March 18, 2019

Farewell to Kodiak

We were devastated to have to say goodbye to Kodiak. After struggling with an enlarged heart, kidney disease, a pancreatic condition, liver complications, and old age he finally succumbed to a thrown clot which paralyzed his back legs, leaving him unable to walk.

His quality of life has always been of our paramount concern and his regular vet tech only had to listen to his heart for a few beats to tell that he was nearly burned out. He spent his final day in our arms before going to the vet in the sunshine and without complaint. A noble gentleman to the end, he didn't yowl or fuss and seemed to agree that he'd gone as far as he could with us.
Kodiak (like most cats) collected aliases even more prolifically than medical ailments and has also been known to answer to: The Big Black Browl, Mister Cat, Gatamus Maximus, Yowlio, Kodiak T Cat Esquire, Shimanie Shongo the Bongamus Cat, Little Villain, Sweetheart, the Ambassador, Gigantor, Kitty, Hufty Chufty, Browltiger, Softie Soft Cat, Little Man, and many others. He was known as both Root Beer and Darwin at his adoption centre.
 We first adopted him on November 25, 2007 because he melted in Kathryn's arms when she picked him up and because I didn't mention he had bitten me a few minutes earlier for touching his feet. That gave us 4,132 days with him or 11.3 years. He's only been gone a few hours and we'd both do anything for just a little more time with him or to take back any number of afternoons in the past where we were too busy with things that no longer seem to matter in comparison.
We want to thank the kind and dedicated staff at the West End Veterinary Clinic for their years of compassion and for helping us grieve while giving him the grace and dignity he required until his final seconds. Especially Leni for being his favourite and Dr. Helene Childs for exemplary care.

If you also knew and loved him, please consider a donation to Katie's Place Animal Shelter or just take a few moments to reflect on your time with him. If you have a pet yourself, hold it extra close for us and be sure to treasure every moment you have.

March 2, 2019

Water Taxi from Cabo to Land's End

 Cabo San Lucas has a very pleasant touristy marina full of little boats that want to take you out and show you the sights. You can't walk more than 15 feet without someone offering to get you signed up for whale watching, deep sea fishing, or a local cruise. We opted to travel out with this gentleman for a bti of local sight-seeing.
 For about $10 USD per person they take you on a pleasant cruise through the bustling marina, past the local rock formations of Land's End, and out to Lover's Beach (more on them coming up) You can then specify how long you want to explore the area and they'll come back for you at roughly that time.
 An added bonus to this excursion is that most of the boats have a little glass-bottom panel in them and the fish around the reefs of Land's End are are striking as the water is crystal clear. This gives you a great look at some local wildlife feeding on algae and whatnot on the bottom of the boat. I was pleased to get a better look at fish while diving, but for people without that opportunity this is a pretty fantastic option.

February 23, 2019

Vancouver Snowpocalypse

 After months of (presumably) insufferable smugness about our gentle winter, Vancouver got a dumping of snow recently which closed schools and threw our whole transit system into disorder. While some of this can legitimately be explained by icy hills being more treacherous than the prairies, part of the problem is undoubtedly that Vancouverites are simply unprepared for such weather since it only happens in small bursts every year or two. I certainly don't own as rugged a winter jacket as I did in Winnipeg and feel the chill all the more as a result.

That said, anyone saying that its a wet cold and therefore in any way comparable to Portage and Main at -54 is just flat out lying. On a related note, you can currently buy avocado toast and lattes with shotgun shells or slaves as valid Vancouver currencies.
 Hopefully this picture will tug some heartstrings in Ottawa and get our city the disaster relief it so direly requires. These daffodils have only been up since mid-January and without immediate efforts they may not have a chance to make it until actual spring sets in by early March.
 Once the worst of the storm had passed, the snow left behind was IDEAL for making snowmen and had the perfect consistency for snowballs. English Bay was littered with figures like this one, many of which utilize bits of fallen palm leaves into fun hairdos and hats.

