Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Waifs and Strays - the rewards of dog fostering

Fostering dogs from the Dogs’ Refuge Home Shenton Park is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

In November 2011 we lost our beloved Tilly in tragic circumstances. She was my partner’s pride and joy, the canine love of his life, and we found the house to be a hollow shell without the clitter clack of her little feet on the floor boards.
We were sensible enough to realise that we needed to grieve before we thought about getting another dog, but it soon became clear to us that a house without a dog in it was all wrong.

We’d heard about the fostering program at Shenton Park through a colleague, so we made an appointment to go down to the refuge to talk to someone about whether we would be suitable and generally about what was involved. After a brief conversation we were told that there were two dogs that had just come in who were quite anxious in the refuge and would we like to take them today!


Snowy and Rascal were our first fostering experience. They showed us how quickly dogs can move from being anxious little bundles of nerves to cuddly, affectionate, fun loving hounds when put in a safe, caring environment. 

It is profoundly moving to see how quickly dogs go from seeing you as a threatening stranger to regarding you as an integral member of their pack, someone they'll happily follow anywhere and who's lap they will choose to curl up in given half a chance.

We went on to foster four other dogs over the next few months, each for between 2 - 4 weeks. We had the handsome older gentleman, Jangles, the highly strung but now happy and relaxed Portia and Presley, the awesome Ted and the sadly departed Graham.

Each had a special set of challenges from a case of kennel cough, anxiety, recovery from castration and lastly some health issues. Every one of them made our lives richer from having known them, if only for a short time.

"TED" - auditioning for the part of Doug from the movie "UP"

Fostering dogs gives you an opportunity to take a dog out of a stressful situation and show them that life can be better. This sets them up for better adoption chances, and provides the refuge with information about their personality and behaviour that helps to match them with the right family. 

Many of these dogs come into the refuge with little or no back story. The name you're given may be completely new to the dog so don't be surprised if they don't respond to it straight away. Some of them come fully toilet trained, some less so.  There are likely to be some unwanted behaviours so you need to be patient and remember that many of these guys have just come in off the street, or out of a pound which can be a very scary place.

When we talk to people about fostering they commonly ask if it is hard to give them back and the answer is a definite yes. But there is nothing as thrilling as checking the Shenton Park web site to see your little foster dog with the big “ADOPTED” sign next to their picture. Seeing a success story from their new family is pretty good too - it’s great to hear that your little buddy is all settled in.

There are times in life when committing to a dog of your own just won’t work. Fostering is a really good option. If you travel a lot for work or pleasure, if you’re fly in fly out but home for a few weeks at a time, then think about fostering. Let the refuge home know when you’re available and when you’re not. They are very good at selecting the right dogs for your circumstances.

We have since adopted a recycled puppy of our own so we aren’t fostering at the moment. We hope that once we get the toilet training sorted we might be able to start fostering again if he looks like the kind of dog who’ll make a good foster brother.

"SMUDGE" - foster brother in training
If you’re able to get involved in fostering, start out by emailing I think you’ll find you get as much out of it as the dogs you help, maybe more.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dear John,

I have read every novel John Irving has published and have enormous respect for many of them. I am totally over the wrestling however.

That has not stopped me from buying his latest novel, 'In One Person', in the hope that there might be all of those wonderfully rich characters with some new imagining and re-imagining of the world.

'In one person' is another good book.  It introduces us to characters who are, in the Irving tradition, flawed yet lovable. Deeply human, they invite you into their intimate circles, to revel in their frailty.

Yet when part way through I find myself shuffled mindlessly into yet another high school wrestling room I feel betrayed and have to put the Kindle away and read something else for a while.

I believe Irving to be a fantastic writer.  He has written some of my all time favourites works. But the over use of the same subject for so many, if not all, of his characters to literally and symbolically 'wrestle' with leaves me feeling a bit cheated. Not everyone in the known world wrestles.  Not everyone in New Hampshire wrestles. There is a sense that there is a lack of imagination here which is in such stark contrast to the dialogue and relationships that unfold throughout his work.   

I'm at the point that although in this novel the wrestling is actually used as part of the plot I find it detracts from everything else. I can accept that if this had been my first Irving I might feel differently, I might find it fits the mood and the story and the character perfectly.  But as readers we don't take in anything in isolation; as people we know that everything is connected. The constant repetition makes me feel as though I have been robbed of the full weight of the story.

