May 2nd 2010 8:12 am
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The 7th of February 2009 started out as a normal day, but it was to become a day like no other. It was the summer school holidays and it was forecasted to reach 47 degrees Celsius (116 F) that day so my friends and I decided to go to the local swimming pool to cool off, we went down there around 12:00pm and were mucking around when we noticed that there was a smoky haze around, we continued swimming then we got bored so decided to get something to eat at McDonalds, my friends and I then headed back to my house but the power went off due to the heat (too many people using air-conditioning), after about an hour the power came back on. I was going to be staying at my friend’s house that night. It was around lunchtime so I got my bag ready and me and my friend were waiting and my house for her mum to get us. We could see smoke haze around so I took photos of it. Her mum got us and she was saying if you think it’s smoky here it’s way worse up in her town. We still didn’t initially realise the danger. That morning there had been warning of ember attack but it seemed ok as there were no news reports of any fires.
When we got to my friends house we went out the back to see her bunnies, we were in the pen with them when we heard a kind of roaring noise and looked up to see plumes of smoke billowing into the sky. We were in awe and went out the front, there were a bunch of fire trucks out the front, her dad instructed us to gather up her pets and out them inside and then to start filling buckets full of water and tipping them onto the roof, we did it until it seemed ok, we also doused the log piles with water then we went inside to check the CFA site (Country Fire Authority), it said there were 100 fire trucks in her town. We went out the front and could hear the crackling roar of the flames and occasional rumbling explosions of trees, there were many cars driving down the main road. I went inside and called mum and asked her if there was any reports of fires, mum knew nothing and we assumed I was safe. My friend was texting one of our friends up in Kinglake and she said that he said his entire house was surrounded by fire. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t feel fear, I wanted to comfort my friend and tell her it was all ok and her house would be fine, we heard a large rumbling bang and then the smoke seemed to die down. Later that evening the power went off. We sat in the dark, listening to the eerie silence. When the power came back on we were going on about things as though they were normal, oblivious to what had unfolded.
The next morning we awoke and went downstairs, the day before we had planned on cooking coloured pancakes for breakfast. My friends parents had the radio playing, it was on ABC, the news reader said “and all of Kinglake and Marysville is gone, all the shops are gone, the school, the church, everything is just wiped out” me and my friend’s jaw just dropped, we were in disbelief then were worried about our friends in Kinglake, what had happened to them? We cooked our pancakes and hesitantly tried to make sense of it all, the news was full of the fires. Later, my friends dad came back from talking to some of the CFA fire fighters, apparently we were only two minutes away from the fires and if the wind hadn’t changed, we wouldn’t be here. It’s a very weird type of feeling knowing you’d come so close to death.
When I got back home our local community centre was the relief centre for all the fire victims. Two of my brother’s friends had lost their homes so we let them stay at our house till they had more permanent accommodation. The death toll had climbed to 173. I really wanted to help out so we gathered up clothing, food and other hygiene items. We took them down to the community centre.
About 5 days later I was on a dog forum and read that the vet needed foster carers for animals from the fires, we could foster as Monty had passed away before the fires. Mum said ok, so I gave her the number to ring and she said we could foster cats, dogs or small pets.
About two months later we’d forgotten about putting down to foster. We decided it was time to get another dog. I wanted a Staffy cross and was certain to adopt a shelter dog. We drove up to the Blue Cross and saw the cutest, sweetest Staffy who was about 7 years old. We were rather fond of her and we enquired about adopting her but they said she doesn’t like cats and that she can jump fences (part of our fence was broken too), dismayed we went home.
The next day I was leaning against the wall and let out a sigh and murmured, “oh Monty, please help us find the right dog at the right time.” I went downstairs and was talking to mum, I was telling how I wanted a dog that I could throw balls for, take jogging and that was sweet, smart, a quick learner and didn’t mind if I had to work a bit with her. She and I were just agreeing that we were going to get a Staffy cross when the phone rang. It was the vet, they were asking if we’d like to foster a young female Staffy cross, I was utterly speechless and mum said of course. They said they had an older Staffy with leg problems or the young Staffy and we could give the young one a try first. We drove up there and on the way the name Sheeba popped into my mind.
When we saw her in the pen my initial thought was wow, she’s stunning, also much bigger than I expected. There were bits of kibble scattered on the concrete pen floor and there was a wary looking Husky in the pen next to her with a drip running into his leg, which was bandaged up. The vet was telling us that Sheeba was found wandering Kinglake 4 weeks after the fires and was at the vets for 6 weeks and they felt it was unfair to keep her in the pen for much longer. She told us they had 100 cats in and 100 were still reported missing, she said sadly only a handful of dogs survived and the majority that survived were little dogs, as the larger ones perished. Sheeba was all ready extremely lucky. The vet told us we could take her for a walk and have a think about if we’d like to foster her. Walking her was a great feeling. To see her eyes light up with such joy at being taken out of the pen and being petted and hugged by humans, her eyes were a sparkling amber colour in the radiating sunlight. Her tail was going 100 miles an hour and her nose was firmly planted to the ground snuffling away. I knew then that we would foster her. The vets told us that poor Sheeba had one too many litters of puppies. She had lost her home and family yet still had the sweetest temperament.
