Category: Communication

The continuing fallout from Chernobyl

Will you, please, consider taking one of these puppies!

I closed last Saturday’s post with this plea: “If only there wasn’t a single dog in need of adoption in the world!

That plea is being used to introduce today’s post. An article that was recently read on the Smart News section from The Smithsonian magazine website.

I have republished it, hopefully without infringing copyrights, because it’s a story that needs to be circulated as far and wide as possible.

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Chernobyl Puppies Going Up for Adoption in the U.S.

Now in quarantine, the pups are expected to come to the U.S. this summer in search of their forever homes.

Please for to adopt us, Comrade. (Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Authority)
By Jason Daley smithsonian.com , May 16, 2018

In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant melted down, sending nearby residents fleeing the disaster zone. And sadly, most pets got left behind. Over the last 32 years, the surviving pups have multiplied, creating a community of hundreds that live in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and another 250 that live on the grounds of the former power plant itself.

Now, a dozen of those homeless puppies will head to the United States for adoption, reports Matt Novak at Gizmodo.

According to the Russian website Meduza, Ukrainian authorities have captured 200 of the stray Chernobyl puppies. They are currently keeping them in a 45-day quarantine in the city of Slavutych, and then a dozen will be shipped to the United States.

“We have rescued the first puppies, they are now in our adoption shelter going through the quarantine and decontamination process,” Lucas Hixson, co-founder of the U.S.-based Clean Futures Fund, a non-profit created to take care of Chernobyl clean-up workers, their families and the dogs tells Novak. “The goal is 200 dogs but will likely be more in the long run. My hope is to get 200 dogs rescued and adopted in the next 18 months and then go from there.”

The pups have a heartbreaking story, as The Guardian’s Julie McDowell detailed earlier this year. During the evacuation, more than 120,000 people were herded onto buses to escape the meltdown of the Unit 4 reactor, leaving most of their valuables and their pets behind. Many dogs tried to follow their owners onto the buses but were kicked off. People left notes on their doors asking authorities not to kill their animals, but Soviet Army squads were dispatched to put down as many contaminated animals as they could find.

Some of the dogs survived the army and the radiation, rebuilding their community as a pack. The Clean Futures Fund reports that the 250 dogs living on the grounds of the former power plant were likely driven out of the surrounding forests by wolves and a lack of food. Another 225 dogs roam Chernobyl City and hundreds of others live and scrounge at security checkpoints and throughout the woods and abandoned communities in the Exclusion Zone. Most of the dogs around the plant are under the age of 4 or 5, and clean-up workers at the site sometimes feed and tend to sick animals.

But last year, after becoming aware of the animals, The Clean Futures Fund decided the pups needed a more permanent solution. That’s why they’ve implemented a three-year program in the Exclusion Zone to spay and neuter 1,000 animals and vaccinate them against rabies. At their first clinic last August, the Fund spayed and neutered 350 dogs and cats in the area. Each animal was tested for radiation, given antibiotics, vaccinated for rabies and microchipped. Each dog’s vital data was also recorded.

For the next clinic scheduled for June, the Fund has also partnered with researchers from the University of South Carolina. The team will study the dogs for signs of radiation poisoning as well as genetic damage and disruptions to the dogs’ microbiomes, reports Mary Katherine Wildeman at The Post and Courier. The team will sedate the dogs and look for tumors and cataracts, which can signal radiation poisoning.

Understanding the impacts of radiation exposure is becoming increasingly important, says Timothy Mousseau, a researcher who has studied radiation in the birds, insects and small animals of Chernobyl and will lead the project. Exposure rates in daily life from medical treatments and other sources are on the rise, with the average yearly dose Americans receive doubling in the last 20 years alone.

There is no word when or where the dozen Chernobyl pups will go up for adoption. But even if you’re not lucky enough to have one of the reminders of Soviet-era nuclear power at the foot of your bed, it’s still possible to see the place for yourself and hand out treats to some of the remaining pups. There’s a booming tourism industry in the area to visit the eerie ghost towns and surprisingly quiet and beautiful green space that has overtaken the Zone.

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I am going to contact The Clean Futures Fund to see how one can register a potential interest in taking one of these puppies.

In the meantime, is there any reader who would be interested in having a puppy? Send me an email if so.

All dressed up!

And I am not referring to that wedding!

But on behalf of Jean and me and all you wonderful followers, we would like to wish Prince Harry and Megan Markle many congratulations on their marriage this day in Windsor and a long happy and healthy life together.

