December 30, 2009


If Xmas is all about family, then my partner and I have been incredibly lucky this year to have caught up with so many members of all our extended family.  Xmas day was filled with a blend of the two, where his family came to spend Xmas with my family, at my parents' house.... and it was inspring to see Xmas through the eyes of children again.   
Phoebe is a wee delight and it is wonderful having her and her gorgeous sisters here. 


As you can see, the grown ups also joined in the dress ups with a  vengeance....

and it was a hot, glorious day full of laughter, great food and a quick skype to catch up with my brother in Vancouver, where James and Jess also spent Xmas - they put up their Xmas pictures at

Boxing day was spent recovering, exploring the boardwalk around the lake across our road.... cooler weather, but at least we walked off the Xmas feasting.

Finally, on Sunday, my partner got together with his two brothers... the annual get together, although they all live locally so we do see them in between! Managed to get them out for a photo with some of the children ....

We have the family here for New Years - so having a party here at home... a small one anyway. 

Being surrounded by the family has helped me remember what is important in my life!  Good health and happiness...

Wishing you all the best for a wonderful New Year.

December 25, 2009

Celine Dion-Oh Holy night

I was playing this last night while we wrapped presents... always helps me get into the Xmas mood...
another blog had the Josh Groban version on too -

and Mariah Carey always does a wonderful rendition too.

Take your pick - love them all. Even the South Park Version:)

Have wonderful day everyone x

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December 24, 2009

'Giant George' , 7ft-long blue great dane and MERRY XMAS everyone

So glad I am not feeding this! Mind you, the food bill for my two dogs and six cats is probably not far behind this.
Go and look - this dogs foot is bigger than his owner's hand!
Meanwhile, I had better go and get some food for all the humans too - it is Christmas Eve: one sleep to go. Tomorow we will see Phoebe's family. They are staying with us next week.... yee haa.
Lots of lovely recent Xmas pictures of them all here....

James and Jess are chillin' ( where it is relaxing and cold) , in Vancouver with my brother's family. Just got off an early morning skype with them... bed hair and all - was lovely to see them. WIll catch them again tomorrow for Xmas day.

Wishing you all a wonderful Xmas - eat, drink, be merry and enjoy friends, family and here, a glorious sunny day! The upper half of the world has their wish of a white Xmas - me, I am happy in the new swing seat, with a glass of something cold and my feet up... the best part? I can use my laptop out there as it is shady!

Take care

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December 21, 2009

Auckland SPCA facing catastrophe - national |

This is always the sad reality of people allowing their cats, or dogs, to breed, is that there are far too many needing homes and not enough people offering homes. Whether this oversupply appears worse becuase of the recession, or as they say, as a result of theri own advertising, it will probably result in a lot of kittens being put to sleep .If you can help with placements, or fostering, I am sure any local SPCA would like to hear from you.

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December 19, 2009

Dog Dress ups

I really have to wonder why?
But for a pinkalicious pick me up, it might makle you smile!
Her name is Tinkerbell...

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December 18, 2009

Daily Tails of Chase...

Have you heard of "Chase" ? I hadn't until a vet student training in Edinburgh blogged about it today.

Although the pictures are unusual, the wonder of these lovely people caring for a cat that most people would have put to sleep is worth reading...
When Chase was four weeks old, she was hit by a car and left. Luckily, after a few days, someone found her and brought her to a clinic, and after she was treated for her injuries (including amputation of a back leg) she was rehomed to one of the clinic’s technicians. However, her face later sloughed off due to injuries, resulting in the loss of her nose and the surrounding skin.
Here is Chase as The Christmas Cat.....
 for more stories and pictures.....

Today, I officially started being on holiday... for quite a while.  I know this, but it doesn't seem real. I imagine I will want to go to work as usual on Monday... might take me a few days to switch off and not to think about the pile of work waiting for us all to return next month! I guess if I was packing to get on a plane tomorrow it might feel more real... but burnout tends to make things feel different. There is a mild sense of relief and I am sure the rest will sort itself out. At least it is hot! We have a strong NorWester here pushing up the temperatures...

