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Category: The Mini Menagerie (Page 1 of 3)

Parkway Traffic Lights

There is a thunder storm coming
and I do not have to go home
Bruised sky flashes and cracks
time slows and the world thickens
and still I do not have to go home
Lazy rumbles catch in my throat
and each striking light scrapes
little stinging cuts across skin
and I am heavy
and I want to go home

Betta sort it out

Yes, Betta with an “a”.

Betta Splendens.

I have them stacked on tanks, and stacked on desks and stacked on themselves. There were over 300 of the little devils living here in individual numbered plastic jars, and if you think that sounds a bit overwhelming, you would be bang on the money. 300 fish at 2 feeds of frozen worms per day, placed into each individual jar with the help of an eyedropper is enough to send anyone a bit loopy.

The betta rack in the laundry - that is 80, so imagine many more!

The betta rack in the laundry – that is 80, so imagine many more!

So I’m thinning out the flock. That was the original plan anyway, but it is not as easy as it sounds. First you grade them, then you ditch the runts and dags into a tank to see if any ugly ducklings sprout into beautiful swans. Next you scoop off the cream and dangle it in front of aspiring breeders and enthusiasts. Once they take the bait, you are sentenced to hours of prepping, bagging, and packing them into plastic bags and foam boxes to be whizzed around the country by under-enthused couriers.

Today was packing day. Tomorrow I wait to see if the courier can summon up the strength to show up at a designated time, collect the packages and drive them to the depot for redistribution, or if I have to arrange for a mad dash to the depot myself.

Right now I’m sorting the remainder of the fish. Re-stacking, feeding, exercising and generally making a fuss over the little things. I’m trying desperately to forget that soon I’ll need considerably less of the lower quality fish. The idea of bulk bagging and trekking to various fish shops to sell them off makes me quake in my uggies.

Still, less fish means less work. Less work means more time to do the other things that need doing.

It also means less fish…

I caught me a MOUSE!

For serious! In a cup!

Last month I discovered that some of our fancy guest soap had nibble-marks in it, and then a while after that I found that some of our wine boxes had corners chewed out of them. Last week, PSWC found that our bread (stored in the cat-proof oven for obvious cat-proofing reasons) had lovely neat craters in it, so it was thought that mousey had made it to the kitchen.

Well, today I come out to find our little tortoiseshell huntress, Amber, balanced in front of the microwave, very reluctant to get down. She had a rather studious look on her face and was insisting that the microwave was suddenly very interesting. I got the torch and had a look underneath, only to see a very tiny foot withdraw from sight as I flashed over it.

Soooo I pulled out the small fish tank, kettle and the rest of the gear that occupies the completely impractical part of the bench beside the microwave, and pivoted the appliance at an angle to the wall. I then scooped up Amber and practically pored her face first into the gap behind it.

She didn’t quite fit.

She did this cute little balance routine on her front paws with her hind legs tucked up against her and her belly balanced on the edge of the microwave. Her thoughtful little tail twitches seemed to indicate that mousey was indeed still behind there.

I paused and thought for a second.

I removed the cat, stuck her in between the likely escape route and the path to the Land Behind The Dishwasher, and pulled the microwave out from the wall.

Zoom!

A little grey mouse streaked past and under the wok from last night’s dinner. Amber looked utterly fascinated and ever-so-slightly amused. She sauntered over, sat up straight and arched her neck down so she could get a better look at her new squeaky toy. The sink was a mess, so I started moving mugs and glasses so I wouldn’t end up with slivers of kitty.

The moving of the dish brush did it, out sprang the critter and *plop* straight into my coffee mug!! A second of scrabbling and it was behind the cutlery drainer. Cue major cat interest and a flying leap to the other side of the bench. Mouse saw this and made a dash for the back of the coffee machine, but I was one step ahead of it and had pulled the appliance away from the wall. Amber was shunted into position and I prepared myself for the cupping by tipping all my fish feeding eyedroppers on to the floor. There was a black blurred paw (I swear that cat was grinning ear to ear, she thought this was a great game!) and a frenzied scrabbling at my little orchid, some scary balancing on a soup spoon and then *clap* one mouse cupped against the splashback!

