A COUNTRY DREAM BY TALIA HOBLEY | april 2017
Moving to Far North Queensland was one thing, but to purchase a business was another. My plan to do either wasn't really on the cards, but I'm thankful I have had the opportunity to give them both a red-hot crack. However, I was recently having second thoughts when there was a real potential threat for a cyclone. What did I expect, really, living in a state that has the potential for cyclones and rough weather?
To be truthful, it passed through my mind for an instant and then I thought to myself, ‘She’ll be right, it won't happen here’. Well, how wrong and far from the truth I was. Never again will I sit there and think ‘What are these people whinging about? A bit of wind and rain all swirling around together, right?’ It's not until you experience something like Cyclone Debbie that you get a true appreciation of the force and magnitude of something like this and the impact it can have on people's lives.
We were fortunate; we still have a house, a roof, a fence and a driveway – and, most importantly, us. We lost power, have a phone service that is still intermittent, and had a whole heap of mud, trees and leaves to clean up. We are in Mackay, not even where Cyclone Debbie made landfall, and still we have a mess to clean up. I couldn't imagine all the people who live or have a business in Bowen, Airlie Beach, the Whitsunday Islands and parts where the cyclone affected – people who are still without power, drinking water and sewerage, and people who have had their houses flooded or roofs flung off and tossed around like clothes in a dryer.
I wasn't worried about the house or the land; I was really concerned for all the cats and dogs that we have staying with us. These people have left their animals with us because they trust us – 12 cats, 19 dogs, and not to forget Zuma, Chase and Ginger, the three guinea pigs that we are also looking after. This number of animals in the kennels is not something I would usually be concerned with, but this time I was. To tell the honest truth, I was worried as hell. I dreamt of dogs and cats being sucked into some massive wind tunnel. I'm pretty sure it was a tornado that I was dreaming about, and strange dreams occur when you’re stressed.
Let's go back to when it all happened...
A news report came in last week to say there was a tropical low forming out in the Coral Sea and that there was the possibility of a cyclone forming over the weekend. I got straight into preparations. Even if nothing was to come out of it, it's always good to prepare for these things. I had already started to stock up on food with the start of the school holidays to soon be upon us. Dragging out the generators and giving them a dust-off and a turnover is where it started.
By the weekend the cyclone had now formed and been named Debbie. I actually know quite a few Debbies, those who sometimes carry quite a lot of puff and blow up when things start to get out of hand. But on the flip side, I have a great friend named Debbie who is fun-loving, caring and colourful, so I thought if the name was anything to go by we would either be in a lot of trouble, or this cyclone was gently going to blow in, be colourful and soon fizzle out. It turned out to be the raging, blow-a-lot-of-puff kind of Debbie that I know.
At least the one good thing that to come out of a cyclone is that you at least have time to prepare. If it was something that came up out of the blue, there would be a lot more damage and potentially lives lost, so I suppose we can be thankful for that.
So after the generators got a dusting off, I decided to study all the backgrounds of the animals already with us and the ones who were planned to arrive. I wanted to check their files to see if there were any notes indicating that they were afraid of storms and if any medication or treatment was used to help calm the situation. Some animals cope really well and completely ignore what's happening outside, but we do get the occasional dog or cat that does not cope very well. Symptoms can range from shaking, panting and not eating to the extremity of trying to claw their way out, which can cause injury.
On Monday, the breeze picked up to a strong wind, and we were informed that Debbie was on her way and due to make landfall anywhere between Bowen and Townsville in the next day or two. We were warned it could easily reach a Category 4. All I have ever experienced from living in country Victoria is a severe storm that may last for an hour, not three days like Debbie. So the generators were on standby, jerry cans full, food stocked up, extra water buckets filled, all the yards cleaned, shade sails pulled down, and beds, blankets, pools and whatever else could possibly be picked up and flung around was all put away. That was a massive task in itself. We were prepared as much as we could have been for the unpredictable. I did have some relief, though. Debbie was now due to make landfall during the day, which is better than hitting at night, I suppose. At least you can see the pouring rain, trees blowing around and any damage to infrastructure in daylight, rather than waking up in the morning to a war zone.