Last night we went to see Avatar in 3D...
Absolutely amazing and I was spellbound for three hours..... and the 3D really made you feel like you were in the movie with them.
10 ice creams out of 10... and that is not how many we ate in the three hours... :)
Read more at or


December 16, 2009

Ringling's Baby Elephants Tied Up and Electro-Shocked by Trainers

Although these pictures are upsetting, I really think this site is worth a look. It will probably put you off circuses for life, especially if they involve live animals.
I stopped going to them years ago... If the pictures are not showing, please go to the site:

Politically Correct Carols

Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from
landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherd's has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather
conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts.
Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Little Donkey
Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased
risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled 'little' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation
to a worthy cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher.
We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the
camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks.
Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels hooves.

The Rocking Song
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you:

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative.
Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken
against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

December 13, 2009

Treacy Travels: Molly turns FIVE

Phoebe's family have had a busy weekend... because they had her sisters' fifth birthday party. We got to talk to the princess of the day by phone... so was great to see the photos this morning. 12sleeps till we see them all again!!!! Click on the link to see more pictures of it all...

James and Jess are still in London...but on Tuesday they are leaving, to spend Xmas with my brother in Vancouver.

Life back in the West agrees with them...but then London in her Xmas lights is special - I almost wish I was there. Instead I am amusing myself blogging, while relaxing in my new three seater, flattens to a bed, canopied, outdoor swing... and yesterday it was in 30C heat - I can thoroughly recommend it for stress relief!

One more week and I get some holidays - can't wait. Roll on Jan 1st too - 2009 has not been a year I will particularly want to remember! Onward and upward :)

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December 12, 2009

Scoop: Wellington Zoo boasts new animal hospital

I recently had a chance to look into the special vet clinic at Auckland is open for public viewing of the operations. Now Wellington Zoo has opened the same style of clinic, called "The Nest" and the public can watch the veterinary staff at work.

Wellington Zoo also featured regularly in a recent New Zealand TV programme about Wild Vets,, so it is great to see them get this facility.
I have many past students who now work with wildlife, and one of them is at Wellington Zoo - have a look at what I wrote -

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December 10, 2009

Dogs have got cats licked

Most people are either a cat or a dog person.... I have often been asked this question, and as the current owner of six cats and two dogs, I can't imagine life without owning either of them. As species they are so different. I admire the beauty and agility and 'decorativeness' of the cats. The steady rumble when they purr, soothing, calming and comforting. The way they curl up on the furniture and weave round your legs when you become the food manufacturer. I feel happy when the dogs crowd at the gate, Saffy curling her lips into a smile of pleasure, their tails waving, even when I have just been down the road for 10 minutes...the way Jessie presses against me when I cry, even the way she licks us - just don't yawn near her! Saffy never licks... far too well trained before I got her!
Despite 30 years as a vet and 14 of them running a cattery, I still react badly if I get cat fur in my eyes. Perhaps this is why I see my cats as decorative rather than interactive; excessive stroking leaves fur on my hands.... so I don't handle them as much as I want to - but Bailey can still sleep cuddled close near my head, and I cope.
Shall I start on the vacuuming and hassles associated with keeping ahead of the fur mountain these all create?
Or all the costs?
I do feel sad that these might be the last dogs I own.. the thought of not being tied to kennels and walks and worries about leaving them for too long may mean I do not get another dog.. but then I think perhaps a small, maybe even a non-shedding dog, that can come with me everywhere, even to work, might be tempting. Perhaps I could do a Paris Hilton handbag job!
My friend is buying a Burmilla, which is the cat you can see in this picture. They look beautiful, and I am very tempted by them. More realistically, perhaps I need a hairless Sphynx cat... swap brushing for bathing and get more interactive. Maybe this would even replace the need for a dog in my life? One of my students brings her Sphynx up to polytech on a lead...
So, now, are you a cat person or a dog person...or both?

December 6, 2009

Budding ballerina and farewell to Bangladesh

I have not written much about the family lately, but Phoebe's family updated their blog tonight and we got new pictures... so here is the ballerina herself, and just follow through the link to see what she has been up to with her sisters :)

James and Jess have left Bangladesh -
you can read all about their last days on theri blog, and how they are coping with the transition to Western living and cold weather in London... before they have Xmas in Vancouver with my brother, and later visit New York before heading home via Australia, arriving early February. They left Bangladesh on Dec 3rd, their third wedding anniversary - seems so much has happened in those few years!

