Often our clients and friends ask about our travels and our house and pet sitting experiences and we thought that a blog would be a good way to share our stories both past and present.
We have met and made friends with some lovely humans, canines and felines over the past 5 years and we hope that you enjoy reading about our pet sitting and house sitting experiences as much as we enjoy regaling our "tails"!
There is a campaign running here in Canada informing the public of this danger, and encouraging them to buy Pet-Friendly Antifreeze, which doesn't contain ethylene glycol. Since April 2009 the Canadian Government have legislated that Antifreeze should contain a bittering agent to take the sweet taste out, and therefore make it unattractive to pets, especially cats.
The link below gives advice on antifreeze and your pets.
We have been unable to find any Antifreeze for sale which specifically states Pet Friendly, If you have come across any, we would love to hear from you, and we will pass the information on to our readers.
When buying Antifreeze it might be worth asking at the store what their policy is.
We visited the Wildlife Recovery Centre to see what work they carried out and to see if they needed any volunteers at this time of year.
The centre began in 1984 when the founder, Robin Campbell discovered a Great Horned Owl entangled in a neighbour's fence, its wing was mangled and was in need of emergency care. Since then the centre has become well known, and when wildlife are in need of help, they are brought into the Centre.
Bird which died hitting a power line.
The aim is to cure and hopefully release back into the wild. Some birds or mammals are too injured to be released, so they stay at the centre.
If an animal is brought in that has had contact with humans, ie, hand reared or 'imprinted' by humans, they are not re-released back into the wild, they are used at the centre to educate the public on the wildlife in their area.
There is an Eagle Flight Cage where eagles who have been injured can build up their strength and practice their flying, before being released back into the wild.
There is an observation deck with one way glass. It is a good way to see these magnificent birds up close, without stressing them out. They are huge.
There is a Black Bear Rehabilitation unit where orphaned bears or injured bears are brought in. There is a cctv set up so that the bears have as little contact as possible with humans. If they become used to humans they will become 'nuisance bears' They must remain frightened of humans. The cages are designed so that the carers can come and go, servicing the cages
Festive bear cubMuseum of Nature.
without being seen by the bears. Apparently most bears are born as twins so they try to keep two together so they are less stressed and learn from each other, before being released back into the wild.
There is a resident Black Bear called Knut who has lived at the centre for a long time, and he can be seen by the public. He was sleeping when we went as it was very cold.
We walked around the outside Public Viewing area where there were a number of captive birds of prey which cannot be released.
There is a release pond for birds to come and go from when they choose. It is a great place to children and adults alike, to learn about the wildlife in this part of the world and how to respect it. They are doing an excellent job.
We took a couple of volunteer forms away with us after chatting to the lady at the centre, so we will see if we can help in any way.
Today was our first day as proper volunteers at the SPCA Parksville-Qualicum branch.
Our shift started at 12 noon. We arrived at the centre and said hello to the regular staff on the front desk.
We headed for the Volunteer room where we put on our overalls and completed the signing in sheet.
We had a hand over with Lesley, a volunteer who had come in a couple of hours before us.
We checked the notice board to see which cats had already been out in the day room.
It soon became apparent that most of the cats wanted to be out and playing, and as only 3 are allowed at any one time in the play room, it is a constant juggle to play with the ones out, make sure they all get along together, placate the ones still in their cages awaiting their turn.
That was the easy part.... We then had to put the 3 that were out in the play room, back into their cages. Of course they knew this was going to happen and did not want to be caught, so they used all their repertoire of escape and avoiding skills that they knew. We did manage it in the end though, and got three more cats that got along together out to have a stretch of their legs.
Their behaviour was much the same, they would have a tentative sniff around, all light footed and low to the ground. Then, when they felt relaxed they would start to play with all the toys that are in the room. Depending on their character, this took varying amounts of time for each individual cat.
Some of the cats were in an overflow room, so had to be wrapped in a towel so that they could be carried along the corridor to the play room. This was just a precaution in case they spooked and got loose in the building.
There were some really cute kittens there which are up for adoption in the next few weeks. Mainly though there are older cats. They are all really sweet, and have their own characters.
Max, a black short haired cat was quite shy to start with in the play room, he came out of his shell after a little while and started to play with the toys.
