Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pets - You Gotta Love 'Em

By now everyone knows that our house is run by our pets! My husband gets up in the morning to tend to their various needs; 26 lbs. of sugar a week for sugar water for the 150+ hummingbirds, 4 parrots to uncover and feed, 2 cats to feed and 4 dogs to let out and feed.

While the hummingbirds are an on-going daily routine of cleaning feeders, filling feeders, hanging feeders, refilling feeders, the cats require one meal a day and the parrots are fed twice a day with a few snacks tossed in and their cages cleaned, well, whenever Mike gets to it.

The dogs, well, they are another story. One of the dogs, CocoNut, sleeps in the house at night. The other 3 sleep on the porch and are kept within its confines by a gate. Lately, however, our oldest dog, Nod (who is 13) has been allowed to sleep in the house at night. Nod recently injured herself while we were gone to the Cay shopping for groceries. When we came home we found her laying in the backyard not willing to get up and come up onto the porch. When we checked her out, we found that she must have stumbled or somehow twisted her right front ankle as it was swollen and she could not want to walk on it. It took her several weeks to get back on her feet properly. I wrapped her ankle with an ice pack for a few days and put a bandage on it to support her weight when standing. She is better but now walks with a limp. She was never a real active dog and so she enjoys just laying around on the porch and taking little trips to the backyard to sniff around and do her duty.

Prior to this, about 6 months ago, I noticed her walking backwards in the yard. It seemed that she had lost the ability to go forward and was very confused. She would not come when called and continued walking in a confused manner. We went out and picked her up (no easy feat for she weighs 44 lbs.) and brought her in the house. She was panting and confused. She did not want to lay down and seemed determined to stand upright. Finally she just collapsed and rested. We made sure that she was comfortable and that she had water and kept an eye on her. After several hours she finally came around and seemed to be ok. We finally assumed that she had a mild stroke. She has been fine ever since until she hurt her ankle.

Lately, however, we have noticed that Nod is panting a lot. When she goes to get up she starts panting and it is a strain (because of her ankle) to walk any distance. All of our dogs get heart worm medication every month and so I felt it could not be heart worms but just could not imagine why, all of a sudden, she would start panting. I then Googled her symptom and one of the signs of a dog with an advanced case of heart worms is panting. I was stricken. How could this happen to my dog when she is receiving treatment? Then, the other day she had an accident in the house and I found worms in her stools. After writing Susan (our dog angel here on the island) and telling her I thought they were heart worms because of the panting, she reassured me that the dog probably had worms (I thought the heart worm medication would take care of most of the worms dogs can get) and we should stop by and get some medicine for her. Since Susan has just brought over the Vet from La Ceiba and a U.S. Vet, we will take her there Sunday for a check up. Susan does not think Nod has heart worms and that was a great relief for us.

Next, CocoNut, the dog we acquired 14 months ago. CocoNut was a smaller duplicate of Coco, her predecessor, who passed away in April of 2009 (see my blog of April 29, 2009). When I saw CocoNut it was on the other side of the island and she was owned by a Honduran over there. We offered to buy her and after a few months of back and forth, he finally relented to sell her to us as he could not afford to feed her. I was elated. CocoNut is quite the explorer and the wilder of the 4 dogs. She had to hunt and feed herself while younger and could not quite get the hange of sticking around our house and being content with just exploring our 3 1/2 acres. She is the Alpha female and convinces, somehow, the other two (Desi and Lucy) to go on "walk abouts" with her. They have been gone as long as 2 days. Coco use to take off too but after once being gone 3 days, she stopped the "overnighters" leaving now and then for brief excursions to who-knows-where for 2-3 hours.