No, I was referring to shelter pups all dressed up, as read recently on Mother Nature News.

(And please read my closing remarks about a change in the frequency of my blog posts!)

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These shelter pup moms are all dressed up, waiting for that special visitor

Puppies are quick to get adopted, but the moms are often left behind.

by CHRISTIAN COTRONEOMay 11, 2018.

Duchess, left, and Buttercup, haven’t let losing their families dampen their spirits. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

Every mother has her day. And if that old saying holds true, so too does every dog. But it seems a couple of dogs at a shelter in Atlanta have waited a long time for their day to come.

So long, in fact, that both dogs — Duchess and Buttercup — became mothers before finding a family to adopt them.
Although for Buttercup, that distinction was tragically fleeting.

Buttercup has bounced back from the heartbreak of losing her babies. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

She was already pregnant when she arrived at Fulton County Animal Services. But in her weak condition, none of her puppies survived.

And Duchess? She experienced a different kind of heartbreak, having arrived at a shelter with five healthy and rambunctious babies in tow. One by one, they were adopted by families — leaving just mom behind.

When it comes to finding a family, puppies are typically the first out the shelter door, even though there are so many reasons why older dogs often make the most meaningful impact on a family.

Duchess nursed her puppies — until they were big and strong enough to be adopted. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

The thing is, as we’ve seen time and time again, a shelter dog’s heart isn’t easily shattered.

In fact, both Buttercup and Duchess aren’t exactly sulking at the Atlanta chapter of Best Friends Animal Society. In the hands of their heart-healing keepers, they’ve blossomed in every way.

Buttercup is available for adoption at the Best Friends shelter in Atlanta. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

Duchess still likes to prance around on her daily walks, and, as the shelter notes in a press release, “demonstrate her good manners with both people and other dogs.”

Buttercup, the release adds, has “healed and made lots of human and canine friends alike.”

But shelter staff know all too well that shelter life can wear a dog down. This weekend, Best Friends is hoping that some families, in the spirit of that special day, will give these mothers the best gift of all — a home where they can truly spread their roots.

Think you can help?

If you happen to be in Atlanta, you can pay these moms a visit at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center any day between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m., or email atladoptions@bestfriends.org.

Duchess’ manners appear to extend to the dinner table. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

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If only there wasn’t a single dog in need of adoption in the world!

Postscript!

Dear people,

I’m struggling to stay on top of stuff in and around the house. So, please forgive me if there are days when a post doesn’t appear!

Thank you!

More tips for healthy dogs

Another interesting article from Susan Combs.

It’s self-explanatory and needs no further introduction from me save to say that this is the third guest post from Susan.

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Four Essential Tips to Make Your Dog Healthy and Active Round the Year

Dogs have been living with us for tens of thousands of years. This evolutionary relationship and a special chemistry with us have made them our best friends. Their affection for us makes them extraordinarily attentive with which they uncannily predict what we are going to do. They are so attuned to our emotional state that whenever we get annoyed, they even express contrition. As stated by a Harris poll, as many as 90 percent of parents consider their cats and dogs to be part of their family.

If you are a dog owner, you surely are treating him as your family member and you also want him to live as long as possible. Living and playing with your dog gives you immense pleasure and also keeps you stress free. However, sometimes your canine friend may go through health issues, which can render him inactive as well as distressed.

So how are you going to take care of your dog’s health?

Usually dogs are happiest when they are healthy; you need to ensure your dog’s physical and mental well-being by keeping him active and stimulated, even when you are not at home.

The following tips will help you make your dog happy and active always:
1. Training and socialization is vital

First of all, your dog needs to know that humans are important and their company is quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, many pets are not properly socialized and are fearful of strangers. You need to expose your dog to a wide variety of people so that he can get accustomed to the presence of people. As a matter of fact, if your dog hangs out with only one person, he may get wary of anybody else. Therefore it’s important to diversify your dog’s attention and make time for ‘meets and greets’. A dog that is confident of his training and routine also becomes highly socialized. Take your dog to training classes because they are a great place to meet other dogs and people in a safe and controlled environment. Stop rewarding dogs for displaying submissive behavior as it can turn them into a nervous wreck.

2. Take care of his diet and nutrition

A nutritious and balanced diet is highly essential to keep your dog healthy. Everything that your dog eats affects him – from weight, to the wear on his teeth, to the luster of her eyes and to the health of their fur. The food that you are giving to your dog can even change his moods. Many cheap packaged dog foods do not contain the necessary nutrient profile to be deemed as healthy.

