Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Seismic Lab

December 30, 2015


Yesterday’s 4.9 earthquake, felt by people in the area of Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island down to Seattle, prompted me to share this story, which was first published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? (2014). Unfortunately, Dylan, the dog in the story, is no longer with us, and our new dog does not have the same talent (the photo below is Dylan looking heroic, about the time the story took place).


Our dog Dylan was a lousy watchdog. He was a large Lab mix and had the potential to be intimidating. But instead of barking when strangers came to the door, he’d greet them with an eager wag of his tail.

One night, my husband Craig left Dylan in our van parked by the ice arena where Craig was playing hockey. Dylan was happy hanging out in the van (he always jumped in as soon as we opened a door, never wanting to be left behind). And Craig figured the presence of a big dog would be a better deterrent to would-be thieves than a car alarm. When Craig came out of the arena near midnight, he was surprised to see Dylan running loose around the parking lot. It took Craig a moment to register that the van was gone. Not only had Dylan not deterred the car thieves, he must have happily jumped out of the van to greet them when they forced open a door (which was just as well, because we’d rather have lost the van than Dylan).

Despite Dylan’s failing as a guard dog, we soon learned that he had the ability to raise an alarm of a different kind.

From the time we first adopted Dylan from a local animal shelter, he slept in a crate in our bedroom. When Dylan wasn’t yet house-trained, we locked him in the crate at night. Later, we kept the door open and Dylan would head into the crate on his own as soon as Craig and I began preparing for bed. The crate became a place of sanctuary and security for Dylan. When anyone mentioned the word “bath,” Dylan instantly hid in his crate. It was, therefore, out of character one night when Dylan refused to go into his crate. We pushed and coaxed, but he would not get inside. Instead, he slept on the floor at the foot of our bed. The next night was the same.

Coincidentally, shortly before this episode, I had been doing some research into the behaviour exhibited by animals before earthquakes. I had read that birds often stop singing moments before a quake hits and that dogs and cats have been known to avoid enclosed spaces (even to the point of running away from home) over a period of three days before an earthquake. On the third night that Dylan refused to go into his crate, I pointed out to my husband that Dylan might be displaying pre-earthquake behaviour.

“That would mean we should get an earthquake tomorrow,” Craig said, half intrigued, half laughing. We both went to sleep without giving it much further thought.

The next morning around 11:00 a.m., an earthquake hit. I was in the community centre swimming pool with my daughter at the time, and we didn’t feel it. But the rest of the city did. It was a small quake, with no damage reported, but it did give people a bit of a scare. As one woman interviewed on the local news said, “It was like standing on Jell-O.”

That night, Dylan returned to his normal pattern of happily bedding down in his crate, and Craig and I went to bed with a new feeling of security. Dylan might be a lousy watchdog when it came to burglars and car thieves, but when the next earthquake hits, we’ll be ready.

~Jacqueline Pearce

Fraser River flood flashback (and book giveaway)

May 21, 2012
On this day in 1948*, the town of Agassiz’s Victoria Day dance was interrupted by news that the Fraser River was about to flood. Men, young and old, quietly left the dance to build up the sandbag dyke along the river and begin what would inevitably be a lost battle to keep the water back and protect their homes, farms and businesses. A few days later, children waded through waist deep water on the school grounds, men rowed boats down the main street of town, and hundreds of dairy cows choked the road west of town as farmers herded them to higher ground, murky water licking at their heals.

Tom, the main character of my new chapter book, Flood Warning, wishes he could join his father and the other men fighting the flood. He’s sure his favorite radio hero, the Lone Ranger, would do no less. At the very least, the Lone Ranger on his firy horse, Silver, would escort the evacuation train safely out of town. But Tom has to go to school, and when school is dismissed early, he has to stay home and help his mom around the house. Until the flood comes to him, and Tom must become a real-life hero and help save his family’s dairy cows. (Info on book giveaway at bottom of post.)

The story, while fiction, is based on what really happened during the 1948 flood. Agassiz was the first town to be evacuated (read Flood Warning for the unusual role played by the town cemetery), but communities all along the Fraser Valley were affected. In total, 30,000 civilians (local farmers, townspeople, and volunteers from other areas) sprang into action to fight the flood, rescue stranded people and animals, and bring in supplies. Sixteen thousand people (including 3,800 children) were forced to flee, and hundreds of animals were also removed to safety (750 cows were evacuated in Agassiz alone). Roads (including the Trans Canada Highway) and railways were swamped, people who remained in the flooded areas were cut off from the rest of the world, and even the city of Vancouver was isolated from the rest of the country except by plane.

