The Tree Outside My Window

How lucky I am to wake up to the songs, sights, and antics of the birds in the tree outside my window. The melody of the wren is cheery and a delight to wake up to. I have put a small yellow birdhouse in the tree and in resides a family of little wrens. I got to see as they brought small twig after twig and stuffed them through the small entry hole. I got to watch them scoot away from the robin who used the tree as the perch with which to guard his nest in a nearby bush. But despite the robin’s apparent intimidating presence, the wrens still managed to scoot in and out of their cozy abode, all the while entertaining the human in the window.

Dash the Boston Terrier

Dash our new Boston Terrier

And so, his nibs arrived to our humble abode on January 12, 2022. A big, burly Boston Terrier with a single, beautiful blue eye! He made himself comfy pretty soon after arrival, and “announced” his preference for being a veritable couch potato.

He came with the name Dash, and we decided to keep it because of the traumas he had evidently endured during his previous 3 years. No one could tell us for sure, but at the very least, he was screamed at and tormented by two toddlers, and at the worst, he was physically abused. We now see vestiges of behavior that surely stems from previous suffering.

Now he has two siblings – “the girls,” one of whom annoys him terribly, and the other who mostly ignores him but sets forth a rocket-pace Frisbee derby in the backyard every day. In short, they act like normal dogs who pretty much get along.

Dash is strong! When we take our daily walks, I look like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, flailing about uncontrollably. We are working on this. He has also discovered that with a single flying leap, he can bound right through the baby gate that has successfully corralled our other in the dogs, without fail.  We are looking at new gates. He has also decided he does not like visits to the vet, the dear man who has cared for my dogs for over 30 years!  My vet and I are working on this.

The bottom line is, we love this boy, our Dash. I have just retired, and as my 97-year-old Dad recently said to me, “Dash is going to be good for you.” I guess that’s one way to look at it!

Dog with solid fill

Rites of Robins in Spring

City/suburban living (technically we are in the suburbs, but the city is just a few blocks away): baby robins in a nest under the eaves, deer prancing down the street, a blond, baby raccoon running furiously across the front lawn, and of course, bats in the belfry?

It has been a dramatic time in the wild-life sector, and it isn’t even summer yet!

It amazed me how quickly the robins went from feather-less lumps to fledglings crowded together and amping up to fly from the nest. It takes a village because a number of adult robins spent several days urging these young ones to fly and when one of my dogs came too close, she was aptly dive-bombed. Anyway, my anxiety level increased when the fledglings perched on the edge of the nest.

And so, my “vigil” began. I looked out to make sure there were no young ones flapping around on the ground or flying low, as first-flyers do, before letting my pack out to do their business. I also put a leash on my little huntress who has been known to grab low-flying birds out of the air and catch squirrels and rabbits. At least with a leash on her I could catch her quickly.  In fact, once I had let the dogs out and saw a young robin flapping that I’d somehow missed during my inspection of the yard before letting my dogs out. The bird was over by our chain link fence, and when I approached, she tried to make her way through it. However, she couldn’t quite squeeze through, so I gave her a little boost and off she safely went.

However, the bad news is that one of the fledglings didn’t make it and I am assuming my high prey-drive girl managed to grab the little thing when I wasn’t looking. The good news: no sign of the other three which I’m hoping means they have made it safely to becoming adult robins.

As spring morphs into summer and life in the wild marches on, I’m hoping that next year I’ll find another robin’s nest under the eaves.

Renewal

Has it really been since July of last year?

Oh friends, the proverbial time clock ticks and tocks and suddenly months have gone by. 

I have many things to share with you, but I’ll just gloss over the highlights now and fill in details later. We lost our precious old lady, Sasha, who crossed the Rainbow Bridge in November after she spent months of hanging on to her little corner of life. Nothing is as heartbreaking as ushering a beloved pet on to wherever their sweet souls find to rest.

In January we adopted a beautiful, 3-year-old Boston Terrier of the red-coated persuasion. He came to us as an abused case, and he is keeping me busy with training and loving. He gets along with our other two – a big plus. It’s just strange people he’s not real fond of.

After much pondering, I have decided to throw in the career towel and retire! I still feel like I’m 16 instead of 60-something, so I cringe when I say the word. It always reminds me of old people, of which I do not mentally consider myself one.

So, with retirement here, I devote myself to my lifelong pursuits of writing and dreaming.

My Precious Old Lady

She’ll be 14 next month and she doesn’t particularly wear it well. Once a beautiful girl, she is now painfully thin, despite gorging on the high-protein foods we feed her.  She limps terribly, but we can find no obvious injury. She is stone-deaf and her vision is also going. However, she ‘sees’ through her nose and continues to follow me faithfully. I slow down my pace for her now, and when we arrive at one of our in-home destinations, she plops down and falls into an immediate and deep sleep. She is my office mate, my reading companion, and my sit-under-the-tree in the backyard buddy. She sleeps with us in bed at night, and hardly moves once she’s curled herself up tight and cozy.

