The ‘Dead Zoo’ – A Tourist in My Own City

Not long ago, we paid a visit to the Natural History Museum of Ireland which is known colloquially as ‘The Dead Zoo’!

The Natural History Museum AKA The Dead Zoo

“The Natural History building was built in 1856 to house the Royal Dublin Society’s growing collections, which had expanded continually since the late 18th Century.

The building is a ‘cabinet-style’ museum designed to showcase a wide-ranging and comprehensive zoological collection, and has changed little in over a century. Often described as a ‘museum of a museum’, its 10,000 exhibits provide a glimpse of the natural world that has delighted generations of visitors since the doors opened in 1857.”

Taken from Natural History Museum, Ireland

Stuffed Badger at The Dead ZooI remember going to this place as a child. I was filled with a confusing mix of excitement and dread. On the one hand, the museum appealed to my great love for animals. I was always fascinated to see the stuffed foxes and badgers, as well as the more exotic animals like the snow leopards and giraffes.

However, the skeleton of the giant elk loomed ominously in the entranceway, giving me a thrill of fear. And the scariest exhibit of all was the full-sized basking shark that hung from the ceiling. I would keep my eyes firmly to the floor and a tight grip on my Daddy’s hand as I skirted around the edge of that section of exhibits .

Stuffed Lion cub at The Dead ZooOur recent visit was filled with delicious nostalgia.  Not everything was how I remembered it, but the giant elk still stands majestically just inside the entrance. And of course, my nemesis, the basking shark remains suspended from the ceiling. Even now, all these years later, I still couldn’t bring myself to walk under it!

I would love to hear about your favourite childhood outings. Have you revisited those places as an adult?

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A Letter to Casper

To my dear, sweet Casper,

The couple who bought you actually wanted a baby…I’m not sure what made them decide to get a puppy instead? In a way, I’m not sorry that they chose you because it meant that I got to have you, but not a day goes by without me wishing that you came to me under different circumstances.

Casper the BichonThe couple didn’t know anything about caring for a dog and didn’t mean to cause you so much harm and damage. That said, ignorance is not an excuse and I had to restrain myself from completely losing the rag with them. On the day I first met, you were coughing and thin and extremely wary.  I couldn’t see any toys. Well, there was one toy, a large red ball meant for a much larger breed. It was bigger than you were and made a loud noise as it rolled towards you. You were TERRIFIED. They laughed and said, “He loves to play Hide and Seek with his ball”, but it was clear you were trying to get away.

I asked the couple some probing questions and my heart sank as I began to unravel the sad story of your life so far. From their description, I am pretty sure that you came from a puppy farm, so things weren’t going well for you right from the start. The couple met the “breeder” in a car park and chose you from the several pups he had in the boot of his car.

They took you to their houseshare and you were kept in their bedroom for the majority of the next four months of your life. You were not taken to the vet for a check-up or vaccinations, not even when you started coughing. You were never brought outside. Do you remember the babygrows they made you wear? The ones for human babies? The couple left you alone all day in that bedroom with no toys while they went to college and then on to their evening jobs. I don’t blame you for crying, who wouldn’t in your situation. The other people that lived in the house were not so understanding.

So, it came to this…the couple finally admitted that they were not taking care of you properly. That is what they told me anyway, but I suspect the other housemates had given an ultimatum.

Casper the rescue Bichon wearing his Thundershirt

While they talked, I sat on the floor of their living room wiggling a raggy at you. There was no pressure…I didn’t even look at you. Slowly, I saw you tip-toe towards the raggy. Do you remember the first time you played tug with me? It was that day with that raggy. I guess it was actually the first time you ever got to play properly.

They wouldn’t let me take you with me that day. I saw you try to follow me out the front door and it broke my heart to leave you there.

It took a few days for me to convince the couple to do the right thing. I told them about my dog Pogo and my cat Shelli who would keep you company if I had to leave you. I described all the places that I could take you for walks; the sand dunes at Bull Island, the Dublin Mountains, and many more. I told them all about the training club where you could do agility with me. A few days later, I collected you and took you home.Me and Casper the rescue Bichon

That was two years ago! It took a while to sort out the physical issues. You were riddled with fleas, worms and mites. We fattened you up and got your cough treated. Sadly though, the couple also damaged you psychologically. I have tried so hard to help you but you still suffer with crippling anxiety and fear. I have seen how you completely shut down when you are confronted by something unfamiliar. I know how you suffer from panic attacks at the vets. I know you have a never-ending list of fears: small dogs, big dogs, people with hats, loud noises, people with hoods, people on bikes, old people, people who try to touch you, children, statues, the dark, being left alone, people you don’t know, the pack being separated, men of any kind, swans, heights, new places…etc

I long for the day when you realise that you are safe and I will never let anything hurt you. For now, I will continue to only walk you in places you are familiar with so you don’t have to worry. I will gently rub Rescue Remedy onto your ears when I know you will be faced with a stressful situation. I will bring you to your agility classes and watch your anxiety melt away as you sail over the jumps. I will read book after book and do course upon course until I know exactly how to help you. I will massage you and do TTouch until you learn that it feels good to relax and chill out. I will play tug with you and throw a ball for you to chase until my arms are numb. I will spend the rest of your life doing everything that I can to undo the damage.

