Wednesday 14 March 2007

Ski Zauchensee

Just got back from a ski trip to Austria with a couple of friends. Went to the same place we went last year staying in Altenmarkt which is less than an hours drive south of Salzburg.

Last year we went in February. It was cold and there was lots of snow. This time it was much warmer and there was no snow in the valleys.

First day, we drove up to Zauchensee. We were all quite concerned about the snow conditions but things started looking much much better as we drove up to the resort and got above the snow line. That was quite a relief. It was snowing too so it couldn't be too bad!

Snow at the top of the mountains were great but it got quite heavy and slushy as we skiied down to the bottom. My balance and technique were pretty crap. Worse of all, my glasses and goggles kept fogging up and I could barely see. The falling snow was very wet. By early afternoon, my legs ached and I wasn't having a good time so I quit skiing early. Mike and David continued skiing but unfortunately David had a nasty fall and pulled his calf muscle. It turned out to the end of any more skiing for him.

On the second day, Mike and I headed out to Obertauern which was only about half-an-hour away. It's claim to fame is that it's where the Beatles filmed the snow scenes in the Help film. It is one of the higher resorts in the area and felt colder than Zauchensee. The snow was indeed really good up there. It wasn't snowing that day so I could avoid the foggy goggles too. I took it quite easy sticking to blue runs and concentrated on getting my technique back. For a Friday, it was very busy but waits for the lifts were very short.

It was snowing when we got up on the third day. Mike and I headed out to Schladming on the basis that the weather reports were better out there. We were both a bit disappointed when we got there - the ski run down was brown slush. However, we went up the cable car and found a blizzard at the top of the mountain! Excellent snow and wide pistes. However, the snow did get slushy as you skiied down to the half-way point of the cable car. I wiped out a few times getting caught by the change in snow conditions.

That last day was great. My balance and technique were much better and my glasses and goggles didn't fog up. Even my legs weren't so tired. Got in some great runs. Unfortunately, three days isn't enough. Next ski trip needs to be for at least a week and I figure February is the right month to go. I have liked all the resorts we've gone to in Austria. All are well organised, have excellent facilities and offer enough variety for me. The Salzburger Sportwelt is a huge ski area but as the mountains aren't very high, it best not to go too late in the season.

Thursday 1 March 2007

Dead Pixel

It's been a right horrible day.

Early this morning, just after midnight, our cat , Pixel, sauntered back from his usual night prowl. I went to wipe his paws since it was wet out and quickly realised his face and paws were covered in blood. That wasn't a saunter; it was a crawl. He was a mess and was wheezing out his breath. He was in shock. Oh my god.

Panic ensued. We tried to wipe him up and make him comfortable but his jaw, teeth and tongue were hanging out at different angles. I called the emergency vet but would have to wait until the morning to get him into an animal hospital. I was distressed but hopeful. I figured he had been in a bad fight with another animal - something smaller than him. I figure it couldn't have been a car or he really would be shattered. He couldn't of met a dog or fox or he would have more injuries. My worst thought was that someone had kicked him.

We got him into the hospital by 9:15 in the morning. The vet quickly assessed he had been hit by car. She thought his internal organs were alright and if it was just the jaw, he should recover and learn a lesson. One life down, 8 left I thought feeling a bit relieved. He needed have an x-ray to double-check the fractures before having the operation to wire the jaw back together. Turns out a broken lower jaw is a common injury. Many cats survive getting hit by a car.

We got a call around noon with devastating news. The upper jaw was broken too. It's a rare fracture. Fixing it was very difficult and prone to complications - the brain and soft palate being very nearby. He might not be able to eat properly ever again. Recovery would be painful and take a long time. It was going to be expensive. Furthermore, it was clear that he had been hit very hard and there was a good chance there might be futher injuries.

One of those really horrible phone calls. She suggested we call her back in 5 minutes to tell her how to proceed.

Five minutes?

Five minutes to breakdown while Pixel lay on an operating table under anasthetic. We chose - I chose - euthanasia. It seemed the right choice at the moment. I choked the words when I called her back. Put him to sleep. She thought it was a good decision. I felt like shit. I still feel like shit. Killing a pet you love dearly. I could write tons about why he was a wonderful cat. When do you let go? He was only 19 months old. Maybe we should have struggled to nurse him back? Is that being selfish or generous?

At first we were going to let the hospital cremate and dispose of the remains but Jenny decided to bring him home. His body was still warm to the touch. I broke all composure at that. It really hurt.

Breaking the news to the children was difficult but they took it better than us adults. After some hugging and crying, we all stroked him and said our good-byes. Together, we buried him in the garden wrapped in a pillow case and planted flowers on the grave and marked it with a headstone.

He's gone. But I still catch myself checking the glass door where he would usually appear, asking to come inside.