About Joyce Holmes

Joyce Holmes lives with her husband and two small dogs in the beautiful Okanagan region of British Columbia, Canada. The greatest of pleasures can be found in the simplest of things. Playing with puppies, reading, and spending time with family, especially the grandkids. Joyce enjoys photography and blogging about her travels, and when she’s not planning her next adventure, she’s off enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

Holly & Ava Need Your Help

I’ve set up a fundraiser to help my little sister, Holly Wanlin, and if you can find it in your heart to donate, I’d be forever grateful.

There’s never a good time to be faced with mounting vet bills, while also dealing with the emotional trauma that comes with a severely ill pet, but the financial hit has been particularly hard on Holly right now. Like so many people, Covid 19 has had a serious impact on Holly’s business, her sole source of income. She’s had to close her store for months, due to the pandemic shutdown, and has only recently been able to reopen.

You can find all the details about Holly and Ava’s situation at this Go-Fund-Me link.

Thank you so much for your kindness.

What Happened to Common Sense?

I’m going to go on a little rant, because if I keep my mouth shut any longer, my head might explode. I try to be a positive person, and I always want to see the best in everyone, but the stupidity of some people lately is more than I can stomach. I’m not a fan of calling people names, and ‘stupid’ might not always apply, although a lack of IQ is certainly in play in some instances. With others, maybe it’s political brainwashing, naivety, being uninformed, or believing what suits your own agenda.

I’m so tired of hearing the criticisms of how our medical scientists, both here in Canada and with the CDC in the States, have handled the coronavirus pandemic. This is a new virus, folks, never seen before. Naturally, advice is going to evolve over time as knowledge and understanding is expanded. Thank goodness we have well-educated, intelligent people working tirelessly to come up with answers, and as they learn more, the direction they take will change. This is progress, not waffling. That’s only common sense, which seems to be lacking lately.

For all the ‘brave warriors’ out there who’ve decided not to change their daily habits because of an ‘overblown reaction to the flu’, guess what? You’re not brave, and you’re not heroes. You’re selfish. Yes, there might be a small portion of the population who are a bit too paranoid, who take unnecessary precautions, but they aren’t hurting anyone. Their actions only impact their own lives. But the selfish ones, who refuse to curtail their activities, can have huge negative impacts, by spreading the virus to the more vulnerable. And some of these ‘warriors’ are now dead, as well. I guess their decisions didn’t work out very well for them, after all.

Then there’s people saying, “We’ve shut down our hospitals and ruined our economy for what? Nothing happened.” Uh, duh. Maybe nothing happened exactly because of the measures taken. Although, I highly doubt the families and friends of the over 330,000 people who’ve died as a result of the virus, or the millions who have been deathly ill, would say nothing has happened. Please, give your heads a shake, and stop staring at your own bellybutton.

I’m not downplaying the impact this virus and the shutdown has had on the economy, or all the other negative spinoffs. My heart breaks for those struggling to pay their bills and feed their families, or who are lonely and isolated. 100%, the economy has to reopen, but ‘getting back to normal’ isn’t the answer. Everyone has made sacrifices in the past months, some much more than others, and slowly, painfully, we’re gaining ground on this disease. Let’s not lose all that ground now. I’m so thankful that our various Canadian governments are choosing to heed the advice of medical and scientific experts, rather than putting their political agendas ahead of what’s best for the country.

We must continue to wash our hands, stay home when sick, keep physical distances, and wear a mask when unable to physical distance. This isn’t forever, but it’s for now.

In the words of the esteemed Dr. Bonnie Henry, who I greatly appreciate as a steady, compassionate and intelligent health officer for British Columbia, “Be kind, be calm and stay safe.”

Some Georgie & Bella Photos To Brighten Our Day

It’s a sad time for the entire world with this horrendous pandemic situation. I really miss my family, so I’m thankful for the company of my dogs, Georgie and Bella. They’re entertaining little monkeys, and they brighten my life, every day.

Georgie’s becoming a pro at posing (as long as her eyes are open), but Bella’s a real challenge. Take these photos from last fall, for example. Georgie’s a breeze.

Bella, on the other hand…

If I call her name, she comes to me – every time.

Or she thinks I’m mad at her and puts her ears down.

Christmas photos didn’t go much better.

Bella’s looking, Georgie’s eyes are closed.

Bella gets bored and lays down.

Georgie decides to join her.

