Aug 31, 2009

Snakes Today, Mice Back Then

The discussion of snakes came up recently when a friend who lives down south was saying how she had woken up one morning a week or so back to find a very large snake in her house trying to figure out a way to get up to her caged birds for a free breakfast. She freaked (as most normal people would) and called for her husband who promptly came and killed the snake. Disaster averted.

I was of two minds when she told me this. First, that while not afraid of snakes per se, I would be startled and upset to see one in my house trying to eat my pets so I was sympathetic to her plight, but I also felt really bad for the snake and I told her so. I said that I don't think I would have reacted so hastily when it came to killing it and suggested that perhaps next time she might consider sparing the snake's life and relocating it far enough away from her home to ensure it wouldn't come back at mealtime. Her response to this was that as she and her family live where there is a plethora of highly poisonous snakes and other reptiles, many of which look just like non-poisonous snakes and reptiles, they don't bother to wait and see if Mr. Snake is going to turn out to be a good guy or a bad guy. They shoot and ask questions later. And while I do understand the need to protect yourself and your loved ones, I still feel bad for the snake. And this story reminded me of my own indoor critter issue.

Many, many moons ago, back in the mid-80s when David and I were living in our first apartment, we had a bit of a mouse problem. We lived in a small but sweet apartment on the top floor of a big old Victorian house directly above an elderly lady (who also lived directly above another old lady) both of who kept their heat jacked to the max all winter. This was nice because we never had to turn our own heat on at all, which was great for our budget, but bad because we ended up with bloody noses that lasted for months due to our scorchingly dry home atop all those ancient heat-seekers and we tended to draw in all the rodents who in the deep freeze of winter were looking for a place to thaw their itsy bitsy bones for a spell. Our bedroom rug, positioned in front of the radiator, was the favorite haunt for countless chilly little field mice. There would be many mice there, laying before the warmth day and night, and fearing our cats would kill them we spent a great deal of time removing the little cuties from our home and carrying them off to safety.

I have to admit that whenever we had to catch a new batch of mice to relocate them, I would often let them go again, just to see them scamper off and up a curtain or to zip off down the hallway. But catch them we did and on the colder nights David would bring the mice down to the river, a good mile or so from our place, and there he would let them go. He was always very careful to be sure they were well covered with leaves and within the low bushes to help fend off the chill, and I always grilled him to death when he'd come back to be sure he was as careful as possible to help them survive in the bitter cold. And then the next day, there would be more mice paying our almost too cozy home a visit. The other tenants thought us insane to not just put mouse traps down as our landlord had done all over that antique house, but instead we kept bringing the little ones out to a place they could safey call home, but far away from our own house. And as we came and went, we'd also trip the traps left by the landlord and then throw them away in our trash before any mice were killed in them.

So if I lived where my friend lives and I found a snake in my house I'm not sure what I'd do, given the chance that it could be something deadly, but as I live where a garter snake is about the most dangerous cold-blooded thing in my yard, I'm pretty sure I'd be bagging it up and taking it back outside where it belongs. And I probably wouldn't let it go again for a laugh just to see it slithering cutely down my hallway before I did that.

Aug 27, 2009

Pet Snapshot 1

I was told that raw beef bones and marrow bones were good for dogs and so the next time I was buying some cut meat, I asked the butcher for some good-sized bones for a good-sized dog. I went home with several large hunks of bone with all sorts of bloody muscle, bits of drippy meat and other nasty things that dogs go berserk over and sure enough, Cordelia went batshit on the spot. I froze a few of them for later and gave her a few to get started on. She took off with them and for awhile I saw her working on them in various places in the house. I tried to get her to stay in one spot (and on a towel as well), but she was having none of that as clearly for her a big part of the thrill was in dining on them here, there and everywhere. Some time went by and I saw Cordelia lazing about without her bones and I went looking for them but couldn't find them anywhere, and then having gotten busy with my own life, forgot all about the bones until I went upstairs later that night to open the bed for David and I. And there were Cordelia's bones, stuffed underneath David's pillows. She adored David, so it was a toss-up as to whether she was offering them as a gift to him or had chosen to hide them there because she trusted him to protect them for her and not eat them himself, but either way we had a bed full of bloody, stringy sinew and smelly, sucked-on bones. With a gift like that at the end of a long day, it's a good thing we loved her just as much as she did us.