Your dog also needs a healthy source of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

As suggested by a reputed pet care website, read the label and package for AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) labels such as “complete” and “balanced”.

3. Play with him like a friend

Playing and having fun with your dog eliminates stress from your life – the same holds true for your dog as well. Playing games keep your dog’s heart healthy and its joints well-lubricated. Games that have rules end up honing your dog’s analytical skills. When playing with your pet it’s crucial to realize that you are the boss. You get to decide what boundaries to set for your dog. Both of you also need to learn to communicate better with each other. Moreover, playtime can be an excellent opportunity to teach your dog good manners. When you teach him new games, reward him if he does well. Rewards don’t necessarily have to be treats; you can hug him and give him his favorite toys.

4. Make friends with your vet

Your pet should more often visit vets even if they seem to be fine. Much like humans, dogs need to be kept under a close watch by conducting regular health checkups to keep aging-related health problems at bay. Even if your pet may appear perfectly healthy, he might be sick without you ever knowing about it. Based on data provided by Nationwide pet insurance, one of the primary reasons why their customers seek veterinarian treatment is to treat skin allergies in pets. Dogs with hairy ears are prone to ear infection since germs build up in humid and warm parts of the body. Dogs with allergies also tend to scratch the affected area which aggravates the infection. Visiting the vet is also important for your dog because he can get used to whenever being poked and prodded.

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Susan also included the following graphic that I will leave you with.

We all love our dogs too much to take any risks with them!

Taking our dogs out and about.

Another great article from Mary Jo of MNN

On Monday I published an article written by Wendy Lipscomb about summer heat for dogs, especially for long-haired dogs. It was well-received!

That article implied that our dogs frequently go out with us more often than not.

Summer brings in many outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, running and going for a picnic or maybe going out just for a walk. There is nothing wrong with taking your dog out with you if you know how to regulate your pet’s body temperature.

But Mary Jo of Mother Nature Network published an article just a few days ago that offers another perspective. Here it is!

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Please don’t take your dog everywhere

Not all dogs are happy at public events.

by MARY JO DILONARDO, May 11, 2018.

Always be in tune to your dog’s body language when you take him to a public event. (Photo: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock)

Whether it’s a farmers market or a summer art festival, when the weather warms up, people head outside. And when they go outdoors, many people take their dogs. But while plenty of pups are happy to browse the produce stands and mingle with hundreds of strange people and their pets, there are many who are stressed by the adventure.

Some owners just assume that if they’re having fun, their dogs are happy, too. But not all dogs love the noises and smells, people and activity that come with going to outdoor events or restaurants. They get nervous and maybe even cranky when faced with scary or new situations.

Chicago trainer Greg Raub suggests asking yourself a few questions before snapping on the leash and taking your pup with you:
  • Will my dog be comfortable at the event or would he be happier at home?
  • Can I be sure my dog won’t react aggressively if a stranger rushes up to him?
  • Can I make sure my dog won’t get into something like dropped food or trash?
  • Even though my dog is harmless, could he scare little kids because of his size or looks?
  • Will it get too hot for my dog if I can’t find a spot in the shade?

Tips for a good outing

If you decide to take your dog to a public event, it’s key to set him up for success, says Maryland trainer Juliana Willems.

First up, she says, don’t use a retractable leash.

“There is hardly any control with these leashes, and in high activity environments you need all the control you can get,” she writes on her blog. “For the sake of all other dogs and owners at the event, I encourage you to stick to 4′ or 6′ standard leashes.”

Then, make sure to stuff your pockets with treats.

“I understand that shoving a bunch of treats in your dog’s mouth won’t solve real problems, but it can sure help manage some when you’re out in a distracting environment,” she says. “Oftentimes when there is an overwhelming amount of stimuli, your dog will only pay attention to you if you’ve got something they want: yummy food. In new environments it is essential to be able to capture your dog’s focus. Treats will help enormously for this, especially if they are high value.”

Pick and choose

Some dogs might be very stressed at an outdoor cafe, while other might enjoy watching the people go by. (Photo: Budimir Jevtic/Shutterstock)

Just be smart about when your pet tags along, suggests veterinarian Patty Khuly, V.M.D.

“Over time, I’ve learned that your life has to be 100 percent dog-friendly if your dog is going to tag along 100 percent of the time. And precious few of our lives are that accommodating,” she writes in Vetstreet.

