July 29, 2009

Bangladesh capital sees biggest rain in 53 years

Yes, the monsoon has arrived in Bangladesh....with a vengeance.
The heaviest rain in 53 years battered Bangladesh’s capital Tuesday, leaving at least six people dead and stranding thousands in their swamped homes.
Streets waist-deep in water caused huge traffic snarls in the city of 10 million people.
Heavy monsoon rains have battered Bangladesh's capital, flooding streets and homes, stranding thousands and forcing businesses and schools to close.
The national weather office said more than 333mm of rain had been recorded in Dhaka on Tuesday in the past 12 hours.

Luckily, James and Jess are not currently in Dhaka, but further out in Joypara. and thankfully, got a message to me on Facebook today that they are fine there. The Dhaka residents are not so lucky, and the suburb where James and Jess are due to move to soon is waist deep in water. with all power shut off to reduce the electrocutions from the low slung power lines!

This has happened before in Bangladesh, regularly.

But I do worry about the people,


the children
the animals

and the lack of shelter and risk of disease due to lack of clean drinking water.

Christchurch suddenly feels a pretty good place to live :)

You can also read more about life in Bangladesh with James and Jess 

July 26, 2009

Beautiful Sunday in Christchurch Botanic Gardens

"The Garden City" of Christchurch has the most wonderful Botanic Gardens, and today, while it was warm and sunny, we abandoned the housework and met my my parents there for a walk. We even saw the first daffodils - and I hear that spring is coming in 38 days!!!!

Also look here - good article about it with some great pictures.

We had a coffee at the lovely Curator's Cottage...

We even had a cat for company :) The one at the back... not my mothers's fur hat!

We strolled past the turquoise and yellow Peacock Fountain, originally made in England from cast iron, and shipped over here about 1911. It has a history - here

I don't know what it looked like originally, but it does have an interesting colour scheme - and we were wondering about it today! So tonight I found this.
The Peacock Fountain was returned to the Botanic Gardens in 1996 with an improved pipe system and a new colour scheme. A local artist W.A Sutton was consulted by the committee on possible colours. However the final choice did not leave everyone happy. Some interesting responses were given in the letters to The Press, the fountain was described as looking "like a refugee from a confectioner's nightmare." The new colour scheme was blamed for "cause(ing) flu-like symptoms when looked upon." There was also the statement that "The new colour coding of the fountain has a closer cultural relationship to a nouveau riche garden in Bangkok

The other fountain I like is this one... hard to get a photo, but it is a lovely peaceful spot.

and because it is an area of special significance to my partner's family, here is another view of the trees behind it that were planted by Phoebe's mothers ancestors.


We also called in at the information centre... I had never really thought about how all the plants from England arrived here but we found this display showing how they shipped them over. Certainly, much of the flora here is not NZ native bush so the settlers certainly started all this off!

Founded in 1863 with the planting of an English Oak tree, the Gardens now features one of the finest collections of exotic and native plants found in New Zealand.
(That oak tree was planted to celebrate the wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. )

There are some unusual plants in the gardens... amazing how many of them resembled cabbages!


July 25, 2009

CATS... someone knows them very well!

Are you a cat lover?
Have you discovered Simon's cats yet?
If you haven't - I take my hat off to this guy who obviously studies his own cats very well.
The result, amusing cartoons that capture their behaviour so perfectly.

A new one has just been released.."Fly Guy".

"TV Dinner"

You can click on these links to see the other two
Cat Man Do

Let Me in

and he does dogs too...."Simon's Sisters Dog"

Enjoy :)

July 24, 2009

New Invention for saving stranded whales

New Zealand is a small island with many kilometers of shoreline, so we tend to get a lot of whale strandings.... as do many other places in the world, like Tasmania in Australia.

Photo by: Ilan Adler, www.Putchka.com
Photo credit: Ilan Adler. (Source: WikiMedia Commons; photograph released to public domain, 3 October 2006)

As you can imagine, this is a distressing experience for people, as after many hours of trying to keep them hydrated and breathing, many of these wonderful animals still die.

So I was really pleased to see that one of the winning inventions in the current James Dyson Design Awards is a special cover designed to keep them cool for longer. If they can be found in the area of the strandings, it should be a huge improvement on the current recommended process of placing wet sacks over them!

This competition is open to final-year tertiary students studying design, technology or engineering, and to graduates in these areas who are in their first three years of work.

The cover has special cooling gel pockets....and was designed by  industrial design graduate, Jamaine Fraser, who will attend the Creative Catalyst meeting for East Asian emerging creative entrepreneurs in Bangkok this year, as a guest of British Council New Zealand.

