life on a south pacific island

the biggest surprise for me about our move to nz has been how much i enjoy living on the coast and spending time at the shore.

i’ve never been a big ocean person before despite living over 20 years in boston. and i still have no interest in going to the beach to lie down on a blanket and get a tan – but most of the nz coastline is too rugged for that anyway and is great to walk along. the rock and tides make it a new experience every time. and something that i can’t explain is that if i didn’t know better i would swear that that water was fresh and not saltwater. previously i always felt sticky and gritty as soon as i got out of the water – but not here.


just a few blocks from our house is island bay with the local fishing fleet. island bay is one of the oldest settlements in wellington and founded by italian fishermen. unfortunately there’s not much evidence of the italian culture left in town (i’m trying my part to reverse this with my italian scooter). you can see in the 2 photos below the island bay shoreline is a mix of clear and rocky areas. during the warm weekends there is always a group of local kids swimming and having a great time in the surf.

gromit has become quite the ocean dog – scrambling over the rocks and wading through the surf. his favourite activity is fetching the tennis ball that we throw just a few feet into the surf. what amazing me is how he immediately knew how to time waves and that if he waited the ball would come to him. in the gromit-has-his-long-list-of-issues camp, after we’ve had our fun at the beach and everyone is quite wet, gromit totally cowers in fear of getting rinsed off with the hose. running in the ocean, timing the crashing waves, scrambling over rocks – no problem. a bit of water from a garden hose – no way.

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a bit to the west is siren rocks – a very popular place for snorking and kayacking. we take our beach chairs and hang out whenever the weather is good. gromit is on high alert when i’m out snorking.

notice the

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the map below shows island bay. near the top of the bay you can see the fishing fleet and counter-clockwise around the bend the pier and then the first rocky bit of our shore. further down where the shoreline bends to the left is siren rocks. the island right off shore is taputeranga. it is the small island visible some of our shoreline photos and movies.

island bay shoreline.tiff

the hills in the distance of many of our photos is another part of the lower north island – on the right in the map below.

lower north island.tiff

i’ve added some mini-movies of our times at the shore on the media page.

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island bay surf

high tide

howdy neighbors

island bay beach is closed to dogs from 9 am to 7 pm during daylight saving time so our new weekend ritual is to head off a bit before 8 and spend the early morning at the beach. at 9 it’s time for everyone to wash their feet / paws. we then stop for a coffee and egg&bacon pie.

a bit east of island bay beach is princess cove. a really fantastic place to spend some time. you’re on a bit of a peninsula with lyall bay to your left and the cook straight directly in front.

today we shared all this with one family + dog and a classic group of pensioners having a picnic out of the trunk of their car.

but by far the highlight of the day was clear sky giving us a clear view of the south island and the snow capped peaks of the southern alps. unfortunately my pocket camera that has served me so well didn’t capture the view very well.

this is where we live

yesterday and this morning jackie and i went for a walk with gromit down to the beach.

a quick few blocks and we’re there.

(click any for larger image)

the coastline reminds me of portland – wild and rocky in places, calm beaches in others.

gromit was a bit skeptical about the whole ocean thing but then all of sudden decided he liked it. today he went for two swims.

(“I’m not so sure about this” / “ok – i like it”)

(the local fishing fleet / i guess even dogs can get caught with their eyes closed during a photo)

( digging to china spain / waiting for breakfast from the bakery)

this is from a month back but one of my favourite views is looking down on the city and harbour from the botanical gardens. on jackie’s first day here i made sure to take her there for the view. there are a few images that continue to strike me. this is one of them.

each time i experience them i say to myself “this is where we live!”

parole hearing

yesterday marked gromit’s 30th day in quarantine – and after a final check by the maf vet he was cleared to go.

one more big milestone. we’re all together again.

2 weeks until final milestone – container arrival.

(let’s go!)

after we arrived home gromit gave the place a thorough inspection and declared that it would do. an hour after arriving he was asleep on the bed.

(surveying the new neighborhood)

quality family time

we went up to see gromit today. i’m making the trip once each weekend with jackie and she’s doing it on her own twice during the week, so gromit gets 3 visits during the week.

gromit is continuing to do very well. when we arrived he was lounging on his cot out on the patio.

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after bouncing around for a couple of minutes (no dental damage this time) gromit was ready to play. he went full steam for 45 minutes until he collapsed in exhaustion on his cot.

one happy dog.

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family portrait

can a vet fix broken teeth?

no real surprise that jackie was quite eager to get up to quarantine to see gromit after his big adventure. added bonus is that is real is a spectacular drive.

View Larger Map

when we walk into gromit’s room just like yesterday he is bouncing around beside himself with happiness. jackie sits down on the floor to be on his level and then i hear the sound that makes my blood run cold. it’s a crunch that i’ve experience myself (with cosmo about 10 years ago) and has no happy ending. gromit has just bounced under jackie’s chin and that crunch was her teeth. i look over and she is now spitting our little white bits.

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(artist interpretation)

now a brief pause while jackie take’s inventory of the damage and we decide if we get to experience nz rural sunday afternoon dental care.

best we can determine 4 teeth have minor chips but nothing serious.

the rest of the time with gromit was great and he seems to be settling in well. we brought him 2 of his favourite toys (snow kitty and a tug toy) and that made him *very* happy. after an hour of serious play time gromit was exhausted and we were on our way back to the city.

britney, lindsey & gromit

all committed to 30 days at a private remote treatment facility

a bit distracted all day waiting for news about gromit. i was keeping an eye on the nz air website for updates on his flight from auckland to wellington. at 1200 after he had been on the ground for 30 minutes i couldn’t wait any longer and called shado-lans to ask when gromit would be arrive at quarantine. turns out my call was forwarded to one of the owner’s cell phones who said that she had already picked up gromit and was on the way to their facility. hats off to them for being at the airport for gromit’s arrival. that saved almost 90 minutes off gromit’s time in the shipping crate. i packed up my things and asked (more like told) my boss if i could head out and was on my way.

about 2 hours later i arrived at quarantine, signed in, donned my paper booties (a rule for all visitors – don’t know why) and was taken back to gromit’s new home. all the residents are kept in solitary confinement individual accommodations with two rooms. one interior room with tiled floor, table, 2 chairs, radio, heater & dog bed. there is a sliding door that connects to the second room that is has one one wall that would be open to the outside save for a floor to ceiling chain link fence. there is another dog bed outside along with his food and water. when i arrived gromit was sitting at his fence looking outside. he had the look of “where in the world am i and what has happened?” from his perspective he was enjoying his road trip with jackie and the old people (her parents) and then all of a sudden he is locked in a box, bounced around, driven, flown, in darkness and in light, in loudness and in quiet, and finally released into this strange place all by himself. when i walked in he barked and then when he recognized me bounced around with uncontrolled happiness for several minutes.

it was great to make him happy and for me to see him after almost 10 weeks.

we played for quite a while and then he flopped down in exhaustion. one tired dog.

i stayed from about an hour and then headed back to wellington. i made the mistake of looking back as i was getting in my car and there he was watching me from his cell porch. mental image burned into my brain to weigh on me for the drive home.

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