Anne Marie's Australian Adventure

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Archive for April, 2009

So how was your week?

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on April 26, 2009

I’ve been a crazy woman packing and cleaning. It has been a very stressful time and sad too. We’ve had a chance to say good bye to most of the people we’ve met here. We went to dinner one night with Mike and Caroline Hall at the Rubican – very nice. We went to dinner another night with Carole and Greg. I went by the theatre to say bye to everyone there. I’m taking the Turkish girls to the movie today.
What a week it’s been. I’ve been packing and trying to organize the storage and cleaning and farewells. Then on Wednesday night Cooper stood up and yelped in pain and couldn’t walk on his left rear leg. He’s never been like that before, he was whimpering like a puppy every time he tried to walk and he was shaking so hard. We couldn’t  find anything in his paw nor feel anything out of wack. All through the night every time he’d walk he would cry. I was sick about not knowing what was wrong or what to do. It wasn’t any better in the morning so we drove to the Vet in Manuka, got him out of the car and he started walking around like nothing was wrong. We put him back in the car and drove back home. He was okay most of the day and then in the afternoon it started again so this time we drove to the vet and got him out of the car and into the office. The vet thinks he probably torn a ligament in his knee. He gave him a shot and some pills for the next few days.
He seems to be doing better but we have to make sure he takes it easy on that knee for 4 weeks. That’s going to be tough with him going to the foster family next week. Fergus found a great article online about ligament injuries in dogs and the treatment of it. We are hopeful that he won’t need to have surgery if the takes it easy for that period of time – no jumping into and out of the car – no running or ball chasing – just nice easy walks.
We turned in the small rental car – and got an SUV to haul the kids and their kennels and our bags to Melbourne – we drove three blocks to park and mail a package and ran over a broken beer bottle at the curb – the tire was history!! We had to buy a new tire. I washed three loads of sheets and towels and hung them on the line before we went to the rental office – while we were waiting for the guy to change the tire it started to rain so all my laundry was soaked by the time we got home. I spend the entire evening using the dryer to get them dry (that dryer can handle about one towel or two sheets at a time – it’s like a kids size play dryer).
I had also had the carpet cleaners come that morning and so it took forever to get the carpets dry because of the moisture in the air. And you can imagine how hard it was to keep the kids and Fergus from walking on the wet carpet with dirty paws and shoes. AAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!
Today was a little better. I finished most of the laundry – still too rainy out so I had to use the dryer. Got most everything packed  and the furniture back in place (all the small things were in the kitchen). Cleaned the kitchen floor and I was in bed asleep by 7:30 pm.
Today I hope to relax a little. I’ll go to the Bus Depot Market – take the girls to the movie – take the last couple of boxes to the storage – and enjoy my final day in Canberra. Tomorrow morning it’s pack the car and off we go to Melbourne. The kids know something is up and they won’t let us leave the house without them. They love to ride in the car but it’s a long trip. They may feel differently about the car after this trip. 
So I might not have a chance to write for a couple of days.  I hope to get at least one final blog entry about the foster homes and our final days in Australia before we fly home. Check back in about a week for more.

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Click Your Heels Together…

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on April 16, 2009

If  it was only that easy. We have been agonizing about what to do regarding returing to the US. We love it here. For the first time since I’ve known him, Fergus is happy to go to work. He loves teaching medical students, the hours are reasonable (no 24 hour shifts or over nights), he gives lectures, has PAID time to prepare his lectures, PAID time off for vacations, holidays off when everyone else is off, reasonable patients, no worries about paying malpractice insurance. He goes to work early and comes home not so crabby.

I love it here because I can teach drama to students who want to learn drama and not have to deal with grades or discipline problems. I can work part-time, I can work with young adults on productions without having to worry about how to fund it. I could get involved with all types of theatre groups here – just haven’t because of all the travelling we have done.

We like Canberra because it is a big city but feels like a small one. Lots of parks, shops, theatre and things to do. We have met some pretty amazing people and have done some amazing things while we have been here. The weather is a lot like Kansas but no snow. And there is still so much we want to see throughout Australia.

