It has been a wonderful year weather-wise from spring to summer and now to autumn. We know the farmers and gardeners are desperate for rain, but the dry weather suits everyone here fine. No welly boots, no macs, no mud outdoors and in - just good old dry earth. Naturally all the animals have taken advantage of this phenomenon and, apart from the 2-3 weeks of excessively hot days and nights, have enjoyed pottering around doing their own thing. It can't last, we know, but at least we have a head start on winter and that's a wonderful feeling.
Naturally, we've had our sad times when losing one of the family, but we can only do all we can for them while they are alive and give them all the love and care they so deserve. It doesn't make it any easier when we have to say goodbye, but we know that they have all known love and to feel wanted.
We have a beautiful tabby cat that arrived earlier this year when his owner's health meant that she could no longer keep him.
This rather overweight mog went on a diet and now has a respectable waistline, but is still a huge lad and so he now goes by the name "Big Boy".
As he is 16years old we rather expected him to settle for a retirement bed by a radiator but he didn't reckon that idea - far too much to see and do.
When he decides it's time for a cuddle on a lap there is only room for him - usually 2 or 3 pussies can quite easily play sardines (head to tail) and settle down together (2 on my lap as I write this).
Big Boy used to live with the 2 Cocker Spaniels who came to us last year (Max and blind Cleo), so he is perfectly happy to march through our dogs or curl up with them.
He discovered the catflap in our kitchen which is a tunnel type through the brick wall - and to see this huge bulk squeeze his way in and out is quite a sight - he really could do with a dog sized flap!
We often rename new animals when they join us, perhaps because the name has already belonged to a previous family member, perhaps simply because we don't like it, but also to give them a clean slate to start with.
So many - particularly the dogs - have unpleasant associations with their old name, from being shouted at to ignoring any commands given them, and of general unhappiness that goes with being in the wrong home.
When we rename them we like to try and choose something we feel is suitable to their character - a pretty name perhaps, or a fun, comical name, or even one with a link to a previous pet - an anagram, or some other association of group - i.e. flowers, musical terms, etc.
It always amazes us how quickly the dogs in particular take to their new name - usually responding to it within a few days of being re-christened. Occasionally we have one arrive who completely ignores their old name and shows absolutely no flicker of recognition when it's used, but the first time we use their new name, they turn and instantly respond to it - it's almost as if they were waiting for it - and the new start it represents.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS.
Watching the animals always gives us a lot of pleasure whether it be the chickens, the pigs, the dogs and cats or the animals in the field. They all have friends, those that they like to be with most of the time. If a group of chickens arrive together, you can bet that they will peck around as a group for the rest of their lives.
Likewise the dogs have special friends that they like to lay with or play with. A really touching friendship was when one of the cats lost his brother and was obviously grieving and looking for him, and so a friend took it upon himself to escort the sad one everywhere until he felt able to cope alone.
A friend can also be useful as a pillow when curled up asleep, a back support or even a hot water bottle but we saw the best use of a friend in our field recently.
Goats really prefer to browse than graze unlike the sheep and cattle, and any low hanging tree branches are quickly devoured by them. However, if the branches are just out of reach then the goats will go to any lengths to get them, including standing upright on their back legs.
Icicle, one of our goats, had tried this but to her dismay the ground underneath the tree was on a slope and so she just kept losing her balance.
She stood there thinking about the problem when Chance, our cow, ambled over to her and stood beneath the offending branches. Quick as a flash Icicle reared up. placed one front leg over Chance's back as support, deftly hooked the branches with her other front leg.......and munched the leaves with pure delight.
Now that's what real friends are for!
It is important to us to try and keep our animals in a way approximating their natural needs - a hamster is a solitary creature in the wild, so on it's own in captivity, but animals in a wild group are kept as such in captivity.
So when many years ago our first ferret arrived, we found out that they live in company, and rang around our rescue friends and found a ferret needing a home and she came here and they became firm friends. Over the years our ferret numbers rose and dropped, but earlier this year we were down to only one on his own.
Mr.Chalk was not happy - he lost weight, didn't play and became quite grumpy.........and then we had a 'phone call.
Someone had two ferrets, but one was not well and she didn't want one left on his own...exactly the situation that we had been in when Chalk arrived to us.
So, introductions were made all round, and you could almost see the smile on Chalk's face when he met the other two. He has blossomed living in his new home, is very happy, and has put on weight, especially as his favourite titbit for elevenses is fruit cake
When we go for our morning walk some of our dogs like to have toys to play with and carry. Ellie has a solid rubber ball, the determined chewers have a Kong or nylabone, several have tennis balls and for the soft mouthed Cocker Spaniel "Homer" - a small stuffed teddy bear!
Some keep hold of the toy for a short while, some play tag with each other, while others swap toys and balls, but Ellie's ball is hers - and hers alone.
From time to time Ellie puts her ball down and potters off to follow a trail, but if another dog comes across her ball they give it a quick look - and then ignore it - for some reason they all know, without anyone telling them, that it is not theirs to touch.
Well, yes, logically we could reason that as it is the only rubber ball they understand that it is never given to them to play with - or that they don't like it, but that doesn't account for what happens on afternoon walks.
The afternoon walk is shorter - 15-30 minutes, and we don't take toys, but collect up any left out from the morning - before the foxes find them and spirit them away never to reappear.
Ellie has to have a ball in her mouth to be happy - otherwise she gets stressed and chases her tail, so within minutes of getting in the field she will have found a stray tennis ball and pounced on it with glee.
Obviously, the same as in the morning, she puts it down from time to time, and another dog will go to pick it up - give it a quick sniff, recognise Ellie's saliva and scent on it - and leave it alone!
Don't ask us to explain it because we can't - Ellie never guards her balls, we've never told them not to touch it, but an understanding between the dogs obviously exists.
As we've said so often before - aren't they wonderful and fascinating.
BITS & PIECES.
Our website is up and running, with gallery pages full of 'photos with some of our family.
The beautiful cat book by Ditz is still available to buy in time for Christmas......NO LONGER AVAILABLE. Don't forget to mention Chaldon Cats as Ditz has kindly donated £5 to our animals for every book bought. Our thanks to those of you who have already bought it, and we will let you know the total raised in the next newsletter.
It's time to say goodbye and thank you all for your support over the past year. Those of you who send donations, sponsor a family member, send stamps, bring towels, blankets or bric-a-brac we appreciate your kindness.
To Fred, Phil, Keith, Janice, Elaine, Wendy and Roger who all help the family in other ways, we send them our grateful thanks.
There are so many little faces here who depend on you.
To all our friends, we all wish you a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.