For example, Khuly says that she only takes one of her four dogs to outdoor restaurants because her other three don’t have the right dispositions.

“There’s no point in taking your dog to a restaurant if he doesn’t have the temperament for it, won’t enjoy it or if it will cause a lot of disruption. But smaller, well-behaved and socialized dogs may be just fine.”

Look for signs of stress

Wherever you go with your pup, it’s key that you always pay attention to him. That’s not only so his leash doesn’t get tangled in a stroller, but it’s primarily so you can sense his mood.

Be aware of the signs and symptoms of stress so you know when it’s time to take off. Here are some of the most common things to look for, according to veterinarian Lynn Buzhardt, D.V.M. of VCA Hospitals.

  • Yawning
  • Nose or lip licking
  • Pacing or shaking
  • Whining, barking or howling
  • Pulled or pinned-back ears
  • Tail lowered or tucked
  • Cowering
  • Panting
  • Diarrhea
  • Avoidance or displacement (focusing on something else like sniffing the ground or turning away)
  • Hiding or escape behaviors (hiding behind you, digging, running away)

If you notice any of these stress signs, take your dog home or at least give him a break from all the activity.

“Dogs are extremely sensitive and can go from being fine to absolutely not fine in a matter of minutes. It is essential that you stay in tune to how your dog is reacting to other dogs or people, and the minute things start getting hairy, you skedaddle,” says Willems. “Your dog might not necessarily need to leave all together, but a time out away from all the hubbub can really help a dog’s mentality.”

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Must close by including the following:

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.

We are on the verge of a thunderstorm arriving so please forgive me for signing off without delay.

Do animals have broken hearts?

Just too beautiful for words!

Not that the sub-heading is going to stop me republishing a most beautiful article that appeared on Mother Nature Network on May, 3rd.

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Heartbroken goose misses his bulldog pal

Neighbors join search to reunite these unlikely animal friends.
by MARY JO DILONARDO, May 3, 2018.

Several people stopped after spotting the unlikely pair along a busy highway. (Photo: Amanda Georgewill)

Sadie and Sal are the unlikeliest of friends. Sadie is a brindle bulldog who lives in Harnett County, North Carolina. Sal — who also goes by Gary — is a goose, and Sadie’s biggest fan and protector.
According to neighbors who posted online, Sal initially kept four ducks and a chicken in line, but his fowl brigade eventually disappeared, likely because of foxes that roam the area.

So Sal set his sights on Sadie and the pair became inseparable. Although Sadie has an owner, the two wandered around the area together, pretty much adopted by the neighbors who liked to feed the friendly pup when she stopped by.

“That goose,” neighbor Wanda Holder told the News & Observer, “takes his long, long neck and rubs on that dog.”

One day in late April, the pair wandered a little farther away from home than usual. They strolled along Highway 27, and the sight of the unlikely adventurers caused people to pull over and try to help.

“We stopped to help the Canadian goose keep the bulldog out of the road … and the goose got (angry),” wrote David Zapata in a Facebook post. “Started chasing everyone around and trying to bite anybody that got near the dog. You can’t make this (stuff) up.”

According to witnesses, a woman slipped a collar and leash on Sadie and managed to get the bulldog into her car. The goose chased the car for a while, honking angrily, and then he gave up.

“It sorta broke my heart to see the two separated, it really did,” Zapata wrote. “You could tell they were pals.”

Sadie and Sal stroll a little too far from home. (Photo: David Zapata/Facebook)

Searching for Sadie

Sal found his way back home, but no one knows what happened to Sadie.

Amanda Georgewill happened to be driving by before Sadie was scooped up. She posted the image of the dog and goose on several North Carolina lost dog pages, hoping the woman who took Sadie would realize the pup had a home.

“I pulled over to help and snapped the picture first just in case,” Georgewill tells MNN. “I just want those two to be reunited.”

The photo has sparked hundreds of shares and dozens of comments as people have likened the unusual pair to the stars of a Disney movie or the perfect characters for a children’s book.

But they’ve mostly pleaded for the woman who picked up Sadie to return her.

Online, there are plenty of theories about what happened to the neighborhood’s favorite bulldog. Did the woman take the dog because she thought it was in danger, being mistreated, or did she just want to keep it for herself?

