The adventuresome life of a Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland dog in Northwestern Ontario

Posts tagged ‘Al’

FIRE!

On September 10th, we were all enjoying a lovely Sunday afternoon. I was outside enjoying catching scents on a boisterous breeze while I lay on guard in the driveway. Kay and the Scribe were downstairs watching Eric Lamaze as he and his horse jumped over obstacles at a place called Spruce Meadows.

Eric was halfway through the course when something incredibly scary happened. There was a crack, and I saw one of the tall Balsam Firs along the little gravel path teeter in a gust, and fall, fall, then hang, while the powerlines that run past the house, past my palace and on to Al and Joanne’s house lit up and made the most horrible sounds: TZT TZZZZZT TZZZZZZZT. There was an explosion (I was already running for the house to warn my two-leggers of DANGER), and then more of the TZZZT sounds.

I don’t mind telling you I was too scared to bark. I curled up in the corner of the house beside the door to keep anyone from coming out, and I watched, and I listened as the explosions and TZZTs continued.

Almost immediately I got to the door, I could hear movement in the house: Elizabeth racing upstairs to see what was exploding. She thought the problem was in the house, something she could stop. But she couldn’t find anything.

Elizabeth then looked out the Dining Room window and saw the smoke, then the tree hanging on the hydro lines over the gravel path. She ran to the door to get me inside, and I willingly came in. I’d rather be with my beloved two-leggers in a dangerous situation. Then she ran to the old phone in the kitchen, the one that doesn’t rely on electricity to operate. She dialed 911. I could tell she was just as scared as I was.

“Fire!” she cried when someone answered at the other end.

And then it got scarier yet.

As she was talking to the emergency people, the tree finally broke the first of three lines. I could hear the explosion on the phone from where I was standing, and Elizabeth yelped. It must have hurt her ears a lot. “The line has just come down,” she yelled to the lady on the phone.

The lady was trying to find out where we lived. Elizabeth started again when the second line came down, and another explosion came through the phone. The connection held, though, and she continued after another yelp, and the third line came down. Elizabeth cried out again both in pain and fear, because now she could see more smoke.

She told the emergency lady that a fire was starting, that the bush was extremely dry (we hadn’t had rain for some time) and that the winds were very strong. “There are people living just a few hundred yards up the hill, and this fire is going to move fast,” she said. “Please, get the fire service here fast!” She had to tell the lady all this because the phone calls are answered nearly a thousand miles from here, and people there have no clue about our situation.

The lady told her to call again if she saw flames or if anything changed.

I hoped the wind didn’t change. It was blowing away from the house. If it changed, we’d have nowhere to go, and the fire would reach us very quickly over fifty feet of tinder dry forest. The live, sparking wires were across the road and might blow nearer the car, too. I didn’t think we could get Kay down to the river fast enough, and it was too cold for her anyway.

Elizabeth ran down to her room for a better look and saw eight foot flames licking up the hill. Oh, no, she thought. This is going to be bad. She ran back to the phone and called 911 again. They assured her that the trucks were on their way and would be there soon.

Kay got upstairs and wondered what had happened that the power had gone off. Elizabeth explained and I went to the livingroom with Kay.

Figuring there was nothing left that she could do, Elizabeth grabbed her camera and went outside. By then the flames had eaten anything close enough to show from the house, so we don’t have anything dramatic to show you. The firetruck arrived within ten minutes of her first call. I stayed inside, but Elizabeth was able to take enough pictures to give us a photo documentary:

By the time Elizabeth got outside, mostly just smoke was visible from anywhere safe to shoot.

 

But where there’s smoke, there’s usually still some fire.

 

Thank goodness the fire fighters and their trucks arrived quickly!

 

They get the area affected watered down, but there’s still some smouldering going on… Where do they go from here?

 

It’s a good question. The lines are still live and sparking, and they aren’t sure where the electricity is going. They need to wait for the Hydro men to come and call to have the power cut, otherwise the firemen might be electrocuted.

