Retiring Old dogs

I come back to my blog after a long absence, I did not stop writing because I didn’t have anything to say, I left because I didn’t know how to express the last couple of months in writing. The last of the summer months were hard on the farm and upon me, losing my beautiful old Pete has been upsetting, his presence has provided 16 yrs + of comfort and assurance without him it was difficult. My mother in law did a painting of him and laminated an old shot which is now on the fridge and every time I open it I give it a pat.


Moving into the drought and into winter certainly has us all feeling a little bit of relief and I openly (much to the farmers dislike) declare I won’t go through another drought. In fact I told a couple of friends in the supermarket on Saturday, I will move back to my house in the city. He didn’t comment till over 4 hours later and stated I shouldn’t be telling people as they will think I’m going to leave him … news is I will be for the summer. It’s a tough battle mentally watching the farmer and the farm going through drought, nothing looks fresh or green, we are lucky we have had more rain than some people we know.

With Pete gone, it has allowed us to take a breather from things, re-evaluate business and draw up another plan moving forward. I have always talked about moving to retire off the farm. It is something that we both need to agree on, I can see country communities are not great places for the elderly, especially if their families have moved away, the time to stop traveling or driving leaves many isolated and that is not how I want to be nor is here the place I wish to retire in.

I find it amazing when we talk about a plan with others, I get this comment “what will the farmer do if you retire or sell?” it offends me, when I gave up a career I loved, moved away from my daughter, friends etc  these same people never said to me “what will you do living on a farm, 50+kms away from anything, not knowing anybody” not one so as we come to moving our plan forward  I understand how difficult it may be for him, but he too can adjust like I had too.

With Pete gone we have also had time to re-evaluate our working dogs and have noticed Mandy our eldest one needs to retire, she limps on her front foot and looks sore in her back legs, many years ago she jumped in the sheep yards and dislocated her hips – we nursed her back to health and now that she is moving into being 14 or 15 it is time for her to become a house dog. I am sure it’s arthritis setting in and when she looks pained we give her medication to assist. She is transitioning to be an inside dog quite well, she comes in at night jumps on the couch and slept there quite happily for a while till she found her way into our bedroom and on the floor at night scratching for a blanket. This noise woke me up as I was worried she would be too cold and uncomfortable on the carpet, then in Bordertown I found this dog bed and purchased it. As of today Mandy is now the retired dog and today the farmer said she would have to stop traveling with him, it’s stressful  to have her sliding around the front of the Ute if he has to chase cattle, so she is now the inside dog.

Mandy in her bed

Mandy in her bed

Do we identify ourselves when it is time to retire, will we be able to look and see that retirement needs to be an option whilst we are fit, well and young enough to enjoy it? or will we be like Mandy – have that moment where you jump out of the Ute, get put inside and told that’s it, she doesn’t know she’s retired as she still wants to be with him, travel in the Ute and play the vital roll of a working dog.

Welcome to the office floor Mandy, I know I’ll enjoy your company and you can enjoy your retirement.

back into it

It’s been an interesting start to the year so far, no the drought hasn’t broken and we are still feeding cattle hay which becomes as repetitive as anybody else’s work, except it comes with lots of noise. Cattle make noises and follow ‘the Ute and farmer around. It is still dusty and the paddocks show little growth despite the face we did get a good rain in January – our first since August / September 2014. No we are not talking climate change the 50 + years of records here show that it all averages out, we are having a moment with no rain.

We have felt the sorrow of a dear friend’s passing after a fantastic fight with breast cancer for 14 years and deeply admire Andrew (her husband) and Alex (her daughter) going into year 12 without their partner in life and mother. It is hard to imagine how much they have to change to adapt to a life without someone they love.

As I type this I hear the sound of the Ute and hay trailer pull up out the front of the house and wonder if it is my turn to get off the computer and assist. I think I am a token helper, and he likes my company. I get to cut and pull the strings off the bales, change seats and drive through the cattle in low range approx 5km’s an hour whilst he jumps onto the trailer and pushes the bales off so that the cattle are spread out and eat. I have to drive through the mob approx 300 and make sure i don’t hit them with the Ute as I go. I can however (if need be) drive the tractor and pick up the bales and load the hay on to the trailer and could it without him if there was ever a reason to, I was fully prepared to with our fire a couple of years ago, but he came home after 24 hours and as it was loaded went and did it before he slept.

