This is completely quackers!

Last Sunday evening I went round the corner to visit my friends Lin and Dee, only to find that even after three attempts an hour apart they weren’t in, so it was Monday evening after work when I finally caught up with them. Apparently another friend of theirs , Nick, had invited them over his place for a barbecue and they hadn’t got home until later than intended – and the reason was in their bath!
Now to put you in the picture, Dee works in a local pet store, they both love animals, and anything they can possibly rescue they’ll take – they already have seven rescued bearded dragons and a rescued dog, and only a couple of weeks ago Dee was thinking about taking on a couple of rats which needed a new home until she realised that it wasn’t a wise idea with having Oscar, who’s a terrier. So during the course of the barbecue Nicks mother ‘just happened’ to let it slip that someone she knew was looking for a home for two young ducks, one of which (the female) is supposed to be partially paralysed on one leg – and if they weren’t gone within a couple of days then they would be destroyed. Well of course that couldn’t be allowed to happen so Lin and Dee said they would take the ducks – Nick drove them over to collect them and the ducks ended up in Lin’s bath with a large carrying cage for shelter until an alternative could be found for them.
When I went round again yesterday I found the ducks in the temporary shelter of a large 2-tier rabbit hutch and with a pre-formed garden pond for them to swim in, both given to Dee by someone she works with at the pet store. Now although the larger duck is plain brown and looks very much like a female Mallard they’ve been told it’s a male, and no amount of Googling on my part has come up with any other possible breed, anyway they’ve called it Jeremy – and the smaller duck, which is more or less all white apart from her head, has been called Jemima. It’s obvious that she’s still quite young as she still has a bit of yellow baby fluff on the back of her neck, but she’s really cute and she sat in my hands for ages, squeaking rather than actually quacking. As for the ‘partially paralysed’ bit, well she does have a slight limp but other than that she walks quite well, and the pair of them swim like – well, ducks!
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Jeremy
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Jemima
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Exploring the garden
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In the pond
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It’s lucky that Dee works where she does as she’ll be able to get any food and anything else they need at discount cost, and Nick is coming over at the weekend to section off part of the garden to make a dog-free duck area. I know the two of them will be well cared for so I hope they get to live long and happy lives.
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Animal sanctuary spring open day

Yesterday I took my friend Lin and her daughter Dee to the Bleakholt spring open day, and even Michael came along with us too, something which he’s never done before. After the last few gloriously sunny days my heart sank when I got up in the morning to find it dull and raining – the last three open days have been blighted by bad weather at some point – however by the time we were setting out at lunch time it had brightened up and the sun was shining.
The open day runs from 12 noon until 4pm, we arrived at 12.45 and already the place was swarming with visitors;  Lin and Dee headed straight for Dee’s favourite place, the book shop, and after telling Michael where everything was I left him to wander off on his own while I went to look at the stalls in the barn. From there I went to look at the donkeys but they must have been out in the field somewhere, however near their enclosure a couple of kiddies rides had been set up and I got a great shot of the little train as it went round and round on its track. After that came the owl rescue stall with its birds sitting quietly on their perches or on the gloved hands of various visitors – two of them were only tiny but I couldn’t get a decent photo of either of them as so many people wanted to stroke them.
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Indian Scops Owl
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Not a clue what this one is!
Next came a look round the dog section, and if I hadn’t already got Sophie and Poppie I would have been adopting Disney – a 4-year old Yorkie/Shihtzu crossbreed he was the cutest little thing I’ve seen in a while. A few kennels further along was Sasha, a 10-year old Lurcher crossbreed, rehomed once but returned for being over protective in the home – she was a lovely looking dog and quite happy to pose for me while I took her photo.
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Disney
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Sasha
From there I went to the cat section where I saw what looked like the scruffiest cat ever. She was sitting so close to the wire that I couldn’t get her full body in the shot but she looked like she’d just been through the worst grooming session possible. Her fur was stuck out in various places and at the lower end of her back she had three tufts sticking up like little wings – she was a lovely colour though and in spite of her scruffiness she was beautiful and would have been my choice if I’d been adopting one. The kitten section was so full of visitors that I couldn’t get near any of the little ones so I took myself off to the oldies room and spent some time with them instead.
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Amy in the oldies room
When I finally got back outside I found that the sunshine had gone and it had clouded over considerably but it wasn’t enough to put people off, and with visitors still coming in the place was the busiest I’ve seen it for a long while. I met up with Michael while I was wandering round so we went in the cafe for a brew and something to eat; we had corned beef hash with beetroot and red cabbage and it was so filling that neither of us wanted anything else when we finally got back home.
Just as we left the cafe we bumped into Lin and Dee, it was trying to rain by then but it didn’t amount to anything, so we had one last look round the stalls, where I managed to get a brand new pair of beach sandals for just 50p, then made our way over to the motorbike display near the car park. The bikes belonged to The Cogheads, a local motorbike club, and on one Sunday every year they do a charity petfood run, collecting donations of pet food, pet supplies and money and ending up at Bleakholt. This time their run just happened to coincide with the sanctuary’s open day so there was the added attraction of 29 bikes and 4 trikes all lined up on display.
Bleakholt bikes
Once we’d looked round the bikes I left the other three near the cafe and went to get the van. Between us all we had a fair amount of stuff to donate and because of the narrow lanes and one way system in operation on open days I’d had to park quite a distance away, which was too far to carry everything, so it made sense to wait until the crowds started to thin out then I could drive down to the donations shed. When I got there I found Lin and Dee had disappeared – Michael said they’d gone to the office and when I caught up with them I found Dee in the process of sponsoring Chesney, a dog she fell in love with a while ago but one which currently can’t be rehomed because of behavioural issues. When that was all sorted out, and with all our donated items unloaded from the van and everything Dee had bought loaded in their place, we finally headed for home. In spite of the sunshine disappearing it had been a good afternoon with what seemed to be a record number of visitors – the afternoon’s final takings will be the amount they will be trying to beat at the next open day in July, so fingers crossed the weather will behave and it will be another really good day.