Because we did not want the 3 dogs to either hurt themselves while out, get lost (yeah, right, they know where their food is), or get taken by someone else, we bought an electronic collar for CocoNut as all the training I did just did not sink into her head when it came to running off. The collar delivers a small jolt when she approaches the boundaries of her yard and I taught her where they were. Even so, when the mood takes her, she will still attempt to sneak off and did so recently with the other 2 dogs right behind her. They were gone for 14 hours. The collar does work but sometimes the battery is low and she manages to sneak off. She only wears it when she leaves the porch and when it is being charged she is allowed out without it. I keep an eye on them and a loud "NO" from me whenever any of them reach the boundaries of our property usually brings them back. I did put the collar on Desi and Lucy once and they got the idea immediately. Lucy is not much of a wanderer and if she goes off and the others are not with her, she comes back in a short time. Desi and CocoNut, either together or separate, can be gone for hours if they get away.

We had installed a gate on the porch, which CocoNut managed to jump over. My husband rigged up a barrier above it with netting and thought we had the problem solved. Well, she got through that so he put barbed wire across the base of the net and that stopped her jumping. Then she started to jump off one end of the porch - about a 10'+ leap to the ground. This was the same end of the porch where my beloved Sienna flew off to the ground and broke her neck on the rocks below. We did not want her to injure herself on the path so he strung barbed wire across the one end of the porch. Problem solved! Not - she started jumping off the other end - a shorter leap of about 4 feet. He put boards up across this opening and that stopped her from going off there. Then she went to the next opening (about 4 1/2 to 5 feet off the ground) and leaped from there. Same solution. Finally, she went to the opening at the end of the porch (a leap over some plants and of about 9 feet) so he strung barbed wire there. Fortunately for us she has not decided to leap off the front of the porch as there are many plants in front of that area and she cannot see the ground clearly enough to determine whether or not there is a safe landing.

The other two dogs; Desi (male and black) and Lucy (female and reddish brown), are bother and sister. About 3 years ago I saw them as puppies at Bo's place and fell in love with Lucy. I wanted to take her home but we already had 4 dogs and one more was out of the question. Later I found that the dogs had been born at the dump, were in terrible condition when Susan got them and nursed them back to health. She gave them to Bo but, unfortunately, Bo had two dogs and a resort to run and could not keep them. They went to a couple other places and ended up at Susan's again. It was about this same time that Coco had passed and Susan, who can be very persuasive, convinced us that we needed two more dogs! So, they have been with us ever since.

Lucy and Desi are great dogs; good looking and good learners - well, when they want to be. But they bark a lot - I mean, they don't just bark at strangers (sometimes they ignore them), but they bark at boats going by (day or night), coconuts dropping from trees (day or night), cows in the yard or next door (day or night), horses, crabs, vultures, each other, other dogs who pass by. Well, you get the picture. The barking started to become really bothersome, especially at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning so we ordered bark collars for them! Problem solved! They bark less now and only wear the collars when they start barking late at night.

The latest activity of these 3 balls of energy is to wrestle on the porch. I am afraid they will fall off the ledge at the front where it is open and so I will put CocoNut's collar on her and let all of them tear off the porch to the backyard where they run and wrestle.

CocoNut is a sleek dog and loves to run and is the champion. Desi can keep up with her but he prefers to let her run from the back to the front, return and then chase her. Lucy just watches until she feels she can get into the game and play. They are full of spirit and a real show to watch. They sometimes decide that the cats need to be played with and have no fear of Mr. Leonard or Ivy. The cats generally just dash under the bird cage or leap onto the porch railing when the dogs decide it is play time. Most the time, however, they all get along. They ignore the parrots and hummingbirds looking for easier prey I guess. Of course they are all up to chasing iguanas which Mike is not at all happy about.

So, if things seem to get dull around her, we can just sit back and watch the dogs lip wrestle, chase each other, watch humming birds feed from our hand held cup, listen to the parrots jabber to one another or the cats doing whatever it is that cats love to do!

I have always had pets and can't imagine a home without one. I think people miss out on a lot when they don't share their love with an animal as they give so much in return for so little.

So, if you don't have a pet, consider getting one - you will get far more than you give!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Catching Up

I haven't blogged in a while as not much was happening. Finally, I realized that the little things that have been going on have been going on long enough to write an account of the past few weeks.