Eleven New Zealand entries, including the three national finalists, will progress to online judging in the international James Dyson Award competition. The global James Dyson Award winner will be announced in September 2009 and together with their university, they will win a total prize fund of £20,000 or local currency equivalent.

James Dyson, engineer and inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner: says “Design surrounds us. It inspires us. It makes more things possible. As our need for good design and technology increases so does the need for innovative and adventurous designers, engineers and scientists.
“If you think you have a way of making something better, don’t be afraid to be different, and don’t give up if people reject your ideas, trust your instincts. We want to encourage future generations of design engineers.”
All entries can be viewed on www.jamesdysonaward.org
They still do not understand why these mass strandings happen but there are plenty of ideas!

Pilot whales are among the most social marine mammals, often traveling in pods that include hundreds of individuals. Although these strong social bonds help the whales survive, their herding behavior can also lead to their demise -- as one whale emits a distress call that prompts the other members of the pod to follow. Some scientists believe that the whales become stranded when they are forced to chase prey too close to shore. Predators like killer whales can also cause "panic" within a whale pod, disorienting them and "herding" them towards the shoreline. Other researchers have suggested that the whales' echolocation system may not detect gently sloping coastlines. More controversial theories attribute whale beaching to military sonar and changes in the Earth's magnetic field, which could interfere with the animals' ability to navigate. But none of these theories have yet been proven, and the reason behind mass whale strandings is still a mystery.
 These majestic animals deserve more respect - go Greenpeace...

Sperm Whales tail with Whale Watch Kaikoura, New Zealand

July 18, 2009

Humans...little known facts

It takes your food seven seconds to get from your mouth to your stomach.

One human hair can support 3 kg (6.6 lb).
The average man's penis is three times the length of his thumb.
Human thighbones are stronger than concrete.
A woman's heart beats faster than a man's.
There are about one trillion bacteria on each of your feet.

Women blink twice as often as men.
The average person's skin weighs twice as much as the brain.

Your body uses 300 muscles to balance itself when you are standing still.
If saliva cannot dissolve something, you cannot taste it.
Women reading this will be finished now.
Men are still busy checking their thumbs.


July 16, 2009

The Shaky Isles of New Zealand

We had an earthquake tonight... a huge one, recorded as 7.8, with a 6.1 aftershock felt 19 minutes later, centred down south in Fiordland, but it sure made facebook hum with comments for a while! There was a tsunami warning out - but luckily this has been cancelled.

Read all about it here and here

New Zealand is often referred to as "The Shaky Isles" ... we have fault lines through the country, and have had some significant shakes over the years.  As well as our earthquakes and geothermal areas, we also have active volcanoes.... and there are some great photos of Mt Ruapehu erupting in 1996 here .

 I guess we are still very much a developing country!!!

Phoebe's dad sent me this video recently.... we share an affection for Irish music... more notably The Pogues, but who can resist a spot of Irish dancing, particularly when it makes Simon Cowell laugh. I expect they would have registered on the Richter scale too!


PS thinking about the cygnet yesterday, we found this today

Here is the world's first bionic Goose. The two-week old gosling was found with a broken leg, but vets did not have the heart to put it down.
Amazing... might have to investigate!!!

July 15, 2009

Sub zero temperatures for Phoebe's family

We had our coldest morning this winter yesterday.... it was a hard frost, and we had all the heaters in the house going to make sure that Phoebe's family were warm while they stayed with us... especially now they are used to the warmer Auckland temperatures...

This picture was in our papers this morning!

Christchurch's coldest morning this winter was lit up by a sunrise of competing layers of haze, smoke and steam yesterday. As surface temperatures fell to below minus 4 degrees Celsius in many parts of the city, the cold air played tricks even on the air several hundred metres up. In the photograph, a gentle westerly drift draining off the Southern Alps is blowing plumes of smoke and steam from left to right, where they are largely trapped under an inversion layer, above which the air temperature rises.
Hard frost yesterday!

It was lovely to see the girls again.  Thanks to the cheap flights available they managed to do almost a week in Christchurch visiting everyone and spending their last two nights here, camping in style on the range of portable, blow up and pull out beds.

Phoebe liked her new pushchair.... she will be pushing it along in no time!!!
It was such a lovely day once the frost had cleared yesterday that we took the girls out to the pier in New Brighton...

 See more pics of the pier here
 After a brisk walk we feasted on waffles and pancakes in the local mall. Delicious they were too!

When we walked the dogs the day before we had seen some out of season cygnets on the lake in front of our house... sadly, one of the five has a deformed wing and leg and yesterday, it needed rescuing from the mud ... I had a look and it seemed to be eating fine, and being cared for by the parents, so we made sure it got back into the water and will keep an eye on it. It is hard to know whether to take it in to be put to sleep now - it is swimming fine with one leg! Just hoping it is not a target for dogs.

