Dec 24, 2008

Edison and the Perfect Christmas Photo

I wanted to have Edison's picture taken with Santa because the Santa at our mall is really good: fat, jolly, red faced and with a big bushy white beard. And he wears lush velvet, not some nasty old worn out costume from a costume supply shop. There was a "have your pet's photo taken with Santa" day at the mall this week but I wasn't aware of it until I got there and saw dozens of dogs of all shapes and sizes all dressed up in their best holiday party clothes being walked through the mall. It figures that it would be the one time I chose not to bring Edison with me (read: sneak him in in his purse and move rapidly in the opposite direction when a security guard comes my way). David said that he absolutely would not pay for Edison to be photographed with Santa, nor would he stand there and watch Edison and Santa posing together, so I had better be satisfied with a photo of Edison in his new stripey Christmas sweater sitting beneath our tree and taken for free by me.

Granted, Edison would not have liked Santa no matter how good a Santa he was. He's never seen anybody that even remotely looks like Santa Claus and as a dog who tends to be rather guarded with normal-looking people in everyday circumstances, I can only imagine his reaction to being taken from my arms by an elf and put on Santa's lap. And the Christmas music played too loudly for his giant, sensitive ears. And the line of noisy people gawking at the proceedings while they wait for their pet's turn. And all the other dogs who would only rile up my non-dog-friendly little dog. And the flash on the camera. And the elves zipping around the small enclosed space. Okay, so maybe this was only a good idea in my mind. The reality of it is clearly something entirely different. And besides, if I take the photos of Edison, I can take as many as I want and keep them all for myself.

Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings from Edison Jack (who is quite happy posing beneath his own Christmas tree).

Dec 23, 2008

Maia Louise VS The Christmas Tree

Uh-oh! What's it going to be today? Should I tear some tinsel off the tree and twist it into little un-tinsel-like shapes? Or maybe I should knock a few more ornaments off and bat them around until they smash into something and break into a thousand tiny pieces? Wait! What about that little yellow bird? I could rip that to shreds long before anyone can stop me. Hmm.... maybe I'll just climb under the tree and rip open some gifts that are meant for someone else and then steal the pretty bow off of what's left of the wrapping paper. So many things to do, so little time before the tree comes down. What's a cat to do?

Dec 18, 2008

Mystery Solved!

For several weeks now we've been stumped by not only what has been getting into the feed in the barn but also how it's been getting into the building in the first place. At first, the feed lids on the large rubbermaid containers would be moved a bit and, naturally, there was much dissention among the ranks as to who forgot to close the bins, thus leaving the feed open to hungry mice. Then we made sure the bins were securely closed at night yet in the morning found chew marks near the handles on them, holes that finally grew large enough for a small mammal to breach the closed container and then the holes grew even larger still. David went out and bought all new metal bins, which weren't cheap, but as wood and plastic are chewable (though I can't imagine either would taste very good) and metal isn't, we figured that this would stop the grain thief (or thieves) in its tracks. It didn't. All it did was anger the animal who had been feasting by night at our expense and who now had its very generous food supply suddenly cut off.

With the metal lids tightly locked down, we'd close everything up for the night only to find, come morning, that the lids were hanging off and something had eaten a great deal of the grain. This precipitated the need for heavy industrial oven bricks placed on top of the tightly closed lids. This didn't work either: the bricks would be pushed to the floor, the lids unlocked and opened, and much feed missing. Two bricks clearly only slowed the animal down a little as both bricks would be shoved aside and the metal bin opened once again. And in a show of utter rage at the amount of work needed to finally reach its dinner, the lids had been tossed clear across the room. Three bricks on top: nearly 15lbs in total weight was what it finally took to keep the hungry thief out of the bins and from the more easily breached one: a chain saw in its carrying case placed on top as well.

And how the hell was it getting in the building? We couldn't find the spot, though we looked and looked.

So we had been speculating as to who the diner(s) might be. Mice were ruled out after the first round of holes grew bigger than a mouse would need for climbing into the feed, and most certainly when it came to opening the lids as they're just too tiny and without strength. Squirrels are smart enough to open the latches on the bins but most likely not strong enough to have moved nearly 10lbs in weight before getting to those handles to unlatch the lids and I certainly wouldn't think a squirrel would have been able to toss those same lids away at such a distance. The general consensus was that it was our chatty raccoon neighbors we hear ambling about the yard in the wee hours or our old friend, Mr. Your-Food-Is-My-Food-And-I'm-Damn-Hungry Woodchuck (remember him?). These two particular little fiends would have not only the intelligence to repeatedly foil our attempts to secure the feed, but the body weight and the dexterity to move heavy objects in such a deliberate way.

This afternoon Griffin was out there cleaning the barn and feeding the poultry and when he opened the feed area, there it was, frantically trying to push the bricks off the top of a bin: the biggest, fattest squirrel he had ever seen. He estimated it had to go at least 10lbs, very likely even more. It was simply enormous. The squirrel was, of course, instantly startled by the sudden appearance of a human and took off in the other direction towards the back of the room. Griffin followed it and then went outside and around the back to where the portly rodent had gone and sure enough, up under the flashing near the roof, the squirrel had pulled the siding down (but not off), giving it a large door through which to enter and leave, but was virtually undetectable to the naked eye as the siding flapped back down as soon as the chunky one had squeezed back through. Griffin didn't have his camera with him, but he did manage to get some grainy footage on his cell phone of the Large One making his escape. That is one fat squirrel.

It is our belief that the squirrel started out a fairly normal size as none of us had noticed any particularly corpulent rodents on our property, but then as he ate more and more and got fatter and fatter, he needed to chew bigger holes to get in, thus the first bin holes growing in size gradually over the course of a couple of weeks. As he grew bigger, he also grew stronger, thus the ability to circumvent one obstacle after another placed in his path to stop him from getting into the feed bins. After all, night after night after night he had an all-you-can-eat buffet. He never had to forage, thus getting no exercise at all, instead he simply sat in whatever bins he could open and ate until he was full (and clearly beyond).

To be honest, I never would have guessed that the world's fattest and laziest squirrel was the culprit and I was also secretly hoping for something truly interesting and maybe even a bit exotic to be discovered out there. I don't know about you, but I don't consider a morbidly obese squirrel all that interesting. Sad, maybe, but interesting? Not so much.

Dec 13, 2008

Christmas Tree Shopping, Doggie Style

After years of cutting our own fresh trees at a tree farm, Saturday afternoon David, Griffin, and I went to buy a pre-cut Christmas tree on a lot, and naturally I had Edison with me in his little doggie purse, a sweater on for warmth, a tiny knit scarf tied around his neck and his doggles to protect his eyes from the sun. Initially we didn't have much luck finding the type of tree we wanted in the height we needed for our high ceilings and so after much wandering around the lot with the man who was helping us, we gave up. The man said that the trees we wanted were coming in later this week and we should call beforehand to be sure the truck had, indeed, arrived with them. He then took me inside to the little room where you pay for the tree you've chosen and led me up to the window to ask the lady behind the desk if she could write down their telephone number so I could call to be sure the new trees had come in before driving all the way over there.