First, the weather! Normally, in May/June the weather is wonderful here; soft breezes from the East and temperatures hovering at about 82-84 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the last week to week and a half we have had a depression sitting off the area which seemed to suck the air out of our area and thus resulting in little wind. While it brought some much needed rain, without this breeze it is hot and, worse yet, buggy. Generally, on this side of the island, the wind blows the bugs away and cools us. In August/September we normally have the hot days with no wind, but rarely in May/June. Anyway, it has made doing any normal activity that much more difficult. For example, I have been doing a regime of Yoga 3 times a week and last week it was down to one day as it was just to hot to move. If I would have done it more, I would have turned into a puddle of sweat and disappeared. Well, ok, not entirely but it sure felt like that.

Then we had a fire. Right now there is a forest fire raging in Arizona presenting a danger to homes and businesses. Well, last week the workers on land about 1 mile south of our place evidently were ordered to burn off the pasture land and/or surrounding areas to clear off the brush for pasture. This is not the time of year to burn as it has been very dry. We did manage to have some rain about a week ago and it helped the trees and plants. However, it was not enough to reconsider any burning at this time.

Normally, one has to apply for a permit to burn, especially this time of year. I doubt very much that a permit was applied for as usually people just don't bother. The first year we lived on the island a fire ran rampant just behind our apartment and had been started down by the fish plant by the workers burning trash. Keep in mind that most of the people here take no precautions when burning; they do not have water or implements available in case it gets out of control, walk away and leave trash fires burning unattended and once it gets out of control they panic and leave the scene! Thus, the small trash fire that was burning at that time could have been put out had people been prepared or even decided to take action. Instead it raged on and, in spite of alerting the leaders of the town in plenty of time to take action, the request for help to contain the fire was turned down with the statement that they did not have the money to fight fires! So, it burned out of control, up the mountain and across the island destroying hundreds of acres of property. It took several days, as I recall, before it burned itself out.

So, last week we were up on the back hill of our property when I noticed smoke coming from the valley and hills to the southwest of our place. This area is used for grazing the cattle and horses of the land owner. I was dismayed that anyone would be burning this time of year because it was so dry and could not image a permit being issued for such an action (which it was not). I went back to the house and about 30 minutes later I received not one but 3 calls from people stating they could see smoke from a fire on our end of the island. I walked to our dock and that's when I saw that the fire was also burning on the side of a hill close to the water's edge. I can only say that the only thing in OUR favor was that what little wind there was was blowing south and west, away from our house. We watched as a couple of boats came down to investigate the source of the fire; one staying off shore (that of the owner of the land) and another boat with the Mayor and some other men on board. The Mayor's boat landed at a nearby dock and they walked out to observe the fire. Eventually they must have determined that no lives were in danger or property since this, basically, is an uninhabited part of the island, and left the scene without taking action.

We kept watch, from a distance, on the fire throughout the early evening and the next morning it had, indeed, burned itself out probably finding little to fuel its progress. Nevertheless, it was a frightening thing to watch considering that if the wind turned we would have been in its path.

Next, our computer started giving us problems. My husband first noted it in his photo program when he was having trouble retrieving various photos. Finally, the computer locked up and shut down. We made arrangements to send it to La Ceiba to TecnoComp for an analysis of the problem. We talked to Joel over the phone, an amicable young man who has assisted us effectively in the past with our computer problems. We first thought the hard drive was corrupted and were happy to hear later from Joel that the software was the only thing affected and that he would reinstall the software and could save some of our material. Of course we had to package up the computer and put it on a plane on Thursday to La Ceiba. We were told that once it reached the airport there that usually all items in "cargo" would be taken to the main office in the Mall where people could pick up their items. Well, the computer was not taken to the main office that same day or the next and Joel was only able to pick it up the following Tuesday! This was a worry for us as the more time the item sat in the airport or the office the greater the opportunity of it getting "misplaced." As it was, it was recovered, fixed and returned to us 10 days after leaving our island. We are now busy re-entering e-mail information, putting back important documents that were saved and re-installing programs we use.