My dear, sweet Casper, there is nothing I need from you in return. You have already given me your unconditional love and that is the greatest gift of all.

Love,

Mammy

Casper relaxing at agility!

Goodbye, dear Munchy…

Darling Munchy is no longer with us. She had a serious decline in her health and last Saturday morning, we made the decision to let her go. We are heartbroken and will miss her greatly, but it was the right time.

My brother and I have had Munchy in our lives for nearly seventeen years. From a tiny puppy to an elderly old lady, Munchy spent her life being loved by us.

Puppy Munchy - 1996

Munchy - 2007

Munchy - April 2012

Munchy - Hallowe'en 2012

Water – Cee’s Photo Challenge

Fluffytufts is taking part in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge! I’m a bit behind on these challenges, so this week I am going to look at the water challenge!

One of the first photos I took as a photography student was the outside tap in the back garden.  I experimented with different shutter speeds – with a fast speed you could capture each drop of water in the flow, but if you used a slow speed, the water gained the appearance of silk pouring from the tap.

I was delighted with one of the photos I captured that day. I processed the film myself in an old-fashioned dark room. Then, I printed the image and watched it magically appear as I soaked the paper in developing fluid. I still have this photograph and when I look at it, it invokes memories of my carefree student days, the smells of the chemicals in the dark room, the pride I felt when my image appeared.

Unfortunately, I do not have access to a scanner, so am unable to share it with you. However, here are some water images from more recent times!

Elephant at Dublin Zoo

Howth Harbour in Dublin. Ireland

St Fiachra's Garden, County Kildare, Ireland

Russborough House and Hedge Maze – Staycation Ireland

Russborough House is a magnificent stately home situated in County Wicklow, Ireland.  It is one of those places that I have heard a lot about and even driven past many times, but had never visited.

Russborough House from russborough.ie

Russborough is a stunning Palladian mansion overlooking some of the most impressive views in Ireland. Designed in 1741 by Richard Cassels, it took 10 years to build what has been described as “one of the most beautiful houses in Ireland”. (Bruce Arnold, The Irish Times, 1997) With the Wicklow mountains and Blessington lakes just a stone’s throw away the setting is idyllic.

Sir Alfred and Lady Beit bought Russborough in 1952 to house their impressive art collection. They left this historic mansion, its collections and their fascinating life story to the Irish public in 1978.”

Taken from russborough.ie

We had been planning to go back to Powerscourt Estate without the dogs, so we could tour the house and gardens. I was googling the opening times and one of the hits that came up was Russborough House, which is closer than Powerscourt and has the added bonus of a hedge maze! Being the big kids that we are, the hedge maze was the clincher!

Unfortunately, photography wasn’t permitted inside the house, so you will have to make do with a bunch of shots of us in the hedge maze ‘acting the maggot’ (which is irish slang for messing around!).

The Hedge Maze

Wandering around the Hedge Maze

Having fun in the Maze

Mr Fluffytufts

A Single Flower – Cee’s Photo Challenge

Fluffytufts is taking part in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge! This week the challenge is to post images of a single flower.

Since getting back into photography over the last year, I have developed a previously undiscovered appreciation for the beauty of flowers. I enjoy getting really close to the flower and using the macro setting on my camera to capture every intricate detail.

Here are two of my favourite captures!

White Flower at the Botanic Gardens

Rose in Rathmines, Dublin

Contrasting Colours – Cee’s Photo Challenge

Fluffytufts is taking part in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge!  I am a little late with last week’s theme, “Contrasting Colours”.

I think the reason that I delayed in writing this post, is because I struggled to find any images that fitted the theme. I had to really search through my files to find the following photos. They do demonstrate contrasting colours, but I have to be honest, and say that I have never really put much thought into the colours in my photos.

This challenge made me stop and think about my photography style. I have come to realise that my method is much more focussed on the mathematical side: the rule of thirds, the framing of the image etc. I think that I will have to have a colour day where I will forget my ‘personal rules’ and just play with colour! I’m looking forward to it already!

Blue and Orange:

Auburn Street, Broadstone

Green and Red:

Red Flowers, Botanic Gardens

Yellow and Purple:

Lilac Flowers, Botanic Gardens