Echoes of Homeward Bound

No doubt many people will be familiar with the Disney film Homeward Bound, in which two dogs and a cat trek across America to find their family; well this story is in my local paper today and though the journey is nothing like crossing America it’s still impressive for a little dog so I thought I’d share it.
Lost dog Patch’s incredible eight-mile expedition to find his mother
PATCH the Jack Russell has an extraordinary ‘tail’ to tell after he went missing and turned up eight miles away at his mum’s front door.
The little five-year-old was out walking in Hall i’th’ Wood on Sunday evening when he got lost in the woodland. His family desperately searched for him to no avail . . . but the next morning he was found sitting on the doorstep of his mum Bess’s home in Westhoughton.
Patch has lived with Lisa and John Hilton and their children Annabel, aged 15, Oscar, aged 12, and Millie, aged nine, since he was a puppy while Bess, aged 12, lives with Lisa’s father, Edward Horrocks, aged 90. The family, who live in Crompton Way, were shocked and delighted to discover he was safe and sound, but are completely amazed by the unusual journey.
Mrs Hilton, aged 47, said: “It has been a traumatic experience, but we are so glad it’s a happy ending to the story. We have always gone to my dad’s house in a car. Sometimes the windows are open and maybe that’s what led him there. I said to the kids, ‘when you are vulnerable who do you want? It’s your mum’.
“That little dog of ours, we can’t believe he made it all that way and what he might have gone through when you think about all the roads and roundabouts he would have had to cross without getting run over. We don’t know how many miles he ran – he’s absolutely exhausted now but he’s our little hero!”
Patch — who is microchipped — was walking in the woods off-lead with Mr Hilton, aged 53, when he disappeared at around 4pm. Panicked, the family gathered around to hunt for him, handing out numbers to passing dog walkers and posting Patch’s picture on Facebook. Meanwhile it’s believed the dog made his way to Crompton Way and started his journey west.
It is not known exactly what route Patch took, but his family believe he could have travelled along part of Moss Bank Way and through Johnson Fold before arriving at Landedmans in Westhoughton some time between midnight and 6am, when a neighbour spotted him sitting obediently outside Mr Horrocks’s front door.
That morning, after a sleepless night of worry, Mrs Hilton received a call from her dad. She said: “He asked if I was sitting down and I thought the worst, then he said ‘You’ll never guess who’s sitting next to me!’
“It went from tears to thinking what a clever dog we have got. He wasn’t hurt, just a little shocked and tired. We are thrilled he’s back home now though and just hope he doesn’t do it again!”
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Patch
Bess
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I know the place names won’t mean anything to anyone else but the Hall i’th’ Wood area isn’t far from where I live and I’m familiar with where little Patch ended up – I know it’s quite a trek from one place to the other so it beats me how on earth he managed to find his way. An in-built homing instinct maybe? A desire to find his mum driving him on? Who knows, but whatever it was it just shows that dogs aren’t as ‘dumb’ as many people think they are.