You can see the downed lines in the following photos, from the pole close to Al and Joanne’s house, past my Boreal Palace, and dangling behind the parked Growly Beast. And there they are in the last photo, hanging from the pole that holds our transformer.

Then the fire trucks left. We didn’t know what was going on.

It turned out they were just backing out of our little gravel path so that the hydro truck and the linesmen could get in and down to work.

 

Their first order of business once they had the power turned off on the main line, was to get the tree down. The firemen helped cut it into smaller bits and to get it cleared off the gravel path.

 

The linesmen ground the wires so no one gets any nasty surprises while working on the high voltage lines.

 

Now that it is safe to work the hoses again, a little conference ensues…

The hoses are moved to a better spot,

And the fire fighters go back to work.

 

They report back to the boss fireman,

And then, our heroes of the day decide that their work here is done. It took an hour and a half to get the fire completely out.

Then the labourious job of splicing the wires, winching them back up, doing the double checking and fine tuning and final tightening begins. Here’s a little gallery of the process – just click the first photo and then you can flip through them quickly.

It wasn’t just us that were affected by this tree falling. Several thousand people in the area west of us went without hydro for the time all this was going on, too. Kay and Elizabeth never did find out whether Eric Lamaze finished his competition or how he fared.

We went up later to check on things as the boss fireman asked Elizabeth to do. He wanted to make sure that there were no hot spots that might flare up again after they were gone.

We took a good look at the remains of the tree that had fallen on the lines.

 

The view from the Little Gravel Path going up our hill has changed.

After a closer look, we could see there was nothing much left to burn. Kay wonders if all those burnt tree roots will mean the end of many more trees soon.

That’s enough for this post. But the story isn’t over yet…

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Wild Goose Chase

Last Friday, I had an appointment with my vet friends. Elizabeth made it for late in the afternoon so we could go straight home when we were done. I haven’t been there for a long time so, I was looking forward to the visit. Even if it meant getting stuck full of needles, poked and prodded in inconvenient places, and showing the world at large that I gained two pounds over the winter.

We sat down in Dr. Celia’s examining room. The two-leggers talked while I checked out all the interesting smells, then made myself comfortable over by the nearest exit. Then my ears pricked up.

“How many lives has she used up now?” Dr. Celia laughed.

“Ummm… I’m not sure. I’ve given up counting. Twenty?”

“Doesn’t she know she isn’t a cat?”

I got up and gave them both a dirty look. Then I took a few steps over to the other side of the room and squeezed under the examining table.

Elizabeth looks up at Dr. Celia, “She says not to insult her. She’s no cat. Everybody knows cats only have NINE lives!”

“She looks pretty stiff. What are you giving her for pain?…”

Yes, I used up another life with my latest adventure. And, yes, I was a little the worse for wear for a couple of days.

Maybe getting older doesn’t always mean we get wiser…

A week ago Thursday was a lovely Spring day, if you like that sort of thing. I prefer snow and the deep chill of Winter, myself. Elizabeth decided it was time to do some work in the garden, which is still frozen solid once you dig down a couple of inches. But she gets excited about these things.

I lay just outside the fence guarding until it looked like she was ready to get me my supper. Then I wandered over to the back stoop and watched the last of the snow melt from behind the wood pile. Elizabeth was just about to open the door when I heard them. My friends, the long-necked flappers, were flying in low and calling me to say hello! I thought they were in England visiting my blogging friend Clowie, but I guess those were different long-necked flappers. They all look and sound very much alike, you know.

I’ve been working long hours at the bookshop so, when they invited me to play a game of tag, I was eager to join in for the exercise! Needless to say, I ran off to greet them.

The thing about long-necked flappers is that they have an unfair advantage in a game of tag. When they flap their wings, they rise off the ground. It’s a bit of a tease. Usually, I just stop and watch them play the game. Today, though, their advantage over the river was not so great. The splashy wet stuff hadn’t turned splashy yet. It still looked pretty hard, except where it had melted out to about a meter from shore. I ran back and forth a bit to find a place to get onto the hard surface.