Several months ago Fergus decided to see what it would take for us to stay. We thought once we find out then we can decide if it is worth staying or just go home to the US. Well, the medical board has had his paper work for fours months now and it seems every week they want something new – silly things like proof that he speaks English. We were hoping the hospital would extend his contract but because of the finacial situation they don’t have money to extend the contract but if he got the approval of the medical board and then the College of Emergency Medicine (the board the governs the standards of Emergency physicans) then they could hire him. Well, we are still waiting for the medical council to forward his paperwork to the college. His contract was up at the end of March. We are living on his paid vaction leave money. Once we knew this decision was not going to be made before the end of April we realized how much we really did want to stay.

In the meantime, reports back on the house in Kansas are not good. The renters were having problems with the sewer system, leaking pipes and aging water heater. Either way I was going to have to go home and get those things taken care of. And then there is the issue of the dogs. We know that if we fly them back to the states – at great expense and major trauma for them in a kennel for 20 + hours, we would never bring them back here again. It seemed that we had to resign ourselves that we were going back to the states.

Our friend Sue said that if we needed to go home and are sure we want to come back to Australia that maybe she could find someone from the Airedale Rescue group who could foster care them for a few months. Then Fergus and I could return to Kansas, he could work, I could get the house fixed and put up for sale and we could come back once the paper work here in Australia gets sorted out. That’s it in a nutshell.

Well, last night we got the final word that we have found two families willing to take one dog each – they already have dogs so the two of them would be a problem, one family has a male dog who wouldn’t be happy with another male around and the other family has a small dog which we would be concerned that Bean Sidhe would see as a snack. The two families are willing to make sure they visit each other and with Sue there as a guardian we think this will be a reasonable solution. It won’t be great leaving them but our hope is that it’s only for a few months.

So everyone we are coming home in May. We will stop in the Bay Area to see our families and then head back to Wichita. If all goes well with selling the house and with the paperwork here in Australia we will be coming back. I know this might be a shock to some of you who had no idea we were thinking about staying but I didn’t want to publish anything until we decided for sure. We have flights back on May 4, 2009. I will have time to write another update. We will be driving to Melbourne with the kids and spend a few days there to make sure they are settled in.

So the Australian Adventure will continue with reports from Cooper and Bean Sidhe signing in for me. I hope to see many of you when we return to the states. There will be a major yard sale going on if you’d like to visit Kansas for some shopping.  Look at it this way – if you didn’t get a chance to visit us while we were here this year now you’ll get another chance.

Posted in dogs, housing, Info, shopping, travel | 5 Comments »

Happy Easter

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on April 13, 2009

The Aussie really know how to celebrate. They take Good Friday off, the celebrate Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday and then they get Easter Monday off. We had dinner at Carole and Greg’s on Easter Saturday. It was great. We finally met their two charming and handsome sons, James and Hugh, they were visiting from Sydney. We also met several of their friends and partners.

Since coming back from Melbourne I taught my last drama class before the fall break. I said good by to the kids because I probably wouldn’t be back when they return to school after their break. I hosted the book group this month. Carole was kind enough to let me use her house, her china and stemware, her coffee and tea servers – since our little rental house did not come equipped with the space or trimmings to host a party. It was sad to tell the ladies that this would be my last meeting with them. They promised to keep me posted on what they are reading. I hope I can get some of the books back in the US.

The weather is changing too. It rained really hard Saturday night and we had to turn the heater on a couple times in the past week. I’m taking my time packing boxes. we brought way too much stuff with us. We’ve even accumulated a few things since we got here – mostly books. I have taken two boxes of books to the second hand bookstores but they are pretty picky about what they will buy. I guess I’ll have to give them to whatever their equivalent to the Goodwill is.

As difficult as it was to feel like Christmas in the summer, it is hard to feel like Easter in the fall. Easter is always yellow flowers and pinks and greens. But the weather is cold windy days and the colors are Autumn leaves . Too strange even after being here a year.