On the Monday night and every other night after that until it was all over, we placed every dog into our office blocks. These are buildings made of large concrete blocks, which seemed to be the strongest and safest option. Their leads were placed on their pen door in case there was an evacuation emergency. With all our little dogs, we had large cages all stacked up so that, if needed, they could be placed into a cage and carried out ASAP. All the cats were placed into their cages and brought up into the house where they would camp for the night with us. Unfortunately, it was not an ideal situation for the cats, but I would rather see them safe and not flung around in the air if the cattery roof was to be torn off.
The weather deteriorated rapidly. I knew that the next couple of days were going to be a set of long, sleepless nights until the weather was to calm down. I have never seen rain and wind like that over the duration of Debbie. I thought to myself that once she had made landfall, surely she would fizzle out, but how I was wrong. As we were on the southern side of the cyclone, we copped gale-force winds, and recorded at the kennels a total of 23 inches of rain! Definitely not as bad as some other poor people who had to endure Debbie full on. I checked on the animals during the night every two hours. They all seemed to be coping really well, which I was surprised about. During Tuesday and Wednesday, the dogs didn't get much of a run. It was just too hard in dangerous winds and torrential rain. I felt really sorry for them, but they were dry, safe and warm.
The animals and all of us pulled through really well. Lots of trees and branches and five days without any power was a challenge, but we survived. The generators ran the pumps so we could hose out the yards every day and kept all of our pet mince frozen and cold. It was slightly inconvenient with power leads going from this pump to that freezer, but our inconvenience was nothing compared to what others had and still have to go through. I could not imagine still having no power and am extremely sympathetic for those who are still battling along and will be for quite some time. Since I moved here, I’ve learned that Queenslanders are resilient and strong and will bounce back from this. We’re thankful that operations here have returned to normal, and it's great that we’re starting to get the holiday rush that we thought may not happen.
Good luck and best wishes to all those out there who have been affected by Debbie's presence. Our thoughts and hearts go out to those people.
A COUNTRY DREAM BY TALIA HOBLEY | MARCH 2017
They say that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – the same goes for doggies too! I thought I would share a couple of food ideas we use here at our kennels that will have your four-legged friend on two, begging for more. Not only is looking after animals and buying Australian products a passion of mine, cooking is another one to add to the list. I can’t say I’m that good, but I do love making a mess and trying new and exciting recipes. This goes for cooking up a storm with doggie dinner and treats too. It’s like being on My Kitchen Rules, I suppose; using fresh ingredients, experimenting and having a very serious judging panel of at least 20 to rate food is always a challenge. If the bowls are licked clean and a treat is snatched from the hand, it’s usually a score of 10 out of 10… Well, I think so anyway!
Let’s start off with something really simple and easy that’s also great at the moment in the hot summer months. We find that using chicken rather than other meats is a lot gentler on dogs’ tummies, so that’s why you won’t see any beef or pork products listed here. I love making these treats for the dogs. I tend to make at least 60 at a time and I’m sure they have a proper name, but we call them Summer Icy Cups. To make the Icy Cups you just need chicken, chicken stock (choose low-sodium), boiling water, and ice-cream containers or plastic cups to freeze. SIMPLE!
First off, I usually purchase chicken that is either reduced or on special – it’s heaps cheaper and perfectly okay to use. It may consist of breast, tenderloins, strips, chicken necks or basically anything you can get your hands on. I tend to buy drumsticks for the larger dogs. I slice up the chicken into small pieces and make sure that any bones are removed, as this chicken will be cooked in the microwave. (As I mentioned, I usually get drumsticks for the larger dogs. These are not cooked as obviously they contain bones. I’m assuming everyone knows the rule of thumb not to give cooked bones to doggies! Raw bones are great as it also helps to clean their toothy pegs.)
So after the chicken is all diced up, I mix up the chicken stock using boiling water. Try to purchase a low-sodium stock as it’s obviously not as salty. After the stock is dissolved, wait for it to cool down and then divide it evenly up into appropriate containers. I like using plastic cups or ice-cream containers for large dogs. Place some chicken or drumsticks into the cups/containers and place into the freezer until frozen. Dogs love them and they’re great for filling in their time, keeping up their fluids and hiding a tasty reward at the end. Go on, try them – I guarantee they will be a hit!