Success! Sort of.

Bella wasn’t impressed with our first snowfall.

Georgie likes to warm up after coming in from the cold.

Bella’s an inadvertent photobomber.

Playing with our granddaughter is always great fun.

Georgie celebrated her second birthday in January. She’s smart, listens well, and hates to get in trouble. Her deep chest makes her look portly, but she’s actually a perfect five pounds.

She didn’t really know what to do with her special birthday treat.

Bella offered to take care of it for her.

Sometimes Bella guards the treats and toys, so Georgie can’t have any.

One time I locked her in the room with me, so Georgie could have a chew in peace. Poor Bella felt so sorry for herself.

When Hubby put new edging on the basement stair, Georgie refused to cross it. It took her months to conquer this silly fear.

Bella turned two in April. She’s a touch on the high-strung side, but is also very sweet and affectionate. She’s my shadow in the house, and follows Georgie’s lead outside. She’s finally put a bit of weight on her skinny frame, and is now about five and a half pounds.

Her birthday treat disappeared fast.

Georgie loves being in the yard, especially now that she can lay in the sun. Her favourite spot is the back flowerbed.

Bella never stays still for long, but will briefly join Georgie before something distracts her.

We’re fortunate that we have lots of quiet places to walk during this pandemic lockdown. Georgie’s enthusiastic about walks, although she tuckers out quicker than Bella. Bella stubbornly balks quite a bit before deciding to happily and tirelessly have a good romp.

I look forward to the day we can once again safely venture out with the dogs to explore our beautiful province and beyond. Until then, I’ll enjoy my simple pleasures close to home.

Free Codes For Dare To Risk All Audiobooks

I’m excited to announce that my publisher has given me a link where you can download a free copy of my audiobook, Dare To Risk All.

If you don’t have an Audible account you can log into audible with your amazon username and password. Claim your copy at https://freeaudiobookcodes.com/book_details.php?BOOK_ID=3390.

If the codes available says zero, please check back. More will be made available.

If you enjoy the story, please consider leaving a review on Audible. Thanks, your thoughtfulness is much appreciated.

Blurb:

Tessa Caldwell’s carefully structured world is thrown into chaos when the handsome stranger she had an uncharacteristic fling with reappears in her life. Ben not only gets the promotion she thought was hers, but is also intent on resuming their physical relationship. Although Tessa’s rational mind insists on a professional association, both her heart and her traitorous body have other ideas. Can her sensible nature possibly win against such temptation?

Memories of the petite blonde with large, blue eyes have haunted Ben Dunham for months. When he transfers to her branch, he anticipates picking up where they left off. Reality doesn’t match memory when the cool and collected lady wants no part of him. If he intends to pursue Tessa, he has to earn her trust. The problem is, Ben carries a dark and dangerous secret. How does he get Tessa to trust him when he can’t trust himself?

Can a forever kind of girl and a for-the-moment kind of guy take a risk on love?

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Georgie & Bella’s 2019 Adventures

Our pups, Georgie and Bella, had lots of fun adventures in 2019. And I had lots of practice trying to capture them having fun.
In April, we wandered the trails of Dilworth Mountain Park to enjoy the Arrow Leaf Balsam Root.
And, of course, I tried to photograph them with the flowers.
In May, we walked the Rail Trail along Wood Lake.
Bella would’ve gone for a swim if we’d let her.
Georgie cautiously stayed on shore to have her drink.
Also in May, we brought the girls to a birthday party. Georgie couldn’t have been happier to run and play.
Having my youngest son (her best bud) there, made her happiness complete.
Bella had her hair done for the occasion, and she acted the proper diva.
We attended Canada Day festivities at the waterfront. It was hot and busy, and the girls attracted lots of attention. On one of our water breaks, I tried to photograph them wearing their new harnesses. Tried.
In August, my entire family gathered at my son’s house. Such fun, with dogs, kids and toys to play with. Georgie even went in the pool. Sort of.
Bella snuck off through the fence, giving us a brief scare. She spent the rest of the day on her leash.
Georgie couldn’t believe the size of this tennis ball.
After a hard day of playing, Georgie napped with Daisy (who she loves madly).
In September, my son visited with a foster dog. They had great fun tearing around the yard.
We traveled to Penticton at the end of September. The pups were super good at the hotel.
Photo op in front of a pot shop.
First time up Munson Mountain.
Georgie always poses well, although she looked the same in every photo.
Bella’s the devil to get to sit still. Most of her pics looked like this.
Her best two.
In October, we hiked to Paul’s Tomb, on Knox Mountain.
I keep trying.
Also in October, we wandered the Mission Creek Greenway a couple of times.
Because they like to walk together, their leashes often become a tangled mess.
We tried a single lead on a stroll along the waterfront in October, and it seemed to work well, although Bella does pull Georgie around a bit.
It was a gorgeous fall day.
Georgie and Bella’s best adventures are playing in the yard with our granddaughter.
Fall leaves Playing outsideWith the colder weather, the fun has moved indoors, but it’s still great fun.
Looking outside

