Category Archives: Dog-Our dog Bilbo

Over the Rainbow Bridge…

Yesterday morning, a wise old dog taught me a hard lesson. That as much as there is a time to be born, there is a time to die and no matter how hard we might try to fight or change the overall scheme of things, that is a hard and unrelenting fact.

It is what it is.

Yesterday morning, the kids came racing in while I was still asleep and trying to pretend it was Monday morning, crying that Bilbo our beloved Border Collie, was dead. Even though we’d taken Bilbo to the vet and knew the prognosis wasn’t good, he’d perked up a bit and we had reason to hope. Indeed, even as the news hit, I still hoped the kids had got it wrong. That he was just asleep.

As you can see, I can stretch hope beyond the bounds of reason, and well into the realms of imagination. I can even stretch it further…something I blame on being a poet.

Bilbo had died seemingly peacefully in the backyard near his beloved Jacaranda tree. He clearly didn’t suffer. That’s a relief. It should be relief enough. However, I’m human. Indeed, I’m more human than I thought, because far from being made of stone after all we’ve been through, I am emotionally distraught. I’ve cried, but I’ve also had the strength to be there for the kids and answer their questions and reassure them, as much as I could, that everyone around them isn’t about to pass away too.

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo with his ball. Actually, that’s another dog’s ball. Humph! Just call him obsessed!

We buried Bilbo in the backyard with one of his many tennis balls and I sprinkled rose petals into his grave. In other words, we gave him the same kind of send off we’d do for any family member, although his was more intimate…just Geoff and myself.

Meanwhile, I know this is going to hurt for awhile.

Another aspect to Bilbo, is that he has been quite a feature here on my blog and has even written a few posts himself and has his own extensive circle of human and dog friends. I am grateful to not only have these memories, but it means so much to have shared Bilbo with you and that you have at least come to know him in part. It is no exaggeration to say, he was a four-legged angel. He loved us so completely with every cell in his being. I have never had any doubt that he would die protecting us either, giving us such a sense of safety and security. Yet, he wasn’t your bounding extrovert. He was actually a deep-thinking, somewhat melancholy introvert. I always described him as that bloke standing in the corner of the pub keeping to himself and holding his beer. He never jumped up on anyone. That’s Lady.

Fortunately, we still have our other dog, Lady. She’s an incredibly happy dog, who is forever wagging her tail. Indeed, she was wagging her tail at Bilbo and I couldn’t help thinking that, just like me, she was telling Bilbo to wake up.

“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.”

-Mark Twain: Letter to W.D. Howells, 2 April 1899.

So, when I think of Bilbo walking over the Rainbow Bridge, I hope that he’s found a fill in family with the kind of tireless energy required to keep throwing his tennis ball…time after time. With his new, revitalized energy, they’ve going to need it.

RIP Bilbo…19th November, 2006 – 26th June, 2017.

Love,

Rowena

 

Bilbo going home

Saturday’s visit to the beach turned out to be his last. He laboured up and down the beach like an aged warrior and only managed a few laboured attempts to chase his ball. Mostly, it just rolled into the water. Lady doesn’t chase balls or sticks, preferring  to roll in dead anything instead.

 

Dog Training 101: Don’t Cross Over The Rainbow Bridge.

“When the student is ready the teacher appears.”

– Buddha.

In hindsight, there’s one thing I really should’ve taught my dogs. While “sit”, “stay” and doing your business outside are important, perhaps this one command could really save their lives:

“Don’t Cross Over the Rainbow Bridge. Never. Not ever. Got it?!!! Stay here. Good dog!”

While I know that it might be a little late to start teaching Bilbo new tricks in his old age, given his current health crisis, I’m doing some fast talking and have even resorted to flash cards.

happy rainbow

Don’t Cross Over the Rainbow Bridge.

I’m hoping it works. Bilbo is an incredibly obedient dog. Our side gate or front door have been left open in the past. However, did Bilbo take off? Escape? Surprisingly not, not even when his untrustworthy canine companion, Lady, was long gone. That’s right. He was still there with his paws out in front staying put and being a good dog.

So, Bilbo would be a prime candidate for testing this theory.

What do you think? Am I onto something here? Do you think Bilbo could resist the alluring appeal of the Rainbow Bridge? Perhaps, would you like to join me and give it a go with your dog as well? 