Neighbors say Sal has been moping. He goes to the main highway where Sadie disappeared and squawks for a few minutes before returning home. One neighbor posted that within the last few months, the dog and goose had also accepted a kitten into their pack, so Sal is taking care of his feline friend while he waits for his pup to return.

“I thought it was really cool how the goose and dog paired up as friends to travel around,” Zapata tells MNN. “Definitely a rarity.”

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Both in our human world and in the world of animals friendship, especially across different species of animal, is so, so beautiful!

Please join me and Jean in hoping that Sadie returns to be with Sal.

Summer heat and caring for our dogs.

A guest post by Wendy Lipscomb.

Already there are some places in the USA that are experiencing some pretty hot days. For instance, at the time of me writing this introduction, around 2pm last Friday, the temperature in Phoenix, Arizona is 97 deg F. (36 deg C.)  That’s perfectly hot enough for us humans even before we think of dogs. Especially dogs that have thicker coats.

Over to Wendy!

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Regulating the Body Temperature of Your Thick-Haired Dog during the Summer.

by Wendy Lipscomb, May 9th, 2018

Summer brings in many outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, running and going for a picnic or maybe going out just for a walk. There is nothing wrong with taking your dog out with you if you know how to regulate your pet’s body temperature.

Humans regulate their body temperature by sweating but animals do not have this property. Dogs do sweat very slightly from their nose and paws but that cannot help them regulate their body temperature. Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting; when a dog breathes through his mouth the saliva evaporates cooling down the blood in the veins. Put another way, the air that a dog breathes passes through its nasal passage before reaching its lungs. The air is cooled when it is passed through that nasal passage.

Therefore, it becomes even harder for dogs to regulate their body temperature when the sun is shining down, and also when the humidity in the air increases. This builds up a pressure on the dog’s lungs and heart as he breathes in and out more frequently to regulate his body temperature.

But you can take some measures to help your pet to regulate his body temperature during summer outdoors.

No doubt about it that dogs are super active animals and love to go outdoors. But while taking them out in those summer months it is easy to forget that the paws of our dogs are very sensitive and they can be burned by walking on the pavement and roads in the daytime. So, invest in good protective booties or apply paw wax to protect your dog’s paws.

In addition, your dog can also get sunburned by excessive exposure to the sun. Therefore, either limit the exposure of sun for your four footers or visit your vet clinic so that they can recommend a good sunscreen for your dog.

Another thing that you can consider while going out in the summer is that if you are traveling in a car and stop for rest never ever leave your furry companion in a locked or closed car. Because in summer your car becomes extremely hot by trapping the heat inside. If you leave your pet inside a hot car it can suffocate within minutes. Yes, within minutes!

Always carry a bottle of water to keep your dog hydrated. Create breeze for your dog to make the hot temperature tolerable for them. The breeze helps in cooling sweat and will make your dog feel relaxed. For this purpose buy a shop fan that is portable; a good option to create a breeze to keep yourself and your dog cool.

The above-mentioned tips are general tips that you must keep in your mind to implement in the summer. However, thick-haired dogs require a little more attention to maintain their safe body temperature.

People have the misconception that a dog with thick hair will suffer more during summer but let me tell you that thick-haired dogs are good at regulating their body temperatures. The fur of thick-coated dogs helps them to stay warm in winter and in summer their fur works as insulators and protects their skin from direct exposure to the sun.
Bathing For Thick-Haired Dog:
Well, fleas and ticks are around all of the year. Fleas can survive outside for long periods of time, particularly in a warm and sticky climate. As mentioned previously, summer bring in more heat, humidity and more outdoor time. Thus, it is the peak time for your thick-haired dog to catch fleas or ticks. Therefore, bathing your dog regularly is as important as anything else because it will not only help your dog to regulate his body temperature but bathing will also help you and your puppy be rid of these tiny crawlies as flea bites can cause redness, irritation, allergy and even illness such as Lyme diseases. It is recommended to use a good quality flea shampoo to get rid of fleas. Always examine the ingredients of the shampoo to avoid buying one with harsh chemicals because it may cause a reaction to your dog’s skin.
You should not Shave Your Dog in summer:

