Scribbles from Seal Cottage (Part 2)

Once more writing from our summer holiday home on Islay, this time as our week away is drawing to a close, with our ferry back home booked for 9am tomorrow and just one last day of exploring the island ahead of us today. 

This week has been one of the most peaceful holidays we’ve had, and there have been so many highlights in a restful few days adventuring at easy pace around the landscape. On Tuesday, we spent a lovely afternoon at the RSPB Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve, a beautiful expanse of land with amazing walks and dug-out hides in concealed wooden sheds where we could settle and watch hen harriers circling overhead and everything from wrens to buzzards swooping across the stillness of the hills.

We have spent days browsing tiny shops in tiny villages, local craft fairs here and there, cosying up with hot chocolates in hotel bars when the rain comes on and in the brightness of early evenings walking along huge untouched beaches where only the sheep contentedly lie.

In the middle of our week here, we decided to take a day trip across to neighbouring Jura, which was one of the most breath-taking places I have ever seen. With only 200 people there and 5000 deer, it is one of the wildest and least populated of all the Scottish islands, and we were so looking forward to seeing it, but it exceeded all expectations. I absolutely love rural Scotland, and there are so many corners where such incredible beauty can be found; but, within minutes of alighting on the island from the tiny drive-on ferry, I was absolutely speechless at just quite how incredible it was. Having pulled over to watch a buzzard circle overhead, we found ourselves at the vantage point of a whole group of red deer, antlers glinting in the sunlight, grazing, communicating and eventually taking flight across the hillside en masse, disappearing into a thicket of trees and leaving us amazed to have been able to watch such a breath-taking display. 

After a meander in the main village of Craighouse, a lovely lunch at the one and only hotel, a tour of the whisky distillery and a wander along the street, seeing the busyness of a Wednesday afternoon, with the mobile bank and fish van both parked up; we got back in the car and followed the road as far as we could, with the sea glinting to our right, Paps of Jura dominating the landscape to our left, and each twist and turn bringing new sights as we journeyed on. 

My favourite place we’ve ever been to outside Scotland is without a doubt Iceland, where we had our honeymoon three years ago and returned to last year, knowing we’ll be back again and again. The winding drive through such abandoned and completely still landscape did remind me of some of our drives up the hills there in the winter of 2014, gasping as we turned a corner to another incredible waterfall or reached a new height where the snow flakes were gently falling for the first time all year – yet what is so incredible here is the wildlife as well as the landscape. Reaching the end of the road, from where the most northerly points of the island can only be reached on foot, the last rural farm houses lying behind us, we again were face to face with a herd of deer, peacefully grazing in their untouched world. 

Back on Islay, strangely ‘busy’ by comparison in spite of being such a quiet island itself, we’ve trekked out to Finlaggan, the historic seat of the Lord of the Isles; stood on the shore at Bunnahabhain looking out to the most northerly point of the island; stopped still in the peace of ruined chapels, Celtic crosses weathering time, and warm working churches alike; and befriended the loveliest highland cattle around our little Portnahaven. 

By evening, we have more often than not been back at our cottage, and dropping temperatures have given the perfect excuse to light up the fire and settle in. We’ve done nothing but read at nights (many of my books animal or pet related which I look forward to writing about here too!) and for the pets, the evenings have been absolutely wonderful. 

The decision to bring them on this holiday was absolutely the best one. Just as we always enjoy having quality time to spend with each other when we’re away, we’ve enjoyed having quality time to spend with them too. Without all the demands of home life, we’ve sat peacefully for hours and the boys have adored curling up beside us with just the crackle of the flames. Perry, at home always on the go, has been uncharacteristically keen for cuddle, spreading out in the warmth and lifting his head whenever one of us has the audacity to stop stroking him. 

Marley has enjoyed mornings sat on the front doorstep, the sea air helping clear his wee lungs; and Reuben has again surpassed all our expectations by still being with us and what’s more still being content and happy. He’s eating, drinking, and enjoying time with his brothers and with us, which is all we can ask for. Have thoroughly enjoyed having them with us on our adventure. 

Looking forward too of course to getting back home again, and to bring reunited with the pony (who I’ve happily been provided with photos and tales of throughout the the week!); but this has been the loveliest week away and have truly loved Islay and Jura and all they have to offer. 

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. X


Rat round-up… 🐭🐭🐭

It’s been a hectic month or so for our little mischief, as – as always seems to be the way somehow – a run of easy care and fun since Christmas has been followed by one thing after another with the boys’ health. It’s just a few weeks since we lost our old boy Ty and since then both Reuben and Marley have been taking it in turns to be medicated, while Perry remains fighting fit but continues to be the one who is taking longest to adapt to his new surroundings and settle in the new house. 