And what did it do? Well what would any mouse do in that situation? It sat on it’s little haunches and groomed the coffee water out of it’s ears!

It is now in a plastic geotank in the backyard, munching on a cookie, waiting for PSWC to get home so Amber and I can show off the spoils of victory!

Rockpool Restaurant

There are few things in life that will make me sit still and relax. Doing a single task just seems so inefficient when there are not enough hours in the day as is. I’ll knit and watch TV, I’ll paint my nails and do a crossword. I’ll bake chilli choc brownies while catching up with emails, mopping the floor and making the shopping list for the next day. Multitasking is the order of the day, all day, every day.

Except tonight.

Tonight I sat on the lino in the kitchen and watched my little crablet as he sat in the mouth of a large shell, chowing down on a sizable chunk of octopus tentacle.

I looked on, completely mesmerised, when he carefully extended a single pointy toe, planted its end in a lonesome piece of scallop meat and dragged the whole thing into his spiral den in one smooth practised movement.

The little sandy crab chewing his tentacle

The little sandy crab chewing his tentacle

I swallowed a little snort as he shoved as much of the octopus as he could manage underneath his little body, to the point that he looked remarkably like a very leggy chicken roosting on an ostrich egg.

The little sandy crab eating his stolen scallop

The little sandy crab eating his stolen scallop

I smiled like a kid at Christmas when both McShrimpy and the baby damsel motored over to the seemingly unattended piece of scallop, moved as if to liberate it, saw the crablet attached to the other end and then quickly decided that they needed to be somewhere else.

McShrimpy gets some dinner

McShrimpy gets some dinner

I smiled again when the shrimp found a stray chunk of dinner and reverse parked into a rocky nook to get his fill. I watched on as his stomach filled and swooshed like he had a head full of quicksilver.

The little starfishy digesting her meal.

The little starfishy digesting her meal.

After all of that, I pulled the corner off a small slice of scallop, popped my hand into the tank and offered it to my beautiful little sea star. She panicked at first and clung to the rock. Then, after I gave her a little tickle and she realised it was food, she reached out a little stubby arm and carefully took the piece of meat from my fingers.

There are some things that need your full and undivided attention, no matter how many other jobs there are to do. Feeding the inhabitants of the rock pool tank is definitely one of them.

Little Piddle Pisspot

There comes a point in one’s life where the necessity for differentiation of furkids by urine scent alone is not required.

When I reach it, I’ll let you know.

*trudges off to wash her jacket*

Sleep well, my darling.

Two weeks ago today, I said goodbye to my boy.

I have been putting off writing this post. I know that whatever words I can come up with will not even come close to expressing our time together. They all seem quite hollow and empty.

Apollo at 4 months of age.

Apollo at 4 months of age.

I remember the first day I saw him. We’d been looking for a horse to buy for a few months and my riding instructor had called earlier that week to let us know that he’d found a horse that fit all of our requirements. I remember sitting in the car as Mum drove me out to my weekly lesson, and craning my neck to try to catch a glimpse of him as we came around the corner of the driveway. There was a split second where my heart sank, thinking that plans had changed and he’d already been sold, but just at that moment he threw his head up from behind the tack shed. He was tied up with a frayed red webbing halter and was wearing a very weathered Keiffer saddle stuffed with various faded tatty saddlecloths. Despite the embarrassing attire, he just glowed. His short black mane made a messy mohawk along the top of his neck and his fine coat showed every curve of muscle as he curled his neck to get a good look at me.

We bought him.

My first bareback ride on him, 2 weeks after we met. I was 11.

My first bareback ride on him, 2 weeks after we met. I was 11.

I took a glorious dressage-trained performance animal and made him into a kids pony. We did it all. We galloped along goat tracks in the wee hours of morning. We would jump anything and everything that stood still for long enough. We’d work on our flatwork in an arena that looked something like Central station at peak hour. We’d get 3 girls up on his back and lead ponies back down the driveway to their paddocks after a long day of doing a whole lot of nothing much at all.

At Penrith Show in 1996. A lousy photo, but a great day.

At Penrith Show in 1996. A lousy photo, but a great day.

