© 2021, The McGees

The Hard Bits

May 26, 2019

Our 5th and 6th weeks in Dunedin bring change and challenge. We recognize that when you house / pet sit for multiple months, life happens…

Before we get too far into the thick of it, Tim and I hear a lovely young local musician, Jenny Mitchell, at the local Dunedin Folk Club. This is a homegrown event with local amateurs and family members making appearances - by far the best music we have heard here in New Zealand. Jenny Mitchell

After listening to Jenny’s soulful song writing (reflecting all of her 21 years), Tim and I make a wonderful visit to the Dunedin Botanic Gardens - in honor of our very first date, 36 years ago, to the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens. (Jenny ain’t seen nothin’ yet!) That day in May of 1983 feels like both a short time and a long time ago. What strikes us most, as we sit alone in a foreign country, is how happy we still are to be “adventuring” with each other (we are STILL happy after 9 weeks together here). We also feel deep gratitude to have each other for continued support through the rough parts.

To start out with, on the donkey front, we have a little snafu. Hoti, who is a bit hefty, has somehow ripped a girth and leg strap from his coat during one of the windy, cold nights. Fortunately the coat is still on his back when I discover the issue.

The homeowners direct me to a “cobbler” in town who can fix the coat. I find the protruding screw in the donkey’s hut upon which the strap probably caught, and Tim fixes it. Luckily both donkeys and the hut have emerged unscathed from this incident which, we realize, could have been serious.

Also sweet 12 year old Lucy is not doing well. She is slowing way down on the beach walks and her wheezing and coughing are increasing. After mentioning our observations to the homeowners in our weekly report, we agree to keep a close eye on her. When her breathing becomes labored, the homeowners recommend we get her to the vet. Antibiotics are begun but within days, our heightened concerns send us back.

Departing the vet office, deep in conversation about Lucy’s prognosis, Tim backs into a bush covered concrete wall. The dented bumper is not a big deal - could have been worse - but it adds to our increasing anxiety. We will tell the homeowners about THAT later, but for now we are camped out in the living room (with trusty sidekick Whistle) loving and caring for Lucy Lu as she hopefully recovers.

The homeowners, ourselves and the vet are now in direct communication with each other via phone and email . This way we can work as a team to do the very best for ailing Lucy. Having raised children and pets, we know too well how quickly life can veer off the routine path. But still, this all seems to have come on fast and it is certainly difficult for us. We can clearly imagine how hard this must be for the homeowners from afar.

We have left our own aging dog, Finnigan, in Sacramento with our son Riley and his girlfriend Sierra. So this situation hits very close to home, and our empathy is high. We reassure the homeowners that we have been through such times with our own family dogs and are ready to handle whatever comes in the days ahead for Lucy. This is why we are here - as trusted pet and house sitters…

Jenny Mitchell at the Dunedin Folk Club

36 Years Later

Dunedin Botanic Gardens

Visiting the desert

The rhododendron glen

Dunedin Botanic Gardens

Donkeys in coats

Hefty Hoti


Time with Lucy

Lucy with a little help from Whistle

Written by Julie and Tim McGee who live in Sonoma, California, USA and frequently elsewhere...