Garfunkel is a beautiful grey and white striped cat, such a handsome young man. He is a stray. He was exploring as soon as he got into the play room, he was fearless, jumping from one obstacle to the next.
Coco a beautiful black and tan tabby cat was quite happy to sit on the seat beside me whilst I brushed her.
Our 2 hours went very quickly, and before we knew it, the next set of volunteers were arriving.
We did a hand over with them, just giving them a brief summary of what we had done, and letting them know the names of the cats that were currently in the play room, so when they put them back, they would go into the correct cages.
It was harder than we thought. It is very hard to ignore cries for attention, and even harder to see the souls that didn't want to come out from under their hidyhole. We would have loved to have taken the ones that had been in the shelter for 6 months, just to give them a normal home.
Hopefully they will all be found homes in due course. It is always the kittens that seem to be adopted first.
We have put our names down for next week. We hope there will have been some adoptions
The weather is windy and a fresh 8 degrees, blowing in off of the Georgia Straits. We have had a good deal of rain in November, which is usual for this time of year.
Today though the sun is out and the clouds are scudding across the sky at high speed.
With the right gear on, it has been very pleasant to take a bracing walk along the beach, picking up a variety of coloured shells.
There are plenty of empty, pure white oyster shells, strewn all along the beach. We walk along with the dog going in and out of the sea, watching the oyster catchers, black birds with bright red beaks, lining the shore. The sea gulls pick up the oysters they have fished out of the water, fly up to a height and then drop them, with the aim of smashing them open, so they can eat the contents. This is amazing to watch.
The stretch of water in our neighbourhood faces out onto the Straits of Georgia, part of the inside passage which leads to Alaska. The big cruise liners coming from Vancouver pass here on their way to Alaska. In the Spring we will be able to see the herring shoals swimming by, and the sea lions that will be following them.
All this whilst we are being watched by a pair of Bald Eagles perching in the tall fir trees that line the water's edge. One swoops down to fish in the sea before it returns to its mate.
As pet sitters, our dog walks are never dull or monotonous.
You may share your garden and even your bed, but it's probably best to avoid sharing a meal with man's best friend or any other pet for that matter. Listed below, from most(1) to least(8) dangerous, are common foods and drinks that make pets ill. If you think your dog, cat, or bird has consumed one of these items and you are concerned, contact your vet.
Why: Stimulates the nervous system and the heart. Poisonous to: All species, but dogs are most likely to eat dangerous quantities. Possible effects of poisoning: Vomiting, increased thirst, restlessness, agitation, increased body temperature, tremors, seizures.
2. Grapes, raisins
Why: Damage the kidneys. Poisonous to: Dogs, cats. Possible effects of poisoning: Increased thirst, increased urination, lethargy, vomiting.
Why: Damage red blood cells, causing anemia. Poisonous to: Cats, dogs. Possible effects of poisoning: Vomiting, red-coloured urine, weakness, anemia.
4. Xylitol (found in sugarless gum)
Why: Causes increased insulin secretion, resulting in lower blood sugar levels. Poisonous to: Dogs Possible effects of poisoning: Vomiting, lethargy, lack of coordination, seizures, jaundice, diarrhea.
5. Alcoholic drinks
Why: Depress the nervous system. Poisonous to: All species. Possible effects of poisoning: Vomiting, disorientation, diarrhea, lethargy, lack of coordination, difficulty breathing, tremors, coma, seizures.
6. Raw yeast bread dough.
Why: Forms gas in the digestive track; fermentation of yeast causes alcohol poisoning. Poisonous to: All species, but only dogs typically ingest it. Possible effects of poisoning: Distention of abdomen, vomiting, disorientation, diarrhea, lethargy, lack of coordination, difficulty breathing, tremors, coma, seizures.
7. Macadamia nuts.
Why: Cause muscle and nervous-system problems. Poisonous to: Dogs Possible effects of poisoning: Vomiting, lethargy, weakness, increased body temperature, tremors.
Why: Contain persin, which damages the heart muscle. Poisonous to: Most species - birds especially sensitive. Possible effects of poisoning: Vomiting, diarrhea (in dogs), lethargy, difficulty breathing (in birds and rodents).
Today we went back to the Parksville-Qualicum SPCA to meet Sabrina, who is the volunteer co-ordinator for the cats brought into the centre.