Humph. It was much easier to believe I was in there with a chance, when I was just mulling it over on my own. However, you did have to remind me of a few unfortunate, biological realities. That, in what seems like complete madness, dogs and humans live side-by-side and yet the hands of their clock spin round seven times faster than our own. Poignantly, I just have to look at our 11 year old daughter and our Bilbo, our 11 year old dog. While Miss is about 6 months older than Bilbo and was crawling when he arrived as a pup, she is still a child and he’s become elderly…an old man.  That contrast really puts things in perspective.

Bilbo + Amelia

Bilbo and Miss almost 11 years ago.

Moreover, there’s another spanner in the works. Despite his strong willpower, if there’s a pot of fresh mince at the end of that rainbow, Bilbo would be over that bridge in a flash. Even with his reduced appetite, he can still polish off a pack of fresh mince and he could never resist that.

“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?”

– Sir Walter Scott

So, it appears I’m back to the drawing board. Or, as it turns out, Bilbo is back to the vet tomorrow for a follow-up appointment and a scan of his spleen. AND…on the off chance he can’t pull a magic pill out of his hat, we prayed for Bilbo at Church tonight. I know there are more important matters a foot in our world at the moment, but I make no apologies for loving our Bilbo to the moon and back. He has loved us absolutely and without qualification. He has been there for us in such a ubiquitous way often sleeping in between the lines of everything that’s gone on around here in the last 11 years, yet possessing an empathy and understanding which defies logic. He’s also brought us so much joy…even if it’s just running our fingers through his coat or patting his ears while he sleeps.

“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs your heart is very big.”

– Erica Jong

Perhaps, you would like to share some of your dog stories or introduce the special dog(s) in your life.

xx Rowena

In case you haven’t heard of the rainbow bridge, here’s the poem:

The Rainbow Bridge

“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….”

Author unknown…

Sickies…Dogs Don’t Lie.

As a parent, I’m always wary when the kids bung on one of their dying swan “can I stay home from school” routines. These performances can be worthy of an Academy Award. Yet, all too often when I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt, they resurrect like Lazarus and “party like it’s 1999”.

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo in peak performance appropriating another dog’s ball.

On the other hand, our dog’s never chucked a sickie in his life. He’s either chasing his ball with mad obsessive focus and eating like a hollow-legged teen. Or, he’s seriously ill. Moreover, when it comes to jumping in the car and going to the beach, he at the door in a flash. Never tells me to “wait”. Indeed, he’d be out the door already if he could open it himself.

However, Bilbo is no longer a pup. He’s now 77 in dog years, and he’d be forgiven for requesting a Dawson Chair, a Zimmer frame and signing up for the pension. However, being a Border Collie to the core, he tells me there’s life in the old dog yet.

Unfortunately, Bilbo is gravely ill. Last week, he started getting sluggish, and my radar kicked in. We noticed he coughed up a blood cyst, but as he was still eating, we didn’t rush him off to the vet. However, last night he went off his food and when that continued this morning, we knew it was time.  By this point, we were obviously expecting one of those conversations you don’t want to have with the vet. Not only in terms of what might be wrong with him, and there might be nothing they can do. There’s also that other conversation. That is, that there is treatment, but what is it going to cost? It’s hard to put a measurement on love that knows no bounds. Yet, the bank balance doesn’t understand that, and shows no mercy. It’s a callous brute without compassion.

However, all those thoughts could wait. We still had a few hours before we could get into the vet.

Since the dogs were already in the car, I decided to take them to the beach. Not the best move, in hindsight as the vet has ordered him to rest. However, I’m not a vet. I’m his Mum and knowing how much he loves the beach and what it’s means to us, I wanted him to be in his favourite place…his heaven on earth.

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However, if I needed confirmation that Bilbo wasn’t well, this was it. He laboured down the beach so slowly, that he was his own ghost. I threw his ball, and he didn’t blink. He just let it roll into the water. I tried a few more times with the same result, retrieving the ball myself. As much as I’ve thought his obsession with the tennis ball was extreme, seriously annoying and beyond the realms of addiction, this was worse. It felt like an echoing emptyness, if that makes any sense.

Yet, like a noble warrior, he ultimately did have a few laboured efforts.

Bilbo and Maya

You have to feel for the old dog unable to chase his ball, when some young whippersnapper races off with it.

Meanwhile, his young mates chased the ball like maniacs, legs whirling furiously through the sand.