We told the vet we’d love to foster her and we led her out to the car, she jumped into the car and sat in the driver’s seat with a big goofy grin on her face, tail thumping happily on the seat. I laughed and told her as much as she wants to drive, she’ll have to ride in the back seat. She bounded into the back seat and almost squashed me in the process; my protests didn’t seem to affect her. When we got home I kept her leashed and introduced her to the cats, all though she seemed curious sher didn’t seem aggressive. That was good as that was the thing me and mum agreed on. She MUST get along with the cats. She had clearly been in the fires as her whiskers were singed and she had a mark on her head near her ear from where she scraped it.
The next day I decided I’d give her a bath as she had bits of ash in her coat and she didn’t smell very pleasant. She tolerated her bath, although in the end, I’m not sure who ended up wetter. Once she was dry and brushed her coat was glossy and a striking brindle colour. She paraded around the house with a grin on her face. I took her out for a walk and an off leash Lab ran up to us, it was then that it struck me, was she ok with dogs? Monty always had been so it didn’t occur to me that Sheeba might not like them, sure enough. She didn’t like dogs; she let out a growl and reared up. I had to pull her away. Once we got home, I found out she was in heat as well.
Two days later she had developed a cough, mum and I were scared that it was to do with her lungs from the smoke. We took her up to the vet that afternoon and they gave her antibiotics as it was a minor infection. The vet then told us, they had someone that sounded like Sheeba’s owner on the phone. He said he was missing a dog that was a Staffy cross Ridgeback with the ridge running down her back. I was heartbroken as I’d fallen for Sheeba really quickly and I couldn’t understand why it took him that long to look for Sheeba after the fires. He said he’d come in to identify her in a week.
We turned up at the vets with heavy hearts and we waited an hour and a half, her “owner” never showed up. After about of a month of trying to get in touch with her owner the vets decided to send him a letter saying if he did not contact them in 48 hours they’d assume he surrended her to them. He rung them up and said “of course I want my bloody dog back”, I didn’t want to give Sheeba to a person who spoke of her like that. One of the vets was out our way the day the man was meant to identify her so she took Sheeba up to the vets. The man took one look at Sheeba and said that’s not my dog, Sheeba showed no reaction either. The vets agreed we could adopt her.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though, although Sheeba was really smart and learnt heaps in the first few months she still had dog aggression issues. After much searching I found a training class that I thought seemed good we signed up to it, we took Sheeba along and they told us that Sheeba had a lack of socialisation as a puppy with other dogs so she doesn’t know how to interact with other dogs. This was all so new, going from a small 8kg (17 lbs) dog that you could scoop up on his off days to a 26kg (57 lbs) dog full of muscle that you have to control. Sheeba was so sweet with people but a nightmare with dogs. I know that if Sheeba had ended up at the RSPCA after the fires they would of put he down, they wouldn’t of given her the chance. After 5 weeks at the training school they suddenly closed and took all our money, mum was hesitant to find another trainer after losing so much money to the training class.
About 3 weeks later we stumbled across a good sounding training class, I sent them an email and they sounded really good. We went to their training class and they seemed better then the other one.
It’s nearly been a year since we’ve had Sheeba, we’ve been taking her to the training class for about 5 months now, and instead of only being able to be 30 meters near a dog we can now get within 5 meters with no reaction. I’ve never wanted to give up on Sheeba and refuse to. That one faithful day, which linked us so many months down the track, has given us the strongest bond.
When I look into her eyes, I see into her soul, not only did we save her but she saved me. She filled the hole that was made when Monty left us. Adopting isn’t just giving a dog a place to love, but a role to play. Sheeba is my constant protector, she shadows me everywhere I go and is always thrilled to see me, we don’t work as two, but as one, our souls entwined, I look up to her happy upbeat personality after all she’s been through. In the dark days her eyes light up her soul and when she smiles, you smile too. When you adopt a dog/pet you don’t just get an animal, you get so much more, you get an animal that have placed their lives in your hands, as you’ve saved theirs.
So remember, when you look into their eyes, don’t just look at their eyes, but look into their souls and they can see ours. On the 7th of February many things were lost, but among all the pain and grief, the best was discovered, a new found strength for those directly affected, and for me, the constant reminder of how resilient animals are.
