Best Friends

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We are constantly amused and amazed by Livia’s interaction with our pack of dogs. She just can’t get enough of them. Whether it’s sitting on them, hugging them, kissing them, stealing their food or just chilling in their beds. It really is cute how much she loves them. I don’t blame them for finding all the attention a bit much sometimes, especially when she sits down on them like a WWW wrestler! Our boerboel puppy, Duma is 5 months old now. He is huge already, but such a sweetie and very gentle with Livia when he’s not bounding round the house in an excited state. She loves to visit him while he is relaxed and lying on his bed. I just love these photos of their gentle interaction. There was more than enough love going round for Coco to also get a big hug! 

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Feeling Hopeless

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It’s been two weeks. Two weeks since our little beagle Hope went missing on the farm. She hasn’t been found. Since the second day she was gone I knew that something terrible had happened to her, I just didn’t know what. People said we should keep on searching and we did. But there has been nothing.

We’ve had to deal with a lot of loss at Vastrap over the past two years. First, Tumi who had an inoperable tumour in her uterus and then her daughter Paris, who died from a snake bite. Felix and Poepsie cat have also both passed. As much as I loved those animals, they were not mine from the start so I was able to manage the grief. But Hope was different. She was one of Coco’s puppies and I helped raise her from the first moments she was born. She was the smallest of the litter and always looked different to the others, with a very dark black coat and a small white triangle on her neck. She had the biggest, softest ears. She was fiercely independent and from the start ran wild on the farm, jumping off the bakkie at will to chase after things. We should have done more to train her or contain her, but she was so happy being free. I don’t know if it helps to have regrets. The reality is that farm life poses all sorts of dangers for dogs that one can’t completely sanitise. Still, the other dogs had relatively full and long lives, but Hopey was not even two yet.

I don’t have adequate words to describe how sad, empty and heartbroken I am feeling. I will miss her very much and so will Coco, her mother and partner in crime. She was so kind to Livia and never minded being sat on or smothered with love. She would often sneak off to curl up on my pillow and always came to me for special cuddles and hugs. Goodbye little one. Vastrap will never forget you. Rest in peace.

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Babies in the house

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My beagle babies, Hope and Coco have been in the wars over the past six weeks. First, Hope jumped off the back of a fast-moving bakkie and broke her leg at the knee joint. The vet operated and inserted two pins in her leg and then sent us home with strict instructions to keep her as still as possible for six weeks… not an easy task for a 9 month old beagle! Needless to say, she’s been my and Livia’s constant companion over the past six weeks doing everything we do, including a trip to Joburg. I’ve had to take her out for toilets breaks on a lead every two hours and lavish her with treats and toys to keep her busy. On one level it’s been great bonding time since she’s always been very close to her mother, Coco. But on another, it’s been terrible to see her pining to go outside especially when she can hear the other dogs getting excited to go out with Quentin on the farm. How we’re going to prevent her from jumping off the car again I don’t know, but she is almost ready to join the pack again. I’m certainly not going to miss the early morning and late-night trips outside in the mid-winter chill!

Just as I was getting excited about setting my little patient free, Coco came home last week looking very miserable with a hugely swollen shoulder and bite marks on her… I didn’t know what had happened but Quentin immediately recognised the signs of a puff-adder bite. In the middle of winter!! I had to rush her to the vet where she received anti venom, but she was so badly bitten that they kept her there for a few days. Thank goodness it wasn’t fatal and that we were home to get her to the vet quickly, but she’s still poorly and we have to give her massages a few times a day to help the toxins drain into her lymphatic system. I’m not sure how long she’ll be like this, but it’s yet another patient in the house, albeit a less high maintenance one. Hopefully she’ll make a full recovery just like little Hope seems to have done.

In an attempt to keep the two of them more contained in future, there’s a team of guys putting jackal fencing over our palisade fence today… why it’s taken so long for us to do this I don’t know, but we definitely need to do something as they can’t resist the temptation to go off and explore. It doesn’t help that our electric gate hasn’t been working properly for ages either. I’m sure they’ll find and make holes in the fence eventually, but it’s a start. There’s never a dull moment with these two, but we love them dearly and wish them many more happy days with us.

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R.I.P Poepsie cat

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We’ve had a turbulent time with our pets recently. From Tumi our beautiful boerboel passing away in September last year (see Endings and Beginnings) to Paris, the other boerboel being bitten in the face by a puff adder while we were away over Easter. Fortunately our housekeeper Malefah came to the house to feed the dogs and realised what had happened. The snake had been lying right outside our kitchen veranda all night with the dogs going crazy barking. Because Paris is blind, she obviously couldn’t see the snake and got too close sniffing around. Luckily our farm manager Andre was home and rushed her to the vet in time for treatment.

