Finja’s First Friend

Brinkley

When we brought Finja home, she was “welcomed” by our other three Boston Terriers. Rosie was Finja’s age at 1 ½, Sasha was 9, and Brinkley was 11. Of the three, Brinkley was the one who was showing his age, and of the three, Brinkley is the one Finja attached herself to. Not robust play material anymore, Finja nevertheless teased and cajoled him into playing tag, tug of war, and catch the ball. He’s no longer with us, but I’m convinced Finja added a few years to his life.

After a long period of standoffishness in her new home, Finja decided I was to be her main peep squeeze. She quit growling, sort of, and followed me everywhere I went. During my sacred 4 p.m. cozy time on the couch with the pups, she made sure she aligned her body alongside my thigh. However, she and her “twin” sis have then, and now, had a love-hate relationship, and there have been numerous fights over the years.

More on the saga of fighting next time.

Finja and Her Friends

Chapter 1: In the Beginning

I have a little, 13-ish pound Boston Terrier named Finja. (Her weight varies depending on how many treats she begs off her many neighborhood friends.) She came from an Amish puppy mill, and when she arrived to be with her foster mother Conny, she was basically hairless with skin issues and terrified beyond belief. Conny knew we were looking for another BT to join our then pack of three, so she encouraged me to come over to her rescue home every other day to assist in giving Finja her medicated bath. And so I did. And so Finja and I built a strong bond, albeit slowly and gently.

Here’s how Finja arrived in New York. The angels in the rescue group that got Finja drove out to Ohio to an event where dog breeders sold, exchanged, and gave away those pups they no longer wanted. The rescue grabbed Finja because the Amish miller thought her skin issue was due to mange, a very difficult ailment to treat and one that is highly contagious to other dogs and humans. This is how Finja came to Rochester and landed into the loving home of my foster Mom and friend, Conny.

Next Chapter: Under the Dining Room Table

The Sweet Sounds of Summer (?)

A lovely summer afternoon, gentle breeze, sweet smell of honeysuckle, and most important of all – peace and QUIET.

City of Long Beach, CA

I want to scream. I have a sweet little 8 foot by 6 foot pool in the backyard that I call my sanity spa. It is equipped with a donut-hole float, and a long, raft-float. My summer vacation consists of reading while I bounce about in the donut and take naps while floating on the raft. It is an idyllic existence for spending a leisurely summer during the pandemic. Except for …

WHEN IT’S NOT QUIET!@!

And much to my deep chagrin, this is often the case.

So, you say, buck up and let the neighborhood kids enjoy their summer fun!

It’s not neighborhood kids.

Well then, let the boy next door enjoy practicing his drums.

It’s the boy next door practicing drums, nor the girl across the street playing the piano.

Could it be a gaggle of crows wanting to chase away some poor, unfortunate owl?

No crows, no owl.

None of the above.

Here’s a hint:

The other day I had sunk into a lovely rapture while floating on my raft when I sprung off it in a fit of frustration and fear due to the suddenly loud and intrusive buzzing of a hedge trimmer.  

My neighbors. My butt to backyard neighbors. My 60-something neighbors. My obsessive-compulsive, yard-fanatical neighbors. My neighbors who often mow their Pebble Beach Golf Club-perfect lawn every day. Who trim their 2-foot high hedges once a week. Who had near-apoplexy when the water company had to dig up their lawn to fix a broken water main.

Take your pick: lawn mower, hedge trimmer, power-washer, edger, weed whacker, oh, and dare I forget, their daily greeting as they float about in their own, much-bigger-than-my pool. (Did I mention the moaning of their pool pump?) If you’re looking for non-natural yard noise, come join me and let the cacophony begin!

My Old Horse

Buzzy and I have been good friends for 20 years. I rescued him from the harness racetrack in Saratoga as he was actually on his way to a can of dogfood. He was 8 and robust then, he’s 30 and tired now.

We don’t have too much more time together, but we’ve had a glorious ride! Crazy times, fun times, scary times, adventures, sickness, and more. Our bond was one of sickness and health when his jaw was broken after another horse kicked him. It had to be wired back together surgically, and he then got salmonella from the whole experience. I spent nights lying with him in his stall. An IV bag was slung over the stall door, and I desperately held his exhausted head in my hands, willing him to live. Despite blood like sludge and impossible white cell counts, just like my vet said, this was a horse that had life in his eyes, however dim it might be. Life won!

I could fill a book with our times together, and as I write this, I think I’ll do just that. But in the meantime, this is a photo taken yesterday of my boy he stretched his neck to get that last carrot in the bag.

The Birds are Gone

What a lovely little saga took place outside my front door for the last few weeks. Every morning I went out with my coffee and journal to see how the babies in the nest in our lamp were doing. It was such fun seeing how they grew — and how quickly! Every time we were out there, both Mama and Papa perched directly above us. At first they in a frenetic flutter but eventually settled into a more relaxed chirp — surely just to let us know they were there. They did indeed show excellent parenting skills.

The last few days the babies were suddenly BIG, and I knew the time was near. It was. This morning the little nest in the lamp was bare. Who knew I would grieve the end of the sweet little saga of the birds in lamp?

I ask myself, if life had not been boiled down to a level of simplicity I’ve never before know, would I have noticed. let alone relished, the developing life of a baby bird and the doting of her bird parents?.

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.