“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

My life revolves around dogs and cats right now

We are petsitting my sister's Rhodesian Ridgebacks for a week, until she and her husband return from Kyoto. She has an adult male, Cerebus, and a puppy, Orion. Cerebus and my Rottweiler, Fargo, decided to have a fight at 5 am Saturday morning, while husband was taking Sister and BIL to the airport. No blood drawn, but Fargo (photo above) got a puncture under his eye. Nothing a little antibiotic treatment can't help, but I'm the one with the ugly bruises from trying to break it up. I know what you're thinking- the problem is that I was NOT thinking- didn't I just say it was 5 AM? From now on, we won't give them an opportunity to go face to face.
Later, while playing with the puppy, he snapped at the toy I was holding and grabbed the soft part of my upper arm- another bruise, to match the other arm. Hurry back, Barb!
All 3 dogs and our 2 cats are on raw meat diets. There is barely room in our tiny fridge for food for us! I have been feeding raw meat to Jazz since he suffered a recurrence of Feline Urological Syndrome. Since I've been feeding raw meat, he hasn't had a recurrence in years, and he loves it. Also his teeth are nice and clean. Fargo got switched from kibble to raw food after we moved here, and his teeth are also nice and clean. He also loves it. The best thing about a raw meat diet is that their poos are firm and small, and don't smell as awful as when eating kibble.
Though I already feed raw meat and bones to my pets, I went to a seminar this past week, given by a local vet who was basically promoting the theory and methods of Tom Lonsdale. Check it out here, it will open your mind.
The other seminar I attended was "Animals With Attitude", by a local animal behaviorist and vet. This talk was more formal and I didn't enjoy it as much. The emphasis was on the animal's behavior, but little was said of the owner's behavior in shaping the animal's behavior within the pack. I am a huge fan of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, and he emphasizes the importance of being the leader of the pack. It really is a two way street. You better be smarter than your dog!
That being said, I'm being outsmarted by my cat Jazz. He is very territorial, and what do cats do to mark territory? They pee on things. Normally he is very sweet and well behaved, but all it takes is a neighbor cat to walk into our yard, and he sees it from the window. People have suggested that we let him outside, but I've decided against it. First, it was a condition of his adoption that we continue to keep him inside only. Second, there is FIV in NZ. Our beloved cat Harley succumbed to Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, which is transmitted through saliva via a bite from an infected cat. There is a vaccine now, but why give yet another vaccine? Third, I like his company, and want him around. I would not confine him outdoors, and I don't know why would he desist marking inside the house. Fourth- yes there is a fourth! it is well established that indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats. Although, if this territorial pissing keeps up, he won't live a full life! Hah. He hasn't done it in about 6 weeks, so that is a relief.
You have to wonder why we put up with this. Pets really are a pain in the ass. But I believe that dogs and cats make great friends- they always listen, they don't complain about their own issues, they are soft and cuddly, and cute. And, I always maintain, they are easier to take care of than kids. No one will call the police if I leave my pet in a wire crate, and I don't have to send them to university or worry about them getting pregnant at age 15.
I'm considering adopting a greyhound, because they are 1) inexpensive, for a purebreed, 2) fostered in a home where careful attention is payed to behavioral responses, (good with cats or not) and 3) they naturally like running after prey, which can be accomodated here. I've met a great group who run south of Auckland. (see my previous post, with photo link goodness!)
Another breed of dog I admire is the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. On my way to get groceries in Henderson, I was shocked to see a couple walking two Tollers! There's only a few in the whole country, and we were crossing paths... There are no current breeders in NZ, so if I want one it will have to be imported from Australia.
Concerning dog sports in NZ, I'm still exploring options. I am unwilling to commit to "flygility", which is like the sport I did in San Diego with Fast Fourward (miss you all!) only it's not a team sport, and there's agility elements incorporated. I do like the lure coursing- either the dog "gets it" and does well, or not. There's no training involved, that I can see. It's just pure joy and beauty. See photo link on my last post. I'm hearing rumors from the various yahoo groups I've joined that there's Schutzhund, but do I want to do that again? That was extremely hard work! Rewarding, yes. But for now, I'll push back that next step toward total pet immersion. Still trying to fit into Kiwi culture, after all.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hooray for culture!

