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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t let this precious little face fool you. It’s the face of a devil dog, and I created her!
See that thing in Finja’s mouth? Of and by itself, it is an adorable little thing. It is a stuffed monkey made for dogs and it makes the most gosh-awful sound when the dog squeezes it. Finja loves to squeeze it. That’s Problem number 1.
Problem number 2: She is absolutely, unequivocally and resolutely obsessed with the thing. No big deal, right?
My little pupper will not, repeat, will NOT let go of this thing, for anything, except food. What you see here in this picture is exactly how she, and it, look all day long. She carries it in her mouth everywhere she goes. When she has it, we keep her separate from the other dogs because, well, it is entirely possible that there could be an unfriendly discussion among them. So, we remove the monkey from her mouth and put it someplace where she won’t know where it is.
So much for that idea. Dogs and their sense of smell. We have since found a fool-proof hiding spot, but until we did, no matter we put the monkey to encourage her to forget about it, no luck. She became a quasi-pointing dog, eyes unwavering on the spot where the monkey was “hiding.”
We are thinking this monkey is her “baby” in a very real sense, but never having bred dogs, maybe someone can tell me if this makes sense?
This whole monkey deal is somewhat endearing, except for when it is really, really not.
Several weeks ago, my man-friend Dominic and I went for a hike in our favorite park, in our favorite place in the park. The park is Mendon Ponds Park, the largest park in our county, and if I do say so myself, the most beautiful. I have spent many hours there swimming as a child at its now-gone little beach, as a teen, sitting on a hilltop with a favorite beau, as a parent of young children, sledding down one of its many hills, as an adult horse-rider, going for Zen rides on one of its many trails, and now as an older adult, hiking, sitting, and drinking up its magic.
My favorite place in the park is a kettle-hole, which is a small, glacier-made pond surrounded by steep ridges. Its actual formation was caused by retreating glaciers and as such, it is rumored to be very deep. I have always been fascinated with it because of its astounding beauty and geological history. However, I became obsessed when in 2009 and 2016 it became the focal point of two of the most gruesome murders in our city’s history.
Whenever I go there I feel I can hear like the ghosts of its victims are whispering through the trees.
Look at this face. Have you ever seen anything so sweet?
Don’t let this face fool you. This is our beloved Rosie and she is much cherished by us. But she is also, shall we say, a fighter of the most skilled and skulking kind.
We first learned of our little angel’s prowess when we began to see little breathless (translated dead) creatures scattered about our backyard. Then one day, we came upon the remains of an animal about as big as she — a rabbit. That one really killed me, too. The thing of it is, Rosie is only in it for the kill. Once she’s done her duty, she’s off to some other adventure, like barking maniacally at the neighboring pitbulls.
Now here’s the rub. Once Rosie has grown bored of the poor dead creature, our Finja comes along and finds it to be quite the delicacy. I will never forget the night when I came upon her devilish red eyes crouched over some departed animal soul imbibing to her heart’s content. On that night, I scooped her up as quickly as possible and rendered her mourning in my arms for her prize delicacy.
The issue with Rosie is her prey drive. She is an expert and obsessive Frisbee player, a behavior which is related to prey drive. Does that mean we should stop doing her most favorite thing in the world? No. It’s important to understand how to let the dog exercise the prey drive in controlled situations and places, like the very nice fenced in and tightly contained back yard. This article presents a nice and simple way to allow the dog to have fun with a Frisbee while exercising the prey drive in a relatively cost-free way.
Now for my little Finja carnivore: what’s better than a nice, fresh, juicy … well, you get the picture….
Okay, so that’s a gross summary of the backyard war zone. Next time I’ll talk about the inside battle field.
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.
I spent 2 weeks going to Conny’s every other day to give Finja her medicated bath. She was very wary of me, the bathtub, and the whole process, but we endured. When the 2 weeks were up, it was time to bring Finja home.
Homecoming was an exciting day – for me, not so much for Finja. I held my new little Boston in my arms as we drove the short distance to our home. She trembled like a leaf in a windstorm the whole way. The tighter I held her, the more she shook.
Welcome home. We’d put the other 3 dogs in another room to avoid Finja going on complete overload, but on overload she went anyway. She made a beeline for under the dining room table and except for going potty and eating, that’s where she stayed for 2 weeks, growling all the way.
How did it go with our other dogs? At Conny’s Finja was part of a pack of 5, so our meager 3 actually gave her some comfort. Let’s put it this way, when they were around, the growling ceased, and when they were off doing their thing, back under the table Finja went, growling every time one of us looked at her.
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