She showed us around, telling us where we had to sign in when we came to do a shift. She showed us the rota and where we needed to put our names down to indicate which day we would be coming to the centre. As it happens, a regular volunteer is on holiday for the time we are here, so we have decided to fill her slot, which will be on a Tuesday, and possibly Wednesday if we are needed.
We were shown the brushes that are used to groom the cats, and the procedure for cleaning the brushes after each cat has been brushed. There is a strict hygiene regime to eliminate cross contamination of any illnesses the cats may have.
After going through the administration side of things, we went into the room where the cats are housed. Most came up to the cages to say hello, a few were shy and stayed back. They were all ages, mostly adult cats, one kitten. They were all in lovely condition.
We were shown how to handle them, and to read the board attached to each cage, showing their name, temperament, whether they were strays or handed in by their owners.
There is a room with the cages to house the cats, and there is a separate play area, where cats can be taken into to be groomed or played with. There are chairs for the volunteers to sit on and read a book, so the cats can have a cuddle and relax if they feel like it.
We have put our names down for next tuesday 1st December, and we are looking forward to meeting the residents. Hopefully we will be able to provide some comfort for them whilst they await adoption.
To see which cats are in the centre at the moment please click link below:
We have been on Vancouver Island for just over two weeks. Time enough to suss out some good walks, where the shops are and what is in our immediate vicinity.
Whilst walking our 'foster' dog in one of the many community parks on Vancouver Island, we spotted a notice asking for volunteers to help with the SPCA. This is the Canadian equivalent of the RSPCA in the UK. We spoke to the co-ordinator Caroline, and signed up for an Orienteering session which was held today. Our local branch of the SPCA is at Parksville, a short drive from our house. We arrived at 10.30am to find that there was an amazing turnout of 12 new volunteers. The co-ordinators were over the moon with such a response, if not slightly embarrassed that there were only two dogs in the centre to be walked at the moment.
It is obviously a good thing, but a bit ironic, as all through the summer when there have been loads of 'inmates' there has only been one poor volunteer to walk all of the dogs by herself.
After filling out a Volunteer Agreement and Release form, we were shown around the centre. There is a volunteer room, where we have to sign in on arrival. There are notices and sources of information about the centre and up and coming events etc.
We were then shown where the cats are housed. They each have a compartment with fluffy cushions and pillows. They have a separate room for them to be let out and played with.
There is a food preparation area with all the different pet food and all sizes of feeding bowls.
We were then shown out into the yard, where there are individual dog kennels and pens in a row. The two residents today were Dacota, and Richard. Dacota, a sort of wolfhound, had only been in for a short while but Richard, a huskey, was a long term resident, being at the centre for over 6 months. He has been re-homed but brought back due to his barking.
We were shown into a small room next to the kennel area which is called the chill out room, where the dogs can be brought in with their volunteer just to chill out and relax, as they would get the opportunity if in a home. The volunteer can groom them, or just read a book, whilst the dog has some down time, away from his kennel.
There is also an outside area, where the dogs can catch a ball, or do agility training etc.
The orienteering session lasted about an hour and half, and after being given some forms and contact information we all left.
Tracy and I are now awaiting an email from the co-ordinator to enable us to put our names on the rota for next week, when we will be paired up with a buddy volunteer who will show us the ropes on our first visit.
We are happy to help out where ever the need is greatest so we won't know until next week what we will be doing.
We were fortunate to be booked for a house and pet sit in the lovely city of Edinburgh this summer. This was our first visit to the fair city.
We loved the tall buildings and cobbled streets of the Old Town, soaking up the history of the Royal Mile and the Castle.
Our foster pets showing us around were a Newfoundland called Yogi and a Golden Retriever called Pippa. Both beautiful dogs, well mannered and very lovable.
Edinburgh is quite small, and it only takes minutes to be out into the countryside over looking the city on Arthur's seat, or walking past one of the many castles in parkland. The daily walk to a nearby park always took a long time, as people wanted to stop us and ask about Yogi. He was more like a bear than a dog.
Yogi had some health issues, and at 7 years old was beginning to slow down quite considerably. He had suffered an injury to his leg and although through the worst, he was having ongoing treatment to aid suppleness in his joints.
Part of our responsibilities was to take Yogi to the Hydrotherapy centre for his weekly treatment. This was a first for us, and we found it extremely interesting.
