Wednesday, June 4, 2008

May 2008

Bringing our dogs to Ireland
Our dogs are finally here with us in Ireland! Getting them here was a challenge in many ways. They'll never be able to tell us what it was like for them in the belly of plane, but they seemed just fine when we were finally reunited with them after their long journey from JFK airport.

It was touch-and-go as to whether or not they would both be able to travel. A health check within 10 days of the flight is required by the USDA. We were concerned about Sonya, the 9 year old dog that went blind a few months ago, but the vet said she was fine to travel. However,she was concerned about Ori's liver, which felt larger than normal when she examined her. Ultrasound showed that there is a large tumor in Ori's liver. Since Ori is 13 years old and still energetic and seemingly healthy otherwise, we decided against any kind of surgery at this time to let her enjoy the quality of life that she has now. When she starts showing symptoms we'll have to see what the options are, but at her age we're concerned that surgery would be traumatic and it may not buy her much more time than she already has.

The biggest snafu with flying the dogs to Ireland was with some bonehead at the Delta Cargo check in desk at JFK. He insisted that Bill hand over some extremely important rabies documentation when he checked the dogs in. These are the documents that prove that our dogs don't carry rabies, and they are not allowed into the country without them. Ireland does not have any rabies, and as an island they want to keep it that way.

The dogs arrived with photocopies of the rabies docs instead of the originals, and couldn't be released from quarantine until the Irish vets had seen the originals. After a few panicky hours while we tried contacting Delta to find out where the *%#$ the documents were, they were finally located at JFK and sent on a plane that evening. Meanwhile we spent the night in a hotel near the airport and had a joyous reunion with Ori and Sonya the next morning. The poor dogs had been in cages for a total of 48 hours before we could get them out of quarantine.

Sonya is getting around her new environment far better than we ever expected. She has a good grasp of the house layout already and easily finds her way from the door to the food dish and/or couch (her two favorite places). Occasionally she gets herself stuck in a corner and will just stand there wagging her tail until rescued. Outside we can just lead her along by voice - she uses her hearing to navigate and follows right along. If you stop suddenly she walks right into the back of your legs.

We have great places to walk right outside our cottage, and the dogs are getting both morning and evening walks. Sonya follows along by using her ears - I find that if I scuff my feet or sing, talk or whistle she stays more or less behind me. The road to our house is a tiny little dead-end lane (we're at the end) with just two neighbors up the road. Instead of ditches next to the road, such as in upstate New York, the lane is edged with stone walls on either side and the walls are thickly cloaked with years of vegetation - ferns, mosses and other herbaceous plants. When Sonya does blunder off to the side she runs into a bunch of cushiony plants - her signal to veer back to the middle of the lane. There are also lovely open fields all around our house where she can walk freely. They both seem happy and content, and with two dogs at our hearth life in our little cottage feels complete.

Many thanks to everyone who helped us out with the long process of getting them here: Our good friends and house renters Eileen and Heather who took such good care of the dogs for 3 months since we moved here; Bill's sister Carolyn, a vet who helped out with the documentation and gave us good advice and support; Danny for picking Bill up when he arrived at Syracuse airport; and Bennet who drove Bill and dogs to JFK and helped with the airport check in process. We couldn't have done it without all of you.

We've had some beautiful walks in the Burren and along the Fergus estuary near our house. The photos show some of the early wildflowers of the Burren, most notably the intense blue gentians. Photos don't do justice to the amazingly vivid blue of these rare alpine flowers.

The music scene
One of the reasons we moved here is the great music culture. It's an integral part of the social fabric here, and almost everyone of any age plays an instrument or at the very least knows a song or ballad to share. A trad sesh (traditional session) can be found in just about any pub on any night of the week. Unlike a show with the band on a stage, the musicians sit around a table (usually filled with pint glasses) and draw from the repertoire of thousands of Irish tunes, which are always played in sets of three. The biggest problem with the trad sesh is that the Irish are hugely gregarious and also quite loud talkers, so if you don't get a spot close to the musicians it's impossible to hear over the roar of the crowd.

We've also been enjoying some bigger shows in Ennis and Limerick, about 45 minutes away: Martin Hayes, an Irish fiddler extrordinaire played with Dennis Cahill, and American guitarist; Berroguetto, from Galicia, Spain playing a jazzed-up rocked-out version of their traditional music; Crooked Still (a hot young bluegrass band from Boston) and Sharon Shannon with Shane McGowan from the Pogues. Shane was entertaining but in a pathetic kind of way - pretty blotto and unable to remember some of the words to his own tunes. Fortunately the crowd knew every word and helped him out until he got back on track.

And of course, one of the reasons we moved here is the great climate for gardening. Here is one of our work projects - building stone raised beds for a lovely couple named Deirdre and Eamon who we've gotten to be friends with since we started working for them. And our own perennial and vegetable gardens are totally rocking right now!