We have also lost my beautiful mate Pete (Golden Retriever) in the last couple of weeks after 16 years and that i did find difficult when i first went into my office. He has really slept on the floor of my offices for the time that I had him and instantaneously I saw a clean floor (I know it’s a surprise to me) and missed his face looking up at me as I passed burst into tears and struggled all day with it. I am fine now, I really am.

I have also done a closing down sale’ with a dear friend in our rural community, I had stock from my first venture into retail in a country town in boxes and she could see that her kids clothing store was not paying its way we decided to have a joint sale. This went well despite the emotional upheaval this brought (not for me but for my lovely friend Lana), I have very few items left and it even made me have to do something about my pandahats.

Faux Fur pandahat

Faux Fur pandahat

plush fur

Plush Fur Pandahat

Those of you that know, realise I have a storage container of them (I am not going into the story of why I have them that’s now boring) so whilst Lana was busy with sales I was busy writing to children’s hospitals and associations to see if I could do a deal to be rid of them. No the Zoo is not an option I have been waiting for 4 years for them, they keeping coming back and saying they are interested but that is as far as it has got.

After struggling this year with lots of things I have now decided I need to ‘toughen up princess” I have had a positive response for my pandahats, watch out for world animal day and a teddy bears picnic in Adelaide over the coming months. Thanks to the Women’s & Children’s Hospital Foundation and also to the Tutti foundation, I hope you make lots of children smile and money from them.

Now that these things have passed it is time to concentrate on many new things, I have also managed a 6km brisk walk today for the first time since my partial rupture of my Achilles in May of 2014. didn’t make it in under an hour, but made it I did. Have a great sunday everyone and guess what I have a wedding anniversary on 10th march, 8 years I find this amazing as I never thought I would actually ever get married. It’s a 3rd on the podium (bronze) only 17 to go to get to second place.. Copperart anyone?



Good byes

Well here it is then, it’s time and sadly after 16 years & 6 months our beloved Pete (the Golden retriever) passed away yesterday. What a sad day for us, not for him he was at peace when he passed, in fact we got a last wag of his tail. What does one say when they have lost a large part of their lives, nothing as my daughter said we can celebrate the fact he was the “best dog ever” and he was. He always greeted us with a smile, a wag, got up and licked hands, when younger he use to run around in circles in excitement when he met people he loved, as he grew old and lost hearing and some sight he would go and sniff then lick.

I am grateful for the time we had him, he was loyal, faithful and loving. When younger he use to sleep on my feet, he would come and lean against people’s legs that he liked when he was in his middle years and in his older years he would lay on the floor where ever I was and sleep, his presence was comforting and I never felt alone.

He loved the beach, the dam, the shower, the rain as do all goldies in summer the first time the farmer shaved him he ran to the dam and washed the years of thick fur off him and then we noticed he started to get freckles from being in the sun. I use to smear him with sunburn cream as his skin was so white.

I remember when I lived in the city before meeting and marrying the farmer I walked him everyday on Brighton beach, he swam everyday, winter and summer. Once on a winters day when the whites of the waves were crashing into the sand he ran out into the water and body surfed it back in, he was surrounded by white tops and small young boy with his dad yelled out “look Daddy it’s a polar bear”. Out Pete came and shook all that water all over that little boy, licked his face and ran back in. Luckily his father laughed and said it was a golden retriever. I remember when he swam out to the dolphin that comes into Brighton in summer and people yelling at me to get him out as he would eat the dolphin, all I was worried about was the fact that he would follow it and I would not be able to get him back, much like the two goldens that swam after one and they had to get the rescue boat out to get them off Marino beach, they were nearly 2 kms off shore when they pulled them in. Seeing those two dogs on really long ropes after that was funny. Pete never hurt the dolphin, in-fact they swam together (before mobiles had cameras)

Pete moved to the farm with renewed vigor, he had dogs for company, cattle to bark at and sheep to stare at him and the dam. He was leader of the posse. We secure all dogs on backs of Utes and he would be in the middle, in winter the other dogs would huddle close for warmth and in summer lay in his shadow for shade. He loved it, even when he broke his paw and had to be relocated back to the city for 12 weeks following putting 3 pins in his paw he was thrilled to come back to the farm. (it was the cost of a small car to fix that paw)

He ran and ran until he stopped, well actually we think he went under a gate to get to the dam and tore his cruciate ligament, so he was again limping. We took him to a knee vet who said then, we could do surgery but he’s an old dog and it would heal on it own (he was 10) and he probably wouldn’t live that much longer. Ha, he proved that vet wrong, he went on for more years to come.