Animal sanctuary open day

Today I took my friend Lin and her daughter Dee to the autumn open day at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary about ten miles from home. It’s a place we visit regularly and it’s open daily from 10am to 4pm, with the special open days being held four times a year. As well as the normal gift shop and book shop they have stalls in the courtyard and one of the barns, a bouncy castle and other attractions, and in dry weather they have fun dog agility classes which anyone can join in for free. These events are always well attended and they make a good couple of hours out. The place seems to be very well named though as it’s close to the moors and in winter it really is bleak, although it’s lovely there in summer.Bleakholt open day
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Views from the picnic area
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Nudging the balls to get the treats out
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A resident in ‘Old Woofs’ block
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Waiting for a forever home
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Archie, now reserved
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Part of the remembrance garden
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A resident in the kitten block
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Two ‘oldies’ residents
Although the morning had been cloudy and grey it did brighten up at lunch time and the sun came out, but unfortunately it was very brief and it soon clouded over again. While I was in the cat block, sitting in with the oldies, it started raining and when I came out it was pouring down, so I found my friends and we took shelter in the cafe where we had a meal and a brew so none of us had to cook anything when we got home. We were in there for quite a while but it was still raining when we came out so we just had one more look round the stalls in the barn then called it a day and set off for home. It was such a shame that it started raining as it literally put a dampener on the afternoon for everyone, but it won’t be long before the pre-Christmas open day which is always a really good event, so hopefully the weather will be kind and the sanctuary will have lots more visitors then.

 

Sophie at the vet’s – an update

An updated report on Sophie to say that everything went well at the vet’s yesterday and other than the stitches in her leg she’s absolutely fine. She was taken in at 9am so I could collect her about 2pm but the receptionist rang me at lunchtime to say that they’d had to deal with an emergency so Sophie hadn’t yet had her operation, however another phone call mid afternoon informed me that the op had just been done and I could collect her after 6pm. She was still a bit dopey when she came out of the vet’s but she perked up a bit once I got her home and she was back with Poppie. She has come home with some medication which she has to have once a day with her food and she has to go back next Monday for a check up and to make a date for her stitches to be taken out about ten days from now.
Of course Sophie now has the statutory ‘lampshade’ collar on and I’ve put her in a little pink t-shirt as the sleeve covers her stitches and should prevent Poppie from licking them. The t-shirt has a crown design on the back and says VIP – Very Important Pooch – I got two each for both her and Poppie when I went to the last animal sanctuary open day. The vet who did the op said ‘strictly no running and jumping about’ but try telling that to Sophie – as soon as I pick up the lead to take her out she’s bouncing around like she’s on a trampoline.
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Just out of the vet’s
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Back home, still a bit dopey
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Hopefully Sophie will have the stitches taken out in time for our weekend away the first weekend in July, then the week after that we’ll be away for ten days, probably somewhere by the sea, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for good weather then she and Poppie can enjoy lots of beach walks.

Sophie at the vet’s

This morning I took Sophie to the vet’s for a problem she’s had before, and after an examination and discussion she’s been booked in for a little operation next Tuesday.
Almost five years ago she developed a small hard lump under the skin on her right front leg; it started off as a tiny spot and stayed like that for ages then it grew into a lump as big as my middle fingernail, although it wasn’t giving her any pain. The vet wasn’t sure if it could be cancerous or not so after it was removed it was sent off for analysis. The result came back clear, it wasn’t cancer, and Sophie has been a happy and healthy little dog ever since.
The vet did tell me at the time the official name for the lump, a long name which now escapes me, and he also said that there was an 80% chance that it could come back again, though if it did it would be in the same place. That’s now proved to be correct as she’s recently developed another lump of the same kind under the skin on the same leg, though a bit higher up than before. The vet I’ve just seen – a different one this time – asked if I want the thing sent away to be analysed but I don’t see the point as I already know what it is, so she’s having a straightforward op to remove it next Tuesday and other than having any stitches taken out at a later date that should be the end of it.
Sophie had just turned five years old when she got the first lump, she will be ten in September this year, so it looks like this may be something which re-occurs roughly every five years – I can live with that as she’s such a healthy little dog otherwise. Poppie made me smile when we got back home though – as soon as I let Sophie into the living room Poppie was all over her, sniffing her like mad and inspecting her as if to say “Where the heck have you been?!”
The time spent in the vet’s wasn’t without its moments either. Both dogs had been out in the garden for quite a while before I took Sophie down there, but while I was busy booking in with the receptionist Sophie wee’d on the floor. It was easily mopped up, but as if that wasn’t bad enough I’d only just sat down when she did a poo right in the middle of the waiting area! I suppose the staff are used to dogs having accidents but right then I just wanted a hole to open up in the floor and swallow the pair of us!