People ask me if I am going to shave my thick-haired dog in the summer? The answer to this question is “No”. Thick-haired dogs have two layers of hairs. The long-guard hairs protect the dogs in the winter from snow and the inner layer helps them to stay warm in those same winters. However, these dogs shed their undercoat in the summer and they are left with only long-guard hairs that insulate dogs from heat and protects them from sunburn.
Shaving your double-coated dog is not a good idea because shaving changes the texture of the coat. Your dog sheds off his inner coat in the summer. If you shave his coat his hair will soon start growing back and you will see that the soft and fluffy inner coat will grow first and later on the guard-hairs will combine with them. In addition to this, the texture of the new coat will be sticky and your dog will bring in whatever he passes through and that sticks to his new coat.
Moreover, the combination of the new growing inner and outer coat will also make your dog feel hotter on summer days.
Brush Your Dog Frequently:
Instead of shaving your dog’s coat, try to brush it every alternate day. Brushing your dog’s coat with a fine-toothed comb will untangle the hairs and it will also help in removing the winter undercoat of your thick-haired four-footer. This will increase air circulation and will make your dog feel cool and comfortable.

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I asked Wendy for a little about herself. This is what she sent in:

Wendy is a self-employed beauty therapist, mother of two; life-long pet parent and lover of dogs who somehow manages to squeeze in the time to satisfy another of her loves – writing. Wendy is the founder, main contributor to and editor of TotallyGoldens.com

So no other way than to close this post with the message: Stay Cool Peeps!

(Brandy! Take Note!)

Jean and Brandy at a local yard sale back in June 2016.

To England and France, Part Five

Beautiful, peaceful and relaxing days!

We were in Reggie and Chris’s villa in the village of La Croix des Luques inland from the Cote d’Azur, Southern France.

I quickly realised that their villa was not far from the world-famous sailplaning airfield at Fayence. Or LES PLANEURS DE FAYENCE as it is known. Reggie gladly offered to take Jean and me across to the airfield.

Many years ago, when I was living and working in Colchester, Essex, I became a very keen and active pilot with the Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk eventually qualifying as a gliding instructor. So when Reggie suggested that I see about getting a dual flight at the Fayence Club I didn’t need asking twice.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t accommodate my wishes before we had to leave France so that opportunity had to be let go.

Another opportunity, this time for Jeannie, was taken advantage of. Chris was a member of a local art class and while we were going to be there the class would be meeting at the villa. Would Jean like to take part?

Jean is a good amateur artist, as many of her paintings and sketches around our house attest to. So that did take place and it was a wonderful afternoon for all concerned.

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Stella, Christine’s sister, working alongside my Jeannie.

Then on a subsequent day Reggie and Chris took us for a drive along the beautiful coastline that is the essence of the Cote d’Azur.

To reach the coast Reggie took a route that went down towards Frejus and Saint-Raphael and then joined the coast road just west of Le Dramont.

I found this was stirring up very old memories. For my father, a Chartered Architect, had a passion for this part of France and every summer back in the 1950s took the four of us (Mum, Dad, me and my sister Elizabeth) for a month’s holiday. Thus many of the coastal town names had echoes from over 60 years ago. (Father died in December, 1956 of cancer.)

As we drove along, I reminisced aloud to Reggie and Chris that when I was 15 my mother decided that it would be a good thing for me to do a student exchange with a French boy. It was arranged and in the early part of the summer of 1959 in to our house in Preston Road, Wembley came Philippe, whose home was in Paris.

Then in about 4 weeks it was my turn to accompany Philippe back to Paris. It was a very ornate apartment with an air of luxury living and I felt very lost in the place. Apparently, Philippe’s father was a director with Air France.

Anyway, the father announced just a couple of days after I had arrived that all the family the following day would be flying from Paris to Nice airport, (with Air France, of course!) to then spend a month at the family’s French villa in the coastal town of Antheor.

On me mentioning Antheor Reggie immediately exclaimed that we were just a few miles from going through Antheor and that we should stop there. I wondered if I would remember anything of the place.

Well I did!! To my amazement when we stopped to look down at the beaches below the level of the road I thought that we were very close to the beach in front of the villa at Antheor where I used to swim, frequently on my own, every day that I stayed there.

I told everyone to stay where they were and ran on to the next beach.

Bingo!!

It was the same beach that I now recalled so clearly.

Swimming memories from 1959!

Even more amazing for me was that the iron gate and steep stone steps down to the beach were still there, albeit no longer being used as a more modern set of steps was in place.

By this time, the others had arrived at the head of the new steps and were looking down at me as I became truly lost in days so very long ago.

 

I have no recollection why back then the rest of the family so rarely came down to the beach that was so close to where their villa was. Indeed, it was just a case of crossing the coast road, much quieter in those years, and descending the steps to the beach.