He has had arthritis over the last few years and found it hard to sit quickly, stand quickly and get out of his own way (hence the pooping without notice – can I say I won’t miss that). He has not coped well with 40 degree days and a few times over the last couple of years we have watched with worry. From the hot weekend past where we were without power for over 14 hours we all suffered and he woke on Monday not well. As sad as it was to say goodbye, we did.

I wanted to put a picture of him taken the day before but looked at it and saw how unwell he was, so I got one from Jan 2nd and have shared that. I shall miss everything about him, he came into my life rescued by a dear friend and became all I needed, Amy & I loved him unconditionally and he loved us back. I will miss driving up and watching him lift his head as he knew the sound of my car, I will miss going to the door and letting him in and out up to 6 times per night despite being asked by the farmer “does he really have to come in?” “um yes he does” I will miss trying to walk around him whilst preparing a meal as he waited for a lucky drop (which he ALWAYS got).

Even the last year when we have watched him age, my husband said “pat him as much as you can as after they go, they are gone” I did that frequently, every time I walked past him I would touch him either with my hand or my foot. I would sit on the floor with him sometimes and pat him like I did yesterday for about 3 hours. I would bend over and kiss his head and he would lift his face to me. I am glad I was there for him and I am sorry he has gone.

Good bye, farewell my friend, my pet , my companion, I already miss not bending down to pat you and feel your soft fur under my touch.

2 - 1 -2015

2 – 1 -2015

Today is brought to you by the letter i

We have one on our property as do many to help drought proof and grow crop, leaving things to the elements is difficult when living on the land. It’s too hot, it’s too cold but it’s never too rainy we could have rain everyday of the week. I must admit I prefer winter to summer, not a fan of anything over 32 degree Celsius. We worry about our animals when it gets too hot, though we plant trees and isolate areas for them to get under the shade and for roughage, it is quite a thing to see trees ring barked from cattle.

A couple of years ago the farmer had his name in the ballot for a water allocation after over 10 years or so (before my time this commenced) it was awarded. Then it came to building the pivot so we can irrigate that was also another process. Now we have it I call it the “big sprinkler” and it works well to keep the ground watered and the cattle will follow it around drinking out of the sprinklers while the irrigation runs.

One thing the irrigation does though is hum and as there is no noise in the country at night so we can hear it from 4 kms away. This can add to his tinnitus (ringing in his ears) and adds to his insomnia. He sleeps with either the radio or TV on and gives all of us in the bedroom broken sleep. I still wake quite quickly and readily, I hear the cats crunching if they bring things into eat. One night I heard all four cats growling and hissing and in the midst of it was something else spitting. I hate the light going on so I now sleep with a torch, turned it on and there in the middle of a coven of cats was a frill neck lizard warding them all off. I was so annoyed I bent down picked it up so it wouldn’t bite me and put it outside. The cats watched and went off to their beds without further interruptions.

Pete the dog is in my opinion showing signs of disorientation at night and as I live in constant state of “will he or won’t he” (poop) every move has me jumping out of bed with torch ready to shove him outside, guide him to his water bowl in bathroom (prevent him getting on the treadmill) or have to go outside to get the pooper scooper to clean it up after he has been. It annoys me when he doesn’t even wake up and I’m inside, outside and cleaning up. Matilda the cat will sleep next to him on the mattress, she is not fussy which end of the dog is pointed her way, she jumps up and down when I get up and down as she is a flighty cat, the only night she never came back was the night she was at the wrong end of the dog and he pooped on her. Matilda will not sleep with anybody other than Pete or on her own.

We also have a parade of cats that wish to sleep with the farmer. Frankie loves to sleep up between our pillows and the minute he touches her she starts purring loudly, I have to push her away from me and closer to him so I can get back to sleep, Rita, Frankie sister loves to sleep on him, between his legs, lying full length alongside him and every time he rolls over or moves she jumps off and then back on, she will even run or jump on me to get height get back on and off. Now there is Gatsby the ring in, he loves to climb onto me and sleep at my feet, if they all happen to be there at the same time we have hissing at each other.

