Dancing With Birds

Bird # 1

As do most houses, we have a porchlight mounted to the side of our front door. We don’t use it often because we don’t get many visitors. One day recently I noticed a bunch of grass and stuff in the lamp, and on the subsequent day, as I walked out the door there was a woosh and slight breeze on my face. Putting two and two together, I realized there was a little bird living in the lamp. Evidently it was one very smart wren who has taken up residence in our covered and very protected porch light. What safer place to be during our very wet and cold spring?

On the one summery day we’ve had so far, I sat myself down on the protected patio in front of the front door. Book in hand, I was looking forward to a nice, relaxed time of reading. However, there was one bird who was clearly hanging out as close as she dared; I had no doubt it was Mama Wren keeping tabs on me.

We now make most of our entrance and exit exercises through the garage door.

Bird # 2

About a week ago, I was working in my home office when I heard what sounded to me like drilling. I didn’t think anything of it, and assumed it was just a neighbor doing something, and continued on with my work. A day later, same noise. This time I looked around the house and found the noise was coming from our fireplace gas insert. Instant alert. It took me another day to convince my partner that there was indeed a noise coming from our house, in particular, the fireplace. Once he heard it, we went on high alert and I was instructed to call the company who installed it (he’s deaf).

The company is on lockdown, but I luckily got ahold of someone who asked me to record the sound and send the video to her. I did so, and she pronounced “Woodpecker”. I thought she was either insane or looking for a way to avoid my insistence on having them come out to save us from possible extinction due to an exploding fireplace.

“Go out the next time you hear it and look up at the metal chimney insert. You can shoo it away. We usually get a number of calls like this in the spring.”

I stayed civil, but I really thought this was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. I mean, I’d never even seen a woodpecker around here. 

The next morning while we were having breakfast, there it was again. Dominic hurried outside, trying not to disturb our resident wren. He came back in the house and said, “I’ll be damned! It was a woodpecker!”

My Sanity, My Dogs

My dogs have been my salvation during this pandemic and I think I may be theirs as well. They are so dear and devoted, happy to sleep at my side, cuddle in my lap, catch an errant Frisbee, or happily stroll along with me on walks.

We’ve done a lot of strolling these weeks. I have my one, youngish Boston Terrier who is my main walking squeeze. She’s come a long way with that, having come to us from the terrors of a terrier Amish puppy mill in Ohio. She spent her first two weeks with us ensconced on the floor under the kitchen table growling from fear and confusion. It is now four years since then and though still skittish, she walks (mostly) with confidence at my side and has (mostly) emerged from under the kitchen table (sans growl).

Brinkley is my old man. He’s 14 – 15 in September, and he’s pretty gnarled now, takes a low dose of prednisone daily to keep pain at bay. He can’t see or hear, and we have to be oh so careful with him to keep him safe. Occasionally he gets “lost” in the backyard and can’t find his way to the door. I must then go out and rescue him. I adopted him from a breeder when he was 6 months old after he’d been returned by two previous buyers and he’s been my lover boy ever since.

Sasha is also on the downhill slide at 12. She has battled Cushings Disease for years, but she has done so with grace and dignity. She is the low dog on canine totem pole in our home. Still, every day at lunch she parks herself at my chair and looks at me with big, doleful eyes that beg for the daily ration of her beloved carrots. She always gets them. I adopted her through a rescue group from a family that just didn’t want her anymore.

Finally, there’s Rosie. Rosie was allegedly a Boston Terrier, but with her longish snout we knew there was something else going on with her. Curiosity compelled us to get a doggie-DNA kit, and voila! We were right. Our clearly non-pure (but adorable) Boston was ¾ her namesake and ¼ Cavalier King Charles!! Go figure. She is my man-friend’s favorite but she puts a little twinkle in my eye, too. She is also the wild one of the bunch and her mission in life is to place a Frisbee at your feet.

Living Through the Pandemic

A time carved out of time. A chasm, deep, but not bottomless.

The landscape is changing. What will it look like when this is over? Will it be ever over?

I tell my students who are sad about missing their graduation to think that they are experiencing something cataclysimic that shall be forever embedded in history, a history about which they can say, “I was there.”

I am one of the lucky ones. I am content with my simple, daily life of reading, writing, and playing with my animals. I am alone with my partner, but instead of a time of tension and separation, we are growing closer. He is our courier and he is happy with that. I am our hearth keeper, and I am happy with that.

Still,  we listen to the news, watch our governor’s daily briefs and cheer him on, watch our president’s daily briefs and scoff in disgust, and wonder how it will all turn out in the end.

My Green Cheek Conure Office Companion

This is Ethel. Ethel is my green cheek conure-parrot. Ethel is my very feisty, very nippy, very bratty parrot. She is also my energetic, always-in-motion, hilarious friend. Ethel has bonded tightly to me and she acts like a shy toddler when someone comes in who she doesn’t know. That’s when she gets herself as far under my chin as she possibly can, probably thinking the visitor will not be able to see her there.

Ethel dances to my said rendition of “You Are my Sunshiine,” and as only animals can do, she clearly loves singing as she happily bounces her head up and down to the beat.

As are so many of us, during this pandemic I am working from home. When I’m at my desk I usually let Ethel out of her cage. I try to encourage her to play on one of her jungle gyms but she usually decides I am her favored playground, which means she crawls all over me, nips at my ear, and generally makes a pest of herslef. A funny pest — the other day, she climbed onto my keyboard and in a flash dug up the “R” key, and like a naughty kid, off she scurried in her hunched over parrot walk, R key in mouth.

