmas easier :)

To all my past students, whose achievements make our jobs feel worthwhile, thanks for all the great memories :)

November 24, 2008

Age before beauty?

Tonight I want to talk about the dogs.... but hard to know which order to talk about them in... and is the one I choose first my favourite! I love them both for totally different attributes.

To solve my dilemma, it might be easiest to introduce them in the order they arrived in our lives.

Jessie was the first to arrive. As part of training our vet nursing students in anaesthesia and sterile theatre practice, each week, the polytech pays for a local clinic to neuter or spey a dog from our local pound with students helping. It has been a great relationship since we began it in 1999 and resulted in many dogs being neutered prior to being rehomed, often instead of being put to sleep. The lovely people who run the pound select suitable dogs. Sometimes we also do cats for rehoming.

Mid way through 1999, when the scheme was still fairly new, I was keeping an eye out for a small dog for the children. We had always had black labs, but this time I wanted something better suited for being a house dog. When I arrived in theatre one afternoon and saw the little 20 week old puppy in for speying I was mesmerised. She needed a home, and never returned to the pound, having met the approval of the family.

She wasn't an easy puppy, but as we had 5 acres she had plenty of room. She was fanatical about chasing rabbits, and challenged the fencing for the 7 years we lived there with her. The whole countryside around was her playground and if she escaped, we had to explore all her haunts and trek across paddocks to get her back - usually when we needed to be at work! In 2003, when she was toddling through a paddock next door sniffing for rabbits, the neighbour shot her. Yes, he had a small flock of sheep, which she always ignored, and he was perfectly entitled legally to do it, but he knew it was our dog, and I never trusted him again near the children or the dogs. He said he meant to fire over her head, but there were about 50 pellets in her leg and she nearly bled to death. We can still feel pellets occasionally under her skin as they work their way to the surface. She survived with intensive nursing and pethidine drips. It was one reason why it was eventually a relief to move away from there, and she has been a perfect town dog, even if we never get our power read properly unless we are home to shut her away from the meter reader... she is a great wee guard dog.

Saffy belonged to a casual friend. I met her when she was nearly three.

I saw her for the first time through a gate, when I called in to collect some things there and admired the gentle retriever wagging her tail at me. Some time later, the friend was transferred up north and needed someone to dog sit for a while. By then I had realised that Saff was in a home that didn't really want a dog. She lived outside all the time and needed a bath and a groom. So I offered.... and as expected, after six months she became ours officially.

The first weeks were not easy either. She has a dominant personality and she and Jess battled to be top dog. Things came to ahead one week when Jess was limping, so Saff attacked her, and my son was nearly bitten. From that day on we took proper control, and made Jess top dog. Jess was there first, a year older, and was battling against a bigger dog to stay at the top of the hierarchy. So now, she is fed first, goes through doors and into the car first, and has more privileges. Once Saff knew her place, the competition stopped, and in the last five years, they have been pretty good as long as we retain our recognition of their ranking. As you can see, they are not allowed on the beds! But occasionally they sneak on - and the children took this one day to prove it.

Someone once told me that one dog will have issues, but two dogs will have more than twice the issues. I agree. As well as two dogs eating us out of house and home, adding dog logs and grass burn to the garden, muddy footprints to the floors, hair to the furniture, and noise, they share their issues generously. Jess is scared of fireworks - and her anxiety has now passed to Saff. In her turn, Saff has wander lust. If we thought Jess escaping was bad, if they got out together it was party time - Saff would lead her off for miles! They would arrive home eventually, tired and wet and muddy, usually, but not always, together. Nowadays, Saff rarely gets out as we have great fencing, but if some idiot leaves the gate open she will risk the road to check out the rubbish along the lake front.