We have had a plethora of creatures and insects that come in and out of our bedroom uninvited, some alive but mostly dead (see cats in the above paragraph) bunnies, hares, moths, beetles and bats that survived as they were able to fly up and hide behind the curtains, birds to be honest fifty / fifty alive or dead here, mice and lizards that survive and mostly at night. Pete will wander about 3 times per night and then if I have a cat land on the bladder then I have to get up for myself. We hear cars, trucks and animal noises at night and will occasionally have to get up to yell at the dogs to shut up if they are barking at the frogs or other animals at night. Then when one is ready to go back to sleep the rooster announces the dawn at 430am.

I don’t have insomnia unless I am stressed as I can easily go back to sleep where as he can’t. Some nights I wish he would leave the bedroom, nothing more annoying than question time in parliament house at the early hours of the morning, or a really bad D grade western or musical film. Some nights I wish I would leave the bedroom and then think about the fact the spare bed is not made up. Some mornings I will get up and glare at all of the cats sleeping as though they have not done anything all night, Pete will lift his head and look surprised that daylight is here and sometimes, not often I will leave him to lay in bed, he normally gets up before me.

Animals and Ageing

I have for the last 12 months struggled between guilt and love, I have a beautiful Golden Retriever named Pete, who for the past 16 or so years has and is a loyal, loving friend who has developed arthritis in his hips and has taken to not being able to stand or walk quickly and he poops where ever. The medical term is “walk, sit and drop syndrome”

I can tell when he is about to as the only indication is he lifts his tail, sometimes I can get him outside in time but others especially at night he doesn’t realize he has done it. The smell of dog pooh wafts up and we both know one of us has to get up and deal with it. Pete for all of his life has slept on a mattress on the floor of my bedroom, with the occasional stint on the bed and in his compound outside at the farm if we go away. We abandoned that as he aged as he doesn’t wander off the farm now he sleeps by the door on his mattress waiting for us.

Over winter he started to do this every night and as he has moved to sleeping by the door or next to my bed, off his mattress so it is me that gets up to deal with it. We can sometimes leave him out all day for over 14 hours and he will come in lie down and within an hour poop. Lately it has turned to 3 times per night and I have to admit I now can’t do it any longer.

I feel guilty at putting him outside as he walks around the house going to each door, front door, lounge doors, bedroom door, rear lounge where the cat flap is and to the laundry door and barks, He will even lay down on the grass and bark, I have gotten up from my office a couple of times as he won’t stop (his record is 1 hour) to ensure he is ok.

Even his friend Matilda the cat who use to sleep with him has found better, by better I mean cleaner digs to sleep in without the smell or the substance. He has on one occasion gotten her with his poop. Pete also has this week (2 nights) been disorientated and I have found him struggling to get off the treadmill, I have no idea how he got on it but I was on Friday at 130am thinking I was going to have to get a night light for him in the bathroom so he can get up drink and not get lost in the night.

I had a day and night with him yesterday and last night, I left him out all day whilst I cleaned the house, floors and carpets and cleaned up 4 “oopsies” as my husband says – all done outside but by the doors so flies and the smell waft in, I let in him at 930pm and I was up to him at 1am – cleaned up put him out, let him back in at 3am – cleaned up at 330am and then shunted him out at 530am, where he slept against the bedroom screen door and pooped, so I had to clean that up.

I have woken and decided I don’t want to do it any more, broken sleep, dog poop and feeling resentful towards him. At least outside it is still outside, not on the tiles or carpet. It is time for me to move him out, the weather is better and even if it was cold, we have bought him a lambs wool jacket that we put on him in winter and he has a fleecy lined bedding.

He is very much loved and wanted and I want to allow him to age gracefully and fully medicated (arthritis medication) I want to be able to go bed and not worry about dog poop, I know I will have guilt for a couple of days as he will bark, he will want to come in and be at my feet but I will spend time with him outside and I suspect tonight – going to be his first night out will be the hardest.

Pete on his day bed..

Pete on his day bed..

Pete & Matlida - she sleeps away from him but touching him when she can

Pete & Matlida – she sleeps away from him but touching him when she can



Happy Anniversay

It was an extremely hot day and a long weekend in March that we got married at the farm. It was a great party and we had people we love come and celebrate with us. I wore boots he wore sandals, mine were made in white leather by R M Williams specially fitted.