Apart from that I have had a lovely week off work and feel much better. Even managed Harry Potter 6 this morning! It was great....

July 10, 2009

Dog washing in the mid winter sun

We gave Saffy a haircut today. After a lovely lunch with a friend, sitting in the sun near the beach, I realised the weather was perfect for washing cars and dogs; car was easy.. drive through car wash and wax completed I tackled the dog! I cut out the dags and knots, and my partner, who is quite good at proper haircutting, compared to myself who tends more to blunt cuts, carefully trimmed her feathering and "slippers" :) Then out with the buckets of water, shampoo and towels and we have achieved a clean dog again.

In contrast, Jess hates water.. Where Saff will find puddles to lie in, race into the sea and happily explore rivers and ponds, Jess will only paddle in the shallows. When the shampoo comes out, Jess will head to hide under the nearest bed. Today was no exception... but when it was all over, and I went to find my camera to take a picture of Saff, Jess was right behind me in case she missed out on any action... little tart seems to know when it is safe to reappear...

I didn't have the heart to do her nails and spoil the moment! So we sat in the sun together and let Saff dry, firmly restrained to prevent her rolling in the nearest mud! Even Bailey came to join us.

Thinking of haircuts, I saw this picture on facebook recently - just loved it.

  I think he has used Saffy's offcut fur to make a wig... :)

July 7, 2009

Pocket Pigs

After making so many of you cry yesterday, and thank you all for your comments, on here, in person, by email and on my facebook notes site too, I can tell it touched a nerve for a lot of people, and also made them think a little bit more about what happens across the animal world. I am pleased - I usually write when I feel moved about something... whether happy or sad, so it is only fair if it affects others as well.

To return some smiles to your faces, I will share this video with you. I have looked after many pigs in my time, albeit all of them destined for sow crates, pork or bacon (and that's a whole 'nother story on its own) but the noise from this one captured some happy memories... believe it or not!


July 6, 2009

Animal euthanasia and human emotional burnout

Emotional burn out of animal rescue and veterinary staff is becoming an increasingly common issue around the world. I don't suppose the global recession is helping as more owners are abandoning pets, or refusing to pay for surgical procedures.

I found a blog recently... it was simple and to the point and lingered in my mind... and last night, in a discussion relating to fish farming, I remembered it again. I don't suppose this person expects this blog to be widely read. It is a coping mechanism; a small memory of each life that passes through their hands. I am sure many who work in our industry will relate to it.

What I Killed Today - I work with a lot of injured wildlife. Also not wild animals that are just in a lot of pain. Sometimes I have to euthanize them. I decided to record each animal I euthanize here.
The reference to the fish farming came here
Next a male is removed from the water. He is clubbed, in theory, to death on the floor then the sperm is milked out of him. His body is thrown out the window into a pile on the ground.

I refused to participate. The instructor, disappointed and possibly angry, said "you're going to have to kill something sometime." I rolled my eyes. I stepped outside to avoid ridicule and realized that many of the male fish lying on the ground were still alive. I told one of the hatchery workers and he came out and half-heartedly clubbed one again. It was still moving. While it may have just been postmortem nerve reflexes, it still unsettled me so I spent the next hour cutting the heads off the fish as they were tossed out the window to ensure they were dead rather than have them suffocate to death. The knife they gave me was dull and it took all my strength to cut through.

So, honestly, I don't know if I killed anything today but it still felt as bad, if not worse, than any euthanasia I've ever performed.

So this got me thinking today as I teach Grief Management to my classes . ....which is about learning to deal with euthanasia and grief - for both their clients and themselves. People enter animal industries because they want to work with animals. They don't want to watch them die. And yet they do....

Animal Control Officers and shelter workers routinely deal with many challenges besides euthanasia: cruelty, ignorance and carelessness towards animals; hostility from the public; disrespect for their skill, commitment and love of animals. Of all these stressors, however, euthanasia is the most heart wrenching and unique to animal care work. No other profession asks people to end lives of those they deeply care about and want to help.

