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Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Pines in the snow

pine branch in snow

Pining for snow

eleven cities tour

1985: After 22 years of pining, at last it was there!

When I left the Netherlands in 1983 I could not remember when snow had last fallen or when the country had been bestowed with a winter harsh enough for the Eleven Cities tour to take place. As a youngster I had loved snow and ice-skating, but from my teens till my early twenties, winters were bland. Humid cold, stormy, rainy days, occasionally snow unworthy of mentioning and although I owned ice skates I didn’t have the need for them anymore. I do not remember any of those last winters hindering my cycling to work.

Down south

winter scene RSA

South Africa: yellowish-brown winter scene

Johannesburg, where I settled at the end of 1983, has a climate very different from the Netherlands. Dry winters and rainy summers down south. That first winter I was stunned and abhorred when everything turned brown and yellow and stayed that way for months. I was told that it snowed once every ten years in the city and that the last time had been in 1981. Hhmmm. Instead of loathing rain, I got to love it (Holland, like England, can be quite gloomy with many drizzly days in a row). You simply look out for it after six months of its absence while suffering the views of the scorched fields and parks, and you, as a new immigrant, start to look forward to it just as much as every other resident in the region.

To this day, more than ten years after leaving South Africa and having lived in the Netherlands for a whole year now, I love rain. But I love snow more. As a child I used to sit on my knees, leaning against the back of an easy chair, looking through the window and up into the millions of whirling snow flakes. Snow flakes seemed huge then!  Is it any wonder that the longer I lived down south the more I longed for a good old fashioned winter? Exactly thirteen months after I left Holland they were able to hold their first Eleven Cities tour in 22 years’ time. A friend sent me a beautiful publication of the event. I was immensely jealous and peeved! It was weird to see pictures of my country fellowmen tackling the frozen ‘tundra’ of Friesland while I enjoyed my second Jo’burg summer.

Holland is good to me

roe in snow

Unfortunately, not my own picture – had to nick it from the net

A year ago I arrived in a certain area because of three reasons. I had googled 1) house to rent, 2) pets allowed, and 3) wifi internet. It was miles away from my family and in a province I had visited once or twice during the summertime several decades earlier. I didn’t know that it would be colder here than at the North Sea coast. That geese and Whooper swans would be flying to and fro all day long. Roes running past me in the forest. A huge forest virtually on my doorstep, sand drifts not much further, as well as an old peat collection area, now protected. I just wanted to live somewhere safe with my pets and be spherically connected, so to speak. No, I would not have dreamt of asking for all those wonderful ‘things’ that I got. But then again, I knew then and know now, and have known for quite a while that Mother Nature loves me (and I’ve loved her right back). It’s as if she opened a treasure chest for me.

Pines in the snow

Here then, some (cell/mobile) pictures of my walk with Pantouf through a recent layer of snow (the second since early December).

Pines in snow

This way please!

Pine - exposed roots


Pine and dog

Old beauties

Pine broken branches

All shapes and sizes

Pine needles in snow

Snowy needles

detail pines in snow

Surprise! Detail of ‘Pine trees in snow’ by Maruyama Ōkyo – a well known painting

Pines and bench in snow


Pine and dog in snow

Born to sniff

pine bark

Close enough?

pine pair

A fine pine pair – till death do us part

pine - angled

Is it tough being an old tree?

dog on path

Time to go home ~ that was fun!

During the last snowfall, the walking paths, pavements and roads seemed to hold too much warmth for the snow to accumulate on them (it had been exceptionally mild for a while).  So no slipping and sliding.  Therefore, the ideal snowfall.


Poirot – a cat mourned way too long


Doesn’t he just look like an Egyptian God, this fellow?

My African Prince

Ah, I know, I’m ridiculously biased!  Aren’t we all, whether cat or dog lover, pointy nose or flat face, virtually bald or a fur ball, big or small, the places they occupy in our hearts are huge.  Way too huge at times, I think.

Do all pet lovers have one?

Long ago I read that there will always be a lifetime pet.  Long after many other, much-loved four-footers have walked over the couch, there will always be that one.  Perhaps it’s one that you can never quite think of without getting a lump in your throat.  Or suddenly (but not inexplicably) feel melancholic.  Or tears well up in your eyes and at times you even cry.

Poirot is that kind of pet for me.  He died 5 1/2 years ago on a country road in Quebec, Canada.  He was eight.  I now have cats that I may be even more besotted with than I was with him.  Yet, he’s my lifetimer.