When the water finally began to recede two weeks later, it left devastation in its wake. Orchards and field crops were destroyed, debris was everywhere, floor boards of houses, cupboards, stairs, etc. were warped and rotting, carpets were ruined, walls stained, water-soaked furniture falling apart, and dark stagnant water and mud remained stuck in low areas. Yet, throughout the ordeal, there was a sense of camaraderie and mutual support, and people’s spirits remained high.

For more information on the Fraser River flood, Nature’s Fury, a first-hand account by newspaper correspondents and photographers who witnessed the flood, is available to download from the city of Chilliwack’s website.

Check out Flood Warning for a child’s eye view.

Book giveaway!

I’m giving away a signed copy of Flood Warning along with a bookmark, special button, and a DVD that includes episodes of the 1950s Lone Ranger TV show. Add a comment here, or “Like” my Facebook page to be entered in the draw. (Draw deadline: June 15, 2012.)

Of course, you can also ask for the book at your local bookstore, or order it through and other online sources.

Flood Warning is part of the Orca Echoes series for grades 1-3 and is illustrated by Leanne Franson (Leanne also illustrated my previous chapter book, Mystery of the Missing Luck, and I love her work).

* Note: Today is Victoria Day here in Canada, and it was on Victoria Day in 1948 that the flood warning began, however, in 1948 Victoria Day fell on May 24th.


December 19, 2009

I was looking out my bedroom window this morning at the chickadees flitting from branch to branch in the nearby ravine trees, wondering why they haven’t yet found (or are ignoring) the two new birdfeeders we put up earlier this week. Then, something caught my eye in the middle of one of the larger cedar trees, and I spied these guys:

(Four of them)

Remembering frogs

May 30, 2008

Pacific tree frog (from BC FrogWatch)I’ve always liked frogs and other amphibians –especially the tiny and delicate green tree frogs that sometimes turn up on walks in the forest where I grew up on Vancouver Island.  One frog memory that stands out in my mind was from the summer I was about ten. My family spent a day at Ten Mile Lake near Quesnel in the BC interior. It was the Day of the Frogs. Hundreds of tiny brown frogs were everywhere! We kids collected them in whatever we had on hand — pails, pop cans, our hands. Most, we let go after watching them for awhile, but I do remember trying to bring a few unlucky ones home in a pop can (I think my dad returned the survivors to the lake).

I don’t know what it was about that year (around 1970), but I’ve talked to other people who have similar memories of the amazing abundance of frogs that summer. I never saw numbers of frogs like that again and probably never will — now that frogs are disappearing all over the globe.

Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians are in trouble. That’s why 2008 is not just the Year of the Rat, it’s the Year of the Frog. Scientists and other frog-watchers are calling for raised awareness and action to help save frogs and their relatives.

Frogs are cool. The jump, they croak (when I was in Japan I spent about an hour hunting for a glimpse of the loudest frog I’d ever heard — it sounded huge, but in fact, it was tiny and very good at hiding), and they come in a variety of colours. They play an important role in their ecosystems, eating hundreds and even thousands of bugs a year. The protective chemicals produced by some frogs have also been refined by scientists for use as life-saving medicines.

Frogs and other amphibians have thin semi-permeable skin that helps them drink and breathe, but that also makes them vulnerable to environmental contaminants (like pesticides and herbicides sprayed on farmers’ fields). Amphibians are often the first creatures to be effected by carcinogens and hormone-altering chemicals in the environment, which is why they’re considered an indicator species. When they’re in trouble, we’re in trouble.

Frogs are effected by habitat loss, climate change, disease, introduced predators, pollution, pesticides, etc., so anything we can do to help reduce these will help save frogs. As Kermit the frog says, “It’s not easy being green.” So, think green: remember the frogs.

If you’ve got a frog encounter story, please share it here.

frog awareness poster

(Awareness poster from the Vancouver Aquarium’s frog conservation project.)