At the kennels, we give everything fresh to our dogs. Cats are a little harder, so tins of tuna are often a winner. Spending a full day in the kitchen once a week is not out of the norm. We try to buy everything in bulk: our chicken mince, vegetables and rice. Once a week we head into the kitchen, get out the aprons, pots and pans, and cook up a storm. We can spend hours in there at any time, either boiling up veggies, cooking brown rice or making tasty, healthy treats. I can’t always say that the veggies are a hit with the dogs, but once they’re in our chicken mince, it seems to be a different story. We purchase our chicken pet mince from a local butcher in 100kg lots. (If anyone would like their details, let me know as I am happy to point you in the right direction.) It’s actually really quite healthy for dogs and quite inexpensive at the same time. Admittedly it can be a little time consuming, and 100kg is a lot for a family with just one dog, but we freeze it fresh and just get it out the night before, add our cooked veggies and rice, and voila! It looks good enough to eat… Well… Maybe.
One more idea that I would like to talk about is our healthy dog treats. Now these are a real hit!
Good Dog Treats (recipe originally sourced from marthastewart.com)
Usually makes about five dozen (depending on size of the treat)
1 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock (plus more for brushing)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oat bran, yeast and salt. Set aside.
Place oil in a large bowl; add stock and flour mixture in three alternating batches, beginning and ending with stock. Mix well.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough, to about 3/8 inches thick. Shape biscuits using a bone shape (or any cookie cutter really). Line a tray with baking paper and place the cut-out treats on, then bake for 10 minutes. Take out of oven and brush the tops with leftover chicken stock, place back in oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Turn off oven, leave door open and let completely dry for about 1 1/2 hours. Store in airtight container.
I hope you all get a couple of ideas or have a go at making a treat or two! Your fur babies will thank you!
A COUNTRY DREAM BY TALIA HOBLEY | FEBRUARY 2017
LIFE IN THE COUNTRY
I’ve taken a break from the kennels for a week and travelled back to stay with some close friends from my home town in country Victoria. It’s definitely been a hectic month or two with Christmas and school holidays, so a well-needed break was on the cards. The wet weather has made quite a few people cut their holidays plans short and arrive back earlier than scheduled to pick up their beloved cat or dog. Numbers have reduced dramatically since Christmas, but we still have the same procedures and roles; it just doesn’t take as long to complete them. However, since all the rain and wet weather, the lawns need to be mowed more frequently – I’m sure they grow within the blink of an eye. To mow our lawns is a full-day event, so doing it twice a week at the moment seems to swallow up a bit of time. I’m sure all you far-north Queenslanders know exactly what it’s like!
So back to my time away in Victoria. It’s a very sad story so I feel that I need to share. Travelling from Brisbane to Melbourne, I was fortunate to get a window seat, and from 39,000 feet I could already tell that where I was heading was going to be dry. You can see it: a beautiful painting of all sorts of greens, which then turned to a dull combination of browns and yellows.
I had heard from friends that ‘home’ had changed and it wasn’t the way it once was, but I thought to myself, ‘Surely it couldn’t be that bad’. It was something that I had to see for myself. Yeah, we had been in drought for years and things were dry, but when I left Victoria, I left the water restrictions that I once adhered to; brown paddocks are few and far between up here in Mackay at the moment.
So travelling from Melbourne to my country town was definitely a heartbreaking scene. The lush green paddocks that were once filled with dairy cows freely eating have all disappeared. I never took much notice when I lived there. Every second paddock used to look like that and I never thought any more about it. Now it’s all dry paddocks, no water, unmaintained fences and definitely no cattle! How could this be? Drought? Could it be that famers are faced with deep financial situations due the slash in farm gate milk prices? Our town in was in the centre of the dairy industry and Murray Goulburn, a large co-op, was fully functional, with milk tankers picking up load after load of milk to take back to the factory. Spending a week there, I did not manage to see one milk tanker, let alone any farms that supply to the factory – truly a very sad scene.
On one of the days visiting I decided to head back to my old employer, the local vet clinic. For a clinic that was once a large animal practice for the majority, it has now had to take a complete turn. Farm visits for calvings, sick cattle, bloat, pregnancy testing, footrot and many other interesting cases are all now few and far between. Even the biggest clients have sold their cattle and are living on dry farms, or have sold their once extremely wealthy farms for what I’m sure would be a loss.