February 16, 2019

Kitty Cat Bath Time

 Kodiak has been getting pretty old of late and we decided that he was both having trouble fully washing himself and getting a bit whiffy in the process, so it was time to experiment with bath time. We had never tried such a thing with him before and we're sure exactly how much blood we'd lose in a fur-throwing frenzy in the process. Much to our surprise, he has mellowed in his dotage and, except for a few kicks here and there going into the sink, was VERY good about the whole thing.
 Look at that little face! He sat patiently while we washed and shampooed his back and barely caused a fuss at all.
 It is pretty cold in our place in the darkness of the Canadian winter, so we made sure to swaddle him in a few towels to keep him warm and help dry out. Once the towels were too damp we replaced them with an electric blanket just to keep him from catching a chill. Don't think we'll make this a routine event, but it was undeniably a success.

February 9, 2019

Scuba Encounters

I had 3 dives in Mexico during our visit and had several unique and exciting animal encounters to share. The first dive at Land's End was also my first dive since 2011 but any apprehension I might have had quickly evaporated when my guide Julio dug around in the sand and produced tiny sea urchins which puffer fish would swim up and take right from your fingertips. They were very gentle but certainly had tough little teeth in there for crushing and grinding up urchin shells and spines.
It can be pretty difficult to give wildlife the space it deserves while also getting a decent photograph, but I decided to err on the side of caution with this moray eel and accept that my wide-angle lens would have to be pretty generously cropped for any photo to share. Still, this was my first wild eel and I was very excited to see one.
When we did a dive at the La Paz sea lion colony this one individual was very intrigued by bubbles and rings that our guide was blowing while lying almost on the bottom and came down to investigate and be patted. At this exact moment, Kathryn was actually snorkeling in a different spot and spent 20 minutes cuddling a juvenile sea lion, but unfortunately we only had the one underwater camera so that moment can't be shared with the rest of you :(

February 7, 2019

Sea Turtle Release

 We were unexpectedly delighted to learn that the resort we had chosen, Sandos Finisterra, was an active participant in sea turtle population rehabilitation. Sea turtles have less than a 1% survival rate to maturity on a good day and human impact on their environment has not helped, so efforts to improve their chances were a welcome sight.

Efforts by the resort are pretty substantial and not just feel-good as well. They have a staff biologist who gathers up buried eggs along the beach and places them in a protected enclosure where they are monitored and able to hatch in safety.
 The signs at the beach said they were Golfina turtles, which I believe are commonly known as Olive Ridley turtles in English. Every few days enough dug themselves up to the surface to be ready for a batch release into the sea and a crowd would always gather to watch the turtles head for the sea. The added bonus here is that a large crowd tends to keep away many of the birds that predate on these hatchlings and helped give them that little extra edge.
 Of course I was still not prepared for what a rough start they had to their lives. The beaches in Cabo are not swimmable due to strong rip currents and unpredictable waves so for us the area was walking-only. No such luck for these little guys as they struggled down the beach and into the surf. Most of the time a wave would come up and people would cheer, only for it to roll back having pushed half a dozen turtles 15 feet back onto the land and flipped them on their backs. Even when they did back it to the water, every large wave had dozens of little black bodies tumbling around in the chop. Not a easy lot in life.
Any turtles which were too tired or cold to make it into the water on the day were gathered up by the biologist and either warmed and released into the surf, or kept for another try on the following day depending on their state.

February 5, 2019

On Top of Mount Solmar

 Part of the view from our resort in Cabo San Lucas was a rocky peak in Land's End called Mount Santos. One evening as we were watching whales and frigatebirds at sunset, I noticed a small group of people standing at the top of the hill. From that moment I became set on climbing to the top and getting a full panoramic view of the whole end of the peninsula.
 The trailhead is accessible beside a dog obedience school and the owner Enrique leads the ascent himself twice a day along with a pack of puppers to help show the way. We had no problem with the trail but there are certainly parts where we were scrambling a bit, so I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. The path in the photo below is quite simple and near the start, but it does get trickier.

There had been some sort of unspecified problem a few months earlier so the gate to the hike is now locked except during the two guided jaunts daily. We would have liked to do it a little before the worst of the sun set in, but the only times available were 9:30 and 3:30. While we were concerned by the size of the group at the start, probably around 50 people, it thinned out significantly on the walk itself.
 The view from the top was totally worth it, as I hope the spherical panorama below can adequately convey. Kathryn was able to spot a number of humpback whales from the peak and the view of the harbor and city was spectacular.

We were also slow walking in order to try and take pictures without as many people in them and the downside to that was that the path was not super-well marked and a little easy to lose track of on the return. That was our fault for dawdling though, not a problem with the are.