Kitten update

August 25, 2007

buddiesCurious, the injured  kitten we’ve been fostering along with her brother George, has been mending well and settling comfortably into our household. She seems to have developed a particular attachment to our dog, Dylan, and likes to curl up close to him on his bed. Her cast was removed yesterday, but the recovering leg is still weak. We’re hoping her curiousity and fearlessness wont get her into any more trouble.

Kitten trauma

August 3, 2007

kittensFor the past two weeks we’ve been looking after two very cute little orange kittens (now about 11 weeks old).

The’ve had no problem getting along with our big dog, Dylan, and even seem to like our other cat, though he’s taken awhile to warm up to them. Dylan, the peace-keeper, has had to rush in to break up a few fights (mostly between the older male cat and the male kitten and dogkitten).

Although we’ve been separating the cats whenever we leave them on their own and trying to keeping a careful eye on them when they’ve got the run of the house, I did lose track of the female kitten for about five minutes the other day. I didn’t hear any thumps or mews, but when I saw her next, she wasn’t putting any weight on her front left paw. She continued to limp for the next kitten with castcouple days, so we took her to the vet for an x-ray, and the vet informed us that her leg was broken.

I feel terrible that she could get hurt while in my care, and it is heart-wrenching to see this tiny little kitten bumping around the house with one leg in a cast. Have you ever seen anything so pathetic? And do you know how hard it is to keep a curious and energetic little kitten quiet and resting?

Note: the cast is decorated with a green heart and smells like lavendar, which is supposed to help calm her.kitten

Night visitors

March 19, 2007

A couple nights ago, I was just falling asleep when I was startled into alertness by a racket on the roof above my head. My first fear was that the rats had returned to my attic, but judging by the sound, these would have been REALLY BIG rats! This morning, our garbage can was over-turned, garbage was strewn over the grass, and my daughter discovered raccoon paw prints in the silt at the bottom of a bucket filled with rain water, which was sitting close to the garbage can. Mystery of the night visitors solved. We had inadvertantly set up the perfect raccoon dinner stop: garbage can buffet and right beside it, a place to wash the food.

Here’s a photo of a raccoon climbing up my back porch a couple years ago.

Bird brains and trickster tales

February 13, 2007

raven flyingZoologists often refer to ravens as the “brains of the bird world.” To the First Nations people of the northwest coast, Raven is the “Trickster,” a sometimes greedy, sometimes cunning, sometimes joke-playing figure, who tried to steal the sun and released the first humans from a clam shell. Bill Reid's ravenThe Trickster’s ordinary raven counterparts have similar traits. Among loggers of the westcoast, ravens are well-known as crafty lunch-stealers (who always know in which part of a bag a lunch is hidden and are expert at opening lunch boxes and zippers or sawing through canvas with their beaks) and have also been known to play tricks on humans.

My dad has worked in forests up and down the B.C. coast for the past fifty years (first as a timber cruiser, then as a log scaler) and has had many encounters with ravens. When CBC radio announced its “raven contest” a few weeks ago, honouring the birth date of Haida artist Bill Reid and calling for stories, poems and songs about ravens, I immediately called my dad. Here is the story I wrote, based on a couple of my dad’s real encounters with ravens in the Queen Charlotte Islands:

Last Laugh

The sun was just rising over the trees as a small motor boat made its way out to the log boom resting on the calm water of Juskatla Inlet. On shore, a raven called, the sound masked by the drone of the motor.

The boat tied up at one end of the boom, and two men climbed out, gripping the log with the spikes of their caulk boots and using their long scaling rules for balance. By the time the sun was well over the trees, the scalers had worked their way to the opposite end of the boom.

“Look at that,” one of the men called, as he straightened his back for a rest, beginning to think of lunch.

At the top of a tall cedar on the near shore, a raven let out a loud squawk, then dropped as if shot. The bird spiralled down while the men watched. At the last moment before hitting the ground, the raven swooped up, flew straight back to the top of the tree and did the stunt again.

The men shook their heads and laughed.

“Damn stupid bird.”

They were wrong.

 Later, back at the boat, hungry for the lunches they’d stashed safely in their gear bags, the men stopped and stared. The canvas bags sat in the bottom of the boat, flaps open, zippers gaping. A quick search revealed the lunches were gone.