Saffy tried to die on us last year. She developed Auto Immune Haemolytic Anaemia. Sudden onset, no known cause, but she destroyed all her own red blood cells and collapsed. She had two blood transfusions. You find out who your friends are when you need their dogs blood! Many offered, and luckily two had suitable dogs. After these, and with massive doses of steroids, she gradually recovered, but will need immune suppressants for the rest of her life and is likely to die younger or develop cancer. At the height of her steroid dosage she could not stand and weed herself all the time. Her face became thin and skull like, and her hair became brittle and fell out. Gradually she has returned to normal, and this year we have been able to groom her again and she can manage walks. The illness has aged her, but she is still with us and enjoying life.

Sometimes I wonder why we have dogs. Then I see Saffy waiting for me at the gate, her blonde beauty, tail wagging and muzzle wrinkled into a smile; Jess squealing with delight running up and down.

I see them sleeping next to the bed and guarding the house at night; their excitement if you put on the "shoes" that spell W.A.L.K; sleeping peacefully near us on the floor as we watch TV. I remember the quiet companionship and how empty the house will feel when they have gone and it all makes perfect sense.

November 23, 2008

Snapshot of my students; nostalgia alert

Yesterday was the big day. I posted recently on the Hen's night, but finally the wedding day dawned. I have to admit the day did not start brilliantly as I was tired after Wellington, and feeling the effects of the final award dinner the night before, which was a great night! Those who we gave the top awards probably captured the feeling best in this happy little get together, taken before the formal photos!

I pulled myself together and, grateful the wedding was not until mid afternoon, raced across town. There were so many past students there, from about four different intakes. Some of us had a wee reunion in the birdcage at the racecourse, with one eye on the sky as the warm humid weather threatened to rain off the event.

The bride was radiant. There were four of my past students in the wedding party... and mid way through the ceremony I started crying. The words were so moving and seeing them all standing up there felt overwhelming! The four on the right were all with us at some point. Nice to know we introduced them all!

The bride's dress was stunning - check out the embroidery on the front ! I also hear the men were correctly attired under their kilts as well, and have the photos to prove it :)

To you both - every happiness.

On a final note, my friend from work, who was also at the wedding yesterday, is active in our local folk club. One concert that springs to mind was a mid summer celebration where they had Morris dancers. I remember suggesting, through suppressed laughter, with tears running down my cheeks, that if things got really dire at work, we could always tie bells to our knees and dance around the office waving hankies. It also dawned on us that no matter how strange your hobby is, or might seem to other people, if you look around there will always be others to share it with you. I was reminded of this today and will leave you with this link of a potential new Haka for New Zealand: Enjoy....
In tribute to the dancers - here is their home page.

November 22, 2008

Beauty from construction: Peacock Springs

Last week I returned to visit Peacock Springs. The idea of a barren, dug out, quarry being turned in to a beautiful scenic reserve, specialising in endangered birds and wildlife, is not something many of us think about. Thanks to the vision many years of one couple here in Christchurch, that is exactly what has been developed from their construction company.

Isaac Construction is still a working quarry. But now, where it was, the natural spring water and regeneration of the trees has provided a peaceful place for many birds. Each year they are kind enough to show my vet nurses students around. They have Blue Ducks, Brown Teals and the most endangered wading bird in the world, the Black Stilt, all living, and often breeding on the park. The Black Stilts now have 20 breeding pairs, up from the 10 when the project started.

Here are some of my favourite shots..

There are also the Kiwis, although most of the breeding of these occurs in our other local parks, though the Kiwi Recovery programme at Willowbank Reserve and also at Orana Wildlife Park. A number of my past students now work in these areas and it is fantastic to have THREE places like this in Christchurch!

Finally, we have the Tuataras.... our living fossils.

While we were there, one egg hatched after a year of incubation..... you can still see the egg attached to the hatchling in this shot:

Well done Lady Isaac, and thank you for gifting this wonderful place to Christchurch as a trust.