Reuben is on round two at the moment of a Baytril / Loxicom / Ranitidine combo for a mystery illness – he really has me (and the vet!) stumped, seeming just generally unwell without anything to indicate the cause and help narrow down the treatment. Thankfully he is doing a lot better than he was, and making progress all the time, but time well tell whether we can get him cleared up completely. All we know is he’s had an upset stomach, been losing weight, seems not himself and, thanks to the vets doing a urine test which I was very grateful for, that he has high white blood cell and platelet counts, meaning he’s most likely to have an infection we can’t see. Hoping the meds he’s on will manage to treat it; and in the meantime am very thankful for what an absolutely star patient wee Rubes is – not only will he sit gently on my knee every night but he will drink any medicine from a spoon with just a dash of fruit juice – in all the anti biotics we’ve had to con our charges into ingesting over the years, we’ve never had it so easy… 💙

Marley, on the other hand, can sniff out Baytril a mile off in any substance and does NOT care for being syringed it… but thankfully we are almost through the other side of his treatment and his mild respiratory infection seems to be all but cleared up, with a much happier soul now we’re done!

The two of them over the last few weeks have been a little huddle on the settee of an evening, not up to their usual games to the same extent but opting instead for a more cosy vantage point and looking after each other well, they’re both such sweethearts.

Perry, meanwhile, has been taking the chance to explore around the room and, to my great relief, is finally starting to seem relaxed and playful in the new living room instead of edgy and unsure. For the first few weeks he seemed very afraid of his new surroundings, taking cover under a throw and keeping completely still – which led to us thinking we’d lost him more than once!! – and it was so unlike him and such a shame to see him jumpy instead of enthusiastically into everything like normal. Over the past couple of weeks though, bit by bit, he’s made the journey from his position hidden away to adventuring around and playing his usual games, in and out of books and corners… 💙

It’s certainly been a challenging few weeks with the boys – they bring so much exuberance and affection into our home when they’re well but it’s so difficult to know what to do for the best if they’re not themselves or unwell. In the last week or so though, really glad to see Marley feeling better, Perry finding his feet in the house and starting to play like his old self, and enjoying cuddles with Reuben and keeping fingers crossed for a recovery for him… 

My bundle 💙💙💙

Hope you are all having a lovely week. X 


Rat Tales – This week’s adventures with our mischief

Sitting by the Christmas tree as I write this, enjoying some quiet with Harvey in my arms, watching the twinkling lights – but life with the rats has certainly been anything but quiet generally speaking in the last week or so. We have taken up semi-permanent residency in our wonderful vets’ surgery, and could not be more thankful to them for all their help with the boys. 

Their intervention with Reuben was pretty much expected, as he has actually been seeing them every week in a fairly routine way – we had taken both him and Perry after the night the intros with Ty and Harvey went awry, just to be checked over and given some anti biotics for the couple of nicks they had picked up. Perry only needed the first visit and was right as rain but Reuben had a cut on his tail which, although it didn’t seem too bad at first, was in an awkward place for healing and as a couple of weeks went by the vet started to say that a partial amputation of the tail might become necessary. 
Eventually, at our appt on Saturday morning, it was clear it had; and as it was best to do it as soon as possible, Reuben went for his operation the same day. I really do my best to avoid general anaesthetic for the wee ones, they are just so small and although I’m so grateful for how much can be done to help them – and so grateful to be at a vets’ open to doing it – I always panic about putting their little bodies through that, and always want to try everything else first. This time though, there was no option. 

Waiting for the call made Saturday afternoon a long one but eventually heard from the lovely vet, who had been holding off as my wee boy did take an unusually long time to come round from the anaesthetic – but he had made it, and was resting up on a heat pad and charming all the staff. ❤️ He had had a very successful operation, leaving him still with half his tail remaining, which will really help him out in terms of balancing as he re-adjusts.

We were able to get him home again on Saturday night, as long as we picked him up in a cosy carrier with a blanket and hot water bottle, and – with the exception of pulling his bandage off his tail within two minutes of getting back home resulting in us all catapulting back up to the vets’ once more 🙄 – he has been the most perfect patient you could wish for. Contenting himself to curling in a towel in his tiny hospital cage, pottering between his food stash, his hot water bottle and his bed, he happily accompanied us everywhere we went in the first three nights, as he needed to be watched constantly to make sure he didn’t bother his stitches. Sunday and Monday were spent mainly in the living room with one eye on him and one eye on various one-star Netflix Christmas films, where he was so happy just to sit quietly in companionship, and every night he’d come through to the bedroom and sleep contentedly there, enjoying the extra perk of being lifted from his cage onto the bed for a cuddle. ❤️ He really is such a sweetheart, Reuben, he’s quite a special rat, and although I do feel absolutely awful that he’s had to endure all this in his short time with us, he has taken it all in his stride. He’s so intelligent and affectionate and has just used the whole experience to enjoy interacting with us and the vets and be his usual charming self.

By Monday morning I was starting to relax about him, seeing how well he was healing, and was looking forward to a quiet day off in the house with the boys, when Harvey suddenly appeared with no warning to be really unwell, lying flat on the floor of his cage having been fine a few minutes before, looking very strange and struggling to breathe. I phoned the vets who advised he should come up immediately, and my heart was in my mouth driving my poor dumpling up there wheezing and shuddering. It had all happened so fast but it had been horribly reminiscent when I picked him up first of all of some of the “absences” Pipkin and Chae had towards the end of their lives which they lost to pituitary tumours causing stroke-like symptoms. The vet who saw Harvey though thankfully thought it was more likely he just somehow managed to inhale something which temporarily blocked his airway and made him seem unresponsive for a moment, as the raspy breathing was all in his throat rather than chest, so gave him a steroid injection and some anti biotics to help clear up. 