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And that wraps up another entertaining year with our little girls. We wish you all the very best 2020!

Furry Critters & Fall Colours

This past Sunday morning Hubby and I were given the opportunity to attend a photo shoot at the Warren Peace Bunny Sanctuary, followed by a tour of the facilities. It’s located near Wood Lake, here in the Okanagan, and has lovely lake views.

Sadly for the sanctuary, it’s currently closed to the public due to the danger from the deadly Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus. Hopefully this closure will be temporary, because the sanctuary depends on donations to care for the hundreds of rescued, abandoned or surrendered critters living there. These furry, feathered, two-legged and four-legged animals receive food, medical care and unconditional love while staying at the sanctuary. We were fortunate to visit with some of them.

There are two calves, and they’re quite vocal in seeking attention.

I heard goats, as well, but didn’t see them. We were focused on the bunny/guinea pig shelter. Bunnies are so cute.

The guinea pigs are equally adorable.

This bunny and guinea pig were cuddling together. So sweet.

The guinea pig equivalent of gathering around the water cooler.

Several cats live at the sanctuary, and they don’t hassle the bunnies or piggies at all. This sweet fellow wanted our constant attention.

I’m definitely not a fan of rats, but have to admit this fuzzy little guy and his buddy were rather appealing.

After our visit with the little piggies, we went outside to see some big ones.

Comically friendly.

The pig pen had a great view, too.

To see lots of fabulous photos, and learn more about the admirable work Annie and her crew of volunteers do, visit their Facebook page.

Because we were in the area without our pups, we decided to visit Kaloya Regional Park. This little gem is on the Kalamalka Lake side of the Oyama Isthmus, and it doesn’t allow dogs, which I find mildly annoying.

We first visited this park in the spring of 2016, and I was so enchanted by the picturesque cove, I vowed to go back.

We finally kayaked there this past summer, and found it every bit as lovely as it had been during our spring visit.

And its appeal extends into fall.

A trail encircles the park, but because we usually have our little dogs with us, we’ve never checked it out. It’s not very long or arduous, and it, along with the stop at the bunny sanctuary, certainly brightened an otherwise cloudy fall morning.

 

My Puppies Are Growing Up – Or Are They?

My little girls are no longer puppies. Georgie, my Chihuahua, is now nineteen months old, and Bella, my Papillon/terrier, is sixteen months, which technically makes them dogs. But they haven’t yet outgrown their mischievous and enthusiastic puppy personalities. We tried leaving them uncrated once while we went shopping and came home to a stuffy massacre.

They love playing in the yard. We supervise them closely outside, to shush them if they bark, and because they put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t, like rocks, twigs and bird feathers.

For several months, we had to pen them while owls lived in the tree next door. I still use the pen after dark, for their safety, and so I can round them up easily when it’s time to go in.

Bella usually has the advantage when they play.

A snoozing Georgie is too cute to resist.

In the morning, they enjoy snuggling together on my lap.

Bella sometimes lays beside me.

Hubby’s lap also works.

If our little granddog visits, we make room for her, too.

When the big granddogs visit, we have sleeping dogs everywhere – except on my lap!

Bella, my little shadow, is busier than Georgie. She likes to perch where she can keep an eye on the happenings outside.

Georgie will often join Bella to look (and bark) out the window.

Bella taught my son’s foster puppy the joys of looking outside.

Georgie loves playing fetch (Bella plays take-away). She’ll bring me one toy after another to entice me.

She’s also partial to squeak toys and will squeak them nonstop until she’s tuckered out.

Bella turned one in April, and she’s such a pretty girl. I wasn’t sure what she’d look like before she grew into those big ears, but her lovely long hair complements them perfectly.