While we were waiting he offered me a candy cane from a dish, to which I replied, "No thank you" and then I said to Edison, who was craning his neck out of the bag trying to catch a whiff of peppermint, "And you can't have any either." The tree man gave me a very odd look and said, "Excuse me?" in a not very pleasant tone of voice. I smiled and told him that I was telling my dog that he couldn't have any candy, and pointed to Edison's teensy head poking out of the purse front at my side. The man visibly relaxed, laughed heartily and said, "Oh my god! There's a tiny dog in there!" He pointed Edison out to everyone else in the room and said, "Look at that little pooch!" and to me, "All that time out there in the yard and I swear I never saw him" And then to the lady, "Oh my god! Nancy! Will you look at this little tiny pooch?!" He then rubbed Edison's chin and handed me a slip of paper with the yard's telephone number on it.

As we were walking back out into the cold, he turned to me, shook his head, and said, "I couldn't figure out what the hell your problem was, lady, and I was thinking, 'Who the hell is she to tell me I can't have a piece of candy?'" With that he added, "See you later in the week," rubbed Edison's chin once more and disappeared into the crowds to sell more trees.

We actually left that lot to head to another place to look for a tree, but got a mile or so down the road and decided to turn back and give this place another chance before making the long drive to the next best tree place. And surprise! We found a perfect, tall and very full tree we hadn't seen the first time around hiding in the back corner behind all the other smaller and less pretty trees. Another Christmas miracle.

Dec 2, 2008

The Moon and the Deer

Last night I ran into a deer. Literally. Okay, so I didn't actually slam into the deer, but it was close. I had noticed in the early night sky, while I was out cleaning the barn just as it was getting dark, that the moon looked a mite different up there with a couple of new friends in tow. After I came back indoors I discovered online that for the next few nights, the moon will be aligned with both Jupiter and Venus, a rare event that won't happen again until 2052. It was absolutely lovely to see: the waxing crescent nestled with the two bright planets forming a triangle. With nary a star near to it and sitting all alone up there, it was simply lyrical to behold.

When David came home I wanted him to see this too, but it had become cloudy so the moon was out of sight. As the clouds moved in and out throughout the evening, I kept popping out onto the back porch to see if anything was visible. When I noticed that the stars were visible again I took Edison outside with me to locate the moon, tucked into my arms, but he started to excitedly fuss and squirm and I was afraid of dropping him or him getting away from me and escaping into the woods, so I brought him back into the house. I got a flashlight and went back outside. Turns out he was fussing for good reason because he had seen the deer that I didn't. In fact I never saw the deer until I almost walked into it. I had only turned on the flashlight to make sure I didn't fall down the back steps in the dark, turning it off as soon as I was on the grass, the better to be able to see the sky in the darkness. Sky yes, deer no.

So there I was ambling about the back yard in the near pitch blackness, head perpetually tilted up, and then I went further back into our back field and garden, still looking up at the sky. Just feet from the deer, who had clearly been standing motionless and silent while I stumbled up and down in front of it, I popped on the flashlight and was startled to have two glowing eyes peering back at me at my height just a couple of feet in front of me. Yikes! When the initial shock fizzled a second later and I realized she was just a deer, albeit a very large doe, I ran up to the house to get David so he could see the deer too. Then both of us went back out and watched her.

David kept telling me to shoosh and turn off the light, lest we scare her off and she never return, to which I replied, "There are dozens of deer in this yard every day and they hear us talking and see us moving about and nothing we've done has scared them off yet, including Edison charging at them full speed to chase them out of his yard, so get a grip." The deer stood there for a few more minutes, calmly sizing us up, and then slowly wandered through the hedge and off into the inky black woods.

Now, normally, I would have delighted in walking face-first into a deer that just stood there and let me do it, but this happened less than an hour after I had nearly choked to death on a York peppermint pattie and as I had barely come down from my adrenaline rush from that, the whole 'deer in my face' thing, complete with racing heart once again, was really more than my nervous system could take for one night, so without seeing the moon again in all her glory, I called it a night.

I hope the doe comes back when I'm more chill. I'd love to see her up close and personal when I'm under control and haven't just accidentally nearly killed myself.

Nov 21, 2008

A True Story

In the summer of 1980 when I turned 17, I spent some time in Arizona with my uncle Richard. At that time he lived in Christopher Creek in a smallish ranch-style home that you reached at the end of a seven mile long driveway. Yes, you did indeed read that correctly. And it was more than 25 miles to the nearest town, so heaven help you if you forgot something on a grocery shopping trip. Remember the TV show Grizzly Adams and its subsequent TV movies starring Dan Haggerty? Well, they were filmed on my uncle's land up there in the mountains and occasionally the bear who also starred on the show would get loose and be found a bit closer to the house than was comfortable, but that didn't happen while I was there (though it might have made for a bit more fast-paced fun than was normal for a mountain home in the middle of nowhere). No, my uncle's animals were more than capable of endlessly entertaining a bored houseguest all on their own.

There was a small pack of dogs, hounds mostly, though my uncle now swears he never had hounds. This is odd because he had a Borzoi (also known as the Russian Wolfhound) and a beagle or two (also hounds) and a hodge podge group of mixed hound breeds as well, most of them rescues from a local shelter, but hounds nonetheless. The Borzoi was named Crystal and she would smile on request. If you said, "Give us a smile, Crystal" she would slowly curl her long lips back from her endless teeth and grin maniacally at you until you told her she was a good girl. She'd do it all day long if that's what you wanted to see. It was amusing at first, but even as slow and uneventful as an Arizona summer's afternoon in the wilderness can be, and as desperate as an East Coast teenage girl could get for anything to see or do to pass the monotonous time, even Crystal smiling at me lost its cute factor pretty quickly.

My uncle also had a horse named Buck. He'll swear to you that Buck was a normal horse, who behaved like a horse normally would, but that just isn't true. I'm not sure if my uncle's memory is failing as he ages (see above regarding his dogs) or perhaps he's now embarrassed by his past odd animals as my uncle fears anything perceived to be unusual, but Buck was a horse who was anything but normal. He preferred to be indoors with the family.

As I had arrived late in the evening on my first day there, I didn't actually meet Buck until the next morning when I awoke to hot breath and a soft whinnying sound just inches from my face. Ever wake up with a horse bent down low over you watching you while you've slept? It isn't so much the being watched while sleeping that is unnerving; it's the waking up to a large horse head poking you in the nose that'll get your heart to hammering. It's equally startling for quite a few mornings and then just as suddenly you find yourself entirely used to it and wake with a gentle pat offered to that warm nose and a "Good morning, Buck" on your tongue as if you've been waking up with a horse standing over your bed every morning of your life and this is perfectly sane.

