Weekly photo challenge: Beloved

Reflecting upon the meaning of beloved as part of this week’s photo challenge I find that there is no one thing or person that is beloved to me, there are many and they contribute to many of the special moments and experiences during my life. For this particular challenge, the focus is on cherished childhood memories, just thinking about the fun we had makes me smile and start reminiscing about ‘the good old days’.

Living on acreage in the country meant that we could have pets beyond your typical cats, dogs, and budgies. With Mum’s help, we hand-reared calves from a local dairy farm and as children, it was our job to mix their formula and feed them morning and night. I can remember the formula we used, especially when Mum changed over to a more nutritious formula which smelled revolting. The calves would love it and once they finished slurping up the milk they would suck on our fingers and follow us around the yard. Our first pet cow was Caramel, she loved to wander all over the countryside and we would have to go and pick her up and lead her home, on foot which usually entailed carrying a bucket of food in front of her to entice her to follow. Sweetie was our second calf and she was soon followed by Horrie, all of whom you can see in the following picture. I would often head out into the paddock to pat them and talk to them, it was so easy talking to cows, they just munched on grass and tolerated my company.

Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie
Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie

Our school trips often involved camping. Our school principal had a large property up in the hills and each year he and his wife or a couple of keen parents would take a class of students camping for a week. Camping involved bushwalking, swimming in creeks, learning about dingoes and other native animals and sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories or singing songs. They were magical times and although I’m not much of a camper these days I still love bushwalks and our natural environment.

Kids in front of a tent
My Christmas tent

My Mum is a horse person, she brought us up to love them as well. A good friend owned several horses on a property not far from ours and it was always a joy to visit them and help with feeding. On one particular occasion, we were present during the birth of a foal, keeping our distance of course and it was so exciting. When the foal was old enough we were allowed to interact with it, that is me in the brown riding helmet in the picture below. I saved and saved to buy that helmet so that I could go horse riding with my Mum.

A foal and children
A new foal

Our first dog was a beautiful black Irish Setter mix called Lady who used to run all over the hills with us, there weren’t fences in those days and being on the main road in the country meant that nobody drove slowly. Lady had no road sense and sadly she was hit by a car and did not survive, although she was not with us long I can still remember her sweet face and happy nature. Scooter was our first puppy, a playful boy who would follow us everywhere, down the road to visit friends and through the hills as we explored neighbouring farms. Scooter had a dog house at the bottom of the yard, it was a time when dogs lived outdoors and at night he was secured by a chain to his house. As much as I loved Scooter I don’t recall the bond being anything like what I have with my boy Bundy, perhaps it was because we were so young and the dog really was Mum’s dog. Taking Scooter for walks was how I earned some pocket money, sometimes I rode my bike while he ran alongside, on a leash of course.

Scooter the puppy
Scooter the puppy

Holidays in New Zealand were not frequent growing up however we were lucky enough to travel to the North Island a few times and they were some of the best holidays I’ve ever had. Fun times were had on the farm, feeding Nanna’s ducks, horse riding and tripping around in the back of the ute with cousins and my Grandfather’s dogs. My Nanna and my Aunty would cook up a storm and we must have consumed litres of Raro (cordial) and flavoured soft drink from the Soda Stream machine. We even helped in the shearing sheds one year, sweeping dags off the floor and camping overnight with all of our other cousins and family. There was no accommodation on the farm so we slept in the shearing shed. The smell of sheep and pine trees always brings back memories of those holidays. Beloved.

Tripping around the farm in the back of a ute with cousins
Tripping around the farm with cousins

One year on

One year has passed since we said goodbye to our dear old Maxi. We have almost 16 years of wonderful and funny memories, at home we reminisce about her antics and have a chuckle and some bring tears to my eyes. Her nighttime dinner dance was always entertaining, she would stand in the doorway with a goofy look on her face, jump in and out and twirl around in excitement. We had our first storm of the season late last week, the thunder and lightning reminding me how much we used to dread storms when Maxi was alive. Storms terrified her, she would shake for hours, drooling all over the floor as she paced through the house and nothing would help her settle. It was so frustrating for me, there was nothing I could do to help her and when a storm hit in the middle of the night we all would end up a little on edge. I don’t miss those nights yet I would do it all again if it meant she was still with us.