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Lovemaking Tips for Seniors...

Lovemaking Tips For Seniors

1. Wear your glasses.

TO make sure your partner is actually in the bed.

2. Set timer for 3 minutes,

In case you doze off in the middle.

3. Set the mood with lighting.

(Turn them ALL OFF!)

4. Make sure you put 911 on your speed dial before you begin.

5. Write partner's name on your hand in case you can't remember..

6. Use extra polygrip so your teeth don't end up under the bed.

7. Have Tylenol ready in case you actually complete the act..

8. Make all the noise you want.....

The neighbors are deaf too..

9. If it works, call everyone you know with the good news!!

10. Don't even think about trying it twice. .. . . .. .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . ... . . . . .. .. . . . . . . . ... .. .


Your sweetie says, 'Let's go upstairs And make love,' and you answer, 'Pick one; I can't do both!'


Your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes And you're barefoot.


Going bra-less pulls all the wrinkles out of your face.


You don't care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don't have to go along.


You are cautioned to slow down by the doctor instead of by the police .


'Getting a little action' means you don't need to take any fibre today.


'Getting lucky' means you find your car in the parking lot.


An 'all nighter' means not getting up to use the bathroom.



You are not sure if these are facts or jokes?

(I sent this in large type…So you can read it)

December 5, 2009

Dolphin Kiss

I may not be writing much... but work is getting priority at the moment...
but had to share this wonderful picture.
The site I got it from has gone - so huge apologies that I cannot link back.

December 2, 2009

Kitten home from sea

Alley, a chocolate Burmese, has visited 60 countries with her owners... over 7 years. in fact, she was a kitten when they first set sail! Luckily they are going to live on the yacht for the next few months -just as well as she has probably forgotten what dry land feels like!
I love the fact she doesn't like water.....

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December 1, 2009

Surprised Kitty

Something to make you smile :)

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SPCA takes care of circus elephant Jumbo

Jumbo is a well known figure in New Zealand - where she has been the star of a touring circus for 28 years. This has not been without some controversy and finally she has been handed over to the SPCA’s care. She was moved to her new home at Franklin Zoo during the weekend. This 36-year-old African elephant is now one of only two elephants living in New Zealand. The other is an Indian elephant at Auckland Zoo. (They recently lost their other elephant, Kashin. )

Jumbo’s handler and good friend Tony Ratcliffe, who has been with Jumbo for 28 years, visits her every day.

"Jumbo is a middle-aged elephant. Elephants can live upwards of 60 years."

Tony has a strong bond with Jumbo and is the only one who can take her in and out of her truck, where she stays overnight.

"An elephant chooses her friends. Once they do that, they bond for life. You can’t just walk in and out of an elephant’s life."

As you can imagine, Jumbo needs a lot of food - in fact she costs about $200 daily. The SPCA has set up a special fund for the public to support the cost of her care and feeding. Donations can be made to the Jumbo Fund at any SPCA office or via the SPCA website at

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November 30, 2009

Antonia Steeg.... New Zealand animal and rural photography.

This site has some wonderful pictures of animals and Antonia also features interesting views of rural New Zealand scenery. I have put up one of her horse pictures, but it is probably easier to start at the gallery to see more of her wide range of topics:)
Have a look at

Really, really tired at the moment - and it doen't help that people think we must be sitting around at work twiddling our thumbs because classes have finished for the year. Yeah right!!!! Shame about all the interviews, marking, submitting final results, assessment and handout planning we get to do instead! Another long day... bring back the classes!!! The stress levels have been sky high and I landed up having a good cry last week... not sure it helped, but it did help to remind me just how tired and stressed I was... still am, but trying to pace myself more. I spent a quiet weekend catching up with friends and my parents - but still slept badly and got up at about 5....too much to think about I guess.
This week we are also interviewing for a new staff member to join our small team. Sadly, my long term friend and colleague is cutting back to being a part time casual tutor, so I need a new office mate and programme leader. Times change, but I will miss her being around greatly.