I would then get up and shower and head to the kitchen for breakfast only to find Buck, who was a very large horse even when not indoors, in the middle of what was a fairly small room, standing calmly between the table and the only countertop. To get from the refrigerator, stove and counter to the table required ducking down low, breakfast and coffee in hand, and climbing under the horse on one side and out on the other to sit and eat. And then when I was through eating, climbing back under the horse to return my dishes to the sink, with Buck all the while blissfully unaware of just how much space he was taking up in the middle of that little kitchen. And when breakfast was over and I would go outdoors to enjoy nature at possibly its most beautiful and most primitive, I would be followed by the pack of dogs and Buck, who saw absolutely no reason why he shouldn't join the pack as I ambled about the land.

More meals meant more Buck in the kitchen and then come evening, when we'd all go and sit in the living room and watch some TV to unwind, and there would be Buck, standing next to my chair or my uncle's "watching" TV too until we turned out the lights and retired for the night. Come morning it would start all over again with Buck poking me in the face to wake me up.

Buck was a charming horse with a personality that I have never again met in another horse since. He was a rare and gentle spirit who loved his people and wanted to be with them all the time, just as the dogs were allowed. No one ever refused him entry into the house, though there were times when Buck was asked to step outside for a bit, and he'd obediently go, only to return a short while later. Yes, the house had a perpetually barn-like odor to it and no, Buck didn't ever poop in the house. And I know I'm remembering all this correctly, not only because thus far my brain is still functioning fairly normally (knock wood), but also because other family members have corroborated my stories about Buck. So I'm sorry Uncle Richard, I hate to break it to you but this is all true. Every word.

Nov 13, 2008

The Komondor and the Goats

Edison and I stayed up late last night to watch the rebroadcast of a dog show from Houston. Both of us have very particular tastes as far as breeds are concerned, with me cheering on my own personal favorites and Edison doing the same in his own way: play bowing and barking loudly at the TV when they show the dogs he is most partial to, all of them, not surprisingly, toy breeds. He never barks at any other group and even then, only a very select few breeds within the toy group.

Unlike him, though, I enjoy a few of the larger breeds and one I especially like (but would never own because I am far too anal to deal with their coat) is the komondor. I adore them, and to a slightly lesser degree, their smaller cousin, the puli. Both are of Hungarian descent, both are herding dogs and both sport a beautiful dreadlocked coat.

But anyways, I digress. The komondor who won its breed group at this particular show is a multiple Best in Show winner and is currently the number one komondor in the country. His owner/breeder/handler was explaining the difficulty in keeping his coat show ring ready and how she has on more than one occasion accidentally left in a scrunchie or two that were used to keep those amazing cords organized and clean, only to find them while the judge was examining her dog. It was then that the reporter covering the show for this network asked if this specific dog has ever herded anything in his life, given the fact that he is, in fact, a dog whose ancestors were bred to herd. The owner laughed and said, "Never!" Her dog is actually a third generation Best in Show winner with an impeccable pedigree, one in a long line of number one komondors both in this country and abroad and other than the occasional romp in her backyard is one very pampered pooch who has never even seen a sheep or goat. Ever.

So they all piled into an SUV: dog, owner, reporter and camera crew and they drove out to a farm just outside of Houston where they put the komondor into an enclosed grassy paddock with a herd of goats. The dog walked back and forth for a moment studying the goats, spent another few moments checking out the paddock and then walked over to the herd and just stood there for yet another few moments watching them. Then in quick fashion, the dog began to systematically move all the goats into one corner of the enclosure and when he had them in a tight group, circled them once, moved to the outside of the herd and turned his back to them. He then laid down on the grass in front of them watching alertly for anything that might attempt to approach the herd.

It was amazing to watch. A dog that had never even seen a farm animal until moments before had in less than five minutes herded and secured every last animal. That's how strong the instinct to perform a task is still ingrained in certain breeds of dog, however far removed from that activity their everyday lives might be. And that's the beauty of careful and highly selective breeding: no matter how far removed from its intended job a dog has traveled, that instinct is always in there, alive and kicking and ready when needed. How awesome is that?

Nov 5, 2008

They Would Thank You Themselves if They Could

The people of Massachusetts have spoken and thank god greyhound racing has now been banned here. Beginning in January 2010 there will be no more dog racing in this state. And this decision didn't come easily. Even after years of attempts to get this question on the ballot, it remained a struggle right up until the end late last night.

There were three questions on our ballot this election. Question number one was to decide whether to keep the state income tax or remove it. Question number two was whether or not to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and question three was whether or not to ban dog racing in the state. The results of the first two questions were nearly unanimous early in the evening, well before the polls had even closed. The majority of the state voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the state income tax as it has always been. Given that our schools here have already been skimmed of everything but the bare essentials and with the threat of losing police and fire personnel as well as so many other vital needs, this question was a no-brainer. Question two was a bit more iffy, but even with a great many conservatives here, still managed to pass with a large majority of the people voting to make it no longer criminal to be found with an ounce or less of marijuana on your person. And this vote too, with its resounding majority voice, was called long before the polls closed.

But question three was so close it could not be safely called until hours after the polls closed last night and all the votes were in. It made me realize once again how little the public at large thinks about animal welfare. The question didn't come down to how many animals were being used and abused and how this must be stopped, but how much revenue and how many jobs would be lost should the dog racing industry be closed forever here. And the fact that the vote was so very close just goes to show how many people could care less how animals are treated. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to be able to say that dog racing is soon to be a thing of the past here and I'm very grateful to everyone who voted with their hearts and not their pockets, but it still might have been nice if it had been as big a slam-dunk as the dope issue.

David says that I'm looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, that the owners of these dog kennels will simply pack up and take their dogs to another state where racing is still legal and as sad as it may be to know this is what will happen, I know he's right. But I also know that I now live in a state that refuses to tolerate the abuse and misuse of such beautiful creatures and I also know that I voted with my heart and my soul and I can sleep well at night knowing that I did the one thing I could do to put a stop where I live to this horrible industry: I cast my vote for the dogs and it was heard.

Nov 1, 2008

My Mother and the Dog Biscuits

The summer before last my mother, Griffin and his then-girlfriend and I spent the afternoon at the MFA checking out a couple of shows that had recently opened. Being the "living on the edge" type of girl that I am, I didn't bother to get gas before we left home in spite of the fact that the tank was on the low side, thus forcing me to find a gas station in the inner city, where there isn't exactly one on every street corner. As such, we ended up in the part of the city that fans out behind Chinatown and bumps up against Back Bay where there are quite a few up-and-coming art galleries, as well as some funky furniture shops specializing in the quirky and the cool.