But for this London boy it was bliss beyond measure. Maybe at some level it reminded me of family holidays for our, as in sister Elizabeth and me, father’s death was still a painful memory.

I stood still and just looked at the beach and at the sea and was transported so very clearly back to the times when I swam around the rocks, wearing a face mask and snorkel, just lost forever in what one could see underwater.

Then it was time to return to the car and resume our delightful drive.

Soon after we stopped at a small beach cafe for an afternoon drink of something cool.

Everything, well for me at least, still seemed a little unreal; a little larger than life! I think that’s what inspired me to take the photograph above of the cafe proprietor and her cat!

Then we moved on again.

In due course, to another delightful evening meal somewhere local. The French expression “en famille” says it all!

These wonderful days were going by far too quickly!

In a flash it was Tuesday and Jean and I were being driven to Nice airport for another easyJet flight. But instead of returning to Bristol we had booked an easyJet flight into Gatwick. Because the last 36-hours of our vacation were being spent with my daughter’s family.

Maija’s husband, Marius, who is employed by The Royal National Theatre, near Waterloo Bridge on the south bank of the River Thames in London, frequently is working evenings but in order to spend time with me and Jeannie he had taken a day’s holiday on the 25th.

Our last day of our vacation dawned bright and sunny. It was a school day for Morten and after he had left for school Marius and Maija suggested going for a walk along the South Downs. Perfect!

For those unfamiliar with the South Downs let me quote a little of what may be read on Wikipedia.

The South Downs are a range of chalk hills that extends for about 260 square miles (670 km2)[1] across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the east. The Downs are bounded on the northern side by a steep escarpment, from whose crest there are extensive views northwards across the Weald. The South Downs National Park forms a much larger area than the chalk range of the South Downs and includes large parts of the Weald.

The South Downs are characterised by rolling chalk downland with close-cropped turf and dry valleys, and are recognised as one of the most important chalk landscapes in England.[2] The range is one of the four main areas of chalk downland in southern England.[3]

It is a beautiful place to walk.

It was a magical way of spending our last day.

Again, I was aware of stirrings in my old memory box from many years ago, possibly when I might have taken young Alex and Maija for a walk along the Downs, or something along those lines.

But today it meant so much for Jeannie and me to be with Maija and Marius for this gorgeous walk.

A couple of hours later we found a place to have a late lunch and asked the lady serving our table to take a photograph of all four of us!

Obviously, we had to be home in time for Morten’s return from school.

Those last hours of that day were focussed on keeping Morten company. What else mattered!

So the last photograph of the whole vacation is the one below. A picture taken of Morten planting some seeds that were bought while we were out that day.

We arrived back in Portland, Oregon around 6pm on the 26th and too late to drive all the way back to Merlin.

So after we had collected the car from the long-term parking we stopped off at the first motel that we saw heading though southern Portland.

Then around 11am on Friday, 27th April we pulled up in front of the house to be greeted by six very loving and contented dogs. Well done, Jana!

That evening those contented dogs demonstrating their happiness did more than anything to communicate a precious message.

Oliver and Pedi

oooo

Brandy.

Welcome Home Jeannie and Paul!

The End!

To England and France, Part Three

Refreshing dear connections from the past!

So on Friday the 13th of April daughter Maija ran Jean and me to the railway station at Haywards Heath to catch a train into London, specifically to Victoria Station.

Then we boarded the London Underground to get ourselves from Victoria Station to Bounds Green tube station on the Picadilly Line. It was a bit of a culture shock for both Jean and me; to say the least. But we managed it somehow and once at Bounds Green there was my sister Eleanor to greet us. Eleanor lives in Johannesburg in South Africa (long story) but needed to come to England and made arrangements that meant she could meet with us for this one afternoon and evening. For Eleanor had pre-booked a bed and breakfast in Coniston Road, London N10.

Eleanor is twelve years my younger sister and it was only later on in life that both of us realised what a precious age gap that was. For as Eleanor was growing up in her early years I was at the age of wanting to be the big brother to her and it became, and still is, a very close bond.

Eleanor holding her arms around Jean and me!

Immediately upon meeting we found a nearby cafe to grab some lunch and do a bit of catching up!

The afternoon and evening went by far too quickly and fairly smartly on the Saturday morning, the 14th, we said our ‘goodbyes’ and Jean and I struggled for the second time in twenty-four hours with the Underground! This time making our way from Bounds Green to Paddington Station, the main line station that serves Bristol and places in between, as in the Great Western Railway, as well as down to the South-West including Exeter and then on to Plymouth and into Cornwall.