We’re a few days in now and keeping my fingers crossed that that’s right – he does seem to be getting a little better, but is quite out of sorts – off his food a little for one thing 😳 which for Harvey, whose defining feature bless him has always been his over-large appetite, is quite something. He is still eating enough though, drinking, moving around and interacting with Ty normally and has been spending lots of time out for cuddles, and also sitting with me in the bathroom with the shower on (not in it, as seemed to be his fear the first time we did it!) as the steam is amazing therapy for their respiratory systems when they’re struggling.

(Harvey and Ty got their Christmas present early, as a comfy new bed seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for Harv. ❤️)

Both Harvey and Reuben will go back to the vets’ at the weekend again and hope that all will be well with them both. I’m still really quite worried about Harvey but for now glad to see small improvements and keeping everything crossed. 

Evenings have been full in the house between making sure poor Reuben has plenty of free range time away from his tiny cage; Perry has plenty of interaction with us as he’s a bit bemused and lonely in on his own; Reuben and Perry have supervised time together where they happily groom and play (but just can’t be left unattended just in case any harm came to the stitches); Harvey has plenty time on my knee as he’s been extra cuddly while he’s ill, and plenty of time in the steam too; and Harvey and Ty have their usual time out, Ty not neglected in all this in spite of being the cause of much of it! (Still reigning as the Tyrant – last night while cleaning out H&T’s cage, with them free ranging in the living room and Perry and Reuben beside me in their cages, nipped up to the living room for more Carefresh and Ty must have sneaked by me when I came back down, where he sat under the chair next to the cages squaring up to Perry through the bars before I spotted him and returned him up to the living room, where Harvey was obediently free ranging all by himself. 🙄)

All this puts Charmer in the unfamiliar position of being the least troublesome of all our pets! 😳 He has (thankfully!) been good as gold of late and is just thoroughly enjoying December, the happy routine of nights in, gentle walks across frosty ground in the morning and waiting, toes lined up by the door in the morning, for breakfast and advent calendar treats! ❤️

Very thankful, in spite of all the ups and downs, for all the pets, and for the extra time with them all, in and cosy, that winter seems to bring.

Hope you are all having a lovely week. X


Vet trip for Ty, and treat night back home… 

Our little mischief have been on a jaunt to the vets’ tonight as wee Ty had an abscess appear last night which was causing him pain and needed some attention. Poor Shy Ty has probably spent more time in my arms in the last couple of days than he has in the year and a half we’ve had him – he’s a lovely soul but a very timid one and given the choice when out free-ranging at night he will almost always choose a corner on his own or with Harvey. It was a testament to how much he understood though that we were trying to help him that he spent a lot of last night after a little salt bath cuddled on my knee bruxing away. 

Tonight was actually the first time either of the boys have visited the vets, even though their older cagemates Chae and Winnie were frequent patients in their time! Harvey and Ty have generally been much healthier and have never been packed in the carrier before and traveled, so took them both together for company and Harvey was a very kind nurse after Ty had been seen, giving him a spruce up…

The vet was able to take a look at Ty’s abscess, clear it a little and give him some antibiotics – thankfully the banana flavoured Septrin which all the rats I’ve had love, much preferable to attempt to administer than Baytril which by all their accounts so far does not taste as pleasant! She was also lovely enough to have a look at them both and give advice on their size which was great as I have been worrying they’ve been a bit on the round side recently – Ty weighed in at 625g but she was relatively happy with that given his build so really good to get some input – bruiser Harv was ok too but should certainly be allowed to get no bigger so will keep a wee eye on his waistline as always! 

Both boys traveled relatively well for their first time and even called by their biggest big brother on the way home, although they opted to stay in the car rather than join me on the walk down the field for the doling out of fly spray and treats…

Back home, we all had a restful night in, started the medicine which went down just fine and had some pasta and pesto and treat sticks which went down even better.. ❤ 

Little Rose had a new treat stick popped in too – just in case she was starting to feel left out 😉 –  and was making very short work of it as I was settling the boys down for the night…

All at peace once more, so signing off from our rabble. Goodnight all. X


Carefresh bedding

Had to share this photo of the set ups after their weekly full clean – looking very (I promise accidentally!) sexist in their distribution – Rosie’s girlie cage now bright pink and the boys’ blue one below! 

Didn’t quite mean to distribute so stereotypically but am in love with this Colours range by Carefresh – have used this brand for years, normally the brown or white or confetti, but really finding the Colours to make cleaning so much easier with any mess so easy to spot, and brighten up pets’ corner too! 

Everyone seems very settled and happy greeting the weekend after their Friday cage tidy, Rose testing her climbing frame and the boys lazing as they do best!

Happy weekend all. X