On top of it all, the summer has abandoned us here... it is cold, and damp and grey, even though it was incredibly hot last week. . Tonight, we have even lit the fire - I am grateful for the cheerful warmth and a cosy room!

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November 29, 2009

Animals in Entertainment

Sometimes you have to reflect on the past to realise how much things have changed... and watching some movies that a friend posted on Facebook reminded me that we have come a long way in our attitudes on how we use animals in films and shows now.

I started thinking about it further after seeing this video clip - we all thought, it is rather disturbing...  on quite a few levels.

Today she drew my attention to the famous diving horses that were popular in the 30's.. particularly in Atlantic City. I confess I had never heard of them! The original horses were diving from 60ft high.

One of the divers was blinded by hitting the water with her eyes open, but continued to do it for many years. Disney even made a movie about her - which was heavily romanticised, but contains interesting footage of how they did the diving...

But on looking around, there are films of horses doing it in the 50's in Miami, and to my amazement, this strange practice is still happening today. Nowadays, they don't have a rider... but I still feel it is exploitation.

I am sure there is footage out there somewhere of the chimpanzee tea parties so often held at zoos.

Animal films and tv programmes have been around since television started... who can forget Lassie, Mr Ed, Flipper, Skippy, The Incredible Journey and Daktari to name just a few I grew up with. However, I imagine the requirements for the use of real animals in filming has altered dramatically since those days!

"No animals were harmed in the making of...."

I guess it depends on how you interpret "harm"?

November 28, 2009

Greyhounds and Friends

Sometimes people forget that greyhounds need homes once they are unable to race anymore... these lovely dogs make wonderful pets. I was surprised how gentle and placid they can be considering they are bred for speed.

I have had many students who are involved in this worthwhile cause of rehoming greyhounds. I found this blog about it, and you can also see more in New Zealand at

For those living overseas, just search for "Greyhounds as Pets" and your own local organisations will show up. Most of them run get togethers where you can meet available dogs, get together regularly at local parks to show off your dogs and meet other potential adopters.
If you are interested, do get in touch with them and find out if you are a suitable owner... they will be more than happy tell you what is required :)

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Killer whales: Death by karate chop,

killer whale

Moments before the deadly blow. The raised fin is about to come crashing down like a karate chop on a shark (circled). It has been driven to the surface by the orca before this coup de grace

An interesting article on how Orcas track and kill sharks.... check it out, and the other photos. I do think their sheer size difference helps, but I am intrigued how they have learned that holding a shark upside down can immobilize it! Shame that humans have not go th3 ability to do that to sharks when they are attacked!

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November 23, 2009

Face-Off With a Deadly Predator

This is an amazing video of a leopard seal... and a job I don't envy as it looks cold, let alone dangerous.

Right now, after a hectic week, my job feels pretty overwhelming... but on reflection, I think I will avoid a swap with this guy.

Meanwhile, I had a great birthday last weekend, with final end of year dinners and exams... our marking pile kept us all head down for a while!

All this was followed by a full on business trip to Wellington, and a weekend of parties for birthdays and neighbours - and a lot of recovering...from being tired, not the drinking!
Anyway - back to work, and finishing all our classes this week, so the interview process starts all over again over the next fortnight. Not much time in there to grieve, but we will miss the leaving students. Good luck everyone.

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November 19, 2009

A dog and her ... kittens |

wow - nice of her to do this as when we hand reared kittens it was a lot of work! At least she doesn''t have to bath them!!!

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November 13, 2009

Whale Watch® - Kaikoura - New Zealand

Congratulations to Whale Watch Kaikoura who have won the supreme prize at this year's Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards in London.

Check out their interactive flash site linked above (needs Flash).
or go here if you aren't able to see that one -
There is also a great article from the British Telegraph and a video on whale watching on here:

I first went with them in 1998 - and yes, we saw a whale... and although we now stick to our annual dolphin swims, we often see the whale watching boats out near us. Last week they launched their new boat... The Wawahia is the sixth in Whale Watch Kaikoura's New Zealand fleet. It was designed by Teknicraft Design and built by Q-West Boat builders in Wanganui at a cost of $2.5m, and is the first of a planned new generation fleet of whale watching vessels.

