After six years of spending my Sunday morning volunteering at our local animal shelter you would be forgiven for thinking that I’d be ready for a break. It’s true that some Sunday mornings it is a struggle to get out of bed at 6am and it would be easy to roll over and go back to sleep, but those thoughts don’t last long because I love my Sundays. They keep me sane. It is hard to resist smiling at the little faces, boofy heads and wagging tails that greet you, they’re so excited because they know that it is their time for pats, walks and most importantly, breakfast. For a few dogs, the interaction with volunteers and staff is the kindest that they’ve ever had and being in a shelter is the safest place they have ever lived. Their stories will break your heart, you want to take them all home, save them and love them but it is just not possible. Thankfully there are good people out there who will adopt shelter dogs, some visit the shelter regularly looking for the right dog for them and their situation and others only ever adopt dogs from a shelter, returning when one has passed or if they feel ready to add a second dog to their family. I am grateful for those people, they know that taking home a dog without having the details of their past means that they may take time to settle. They understand that puppies require work and that training is an essential. Yes there are people who are clueless, they ignore the advice of shelter staff and they expect that a dog should be toilet trained, quiet and easy to walk without any effort. In time the dog returns to the shelter, for one reason or another. I would like to think that for the most part people do the right thing and I try not to focus on the cruel and the stupid because it makes me sad.
These are some of the wonderful creatures that I have been able to spend my Sundays with, most of them have been adopted and the others, well the staff and volunteers will keep on loving them until the right family comes along.
Mason had a hard life before finding his way to the shelter. A calm and sweet boy who loves to cuddle.
Wolfie puppy, one of a small litter.
Good mannered Paso the American Staffy X
A sweet little boy, Ranger was scooped up quickly by some lucky family.
Beautiful puppy Neo, she is going to be a big dog with her mastiff genes.
Red is a calm, well mannered senior dog. He is still waiting for his forever family which is hard to believe given his nature.
Benji loves to play fetch and destroy tennis balls.
Dear Captain had a hard start in life, at 3 years of age he looked more like 6 or 7 when he arrived. Thankfully, with lots of love and care he blossomed and quickly became a favourite with all the staff and volunteers.
Sweet Ella didn’t stay at the shelter long, such a smart and friendly girl.
Pretty and sweet was Daisy.
Jess the Boxer x was another favourite of staff and volunteers. A shy, gently girl who loved to cuddle and she had the cutest derp face.
Stella was the last of her litter to be adopted. We couldn’t understand it, she was sweet, placid and barked very little. We were happy when she was adopted after a few weeks at the shelter
Splash! I quickly turn knowing that I have just missed my chance of seeing a water dragon. These little reptiles generally don’t stick around, especially when I have Bundy with me but I got lucky walking around a local wildlife reserve one afternoon. The lake in the reserve has been on the receiving end of a lot of regeneration activity in the past 12-18 months with native trees and grasses being planted all around the foreshore. Piles of branches stacked around tree stumps are yet to be cleared away and these make great little hiding holes for all sorts of creatures. Wary of snakes I steered clear of one pile and kept Bundy close as I inched towards the water’s edge in order to photograph the pelicans on the lake. It wasn’t until I looked away from the pelicans that I noticed a lizard sitting on the pile of wood, an Easter Water Dragon to be precise.
Easter Water Dragons can be found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. They can live for up to twenty years and will eat insects, small reptiles and frogs as well as fruit and other vegetation. Some people keep them as pets but I think you need a permit to do so and I would much rather see them in their natural habitat. Occasionally I see them lying on the side of the road, it is nice and warm for them and they will scamper off when they see you coming however they’re not always that lucky at escaping traffic.
The water dragon barely moved, his eyes watching every step Bundy and I took. I was grateful to have my camera and 70-200mm lens with me rather than my phone, allowing me to get close-up photos without disturbing him too much. You might be wondering why I’m referring to the water dragon as a male, if you look closely at the photo you can see that the water dragon has a reddish chest, apparently the chest of a male water dragon goes bright red during mating season so I’m thinking that this boy is on the prowl. After mating the female lays up to 25 eggs in the soft soil or sand and then she does a runner, playing no part in the parenting. Thankfully the kids are independent once they hatch, I just hope they stay off the road.
Whenever I see puppies I feel happy. Their sweet puppy breath, little pink toes and fat round tummies make me want to sweep them all into my arms. I watch them play, they’re silly and often uncoordinated as they wrestle with toys, blankets and each other. When they sleep in a puppy pile my heart melts.
“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.”
A while ago I wrote about finding balance. There was too much going on in my head and too many things I wanted to do, something had to give. Your feedback helped, I prioritised the things that were important to me as well as being ones I could realistically accomplish. My health is important, at 45 and with a family history of bowel and breast cancer I am becoming more aware of what I eat. Although I haven’t gone the whole hog in quitting sugar I have reduced my intake and I’m eating more whole foods rather than reaching for what is convenient. This has been a relatively easy step to take and experimenting with new recipes has been fun, plus it makes me feel better.
I put ‘The Artist’s Way’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ aside for now, although with a restructure looming at work I may need the finance advice more than anything else on my bookshelf. The weekly online photography course with David duChemin has also taken a bit of a back seat but not because I’m not interested, I’m just a little distracted and finding it hard to focus (pardon the pun). What I am doing is following David’s advice from the first week of the course which was to care deeply about your subject or be deeply curious. It wasn’t difficult to think of something that I care deeply about and as a result I have been taking my camera to the shelter each weekend and photographing some of the dogs. In doing this, I am becoming more familiar with my camera and thinking about the result I am seeking rather than just taking aim and shooting. Not all dogs make it easy, there are plenty of missed opportunities, blurry faces and lots of close ups of their nose or chest as they jump up at me while taking the shot.