I remember the first day we saw her as though it was yesterday, she was all ears and legs and she was the last of the litter. At the time we were living in an apartment, no pets allowed so we walked away convinced that we would not be getting a dog. Maxi was still there a few days later which had to be fate, she was meant to be ours. Too scared to walk to the car, I had to carry her in my arms whilst juggling bags of goodies that would help us get through the first couple of nights (in secret of course). Sneaking a dog in and out of an apartment isn’t easy and keeping cream coloured carpet pristine is impossible with a puppy around. The search for dog-friendly accommodation began and we made arrangements for her to stay with family for a few weeks until we could all be together in our own home.

For a long time after she passed I could feel Maxi’s presence in the house and would catch myself looking for her in her favourite spot under the Poinciana tree near the front fence. That particular spot provided Maxi with full view of our yard and she could also keep watch over our street, barking at neighbours, strangers walking past, and random cars. It was where we always found her when we got home from work, waiting for us with a happy face and wagging tail.

There is no replacing Maxi, she was not just a dog, she was our first dog and a member of our family, a beautiful soul with a soft and gentle nature. Maxi brought much love and laughter into our home, I wonder if she knew how much she was loved in return.

Gone but never forgotten, I will always love you my Maxi girl xxx

Maxi the dog

The year that was.

January

A relatively quiet month punctuated by time spent cuddling gorgeous shelter dogs waiting for their forever homes. Bundy celebrated his 9th birthday and unbeknown to us Australia Day was the last time we took Maxi to the beach, she loved splashing around in the surf and afterwards would sleep for hours.

February

A python and lots of cute puppies plus a lunch date with friends by the water. A short, sweet in stinking hot month.

March

Maxi’s 15th birthday is celebrated, Easter fun and games with the fur kids and a new car.

April

Sadly, we said goodbye to my father in-law who had been unwell for a couple of years. Even though he had been married to my mother in-law for a few years he was entrenched in our family and is greatly missed.

May

A much anticipated trip to Scotland. Traveling with a group of artists on a paint-along with my art teacher for two weeks was an amazing experience and provided me with lots of inspiration for my art and further travel in the UK.

June

Always lots of dogs waiting at the Animal Welfare League, I love my Sundays with them and it is hard not to fall in love with all of them.

July

Commissioned to do a portrait of Rumpole the chocolate lab in pastel, stalked by a pigeon on our morning walk and an art class focused on drawing birds. Finally winter seems to have arrived bringing with it some spectacular sunrises and the fur kids are loving their new blankets.

August

The weather starts getting warmer and Hubby celebrates his birthday with traditional fire making and drinks with family and friends. Walks with Maxi are getting shorter and she happily shares the rug with Bundy.

September

Losing Maxi broke my heart, such a vibrant and happy girl. Gone but never forgotten.

October

After losing our dear old girl, time with friends was especially important.

November

The festive season started early at work, our team heading to a winery for a long lunch to celebrate a good year with good people. There are always dogs waiting to be adopted and every Sunday I take photos of them to raise awareness on social media in the hope that it will assist in finding them a family faster. I also finished another commission, Honey the cat, sibling to Rumpole.

December

A quick trip to Newcastle to visit my brother and his family as well as meeting my new niece. So nice that the two families live in the same city, makes it easy to fit in quality time with all of them. Christmas was perfect, good company and good food. Now I am in need of a break, some quiet time at home after a busy and emotional year.

…and then there was one

Our dog Maxi.
Our girl Maxi. February 28, 2001 to September 26, 2016

One week ago today we said goodbye to our dear old Maxi girl, she was almost 16 and it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. We have had Maxi since she was a tiny pup with huge ears and a dangerously happy tail. As a pup she loved to pull washing off the line and dig up plants, destroying garden beds and leaving unseen holes in the lawn. We called her the ‘Diggingest Dog’ after one of my favourite childhood books. As an adult Maxi loved going to the beach and bouncing through the waves, she still loved digging holes, we have several still to prove it. She had a phobia of storms and refused to walk through doors or gates if she thought there was any chance of them touching her. Her snoring was loud and so was her bark, she kept many a salesperson and religious door knocker from our yard. I loved her soft fur and her friendly, happy face, she was a beautiful, sweet natured girl.

Maxi had been struggling with arthritis for a few years yet still loved her walks and always had did a happy dance at dinner time. The memory of her goofy smile and dancing feet as she impatiently waited for dinner always brings a smile to my face. Recently her struggle intensified, her evening walks reduced in number and distance until she was restricted to sniffing around in the park next door. She loved that park. Hubby and I were preparing ourselves for the inevitable however it happened sooner than we thought and it makes me sad that we did not even get a chance to take her to the beach or let her eat all of her favourite foods.