Never acclimatised

He was born in Africa and never hid his hatred for the Canadian cold, where he experienced five winters in Quebec.  Always full of snow and plenty very cold.  He semi-hibernated during those winters, but what he hated more than the cold was sharing the kitty toilet with the other cats.  So, rush out – tippy-toeing at high speed, do his business on the side of the barn and rush back in to carry on sleeping.

As I’m typing this, I’m thinking “Is it any wonder that he opted out?”  Yes and no.  He departed in May, so he could have had one more clammy summer of mouse hunting, his passion.  He always brought a dead mouse home to show off, usually by late morning.  That’s why I knew that day in May that something was amiss.  By 4 pm he had not shown his face all day.  After 20 minutes of searching, I found him on the side of the road, like a flat grey stone, which is what I thought I saw from a distance.

How do I accommodate this?

A Buddhist friend told me years ago that I should accommodate Poirot’s loss.  I thought I found a way to do this, but after a while the old ache resurfaced.  Perhaps just like the phantom pain experienced after the amputation of a limb, I will experience pain in my heart because he was cut out of my life way too soon?


A tyke in Africa ~ 1999-2007

Patterns in the snow

Lo and behold, it was snowing in the Netherlands!

Dry snow, that is.  Had about 3 inches here in the south-east of Friesland.  Boy, did I ever feel at home.

Winter trees in snow

Wintry stillness

So did my dog Pantouf, who was born and raised in the province of Quebec, Canada.  She was still a pup – you know, a real pup, not the kind that is referred to by their doting owners when the dog is already 10 😉 – when she started hunting mice simply because there was a blanket of snow hiding them.  I suspect that she hears them even better, or her instincts are more alert when there is snow (for instance, because coyotes would get hungry during winter and they’d have to hunt more diligently, I dunno, just guessing).

Fat mice hunting

Fat mice hunting

I was just going to post some pictures here with snow patterns, ha ha!  What can I say, I’m a chatterbox.  I’ve been quiet lately, not blogging at all, just because it claims so much of my time.  When I do something, I do it right.  Makes me think immediately of a Joan Armatrading song.  Help Yourself.

That said, I can also be an immense slacker.  Those are the opposites in me – there are many – a perfectionist on the one end and a slacker on the other.  That is one of the reasons why I have been consciously single for a couple of years.  I am hell to share a roof with and I’d feel the same about anyone who’d share it with me!  So I share it with my pets.  Just this morning I was thinking of how wonderful it is to have long-lasting harmony in my home!

Okay, without venturing onto the tangent any further, here then are my snowy pictures with patterns:

As I stepped out of my front door...

As I stepped out of my front door…

Bricks are hiding here...

Bricks are hiding here…

Almost Christmas

Almost Christmas

Not the leaves, but snow is clinging to the trees

Not the leaves, but snow is clinging to the trees



Spot the pattern... :)

Spot the pattern… 🙂

Home again, I noticed this almost Mondriaan painting on my patio

Home again, I noticed this almost Mondriaan painting on my patio

Sunday 9 December

After just one rainy day, most of the snow has washed away

I don’t mind, we had our fun, glad the snow is on the run

Pavements were slippery and roads were icy

To drive or walk was just too dicey!

The Pooch and the Pussycats go to Spain

A story of intercontinental pet travel

Exactly twCat with paw over faceo years ago five of my pets made a gruesome journey in order to join me.  They flew from Halifax, NS, Canada  → Toronto  → Barcelona  →  by ground transport to Cantabria, where I was waiting for them.

Back in Canada many people asked me why I was going to take them with me (because of the cost).  Are you kidding?  I would never have left Canada otherwise!  I had to find a new home for two cats, which was bad enough.

On a non-commercial basis you can import five pets to Europe.  It is a costly and time-consuming affair.  Even if you let others handle most of it, you need to be involved and do your homework.

Abdicate, abdicate! (but verify)

Let the professionals handle everything, even if it costs an arm and a leg.  They should know exactly what they’re doing.  At the bottom I share some of what I’ve learnt.  I’m telling you, it’s much, much easier to emigrate with kids!

