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.

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.

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.

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

Beware of the Doggie in the Window

My dear sweet friend recently lost her precious pup to kidney disease and at the same time, a beloved family member moved out for distant horizons. It is now, she has decided, time for a new puppy.

My cuddle puppy

Always hot on the trail of puppies, I did some research for her and found an ad in the Buffalo, NY classifieds for a French bulldog. Price? $900. Red flag number 1. This is a ridiculously low amount for a French bulldog.

Buffalo is only an hour from us, so no big deal to hop in the car and see these puppies for real, except, said the “breeder,” – they were already gone.  However, she said, she “had a friend in Texas” who has Frenchies for sale and gave my friend the contact information.

My friend contacted the Texas breeder, who also claimed to have 2 puppies, also $900 or 2 for $1500, including transportation. Too good to be true? You got it! Still, a picture arrived that tugged at both of our hearts. However, my friend is a very wise woman. Something just doesn’t feel right, she told me. And it wasn’t.

This morning I did a Google search on the photo the Texas “breeder” sent to my friend. Lo and behold, there was the exact picture with the now 18 month old Frenchie that was “sold” a year ago.

Puppy scamming has been on the uptick, like so many things, during the Covid pandemic. But like my friend and I did, there are things to watch for. These include:

  • “Breeders” that do not want you to “see” the puppy on premise. Always see the puppy with your own eyes, and touch him with your own hands.
  • Emails or text message communication only, often with poor grammar and spelling
  • Payment with gift cards or wire transfer only
  • Pictures that turn out to be fraudulent. To check:
    • Download the picture and save to your computer
    • Access Google Images
    • Load the picture to the search box
    • Click search or hit Enter
    • For scams, you are likely to see the exact photo on another site, which is what happened with my friend.

We all need companionship and love during this time, but the key is to avoid scams where perverted people prey on the needs of others.

My friend will definitely get her puppy, and when she does, she will have a warm, loving baby to cuddle up with and adore.

It’s a Small, Small World

Do you remember the song, It’s a Small, Small World  from the wonderful rides by the same name at Disney World and Disneyland? For some reason, that song is stuck in my head– not that it’s a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s meaningful because my world has become very small indeed. Like many of us, I only go to the grocery store, have Zoom meetings with colleagues, friends, and docs, and spend lots of low-key time and reading, reading, reading.

Now that it’s summer I do much of my reading in my little backyard swimming pool. It’s not exactly lap-material, but it is plenty big to let me float with my butt tightly wedged into my inflatable donut. Thus, I drift happily along while absorbed in my latest tome.

I have always been a homebody, so the pandemic didn’t cramp my style, too terribly, anyway. I relish the daily routine and rhythms of our home. I look forward to my everyday walk with my Boston Terrier, Finja, and my regular bicycle rides. Granted, I spend way too much tine scouring for the latest dirt on Trump, wishing that the bottom falls out from his 2020 bid.  

The fall looms, and with it, more time cozied up at home. My classes for the fall will be held online, so no worries about walking through rain and snow, or driving on icy roads. Like so many others, I’ll be working here in our home, with my precious dogs at my feet, my conure-bird in her cage as I grade papers, and being safely cocooned in my very own small, small world.

Peek-a-boo

Ethel’s favorite place to hang out.

My New Best Friend

My good friend asked me to go with her to a local bird store several months ago. I should have known better because this was right after my beloved cockatiel died. As soon as we walked into the store, Ryan, the manager, thrust this little, feather-less creature into my hand and it was love at first flight!

Of course, the story is complicated, but the bottom line is that I am now “mother” to Ethel, my adorable, 4-month old green cheek conure.

This is just a brief introduction, but there will be many more tales to come.

Hint: How Ethel loves to watch what’s on my computer screen and add to its interest by pecking at the touch screen to see what she can come up with next,

A Happy Dog

Have you ever seen a dog smile? This is my old boy, Brinkley. He’s 14. He doesn’t have many years left, but what he does have will be spent smiling and being content as can be. This is my mission.

The Man and His Dog

Photo by Ryan Bruce from Burst

For over 20 years our paths crossed almost daily when he was walking his dog and I was either riding my bike or running in the days before my knee said enough.  He had two dogs during those 20 plus years. He didn’t walk for a while after his first dog died. I missed them. I was happy to see him back with his newly adopted friend.

In all that time we never spoke more than a comment or two about the weather or some other silly thing, yet he and his dog became part of my daily rhythm.  They could be counted on when other things couldn’t. He, with his jaunty little walk, and his faithful lab marching along beside him. It gave me a comfort I couldn’t understand to see them pass each day.

Then one day, he wasn’t jaunty anymore. His chin began to drop until after a few short months it became attached to his chest. He couldn’t raise his head or talk and a friendly greeting was met with a grunt. Drool soaked the front of his chest and he wasted away before our eyes.

ALS, or so he told us before he was no longer able to speak. Still, he walked. His pace became snail-like, but twice a day, no matter what, he and his dog walked by our house. Until they didn’t. And that’s when I knew.

Somehow, someway, a vacant house calls out to you, telling you it’s lonely. This week his house called out to me. It might have had something to do with the dumpster in the driveway, the lack of footprints in the snow, and its darkness now at night. He’s not there, and neither is his dog.

I feel a tremendous sense of loss for this man, who I barely knew. It’s like a song off key with no beat or rhythm.

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

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