Our train journey was from Paddington to Swindon Station to be met by Richard and Julie.

Richard is my longest, closest and dearest male friend.

He and I go back very many years, for we met not long after I had left IBM in 1978, where I had been an Office Products salesman, and then started my own company. Richard had, in turn, recently left Olivetti where he, too, had been an Office Products salesman.

We hit it off immediately and over the intervening years, as in the thick end of 40 years, there’s not a lot that we haven’t shared in terms of fun and frolics, and especially a great many flying exploits in my group-owned Piper Super Cub!

Piper Cub R151

When Jean and I got together in 2008 as you might imagine she quickly became close friends with Richard and Jules, as Richard calls Julie.

Plus Jean and Richard share a rather ironic, if that’s the right term, event. For both of them were diagnosed in December, 2015 with the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease!

As with seeing Eleanor, the time with Richard and Jules was far too short but, nonetheless, very

Murphy being cuddled by Jules

precious. Plus, dear Murphy gave Jean and me a much-needed dog fix!

Thus on the morning of the 15th, Richard and Jules ran us across to Bristol which is where my son, Alex, is living with Lisa, his partner.

The plan was to spend from Sunday, the 15th, through to Wednesday, the 18th, with Alex and Lisa. Alex had booked time off work for those days but Lisa unfortunately was working during the weekdays.

Yet another meeting of dear friends, as in Richard and Jules catching up with Alex.

Alex had arranged for Jean and me to go down to South Devon on Monday, 16th, to meet with John Joiner, my dear brother-in-law.

Let me explain some family background. My father had had two daughters with a previous wife to my mother. Their names were Rhona and Corinne and when they were alive they both lived in South Devon. In the years that followed my father’s death in December, 1956, both Rhona and Corinne, and their respective husbands, Reider and John, made me feel very special and very deeply loved by both of them. (Indeed, it was because of wanting to be close to Rhona and Corinne’s families that I settled in South Devon when I returned from Cyprus in 1991.)

Corinne died in June, 2013. John, who is now well into his 80s, lives in a small apartment in the village of South Brent just a few miles from Totnes in South Devon. I make a point of calling him from Oregon at least once a week but to be able to see John again after so many years was another big highlight of the vacation.

Inevitably, along came another lunch and in the photograph above you can see John on the right-hand side and sitting next to him, as in the left of the photo, is Greta, my cousin as in Rhona’s daughter, who spends a great deal of her spare time looking after John. Dear Greta!

After the pub lunch we returned to John’s apartment for tea and carried on sharing many special memories.

Indeed, one of those special memories was Benji the wonderful dog that Corinne and John had for many years. On one of John’s walls was this wonderful painting of Benji.

The other fact about John is his incredible use of the English language. Both in terms of his vocabulary and his diction. John’s legacy to me is, and will be for the rest of my days, the value of speaking well.

Another wonderful connection with past times.

The truth is that the odds are that I may never see John again. That made this day with John so incredibly special. Huge thanks to Alex and Greta. What a fabulous day!

The next day, Tuesday, the 17th, was Lisa’s birthday and yet another wonderful evening out.

Then came the 18th and the last few hours of being with Alex. At 12:50 that day we were due to fly from Bristol down to Nice in Southern France to spend six nights with Reggie, Jean’s brother.

Those beautiful days will be the topic of tomorrow’s post. See you then!

But before I turn away from today’s description of our days in England, let me address a question that John Zande raised yesterday. Namely: “Have to ask, do you miss the English village life? It’s so beautiful.

Here’s my answer:

John, yes there was no question that there were stirrings of great familiarity when down with John near Totnes. In my mind’s eye, I could still walk up Totnes High Street and name many of the stores that I used to visit on an almost weekly basis when living in Harberton.

But at the same time I was shocked and disappointed by the huge growth in new housing, someone said an additional 500 homes built in the area in the last 5 years, and all the traffic and crowded lanes that go with that expansion. Many of the lanes were so crowded with parked cars that they were effectively single-lane carriageways.

The relatively sparse housing in the part of Oregon where we now live, the way that the natural world seems untouched by us humans here on Hugo Road, felt very beautiful in comparison. We looked forward to being back in Merlin.

Upper Barn, Harberton, where I used to live before meeting my Jeannie!