By this point, you’d expect that some kind of emotion would set in, but I was blank. Couldn’t feel anything. It’s a day we’ve known is coming, and I don’t know how to react. I don’t feel I can cry anymore. That there aren’t any tears. That too much has happened and I’ve become a rock. A rock with some kind of senses, but nothing like who I was.

Or, perhaps, I’ve simply grown up. Become resiliant.

This would be a good thing because this time we lose a dog, I have to be the strong one. I have to be the rock supporting the kids. Mum can’t go to pieces. Can’t be the mess. I need to put on the big high heels and answer their questions, hug and comfort them and wipe away their tears, especially as they don’t even remember life without Bilbo. Miss was about 10 months old and crawling when Bilbo arrived and Mr was 3 years old. I still remember how Mr missed our previous dog (a huge Old English Sheepdog called Rufus) and didn’t like the new puppy because he wanted a big dog. Mr had been able to sit on Rufus and use him as a horse. He was a very big dog indeed.

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007.

So, Bilbo has been part of our family during a very special ten years of our lives.

Yet, it’s not time to get all misty eyed yet. At this point, we’re still at the beach. It’s 18°C and a gloriously sunny Winter’s day and the beach is magic.

Mid-morning, we return to the vet. He quickly points out that Bilbo’s gums and tongue are an exceptionally pale shade of pink and I’m quite shocked. He took some blood and we were sent out to wait. My husband ducked off to pick our daughter up from dancing. I wasn’t sure she should be there, but figured that the vet’s better versed at this than us. That if there is bad news, the vet no doubt knows what to say.

Bilbo + Amelia

11 years is a long time in human years too!

The news from the vet wasn’t good, but it wasn’t all bad. At this point, it seems that Bilbo could have an unpronouncable auto-immune disease. I can’t remember what the vet called it, and meant to write it down. His red blood cell count is down to 2.86 (should be 5.65-8.87) and his haemoglobin is 5.3 when it should be 13.1 – 20.5). He has just enough platelets to hope the treatment could work. His white cell count is high and he seems to be fighting back. He was given an injection of prednisone and is on tablets. I take him back on Monday morning for a CT of his spleen and a followup.

Meanwhile, I started my own, additional treatment. We bought him some fresh mince to see if that might stimulate his appetite and we had a rather hungry dog. He’s eaten 500g of mince tonight, minus a few donations to Lady, our other dog. It’s not going to cure him, but it might give him a fighting chance. Get him over the hump. It’s also much cheaper than a blood transfusion!!

Of course, I’m hopeful that he’s going to be okay. That there isn’t going to be something else going on and he’ll respond to treatment. He’s been in good health, so surely that must help… That “he’ll be right, mate.”

….

Well, it’s now Sunday afternoon. Bilbo’s still with us and lying on my lap quite happy to be a lap top dog. He’s eating the mince, but not so keen on his kibble. He’s perked up a fair bit. Yet, his beathing is very rapid, and I guess that’s the big concern and we still need to take that CT of his spleen.

So, I am feeling optimistic. No doubt, it’s the sort of optimism based on wishful thinking. An optimism which could seriously backfire and hurt like hell.

Yet, like the kids who don’t know life without Bilbo, I can’t imagine it either and am still hopeful that the vet might find that magic pill which will give him eternal life.

Meanwhile, Bilbo’s been instructed to “Stay. Don’t go near the Rainbow Bridge. Why don’t you watch a bit of TV….”

Yet, although he’s always been an incredibly obedient and faithful dog, there will  come a time when that last journey will come.

All the same, can I put in a request?

Not yet…

Thank you in advance for your concern. It is much appreciated!!

xx Rowena

 

 

Recipe: Aussie Pumpkin Soup.

It’s Winter here in Sydney and warm Pumpkin Soup is almost as Australian as Vegemite, Pavlova and Hugh Jackman. According to Australian Masterchef host, Matt Preston, Pumpkin is the most common type of soup Googled online. Preston has also found that our love affair with Pumpkin Soup, is uniquely Australian:

“As a nation we are rather unique in our love of pumpkin soup. The French cook it but it doesn’t feature as prominently in their kitchens as a bouillabaisse or a bisque. Americans do it too, but the soup is a poor cousin to the far more popular pumpkin pie. And the Korean hobakjuk is as much pumpkin porridge as soup.”