After we filled the tank, we decided to check out a few of the shops, one of which was a store filled, oddly enough, with both mid-century modern furniture as well as ornate Victorian. It was a hot summer afternoon and like many inner city shops, this one had a big bowl of water outside on the sidewalk to refresh any dogs who were out for a stroll with their owners, as well as a crystal bowl on a little table just inside the door with a little sign with a picture of a dog on it stuck in the dish that said "DOG BISCUITS - HELP YOURSELF." As we walked by the table with the fancy little doggie dish, Griffin said, "Wouldn't it be funny if we could get Grandma to eat a dog biscuit by telling her they're people cookies, compliments of the store?" and while I must confess that in my mind I thought it might be amusing to watch my mom eat a dog biscuit, the mother in me said out loud to my son that it wouldn't be funny at all, especially considering the fact that my mother has a hair trigger gag reflex and I didn't think the shop owner would appreciate having her vomit all over their carpeting when that first bite hit home. After a bit of grumbling from the peanut gallery, we moved on to check out the merchandise with Griffin, his girlfriend and I going in one direction and my mother heading off in another.

Out on the sidewalk afterwards we talked about the usual stuff: what we thought of the store and how hot it was and how ungodly long the walk back to the car seemed in the sweltering heat. And then I noticed my mother snacking on something, which isn't out of the ordinary as she's diabetic and often needs a snack to raise her blood sugar. When Griffin teasingly asked what she was eating and if she had brought enough to share with the rest of the class, my mother said that there was a bowl of little cookies by the door with a sign that they were for the customers to enjoy and if we wanted some we should have gotten our own. We all shouted at her in unison, "Those were dog biscuits!" to which my mother replied that they weren't for dogs, they were clearly regular cookies and that we must have seen a different bowl. Sure enough, upon inspection, they were in fact the same bone-shaped dog biscuits from the crystal dish. My mother stopped chewing and then after a moment's thought shrugged her shoulders, said they tasted good and ate another one. She offered the remaining ones in her hand to anyone who would like to try one, but we all thanked her and politely passed on her offer, so she ate them all herself.

To this day when this story is brought up, she insists that the dog biscuits weren't all bone shaped as that would have been a dead giveaway (I personally would have thought the sign with the picture of the dog and the words "dog biscuits" in the bowl would have been one's first hint as to who the cookies were for) and she also insists that she comes by this honestly as there is a long tradition of family members who have enjoyed eating their pets' food. She mentions my aunt Audrey, her older sister, who as a baby was frequently found on the kitchen floor fighting with the family cat for the poor cat's dinner, right on up to my own son who as a toddler would pick all the fake cheese and colorful bits out of a bowl of 'kibbles n' bits' leaving just the brown less-than-fun stuff for Cordelia to eat. But don't even bother pointing out to her that in each of these tales, the cat or dog food eater in question was still in diapers, had only a rudimentary amount of language skills and hadn't yet developed what could be considered an even remotely discriminating palate because it won't get you anywhere. Trust me. Instead just offer her a dog biscuit, she'll thank you for it later.

Oct 16, 2008

The (not so) Hungry Chihuahua

Edison won't eat his dog food, even though it has fresh meat and veggies in it. He'll eat any people food that might come his way just as long as it isn't mixed in any way with dog food, either by direct hand-feeding him (a no no with little dogs who only have limited tummy space for actual meals even though it's hard to resist that teeny face asking for a treat) or when a tasty tidbit is accidentally dropped by someone in the house (a frequent occurrence when one lives with pigs who possess highly suspect table manners). Either way, Edison won't eat what is served just for him. We tend to go through spells of anorexia every now and again, and when they happen I get nervous. At first I'm fine with it as it's normal for dogs to occasionally not eat much and toy breeds are known for their persnickety eating habits, but when it continues for more than a couple of days the neurotic inner me lunges out and begins to fret about whether he's ill, losing weight or what, if anything, is wrong with my little darling and how serious it might be and of course how to cure it. And the more I think about it, the more tweaked I get. And then I can't eat.

So last night after a longish walk (what was exhausting to a seven inch tall, six pound dog at any rate) and then endless play indoors, he should have been starving, but he wasn't and again turned up his nose at what amounted to the fifth or sixth bowl of food that had gone untouched in the last couple of days. So being my usual retarded and naturally relentlessly nervous self, I refused to go to bed until he ate something. At midnight I decided to get down on the floor and pretend to eat from Edison's latest bowl of fresh food in the hopes that he'd want what I had, which usually works. And sure enough it did. All the yummy noises I was making as I was "nibbling" his food had him rushing over to the bowl, his teensy face jammed into the bowl next to mine to see what was so delicious it had me in virtual paroxysms of joy. If you're going to fake your dog out by pretending to eat its food, there really is no such thing as overacting. The award for Best Dramatic Performance goes to the one who gets the dog to finally eat. And the more fun you appear to be having and the more satisfaction you appear to be getting from his food, the better. But when he realized that it was people food and dog food, he turned up his nose and went back into his little bed a few feet away, but continued to watch my every move.

So I took it to the next level of fake eating: pulling delectable bits from the bowl, "nibbling" them by hand and then off-handedly offering them to Edison to share with me. And this was what worked. Twenty minutes later, one hand slathered in wet dog food and bits of sauteed chicken stuck to rice and dry dog kibble, he had eaten half the bowl and that was enough for me. I know many people in my life think I spoil my dog far too much, what with the enormous wardrobe, the multiple comfy dog beds throughout the house, the thousands of toys (and new ones arriving all the time), and the two sets of colorful porcelain dog dishes in just the right size for a little chihuahua, but when he won't eat, I will do what I have to to ensure that he's getting the nutrients he needs to stay healthy and happy. My mother asked me today if next I'll be putting him in a high chair and a bib and spoon feeding him at the table, and while I don't foresee myself going to that extreme (though it would be cute as shit, however dysfunctional it may be), I will do what I need to do to see that he eats. And if that means getting down on all fours and pantomiming enjoying a bowl of yummy dog food a couple of times a day, every day, then that's what I'll do. Sad, but true. I only wish the food smelled a little better than it does. My nose would certainly appreciate it.

Oct 8, 2008

Greyhound Racing in Massachusetts

I'm really excited that voting day is just a few weeks away, not because of the presidential race, but because of a question that has finally- after years of initiatives and public outcry- gotten onto our Massachusetts ballot. I'm talking about Question 3 which is the vote to forever ban Greyhound Dog Racing in this state. Needless to say, my vote will be to end this horrible "sport" once and for all.