And talking of mice….

A comment on my previous post about the mice reminded me of something which happened maybe seventeen or eighteen years ago. For some reason only known to himself Michael had bought me a hamster for Mother’s Day one year. We’d had a succession of hamsters years before when he was younger and I’d even had one since he left home; there was still a redundant hamster cage stored in the cupboard under the stairs so as he knew I like mice he maybe thought I might like the old cage to have a new occupant, hence the Mother’s Day present.
The hamster was a cute little thing, a brown and white male with a faint black mark on his back, and I called him Weeble. He lived happily in his cage here in the spare bedroom and he would often be running in his wheel while I was working on the pc in the evenings. Then one evening, when he’d been here for just about twelve months, I suddenly realised that he was being exceptionally quiet – maybe he was asleep in his little house, or worse still maybe he’d died. When I took the top off the house to check though I found he wasn’t in there, in fact he wasn’t in the cage at all – somehow he’d escaped, but as the door was still tightly fastened I couldn’t see how he’d got out. All was revealed however when I looked at the back of the cage more closely – two of the bars were bent as if they’d been forced apart by the Incredible Hulk, and the resulting gap was big enough for a determined hamster to get through. Heaven only knows how he’d managed to do that but he had, and I now had a hamster on the loose somewhere in the room.
I dreaded the thought of having to move everything to find him so I set a trap – some food in the bottom of a bucket and a ramp with a trail of food on it from the floor to the top. In theory Weeble should follow the trail up the ramp and fall into the bucket, from where he could be returned to his cage with the now-straightened bars, but in practise it didn’t work and he remained at large. Then one evening while watching tv in the living room with my partner I heard a pitter-patter sound above my head, a sound which seemed to move from one side of the room to the other – and we realised that the little devil had somehow got under the bedroom floor and was running up and down between two of the joists in the space between there and the downstairs ceiling. The question was, which two joists was he between? So Plan B came into force – with the landing carpet taken up my partner stayed upstairs and I armed myself with a broom handle and returned to the living room, then once I’d figured out exactly where above my head Weeble was I knocked on the ceiling, enabling my partner to determine which floorboards to take up.
As hamsters are nocturnal and sleep during the day I put Weeble’s house down between the joists and put some food round it – hopefully when daylight came he would go to sleep in there and he could safely be removed back to his cage. Unfortunately Plan B didn’t work and though I checked his house frequently over a couple of days he stayed on the loose – it was if he was determined he wasn’t going to be caught no matter what I did. Now while I could live with a couple of floorboards missing from the landing (after a while we got used to stepping over the gap) there was one major problem – we were going camping for five days at Easter and meeting up with friends, it had been arranged for ages and we didn’t want to cancel but I didn’t like the thought of going away and leaving Weeble where he was. Reluctantly however, that’s what I did, having put plenty of food down for him first – he had two chances so I just hoped that he would survive.
As soon as we got back from our Easter break I checked for any sign of Weeble; some of the food had gone but his house hadn’t been disturbed and even after another couple of days there was no patter of hamster feet above my head while I was in the living room so reluctantly I came to the sad conclusion that he had finally died. Although the thought of a hamster corpse somewhere under the upstairs floor didn’t exactly fill me with joy there was no way we could take up the whole floor to find it so the two floorboards that had been pulled up were put back, the carpet was relaid and life returned to normal. Then several nights later, while lying in bed, I heard some rustling noises coming from the narrow space between the side of the wardrobe and the wall; at first I thought I was hearing things but eventually I got up to investigate – and sitting among the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper which I kept there was Weeble.
He was too far back in the narrow space for me to just reach in and get him so I came up with the idea of using the small fishing net which I kept for the fish tank, but as I moved it closer to him he backed even further away until he was completely out of reach. Moving the wardrobe was out of the question so I went back to bed happy that Weeble was still alive and determined that come hell or high water he would be caught the next day. By the following morning he had transferred himself from the side of the wardrobe to the small space behind the chest of drawers and that proved to be his undoing. Armed with the small bedside waste bin my partner crouched at one end of the cabinet while I gingerly moved it a couple of inches away from the wall, then with the broom handle I gently poked and pushed Weeble along towards my partner and finally success – he scuttled into the bin and after almost a month on the loose he was well and truly caught.
Weeble lived for another eighteen months after his great escape and when he finally died of old age his cage was donated to a local animal charity. I haven’t had another hamster since then and to be honest I wouldn’t want one, but if I ever did get another one it would have to have an escape-proof cage – I certainly wouldn’t want to go through all that again!