I could have spoken about the kennels this month once again; however, I thought I would share another passion of mine. Not only am I passionate about animals, I also have a passion for supporting local dairy farmers. Next time you head to the supermarket to buy the essentials and milk is in that list, please take a minute to think about supporting these very hardworking people. Steer clear of unbranded supermarket products and spend a couple more dollars buying Australian brand-name dairy.
A COUNTRY DREAM BY TALIA HOBLEY | JANUARY 2017
MY COUNTRY BUSINESS- JAIMON BOARDING KENNELS AND CATTERY
I thought that some may be interested in all the behind-the-scenes that running a boarding kennel and cattery involves, especially over the festive season, so what perfect timing to share and explain what each day can be all about here at Jaimon. The beauty of it is that no day is exactly the same. Well, that’s not entirely true – we still do plenty of hosing, feeding and poop picking-up, that never changes – but the different personalities of the dogs and cats is forever changing. One day you have perfect animals that love attention, the next day you have a cat that is trying to claw you to death or a guard dog that has a bark that comes from its boots!
It would be nice to sit back, take a minute to reflect on the happenings throughout this year, share the Christmas spirit and be with loved ones, but this is our busiest time at the kennels. Families have trusted that we give their fur family member the love and happiness they would be having at home with their owners, and we endeavour to do this to every single one.
Sure, I usually cook at Christmas, but never did I think that I would be baking and decorating just on 500 doggie treats. I think I’m just about all baked out. This is probably one of the biggest tasks that I have encountered for a while. It’s probably up there with childbirth – well, kind of, anyways! I think for the past week I have been dreaming about bone- and star-shaped cookies, but I love it and it’s all for a good cause.
So on Boxing Day, whilst I’m sitting here typing away, we have housed just over 106 dogs and nearly 55 cats tonight in our kennels. I literally live about 100 steps from the kennels and at the moment all I can hear is the traffic on the highway. People are shocked when I tell them I never hear the dogs during the night. It’s so silent! It’s been a huge week. It’s been a fair few 4.30am starts and about an average of 27K steps per day according to the Jenny Craig pedometer. Best five bucks I have ever spent! If it means that all the animals are clean, happy, healthy and comfortable, then daybreak starts it is.
We start off by letting all the dogs out in their exercise yards; some are paired up with a mate and others are run by themselves. Ever-changing personalities always distinguish this. We don’t have one central area where they all go as this is just a recipe for disaster! We never put dogs into a situation where we are unable to control. So no one large pen with 15 dogs! We then busily get to cleaning all the pens, which follows a certain cleaning regime. It’s not just hosing and then putting the dog away – it’s so much more. It’s picking up any faeces, it’s tipping out their water, it’s spraying the walls and floors with a cleaning agent, it’s scrubbing these with a broom, it’s hosing out the yard, it’s refilling their bowls with fresh water, it’s scraping out the excess water, it’s deodorising their beds, and all this gets done twice a day.
We then go to each yard and interact with the dog/s. Whether it’s throwing a ball or just sitting next to them for a pat and chat, it’s something that I make sure is done with EVERY animal. We try to keep the doggies out on the grass for as long as possible, about three to four hours, weather depending of course. Most of them just lie on the grass but I’m happy with that. I much prefer them to be on grass rather than concrete.
That’s just the dogs – we haven’t even started with the cats. They follow a similar cleaning regime too. However, we don’t let all our cats out at once. If that was to happen I’m sure there would be fluff going everywhere! We are pretty lucky with our cattery. Not only do the cats have their own beds, we have social common areas where they can use scratching poles, eat catnip and cat grass or relax in the roof on a bed or two. Once all the cat pens are cleaned, fed and cuddled, it’s back to the dogs for cleaning up yards, medicating, feeding and giving out treats. They are usually penned for a couple of hours for lunch and nap time before the same process starts in the afternoon again. Meanwhile, washing is done, phone calls are made and answered, emails and Facebook requests are attended to, whilst we have had a flood of animals arrive and depart. That’s also not counting the 20 acres that we need to maintain and look after. That has gone by the wayside this last week... It’s making me tired thinking about it! Surely it will quiet down soon... So in saying that, it’s time to pack up the laptop for the night and head to bed before it’s rise and shine again!