Before we proceed to the recipe, I have found it necessary to clarify what I’m actually calling “pumpkin”. Apparently, pumpkin by any other name does taste the same, but I’ve also found out that what is referred to as “pumpkin” in different parts of the world, isn’t what we Australians know as “pumpkin”.

Indeed, the butternut pumpkin I’ve used, is known as “squash” or “butternut squash” in other parts of the world.

However, to be sure to be sure to be sure, if whatever you call it comes in a tin, forget it. It’s not going to kill you to make this from scratch and some supermarkets do sell pumpkin pre-peeled and sliced so you can cheat without spoiling the soup.

This recipe is based on on a recipe by Margaret Fulton, who helped launch my cooking journey as a child. In 1968, she launched her first cookbook: Margaret Fulton’s Cookbook,  and it revolutionized Australian cooking. Along with the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, these were cooking Bibles in Australian homes and still are in many today.

Pumpkin soup after school

Our whole family loves this Pumpkin Soup and it literally evaporated off the plates . Indeed, it’s spoon licking good!

Pumpkin Soup

Thanks to the butternut pumpkin/squash, this soup has a deliciously sweet flavour and creamy smooth texture. Yum!

Ingredients

90g butter

4.5 cups butternut pumpkin/squash…peeled and diced

A sprinkling of salt.

½ chopped onion (one smallish onion)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk

Optional Serving Ingredients:

Sour cream

Chives

Bread.

Cracked pepper

Directions

  • In a large, heavy frying pan, melt half of the butter (45g) on high heat.
  • Add diced pumpkin and onion, turning constantly.
  • Fry for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin has started to caramelise.
  • Add water.
  • Reduce to medium heat and simmer until pumpkin is very tender and falling apart.
  • Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. This produces a finer texture.
  • You need to puree this pumpkin mix. I usually do it in the blender, but this is quite messy and my ancient blender struggles a bit. A friend recommended using a stick blender, which would cut out a lot of mess and encourage me to make it more often. However you blend it, the texture needs to be very fine and creamy.
  • Melt butter in frying pan. If you have pureed the pumpkin mix in the frying pan, you will need to do this a separate, small frying pan.
  • Add flour to the melted butter and stir together.
  • Add a small amount of pumpkin soup to flour and melted butter and mix well, gradually adding the rest. Stir rigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Blend again if lumps develop.
  • Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Just before serving, combine egg yolk with a little of the pumpkin soup and then mix that in with the rest of the soup.
  • Serves four.
Floured Lady

The dogs are my ever-faithful companions whenever I cook. Sometimes, however, they can get caught in the cross-flour. 

Serving Recommendations

Pumpkin Soup is usually served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. I usually chop the chives with a pair of scissors over the top of the soup.

Bread is a natural accompaniment to Pumpkin Soup. It is often served with a crusty bread roll and butter. However, yesterday I diced up a day old baguette, and fried the pieces in a mix of melted butter and olive oil in the frying pan. These were scrumptiously delicious, even if they were a little naughty. Watch the bread closely as it can burn easily.

A word of encouragement. In my experience, it is hard to get this wrong.

That is, as long as you don’t heed the cardinal rule of cooking. Never turn your back on a hot stove.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

5th June, 2017.

“Weekend” Coffee Share 15th May, 2017.

Greetings and Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s now Monday arvo here just North of Sydney, Australia and I’m having to get a wriggle on because the linky closes in one hour and nine minutes. Well, that nine minutes probably just dried up while I’ve been tweaking so I’d better hurry up.

Anything, I have much to celebrate this week and I’m not just talking about Mothers’ Day, although that’s a great place to get started. Why not go backwards through the week for a change?

So, Happy Mothers’ Day. I know it’s a bit late, but I hope you had a great day  or are enjoying the tail end of it. At the same time, I am mindful that Mothers’ Day is also a time of reflection, grief or even raw anger for many and my thoughts are particularly with you. I get how special days can really exacerbate those emotions.

We had a great Mothers’ Day, which was completely unplanned and spontaneous. The kids made us French Croissant Toast, where you slice croissants in half and dunk them in an egg and cream custard with a bit of added lemon zest and thyme. They were very scrumptious indeed (quite aside from the thrill of the kids cooking for us!!) Balloon Bag

I also had an unexpected surprise when my son launched a shopping bag with a Mothers’ Day card in it into the clouds, trying a bunch of helium balloons to the handle. The bag looked amazing as it flew steadily upwards, looking very much like a hot air balloon and gondola in miniature. I wonder if anyone found it?