Long story short, I got the r key back and at this moment, Ethel is hanging upside down from my glasses. Sigh.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On A Walk

So many things are different now, and so many changes yet loom. It’s hard to put words to it all. What I can put words to is the changes in humans, at least the ones I encounter on my daily walks of sanity with my little dog.

Not too many of us are out walking, and I wonder if I’m making some violation of something or other. True, we are all on isolation in our homes, but should that include staying off the sidewalks? We don’t. Nor do others in our little neighborhood. Like one of my neighbors said today as we passed one another, “You’ve got to get out of the house.”

Getting out of the house restores the humanness of our predicament. Smiling, saying hello and waving reminds us we are not alone.

Life as We Knew It

I was talking today with someone, and a very learned someone at that, who conjectured whether this Covid 19 virus could be the death of all humanity. Whoa! I am scared and taking precautions, but I never thought it (the virus) could go that far! Could it?

It’s so hard to fathom, but it also lends perspective. I mentioned this comment to my partner, who is a stingy old money-monger, and he said he now wished he’d gotten that car he wanted or taken us on a vacation last summer (not a cruise).

The meaning of a day, hour, minute at a time now screams with legitimacy.

Will life ever be the same again?

Dealing with the Pandemic

From jackrabbit quick to the stall of a snail tucked tight in its shell.  This is the trajectory of life before and during a pandemic.

I’m not complaining, except when I get a tad bored and the only thing I can think of to do is clean out the linen closet.  In truth – this is a once in the existence of humanity to stay secluded and find meaning in the particles of daily life that go unnoticed.

Correction – some of those particles are evident, like the blanket of dust that acts as a wrist-rest when I’m typing at my computer. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Maybe meme is a better word – the memes of daily existence, like:

  • Really listening to my green cheek conure to determine if she’s mad, sad, hungry, playful or bored.
  • Taking my little Boston Terrier, Finja, for a daily walk instead of shoving her out in the fenced-in backyard to do her business.
  • Listening to all the wild birds on our walk and drinking in the luscious smell of fresh earth as it awakens from its winter cast.
  • Slowly savoring every crumb of the foods we never have time to eat in our “real” world.
  • Digging out my digital camera and seeing the unseen and making it exquisite.
  • Sitting still and looking out the window

It appears our ability to live simply is going to last awhile. I will relish it.

Viciousness at the Shelter: and it’s Not the Dogs!!

“Is human dignity and human life so cheap that the rights protecting it can be traded away to appease the appetite for intimidation and prejudice of a vicious and self-centered group – for whatever reason, power, politics, nationalism, or unity?”
― Christina Engela, Bugspray

I am nearing retirement, and as a way to set the stage for an easy transition, I have engaged in a volunteer activity that represents my true passion – animals, namely dogs. I spent 3 months training to become a dog walker at our local shelter and through hard work and the support of a mentor, found it to be exactly what my soul was looking for. It’s not always easy, in fact, at times it’s downright hard.  And it’s heartbreaking, but that’s for another day and another post.

Ironically, what’s become harder than dealing with the dogs is dealing with fellow volunteers. Fortunately it’s a small group spewing poison, but large enough to be toxic to us fellow walkers, shelter workers, and to the dogs.    

Enter Facebook. There are probably a hundred million groups on FB and the shelter walkers have one. Several weeks ago, to my horror, the core group engaged in a bashing job that was more appropriate for teenage girls than a group of “mature” women. It was all directed at a new employee whose job it is to organize volunteers. I couldn’t believe what I read, and I posted that it would be more productive to be positive than critical and negative. That went over like a lead balloon.

I have since quit that Facebook group, but I remain dedicated to the dogs, committed to my shelter duties, and loyal to the woman who is indeed doing a stellar job in spite of the cruel cackling of a clutch of vicious women.

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 Village and a Very Sick Dog

Chavo came back – again. He came back to the shelter a few weeks ago, but no one recognized him. I did. Somewhere inside the little, shriveled dog in the kennel hid the big head and broad chest that was once filled out and healthy. At first the dog in this kennel was only vaguely familiar. I looked at his intake card, saw the name Chavo, and looked again at the pathetic dog laying in his kennel, too tired to even get up. This was not the chesty little low-rider pitbull I remembered and loved. This was a sick skeleton with glassy eyes, and foamy mouth.

I wanted to murder the people who did this to him.

It took a village to nurse Chavo back to health. Once his condition became known to the techs and vet, he was quickly whisked to the quiet and protected part of the shelter. Word spread like wildfire about our once robust little low-rider. We all prayed and kept vigil outside his kennel. After two days of not eating and utter lethargy, doc did exploratory surgery on him and pulled a walnut from Chavo’s digestive tract.

And so Chavo began to heal. He ate hungrily and had his own cheering squad urging him through every bite, every step. At first he was allowed just short walks, and we lined up for our turn “at Chavo.” Before long, walks became longer and longer until he was finally allowed back into the adoption part of the shelter.

One day I came looking forward to a walk with Chavo, only to find he’d been adopted. Selfishly, my heart sank. But I heard it was a good thing. Good people. Good for Chavo, and ultimately good for all of us in the village who brought a near-death, low-rider pit back to life and into a home with good, loving people.