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A Few Words About Melbourne

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on April 13, 2009

We hadn’t plan to spend three nights with Sue and Bill but we were enjoying our time with them that I’m glad we did. So we spent only three nights in Melbourne. We found a rather old but clean B&B on the east side of the city – walking distance to the downtown area. We walked a lot in Melbourne and they have a wonderful free tram that circles the major business district. Melbourne is on the south coast of Australia and it reminds me of San Diego quite a bit flatter than Sydney. It is a very nice city, clean, modern but still with some of that old world Aussie feel – pubs and gardens and Victorian/Edwardian townhouses.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs almost the entire month of April so we went to two comedy shows in two nights. During the day we did the sightseeing things; the old gaol (that’s how they spell jail), Victoria Markets, the parks, Rod Laver Area where the Australian Open is held. The grand prix had just completed the day before we arrived and we were able to drive the course while they were dismantling the grandstands.

Although we enjoyed Melbourne we were a little down knowing that our time in Australia is almost over. Major decisions need to be made and then there is the packing and the travel plans back to the states. All of this was weighing on our minds and putting a damper on our time in Melbourne. In an upcoming (not the next one but the following one) blog entry I will tell you what we are doing about coming back to the US of A.

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Wombats and Possums and Tawny Frogmouths, OH! MY!

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on April 13, 2009

On our last day at Wombat Bend, Ascha and I took a walk along the river that runs behind the billabong at the back of Bill and Sue’s property. Along the banks of the river (really just a creek now because of the drought) are the wombat burrows. It was mid-morning so I didn’t really expect to see a wombat so I was surprised when I saw a dark head and then quickly the big behind of a wombat scurrying back into the burrow. I stood watching for a long time but the wombat didn’t come back out. So Ascha and I continued on our walk.

After we got back to the house I got Fergus’ camera because his telephoto lens is much better than the one on my camera and decided to go back and sit outside the burrow and wait until it came back out again. Well when I got back the wombat was napping just at the opening of its burrow. I was so excited, I had seen my first wombat in the wild!!! I was so worried I wouldn’t see one outside of a zoo. I took several pictures and it never moved. It is rare to see them during the daytime. This one was as peaceful as could be without a care in the world.

My wombat asleep in the shade of her burrow.

My wombat asleep in the shade of her burrow.

Fergus and I went to the Healsville Sanctuary to see more animals since it wasn’t far from Dixons Creek. We saw many of the animals we have seen at the zoos and nature reserves but the raptor show was something new. They had several birds who had been rescued. These birds could fly away now that they have recovered from their injuries but they stay and perform some amazing tricks. The Wedge Tailed Eagle was especially interesting.


A rock wallaby up close

A rock wallaby up close










The sanctuary has an animal hospital where you can watch them operating on animals. They had a kangaroo who was undergoing some procedure. He had an IV in his leg and there were several people discussing what they were going to do. In another theatre (that’s what they call operating rooms here – even for people) there was a very large snake (some kind of boa maybe).  His prognosis was not very good.  Sue and Bill found an injured wombat after the fires and brought it here for treatment. We weren’t able to see him but I think he is recovering. This was very interesting and educational and we spent more time there than we thought we would.

We tried to stop at several wineries on our way back to Sue and Bill’s but many of them were closed because of the fires and it was getting close to five o’clock so we only had time to stop at one. I forgot to take pictures but it was a beautiful setting. It was odd to see the vineyards against a backdrop of charred hills. We picked up some bottles for dinner and headed back to Wombat Bend.

After a wonderful dinner, a few glasses of wine and a lively discussion about the world, Fergus, Sue and I took a late night walk around the billabong. With flashlights in hand we explored the area. As we got close to the creek we heard splashing water and saw a wombat on the far side of the creek bed – a different wombat burrow from the one I was looking at that morning. The wombat was frozen by the lights of our torches (that’s what they call flashlights here). He just kept looking at us until we moved on.

As we were coming closer to the house we saw two possums in two different trees. These are ring tailed possums and they aren’t ugly like the possums in the states, these are rather cute like a cross between a cat and a large mouse. We didn’t bring our cameras with us so I did a google image of one so that you can see what they look like. It’s not a great picture but you get the idea.

Ring Tailed Possum

Ring Tailed Possum

As we got closer to the house I asked Sue if they ever see Tawny Frogmouths around there. These are owl-like birds that are so cute. We have seen them in nature reserve enclosures but never in the wild. She said they hadn’t seen any since the fires…then I looked up and on a branch just above our heads sat a curious Tawny Frogmouth!!! I was beside myself, an actural one in the wild. Well that made my day.  Again you’ll have to settle for a google image but I have witnesses to prove I actually saw one.