Poepsie cat was not as lucky. When we got home last week she was looking very thin and disheveled. We thought it might be worms but when we tried to give her treatment we realised she couldn’t hold any food down. She was very old and it was clear to us that her time had come. Last night she crept outside and didn’t return. I knew it was the end. She had a good life and could spend hours snoozing in a sunny spot. She very rarely ventured far from the house except for the odd walk around the swimming pool or to accompany me around the garden. She was a real lady. A beautiful gentle soul and creature of habit, not difficult to please as long as she had a warm and cosy spot to lie. She used to keep me company in the kitchen whilst cooking and I can’t count how many times I stood on her tail because she always sat right behind my feet! She also loved to climb on my lap while I was working in the study. If I didn’t want her she would curl up amongst the papers in the wastepaper basket next to me. In winter she would sleep in front of the Aga or underneath the roaring fire in the Morsø stove. Goodbye Poepsie, you will be sorely missed especially by the Beagles who loved to eat your food. I hope it’s very nice and warm in kitty heaven. xx

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Scratching in the maize

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On a lazy Sunday afternoon during crop planting season a farmer’s mind is never quite at rest. Will the rain forecast for the week ahead materialise? Have the seeds planted in the last week germinated properly? Should certain contours be replanted? When the mind is busy there’s no better antidote than to pile pregnant wife and dogs into the bakkie to go and walk the fields and scratch in the soil. Simply looking from afar is not good enough you have to actually dig to find the seeds germinating under the soil. So far, it seems that the stuff planted in the past week will be fine because there’s been some sporadic rain, but the contours that were planted early before we had proper rain are not doing so well and are very patchy – one should see a nice solid line of green when you look down the line of a contour. These will probably need to be replanted to maximise yield, but it’s a tough decision involving extra time and cost. The veld has made a remarkable recovery in the past two weeks which is great for cattle, but the dams are still very low so we’re holding thumbs for some generous showers soon.

As usual, the dogs absolutely love a good run and little Hope is integrating so beautifully in the pack. She’s four months old now and has long lanky legs which help her to keep up the pace with Patch and Coco, but she’s still petrified of cows and other dogs, which sometimes gets her into trouble. There’s always the risk that she’ll run off into the mountains with Coco when they catch a scent, but I’ve taken to carrying treats with me to make it more tempting for her to come when we call rather than follow her mother. Beagles will be Beagles though so it’s not a guaranteed strategy and we’re still keeping a very close eye on her to make sure she’s safe.

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Goodbye Poppy!

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Today we say goodbye to the last little puppy, Poppy Reid. She is flying back to Cape Town with her new parents Penny and Mark who have been visiting us for the past two days. All of us have become very attached to little Poppy, especially Hope and Coco who spend hours playing together in the garden. Coco is still very attached to her little ones so it must be hard for her when they don’t come home, but at least little Hope is staying with her. We’re going to have our hands full with two beagles, because they really do like chasing after scents and it’s impossible to stop them running off once they’re on a trail. In fact, Coco has been taking puppies on expeditions up the mountain whenever she gets a gap, which usually ends in some kind of rescue mission to retrieve a crying distressed puppy! They are simply not big enough or brave enough to keep up with their mother so it’s been quite stressful keeping them safe. We’ve had an incredible 10 weeks with Coco’s litter, but all good things must come to an end and it’s time for life to return to normal. I am so grateful that all four little ones have gone to amazing people who will take good care of them and keep us updated on their progress. What a rewarding and joyful experience this has been and a little insight to what’s in store when our real deal baby arrives in January! Goodbye little Poppy. Thank you for your love. Be well, be safe and be happy with your new family. We will miss you little one.

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Puppy Party!

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We just can’t get enough of these puppies! It’s a full time job taking care of this lot, but I’ve had some wonderful help over the past few days while my sister and my nieces Sibella and Sophia have been visiting. The minute Ashley arrived for her visit last week she insisted that we had to have a puppy party for our cute new babies. I didn’t really know what she had in mind, but I needn’t have worried because the planning began as soon as her cousins were here. The kids awoke with much excitement on Wednesday morning and started to blow up balloons and decorate the TV room. They even drew special cards for each puppy, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to take any photos of them. While I baked some chocolate-chip biscuits, Sibella attended to the girls’ make-up. As soon as the puppies woke from their mid-morning nap they joined in the fun. Clueless as to what was going on, the rest of us had a great time watching them explore and play. They have completely come to life over the past week and are now fully engaged in boisterous play, which often involves biting each other as hard as possible ending in shrieks of pain! Coco is keeping a wary distance, but reluctantly lies down for a feed every now and again even though she is suffering more and more abuse from their sharp little teeth! Meanwhile I am trying my best to entice them with solid food to help with the weaning process. So far so good. They are looking gorgeous and we love them all to bits. It’s going to be very hard to say goodbye when they leave for their new homes at the end of September.

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