We did a few shows. He never approved of this, but seeing as it took hours to get him ready and I just kept shovelling the food into him until I was finished, he didn’t complain too loudly. He’d get washed and glossed and trimmed and plaited and then we’d go and try our backsides off. We never really got anywhere, but we never really cared. He’d show off for the day, and I’d try to help him out by not looking too much like jelly on a plate, and we’d generally come away with some ribbons for our efforts. The next day though, it’d be right back to having fun.

At Hawkesbury Show in 1997 - 3rd in Pleasure Horse

At Hawkesbury Show in 1997 – 3rd in Pleasure Horse

We even tried Pony Club for a while, but it soon became apparent why kids ponies are normally ponies and not thumping great horses with the turning circle of a tank. We started out at a club up in the Blue Mountains, getting up at 5:30am and riding the 2 hours down into the valley with a small group of other riders to the club. It was always the most fun part of the day, even the days when you ended up having to ride home in the pouring rain. We’d cut through backyards and cross the road at the top of the track so we could avoid the ostrich farm. He’d tolerate many things if I asked him to, but those huge fluffy birds were sometimes just that little bit too much for the both of us! In the end, we attended a club closer to home. We both got to sleep in a little longer, but it was never quite as much fun.

At Pony Club in 1996. Gymkhana day.

At Pony Club in 1996. Gymkhana day. 

Some time after that, I became ill. We were out on a trail ride with far more people than horses, and so those of us with bigger horses were doubling. I always had the largest horse, and we were always the designated pack mule. While everyone else was up and ready to leave after lunch, I was always still on the ground and packing things into the saddlebags. Instead of standing still and then doing a mad gallop to catch up, we’d just walk along behind and I’d jump up when I was done. This particular day, I couldn’t jump up, and I knew something wasn’t right. I ended up having to claw my way on and cross my fingers he would get us home safely. He did, as always.

Apollo in his paddock with Chuckie the JRT

Apollo in his paddock with Chuckie the JRT

We’d always had an understanding. He was always head of the pack, and he worked hard for it. My concession in the relationship was that I was not to do anything to embarrass him in front of his herd. None of this riding business, or any of those smothering cuddles, and he’d do none of this happy nickering or walking up to me in the paddock to be caught. In return, he’d behave and do what I asked. Heaven help either of us if we overstepped the boundaries, it made for a most unpleasant day! He’d even get the dirts if I rode anyone else. It didn’t matter if he was occupied with a rider of his own, he’d watch me the entire time and make certain that I understood his displeasure the next time I got on board. It sounds stupid when you write it down, but that was just how it worked.

It must have been 3 months since I’d seen him. I’d been stuck in bed and hadn’t even been up to a car trip. Mum got the driveway gate and as we got to the parking area I saw him up on the hill behind the dam with a bunch of the other boys. I got out of the car and called out to him but the word stuck in my throat. I put my head down and held on to Mum to get over to the paddock gate to try again, and halfway there I heard this thundering of hooves as he tore across the soggy paddock to the fence. There were clumps of mud and grass going everywhere and a very confused group of geldings on the hill behind the dam as he galloped towards the fence. There were two big furrows as he dropped anchors and came to a screaming stop in front of me. I wasn’t feeding him, I hadn’t waved any carrots, he had absolutely no reason to expect anything at all, but he came anyway. With speed. If there was ever any doubt in my mind about how he felt about our little relationship, that day cemented it in my mind. We were fine.

Freshly groomed and on the hunt for treats. 2004

Freshly groomed and on the hunt for treats. 2004

He gave me a hell of a fright in 1999. We got a phone call at some horrid time in the morning, and I remember Mum’s face as she told me he was unwell. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of bed faster. He was miserable and was trying to throw himself on the ground every few minutes as his gut cramped up. When he saw me, he stuck his nose under my arm and stayed there much longer than usual. I still don’t know how I managed, but between my mum, another owner and myself, we kept him upright for around 2 hours until the vet could get there. Once the painkillers kicked in and he rested, I slept. It was only a short grace period before it started again, and this time everyone was exhausted. I put him on the float and travelled out to the vet in another person’s 4WD. I didn’t cry that day, and I’m sure they all thought that I was cold and heartless, but I told him the rules. Behave and come home to me. Two days and around 16L of IV fluids later, he was headed back to his herd. I spent the next 6 months in bed and thought it was well worth it.