I was not ready but I don’t think you can ever be ready to make a decision that will end the life of someone you love. Maxi was in pain, she was distressed after falling and not being able to get up again, it was heartbreaking and it was time. The vet came to our house and we took Maxi outside to her favourite spot in the yard, the spot where she can see everyone coming and going. It was a beautiful day, she had some roast beef and with her head resting on my lap I said goodbye as the tears rolled down my face. I kissed her forehead and closed her eyes, it was peaceful and quiet. Maxi was gone, she was no longer in pain. I sobbed for hours.

One week later and I still can’t believe she is gone, her absence all too real when I enter the house and see her empty bed. Maxi had been with me for a good chunk of my adult life, she was with me through many ups and downs, sensing sadness and knowing just when to rest her head in sympathy on my lap. Such a beautiful, sweet natured dog, everyone who met her fell in love and she loved everyone. Bundy still looks for Maxi, he is not anxious but will seek her out and he occasionally sniffs her bed and checks for leftovers in her bowl. I do not have the heart to put her things away, it makes our house feel empty and I’m still not ready to say goodbye.

47 sleeps ’til Christmas

Hard to believe that the year is almost over and that Christmas is looming. It has been such a busy year and so far the forecast for next year is not alot different, plenty to do and plenty of change. I love Christmas, I hate all of the rushing around and stress that it brings however all the worry tends to dissipate on Christmas Day when family and friends are together. My cousin N also loves Christmas, while I tend to be a bit of a minimalist N goes all out decorating her home and tree so when she came to stay recently a visit to the local Christmas Shop was a must.

The Christmas Shop is more like a warehouse, baubles, trees and lights adorn every inch of space and if you’re after santa suits or elf costumes there are plenty to choose from as well. Being the crazy dog lady that I am, the reindeer antlers for Maxi and Bundy were the first things that landed in my shopping basket. You have to admit, as embarrassed as our two black dogs appear, they really do look cute and the photos will look great on our family Christmas card :-). Our two black dogs always get presents from Santa, I even bought them stockings to put the presents in although Maxi won’t be getting any delicious treats this year, the last thing we want is for her to end up in hospital again.

It is too early to set up the Christmas tree, we always put it up on December 1st and then spend a weekend hanging up Christmas lights in our backyard. At the moment it is hard to imagine our yard decorated with lights, the heat and dry winds has turned our lawn brown and there are a few odd jobs around the house that are best done in the cool of the evening. I’ve always wondered what a white Christmas would be like, it certainly seems more festive when you see images of the Christmas markets in Europe and watch Christmas movies that are set in cooler climates.

How do you prepare for the festive season? Do you inflict costumes on your pets and buy them presents?

When fingers up the nose make a family portrait photo

Last year I attended a family wedding, always a happy occasion and made more fun thanks to my wonderful cousin and her crazy family, crazy in a good way because they have so much fun and can laugh at themselves as well as each other. Every year my cousin sends out a family portrait photo with their Christmas card, this year one of my photos was chosen and I just love it because it exemplifies their easy going, crazy, fun family relationship.

family photo
A fun family portrait

My year that was…2013

2013 was, in some ways, a really crap year personally and professionally with change and uncertainty, anxiety and worry featuring heavily for several months. Thankfully, there were many bright moments and things started looking up towards the end of the year. This post is my year in review in pictures, dogs are a constant, along with flowers and our local wildlife, these are the things that really kept me sane and brightened my days.

 

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Maxi the dog at Christmas
It takes many treats to get Maxi to sit this still for a photo.
Bundy the dog wrapped in tinsel
Bundy looking glam in Christmas tinsel

Only three more sleeps until Christmas, our decorations have been hung, the yard shines brightly thanks to hundreds of solar fairy lights and all the presents are wrapped and under the tree. The only thing left to do is the shopping for fresh food items so that a small, non-OTT feast for two can be prepared, not to mention finding something yummy for Maxi and Bundy to eat, brining the total number of creatures celebrating Christmas at our house to four (visiting wildlife does not count).

This year we decided to stay home and relax for the Christmas holidays, normally we load the car up and head south to spend the holidays with our extended families, it is wonderful fun and we enjoy spending time with family but this year we’re making it about us. 2013 has been a hell of a year, plenty of ups and downs and far too many sleepless night, time at home to rejuvenate our body and souls as well as do some work around the house, is exactly what we (especially me) need because I don’t think 2014 is going to be any less hectic. Christmas morning we’ll both head to the local animal shelter to help clean pens, feed and walk doggies that are unlucky enough to be in a shelter at Christmas and then it is home to our own dogs for a day of doing whatever we like, we may even take them to the beach for a swim and a stroll along the breakwall. What are you doing to celebrate Christmas this year?

