Monday, October 27, 2008

It's all downhill from hereon in, folks...

If it wasn't such horrible, tragic news, I'd laugh out loud* at the fact that the word "humdinger" was used (with a straight face) in the following alert:


From the Weather Network's website.

I'm sure the weather guys' cars are egged wherever they go. Gotta love Ottawa: We can apparently expect 15-20 cm of snow between now and tomorrow night. Um, yay?

In anticipation, Randal (who had the day off today) spent the latter part of the afternoon closing up shop on our backyard patio - barbecue is closer to the house with the tarp at the ready, garden has been all uprooted and turned over in anticipation of next year, patio furniture is in the basement. He was even a real sweetheart and planted a bunch of bulbs for next spring - tulips and daffodils I hope (though he kept saying "lilies and daffodils", so hey, we'll see what we get, right?).

We better get a snow day outta this. On Wednesday (I have no classes tomorrow anyhow, so what would be the point). Either that, or I have to find my boots.

If my laptop doesn't get buried in the deluge, I'll report back...maybe even with photos, oooh.

* OK, I did laugh out loud. Twice: once when I first saw it and once in disbelief when I read it again. Then I cried a bit.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Randal

The Birthday Boy
The ever-elusive Mr. K.*

Today is Randal's birthday. We don't have anything crazy planned, though we did rent a car for the weekend so we could tool around town. Tonight we are going bowling with some friends, tomorrow night we are going out for a nice fancy dinner, and Randal also took Monday off from work (lucky duck - I have two classes to teach and am not so fortunate).

He is, of course, turning 27. Give or take a decade or so.

* I like the almost-artsy feel of this pic, or at least the fact I can pretend it was planned to take it that way, rather than merely a bad cropping job after-the-fact or one of those unplanned moments where the subject suddenly turns his head as the shutter snaps. Plus the fact that there seems to be (my) fingers growing from his neck adds a certain Lovecraftian element, no?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Annual Snowfall Update

Apparently there has been snow in Toronto today. I would just like to state for the record that there is no snow, as of yet, in Ottawa. Earlier today, it was raining. Right now, there is no precipitation to speak of. In fact, I'm thinking of taking a midnight stroll in my bikini top and shorts, it is so mild here.*

If I can't make fun of Hokkaido, what can I make fun of?

* Ed. note - Some blog statements may not be as accurate as claimed. Aforementioned walk may include knee-high mukluks, four scarves, and a tuque complete with pompom on top.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Groundhog Day: Part II

After seeing that the groundhog was still in the park both the next morning and next afternoon (Friday), and worrying that his injury made him an easy target for dogs and other predators, both of whom would likely be out in larger numbers over this holiday weekend, I am happy to report that after Randal placed a call to the Ottawa Humane Society, they sent someone out this evening (we were late leaving for Toronto, in fact, because the Society showed up just shortly before we were going to leave) to pick up the groundhog.

It had looked dire when I saw the groundhog sleeping on the grass near the trees when I was walking up to the bus stop on Friday morning. He disappeared later in the morning, when Randal went in to work about 90 minutes later, but reappeared sleeping under a tree late that afternoon. Because we had a car that day (we had rented one for our trip to Toronto, and Randal had picked it up after work), Randal suggested that perhaps we could capture the animal and bring it to an animal shelter. We went to check out the groundhog - when he tried to scamper away from us, it was obvious his rear left leg was quite injured.

We ran back home, and after doing some quick research online, Randal called the Ottawa Humane Society. They told us they would send someone out right away to rescue the critter. Randal explained exactly where they would find the groundhog, since we were hoping to leave shortly for Toronto.

The car was finally packed and we were ready to go at about 6:30. Randal decided at this point to run across the street to check on the groundhog one last time. It had moved out of the partially-wooded area to lay down in some grass, and it was very unresponsive. (Randal got it to finally open its eyes when he clapped his hands quite near to the animal.) After warning off a man and woman who were walking two little dogs in the nearby vicinity, he suddenly noticed, further down the street, a large van with flashing lights, driving as if it were looking for something. Randal ran to it, and it was indeed the Ottawa Humane Society. With Randal's help, the wildlife protection officer was able to corner the groundhog against a fence and get it into a box for transport. Once back at the Society, the officer told us, a technician would assess the wound and they would hopefully be able to start rehabilitation.

So I've thought about this incident a lot in the past 24 hours, and the more I think about it, the more I think that the groundhog may have already been injured before he ran into Rion. From what I could tell, Rion barely had a hold of him, if at all. Any hold he might have gotten would have lasted barely a second, and I don't know if that was enough time to do the kind of damage that the groundhog seemed to have suffered. There is also the fact that, while groundhogs are aplenty in this neighbourhood, they certainly do not make a habit of letting dogs get ahold of them. Normally groundhogs keep their distance. But this guy was hiding around the edge of a tree, leading me to wonder if perhaps he wasn't already injured and so incapable of getting away fast enough.

I don't know. Anyway, all in all, it's been an exciting and exhausting end to what was already a tiring week. Work has been crazy for the last two weeks in particular, and we were already having problems with our water pipes. But I'm happy it came to a good conclusion. I feel so much better, knowing that someone is out there, taking care of the groundhog as best as they can, and I hope that, in the end, everything is okay for the little guy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

pixxiefish in the sea presents... More Mayhem and Gore, Horror and Chaos

We interrupt this two-month-long blogging hiatus to bring you yet another instalment of Rion's Encounters With Wildlife, Or, Hey Ma, What's For Dinner Tonight?