Eventually I was strong enough to come and groom him. Then I was strong enough to sit on him and have a potter around. I’m pretty sure he had a good idea of my limits, but he was never overly gentle with me, preferring instead to leave me dangling from conveniently located low-hanging tree branches, should the opportunity arise. My arms ached, and my legs screamed at me for days, but I felt more alive in those few minutes than in the months of sitting about the house. It wasn’t until we were all kitted up and out in the bush that he started to get his oomph back. He’d go anywhere out on those bush tracks, even where there were no tracks. Down rock stairs, through creeks, and right up to cliff edges. It took me right back to when we were both more able. There was a day when we had to strip him down to his skin and walk low and slow under a fallen tree. There was a day when we followed a trail up the sides of a mountain, and then found that it lead nowhere, forcing us to come down in reverse. There was even a day when we were playing cops and robbers and, while coming around a blind corner at considerable speed, managed to skittle three nuns in full habits while they were out on a relaxing walk.

Proud as punch! He was simply wonderful that day

Proud as punch! He was simply wonderful that day

He was getting on though, and his joints just didn’t want to play. Pretty soon after I started feeling well enough to ride regularly, he started getting stiff. He never said no, and even after his legs started giving him trouble, he’d still attack our occasional rides with energy and excitement but only if we were going out in the bush. And usually after double checking my bag for carrots.

February 2005

February 2005

I was worried that retirement wouldn’t agree with him. He’s always been so very possessive and proud, and I was concerned that he’d become miserable and turn into a sour old grump. I worried for about a year, until one day I realised that he wasn’t looking for me any more. I rode past on another horse, and I expected to be met by his typical loathing stare, but it never came. He had a beautiful big paddock, two meals a day, and a little group of mares. He was happy.

In his paddock. It was always easy to find him even in the dark, that white face was pretty distinctive.

In his paddock. It was always easy to find him even in the dark, that white face was pretty distinctive.

I watched him a lot in his paddock at the beginning. I watched him herd his little band of mares around, and drive the other boys away. I watched him carrying on like a two year old and galloping around with the ex-racehorses. The day I watched him fight for his position in the herd and lose without complaint, my heart just ached for him. In that one moment he went from being the top dog to looking like an old horse, and that was never meant to happen.

Waiting for me to come and ride.

Waiting for me to come and ride.

I only rode a little after that. He didn’t mind indulging me, but I got the distinct impression that he had better things to do. Often, I’d stay until late in the evening and watch him with his dinner. The first 3 bites were the most fun. First he’d shove his nose into the dry feed as quickly and as far down as he could, stuffing his mouth full before I could get in there and dampen it down. The next mouthful would be very similar to the first, but he’d never quite get down as far and would end up with wet bits of food all over his nose. These would be sneezed and snorted loose at the beginning of the third mouthful, and he would relax into his meal as he became sure that nobody was going to take it away from him. That first mouthful was always gold.

Eating the grass near the feedshed. March 2007

Eating the grass near the feed shed. March 2007

I don’t want to write this. This was not supposed to end this way and even now, when I think about it, it still doesn’t seem real. I keep thinking that it is all just a bad dream and that I’ll drive up and find him gadding about in his winter woolies, hassling the other retirees for that good spot under the tree.

Handsome, as always.

Handsome, as always. 

I got a phone call from the people who manage the property telling me that he was off his feed, and had looked a bit miserable the past few days. They said that maybe I should get a dentist to have a look at him. I went out in the meantime to try to get him to eat. I made his favourites; warm pellet mash and molasses water. He made a half-hearted effort with the food, and halfway through he nuzzled his head into my shoulder. Somewhere inside I knew right then and there that it wasn’t his teeth. I booked the dentist, and before she’d even finished working on him, the vets had been called and the float had been hooked up to the car. He didn’t want to get into the float.

Checking out what the herd was up to after trying some food for me.