Zeus the Staffy X
Baloo the Labrador X
Merlin the Wolfhound X
Beau the big dog (Great Dane, Staghound X?)
Tigger the staffy
Bluey the Kelpie
Dee Dee the greyhound
Danny the neo-mastiff
Art class, like volunteering is a non-negotiable and it is 2-3 hours a week where I can work on my drawing and be with like-minded people. It is therapy and it helps to shift my brain from worrying about the pettiness that can make a working day unbearable to worrying about which shade of blue is needed to make those hills recede into the background. My trolley of art materials is fully loaded and I have finished one surprise pet illustration and have two landscapes on the go with a couple of potential commissions waiting in the wings. Meanwhile Hubby and Bundy make the most of the peace and quiet by sharing the floorspace in front of the television for a weekly dose of rugby league.
Have I found balance? Yes, to some degree but there is still more I want to achieve and I’m hoping that the cooler weather will help. The hot and humid weather really wore me down, zapping my energy and my motivation. Thanks again for the helpful advice. Have a great week!
This post was inspired by Nathaniel Boyle’s interview with Robert Reid, episode 152 on Nathaniel’s travel podcast, The Travelers. Robert Reid is currently National Geographic’s Digital Nomad and during his interview he talks about travel, why and how people travel, what they’re naturally drawn to and what his bucket list might have looked like as an 11 year old. The interview caused me to ponder the things that would have been on my 11 year old self’s bucket list and whether they have influenced my interests and travel preferences.
A tent for Christmas! My brother and I set for camping in the backyard.
Sam’s 11 year old self’s bucket list
I wanted to be a vet or a flight attendant, sadly I was not academically suited to being a vet and being a flight attendant required at least one language in the eighties and a more outgoing personality. Although I achieved neither of these career goals, volunteering at a shelter and working with dogs feeds my soul and provides me with great joy and satisfaction. What I loved about the idea of working as a flight attendant was the travel, seeing and exploring the world. As children my brother and I were always exploring the countryside with friends, on foot or on horse back. When I got a tent for Christmas we camped in the backyard, except for the lack of proper toilet facilities I used to love camping. As an adult travel is still important to me, even though I don’t travel overseas as often as I would like. Taking a day or a weekend to visit local areas of interest, travelling interstate for a long weekend and taking the occasional overseas trip helps to satiate my hunger (just) for travel and adventure.
At school and at home we watched historical dramas and documentaries on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) many of which focused on British history, the unearthing of the ancient ruins of Pompeii and mysterious deaths of explorers. To this day I still love to watch programs that dig deep into the history of Roman and British history. Visiting Europe and the UK in 1999 was my first opportunity to wander the ruins of Pompeii and it was mind blowing. To be standing in a forum that was bustling with activity almost 2000 years ago and look up to see Mt Vesuvius, the volcano that ended it all, was a dream come true. Wandering ancient streets, imagining how people lived and what the cities looked like fascinates me. When I travel, I like to explore and understand what it is I am seeing and experiencing. Hubby loves to sit at a cafe and people watch or wander aimlessly but for me, the excitement is in discovering the places and things that I have seen in art books and documentaries or read about (a long time ago) in history class.
Save the whales! Save our koalas! Save the baby fur seals! They were things I was passionate about as a child and nothing much has changed. My childhood was spent in the country, living on dairy farms, visiting stables, riding my horse Rio through the bush and herding sheep on horseback in New Zealand. I cried every time one of my pets died and watching movies like Lassie Come Home and the Yearling always brought tears to my eyes. Now I choose not to watch those movies, and I will stop to help an animal in distress or seemingly lost. During a recent heatwave I left containers of water out for the birds and wildlife and made sure the bird bath was always full. I don’t understand how our government can ignore the plight of our native wildlife and I cannot support politicians that believe climate change to be a furphy. On my adult bucket list are trips to Antartica, Patagonia and Alaska, I want to stand and stare in awe of those places before they are destroyed and before we lose the beautiful creatures that inhabit that environment. Funnily enough, I am not a vegetarian even though I probably should be given my love for animals of all shapes and sizes.
Art and photography, drawing and taking pictures. I cannot remember a time when I did not want do either. A collapse in confidence saw me take a break in drawing and painting for a couple of years yet the desire still burned within. My sketch books were full of horses and princesses, I loved drawing beautiful things and still do. The photos I took were numerous, my Mum was horrified at paying for a roll of film to be developed only to find that there were umpteen photos of my friend’s kittens. Very few of them were in focus. My camera always goes with me when I travel, capturing colour and light is what appeals to me most and as with my drawing, beautiful subjects always get my attention. Once I am home my photos provide me with an extensive source of inspiration for my art, pastel illustrations of Venice, Tuscany and Sorrento are stacked in my office and this year Scotland will feature as I recreate the memories of my 2016 holiday in Fife and the Highlands.
For the most part, I have stayed true to my passions with the exception of my current career path. Whilst I am not working in an area that is related to any of my interests, my job does enable and afford me the luxury of pursuing them in my spare time. Would my 11 year old self be happy with my life choices? For the most part I think yes, but she would probably be disappointed that I don’t go camping anymore.