To all of you wonderful people following, liking and reading my posts, Two Black Dogs and I would like to say a huge thank you and to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. May you and your families be happy, safe and enjoying life wherever you are.

Best wishes for the holiday season!

Bundy the dog and the Christmas tree lights
Merry Christmas from Bundy the second and most handsome of the Two Black Dogs.
Maxi the dog and the Christmas tree lights
Merry Christmas from Maxi, the wise elder and most princess like of the Two Black Dogs.

 

 

48 hours

We’re back from a quick trip south to attend a family wedding, it takes roughly six and half hours to drive to Port Macquarie in New South Wales so we had roughly 36 hours at our destination. Leaving the dogs at home with a dog sitter we loaded up the car and headed off, feeling guilty for leaving them but knowing that it would result in less worry all round. The drive south took much longer than anticipated as a result of two separate accidents on the highway, at one point we had to turn around and head north west before finding an alternate route south, adding an extra 100kms or thereabouts to our trip. By the time we reached our destination it was well and truly time to enjoy a cold beer and a glass of wine.

My mother in-law and her husband had moved into their new house, located in a rural area much closer to my family it makes travelling between the two locations much easier. Their new home is on acreage, the gardens are huge and overgrown but it is easy to see the potential and I know that they will enjoy turning it into something wonderful. Surrounded by trees the birdlife that visit the backyard are amazing, varying from the common noisy minor to magpies, eastern koels, rainbow lorikeets, satin bowerbirds and scaly-breasted lorikeets. Murphy the labrador and Sammy the border collie certainly seem to like the new place, plenty of sticks for Sammy to fetch and Murphy was pleased with his discovery of a kangaroo leg from the bottom of the garden.

The wedding was a wonderful opportunity to get together with family and the ceremony was conducted on the pretty grounds of Cassegrain’s Winery in Port Macquarie and the reception held at a local Returned Servicemen Club (RSL). The weather had been pretty miserable up until the morning of the ceremony, it was a relief to see the sunshine for such a special occasion. Even though I wasn’t there to take photographs, it is unusual for me to attend any event without my camera in hand and I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to get photographs of my immediate family together, plus I love weddings 🙂

Getting home on the Sunday seemed to take forever, but it was a much faster trip and I know that the time went slow because I couldn’t wait to get home and see our fur kids. The last 48 hours was a bit of a blur, lots of love and laughter and plenty of photographs to remind us of the fun.

Taking a break in rural Australia

Recently I spent a few days with my folks in the small country town of Beechwood, located inland on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. It is a town surrounded by rolling hills, forests and bush tracks, cows and horses are a common sight as are wandering dogs and 4WDs, as a child many of my friends came from families living on dairy farms or they had brothers and fathers working at timber mills, but that is no more. Beechwood has become popular with young families and ‘city folk’ desiring a tree change, they move out into the country where a sense of community still exists and real estate is much cheaper. Once upon a time I knew everyone and they knew me, but that too has changed.

My time in Beechwood was husband and black dog free, the year has been an exhausting one, mentally and physically and I needed a break somewhere quiet, familiar and without any pressure to do anything. It is the perfect place for me to have a break, I always sleep soundly and eat well, plus there is always something comforting about being at home with my parents. Wherever I look there is nature, clear and sparkling night skies, elegant and tall gum trees, laughing kookaburras and wallabies dining on new green grass, of a morning I stalk birds in the yard and in the afternoon I wander through the paddocks enjoying the warmth of the sun.

I didn’t stray far when it came to taking photos of this place that I love, that would have required more energy than I wished to expend and I was happy sticking close to home. The horses were curious when they saw me approach, once they realised that there were no carrots or treats in my hands they turned their back on me and pretended that I didn’t exist, one of them didn’t even both to lift his head from eating, obviously the grass was too sweet and delicious to pay attention to the camera toting human. Wallabies and Kangaroos show up when there is less light, they feed at dawn and dusk so I was thrilled to make it out of bed early enough one morning to catch them enjoying the fresh pick in the back paddock. Farmers and those who live in the country consider Wallabies and Kangaroos to be pests, they destroy fences, eat all the grass and create havoc on roads in low light, but I love seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural environment.

It was an enjoyable break in the country, I returned home feeling a little refreshed, it would have been wonderful to stay longer and experience total rejuvenation, maybe next time…