I was stomping around with Rion in some leaves in the park this evening, as it was coming on to dusk, when he ran around a tree and came face-to-face with a groundhog. Or, rather, to be more exact (if things that occur in a fraction of a few sections can ever be described with a modicum of exactness), he came face-to-tail with a groundhog.

Next thing I knew, Rion was tugging on his leash (thankfully, he was already at the end of the extendable leash) and this little groundhog was pu-uuu-uulling away from him. Then it seemed to break away. I had the dog half jerked back by this point (but his leash was also half wrapped around the tree in question, so it was a tricky manoeuvre), so he didn't get back at the groundhog. The animal took a few more desperate, scurrying steps, then lay quivering in the grass. I roped Rion back in and, after taking a few minutes to try to calm him down[1], we continued on a shorter, highly-abbreviated version of our walk.

On the way back home, I passed near the Groundhog Tree. It was getting rather dark at this point, so it was hard to tell, but I was sure I could see a dark patch in the grass where the groundhog had last lain down. This was about 10 minutes after our encounter, and I felt sick to the stomach to think that the groundhog could still be there. I took the dog home then returned with a flashlight. Sweeping the area, I breathed a sigh of relief that the groundhog now seemed to be gone...until the light suddenly hit a brown bank of fur. The groundhog was still there. I couldn't quite tell if it was breathing or not, as I was too scared to get too close, but I was pretty sure it was. But I felt horrible. My innocent little baby, my little adorable dog, so soon graduated from chipmunk-scourging ...

Now, I am a city girl and so I did what any self-respecting city girl would do in these circumstances: I fled home, half-hysterical, freaked out for a while about the fact that Randal wasn't home and wouldn't be for at least another hour[2], conducted some ineffective searches on Google and the City of Ottawa webpage for ideas of what I could possibly do[3], and then I called my mother.

Now I love my mother and she is a very kind woman, but I suspect her love for groundhogs is very slim.[4] I think this may date back to when we lived in Québec City, and two little groundhogs lived under our neighbour's shed and fed themselves from the offerings in my mother's garden. We eventually trapped those groundhogs and released them in the wild very far away.[5] Anyway, after explaining the horrible events of the evening, I was quickly reassured that the groundhog was probably all right and had maybe just fainted from the shock or was busy playing possum. That made me feel better. We then went on to discuss the possibility that if the groundhog was, in fact, dead, then (a) it probably wasn't Rion's fault - maybe it was sick or injured anyway (Rion had barely caught a hold of it, if at all), and (b) sometimes it is just better to let nature take its course. That made me feel somewhat worse. But by the time we finished our phone conversation - which ran the gauntlet from the mysterious howling pipes[6] to the cute little fir tree that I was given as a present at work today[7] to the reasons why Judy's blog will always be funnier than mine[8] - I felt better.

Randal came home shortly thereafter, and I told him the story of destruction and woe. We put our jackets on and donned flashlights, and went out to explore.[9] We very soon came upon a groundhog foraging around in the leaves by a tree trunk. Now, I am not a naturalist (I know, you're all shocked), and to me, one groundhog pretty much looks like every other groundhog. This groundhog was startled by the light, and wouldn't let Randal get very close, but Randal said he thought it looked like this groundhog might have an injured leg. But he was up and about and moving, so, after watching him scurry around for a while, we decided to close the chapter on the imagined dead groundhog and just let him be. Hopefully he would get the food he was searching for, and then be able to return to his burrow and recuperate.

Sigh. And I thought moving to the 'burbs would be dull.[10]

[1] I use the verb "calm down" very loosely. I mean, have you ever tried to calm down a Jack Russell terrier after it narrowly misses catching its mobile dessert???

[2] Being from the sleepy rural landscape known as Winnipeg, he has wildlife smarts.

[3] Even in times of crisis, I am such a librarian.

[4] Hi Mom! :)

[5] To be 100% certain that those groundhogs would never return, in fact, we released them in a park on the other side of the St. Laurence River, on the south shore, outside the town of Charny. I also feel obliged to note that it was possibly my mother's affection for our beagle, Tyler, and her desire to avoid any accidental death on his part that ensured the groundhogs were humanely trapped and relocated rather than otherwise summarily dispatched.

[6] The mystery of the week. More on that later (we have almost tracked down the culprit but need one more night to be sure).

[7] Every staff member at the university got one as a present from our new university president, Allan Rock. (Yes, that Allan Rock.)

[8] But I'm not bitter. Really.

[9] This is the point in the blogging where I recall my mother having forbidden me to go back out to the park to search for the groundhog in the dark. Oops. Well, at least I can rest assured that she will never know about this part of the events, since she certainly does not read my blog...

[10] This level of excitement never occurred when we lived downtown. Well, other than the earthquake, of course, which you just can't beat. Or when Rion took up remodelling the bathroom. But here in Orléans, we haven't had any bats come to visit. I haven't been told lately that my sour cream sniffing habits are disgusting, nor has Rion howled at any ghosts, shown signs of dementia, or (unsuccessfully) tipped us off to the presence of mice in our cupboards.