The sore spot the wrestling has rubbed raw on me makes it hard to concentrate on the gentle way in which the experience of the explosion of AIDS onto the 1980s GLBT scene is unfolded. The exploration of Bill's cross dressing grandfather is handled beautifully.

This was not his greatest work, not by a long shot, but there are solid characters and lovely vignettes all the same.

I can't promise I'll be reading the next novel.  I can't promise that I won't.

Bonsai and The Mez

Our meals in Northbridge lately have been much more hit than miss and we're delighted.

Since the State Theatre opened in the Cultural Centre precinct we are eating in Northbridge at least six times a year. With our recent great experiences it may end up being more frequent than that.
The latest two success stories have their roots in very different parts of the globe, Greece and Japan.

The Mez

The Mez is a Greek restaurant looking over Russell Square. It's been there a while and all of the reviews I've read were good.  It also helps that you can book online, and for me every phone call I don't have to make is a bonus.

The service was prompt and attentive which is important if you're having a bite before an event. It is also in this year's Entertainment Book, so for those keeping an eye on the budget that has to be a good thing.

We had a couple of weight watchers on the table who went for Greek and Caesar salads+. B made an odd choice for a Greek restaurant, the Fillet Mignon, but I went traditional and selected the house specialty, Lamb Kleftiko.

Mine was the dish of the night, melt in the mouth, tender, tasty meat, delicious tzatziki, steamed vegetables.  Perfect.

Word of Mouth Rating : Sweet

Recommended to;
    • Friends
    • Family
    • Kids
    • Colleagues
    • The World
      The Mez
      The Mez

      + For the record I'm yet to be convinced that either a Greek or Caesar salad is a health food but I guess it outranks anything that comes with fries.


      We went to Bonsai as a group of six and quickly decided on a selection of ‘shares’ for the table. The instigator of the event brought pen and paper and made short work of producing a list of our order to provide to the wait staff. It’s a technique that I would recommend.
      The instructions on the front of the menu to go for 2-3 dishes per person worked out perfectly for our group, with everyone full without being uncomfortably so.

      The food came out quickly and efficiently, with the exception of two dishes that were tempura-rily MIA. Luckily they were worth waiting for.

      The mushroom miso soup was served in cute dishes with wooden lids, in fact all of the serving wear was worthy of remark.

      The soft shell crab was delicious, and I would argue that the wasabi mayonnaise that came with it would have stood well on its own with just about any dish. The creamy prawn spring rolls with hot english mustard were creamy and crispy all at the same time.

      The Red wine pork belly was divine, but I have to admit bias - I don’t recall the last pork belly I tried that I didn’t like.We also sampled the Cajun squid, Fried chicken tasazu, Wagyu beef tataki, the Beef asparagus, Sweet potato and eggplant tempura, Pan fried scallops and Butter soy clams. The clams were underwhelming, but that’s the worst thing I can say about the food.

      The pickled ginger and duck slices, last to arrive, were a lovely way to round out the meal.

      The wine list included a Forest Hill offering which is always going to be a hit with us. There were also the expected Japanese Beer, plum wine and Saki options.

      At about $50 a head including drinks I will happily be returning.

      Word of Mouth Rating : Sweet

      Recommended to;
      • Friends
      • Family
      • Colleagues
      • The World
      Bonsai, 30 -36 Roe Street Map.313fd87 Northbridge, WA 6003

      Sunday, January 1, 2012

      The War Horse

      Gone with the Wind must be writing to ask for it’s closing scene back. The sunset return of the prodigal son and schmaltzy, sentimental, silent reconciliation summed up the film quite well for me. If I had seen that scene first I would likely not have bothered with all that preceded it.

      It’s a story of a forgettable farm boy and his horse, separated by the advent of World War I, poverty and poor parental judgement. It had a very Black Beauty feel to the plot as the noble horse meets an alternating string of dastardly and noble characters as he works his way through Europe and back to his boy. As you would expect the majority of the evil deeds performed in the film are carried out by the German soldiers, with an attempt to keep the balance by allowing some of the lesser Germans to be kind and gentle souls as well.

      Not a film I would recommend to anyone, and the number of award nominations it received diminishes any respect I had for those institutions.

       The War Horse 

      Sour and Sickly Sweet