It isn't the actual racing part which is the problem as I would think that greyhounds, who can and do love to run fast, especially while chasing small game, would truly enjoy a fast lap around the track chasing the "rabbit." No, it's everything else associated with the dog racing industry that sucks: the abuse of those dogs who don't perform adequately and eventually of even those who have been big winners, the neglect of injuries sustained when the dogs are worked to exhaustion and never properly vetted, and the dumping or abandonment of unwanted and emotionally and physically broken dogs once they are no longer able to win, win, win no matter what. The fact that these dogs are so horribly treated and spend their miserable lives, twenty hours a day in filthy cages that aren't even big enough to stand up in, is simply deplorable. And the fact that dogs who have died and have been confiscated by the state and autopsied have been found to be riddled with cocaine among other performance enhancing drugs and stimulants is also reprehensible.

Here in Massachusetts, we have listened to those in the industry whine endlessly for the last five or six years while various animal rights groups have attempted to get this question on the ballot about how banning dog racing will end their livelihood, will take millions of dollars in revenue from the state and leave thousands without employment. And to this I say: tough shit. Find a career that doesn't exploit and abuse animals, go to the casinos in Connecticut if you insist on gambling away your cash and get a job in another industry that allows you to maintain some semblance of integrity, if you even had any to begin with. And to those racing dog owners who say all these dogs are well-cared for, clearly you have never been to the greyhound shelters where your offal is being rehabilitated and hopefully eventually adopted into loving homes. Well-cared for dogs neither look nor act like your poor greyhounds do that are now living in these shelters. Have you never seen terror or pain in an animal's eyes? Can you not see a grossly misshapen limb that was never set properly after a break? Have you ever even looked at the dogs you race? You are all liars desperate to keep this industry alive and you deserve to suffer too and since money is clearly more important to you than the dogs in your kennels, I would think that no longer being able to profit from them in any way is the perfect form of suffering. And may all the inhuman humans who benefited in any way from this industry, from the folks who knowingly bred these dogs solely to race them until they were unable to run another step, and the folks who did the actual training and racing of them and then beat them when they didn't live up to expectations and then abandoned them with heart conditions and broken legs and left them to suffer and die, and those folks who took home a paycheck from working at a track and watched all this happen while doing nothing to put a stop to it, and lastly even those people who bet on these poor dogs and thus perpetuated this heinous industry, may you all burn in hell. Or better still, may you all be forced to endure what these dogs have endured for nearly a century here without hope and when you are no longer useful to those who would exploit you, may you die a lonely, cold and painful death with no one to love, nurture and heal you after you have been beaten down to nothing. Harsh words, maybe, but no harsher than the behavior of so many in this state throughout the years.

I hope to god that the people of this state are smart enough to see the dog racing industry for what it is: a monstrous and terrifying money-making machine that glorifies the "sport" of dog racing while it is in fact little more than a business that consistently and relentlessly tortures one of the most beautiful and graceful dogs on this planet. It is right up there with dog fighting and must be forever banned. Now.

VOTE YES ON QUESTION 3. The dogs need you to end their suffering.

And a big thanks to for the use of their lovely photo of greyhounds running very fast. I very much appreciate it.

Oct 7, 2008

A Rescue Group Rant

My quest for a second dog that I adore as much as Edison (if this is even possible) continues. This past weekend I found a miniature pinscher in need of a home that fit pretty much all of the criteria I have set for our next dog. She's a little girl, still young (at five years old), spayed and up to date on shots and she came from a family that surrendered her due to the other dogs in their house picking on her. This means that she wasn't living on the streets indefinitely and picking up god only knows what, that her age is accurate and that she is on the more submissive side, which would be ideal as Edison is quite alpha. And at only 15 lbs she's still small enough to be able to play with Edison and not hurt him when they rough house. Perfect, right? Well, not so much.

I filled out the application online for the rescue group that has this dog (a national group who shall remain nameless). I understand my need to prove my home ownership, and their need to contact my vet to prove that I can and do take my pets' health seriously, and that a home visit will enable them to see firsthand where we live and how we live. They can meet the family members who live here, both human and animal, and these folks can sleep soundly in the knowledge that my house is clean and not full of dirty pet dishes and piles of feces, nor that I'm running a puppy mill out of my basement or even a dog fighting ring out in my barn. I understand all this. I can even, somewhat, understand their wanting to pay a second visit to my home after the new dog is settled in to see how things are going with everyone and to see how we are all adapting to one another. But it was their adoption agreement, available online afterwards, that had rendered me speechless. I can't quite cotton to the idea that their adoption contract gives them the right to drop in whenever they wish to see how things are going at any time during this dog's entire lifetime and that if they feel I'm not being a very good pet parent, they can take the dog back right then and there, a concept that is far too vague, broad and open-ended for my comfort. I will also be required to notify them of any changes in the residents of my home and if I change addresses. According to this agreement, they have the absolute right to be kept informed of these things and should I neglect to tell them my son has grown up and has moved out, or we have sold our home and purchased a new one, once they have tracked me down at the new address, again, they can confiscate my dog if they choose. Perhaps they would feel more secure if I installed closed circuit video cameras in every room of my house so they can watch the goings-on here 24 hours a day. Maybe even add audio and a PA system that connects them to me, so if they feel I'm slacking off in any way, they can push a button at their headquarters and tell me over a loudspeaker here in my home to cut the shit or they'll be coming to take my dog within the hour. Do I have to furnish a friend list and get approval on everyone on it before they're allowed to visit us and the dog? What about potential workmen here? Plumbers, electricians? Must they be approved in advance of entering my home?

Honestly, things have gotten completely and utterly out of hand in the animal rescue and adoption industry. There is concern for the well-being of a soon-to-be-adopted pet and there is caution in approving a family and then there is insanity and in all honesty, nazism. It seems that just about everyone is taking "being careful" to the extreme to the point of driving away honest, animal-loving people from giving a homeless animal the safe, loving and nurturing home they deserve. I understand wanting to be sure a pet isn't going to be abused in their new home or returned to a shelter because it hasn't worked out. I get this, and I wouldn't want to have an animal that has lived such a hard life endure any more upset or upheaval in their lives, but there is a line of decency and a lot of these people have long ago crossed it in the guise of making sure a pet has a happy life for the remainder of their time here on earth.

Whatever happened to the local pound where you could make a donation and bring home a loving dog and have a new best friend in your life without all the bullshit? Without the volunteers there doing their utmost to make you feel like you aren't worthy of the dogs they have so perhaps you should look elsewhere? How did things get so out of hand?

I desperately want a second dog (or more) but there is absolutely no way I'm going to sign away my rights of privacy and freedom (for possibly the next two decades or so) to live my life as I see fit without having to report my every move to strangers in the name of adopting a dog I have chosen and paid for, the money of which (and this agency is not cheap) goes directly to aid their other dogs that never get adopted out (probably due to the outrageously stringent adoption rules). After I have proven in my initial interviews and meetings (and jumped through their ridiculous hoops) that I am a fit pet owner and will be able to more than adequately care for my new dog, my responsibility to these people should end there. I shouldn't be subjected to random visits and phone calls a decade or more from now that force me to continue to prove that I am a capable pet owner or else. Give me a break.