A quiet afternoon in a pueblo (or barrio) in Spain

Five pets after long voyageHere they are, my five critters, acclimatising in Spain one day after arrival.  All in all they were underway for almost 36 hours.  This particular Saturday afternoon they were all spaced out in my bedroom where I sat reading.  It was a fairly large house but they all congregated with me.  So sweet.  The tail of the ginger cat is just visible on the right hand side.  He very rarely is a bed sleeper.

Heaven or hell, was the journey cold that gave you eyes of steel?

Wide eyed catThe worst leg of the journey was probably the nine hours or so it took from Barcelona to Cantabria.  It would have been shorter from Madrid, but then there would have been a stopover in Amsterdam.  The animal inn in Nova Scotia recommended a direct flight with a longer road trip.  The pooch and one pussycat despised car travel and they both arrived wide-eyed with dilated pupils.  It didn’t last long once they saw mommy…  None of the pets received medication during the transport – it’s controversial.

Traveldog, Spain – Good service!Traveldog Spain

I still thank my lucky stars that I opted to have the animals cleared at Barcelonacat carrier airport by a service.  This service was recommended by a Spanish vet who worked together with the animal transport agency in Nova Scotia.  The driver waited five hours before the animals were cleared to go.  Imagine, if I had waited all that time, with my limited Spanish, I would have had a major migraine and not been able to leave at all for perhaps days!!!  Expensive, but worth every cent.  He SMS’ed me a few times to let me know that they were well and the expected arrival time.

Pins and needles

old gypsy woman maskMy pets and I had been apart for several weeks while I househunted in Spain and they boarded in Canada.  There just wasn’t any other way.  It broke my heart and at one point I almost canned the whole thing, wanting so desperately to be with them.  The older I get, the worse this becomes.  By now, my gypsy travel genes are completely dominated by my pet attachment ones.

This became eerily obvious when half an hour before my pets were scheduled to arrive in the pueblo I became aware of a strange sensation in my arms.  Pins and needles subtly travelled from my fingertips to my elbows.  I did not know that feeling and said to myself ‘if that isn’t my pets coming around the corner, I don’t know!’  Five minutes later, headlights pulled into the pueblo: Traveldog.


Nature area the NetherlandsAh, it seems like a long time ago.  The animals and I are happy now, but it took almost two years and three countries to get there.  Spain was a nightmare, especially for the pets.  There are many loose dogs in the countryside of Spain.  Owners just don’t care and they are arrogant should one of their dogs attack and wound your animals, even if their dog jumped over your garden wall!  I didn’t have the stomach for it.  Had I known, I would never have gone to Spain.  Had I known, I would never have had all the stories that I worked into my manuscript, or movie script, whichever one I’ll finish first!  There’s the advantage that each disadvantage seems to have.

Had I known that the Netherlands is full of ticks and that the area where I settled is the worst of all, I would perhaps not live right next door to one of the most beautiful nature areas in the country.

Had I known that you can’t have it all I would have been less demanding when I was younger. 😉

I hope to never live through a similar ordeal again.  Pooch, pussycats and I are staying put!

Action tips for international animal transport

  • Consult your vet and pet transport agency regarding the type of chipping and vaccination required in destination country (check online to be sure).  Ask both for quotations (my vet gave me a discount on the chipping because I had five pets).
  • Anti-rabies has to happen at least 30 days before you arrive in most countries, if not all, but must also not have expired.
  • Some destination countries, such as UK, require a special anti-rabies process, called tethering, which must start at least six months before you import your pet(s) (read the regulations for each country where this is required – no quarantine is required if all goes well).
  • Again, rabies (the bugger), I remember reading that if you fly via England, you must also adhere to that country’s anti-rabies regulations in case there is a delay and the pets need to temporarily board – so much to think of!  So I did not fly via England, naturally.
  • If you suspect at all that you need to board your pets, have them vaccinated well ahead as many animal hotels require that this was done three to four weeks before they take them in, especially in Europe where they seem to be stricter with that than in Canada (there is a long list of prerequisite jabs).
  • In Canada the vet writes a health, vaccination and chipping document for each pet.  This has to be stamped by the Food & Health Inspection Agency – this document is only valid for FOUR months!  I, atypically proactive, had this done early and I had to redo them in case I would not be able to send for the animals before the end of the four months.  $100 down the drain.  It does not pay me to be efficient, damnit!
  • Also in Canada, the vet needs to do a final health inspection within a week or so before they finally depart!
  • This list is probably not complete.  Be extra diligent, that’s all I can say.

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