It was a bit difficult to find a way onto the hard water…

Elizabeth was calling me. I ignored her. I could come and eat later.

I discovered that I could use Al and Joanne’s dock like a bridge. Its end was still firmly planted in the hard water. When I leapt out onto the hard water, the geese, who had landed to wait for me, took off, flying low over the hard water to Siggy’s Island. I almost caught up to them.

I was just at the end of our point when, suddenly, the hard water slivered and dissolved beneath me! I went right under into deep, cold, splashy wet stuff. I’ve never felt it that cold before! I found the hole and came up for air and began trying to get back onto the hard water or land.

I went in just off The Point, but there was hard water all around the hole I found myself in. The second and larger point is Siggy’s Island.

Elizabeth, who had been yelling frantically at me to come and eat stopped. Instead, she screamed, “I’m coming, Stella! Keep swimming!” My head went under again.

Later, she told me how frantic she was. She threw her gloves up at the living room window to get Kay’s attention, yelled for Kay to phone Dan on Siggy’s Island. He has a rice boat that uses an airplane propeller to go across water or ice. She thought if he had it going (they just got back from Mexico), he could get to me faster than she could. She had to run around our bay to get to where I was, and that’s a long, rough run for a two-legger. But off she went!

On the way she saw a long piece of driftwood with a big crook in the end, and she grabbed it in case she needed something to help her pull me out. It’s hard to tell from the house how far out from shore something is exactly. Best to be prepared. She could also use it to break a channel through the ice for me to swim to shore. Maybe. That’s what she was hoping.

Looking toward the end of the bay along the shore that faces south. This is the easy part of the trip, but it’s still faster to go through the woods.

Elizabeth is asthmatic. The woods are full of snow and leaf mould. She was breathing hard. She didn’t have her puffer.

But she kept coming as fast as she could and calling to me to keep trying!

Meanwhile, I dug deep and found my Newfie genes. I put them to work. Swim. Fill my huge lungs with air and float! Swim. Then I used my Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog genes. I’m swimming and climbing a mountain at the same time. Grab the hard water like it’s rock and PULL! Grab the hard water and PULL! And I used my back legs, spreading my toes so my webbed feet could push the wet water and help lift me up…

“I’m coming, Stella! Keep trying!”

And, somehow, I found some really hard water, and I managed to get up onto it. I woofed to let Elizabeth know I was okay, and I ran to find her. When she saw me, she just sort of sat abruptly on the shore, while I ran toward her.

“Stella! Go Home!”

But I wasn’t going to go home until I was sure she was all right.

I just got to her when I heard a strange growly beast on the other side of the house. So I didn’t stop. I just kept on running back the way Elizabeth had come overland. I left Elizabeth sitting on the shore, waiting for her lungs to settle enough that she could make the walk home. She was thinking, Why would Dan come that way? That can’t be Dan!

Kay had phoned 911 and told them, “Stella’s gone through the ice!” (Kay had a stroke in November. I’m not sure just what that means, but it has made it harder for her to get around, and it has made her hard to understand sometimes, especially when she is tired or upset about something).

The fire chief, who lives about a mile down the Big Gravel Path, was on his way home when he heard the call out, and he rushed to help us. Then the police arrived…

Elizabeth could hear snatches of conversation, “We don’t rescue animals when they go through the ice…” Then she saw me on the far shore, back at Al and Joanne’s dock, looking for my long-necked flapper friends again. I was afraid that they might have gone through while I was intent on my own struggles. I ran back out onto the ice to find them.

Elizabeth tried to call over to the fire chief and Kay, who were now chatting, him on the lawn, her up on our balcony. “HONK THE CAR HORN!” Elizabeth couldn’t get enough air into her lungs to support her voice, and they couldn’t hear her. She knew that if I heard the growly beast horn, I would run home. Nothing trumps a ride. Nothing. And the horn sounding means we’re going to go for a ride. When I hear the horn, I stop everything and race for the ride.

