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If you live in Midland, you may or may not be aware that the Lone Star Sanctuary for Animals (formerly the Lone Star SPCA) gratefully accepts memorial donations
Rosie's name is now Elsie, proving that...well, I don't think it proves anything, now that I think about it. I doubt that Elsie is playing this incredibly fun (for her) game of hide-and-seek because she has a different name than before. But who really knows what goes through the mind of a dog? I certainly don't. It's hard enough trying to understand the motivations of women, and then you throw a different species into the mix and the inevitable result includes infrared cameras and heartache.
Anyway, send good thoughts toward Maryland, because while I may seem to make light of the matter, Molly and Colin are worried sick and their little dog does not need to be on the mean streets, regardless of how much said pup is yukking* it up.
*I briefly toyed with the alternate spelling of "yucking," but that's a little too evocative of throw-up.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something different about the bird, specifically his flight. It's very skittish and difficult to get close to, but it appeared that it had something dangling from one leg as it took to the air. I finally decided that its leg was dangling, and I confirmed this a few days ago when I was able to get close enough to take some photos with a zoom lens. Those are shown below; click on each to see a larger version. Please note that these are difficult to look at; the injury is gruesome.
I don't have a clue as to what caused the injury. It doesn't seem to affect the bird's flight, and it doesn't look uncomfortable standing on one leg, but I can't imagine that it can hunt for food with ease, because it can't walk through the shallow waters looking for fish, frogs, and insects that make up its primary diet. One would also think that the injury makes the heron more susceptible to predators like coyotes.
I've contacted Burr Williams, executive director of the Sibley Nature Center and local wildlife expert, and he in turn has contacted a local veterinarian to see what, if anything, might be done for the bird. Capturing the poor thing will be a challenge, and rehabilitation of such a drastic injury might not be feasible. I'll let you know how this plays out.
It's a tough world out there, sometimes.
(OK, it's really "these are dog people," but that doesn't work as well with the Crocodile Dundee schtick. You know, the one where they're comparing knives?)
Seriously, you need to go to Find Rosie (the link above takes you to the first entry...read it and then keep clicking to move through the story; it's almost like a Chapter Book! Only with pictures!) where you'll find things that will make you laugh, cry, and scratch your head while thinking "wha' the...?"
You'll also want to thank Molly and Colin (Rosie's people) for being the kind of dog owners all our dogs usually think we really are. Until we make them take pills or ferry them to the vet for shots, but that's mostly irrelevant.
I had only one question after reading Rosie's story: who has that many night vision cameras, outside of the CIA?
During the aftermath, it became obvious that barn swallows are masters of turning lemons into lemonade. They also subscribe to the strategy of victory through overwhelming numbers. And so it is I find that even though I've successfully stopped them from building nests, they've created more holes in the dike than I have fingers.
Our next-door neighbor recently counted more than forty of the little birds perched along the eave of her back porch. That should give you an idea of the magnitude of the issue. A number of that gang has decided that our back and front porches provide excellent overnight accommodations, even if they can't erect apartment complexes for permanent residence. As it turns out, they've decided that the steps that I took to dissuade the nest-building (stuffing rolled-up shop towels behind ceiling-mounted speakers, for example) provide perfectly cozy places to spend the night.
Now, let me be clear: barn swallows are very cute birds, and entertaining to watch. They do a great job of mosquito control, and they don't bother other birds (unlike the house finches who bully the hummingbirds trying to service our feeders). But the concept of - how can I put this delicately? - "not fouling one's own nest" is completely foreign to them. In other words, we can always tell how many overnighted by the mess they left on the concrete below.
I'm now taking suggestions for further countermeasures. Regarding the speakers, it's obvious that I'll need to build a solid enclosure of some type around them. The porch eaves pose a bigger challenge. But if my idea for a tiny little electric fence works out, you'll be the first to know.
I took a photo of them a year or two back, when we were in the middle of an extreme drought. I just stumbled across the image and liked the way the light of the setting sun added some contrast to the picture. I applied a little Photoshopping (OK, more than a little), and voila!
The geese are still hanging around. They were inexplicably strolling through the vacant lot across from our house (I saw one of them nip at some of the weed seed heads), and when they saw us walking down the street, headed our way and paralleled our course. Here's a short snippet of video I took with my phone.