Hopefully we will get to see it when we go back next March :)

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November 11, 2009

Shark's do-it-yourself caesarean

Visitors to Auckland tourist attraction Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World were given a treat on Tuesday - a fishy lesson on how to deliver babies via caesarean section.
Visitors found baby sharks spilling from a large gaping wound in a female shark and told staff.
A large shark had apparently taken a bite into the female school shark's stomach to deliver the four babies, the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.
Kelly Tarlton's aquarist Fiona Davies said it was common for sharks to take chunks out of each other, even in the wild, but she had never heard of anything like this.
"It had to bite a certain part to let them out and do it without killing the babies or the mother."
She said the unusual delivery had probably saved the baby sharks' lives.
If there had been a natural birth, the babies would have been eaten by adult sharks and stingrays before staff could rescue them.
The young sharks have been put in a "nursery" before they were released into the wild.
The mother shark was doing "surprising well" and was being monitored.
How amazing... never heard of this before.
Just wish it had happened when we were there recently!!!!

November 10, 2009

New Zealand's Oldest Cat

This lovely cat, Smokey, that reminds me of my own cat, Motley, is apparently 24 years and 9 months old, verified by vet records. That is equivalent to 111 human years and he has been confirmed as the oldest cat here in a recent competition.
So, can anyone overseas beat this?

My own Motley has been adopted by our neighbours.. which means they each get to call him either 'Bronski' or 'Henry', enjoy his company, entertain their visitors, and I get to pay for his food, vaccinations, flea treatments, worm tablets, and recently, because they asked me to do a house call when he was vomiting, his check up, meds and blood tests. In return he gets to wander here whenever he wants to see us, and get called 'Motley' again. However, my partner has now decided he suits the name "Douglas" better. Excuse me if I have problems keeping up!! He is about 15 now - wonder if he will make 24?

And just to let you know, after my recent post on our Guy Fawkes sagas, Saffy is now swallowing pills and sporting an enormous head collar... but her feet look much better.
Jess is braving the dark again...still a little anxious, but coping...


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November 8, 2009

Getting up close and personal with the lions at Werribee Open Range Zoo

Wow... that is getting up close and personal!!
I grew up near Whipsnade Zoo in England...which was an "open Zoo"... and I remember the feeling of being on the African Plains as we drove though in the car.

Here in New Zealand, we have some wonderful zoos and wildlife parks. Many years ago when I first visited Christchurch, I went to our local Orana Park to see the new lion cubs. It was great, but increased safety laws meant they later closed some of the lion access. Many years later, they have managed to reopen the popular lion encounter rides... which are apparently very exciting...
Both offer a chance to see lions at close quarters...
Me - I will always love the noise... the deep rumble and power of the roar.
I might stay away from the teeth though.

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Dog tales.. fireworks mayhem.

Ok - I have Guy Fawkes week worked out now.

What are 'appeasing pheromones'?
Wednesday 4th pm - apply DAP (click here to read more)  to dogs bandanas tv and put up with stereo panting from them.Forget to feed dogs while still daylight - Jess refuses to eat as she is too stressed!

Thursday 5th pm : Guy Fawkes...we are going out to an Award dinner... so my partner leaves the dogs alone with the tv, curtains drawn, wearing their DAP bandanas.

We return home about 9, clean up the chaos and decide to take the dogs for a walk along the lake to face their firework fears, which, despite the heavy panting, they seemed to enjoy. We then had stereo panting while we watched tv until bedtime. Jess bravely manages again with no dinner...

Friday 6th pm: my partner is working and I am babysitting for a kids are all going out, so before they leave they carefully shut the bathroom door, where Saffy shut herself in the night before while "poo hunting" behind the door, and tried again to dig her way to freedom. Sadly, she decided to do it through the wrong door; the airing cupboard door.... but then she is blonde! I return home later and, again, clean up (some) of the chaos...

