The Tank comes rolling in

And no, I am not talking about world events. I am talking about the new Greyhound. Tank was supposed to be with Kylie for 2 weeks, then with us for 2 weeks, but after the first weekend Kylie asked if we could take him. No problmes with her cat (Rupert the Devil Cat, who is a wonderful animals to teach dogs that cats are Not To Be Messed With), it was a problem with one of her dogs. Seems Tank is a very dominant dog. Not aggressive, just dominant. Her little alpha dog was not having a good time with Tank around, so we took him Monday night.

We wonder if Tank got his name due to his size (biggest Greyhound we have seen), or due to his occasionally relentless nature.

He is great with the cats, and is learning obedience quickly. He is already much better about not pulling on the leash, and may even learn to stay off the couch (at least when a Human is watching).

In other news it looks like the rain is back, and the rest of the week will be rather damp. Guess I will get time to write some of those reports I promised earlier.

The yellow eye! It burns us!

What is that huge ball of fire that hangs in the sky? So strange, yet so warm. I think I like it.

After a cold and rainy June, followed by a cool and rainy July, we are getting some nice mid-winter weather.

Yesterday we brought all the alpaca in and gave them their bi-monthly winter injection of vitamin D. They need this, as the during the dark winter hours they don’t make enough vitamin D via UV-conversion in the skin, and get get Rickets (especially the young growing ones).

While we had them down we noticed that F4 (Phantom) had mud-rash on his feet. This is a fungal skin infection that animals can get from standing in wet and mud for weeks on end. Poor guy. Today I will get the stuff to treat his legs, and tonight we start treatment. He will hate having us muck with his feet, but it is for his own good.

Can I hug your llama?

Yesterday was a rare beautiful day, in what has been a long and rainy winter. Far too nice a day to waste with nothing but grueling farm work. Seeing how the transport box was still on the back of the Ute, I decided to take Jim (the llama) into town.

Catching him in the paddock was no big deal. There was the usual 5 minutes of him balking, then finally relenting and letting me put on his halter. Loading him onto the ute presented a bigger challenge. He really, really didn’t want to go and leave his girls behind. And when you are dealing with 200+ kilos of balking llama, brute force will not work. It took me an hour of various tricks, but he finally relented and walked up and in, no problem. Previous we had “shamed” him ontot the Ute, by leading up an alpaca cria first. He would get this lovely look of “well! If that little ‘paca can do it, I can!” and march right up the ramp.

I parked at my usual place behind the Woolworths, and took Jim on a walk through town. It is still school hoilidays, so there were plenty of parents and kids about.

Jim was, as you would expect, a hit. He did very well when mobbed by kids coming up to pet the llama. He had his photo taken by a number of people, including one real estate agent (“he will go out on our next brochure!”). One of the best moments was when a woman I had been chatting with asked “can I hug your llama?” I said yes, she gave Jim and big hug, and she was very happy.

It makes me glad to know that I suudenly and unexpectedly made the days of 30 or 40 people much better. It is very satisfying to do good while having a fun time. Jim probably enjoyed some of it (though probably not the hugging, though). Going to a new place is very exciting for him.

Wellington – we rock

I meant to post about this earlier, but here it is somewhat belated:

We rock. Wellington has officially been designated a Safe Community by the World Health Organization — the only capital of a country (so far) to be so designated. Apparently back in ’98, there were a handful of high-profile crimes in the CBD, and only 30 percent of people surveyed said they felt safe in the city at night. So the Council put a bunch of initiatives/programs together — lighting, urban and traffic design, workplace injury prevention stuff, liquor control, programs to keep young people entertained, etc. — and now here we are. The last survey had 70 percent say they they felt reasonably or very safe in the city at night. Pretty neat !

Further kudos to the Council: we just won two National awards for having a comprehensible, well-presented Annual Plan — the category award for Local Government, and also the Supreme award that usually goes to a corporate like Telecom or somebody.

AND, Council has also been commended recently for its pilot Migrant and Refugee Work Experience program.

I like Wellington, and I like working for Council. I feel like I’m sort of Using My Powers for Good, you know ?

Playing with poo!

This weekend I flew up to Whangerei, up in the far north. Why? To play with poop! I learned that a small whisk, coupled to a power drill, is a great tool for homogenizing those hard-to-get-at lumps that infest some poos! Fascinating! What could be more fun!

Well, actually, it was a fun weekend. Tiring, what with the 5 AM wake-up Saturday to make my 7 AM flight, but I got to meet some nice people, and learned a great deal. The purpose was to get a bunch of us trained in Fecal Egg Counting. This is the joy of processing fresh animal poo and looking for the various worm eggs within using a microscope.

Why, you ask? Well, all sorts of parasite nasties live out in the grass. Some of them get into stock (like alpacs) and can cause sickness or even death. To treat these worms for the last 50 years people have been regularly administering a chemical “drench” that kills most or all of those worms. Problem is, the worms are gaining resistance ot the drench. By counting the eggs in the poo you can determine when you need to drench, and by counting the eggs afterwards you can determine if the drench actually worked (a >95% drop in the total number of eggs).

My job will be to write a document for the general membership that will teach them how to do the counting themselves. Everything from what type of microscope to buy up tyhrough the identification of different egg types. Should be an “interesting challenge.”

Saturday evening I staying with Kathy and Dan at Rocky Bay alpacas, a beautiful farm and B&B north of Whangerei. Stunning view out over the Pacific, looking over a scenic rock-flled bay. Thate evening was filled with fun and informative discussions about alpaca. Kathy has had ‘paca for a decade now, and is one of the “old hands” in the NZ industry. I learned a great deal, both about her own medical experiences with the animals, and some of teh tortuous history of the association.

I also got to meet Julie, preseident of the NZ Llama association, face-to-face for the first time. I had to laugh at her comment “you sound older on the phone… um, wait, umm… I mean more experienced? educated? something?” The laughter brought a blessed end to that line of conversation.

No phone, no pool, no pets

Okay, we actually have plenty of pets. Especially if you include the alpacas, half of which (the girl half) spent last night in the shed, and will spend tonight in the shed as well, as another low brings through another yucky gale-force blast of cold rain. We are NOT including the fluffy white cat that showed up to peer curiously in through the living room slider last night. We’ll ask Dave from across the way who that one belongs to. We wonder if it’s the one that bit Jake’s foot.

We don’t have a pool, unless you count the puddle outside the shed, so that part’s true. Stephen has been working to mitigate that — the puddle, that is, not the lack of pool. We’ve never been big pool people. A pond, maybe… down the front where it’s all swampy anyway… ahem.

Also, the part about no phone. A branch came down somewhere yesterday and blew the transformer — the power came back on, but the phone is still out, and will remain out until Friday afternoon, we’re told. That means no internet, either (I’m writing this at work). So if you need to reach us, try the mobile number.