I gave her a birthday chew stick, which she happily gobbled down. She’s definitely more food motivated than Georgie.

Georgie enjoys her walks. Bella’s getting better, but she doesn’t have Georgie’s love for it.

Georgie often coughed while walking, so we got them new harnesses, and the coughing’s stopped.

They’re terrified of my son’s cat when she visits. Tentatively giving her a sniff while she’s not looking.

Keeping a curious eye on her from a safe distance.

Carefully watching her from the security of my lap.

Uh-oh, she’s looking.

Georgie’s petrified expression is hilarious.

They adore my little granddaughter. Wherever the toddler is, the pups aren’t far away.

Reading to Georgie.

It remains a struggle to capture good shots of both pups together. Separately isn’t so bad.

And I occasionally get okayish candids.

But trying to pose them together is an exercise in patience. Usually I get several of these.

And if I’m lucky I’ll get a couple of these.

It’s all part of the fun, and I wouldn’t trade my precious little girls for anything.

Visual Effects is Available in Audio!!

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I’m excited and pleased to announce my second audio book, Visual Effects, is now listed on Amazon and Audible. I’ve updated my bookshelf with the new links, (as well as the links to Dare To Risk All’s audio book) but to make it easy for you to find them, I’ll include Visual Effect’s links right here.

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Audible.com

Audible.ca

If you’re not yet a member of Audible, your first book is free.

If you’re interested in receiving a free copy of Visual Effects in exchange for an honest review, please email me at joycemholmes@yahoo.ca or leave a comment below. Thanks.

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Our Great Horned Owl Nestlings Become Fledglings!

As I discussed in my last post, (click here for nestling pics) we were privileged to have a Great Horned owl family nest in our neighbourhood, giving us the incredible experience of watching three owlets grow from wee nestlings to sturdy fledglings. From mid-March to mid-April, we’d only caught glimpses of the owlets in the big crow’s nest next door. So imagine our excitement when we spotted this little one sitting out on a branch. Mama owl is to its right, and another owlet is in the nest, on the lower right.

This stage of development is known as branching, and the young fledglings, about six weeks old, hadn’t learned to fly yet. Hubby named this brave little one, Wanda.

Later that same day, Wanda’s sibling joined her for a super cute photo-op. Hubby named the second one, Heather.

Meanwhile, the youngest sibling who Hubby named Yon, remained safely in the nest. The names were Hubby’s play on “wander, hither and yon.”

The older two siblings began venturing out on a daily basis, and Hubby set up a chair, so he could watch the antics in comfort, using a camera and tripod to catch some excellent shots.

Although Mama no longer sat in the nest, we could usually spot her close by.

Sometimes she’d sit in the sun.

The baby yawns were too adorable.

From the start, the owlets were alert and very cognizant of their surroundings. They did a comical head bob if they spotted us watching them. They also intently tracked the movements of our little dogs, which was both amusing and disconcerting.

Look up, way up, and you’ll see the youngest owlet, Yon.

It started branching a full week later than the other two.

At about seven weeks old, Wanda and Heather began to practice flapping their wings, fly-hopping from branch to branch.

Sleeping baby. (Check out those talons!)

A sixth sense would somehow warn it of our presence.

Very aware.

Wanda and Heather were often together.

I’d hoped to capture a shot of all three owlets, but poor little Yon was always alone. It looked so lonely.

Some great close-ups. Such captivating eyes.

Owlets can fly short distances at nine-ten weeks, and are already as big as their parents. We didn’t get to see any of the babies actually fly. We knew the older two were leaving though, during the last week of April, because we often couldn’t find them in the tree. These photos, taken on April 30th, were the last time we saw Wanda and Heather (and mama).

Yon made one final, lone appearance the next day, then it too was gone.

It’s rather funny how emotionally invested we’d become in those three little lives, and how much we missed them when they left. For days, maybe weeks, we’d glance at the tree whenever we went outside, hoping against hope that one might come back for a visit. But nope, all we have left are our memories, a couple hundred photos, several comical videos, and a few feathers that our pup, Bella, had collected in the yard.

We’ve started letting our little dogs venture outside alone again, now that the owls are gone. But I still pen them and stay with them after dark, and I always will, now that I know what danger might be lurking in the shadows. Despite the worry and inconvenience, we’d gladly welcome the mating owls back next January, but it’s my understanding that the nest deteriorates so much during one season of use by a Great Horned owl that it can rarely be used again. The owls don’t build their own nests, preferring to take over an established one, so they’ll likely choose another location next year. Therefore, we’ll be thankful for, and lucky to have had, our one season of owls.