Saturday 7th am: I wake up, give Jess an extra large breakfast as she is not eating at night. Find a wet and shredded dead feather quilt in garden that had been hanging innocently on the washing line at some point the day before until the deranged canines found it.  We missed finding that in the dark... must have been done before they were shut inside! We clean up the feathers all over the courtyard, feeling like we are working in some sort of chicken-killing factory and hope the fine sunny weather will give way to strong winds later ( it did) and that the feathers will be organically distributed back to line birds nests.

Saturday 7th pm:  I get to apply ALL the knowledge learned - training really works!
 I apply the DAP to their bandanas, feed the dogs in brilliant sunshine at 5 pm...turn up the tv in the lounge and this time, also the radio in the bedroom... shut the bathroom door to protect the airing cupboard... then have to work out how to stop the laundry door shutting, gritting my teeth at the damage to the laundry door where Saffy tried to dig her self out the previous night after the ironing board fell over and locked her in...
I then shut ALL the curtains fully and create a secure and dim cave for them... and bravely go out.

Result... doors and bedding - safe. Dogs fine... apart from Saffy's damaged nails and foot licking that I just know is going to cost me this week!
Might just sit home quietly with them tonight.... Can some one remind me again why I have two dogs?

Fireworks have a lot to answer for!

November 6, 2009

Dinner doodle gets girl on Google

Amelia Abbott, 8, has won a competition, "New Zealand Doodle for Google", and will have her work appear on for a day next year...
Her winning doodle is a wonderful collection of classic New Zealand Icons...the silver fern, kiwi, kiwifruit, morepork, nikau palm and tuatara

Thousands of NZ schoolchildren took part and there are some other amazing winners on this news article - do go and have a look.


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November 5, 2009

Face The Facts


I read that Danish students are going to be allowed to use the Internet during examinations.

According to the BBC, 'Sanne Yde Schmidt, who heads the project at Greve, says: "If we're going to be a modern school and teach them things that are relevant for them in modern life, we have to teach them how to use the internet."'

I can't argue with the statement that young people need to know how to use the Net. Am I the only person who would point out, though, that young people generally manage to work that out for themselves?

But the argument is that this kind of examination tests the ability to research a subject and work out the answer to a question through the integration of information derived from various sources, rather than just the learning and regurgitation of facts.

And I certainly approve of children being taught those skills as early as possible. And I'm aware that there are now sophisticated computer programs that do a good job of spotting plagiarism, generally seen as one of the biggest risks of access to the Internet.

But I can't help wondering whether this is going a little too far. We do need to learn how to commit information to memory and how to use the information we've stored away to answer questions. This can be a simple regurgitation of facts, but the ability to do more than that should be what distinguishes the top grades from the average.

If I'm employing someone, I want that person to be able to think on his or her feet. Though there may not be total recall of every fact related to the matter at hand, that person should at the very least remember enough to have an idea of possible solutions rather than being able to do little more than stare blankly at me until they've had a chance to dive onto the computer.

We are, surely, in danger of creating a generation who are data-rich, but information- and understanding-poor.

This is an interesting concept...thank you Ro.

Currently the issue for us when assessing written work at tertiary level, is making sure that students do not just copy and paste their work off random internet articles... and yes, we can tell. The language and words let us know, let alone that much of it is rubbish. But we want them to read widely, journals, and textbooks and internet articles, then reflect on what they have found... and in the process, learn about it. This is what fosters deeper learning and helps them remember the information, and recall it when required!

When training a vet nurse, we are looking for the overall picture that demonstrates: knowledge, skills and attitude. All our students will fit somewhere on a spectrum of highly academic through to highly practical. We want to develop the skills they need to cope with both areas. At the same time, their attitude can be seen in how they deal with other classmates, workplaces and whether they are ethical, honest, and professional.. it can be reflected in their dress sense for work, their following of safety precautions, the development of their knowledge and skills and their application, and various feedback from the places they do "work experience" at...

We also talk about "dangerous and useless" - as in
Don't know how to do it = useless...
Don't understand why they do it = dangerous.

If we allowed the use of the internet in class, then it would make little difference to their success in assessment, as long as the assessment process takes it into account. An open book test allows students to refer to their notes and textbooks, but the questions need to encourage interpretation and application of their knowledge, not mere rote learning. Many closed book tests foster a cram and forget mentality...but they also let us check what sort of essential, must know, knowledge has got in there..and makes them at least read the notes again!