She got up and started to head for home. She knew I was too wound up to listen to anything but (maybe) the growly beast’s horn. So, that became her focus. But by this time, she was having so much trouble breathing that she was also having trouble walking through the woods.

About halfway home, she tried calling the two-leggers at the house again.

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?” The fire chief had heard her.

She took as big a breath as she could. “HONK.” Another breath, “OUR.” A third breath, “CAR.” And another, “HORN!” She slid down a rock face to the mud flats at the end of our bay.

She heard the fire chief tell Kay what she had called, and a few seconds later, HONK, HONK, HONK, HONK!

OUR car horn, she thought. Our car horn, not yours…

I heard the horn, though, and it caught my attention. That’s strange, I thought. I’d better go check that out!

By that time I was back on land again, some distance east of where Elizabeth was. I met her as she was crossing the mud flats. I got close enough to her that she was able to grab my collar. That’s when I realised that she needed help if she was going to get home.

We got to the other side of the mud, then I pulled her up the bank to her trail. We would walk a bit, then she’d rest, then we’d go a bit further up the hill toward the house. When we emerged from the woods, I led her to the bench by the gardens and she sat down.

But by this time, Kay had remembered that her daughter might be having trouble, and told the fire chief that Elizabeth had asthma. So he’d gone off looking for her!

Elizabeth was still having trouble talking. “I… can’t… go,” she said. “Honk… the car… horn.”

And that’s what Kay did. Amazingly, it works for fire chiefs, too!

The hard water looks much more rotten now, and for the last week, Elizabeth won’t let me go outside unless I’m on the leash. She does that every spring and autumn when the river isn’t safe. This year has been a bit strange, and the change happened very quickly, so she wasn’t aware that the time had come to be more cautious.

Yesterday at work, Elizabeth got a message from Karin, Dan’s wife. “Are you at home?” it said. A sneaky deer had gone through the rotten hard water and was struggling to get to safety. It was almost exactly where I went through the week before. It’s a bad spot, Elizabeth said, and reminded me that she went through there in January a couple of years ago – just one leg, fortunately, and she was able to roll out to the thicker ice on the snowmobile path nearby. I should have remembered that…

The deer almost got to shore when it turned around and went back through the channel it had cut. It was so close to the end of the point. So close. But it didn’t make it. Today the big white-headed black flappers and lots of croaking and cawing black birds are feasting.

A raven (on the rotten hard water) and an immature bald eagle on the rocky end of the point this morning. The raven is actually standing on the bit of deer carcass that is above the water line.

Watching the activity through our window I feel a little unnerved. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

There isn’t much left that the birds can reach now.

Comings & Goings

We have been inundated by visitors this past week. I’m hoarse from all the barking I’ve had to do.

Some two-leggers drive down the Little Gravel Path to our house and just ignore me. Usually, they are two-leggers who’ve met me before. I know who they are, too, and I just bark to let Kay and Elizabeth know that someone they need to see is here. This list includes Doyle the Dog Food Man, Rob the Snow Man, Al, the Mowing Girl, René and a number of other regular visitors.

Other visitors I bark at because they aren’t welcome: any of the Wily Wolf Gang, Sneaky Deer, The Cougar, the plum-loving Black Bear, and the various garden thieves like Groundhogs and Squirrels and Hares.

There’s another group of visitors that concern me… two-leggers I don’t know. I find them rather disturbing because I’m never sure whether they are here by invitation or not. I find barking at them, even mixing in the occasional rumbly growl – two-leggers find that very scary! – is a very important tactic to employ. Generally speaking, if this sort of visitor isn’t supposed to be here, they turn around and head straight back out before I have a chance to attack. BOL. Too easy! If they stay, Elizabeth or Kay always come out to see who they are. Once I know they are welcome, there’s no problem.

It is from this latter group that most of our visitors seem to have come this week. The Hydro Person came to read the meter. I made that two-legger so nervous that all my two-leggers saw was an arm with an appended gadget stick out the window a bit and point at the hydro meter. The growly beast was gone before Elizabeth could get out to talk to the two-legger inside.