Aug 22, 2009

Chihuahua Card

My birthday was last week and this was the best card I got. Nothing but nothing is cuter than a little girl chi in pink rhinestones.

Aug 20, 2009

Marketing Pet Food By Mail

Have pet food manufacturer's seen such a dip in their sales that they feel the need to bombard pet owners with pamphlets and even food samples through the mail? Lately I seem to be getting one or more a day, for both dogs and cats.

Yesterday I got two pieces of literature trying to entice me to buy a certain dog food brand which shall remain nameless as I do not care for the food very much and am not going to give the company any free advertising. I will say that is a high end food that can only be bought in specialty stores, not supermarkets nor chain pet supply stores, and my boys only ate it as Bram was being fed that when I got him and I didn't want to change his diet suddenly as he has quite the delicate little constitution. He loves the stuff and so does Edison (who never eats anything), which doesn't surprise me as it isn't good for them at all, despite its high falutin' name and price tag. After all, who would pass up a bag of potato chips and a cheeseburger for a plate of carrot slices and some lean chicken?

I did read the little booklet though and found an interesting bit of information that I felt compelled to pass on to Bram. It said, and I quote, "the chihuahua produces only a small amount of waste..." Excuse me? I have never had a dog of any size who shits as much as Bram does in a single day. It's staggering what comes out of his tiny body. I showed him the booklet, I read him the data and do you think he cared? Not a whit. And still I have the shittingest chi in the east.

Today I got a small package from Fancy Feast. I say their name because this is the brand Maia eats (and I use the term "eat" in only the loosest sense of the word). She sniffs it, she might lick it, but then she walks away in disgust. At least she'll eventually eat this stuff, albeit grudgingly, because there isn't another food on the planet she'll even consider, no matter the quality or price, and believe me I've tried them all. But I digress.

Apparently Fancy Feast is now making cat appetizers. Little plastic containers with shredded meats in broth and nothing else added. The food sample came in a fancy box, complete with pop open windows and catchy feel-good phrases printed all over it such as "in a delicate broth" and "simply for anytime" (the italics is Fancy Feast's choice and not mine). This last one floors me. If my cat won't eat the main dish, what makes them think she's going to be interested in an appetizer? And what's next? A wine list?

Aug 14, 2009

Another Vintage Chi

Another vintage chihuahua photo.

Check out the ears on this little guy. I joke that my boys can hear things happening thousands of miles away with their big ears, but I bet that this dog could pick up signals from space with these satellite dishes. Yikes!

Photo courtesy of Antique Dog Photos

Aug 13, 2009

Here We Go Again: The Barnyard Bully Revisited

Suky Mae having a really bad hair day after Ruby Pauline got hold of her head.

Edison and Bram straining to get closer to poor Suky who was sitting just out of frame here.

This past weekend little Suky Mae suffered the fate of a few of our more docile birds: she was beaten up but good by Ruby Pauline, our bully in residence. It's been a few years since Ruby last went berserk on another bird, so this came as a surprise. I haven't the heart to give Ruby away as she's too old to lay and thus would be of no use to anyone and I would worry she would be instantly culled. I mean, honestly, who would want a bird who has nothing to offer save for the occasional routing of another, innocent chicken? So to be sure she has a happy life (as happy a life as a curmudgeonly old hen can have, that is), she stays here with us and when she gets into one of her "moods" she is thrown into solitary confinement for a few days until she has forgotten all about what had her upset in the first place and can once again live in peace with the other birds.

Although she always worked alone, she now has an accomplice, George, our only other Cubalaya hen. George is not nearly as miserable as Ruby, but given that they are both a breed of bird bred for fighting in South America (and are rare and considered endangered as a breed here in the US), no matter how docile they are in their youth, they all tend to become aggressive with age. I was never informed of this rather crucial detail when I acquired these birds as tiny chicks (and shame on me for not thinking this through better than I did), but had I been, I most likely would have passed on them right then and there. The rest of my birds are breeds known for their gentleness: silkies, sex links and cochins and throwing them in with two ugly brawlers was never my intention.