When we arrived we were asked about Yogi's general fitness from the previous week's session. He was then kitted out in his floatation vest. This is to prevent him from sinking to the bottom, and to encourage him to swim. He was then gently led to the pool. He loves the water and couldn't wait to get in. The assistant then attached a pole to his vest to enable her to position him in the pool, and prevent him from reaching the far side . (click photo to see video)
She told us that 10 minutes of swimming is equivalent of 10 miles running for a dog. The timing is strictly monitored increasing by a minute each session, depending on progress.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes use this facility, and they have to be referred by a vet before the treatment programme can begin.
Millie is the first Labradoodle we have had the pleasure of looking after. She is 10 years old and lives in Crete. She has been relieved of her coat for the summer months, and as you can see she loves to play in the sea.
Labradoodles come in a variety of sizes and coat types. They can be curly, scruffy, smooth, fleecy or wavy. They come in standard poodle size, like Millie or minature. The breed originates from the 1970's and they are good all round dogs, good gun dogs and very obedient. Depending on the type of coat some breeds do not shed their coat. They have a life span of between 13 - 15 years.
The Labradoodle is a very loyal dog, they love human company and the company of other dogs. We have been introduced to a number of people whilst out on our walks, as although we do not know the person coming towards us, Millie obviously does, and becomes very pleased to see them! We have made lots of new friends this way. Click photo to see video
We are on the beautiful island of Crete for the month of October. The scenery is lovely, and we are enjoying the warm, sunny days, making the most of the fact that we will be plunged back into winter when we return to the UK.
We have been looking after a dog here which its English owners brought from the UK, and is very much loved and looked after. We take her on daily walks along coastal paths, looking out over Sapphire blue waters. She is a keen swimmer and loves retrieving sticks.
We have come across many dogs on Crete who do not have such an idyllic lifestyle. It is fair to say that not all cultures are as dotty over animals as us Brits, but it is very hard to see dogs at best chained up on their own, with no shelter from rain or sun. Sometimes this may be on the side of a family property or in a field with a number of outhouses. We have been warned to watch out for pieces of fish being left about on the shore line, which locals lace with poison, to kill stray dogs. This is rare in the tourist season, but is widespread out of season.
During our stay we have come across many ex pats who have adopted dogs that have been abandoned on building sites when they were puppies, or rescued from people found stoning a poor animal just for fun.
One such case is Foxy. He came to his owner Roger from a friend who found him, and asked if Roger could foster him. He is very shy and very scared of humans. He has been with Roger for 3 months and in that time has learnt to trust him. He will come to be smoothed and is desperate for affection. He will not come into Roger's house, but it is still early days. Foxy in his new safe home.
He is very friendly to other dogs when they come to visit at Roger's house. It is sad to see that whilst other dogs will happily chase a ball and play with toys, Foxy does not know how to do this and if something is thrown to him, he immediately thinks he is going to be hit, and cowers away.
Being a young dog however, he is desperate to play, and curiosity soon gets the better of him with new people, whom he greets wagging his tail, keeping his distance at first, but if you remain quiet and let him come to you, eventually he will let himself be smoothed. It will be a slow process, but he will gradually get more confidence and realise he is safe whilst in the confines of this house and garden.
Foxy is a lucky pup who has been given a new lease of life. Others we have seen have become very 'street wise' hangning around tourist spots, putting on their sad little faces when they spot a tourist eating an ice cream or burger. They beg their bit of food and then they are off to find a spot in the shade to wait for their next bit of food. Cretan animal welfare group www.straysofgreece.org
Tracy and Della
Present location:UK and Europe
We are an English, female couple who decided10 years ago to do something different with the second half of our lives! We share a love of travel and animals and since "retiring" from our conventional jobs in finance and the Civil Service we have been house and pet sitting around the globe. We have had the good fortune to visit many beautiful places. We have spent a considerable amount of time in France (our first love!), we spent almost a year travelling in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore in 2008/09 and after a summer spent between France and the UK we enjoyed a marvellous month on the Greek island of Crete, 5 months living on Vancouver Island,BC, Canada, and then two weeks on the Big Island,Hawaii. We have been splitting our time between the UK and mainland Europe, pet and house sitting and looking after properties, wherever we are required. Life is good.