With the increasing use of wireless technology, being able to search for information on the spot has become normal... and I love it that I can check my facts and learn as I go. So I can handle students having the potential internet access.. just make sure the educators learn how to ask the right questions!

Posted via web from Fiona's posterous

Great White Shark bitten nearly in half by an even BIGGER monster

A 'monster' great white shark measuring up to 20 ft long is on the prowl off a popular Queensland beach, according to officials.

Swimmers were warned to stay out of the water off Stradbroke Island after the shark mauled another smaller great white which had been hooked on a baited drum line.

The 10-foot great white was almost bitten in half.

The fictional shark at the centre of the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jaws was estimated to be just five feet longer.

Enlarge   We're going to need a bigger boat: The remains of a 10ft great white shark that was bitten nearly in half by what authorities - judging from the size of the bite marks - estimated was a 20ft monster

We're going to need a bigger boat: The remains of a 10ft great white shark that was bitten nearly in half by what authorities - judging from the size of the bite marks - estimated was a 20ft monster

Do duh duh.. do duh do duh do duh do duh
Note to self - abandon plan to holiday in Aussie beach areas...

I do enjoy snorkeling... and spent many hours enjoying it in Fiji, but I do remember swimming at a deep water beach in Northland, NZ, gliding over the rocks at high tide, but hyperventilating with fear because I knew they had pulled one shark out of the water at that beach recently.

Take care if you are over there!

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November 4, 2009

Kitten demand outstrips supply

You don't often read that headline... but as thr main kitten season in New Zealand has not been underway long, most of those available at this SPCA are too young yet to go to a new home.

By December there would be an abundance of kittens. "We'll be inundated, so please be patient. It's just a demand and supply issue."

If you are getting a kitten, especially a female one, please be responsible and have it speyed....before it has a litter! They can be operated on very young these days - usually when they reach about 1kg in weight as a rough guide. You don't have to leave it until they are 5-6 months old, but if you do, they are likely to be already pregnant.
Sad but true...

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November 3, 2009

New Zealand - Dolphins and Whales

WINNING SHOT: This picture won Ray Lovell the wildlife category in the New Zealand Geographic photographer of the year awards.

This lovely photo was taken in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand...

We also had some whales in Milford Sound recently.. look here :)

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November 1, 2009

Bangladesh journey drawing to a close...

James and Jess are winding up their time in Bangladesh with a week long holiday, a conference, and in early December, on their third wedding anniversary, they will leave Bangladesh and head off on a meandering journey to London, New York, spending Christmas with my brother in Vancouver, and then home via Australia. No idea when they actually arrive back in New Zealand, but sure the plans will filter through in time :) I think it is Febuary! So still four months away. They have put up some great photos - do check out their blog entries

Darling Phoebe has been very ill this weekend, requiring a trip last night to the Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland to be rehydrated. A worrying time for everyone, but she is home today, and a nurse will be visiting her to check that she is alright. Not sure what the cause is - hard to tell with babies and viruses and bugs... but she is a tired wee girl, as are her parents!
Sure they will write about it when they have caught up on some sleep - watch out at:

While my partner worked last night, I had a girls night with my friend, and we rewatched the wonderful Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. It is a great story of not only the support of female friendship, warts and all, but a brilliant illustration of how we need to appreciate that our mothers were people, with their own lives and dreams and aspirations, before we were born, and hold a horde of stories that we may never know about, unless their friends make sure we hear them! So, today, I am going to have a lazy Sunday and catch up with my parents...who knows what I might learn!

and just because - my smile for the day is:

October 31, 2009

Bush rats unleashed on Sydney

Apparently Sydney doesn't have enough rats already... so they are going to release an army of native Bush rats into the city.... to be fair, these are not like the usual sewer dwelling Black rats, and they want them back to redress the balance of the current rat population. Smacks a little of biologic meddling, but it is an interesting idea.
We live on a small piece of water, more broad river than lake, so we see plenty of water rats scurrying along the banks when we walk in the evenings, and often they are foraging in the rubbish bins! It all adds excitement to the dogs' walks as we won't let them chase the ducks, but ratting is sometimes permitted. To be fair they have never caught one!