It's the animals who deserve so much better than that which they currently have and they are being robbed of their chances at a long and wonderful life with a family who adores them when all of these controlling morons alienate those who are looking to adopt.

Sep 23, 2008

Nearly Famous Chickens

My chickens are now minor local celebrities.

Last week I received a phone call from a reporter from our regional newspaper asking me if I would be interested in being interviewed for an upcoming article on people who have small backyard poultry farms. Normally, being the reclusive nutjob I am I would have politely refused, but this man had called me early in the morning and while I might have successfully hidden from him- in my voice- the fact that I was snuggled under the blankets in bed with Edison and that he had just woken me up, deep inside my body my brain was not at full operating capacity (and wouldn't be for several more hours) and thus I agreed to have him come out to my house. He asked if he might bring along a photographer to take some shots of the chickens and me and for that, at least, I was lucid enough to request no photos be taken.

Being a person who enjoys her solitude, I fretted for days over my rash decision. I even contemplated canceling the interview, though in the end I went ahead and did it like a Big Girl. I may prefer to be alone in my studio working, but I'm by no means a shy person, so I told Griffin to keep an eye on me and if I started to get too chatty and thus begin to look like a bit of a loony, to please step in and stop me. Some people, I have found, don't get my humor, and as it turns out, this reporter was one of those people.

He asked me a great many questions about chickens as he knew nothing about them and he completely ignored my ducks as they weren't to be included in this article. For the most part I remained fairly guarded, not running off at the mouth and only keeping to the facts about the birds. We joked about a few things, but nothing particularly outrageous, and then he asked me about egg laying. When I explained that the birds need 12-14 hours of daylight a day to lay a single egg and thus come winter production slows down considerably, leaving David to have fits when I buy carton after carton of eggs at Whole Foods for holiday baking and to bemoan the fact that we have a barn full of little freeloaders, I figured the man realized I was being humorous. (Granted, David does hate the fact that we have a barn full of virtually eggless chickens several months of the year, and yes he has referred to them as "little freeloaders" but it's all very lighthearted, I swear). So when the article was published last Sunday morning, I was surprised to see my innocent little tale taken literally and David having been characterized as something of a curmudgeon who is (and I directly quote here) "infuriated" when we have to buy eggs at the market. Well, I guess this puts us a bit further up on the celebrity meter than we've been thus far by not only being misquoted but being made to look like we have personality issues as well. Cool. We should be honored. The two men who were also interviewed for the article only spouted facts and very dryly at that, but being a woman and, well, being me, I came off as a bit too folksy and funny. And maybe a tad odd, which I had been desperately trying to avoid. Hmm.

The reporter also came without a photographer per my request, but did come with a camera of his own and tried to get me to appear on-camera in a video segment that was published both on the local news feed as well as utube, to which I declined (Griffin tried very hard to talk me into it, but I held fast to my guns). I did, however, consent to having some close-up video shot of my girls ambling about on the lawn and in the gardens, provided no mile markers of my property were visible in the frame. I know this sounds very Reclusive Crazy Mountain Man, but I have had some issues in the past with my birds' safety and prefer to not have it public knowledge that I have a barn full of potential targets. The birds are not at all visible from the road, my neighbors know, my friends know, but everyone else need not know and I feel that having less people know about their existence will hopefully keep my girls safe and snug out there. I explained in detail to the reporter what had happened in the past and why I wished to remain anonymous and he said he understood, then published within the paper the exact street addresses of all three of us who were featured in the article, myself included. So much for anonymity.

In the end, it was fun to see my girls featured, albeit for the briefest moment, in a video online and to read about them in print (which wasn't published by me, for a change) but if I were called again to do this, I would honor my deepest instinct, which would be to say "thanks, I'm flattered, but I'll pass." There's a reason why I prefer to remain a recluse and this experience was it. Live and learn. Live and learn.

Sep 12, 2008

Other People's Dogs

It's amazing the cool dogs you can meet when you take your own dog for a walk. Walkies in our house is a big deal to Edison because he gets to get out there in the fresh air, he can chase squirrels up trees, terrify unsuspecting birds who are attempting to grab a quick earth snack and thus causing them to scatter to the four winds, and if he's especially lucky, rustle up a rabbit in the grass as well. Which is all very amusing as two of these three creatures are bigger than Edison. But to me, walkies means ogling- and occasionally lusting after- other people's dogs. I love most dogs, regardless of the breed, size or color (there are exceptions to this rule: dogs with jiggly jowls that I just know make for a giant mess when they eat and cause excessive and gooey nonstop drooling and dogs with really lush, heavy coats are not to my liking). But my heart skips a beat and I go all weak in the knees when I spot a little dog (the tinier the better) who is sporting a short and neat coat and a pointy little face.

The exception to the pointy face rule is pugs. I love pugs. I love their personalities and I love their little mushy, snorting, laughing faces. And the little curly pig tail they sport is adorable. The other night on our walk we met a young little female pug named Princess Diana, fawn with a black face. I was practically on the ground canoodling with her, much to David's chagrin. Even Edison, who is known for his extreme lack of interest in mingling with other dogs, jigged around her and back and forth. While I would love a pug, I'm not sure in living with one every day I could get around that jowly, gooey face thing. If I could rent a pug for, say, a weekend and see how I dealt with it, that would be great, because then I would know if I could handle the wet bits and the snoring and wheezing.

And while today I was technically in a car and not on foot at the time, I have to mention the tiny little black chihuahua I saw jigging along the sidewalk with his owner. It was both the teensiest and the happiest little dog I have seen out walking in a long time. His joy at being out for a walk in the big world was palpable. I only wish I had been walking too so I could have said hello to him and met him in person, given him a pat or let him give me a kiss. Still, watching him from a distance gleefully greeting every person who passed him on the sidewalk was one of those delightful dog moments I cherish so much.

***And a very big thank you to my friend Jo who lives in England for allowing me to use her photograph of her adorable little pug for this post. That photo up there above my words is of Doris, a very charming, award-winning little girl who not only has the looks, but clearly also has a fair amount of fashion sense as well with that ultra stylish cardigan she's sporting. Doris, you're one cute little doll face!

Sep 10, 2008


We have a new visitor to our porch every night in the form of a young opossum. David was coming home from the train well after dark the other night and I heard him coming up the front steps with his bike but then he never came into the house. Moments later the phone rang and it was David telling me to come to one of the front windows. There, balancing on the edge of one of the trash cans was a little opossum who couldn't decide whether it was more important to keep an eye on the guy standing quietly behind him at the top of the steps or the girl's head now poking out of the open window that was talking to him in a soothing baby voice.