They continued to walk in roughly the same direction we were headed, but they crossed the street, back and forth, inspecting who-knows-what. Some of our neighbors had congregated on a front porch and they watching the geese with great interest. One of them had a chihuahua on a long leash, and he was quite attentive, straining at the leash to get a closer look...until, that is, the geese turned toward him, at which point he quickly retreated to his master, content to switch to remote monitoring mode. We had a laugh at his expense, but I observed that it would be like us confronting a T-Rex, given the size difference between the small dog and the large goose. I didn't blame him a bit.
It took us about ten minutes to round the south pond - pausing to speak to a cottontail rabbit who thought he was hiding in plain sight just off the sidewalk - and by the time we got to the opposite side, the geese had made their way along the pond and we watched them waddle down the bank and back into the water. I suppose they were getting in their morning constitutional, as were we.
Heading toward the north pond, we spotted something in the middle of the sidewalk about 20 feet ahead. It was a horny toad. I wondered why we always seemed to see them on the walkway, and we soon got our answer. He was resting in the path where an abundance of ants were busily crossing the concrete, and it was a veritable movable feast from his perspective. We watched as he pounced on several ants who had the bad judgment to wander into his sphere of ingestion. He didn't seem to be willing to chase any of them down, content to let them come to him, but we did see him miss one ant, eat another that was close behind, then whirl around and consume the one that almost got away. Unfortunately, the scene took place too far away to capture on my phone's camera.
Rounding the north pond and heading home, we roused the usual jackrabbit contingent. They like the tall grass brought out by the summer's rainfall, but you can usually spot the black tips of their ears sticking up over the ground cover. Those guys are built for speed, and they're as shy as the geese are bold.
Last Sunday I noticed the bird flying into the tree on a couple of occasions, seeming to pay no mind to us as we sat on the front porch (well, I sat while Debbie pruned shrubs, a pleasing tableau to my mind), but the implications didn't sink in. Yesterday, though, I noticed it was continuing to pay close attention to the tree, often with twigs or grass in its mouth, so I conducted a closer inspection. The nest is almost complete, and it's less than ten feet from ground level.
This does not bode well for lawn mowing this summer. Nesting mockingbirds are fiercely protective of their eggs and young, and their bravado borders on foolishness. They also have sharp beaks and claws and they know how to use them.
It's highly entertaining to watch mockingbirds torment cats that wander into their territory; it's less so when you're on the receiving end of their attention. I once donned a motorcycle helmet to finish mowing our lawn (which might explain why our neighbors generally crossed the street when walking past our house) when we lived in Garland*, but only after a kamikaze attack left the top of my bare head oozing blood. I had a similar experience at our previous house, although no injuries were sustained other than to my pride as I ran for cover in my own yard.
So, I'm pessimistic about the prospects for peaceful co-existence this summer. I no longer own a motorcycle, but I may put my bike helmet by the front door...just in case.
Abbye took her last breath today, bringing to an end a life that was harder than she deserved.
After battling through almost three years of diabetes (two daily insulin shots) and Cushing's Disease (regular doses of a powerful anti-cancer medication), her little heart finally gave out.
I wish I could say that she was the happiest dog I've ever known, but it's a huge irony that she brought so many smiles to so many faces and yet I sensed that she rarely smiled herself. I suspect her early days, before we found her, were so traumatic that she never truly recovered, never really came to trust anyone. She never learned to play; she was afraid of toys (and blowing leaves, and raindrops, and so on); she remained suspicious of motives and often indifferent to human interaction. In many ways, she was more like a cat than a dog.
But she was also gentle, well-mannered, a quick learner, and occasionally as impressively stubborn as a mule. She consented to be fawned over and cared for, but she refused to let us believe that we owned her.
I mentioned the smiles she brought to others. I've never had nor seen a dog that elicited such joyful reactions from strangers, especially during her sighted, more active days when she'd walk at my heel through the neighborhood, and cars would slow to a crawl as they passed us, the drivers with big grins pointing her out to their kids in the back seats. I lost count of the number of times absolute strangers would stop their cars in the middle of the street, roll down their windows, and ask questions about her. After we moved to the new neighborhood, several people told me how much they missed seeing her on those morning walks, even if they'd never met her.
Abbye Fabulous (or Ab Fab, for short) was almost fourteen years old (we think), and we're drawing comfort from the fact that she's no longer suffering from the illnesses - physical and otherwise - that plagued her for much of her life. The little dog will be missed.