November 21, 2008

Windy Wellington - Absolutely Fabulous on a Good Day

It is early morning in the heart of Wellington. I am awake early - listening to the buses on Lampton Quay. The title of this will take you to the main page for Wellington City if you want to know more, after you have read this :) Meanwhile, I am close to the waterfront... which you can see here:

I am working with a variety of other vets and vet nurses from all over the country, meeting with the NZ Vet Association and yesterday we discussed issues around the delivery of vet nursing training here in New Zealand. Today, some of us are joining the Agricultural Training Organisation to plan what industry want delivered at diploma level. It is a privilege to be part of it. To ease the stress of the day we went to Pravda Cafe. (we went there last time we came up too) and had another amazing meal. The gingerbread creme brulee with citrus foam was, as usual, mmmmmmmmmm.

I read on the Pet Blog today about this kitten - amazing. I think the thought of both heads miaowing at once is particularly disturbing!

Tonight, back in Christchurch, I have our award ceremony for the last class of vet nurses this year. They finish officially next week. It is a fun night, tinged with sadness, but also full of pride as we congratulate and award the students and meet some of their partners. There was a time when it would have meant a long night for me, often running them home in the early hours of the morning, but now I tend to leave them to it and they can party all night if they want to... at least I don't have to cry at all - will save that for when the finally leave next week. Then straight into a few days of interviews for next year's classes....feels kind of like my last post - getting a kitten to get over the grief!!

Speaking of partners, mine has posted some of his art gallery online. My favourites are the pointilistic ones... and the page does not do them true justice. Their attention to detail is amazing. Some of the originals are much bigger than they appear here - in fact TrYptiX is three large pictures ( hence the name). I am on a slow interent connection, so not sure this has loaded properly.. but just follow the link for more.
Time to get up and start the day properly. Have fun folks.....

November 18, 2008

Grand Passion

My parents no longer have a cat. This is not because they don't like cats, although for many years I was quite sure they did not like dogs. As a child, dogs were my main love, but my pleas for one fell on deaf ears, so I invented imaginary dogs. They varied according to mood but were mainly either a Sheltie, or a Papillon. I still smile when I see either of these breeds, but have never actually owned one.

On reflection, my parents have only had three cats in my lifetime, which amuses me as I consider owning at least four at a time as normal. But they have all been grand passions; all-consuming loves. Sweep, a beautiful black cat dominated my childhood. He was a moggy; loving and friendly and a perfect pet for children. Sadly, when we moved away from Hertfordshire to the more northern rural life of Cheshire, the beauty of the farms around us came at a high price. The inevitable rats from the nearby water resulted in poison laid by the neighbours and his early demise. The details are hazy. What I remember most is the grief; the numbed, wrenching grief of my mother. We remained unowned by a cat for some years while she recovered from the loss.

From rural Cheshire, we returned to live briefly in Hertfordshire. By then I was at boarding school in Hampshire, making the long journey back and forth each term, clutching the wicker traveling cage with my precious guinea pigs. At 13, my life changed forever when my brother and I flew across the world to live in New Zealand and join our parents who had both moved to Auckland some months earlier. The family unanimously agreed it was time for another cat. We decided on a Siamese and quickly found a Seal Point breeder in the paper over the New Year holidays. We duly selected the smallest, i.e the runt, but she was beautiful and we all fell in love with Tika.

Somewhere we will have paper copies of pictures of her... but not tonight.

She was too young to put in a cattery, even if we could have managed to part with her so soon, so she travelled with us on our holidays. She came round the Coromandel in a dormobile as we explored our new country. She visited Sandy Bay up north, and even managed to do the Cream Trip in the Bay of Islands. For some reason we thought this was safer than leaving her running round the motel! I do remember we gave her an ACP tranquiliser tablet, so all anybody saw of her in her cage on the boat was what we affectionately call "ace face" at the clinic.. It looks something like this photo, so thanks to here ..

We had Tika for five years. She coughed a lot, and in hindsight with my now more professional eyes, she probably had allergies causing asthma like symptoms. One summer, when I returned from my first year of vet school, she developed "snuffles". Only she never got well; despite antibiotics and care, the virus and infections landed her in intensive care with a hole in her lungs, (pneumothorax) . After some days in an oxygen tent, she died. Maybe she was euthed. I just know she came home to be buried, and my mother's grief started again. This time, I took action and decided that I would get a kitten for myself to take back to university. It was fine for them to grieve, but I wasn't going to buy into it.