She has many health problems including Cushing’s and never-ending UTI’s. She’s been on every antibiotic in the book. She wears diapers because she has no control over her bladder. But her time hasn’t come despite her current condition. She eats, she follows, she sleeps, and she loves. Likewise, I love her with all my soul and heart. My beautiful girl. It’s not time, but when it is, she will tell me. I dread that day.

The Little Dog That Did

I continue to smile with joy and admiration every time I see this video and the heart of this little Boston Terrier, Ripple, as she races with everything in her, only to make sure her handler is okay when he takes his unfortunate fall. Despite losing, at the end these two show the world what real winning is all about.

A Case for Plain Writing

As an academic for (dare I say it) over 30 years, there is one thing that has always bugged me and that is the self-serving, pretentious and utterly unreadable text of many in the higher education profession. So when I came across this article today, I could not wait to pass it along.

Enjoy!

Where Did You Say the Bird Was?

You’ve surely heard of “A bird in the hand.” Well, I have a bird on the foot. My precious cockatiel Grant (my good friend has his brother who she named Lou) is an odd duck, er, I mean bird. (Aren’t ducks birds?) He is a bit standoffish, doesn’t like to fly, eats like a, ah, flying pig, and is obsessed with my feet.

Yes, that’s correct, my feet. You see, Grant’s cage is up on a high stand, and shortly after I remove him from it and put him on top of the cage for a change of scenery, he flop-flies down to the floor and toddles to my feet which are usually under the desk as shown here. He then scrambles up onto my shoe where he happily meditates. Frankly, I do feel plenty foolish with a bird thusly ensconced on my foot.

I’ve had a number of birds in my life, but never have I had one with such an unfailing foot fetish.

Pool on the Hill

It starts with a huge splash followed by manic flapping of wings, punctuated by a few quacks: a cherished early rite of spring.

Year after year, a mated pair of ducks land in the neighbor’s pool to herald the coming of spring, despite the snow that often still flew. It was always so exciting to hear that initial splash, followed by our excited chorus of “they’re here, they’re here!”

We often wondered: could it possibly be the same two ducks every year or was it their offspring who picked up on the pool where their parents left off?

No matter, it was soul soothing to watch them as one went off to find food for both and the female disappeared to sit on her nest in a secluded spot nearby. It was fun to hear the splashes of their landings in the pool, and the enthusiastic quacks of the greetings they gave each other. Then one day, mama duck emerged with her ducklings waddling behind her and soon, they be gone, until next year!

Next year came, and so did the ducks. Only before long, the male duck was alone and he started screaming and screaming and screaming. It was heart wrenching and a clear signal something was very wrong. The female didn’t return and he was screaming for her. Surely she would return? She didn’t. On the road the next day, there sprawled a duck, silent and dead.

Gradually his cries subsided and eventually, he left the pool. Ducks mate for life, so I wondered if he’d find another mate and another pool.

This is the first year it’s been quiet in the pool on the hill. No splashes, no quacks, and no joyous welcoming of spring except for the forsythia that blooms, yellow and quiet, in our side yard.

Rosie and the Unfortunate Rabbit

It’s that season where daffodils, like lace collars, surround neighborhood homes and broken robins’ eggs, way early to be hatching, end up cracked victims to strong spring storms.  It’s also the season when mother animals forage for food for their babies, prowling mostly at night when they are “safe,” only they often aren’t.

If looks could …

Enter Rosie – our ferocious and fearless hunter. Several days ago, Dominic was up early with the dogs,  and as is his 5 a.m. routine, he let them out. This is then what he described to me: He saw a dark thing run like a bullet across the yard, followed by another bullet by the name of Rosie. This same duo shot across the yard again, and then a third time. And then – Rosie approached the back door, tail wagging, with a mouth full of rabbit, and a good size rabbit at that. Needless-to-say, the rabbit was no longer with us.

I wanted to cry when Dominic told me this story, and all I could think of was a nest full of baby rabbits who were now without their mother. My instinct was to get mad at Rosie, who by the way, is part Boston Terrier and part Cavalier King Charles. However, a little research enlightened me to the fact that Boston Terriers do indeed have a high prey drive , and since she’s ¾ Boston Terrier, well … I just hope that all remaining local rabbits do not find their way into our yard under the alleged safe cover of night.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYpzRCLnHSg

Nick DiChario

Reader, writer, life-long mistake-maker

Judith Shenouda

Author of Living Well in Froggy's World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud; A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way; and Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal; and Owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., Provider of Technical, Marketing, and Business Communications

Motivation for better life.

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