On shore, two well-satisfied ravens cawed. In Juskatla, ravens always work in pairs.

* * *

log scaler
raven in tree

[Note: the raven photos were taken by my husband at Cowichan Bay, the carving is by Bill Reid and depicts the story of Raven releasing the first humans from a clam shell, the bottom left photo is of my dad scaling logs in 1962. To read the poem that won the CBC Raven contest go to:]

How a bad hair day led to a possible sighting of Emily Carr’s ghost

January 8, 2007

bad hairWhile I was visiting my parents over the holidays, an old photograph surfaced of me before a high school dance. There is much I could say about this time in my life, but when I look at the photo, it’s hard for me to get past the hair.

As a teenager, I was very self-conscious and embarrassed easily. When I decided (shortly before this photo was taken) to get my long hair cut and permed, I was hoping for a slightly new look, but not a drastic, attention-drawing change. Not too short on the sides. Not too curly. When I ended up with what could be best described as poodle head, I was horrified.

How could I face the stares and jeers of everyone at school? (Yes, it sounds self-absorbed and superficial now, but this was high school, remember). I called up my boyfriend and we agreed to skip school the next day and drive to Victoria (about an hour away) – where no one would recognize me.

I can’t remember exactly what we did all day, except that we spent some time wondering around the neighbourhood of James Bay near Beacon Hill Park. Maybe we parked the car and walked or maybe we just drove around. In any case, one house caught our attention, and we stopped. On the grass in front of the house, sat a small brown monkey. Neither of us had ever seen a live monkey up close before. When we approached, a middle-aged woman came out of the house. She was very friendly, let us meet the monkey, and chatted with us for quite awhile.

It ended up being a good day, but with a strange quality – as if we had stepped out of our regular lives and even out of time. By our return home, I had grown accustomed (or at least resigned) to my new hair and bolstered enough to face school the following day.

I didn’t give the episode much more thought until two years later, when I was living in Victoria going to university and became interested in the artist Emily Carr. I had known about her before, but now something about her paintings and her life seemed to speak to me in a new and personal way. She had grown up in the Victoria neighbourhood of James Bay (she was born there in 1871) and had lived there as an eccentric older woman with many pets, including a monkey named Woo. Emily CarrAs I looked at an old black and white photo of a middle-aged Carr standing in her James Bay backyard holding a small familiar-looking monkey, an eerie feeling of deja vu came over me. Is it possible I might have seen the ghosts of Emily Carr and Woo on that fateful bad hair day?

I’ve walked around James Bay many times since then, trying to remember which house was the one where we’d seen the woman and the monkey, but I never could find it again. If it really had been the ghosts of Emily and Woo, did they appear just to help me through a bad hair day? Or was there some profound message that Carr would have liked to pass on (a P.S. about art or trees or life, perhaps)?

A few days ago, I paid one last visit to “Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon,” an exhibit which just ended at the Vancouver Art Gallery. As I walked through the rooms of Carr’s paintings, it occurred to me that she doesn’t need a ghost to pass on a message: her paintings have never stopped speaking. This is not to say I wouldn’t have a few questions for her, if I did meet her ghost….

[Click on “My Books” in the right sidebar for info on the two novels I ended up writing about Emily Carr’s childhood]

Starring George, the rat!

December 4, 2006

book launch, me with George the ratI launched my new book this past Saturday at the Vancouver SPCA shelter. “The Truth about Rats (and dogs)” is the second novel in a series the SPCA asked me to write about kids and animals. The first book, “Dog House Blues,” which came out last year, was also launched at a shelter event. I had three dogs as special guests at that one (rats, of course, at this one).

The highlight of last year’s event was when the dogs all ran to the front of the room where I’d been doing my reading, and my dog, Dylan, immediately (and messily) drank up my whole glass of water. The kids thought that was hilarious. The highlight of the recent launch was probably when George, the rat, escaped from my hands and scampered onto my back, where I couldn’t reach him (see above photos). George the ratI’d like to think the best part was when I read from my book, but as usual, I was upstaged by the non-human guests!

(George, in the photo on the left, has been living at my house for the past few weeks, along with his brother, Sneaker. They are both available for adoption at the Vancouver shelter. Believe it or not, rats are becoming more popularly adopted pets than the dogs and cats.)

 You can read a different perspective on the launch and see more photos at