A COUNTRY DREAM BY TALIA HOBLEY | DECEMBER 2016
Growing up in the country was great. My brother and I were very fortunate to experience opportunities that some other children did not. My favourite was picking field mushrooms. We would traipse through the paddocks in search of the biggest ones that we could find not covered in cow dung. I'm sure that Mum dreaded it when we would arrive home thrilled to pass over a bag full of mushrooms. To think about it now, I can't remember ever seeing these on our plates at dinner and come to think more into it, all of our family members didn't really eat mushrooms.
So I grew up outside a small country town on the Victorian border. It's a close-knit town where everyone knows each other and a quick trip to the shops always turned into a lengthy process catching up with this person and that. But I loved it and wouldn't have had it any other way.
I always had a love for animals, large and small. We always owned dogs, birds, horses, cats, fish, chooks and cattle. We had a wicked vegetable garden that seemed to be forever producing all sorts of yummy goodies to eat. Through Secondary College I elected for as many agricultural and outdoor classes allowed. Anything I could to get my fix of the great outdoors and take in all that fresh beautiful country air. I remember a requirement of one of my classes was to incubate duckling eggs. Once they had hatched it was the student’s responsibility to raise the chicks, but somehow I always managed to be the one taking all of them home to join our constant growing fur-family. My career path was to be a veterinarian, however, my grades unfortunately did not 'cut the mustard'. I knew that my love for animals would only be a hobby rather than a career, until I landed my dream job working at the local veterinary clinic when I finished year 12. Living in the dairy farming district, the clinic dealt with mostly large animals but I didn't care; I was happy. I absolutely loved that job... Hang on! Let's rephrase that. It wasn't a job at all, it was a place that I loved to go and never once did I not want to be there. The pay was dismal and the hours were long but I didn't care. I was the luckiest person alive. I learnt so much and could reel off any animals’ names, but was hopeless with the owners. Seven years quickly travelled past and due to a marriage breakdown I had to unfortunately hand in my resignation as the weekly wage did not cover the bills. You worked not for the money but for the love. I soon realised that although I lived in a small country town where everyone knew each other, it came with a downfall too where everyone knew your business. I'm sure you were the talk of the town for a week and then the conversation soon moved on to another poor soul.
For the next nine years I was to work for the local government. The pay and conditions were fantastic. Employment was few and far between. Let's face it; no one wants to willingly pay their rates, and I was fed up with the negative and irate rate-payers (I was a rate-payer too, just like everyone else). I decided to head home after a long day and call for a family meeting to put my proposal forward to them. To my surprise, my partner and recently retired parents jumped at the idea. What was I getting myself into! Houses were sold and the move to sunny Mackay was now in reach. So here we are. We travelled over 2,500km with four dogs, a cat, a bird, four fish and a freshwater yabby aka Yab Yab. It wasn't until then that we stumbled across this fantastic business that we now call ours and proudly at that.
Jaimon Boarding Kennels and Cattery in Sarina was looking for some fresh owners who were willing to take on the challenge. I had my mojo back, my dream to work with animals again was real, and the business was soon sold to our family. That was in March of this year and we have not looked back. The facility is fantastic and we aim to make every fur-baby's experience a happy home away from home whilst they holiday with us. We have so many fantastic ideas and hope to start rolling them out in the new year. We treat all the animals as if they were ours and each one is so special to us. Our kennels are set on approximately 20 acres, with large grassed areas where dogs can lounge around in the sun, freely dig holes or chase a ball or two. Our cattery contains common areas where cats can socialise, play, relax or walk freely around at their leisure. We are so happy to have this opportunity and cannot wait to see where this road takes us.
I love that life seems to be so much more carefree and things move at a slower pace compared to the hustle and bustle of the city. As kids, we were so excited to see the first and only set of traffic lights installed in town, to be used only as a pedestrian crossing. Peak traffic only lasts for 15 minutes at school pick-up and drop-off times. I love that you can look up and see stars shining at night and that the only lights you can see are the neighbours’ off in the distance. Country living is a fantastic lifestyle for kids. Space to run, climb trees, build cubbies and explore, which is something that we did as soon as the school bus dropped us off every night.