Late afternoon, I spotted some striking clouds and headed down to the beach with my camera. I really enjoyed that short afternoon walk while mesmerizing over the clouds.

Yet, as I mentioned, we had an amazing week and Mothers’ Day was just the icing on the cake.

On Monday morning, the local radio station Star FM, turned up as my place as expected to give me my prize. I listen to their breakfast show every morning while driving the kids around, which is hosted by Rabbit and Australia’s first Masterchef, Julie Goodwin, who has recently put out a new cookbook. Their visit followed up a blogpost I wrote after they visited my daughter’s school. I am a serious Julie Goodwin fan and was unashamedly gushing when I presented her with my copy of her first cookbook for signing.

Anyway, I’d mentioned that Julie had never turned up at my place with a meal in that post and that’s why they were here on Monday. Julie had made me her Butter Chicken and we were off to the kitchen to make a salad together for the cameras.

They posted this video of their visit on their Facebook page, which has already had over 6,000 views: Rowena & the Masterchef

Anyway, I just received a phone call from my daughter’s school saying she’s sick and needs to be picked up. Humph! She goes to school 45 minutes away so that’s me gone for awhile. I’ll come back and tweak this later.

xx Rowena

Yum! Mothers’ Day Lunch.

This year, we decided to keep Mothers’ Day simple and have lunch at home. After all, when you have a couple of budding mini chefs in-house, you don’t need to outsource.

On Friday night, we saw a recipe for French Croissant Toast on The Living Room and decided to run with it. Here’s the recipe and the cooks.

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Happy Mothers’ Day…a croissant smile.

The kids had some very enthusiastic helpers in the kitchen.

And even at the table…

DSC_5304

A Lady at the table…Naturally, I didn’t take this photo. It must’ve been Bilbo!

What a yummy lunch…and the day isn’t over yet!

Wishing you all a very Happy Mothers’ Day, whatever that means to you!

xx Rowena

Rowena & the Radio Stars.

Well, on Monday morning, I had a bit of fun trading places. Instead of being behind the lens looking out, I was being filmed, inspected and watched under the microscope.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our local radio station Star FM arrived at my place on Monday morning. While I was expecting breakfast radio host Rabbit to turn up, it was quite a surprise when his co-host, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef, pulled up in our driveway in her gorgeously cute white mini.

Wow!

That wasn’t the only surprise.

Indeed, we were off to make a salad together in MY kitchen.

Cooking with Julie

Talking salad with Julie.

Phew! Thank goodness I was prepared. Geoff had anticipated something like this and warned me about the kitchen. So, when it was looking like I was going to need an orbital sander to remove the black ring around the hotplate, I persisted. Pulled out the big guns…Gumption, the green scourer and pure unadulterated elbow grease. Wow! My stove top could now appear in a commercial.

Or, indeed, on the radio station’s web site.

I also thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t wearing my pink, fluffy slippers.

The dogs are complaining bitterly about being left out. After going through the torturous bathing process, they feel a bit ripped off . Bilbo is particularly grumpy after trying so hard to be nice. (He’s seemingly forgotten, that he was barking so much, that he was removed from the opening scenes.)

Anyway, of course, I had to share this with you. No doubt, it will be quite weird for you to actually see me in person and hear my voice for the first time. I’d love to know what that’s like for you. After exchanging posts and comments with some of you for years without meeting, it’s actually rather exciting that you’re stepping into my real world, after being in my cyber one for so long.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

In case you’re wanting to follow this story through from start to finish…I wrote a post on my blog about meeting Rabbit and Julie Goodwin when Star 104.5 broadcast from my daughter’s school. In that post, I mentioned that as much as Julie had been there for me throughout the years, she’d never brought me a meal. That was until Monday morning when Julie pulled up in my driveway with butter chicken, rice and a salad for dinner. Go Julie! The radio station filmed the whole thing and posted the footage on their Facebook page tonight. It’s already had 964 views…amazing.

You can read more about their visit Here and Bilbo’s view of it all Here Bilbo had quite a lot to say.

I hope you enjoy it!

xx Rowena

Here’s a link to Julie’s recipe for Butter Chicken.