Checking out what the herd was up to after trying some food for me. 

When the results came back from the first test, I knew that it was more than the infection that the dentist had expected. The vet was talking in a way that I understood, but enough above everyone else that I didn’t have to deal with hearing the explanations of why. I pretty much already knew, but I ordered extra tests anyway to be sure, and left for the night. He didn’t want to follow the vet into his stable.

Looking out over the front paddocks

Looking out over the front paddocks 

She didn’t call that night, and I barely slept. When the phone went in the morning, I wasn’t sure what I wanted her to say. She said what I expected her to say, and I called PSWC to drive me out there. He let me cuddle him for a while before giving me a half-hearted nudge, and then gingerly followed me into the sun outside and we sat and talked for a while. And then he followed me back inside.

On Wednesday the 13th of June 2007 I said goodbye to my baby.

Missing since Monday

Sigourney showed up a few months ago, and strung a fascinatingly elaborate web…

…right across the back door. A few choice words and a vigourous poke with a broom later, she relocated to a more secure housing site and has lived under our backyard light ever since. Every time I’d let the dog out, I’d look up and there she’d be, spinning a new addition, drying out her silken threads or gathering up the latest swarm of fruit flies.

orbweaver01

Last week, I was letting the dog out in the wee hours of morning and discovered her missing. After a quick search down on the mandarin tree, spinning away at a glorious little egg sac. She looked tired and weak, and about 1/2 her former size, but was so busy spinning away that it was the last thing on her mind.

sigourneyeggs01

sigourneyeggs02

This past few days, her web fell into disarray and she didn’t seem to be enjoying the daily bug-wrapping rituals as much as she used to. I was worried, thoughts of ‘good pig’ flashed through my mind.

Today she vanished.

Her string of bugs is now laying abandoned on the back stoop, her web is gone, and that little egg coccoon is all alone.

I miss my girl.

Workin’ at the Cat Wash

Not.

Happy.

Jan.

wetambereques

The thing about self-cleaning animals is that they never think to wash their equipment before they get to work, thus they end up wearing the pungent scent of Eau de Whiskas. Every now and again you just have to step in and strip them back to their original finish.

wetoberoneques

It isn’t as hard as you think. To bathe your cat, simply follow the directions below.

  1. Gather your washing gear and hide it in the bathroom
  2. Whistle nonchalantly as you walk around the house and close off all of the possible escape routes
  3. Herd your cats into a dead end area and scoop them up, deftly flicking off their collars as you do so. Don’t worry too much about having a tight grip on your filthy little felines, around this stage they become incredibly grippy and should stick to you of their own accord.
  4. Walk into the bathroom and close the door behind you. Tightly.
  5. Undress as best you can around your new 4-legged adornments, and place your shampoo in the shower.
  6. Close your eyes, and take a deep breath.
  7. Step into the shower and pull the door shut in one fluid movement. Reach for the taps and let that water flow.
  8. Pry cat #1 off your person and wet thoroughly. Add shampoo and work it into a good lather. Rinse.
  9. Repeat with cat #2 while holding the shower door closed with your big toe so as cat #1 cannot paw her way to freedom.
  10. Turn off the water and wring out your cats, working from the top down. You’d be suprised at how absorbent they are.
  11. Open the door and make for your towel. No point in you freezing while doing a good deed. Dry yourself.
  12. Towel off the cats, paying careful attention to the sharp bits and that unsettling growling noise.
  13. Stand back and admire your work. You just washed cats, go you!

One day I’m sure they’ll look back and see that it was for their own good.

Today was SO not that day.

Fetch!

Occasionally I wonder if I should just stop throwing the stick. It rarely gets chased and one couldn’t really say that it possesses any boomerang-like qualities, save that it is made of wood. Actually, if you were judging by the boomerangs that I have used, that may well actually be their only boomerang-like quality too…

That is beside the point.

boundwithstick

There it is. Photographic evidence that the resident whippet does move. Never really thought I’d see one of these speed machines playing fetch. Admittedly, he has really only mastered the collecting of the stick, and is still a tad sketchy on the details about the whole bringing it back thing. Still, small steps and all :) He’ll get the hang of it eventually.

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