I've been having so much fun lately, when I'm not working, anyway. Good thing they pay me. Work certainly can be frustrating at times. But, I digress.
March 7 was Cheesefest, the first annual public tasting event after the New Zealand cheese awards. This year the Champion belonged to a small goat dairy, Crescent Dairy, for a lovely aged cheese, Old Gold. I enjoyed this so intensely because I've always been passionate about cheese. ("Mouse" was the nickname applied by my mom). Also, I've taken a course of cheesemaking from Univ. Washington and made it at home. It's like brewing beer or making bread in that it takes both science and art to do it well. I've harbored fantasies about having a cheese-making business, but after close examination, determined that, realistically, it is very hard work. Fortunately, there are many people who do it well in NZ, and the milk here is exceptionally good. My personal favorite was Karikaas Old Leyden, with cumin seeds. Heaven! Lucky for me, unlucky for my figure, it is sold just down the street from where I work at Jones The Grocer.
A few doors down from Jones is a little restaurant, the Olympic Cafe. My sister and her husband joined Darin and I for dinner there last Saturday to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of our first visit to Auckland. We really enjoyed it, the service was great, and then, it got better. We walked a short distance to the Auckland Domain to see a fireworks show by Group F. This was the kick-off to the Auckland Festival AK07. I have never seen anything like it, it was just amazing. Check out Holly's blog for a video of the event. The show was free and so very crowded, we waited hours to get our car out and go home. Just check out the photo of the people hanging out in the parked traffic, in the middle of the street. Too bad for that pregnant lady I heard about, she couldn't get to the hospital because of the traffic, and gave birth in one of the parking lots instead. We passed the time by going to the Cock and Bull pub, which had a live band playing "Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie" when we walked in. We had a pint and watch rugby. I'm in a rugby pool at work, and the team I pulled was the Bulls (S. African). They were kicking the Waratahs' butts that night. The players are tough! Check out this guy, "one of the best scrumhalves in the world"- whatever that means!

The following day, we went to the Kumeu show.
I like cows. Here's a photo of a Highland cow, isn't is cute? Look out for those horns though, they could put an eye out!

The Kumeu show highlight for me was the woodchopping competitions. The photo here is of the winner of this particular competition, to see who could cut this log in half in the fewest strokes. This guy did it in 14. There were men from all over New Zealand there to compete, and even a guy from New York.

If you haven't checked it out already, have a look at the photos of my Rottweiler, Fargo, running a lure coursing track by clicking here. You should be on page 3 and find the photos there. Yes, he was barking as he chased the lure, so his mouth is open. He's a Greyhound in a Rottweiler suit.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Assholes in Auckland

No, I don't mean Darin!
Yes, I discovered they're here too. I was crossing the street to get back to my building this afternoon, and because cars won't stop for pedestrians to cross, I crossed one direction of traffic and was standing in the middle of the road waiting for the other direction of car to pass. This might sound stupid but it's not uncommon here. As the truck passed behind me, the asshole leaned out the window and slapped the door of the truck and screamed at me, to scare me. Of course I flipped him the bird. That was totally uncalled for- he had plenty of room to pass, and I had plenty of time to walk in front of him. Sadly, this is not uncommon. Bicyclists get run off the road with what seems like regularity. My sister saw an old lady run down in a crosswalk. This sort of carelesness is a surprise to me, because comming from the US, most everyone is scared into submission. I mean, the US has the greatest rate of incarceration in the world.

Which is worse? I think I can put up with the harassment, provided no one pulls over to beat the crap out of me for giving them the finger. This actually happened to me in Fargo, ND, when I was on my bicycle. I wasn't hurt badly, but my bike got messed up. This psycho who assaulted me had his wife and kids in the car, and they said nothing- probably because he abused them, like he was trying to do to me. Too bad for him, an off-duty cop saw the whole thing and called an on-duty cop. Hell yes I pressed charges and he threatened his judge prior to hearing. He got put in the mental hospital.

Now that I am reminded of that event, I recall that my sister Barb was also assaulted on her bicycle. Her assailant was a JUDGE !!! who was offended by her not stopping at stop signs.
I guess this is no different from the rest of the world. I should probably quit whinging, as I know life is a lot worse in some countries. Hey, I didn't have genital mutilation and get forced into marriage/slavery! Life is good.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

scuba diving the Poor Knights, NZ

Here is a link to photos I took on our trip to the Poor Knights on Feb 24. Poor Knights Divers set us up in their bach and we had their nice boat to ourselves. Too bad they sent us to get our tanks filled at a diveshop that was 25 km away and closed. We learned that it is to your advantage to use the aluminium tanks they rent you in Tutukaka, because the steel tanks we rented in Auckland cost $10/tank to refill, then our dives were cancelled due to weather on Sunday. We had a great time though, and will definitely go back.
We went with fellow expat-American friends in Auckland, Adam and Roberta, and Holly and Steve. Please visit Holly's blog to read more details about our trip.