Unlike Ruby's last victim, who didn't survive the attack, Suky has rallied and is back to her old self, albeit with a few less feathers on her tiny head. Ruby and George are out of confinement and back in gen pop once again and all seems to be just as it should be. For now.

Aug 12, 2009

The March of the Frogs

We had a little visitor tonight. Little to us, but not so little as frogs go. He was a big boy. Just as the rain started to fall, he came a-hopping up our back steps, which was clearly not his intended destination. When it rains, the frogs leave the wetland behind our house en masse and for some unknown and really insane reason, they make a suicidal trip up our yard to the front of our house and across the busy street to our neighbor's yard and then if luck is on their side, they make it back alive. We can't figure out why they do this as there is nothing of any interest to a frog over there (trust me, there's nothing of any interest to a human either), yet do it they do. I hate to see the street littered with the bodies of flattened frogs and have even on occasion gone outside during the rain with Griffin and helped the frogs get back without being run over by indifferent motorists. But this little guy didn't get that far.

Griffin went out and picked him up, which was no easy feat. The frog was repeatedly leaping several feet into the air and forward simultaneously (as frogs often do) and when he finally was caught, was so slippery-wet he kept sliding out of Griffin's gentle grip. We showed him to the boys who both sniffed him thoroughly. Edison seemed bored with the frog rather quickly, but Bram didn't like it at all. He went rigid and refused to move until I carried him back into the house and far away from the frog. And then Griffin put the frog back into the grass, pointed him in the direction of the water behind us and off went the frog back to the wetland, safe (from passing cars, at any rate) for another day.

Aug 8, 2009

Good Dog! Bad Owner!

Edison has a habit of barking at every little thing all evening long. Sometimes it's obvious what has set him off: for example, the skunk that comes ambling through our yard at about 9ish every night. Edison hates the skunk, but we can tell it's the skunk that's got him all worked up due to its overwhelming pungency. People three towns over have to be able to smell that thing. He also hates the trains that can be heard through the woods behind our house at 9pm, 11:30pm, 2:30am and 4:30am (sometimes we're even still up for that last one). People walking by on the sidewalk across the street from our front yard are a dead giveaway too, as are the neighbor's dogs. But then there are the nights when he just barks and barks and barks and no one can figure out what it is he sees, or smells, or hears (though we know it's something). It's then that nothing but nothing can settle him down.

Like last night. It appeared to be another one of those nights where I spend far too much time humoring him in an attempt to get him to shut the hell up. He and I peeked out the upstairs windows, but that just sent him into even more of a frenzy. We went downstairs and I turned on the outside lights, picked him up and we looked outside together from all the doors and quite a few of the windows. There was absolutely nothing to see so I put him back down and went back to what I was doing, only to go through the ritual again when his barking cycled back up. It went on for hours and I don't know about you, but a shrill agitated chihuahua is not one of my favorite things. Soothing to the nerves? Not so much.

Eventually everyone in the house went to bed, save for me and the boys (per usual). Around 1am I decided to go downstairs and get something to snack on while I worked and just as he had been doing all evening, Edison tore down the stairs ahead of me and went to the kitchen door in a total freak-fest of noise. Sure enough, there on the porch rail, with her frantic face plastered to the glass, was Maia Louise begging to please be let back inside. As an indoor cat who only goes out on a leash for short romps, her gleeful escape of about five hours earlier when the back door had last been opened had clearly long since ceased to be a gas to her and had become something far scarier. Scratching furiously at the window, her mouth meowing silently out there on the other side of the glass, I let her in. As she fell into the kitchen in a big ball of relief, Edison smacked her once across the face for being so naughty in the first place and then glared at me as if to say, "I've been trying to tell you she was out there for the last five hours, you dumb ass." And with that, he went back upstairs, curled into his bed next to where I was working and finally- silently!- went to sleep.

Aug 5, 2009

Vintage Chihuahuas

This afternoon I was picking my way through an enormous amount of lousy photographs on the internet while looking for something very specific, and much to my surprise found this delightful circa 1930 photograph of this very happy lady and her collection of chis. I'm not sure how it ended up in a search for a "1950's vintage beaded sweater", but no one was more amused to find it than I. And how could this lady not be happy with that many chihuahuas in her arms? One chi is a joy, but five times the happiness? Oo-la-la!
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