After David went back down the steps and came in through the back door, Griffin got an apple and took it outside and set it down for our new little friend, much to David's chagrin. He and I have never agreed on whether to feed the wildlife that lives in our midst and we most definitely never will. He adheres to the "absolutely not because it encourages wild animals to live too closely to us and takes away their drive to forage for food" ideology whereas I am of the belief that supplementing a wild animal's regular diet helps to keep those creatures living in very close proximity to us stronger and hopefully healthier, thus exposing we humans and our animals to less diseased and hungry animals (especially in winter) and hopefully keep most of them out of my gardens. This has proven to be the case with the exception of one very obstinate rabbit and one gluttonous woodchuck (see previous post). And besides, animals are cute and I like to feed them.

So the manky little opossum ate the apple and moseyed off. He's been back every night since and tonight as I was bringing out a handful of grapes to have them waiting for him when he arrived, it turns out he came by early (I guess opossums either don't have clocks or can't tell time) and I startled the hell out of him. He came back later though and ate all the fruit I left for him. David thinks he's started to come closer to the house looking for food because David inadvertently took his food source away last weekend when he cleaned up the lawn under our apple tree of all the dropped fruit (our friend's sheep adore them). The opossums love the drops, too. You can't pull into our driveway on late summer or fall evenings without seeing at least one opossum feasting at the base of our apple tree.

Though he's quite clean, he is one mangy-looking little guy. As David says, opossums aren't known for their good looks. They all basically look half-finished and undercooked, with sparse gray fur and lots and lots of pink skin. And they aren't exactly known for their intelligence either. But regardless, I'll keep feeding him as long as he keeps coming around or until more apples pop off our tree and he goes back to his original foraging spot. Or until David ties me up so I can't get to the food or the front door.

Nighty-night, Mr. Opossum.

Aug 12, 2008

The All-You-Can-Eat Woodchuck Buffet

My son came to me the other morning and said he saw a furry brown animal in my vegetable garden but he wasn't sure if it was a woodchuck or a beaver. Well, even though we have a wetland very close to our house, and while beavers could in theory be living within its vicinity, I seriously doubted that it was a beaver eating my veggies. We do have a rabbit, which is also brown, who lives beneath our barn and who last year decimated most of the echinacea in my field garden. (Not to get completely off the subject here, but for some reason the rabbit chose only to eat the most beautiful and colorful of my coneflowers: the nearly neon pink and orange ones that I paid quite a bit of money for and which to no one's surprise, by the same token, chose to completely ignore the more traditional and commonplace purple ones that were given to me by a friend and which of course cost me nothing).

So now it's later in the day and the sun is setting all fiery orange and red and as I stood at the kitchen sink, and I asked David if it was possible for Griffin to not be able to tell the difference between a woodchuck and a rabbit, and as he was about to reply, I could see the greenery part in my vegetable garden and a rather large furry, brown mammal of some sort settle in for a nosh. It's timing couldn't have been more impeccable. Now the vegetable garden is quite a distance from the house, and David's eyes are better than mine, so I said, "Quick! Look out the back door window and tell me if that's the woodchuck." He did, and it was. The bastard! (the woodchuck, not David)

Now I thought it would be nice to get a photo of the little thief caught in the act of stealing my tomatoes, but the woodchuck was having none of that. When I went outside he was standing on his hind legs, whistling a merry tune (he was literally whistling a song in some sort woodchuckian form of bliss) while he happily gobbled up tomato after tomato. And then when he decided that I wasn't going to get any closer to him, he turned and headed for the hedge to make his getaway. But right before he ducked through the bushes, he turned and looked at me with one very ugly expression on his little face and I swear if he'd had arms, he'd have shaken a tiny fist at me before turning and making his exit. Like I have some nerve interrupting his freeloading ass filling up on my vegetables.

I was thinking that it would be nice to catch him so I could have a nice little chat with him, Chuck to Woman, just to let him know that I don't appreciate his stealing the best of my beautiful veggies, but it wouldn't matter anyways because the garden is now completely ruined for me for this season. There's no way I'm eating anything that comes out of there because I just know that even if he hasn't has his mouth on everything out there, he's most likely touched everything with his dirty little woodchuck feet while carefully choosing which tomatoes and peppers were the juiciest and most tantalizing to his witsy bitsy little brain. And just that thought alone is enough to send me to the grocery store until the first frost. Damn woodchuck.

Jun 24, 2008

My Father and the Baboons

The male members of my family have a history of acting oddly (read: poorly) at the zoo. Growing up, my brother was just awful with any and all animals, from teasing a raccoon until the poor animal went berserk, reached into my brother's shirtfront pocket and stole a ballpoint pen which it then refused to relinquish, to which a zookeeper in turn went berserk because the raccoon had what amounted to a lethal weapon, right up to teasing a cage full of chimpanzees until one of those poor animals also went berserk and ripped a glass soda bottle from my brother's hand, thus sending yet another zookeeper into paroxysms of hysteria at the sight of a chimp with a sharp glass projectile. But to be fair, he came by this behavior honestly, having been taken to the zoo many, many times by our father.

My father, a quiet and emotionally reserved man in virtually every area of his existence, for some reason known only to him, stepped wildly out of character and became a blathering lunatic when it came to baboons. Only the baboons, or as my mother refers to them, "You know, those monkeys with the blue bottoms and the long, striped noses?" My father would jump up and down, make faces, flail his arms madly about and make ridiculous noises until the baboons would charge at him and repeatedly fling themselves against their cage front in an attempt to stop him from making a complete spectacle of himself in a very public place. This was in the midwest in the late 1950's (thankfully predating my birth by quite a few years) and at one point the zoo actually closed for many months while the complete operation was moved to a brand new zoo on the other side of the city. And sure enough, when the new zoo opened and my parents and brother went to visit their favorite animals in their new home, those baboons, even after not having laid eyes on my father for many, many months, instantly recognized him and tried to attack him once again. To which, naturally, my father immediately resumed his bizarre taunting of them. I'm sure it was a mutual thing, with both sides getting something out of it and everyone involved finding themselves quite satisfied when all was said and done.

And so it is with no wonder whatsoever that my brother behaves so deplorably around poor caged animals. Look who his childhood role model was.

May 10, 2008

Fur Sucks (Unless it's Still on the Living Animal)

While PETA can often be accused of going overboard with some of their tactics and ideas regarding the ethical treatment of animals, the ad campaign, "Here's the Rest of Your Fur Coat" is brilliant by any standard. Not that the people who love fur and like to shove their "look-at-me-and-my-luxuriously-soft-and mad-expensive-dead-animal-coat" in your face will give a damn. When you wear fur you automatically don't care at all about the poor animals who gave their lives for your stupid rich people fashion whims, or how they suffered, and you certainly could give a shit what their bodies look like after being mangled for your own pleasure. But for the rest of us, the humane ones who would rather go naked than kill an animal to look hot on a night out, this picture speaks volumes.

