Tuesday, January 27, 2015
5:51 pm est
Yes, it's cold, but being out and about when everyone else is holed
up inside is what makes winter my favorite season. You see things you might otherwise not notice. And what can
be more joyful than dogs and bad asses playing in the snow? A good time was had by all. A bit later I encountered
thirteen deer trotting across a snowy field and then risking their silly lives to cross a busy road. Happily, all made
it safely across.
At the end of the road is the
little beagle I look after. He's been tied to a plastic house for all of his six years. I stuff his shelter with
straw, give him biscuits and water and most importantly, some much-needed affection. He gives me tail wags and beagle
smooches in return. I hope that one day his owners will forfeit the little guy so he can run free with my animals, but
that's not likely to happen.
worry about all of the animals who aren't so pampered as those that live here, just as I worry about my old friend Kenny who
lives up the road. I put zucchini bread in his newspaper box this morning when I headed into town. Returning hours
later I encountered his familiar truck heading right toward me. It was as if he were totally unaware that another vehicle
was even on the road although it's rather hard to miss a red truck against the bright white snow. His nonchalance nearly
drove me into a snow drift.
In my rear view mirror
I saw that the back of his truck cab was open and the cargo of trash inside completely filled the cab. I was deep in
thought, pondering Kenny's rapid decline when I encountered two road walkers directly before me; Kenny's cows out for yet
The two young ones, the heifer
and the bull were casually strolling down the center of the road while the big brown cow was trudging through the deep snow
in the field across from his farm. The two in the road were just approaching a rise that would hide them from
oncoming traffic until it was too late.
Laying on the horn and using the Nissan like a cutting horse I forced the youngsters
off to the east while their mom stared menacingly my way from her position in the west, finally deciding to join the kids
who were reluctantly meandering across the field toward home. I blocked the road, turned on my flashers and called the
police. After what seemed an unusually long time a young officer pulled up behind my truck with his blue lights flashing.
Clearly relieved to learn I'd run the bovine back home, he bade me good day and drove off!
Things are going from bad to worse up at Kenny's. Two weeks ago
he had no electricity and last week his heat went out. He's been reported trying to get into the cars of strangers when
he can't find his own vehicle in parking lots and recently he crawled into an ambulance to wait for assistance.
I think the writing is on the wall and I don't like what it predicts.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
10:12 am est
There was a great deal of curiosity here yesterday morning. Not
concern, just curiosity as the Baby (originally named Willa, then changed to Mimi, but now just plain Baby) was tucked into
the kitty carrier and toted off to the truck at 6:30 am.
"Aww, does this mean she's leaving," asked
Poppy. "Gee, we'll really miss her," said Tiny, snickering to her feline friends. It was all too obvious
the other cats were all hoping never to see the little pest again. After loading the carrier into the truck I glanced
back at the house and saw them all doing a happy dance, but alas, Baby was only heading off to be spayed and now, much
to their dismay she is back, totally unfazed by her surgery.
The Baby was found more dead than alive this past autumn,
dumped in an unused barn and left to die. Her eyes were glued shut and her tiny nose dripped yellow pus. It seemed
doubtful that she'd make it, but not only did she survive, after weeks of intensive care she became a star athlete.
That prowess however is not appreciated by her couch-potato pals, the victims of aerial attacks and rude awakenings from their
naps. Tess, the terrorist does like her, but that's no wonder; they are two of a kind, always in some sort of trouble.
The once-robust jade plant in my office is now a pathetic
stump thanks to Baby's pruning efforts. My former make-up brush has become her favorite toy; no longer my make-up brush....
Stolen items are 'washed' in the toilet. She's demanding, impetuous, incredibly affectionate and currently going through
an awkward adolescence. Her feet are way too big and her legs are far too long for the rest of her body. The smudge
on her nose looks like dirt, but it isn't. I'm sure that one day she will be a beautiful kitty, but right now she's
just a bundle of misshapen mischief that the other animals barely tolerate.