Then, we had heard news of an excel in the thievery on the island. Normally, this time of the year the fishing boats are in and are restricted from putting out to sea until the end of June or first of July. Thus, the men are not working and in the interim are without funds. So, some of the islanders start stealing. Usually their targets are small boat engines, gas tanks, batteries, copper tubing, any metal they can resell or computers, cameras, etc. they can find when breaking into a house. Unfortunately, a friend of ours who lives near Savannah Bight woke up one morning last week to find that his big 22' cabin cruiser with a 200 HP engine was missing from the marina in front of his house! They had released it from the dock and rowed it around the corner to remove the engine. He finally found it near the old resort of Posada del Sol. The thieves had removed the engine and, for all practical purposes, wrecked all the cables that were attached. The incident was reported to the police but, for the most part, not much is done here about thievery. A recent meeting had been held with the Mayor, Chief-of-Police and the locals from the Sandy Bay area about the problem wanting to know what the elected officials could do about enforcing the laws and prosecuting the thieves. Long and short of it - not much. They only hold people who are caught thieving spend only 24 hours in the jail because of some ridiculous law restricting the time they can spend in the facility. Recently a thief was have caught, released after 24 hours, assigned hours of community service (which were greatly reduced) and when picked up to serve were found stealing again! I say, leave them in jail for at least a week or during the duration they have to do community service. It costs the Municipal little to nothing as they do not feed the prisoners. If you do not have family on the outside or friends to feed you, well you are going to be very hungry. Normally, this is not a problem as everyone has someone who will bring them food. Of all the laws in Honduras that are in effect and not enforced, this seems to be the only one that is strictly adhered to! A woman was caught with stolen goods and reported not only to the Mayor but the police. She was brought in for questioning but nothing was done as she was a single Mother. Hey, almost every Mother on the island is single! So, this is not something that should enter the equation. I have not heard whether or not she was assigned hours of community service, but I rather doubt it. So, the advice most generally given is if someone is breaking into your home or stealing and threatens you, shoot to kill and hide the body!

Next, we are in the process of painting our house. It has been 13 years since the original paint was applied and it needed to be re-done. I had our worker wash the outside walls on the downstairs level and my husband has been busy scraping the loose paint around the windows on the porch. He has also had to repair the caulking around some of the posts and we will have to replace one post near the back door that is rotting out. In the photo he looks so happy doesn't he? It took more than 3 weeks to get a new post from the Mainland as the first one ordered was crooked. We finally picked it up last week. I will start cleaning the walls on the second floor next week and our worker will be painting the downstairs now that the rain has stopped.

Finally, we managed to celebrate our friend, Renate's, birthday the 1st of June. Since our porch is in a mess and I wanted to have a small birthday party for her and I suggested that we hold it at her house. I told her I would bring all the food so she would not have to prepare anything. I made an appetizer, bought champagne to toast the occasion, prepared a new chicken dish with rice and a fresh vegetable medley, a pineapple cole slaw salad and my homemade French Bread. I made passion fruit ice cream for desert and brought extra glasses for the champagne toast. Renate was so happy, especially since this was the first time she did not have to do a thing! We had wonderful weather, a good meal, great conversation and were all able to spend a pleasant day with the birthday girl! Again, Happy Birthday to a wonderful individual, Renate and many, many more!

We did have two pieces of bad news; a woman, Carmen, who purchased land many years ago on the island with her husband passed away from a lung disease in Canada and Linda Murski's step-sister succumbed to cancer in Texas. Our deepest condolences to the families.

So, for now, that's all the news. With some of the summer visitors coming back late this year to the island, there is not much going on so, unless something exciting occurs - heck, even boring, I won't be blogging for a couple more weeks. Anyway, I'll be busy painting!