Mar 24, 2008

Shelter Dogs

I've been searching through shelters for a dog who can be a best friend to my little Edison Jack, but so far I either haven't really found a dog that I like enough to want to spend the next decade or more of my life with, or I if I have liked a dog and think it could work out, Edison tries to tear its face off upon meeting it.

The thing with shelters is that they're very depressing to visit (so I can only imagine how awful it is to live there). No matter how clean and bright the environment, it's ultimately a dumping ground for unwanted animals, troubled animals or animals that have just been dealt a really shitty hand in this life and have never had anyone to love them. And all shelters look like prisons, regardless. I try very hard to not feel badly when I am actually in the building looking at the dogs because I know they can sense what I am feeling. I try to be calm and gentle and not be wearing my "oh these poor things" heart on my sleeve, but it's virtually impossible for me to get out of there without completely losing it.

This past week I met two dogs that I spent some time with while considering making them members of our little family. The first was a shepherd mix who had been run over by a car and left for dead. Not only had she been seriously injured, but she was also pregnant. She had been watched over for several weeks outside a police station in Puerto Rico (best not to get me started on what I really think about Puerto Rico and their stray dog "problems") where the men fed her scraps of food, yet no one thought to bring her to a vet or even get her out of the elements. By the time a good samaritan had brought her to a doctor, her babies were dead and her seriously broken leg had healed wrong so now she has a permanent limp. Many humans would have given up after having this happen to them, or at least be left suffering from some pretty serious depression, but this was a very happy little girl. She was gentle and sweet and her tail never stopped wagging. Griffin really liked her and she was a little darling, so I thought, "okay, let's do this" and then Edison, who clearly couldn't sense her sweetness or didn't even remotely care how loving she was, tried to bite her in the face several times. So much for dog #1.

The second dog was absolutely beautiful. A lab/boxer cross by the looks of him, black with white socks. This was a dog that has been in a shelter every single day of his life and for the first ten months of his short twelve on this earth was never interacted with at all. The people in the shelter in Arkansas where he came from ought to be flogged. This is now a dog who simply cannot allow a human to get close to him because he doesn't trust. No one has ever held him or patted him or kissed him. No one has told him what a good boy he is, how beautiful he is or played any doggie games with him. He'll let you walk him, and during the walk he'll even begin to stand a little closer to your legs, but try to reach down and pat him and he'll try to run away from you. There was nothing but terror in that dog's eyes. He'd give you a look like he desperately wanted to be loved and given attention, but when you made a move to show him kindness, it terrified him and he'd frantically pull away. He was afraid of Edison, who in turn was completely indifferent to this pretty boy. That's rather symbolic of this dog's whole life: if he hadn't been ignored so much he'd have more social skills and be very adoptable. For the person who is willing to give him the time he needs, this dog would make a lovely pet, but only if they lead a very quiet life. This is not an animal that you could take out in public, especially in any crowded areas, nor would he be good with company visiting at home. Most likely, this is a dog who will spend all his days in a shelter as very few people have the knowledge, time or patience to rehabilitate a dog this withdrawn, and that's unbelievably heartbreaking.

So my search continues, which unfortunately means more trips to shelters, which never gets any easier. I would rather find our next little friend in one of them though, than to go through a breeder again, simply because the act of giving an unwanted animal a second chance at life and love is a very beautiful thing for the dog and for us. I guess I'll need to dig deep and find in me the motivation that keeps these poor dogs going in spite of all their own difficulties. If they can survive the horrors they have lived, then I can survive the horror of walking into a shelter and hearing their stories and hopefully giving one of them a long and happy life in a loving home.

Jan 29, 2008

Canine Couture

What is it that makes a normal and sane person (relatively speaking) suddenly start to do things they swore they never, ever would simply because they now own a tiny little dog? I have never been the type of person who has ever given a thought to dressing up an animal since I was about six or seven years old and routinely dressed up my poor cat in baby doll clothes and took her for a ride in my doll carriage, yet now I am doing it all the time (less the doll carriage of course). I even go shopping with the specific purpose of adding new items to my dog's already burgeoning wardrobe. Granted, I have on occasion seen little dogs being walked down the side of the road and have done a double take with an "oh my god that is so cute!" when seeing something outrageously adorable, like two miniscule yorkies being walked in teensy matching tutus made of lavender and pink tulle, but that's the exception. I don't believe I have ever reacted with more than an occasional "nice sweater" when seeing a larger dog strolling by in a hand knit. So why now that I own a small dog am I compelled to dress it to the nines every chance I get? Does this sort of behavior automatically become compulsory when one takes possession of a toy dog?

Don't get me wrong, I don't go for those silly little t-shirts with glittery slogans such as "spoiled rotten" and "#1 pet", the trailer park trash, bar whore outfits of the pet world. No, I'm more a hand knit sweater and ultra suede jacket type of person, with the occasional longing for an expensive Juicy Couture coat. Maybe it's because my dog is a male that I have managed to rein in my new and truly unexpected behavior with more serious clothing. What I need is to add a second dog, a female, to feed my newfound desire to dress a canine in frilly Pollyanna dresses and tutus of my own made of lavender and pink tulle, with maybe the occasional pair of tiny gossamer fairy wings included. Then all I would need to worry about (with the exception of my family riding my ass twice as much as they do now about the supposed indignity of it all) would be more closet space.

Jan 21, 2008

The Great Horned Owl

Even more exciting than the realization that my backyard had been transformed a few weeks ago into a turkey suburbia was the discovery of a Great Horned Owl in one of the trees at the back of the property. She might not be nearly as cute as a turkey (if you even would consider a turkey cute- I do), but she sure is a far rarer sight in this area.

She was there in the early morning when I went out to water my birds and she stayed straight through until dusk. It was amazing to watch all the smaller birds swoop down and dive in regular waves at her tree hour after hour, shouting and calling to drive her away. One little male cardinal was especially driven to scare her away, though he obviously had no luck. Neither did the dozens upon dozens of crows that taunted her and flew at her head for the better part of the day. The noise was extraordinary all day and could be heard clearly and quite loudly even inside the house.

And while there wasn't a single small mammal to be seen anywhere on the ground throughout that entire day, there was one poor, unfortunate little squirrel who was just feet from the owl and who had laid himself flat out on his branch not daring to move so much as a muscle for the full ten hours she was perched there in the tree. Poor thing, caught suddenly in the midst of his morning squirrel business of snacking and burying, he was stranded and paralyzed there for hours. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the terror of that day must have chipped years off of his already brief little life.

Still, the visit from the owl was a simply magnificent gift. I cherish the chance to see such rare and beautiful birds in such close proximity to my home. Nature is a joy. Nature is perfect.
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