June 8th 2009 11:32 pm
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Hi guys, well I've decided I shall try to do a daily diary entry, hope you like it and the cats will have one too.
Today is a 10 degree day (50F). I'm a hardy girl though so I don't mind the rain much. My humans are happy for the rain as we've been in drought. I've found things to do to occupy me today from the rain. Ooooo the fun things, I got to sleep and then when my owner came home I got to play in the yard, I wanted to chase Crayons but my meanie owner didn't let me have any fun. She said something about that's not nice for the kitty. Oh well, I greeted her, hi owner! Hi owner, ooooo pet me! Yes that's the spot, oooo I smell something good over there, what? My paws are muddy? I didn't hear you let me jump up and you can repeat that again, oh well sniff sniff is that bread you are throwing for the birds? No no no that's not right, why waste perfectly good bread on birds? Let ME help you with that, mmmmm tastes good. Oooo what's that we are going inside? I can beat you in! Watch me jump up the stairs! I can fly, I really can! You take too long, come on come on, that's better, let me give you a kiss, ooo are we sitting down? Kisses for you, let me clean your face with my tongue. I love you owner.
Woofs and wags Sheeba. ♥ ♥
May 4th 2009 3:37 am
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As you know in February Victoria was hit by the bad bush fires and many perished. Well here is the story of a very lucky survivor.
Two months after Monty was put down we felt it was time to start looking for another dog. We went to an animal shelter and had a look at the dogs, I had a look at a puppy and older Staffy mix, I liked her and we were enquiring when they read that she didn’t like cats, which would be a problem so we couldn’t get her.
The next day I asked Monty to help us find the right dog at the right time. Mum and I were talking about dogs and agreed that a staffy cross would be great for us. Just as mum mentioned the word staffy cross the phone rang, mum answered and it was the vet clinic that had been caring for animals from the fire. (We had put down our name to foster any animals about a week after the fires, we ad thought they didn’t need us as you’d think lots would put down to foster) They asked if we were still interested in fostering a dog, we said of course and they said they had a young staffy cross needing fostering.
We said how that’s great we were interested in getting a staffy, we asked if she got along with cats and they said they weren’t sure but she didn’t seem to mind the cats in the cages when she was walked back to her pen. They said she had been at the clinic for two weeks and no one had claimed her and they felt bad for her being in a pen. We said ok, it’s Worthing taking a look so we drove up to the clinic and on the way the name “Sheeba” came to mind. When we arrived they led us to a medium sized brindle staffy cross in a pen, we thought wow she’s big (Monty was 8kgs and this dog was 24kgs). She was defiantly cute though so they said if we’d like we could take her for a walk, mum suggested I walk her so I held the leash with her pulling on the end, we got out the door and we walked her for a bit, I started calling her Sheeba as I quiet liked the name and she seemed to respond well to it.
When we returned into the clinic we said we would love to foster her, the vets said they reckon her owner died as it had been so long, we happily drove home with her. The next day she was coughing and two days later it got worse and she was in heat so we took her back to the vets, they said they had a man they believed to be her owner on the phone, he described a dog of her age, build, with sagging teats and brindle with a ridge on her back. The vets said she had a few too many litters. The man said he would come in the next week to identify her but it seemed obvious she was his, he never mentioned her name and we took her back home, her cough cleared up in two days and she was well. She didn’t mind our pets and had barely any issues with the cats. I was very fond of her.
Soon enough a week had passed and we went in to see the man; I was feeling sad as I didn’t want to give her up. After 15 minutes the man wasn’t there, Sheeba needed a new collar so we went to look for another in the donation shipping container, after an hour and a half the man still hadn’t sown and he never rung to say he couldn’t come or that he was delayed. We went home.
Time dragged on and we didn’t hear anything from the so called owner. We were getting frustrated as we wanted to desex her and enrol her in training classes. The vets sent a letter to the man saying if he doesn’t reply in two weeks then they take it he’s surrended her, after about three days he rung the vets and said in a drawling voice “of course I want my bloody dog back”. He wanted to go in again on the Monday. It was Sunday evening. I was feeling really sad and in the morning I noticed my bed side lamp was on, it’s a mystery how it came on. On the Monday the vet came and got Sheeba, the, man came and looked at Sheeba then said that isn’t my dog. Sheeba didn’t react either which is strange for her, she loves people including strangers, the vets said because it had bee so long legally Sheeba is ours now. It went from a gruelling time of confusion and despair of fostering to permanent ownership of a wonderful dog. Sheeba is amazingly friendly and overs us in kisses. She is very fortunate to of survived the fires. The vet said not many dogs made it which made it more strange we got to foster her, was it luck? I believe Monty had a part in this all along. Give a dog a chance and foster, you just might end up lucky, be optimistic and good things will come. Fostering and adopting are wonderful.