After careful choice, I found a strong and healthy Seal Point female, Tasha. She was one of the old school type of Siamese - large and strong, not the rangy, lean, pointy ones you get today. With her came ATTITUDE, tons of it. A healthy temper, and a "don't mess with me" air. She took over the house. It worked; my mother still grieved, but managed to accept the kitten and allow her antics to cheer her up. By the time I came to leave for uni again after a few weeks there was a palpable air of concern at her being taken all the way to Palmerston North to a student flat of five. But Mum wasn't totally ready to take her on, so Tasha did come with me and proceeded to rule our flat for the first term. She was chaos on wheels. She demanded, she complained, she twisted us all round her paws. The other girl in the flat was another vet student, and understood her ways, but the guys were all ag or hort students and alternately loved and loathed her, depending on the contents of her dirt tray, how often she had leapt on them from the top of the door, or smooched them.

Eventually, we both returned to Auckland for the holidays, she now a beautiful exotic leggy 7 month old cat. Of course, she never made it back to Palmerston North! I got to see her occasionally when I visited, but in later years, when I guess Tasha was 10, my parents returned to live in England. The six month quarantine nearly finished her, but my mother sat locked in her run area for hours syringe feeding her. They got five more years with her before she developed a growth in her mouth. Despite radiotherapy treatment Tasha slowly declined and was finally put to sleep at 16. She is immortalised in a beautiful canvas painted picture on their wall, back here in Christchurch.

For fifteen years, they have remained catless. The excuses are multitude; responsibility, travel, cost....but I suspect it is to avoid the pain of losing another one.

November 17, 2008

Elmo... tickle me?

Elmo is the youngest member of the family. Strictly speaking he is only a visitor as he belongs to my daughter, but he has now lived here with us for nearly two years. This means that he is likely to leave one day with her too.... unless she decides to travel, in which case I expect we will be honorary parents for as long as it suits her needs. She acquired him as a kitten when she went flatting and was missing her cats, particularly Rupert. She found him - from memory on Trade Me, and to her pleasure and surprise he was free. I love that word - free to anyone prepared to receive cat love and in return pay to vaccinate, worm, deflea and neuter me, and pay for premium cat food for many years. Wait - I pay for the food!!!

I digress. After a year of flatting, at the same time as I finally moved across town to be with my partner, and as children are inclined to do for a while, she returned home to live, and Elmo took up residence. At the time I was trying to finish the year for another class of students, move house, help plan for my son's wedding the week after we moved, and amidst the chaos, introduce the two resident cats here, Bailey and Squidget (RIP), to our four cats and the two dogs. What was one more!!! We filled the house with "Feliway" diffusers , which is the pheremone that is produced when cats rub themselves on you. It makes them feel at home and they settle in more quickly. It worked; the introductions went amazingly well. I recommend it to anyone moving house or introducing new cats to strange events or things. Personally, I found treating myself to a massage far more relaxing as a coping strategy at the time!

As you can see, he is tolerated by Nala... must be the matching colours.

Anyway - Elmo, lives in the sleepout with his mum, but slips into the main house for his meals, and some playtime with the others. He likes sunning himself on the vege garden.. you can probably see the abundance of vegetables in it in this photo!

As you can see he is quite beautiful for a young 'un. Not as majestic and Rupert and Motley, but a likable teenager.

He quite liked the huge tripod orange play tunnel...which we had to abandon as it took up all the room in the sitting room! Cats may rule, but it was a pain and we will keep it for special occasions.

He may not be mine, but he is honoured. I have immortalized him by using his eyes on the header picture for the blog....
Thanks Elmo

November 16, 2008

Neo-Conduit: Leaking stomas and cute Kittens

If you want to know how the kittens are going - check out the video at Neo-Conduits Blog - she is the mum. :)
Neo-Conduit: Leaking stomas and cute Kittens

Here are some pix I took as well :)


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