At the end of the day she snuggles
under a blanket, plops her head on the bed pillow and turns on her loud purring engine. I'm glad I found and saved this
little pest even if the other cats aren't so glad. They seem to have forgotten that each of them share a similar past
as they were all rescues too.
Such a transformation from a few months ago!
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
SAFE AT LAST.
4:12 pm est
Each Monday through Friday by 8:30 AM I'm out the door and on my way
to the Y for water aerobics and a bit of swimming. It's a great way to begin the day, but this morning for some strange
reason I decided not to go. In retrospect I think this was a sort of divine intervention, for instead of donning my
swimwear I loafed at the computer clad in my robe and sipping coffee while perusing Facebook.
There were the usual political rants, too many cute dog and cat videos and of course,
messages intended to be inspirational. But then there were the photos of an emaciated dog and a desperate plea to help
save the poor creature. I immediately hit ‘read more.'
seems the dog had slipped into a stranger's garage last night to escape the sub-zero weather and was discovered by a health
care worker employed at the house. The worker gave the dog food, water and blankets, but the half-dead creature was
far from safe.
A sadistic monster who lived at the house
had been at work when the dog arrived, but immediately issued an enraged ultimatum to the kind-hearted worker; the dog must
be gone by 4:00 PM today or she would kill it. This wasn't an idle threat as this person (are such creatures
really human?) had clubbed a raccoon to death with a baseball bat the previous week. The compassionate worker took the
Facebook photos and called a dog rescuer she knew in a nearby county and that person posted the photo and story along
with a contact number. I didn't hesitate. I called immediately and learned that the canine victim of abuse, neglect and who
was now under threat of being clubbed to death wasn't far from where I live.
Within the hour my friend Rose and I were on the road to collect the imperiled animal. We found the
frightened creature huddled under blankets in the corner of the garage. Although she had been there since last night
she had not messed in the garage, but peed copiously when I led her outside, suggesting she's possibly housebroken.
Despite being so emaciated that hair had worn off her body where the bones were poking through, she wagged her boney tail
and willingly got into my warm truck.
Had she once been someone's pet? How long had she been traveling? How
much longer could she have survived? Or was she just another victim of some heartless human who tried to starve her
to death. She won't be able to tell any of us her story, but thanks to a stranger named Julie, this dogs life will only
Julie, a woman I've yet to meet operates
Warm & Cozy Rescue in New Philadelphia, Ohio. She made calls to Oak Pointe Veterinary Clinic in Dover and the staff
was expecting us. Although vet clinics see too many horrible situations, even they were stunned by the desperate condition
of this dog who weighed only 44 pounds. 75 pounds would be a more appropriate weight for the sweet-natured girl.
I'm glad I didn't go swimming this morning. I'm glad
I skimmed through all the silly videos, jokes and dismal news of the world. I'm glad I saw Julie's frantic post and
responded. The dog is safe and warm now and the wonderful staff at the clinic is addressing her health issues.
Ultimately, Julie will make this intrepid animal available for adoption. Maybe there's room in your home or heart for
a dog that has suffered too much through no fault of her own. If so, email me for more information.
Monday, January 12, 2015
2:04 pm est
Last year I wrote several magazine articles about Bobwhite Quail; that
small game bird that used to be so plentiful. But like all wildlife today, quail are threatened by habitat loss, over-use
of herbicides and pesticides and timbering practices. Their charming ‘bob-bobwhite' calls are now mostly just
My articles focused not only on the
perils faced by these birds, but more importantly on some ambitious habitat restoration projects that are effectively returning
wild quail (not pen-raised) all across the country. I was fortunate enough to be out in the pre-dawn hours with the
land manager of 1,000 acres of such restored habitat in Kentucky. Standing in the darkness listening for the birds
plaintive call, then flushing a covey left me with a very special memory.
And so today, as I drove past an empty
soybean field that I pass everyday, I was stunned to see four bobwhite quail foraging for missed beans practically within
spitting distance of my home. In this same field I typically see deer, pheasant, coyote, the occasional fox, wild turkeys,
hawks and vultures, but until this morning I had never seen quail . I wonder how many other people drove past this special
display, but didn't even notice it. While my excitement might seem overblown to some, it's been the highlight of an
otherwise dreary Monday.