All my family were there expect youngest brother who was in England at the time, my daughter and twin sister my witnesses, my 3 nieces (I only had three at the time) did small speeches and then signed the papers leaning on a hay bale we were married. It thankfully cooled down during the evening and we were left to enjoy the evening.

As I say to people “he’s my first husband and I am his last wife”, I still enjoy his company and have adapted and changed to fit into the life of being a farmer’s wife. I do work but not full-time anymore and I live here with him rather than travel to and from the city. The worst part of this is I miss my daughter who lives and works in the city and always look forward to visiting with her when I am in the city.

We sat outside last night sharing a drink and talked about our years together, he measured it by saying I have been with him through 3 droughts (we are still in drought as I type) Pete my golden retriever came to live on the farm and he has outlived 4 of his working dogs and a 21 yr old cat, only god knows how many chooks have come and gone in this time. We still have 3 working dogs and 4 cats, as I sit and type Gatsby has decided to climb behind me and push me off the chair. Pete has been put outside in disgrace, he has arthritis which limits his ability to get up quickly thus he is having ‘accidents’ before he gets up (something I am getting very tired of cleaning up). It amuses me that whilst I am cleaning it up farmer walks down the passage holding his nose. The irony here is that he happily preg tests cows, delivers animals and generally can come home often covered in unimaginable animal body fluids etc and the smell from the dog sends him away.

We don’t really celebrate in the traditional sense, mind you it is one of the first times we have not had people come and stay for the long weekend, but then I have done some small things to let him know I appreciate him and think of him, on Friday night I did a favourite dish of his, oysters Kilpatrick and oysters Thai sauce that a little Asian man told me once whilst I was buying oysters from him. Yesterday he got a frog cake a South Australian classic – very sweet but yummy. Tonight he is getting a lovely dinner cooked and prepared by me.

One thing I have liked over the last 7 years is our ability to laugh at things, we do many things together, we argue but we move on. I am not a grudge holder neither is he, he has brought many things to my life and I value his part in it. 7 is Wool – we have enough sheep and lambs, 7 is Copper I wear little jewelry and this sort turns your skin green and in modern times it’s a desk set – what a load of rubbish. I wish for the gift of happiness, rain and many more shared times with friends and family

Here is a picture of my Oysters


my awake thoughts

I have now taken to sleeping approx 4 hours per night, I know the reason for this but can not stop it. There are outside environmental things that contribute to this and I know I am not alone in having awful sleep times. I blame many aspects of my life for this and many things in it, one of them is the Golden Retriever Pete. Since he relocated himself to the farm, my DH got in a single bed mattress and placed it at the foot of our bed so that is where he sleeps. He has taken to waking up about this time and walking to our sliding door to either look out or to be let out. I hear him do this mainly as one of the shed cats Matilda walks with him meowing at him as he goes. She is exceptionally close to Pete, she has taken to sleeping up near his head every night and bringing him presents (occasionally half a rabbit, a mouse or any other morsel she feels he needs).

I get up to check on him and let him out so I lie awake until he comes back to be let in otherwise he lets out an enormous bark that has my heart racing for hours. I also wake because DH rolls or flip-flops a lot. he does not wake up but he does roll over, I shall be purchasing a King Size bed soon as I feel I am being pushed out and it drives me nuts. I like sleeping by the open door as I seem to heat up during the night and if the door isn’t open I have woken because I dream I am cooking in an oven (no ageist comments allowed here 🙂 ) I have even gotten up and showered to cool down even on mind nights.

I wake because my mind is active with all things, daughter, family, friends, Keith Hospital    issues, planning meetings doing agendas, up skiling myself and how on earth do I fit all I do in the day light hours. I use to get up and walk said Golden retriever every day winter or summer on the beach and found this was a great way to meditate, I have not done this for years due to his aging condition. he is coming up 15 and struggles to walk the KM’s I use to. I now leave all my clothes in the bathroom, get dressed and sneak out before he knows I am gone, that is the advantage of him having significantly diminished hearing, he does not hear me  quietly close the door. He has looked perplexed on occasions when I have arrived home and woken him.

I worry, I think, I stress and whilst saying this I have realised I have not taken my blood pressure medication this morning – drat! I have a Keith Hospital Action group meeting tonight so will not be home before 830pm, I hope I have the scripts in the car. I hope my minds stops soon as my body is beginning to feel the effects of 4 mornings in a row and 11 hour work days. Enjoy the nights and the days