Euthanasia: A Veterinary Technicians Perspective

Each one hurts us, too. In fact, veterinarians and technicians alike tend to suffer more burn out in this field than in most jobs. It’s an emotional field to work in. It is not exactly professional for us to break down crying for each pet, and we try to keep in our minds that this is the right thing, but we see the owner’s suffering, we see the bond- whether it’s your first and last visit in one, whether this was something unexpected when you pulled in, or whether you made this appointment last week. We can see it in your face, hear it in your voice- we know how it feels because we love our pets so dearly and know how strong your bond is with your loved pet- each and every single euthanasia is a heartbreak for us, and we feel your pains.
Shelter workers pay a high price of traumatic stress and compassion fatigue
I believe that the majority of front line workers in animal welfare organizations suffer from traumatic stress and compassion fatigue. Why? Because the work is the most emotionally complex and morally challenging of any trauma worker role in our society. Remember, compassion fatigue is different from burnout in that the cause of compassion fatigue is always related to caring about, taking care of, or exposure to trauma victims, while burnout can result from any type of stress. Compassion fatigue is unique to certain roles and situations.
The factors impacting the severity of these traumatic stress symptoms include: the duration of the experience/exposure, potential for recurrence, degree of exposure to death, dying and destruction, degree of moral conflict inherent in the situation, and the extent to which the role is direct or indirect. Every one of these factors exists in the shelter/animal control/rescue workers job:
Caring for traumatized animals is a daily event, not occasional. It is on going, not episodic.
Exposure to death is frequent at many shelters
Degree of moral conflict is extremely high for humans who deeply love animals and are in a role of choosing who will live and who may die, and are in the role of personally performing euthanasia
Their role is seeing these animal victims of trauma is direct and hands on, along with direct and on-going exposure to the very perpetrators of animal abandonment, neglect or abuse

 Convenience Euthanasia - Just say no

What price do we pay for convenience euthanasia?

The highest rate of suicide in our profession in America involves workers who euthanize dogs and cats in animal shelters and pounds on a daily basis.

Researchers from the University of Southampton School of Medicine in Hampshire, England, report that the rate of suicide in veterinarians in the UK is four times that of the general public and twice that of doctors and dentists.

Richard Mellanby, David Bartram and David Baldwin published this sad information in the October 2005 issue of the UK’s journal Veterinary Record. They listed several factors that influence suicide in their  veterinary surgeons, such as access to lethal drugs, euthanasia being an encouraged and justified procedure, job dissatisfaction, job stress and predisposition to depression.

Is there anything we can do?
I liked these suggestions from Cornell University and the Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell
Working with Veterinarians
The simple truth is that enacting real change in our communities regarding the welfare and disposition of homeless pets requires participation from us all. We all have to work together in positive and effective strategies to non-lethally control the pet surplus. Veterinarians are uniquely positioned to participate and to take leadership roles in these efforts. These roles include: helping to increasing adoptions (through direction of shelter medical programs and building strong relations with shelters and the public), increasing sterilization of pets (in shelters and in practice--including feral cats), and increasing owner-retention of pets (through applied behavior counseling and permanent identification (microchipping) in practice).
 Good on Hills pet Food for running workshops
Compassion Fatigue and Burnout Workshop
Highlighted in Animal Sheltering Magazine, published by the Humane Society of the United States, SSACP's highly praised Compassion Fatigue and Burnout Workshop helps animal care professionals deal with the feelings that often lead to fatigue and burnout. The workshop provides a safe, confidential, supportive environment to address these feelings and restore hope, energy and enthusiasm.

And you, as members of the public, pet owners etc, can acknowledge the good work these people do, daily....

Animal in our Hearts
Have you ever wondered why people work at animal shelters? Have you ever thought or said, "Oh I couldn't work there, I love animals too much"? Interestingly, in response to both written surveys and verbal exercises in workshops I've conducted, involving several hundred shelter employees since 1995, the number one reason shelter workers have given over and over again for working in shelters is "because I love animals". They work there because they love animals, despite the pain and heartache they witness and feel themselves.

The next time you find yourself in a conversation with an animal shelter worker (or animal control officer or humane officer), instead of saying, "Oh I couldn't do your job, I love animals too much", try saying, "You must love animals a great deal to do the work you do." This type of comment, this acknowledgment, will go a long way toward boosting the morale of the people who care for the abused, neglected and abandoned animals of your community.
 So to the person who started the What I Killed Today Blog
Thank you for reminding me that they are all worthy of being remembered.

Now that I ave made myself cry, I apologise if I have upset you in any way, or unearthed memories and fears for anyone reading it...  losing a pet is never easy and their memories live on in your hears forever. Perhaps they go "Into The West"... like Frodo and Bilbo...

This moving piece was written for New Zealander Cameron Duncan ((April 20, 1986November 12, 2003) .. and then used in The Lord of The Rings... see lyrics below the video clip :)

Into The West

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey's end

Sleep now
Dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across a distant shore

Why do you weep
What are these tears upon your face
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away

Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon
Why do the white gulls call

Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come
To carry you home

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time

Don't say
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon
Why do the white gulls call

Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come
To carry you home

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the west



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