The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative is leading the way in education and
habitat restoration. Check out their website and see what you can do to bring back bobwhite quail.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
THE SOUNDS OF WINTER.
11:12 am est
A few days ago I was excited when awakened by the sound of the snow plow scraping its way down the road in the wee hours of
morning. I knew that as I slept the first snowfall of winter had finally arrived. I'm one of the few who love
this season, so I found the view from the window quite beautiful. As the dogs and I headed for the barn not a sound
was to be heard. It was as if we were the only living creatures on earth until the very distant call of a phoebe broke
the stillness. "FEE-BEE," came the song. I answered (it's not hard to imitate the phoebe's call) and
a reply came swiftly. As the dogs raced through the fresh snow I stood alone in the barnyard relishing those fleeting
moments of peace with an unseen bird and for just a few seconds all seemed right with the world.
Stepping into the barn the cackling hens greeted ‘good morning,' but when their door to the outside was opened and they
saw snow, the coop went silent. Chickens hate snow, but I knew they'd eventually face the white stuff, make their way
around the barn and spend the day pecking about in the donkeys stall. The brutal cold had not yet set in, so the bad
asses were happy to venture out of for a look around. But all of this has changed now that a predicted high temperature
of 10 F. is cause for celebration. My favorite season is not so enjoyable for any of us when the wind chill factor is
-20. The cats don't go out at all and the dogs only venture out when it's absolutely necessary
But animals must be cared for, so reluctantly the dogs and I push into the wicked wind to confront the daily chores; me bundled
up like an Eskimo and looking quite ridiculous and the dogs clad in their quilted coats. This morning we find the barn is
not a happy place. No cackling greets me and the chickens refuse to leave the coop. Worse still, the bad asses
have cabin fever.
Corky is guarding the stall door. His
ears are pinned back tighter than I've ever seen them. Andy stands next to the water bucket at the other end of the
stall and looks toward his disgruntled partner. He steps toward the center of the stall, thus infuriating the little monster
(Corky) who takes a threatening step toward gentle Andy, whirls about, squeals and offers a half-hearted kick. Andy looks
at his antagonist, then at me as if to say, "Could you please get me a new room-mate?"
God forbid that they should venture out into the barnyard for a bit of exercise. Instead they remind me that donkeys are not
native to such cold climates. Some extra hay settles the score between the Bickersons. I muck out their stall and fill
the water bucket, then discover the door to the outside is damaged thanks to the destructive inhabitants. I'll have
to return to the barn later with tools and attempt a repair, but it's just too early in the day, so with the grumpy barn dwellers
fed and watered the shivering dogs and I head back toward the house.
They hurry inside, but my chores aren't finished. I stuff the suet feeder with bread since I'm out of suet and dump
corn flakes into the birdbath. Farmer Chuck is supposed to deliver a bushel of corn sometime today. The broken ankle
made gleaning the field across the road impossible and now it's just too cold, so I'll buy corn. The garden shed needs
to be replenished with cat food and water. The bowl is empty each morning and I suspect that evil Owen Meany, the feral
cat is spending nights there, but maybe it's an opossum. It doesn't matter to me who is using this snug homeless shelter.
I'm just glad to offer it. Knowing how many animals have no protection from this weather and how many will die haunts
The little dog at the end of the road has been chained to a plastic dog house since he was a happy pup. That was six
years ago. I take straw to stuff his inadequate house, break the ice from a bowl and fill it with warm water and offer
the little guy some dog biscuits. He yips at my arrival, so happy it breaks my heart. Yesterday I put a little
red dog coat on him, but I suspect he'll have it off when I go there today.
Inside at last, the furnace hums reassuringly. I haul in another armload of firewood from the porch to feed the woodstove.
The fire crackles and snaps and life in this old farmhouse isn't half bad.
Friday, January 2, 2015
HAPPY NEW YEAR...
6:37 pm est
Happy New Year? Apparently someone thought this would be a funny
way for me to begin 2015. I was not amused!