All of these animals are nocturnal so it is rare to see them during the day. It was a real treat to do a late night trek around the billabong at Wombat Bend. All-in-all I was able to tick off (that’s what they call checking off) nine more birds in my bird book – just from Sue and Bill’s place. Theonly animal I have yet to see is a wild echidna – I’ve seen a few dead along side of the road, and some at the zoos and reserves but not a live wild one. Our last night at  Wombat Bend and The Burrows B & B was magical thanks to Bill and Sue and their wonderful hospitality and friendship.

Posted in dogs, interesting facts, photos, words | 1 Comment »

More About Our Visit to Victoria

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on April 12, 2009



As promised here’s more about our trip to Victoria, Sue & Bill’s, and Melbourne. On the Sunday after our arrival, Sue, Fergus and I took Ascha and Emma, Sue and Bill’s girls, to the Airedale Picnic in Geelong. It was a lovely day and we were surrounded by many furries and their human companions. I’ve never seen so many Airedales in one place. It was hard not to see similarities to the four of our kids. The Australian ‘dales are much smaller – more like Terra was. There was one old guy who looked so much like Galen that we were moved by his presence.

We wished we had driven down to Melbourne so we could have brought our dogs to enjoy the day. Sue was kind enough to let Fergus and I have one dog each to chaperon for the day. Almost the entire group took their dogs for a walk in the park and towards the end of the afternoon many of the dogs were off-lead and romping around together – never straying from the pack.

Emma and I

Emma and I

Sue had packed a great lunch for the three of us and the little black noses were never too far away. We met some really great Airedale families many of the group having more than one dog. Everyone was glad to see Sue since it was the first time many of them have seen her since the fires.
The feast that Sue prepared.

The feast that Sue prepared.

Some of the group

Some of the group

On the way back to Wombat Bend the three sleepy heads napped in the back seat – Emma, Ascha and Fergus. Fergus was in heaven with one next to him and one on his lap. We had a great time.
Fergus and Ascha

Fergus and Ascha

What has ten legs and two noses? Two Airedales and 1/2 of Anne Marie.

What has ten legs and two noses? Two Airedales and 1/2 of Anne Marie.

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A Visit to Wombat Bend

Posted by Anne Marie Serrano on April 5, 2009

We finally got to Victoria and visited Bill and Sue and their four Airedales at Wombat Bend in Yarra Glen Valley east of Melbourne. It was a fantastic time. We spent three nights with them and were able to hear all about their battles with the fires. 



Their B&B is so cute. It’s a one bedroom and bath but it has a large living room and kitchen – the place is bigger than our house in Canberra if you exclude the extra two bedrooms. It was so peaceful and quiet. One early morning I heard and saw the hot air balloon go by –  it was magical. We were surrounded with Airedales, birds I hadn’t seen before and the billabong was full of ducks. In these pictures you can see their round house and the B&B with it’s surrounding veranda.








They are still doing a lot of cleaning up and also having their billabong dredged since the water is so low due to the drought. The silt that they are digging out of the billabong will be spread out over the property and the grass will eventually grow.



With the help of a neighbor they were able to save all their buildings, their cars and many trees but manyof their fence posts were gone. When we were there it was seven weeks after the fires and a soft covering of grass was visible in many of the burned out fields we saw. In these pictures you can see how close the fires came to their house and the B&B. The fences are their property line.

This isn't Fall color - it's burned leaves.

This isn't Fall color - it's burned leaves.












wombatbend13 These pictures are just a sample of the area around Sue and Bill’s house. We took a ride throughout other areas where entire hills and houses were burned to the ground – it was very sad. For those of you who where in the Bay Area during the Oakland Hills fires you will remember the look of the devastation – multiply that by acres and acres and that is how this area looks.

I was so relieved to see Sue, Bill and the dogs safe. It is scary to see how close they came to losing everything. It wasn’t luck however, they have been prepared to fight the fires for years because they knew it wasn’t a matter of if there would be a fire but when. Years of drought and a history of bush fires has made them even more vigilant. This is Australia after all.

Seven weeks after the fires the eucalyptus trees have already begun to sprout new branches from their charred trunks. More about our trip in upcoming blog entries.


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