Another growly beast was truly audacious. Look at this:

This growly beast's two-legger was here for a good reason. But he sure parked in a strange place.

This growly beast’s two-legger was here for a good reason. But he sure parked in a strange place.

It turned out to be a new friend, Jeff the Tree Man. He came to take down that big old Jack Pine that drowned with the flood. I asked Elizabeth to take a picture of him at work:

Funny how often you find yourself saying goodbye to an old friend only to immediately make a new one!

Funny how often you find yourself saying goodbye to an old friend only immediately to make a new one!

Our view looks much different now.

We see a lot more water in Our Bay now that the tree has been cut up.

We see a lot more water in Our Bay now that the tree has been cut up.

While Jeff the Tree Man worked at turning our Jack Pine into winter fuel, another visitor rolled in. This one came in a very BIG growly beast. This was a two-legger with serious attitude, Ron the Septic Tank Man. You can see from his truck that he is a very confident sort. I barked at him, but I was inside the house, staying out of the way of chainsaws and falling tree parts so, my barking didn’t scare him at all.

Ron the Septic Tank Man's truck says it all!

Ron the Septic Tank Man’s truck says it all!

We’ve had lots of other visitors, too, but most of them just made me curious. For example, there are several very long, skinny fellows snooping around the gardens these days. Elizabeth says hopefully, they are eating some of the slugs and grasshoppers. They certainly aren’t eating any of the garden produce, so I just follow them around and watch them. They’re fascinating, Slithery Snakes. They rustle the grasses and smell interesting and they always seem unerringly to find the tiniest holes to slip into yet that are long enough to hide their whole length! One day, maybe Elizabeth might get a photo for me to show you one.

Slithery Snakes are just one of several interesting regulars, though.

Every morning I find evidence of other benign intruders.

Every morning I find evidence of other benign intruders. This web was made by a Grass Spider, who hides in the hole of the funnel-like structure.

There are also some intruders that Elizabeth really dislikes. They aren’t all so benign, either.

TV Bug mini

This is a Wood Borer. When Elizabeth was a two-legger pup, a former London Bobby (that’s what they call a policeman, apparently, in a country much closer to my ancestral homeland than we are) had a cottage in our neighbourhood. He told Elizabeth that these were called TV Bugs. Back in those days, two-leggers used big antennae to snag television signals from the air instead of satellite dishes! She believed him because he was a policeman.

Elizabeth got very upset when one of these landed on her the other day. She really doesn’t like them! If they bite, it hurts. But I think it’s more the size of them that bugs her (like my pun?). So, when she saw this one trying to sneak in through an open window (We have screens on all our windows here. It was foiled before it even started thinking about eating our furniture.), she thought maybe an introduction would be in order…

Unfortunately for Elizabeth, Shelob had already had a Dragonfly over for breakfast and was feeling too satiated to even look at a Wood Borer.

Unfortunately for Elizabeth, Shelob had already had a Dragonfly over for breakfast and was feeling too satiated to even look at a Wood Borer.

Shelob is one of three Giant Lichen Orbweaver Spiders we have lurking around OUTSIDE the house. She is the darkest of the ‘Three Sisters’. The other two, Hecate and Kali, look more like the one I showed you in an earlier post in colouring, but the markings on the back are all similar. We think the front end of the bulbous abdomen looks like a skull. Looking straight down at the abdomen, and only faintly visible on this one, there is a lightning bolt on each side! Like me, they look scary but they’re harmless… unless you are an insect. By the way, Elizabeth doesn’t normally name spiders, but these three have hung around for so long and are so enormous that she feels obligated to acknowledge them somehow.

I’m hoping it is a little less busy around here for a while. It’s too hot to do anything but swim and lie in my shaded dugout. I’ll have to get Elizabeth out on a Wildflower Hunt for tomorrow, though! See you then!   ~:o)=

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