Personally, I would prefer it if we had squirrels here - I miss them, particularly the red ones. In the UK, the larger American grey squirrels have almost over run the red ones... so nice to read they are working on plans to redress that balance too!

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October 30, 2009

Halloween 'not for pets'

Halloween - I had never really thought about this being an issue as it is usually overshadowed by the usual articles on Guy Fawkes and fireworks...which is an annual problem for our dog Jessie. Her usual symptoms have started... no eating outside after dark, taking to hide in her safe corner between the wall and the couch... and racing away when the faint whine of a rocket goes off! Yes, we have used the special desensitizing CD in the past... and it certainly does help, but she is not cured by a long shot! The problem is owner compliance...

Meanwhile keep the dogs away from all the chocolate if you are trick or treating and in the interests of their own safety, Keep Away from the visiting ghosts, vampires and zombies.. and while i think about that - keep the kids safe from the human predators too.

oh - and do adopt a black cat this week....or even a dog. I have always known they are the most likely to linger in rescue shelters and are over represented in the euthansia numbers - but superstition should not play a part in this/

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October 29, 2009

Unleashed: Simon Cowell a softie for animals

Simon Cowell a softie for animals

Either American Idol judge Simon Cowell is much sweeter than he lets on on TV, or he's trying to make up for the nasty situation involving an Idol wannabe over the summer, but the judge has written a really big check for the animals.

The Los Angeles Times reports Cowell donated $30,000 to Linda Blair's WorldHeart Foundation. Cowell apparently learned from a mutual friend that Blair's rescue was having financial problems.

Photo: Cowell speaks at a September fundraiser for the Battersea Dogs' & Cats' Home at London's Royal Opera House. Credit: Chris Jackson / Getty Images via LA Times Unleashed

I confess to being just a little surprised to read about Simon's latest antics... judging books and covers and all that.
Apparently, Simon not only speaks at events like this, but he recently donated $30,000 (US) to Linda Blair’s (yes, that Linda Blair from the Exorcist) animal rescue organization, World Heart Foundation in Los Angeles. It was in danger of closing due to lack of funding when Simon heard they were in trouble and offered to help.
This says it is a non- profit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating abused, neglected, and abandoned animals from the harsh streets of the Los Angeles area, as well as from the overcrowded and overwhelmed city and county animal shelters.

Thanks Simon...

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October 27, 2009

Is this haunting picture proof that chimps really DO grieve?

United in what appears to be deep and profound grief, a phalanx of more than a dozen chimpanzees stood in silence watching from behind the wire of their enclosure as the body of one of their own was wheeled past.
This extraordinary scene took place recently at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon, West Africa.
When a chimp called Dorothy, who was in her late 40s, died of heart failure, her fellow apes seemed to be stricken by sorrow.

As they wrapped their arms around each other in a gesture of solidarity, Dorothy's female keeper gently settled her into the wheelbarrow which carried her to her final resting place - not before giving this much-loved inhabitant of the centre a final affectionate stroke on the forehead.  

Chimpanzees appear to console one another as Dorothy is carried to her final resting place in a wheelbarrow
Hard not to feel emotional at this picture...
what do you think they are doing?

October 26, 2009

Maltese terrier on dangerous dog list

I have always had West Highlander Whites up there on my own dangerous breed list... along with a few other more traditional, larger usually breeds. Another little white dog, the Maltese Terrier, now takes it's place on this roll, according to Australian research.

I know bites from Labradors are becoming more common - the breed that was always so steady and reliable. So why is this happening - this breed, and other little white dogs, are currently popular pets ( Maltese, Bichon Frise and Poodles are often crossed with other small dogs to create "designer breeds" ) - so are they just more commonly owned now, or is it the repeated breeding for their looks at the expense of temperament? Where do puppy mills, breeding large numbers of poorly handled/socialised puppies play a part too?

A large part of it is purely the owners failing to teach them the rules of good canine conduct. To quote some animal behaviouralists... "there are no problem dogs; only problem owners.".

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