 

The 2019 Season of Owls

My first indication that we had newcomers to the neighbourhood came by text from our next-door-neighbour, late in January. He wanted me to know there was an owl in his big, old pine tree, so we should keep a close eye on Georgie and Bella, our four-pound dogs. It soon became apparent a pair of Great Horned Owls had appropriated an old crow’s nest in that tree.

From our carport, using binoculars, we could catch glimpses of the female on the nest.

Needless to say, the crows were very unhappy about the situation. Although they weren’t nesting yet, themselves, they didn’t want the owls around, and they tried mightily to drive them off. They’d swarm the tree en masse, over and over, cawing and screeching, (triggering my Hitchcock’s “The Birds” ptsd) but their efforts went for naught, and the owls stayed put.

A part of me was super excited to have the owls nearby. I hoped to see them fly, and to watch their owlets grow. Another part of me was nervous about having these predatory creatures around my tiny dogs. Friends and family began warning me of the dangers, and my concern grew daily, so I put in a call to conservation. The conservation officer confirmed there was potential danger, albeit not huge. He suggested never leaving the pups outside by themselves. Going out with them was inconvenient, but being winter, they were in and out quickly, so it wasn’t that bad. We set up a covered pen to keep the pups corralled.

The tarp terrified Georgie, so it didn’t stay on long. Because we were always right beside them, we figured an open pen would be safe enough.

Often while out with the dogs late at night, I’d hear the owls hooting back and forth; the female in the neighbour’s tree, the male from other nearby yards. It got so I could recognize their calls. The male had a deeper hoot, and the female’s was higher and faster. They were loud too, sometimes waking me up very early in the morning.

Great Horned owls typically lay one to three eggs in late January, a single egg every two-three days, although there can be as much as a week between laying. Incubation takes about a month, with the owlets arriving at the beginning of March. Their eyes stay closed for up to eleven days.

From our carport, we kept a steady watch on the nest using binoculars, and the female was always setting. Sometimes she’d be snoozing, but often she’d look right back at us, very aware of her surroundings.

Mid-March, our neighbour texted to say he’d spotted a baby. Unable to see into the nest from our carport, I visited our neighbour’s yard about ten days later. Usually the male owl didn’t roost in the same tree, but because the crows were being so persistently aggressive, he must’ve decided to hang around that day, much to my delight. It was my only opportunity to see the handsome guy.

There were two owlets visible, and I almost melted when I saw the wee balls of fluff. At this stage, they’re called nestlings.

And already so fierce looking, despite the downy plumage.

I had yet to see the mama leave the nest, although both parents would be out hunting throughout the night to feed the growing owlets. The adults’ resounding hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo became a routine occurrence, from ten pm to five am.

Two days after I’d photographed the owlets, I was in our backyard with Hubby and the pups. I didn’t usually let them run loose, but that day they were. Suddenly my neighbour yelled a heads-up to me, and I turned to see the female owl flying toward me. I mean – right toward me. My first thought was, she’s after one of my dogs. Before I could react, she’d flown by, her wings mere feet from my head.

Turns out, she wasn’t interested in me or my pups. To divert the pesky crows from the nesting tree, she’d flown to another big tree two doors down. I just happened to be in her flightpath. The crows made a hasty and noisy pursuit. More and more gathered as they swarmed the tree.

These were taken April 4th, so the owlet was likely about four weeks old. What incredible changes in less than two weeks. And just like its mama, it was very aware of me.

Its tiny ear tuffs were already starting to appear.

A few days later, we spotted Mama perched on a branch, enjoying a snooze in the sun.

She soon realized we were watching her, even though we were in our own yard.

Great shots of her ear tuffs.

Over the next week, I tried photographing the owlets from my carport, but it was difficult through the branches.

Their plumage began to change, taking on more mature colours.

Around this time we discovered there were actually three owlets. The youngest one must’ve hatched much later than the other two.

Meanwhile, Mama began to enjoy daily alone-time away from the nest.

An owlet can be seen in this one, to the lower right.

At six weeks old, the nestlings were about to become fledglings, and that’s when things really got cute. Click here for fledgling pics and stories.